The Age of Screenagers: Q&A with JT

A Q&A with Principal Jennifer Tyrell about her use of social media and how she has incorporated it into the LT community

Myrna Cross, InDepth Editor

Is this your first job as a principal? Did you know going into this job that you wanted to make LT’s community heavily involved with social media? 

I was a principal at Carl Sandburg High in Orland Park for three years before coming to LT. My old school was more of a Twitter school. And here, LT is much more of an Instagram school. So I have evolved in my use of social media to incorporate the platform that our students are on here, which is Instagram. I knew from my work at Sandburg and the response that students, staff, and the community had, that it was a really important part of a principal’s communication efforts. I feel like social media and sharing photos, events, and good news and all of it related to the school experience, takes a big school and shrinks it, and makes it feel smaller. So it allows us all to develop relationships and rapport, even if we don’t have time to sit down and have face to face conversations. It gives an opportunity to showcase our students, highlight, celebrate, and also show that connection that I have with them as well.


Why do you feel social media is beneficial to a high school community?

I think it allows us to share with each other. I do feel like we as a school community do a really good job of highlighting, sharing information about events, fundraisers, all of that on Instagram. I think a lot of our students will go to Instagram to get info on what’s happening within the school community, and I think that’s helpful. From the principal seat, it helps me be able to share about the great things that are happening. It’s also just to have fun, our students like taking selfies together. I think that that’s something that I’ve had a lot of fun with over the last few years that I’ve been a principal.


What are some ways that social media can negatively impact students?

I think there’s pressure associated with social media and I feel like sometimes students feel pressure to be connected at all times. I think it’s also really important that social media is used in a positive and appropriate manner. When it’s used in a positive, appropriate manner, I think good things can happen. When it’s not used in a positive, appropriate manner, it can have some negative impacts on the school community. So I think it’s really important that it’s used appropriately and that our students think about that as they’re engaging with whatever social media platform they’re using.


How does social media connect students throughout the school?

I think it connects individual students, but it also connects clubs and groups of students, which is fun. I think that students have an opportunity to see individually, and as students who are part of collective clubs what other groups and clubs and teams are doing. So oftentimes, in athletics for instance, you’ll see the volleyball team supporting the soccer team or the football team supporting the soccer team or basketball team; winter season teams supporting each other. I think athletics has done a really good job of that. And I think sometimes it’s a marketing tool as well. We have a ton of co-curricular activities and our activities pages or handles on Instagram are really full of information. I think it’s a recruiting and marketing tool for other students who might be interested in participating in that club as well. They’ll see some creative things or some cool activities that are happening, and that might encourage somebody to jump in and try something new.


How and why did you start incorporating social media into our school? How did it start and how has it progressed? 

When I came to LT, it was a major opportunity area. [Former Principal and current SuperintendentBrian] Waterman had used his but we didn’t even have an LT Instagram or an LT Twitter. So starting LT social media on Instagram and Twitter was important for us to just create that presence, that brand recognition, and also as a platform for sharing the great things that are happening within the school community. I also realized really quickly through talking to students and just kind of observing the content myself that the majority of the interactions were happening on Instagram, so I quickly started using Instagram more than I was used to, and I’ve gotten better at it. I had a goal of using it to connect, to showcase, to celebrate and also to help build my collective relationships with our students. It’s been beneficial, it’s created a little bit of a fun thing and a sense of community as well to be able to connect with students through a platform.


How do you reflect the LT culture through your social media pages? 

There are so many things that make the LT community special. Mostly, the people of LT. Teachers, advisors, sponsors, coaches, students, families, the people are the most special part. By sharing and giving the people that are part of the LT community a glimpse at other specialties through a platform, I think that shows that we value people and connections. Another really big part of the LT culture is all of the opportunities available to our students. So by making sure that it’s all on my social media, it’s representative of all of the offerings and celebrating everything that’s going on. It’s also really important that there’s representation in what we share. All of those things are really important. I also share a lot of content about events, like pictures from events, and I can’t get that content if I don’t go to those events. So, it’s also really important that we celebrate the great things that are happening in the Reber Center, in the PAC, in the athletic fields, etc. Thinking about how we can showcase as much as possible is really important because that’s part of LT. lt is the awesome number of offerings that we have during the school day and outside of the school day for our students.