After seeing many of my favourite authors and educators and business owners and friends speak about the importance of telling your own story, I knew this is something I wanted to do.
It took some time for me to decide exactly how I wanted these accounts to look. But what I knew from the start? My purpose and intention in creating them. Sharing who I was and what I believed in as an educator was essential. Being relatable to those in the world of teaching, I wanted to make sure my story was authentic, that I shared the highs and the lows, in the hopes that I would be more understood and that I would find with others who were also seeking to share their stories. I really believed that “sharing is caring” and that everything I was doing in our classroom was inspired by someone in my life so I felt an intense need and desire to do the same for others. I wanted to create as much as I was consuming. I wanted to feel like I was contributing and not just taking. I knew I wanted to connect with people and for our learners to connect with our community. And Instagram and Twitter have delivered over and over again.
I need to give you the best and most proud example I’ve got.
Every year on Family Literacy Day, I would reach out solely on Twitter and Instagram through our class accounts to invite 12 guest readers from all over the community to come in and read to our kids. Not only would they read, they would read and then our class would have them stay so we could visit, get to know one another and complete an activity to go along with the book that they had just read. It was easily my favourite day of the year EVERY year. In fact, we had so many business owners, athletes, artists, volunteers, politicians visiting us, that some years we had to have TWO full days of guest readers! The collaborations that came from this were outstanding! And it never escaped me that one of the major reasons people were so eager to come was that they knew exactly what I stood for in our classroom because they knew our story from our social media accounts.
Reaching out to a local restaurant owner on Family Literacy Day, I asked if he would consider coming in to read our kids a book called “Hamburger Heaven” by Wong Herbert Yee. You see, Rieley Kay is famous in our province and beyond for the incredibly creative and delicious burgers he and his team create at an amazing restaurant he and his wife Kim own called “Cilantro and Chive” in Lacombe, Alberta.
Burgers like THESE…
You see what I mean now?
The idea was that Rieley would read the book and then the kids would create their own “dream burgers” for him. They would draw and label the most amazing burger with their favourite toppings and then we would give that book to Rieley as a thank you for being part of our special day. (Cilantro and Chive writes about that day here)
So, that’s what we did! And look at the amazing topping ideas these kids came up with. We had so much fun reading the book, creating the burgers and learning from Rieley that day. We sent him away with the book of burgers we had made and I distinctly remember a little guy saying as he left “Wow. I love that guy. Maybe he will put my burger on his menu someday…” Little did we know, there would be so much more to the story.
Rieley texted me later that day with the simple words “so, I have an idea…” From a big dreamer like him (who also has the biggest heart), the text gave me goosebumps. I knew we were in for something incredible.
Rieley came back to visit our class the following week. He thanked the kids for their work and said that he and his team were SO inspired by their creations that they were adding the “Mrs. Mac’s Kinder Dream Burger” to their menu as a February feature for a new program they were calling “Burger of the Month”! The team had taken the best toppings from all their pictures and put it into one fantastic burger (complete with a fried egg gummy on top!) Their shocked expressions and squeals is something I will never forget. Furthermore, Rieley was adamant that the class choose one local charity to give back to and that $2.00 from every burger sold that month would go to the charity of THEIR choice. Goosebumps again. (Our kids had been learning about the Lacombe Food Bank and unanimously voted that they should receive the donation).
Since that day back in January of 2017, Rieley and Kim have invited a guest chef to create a burger that they add to their menu every single month. This update is on their website as of July 2020:
“Thanks to the incredible community support we see for our Burger of the Month program month
after month, we have had the opportunity to give back over $60,000 to local charities over the
past 41 months! THANK-YOU!”
C’mon now! All from some connection through a kindergarten class’ social media account and a community member with the most gigantic heart ever. This? This connection? This is my why.
So, obviously with a story like that (that surely would not have happened at all without our Instagram account) I am incredibly passionate about sharing your story, but more importantly, connecting through social media.
This story makes me so happy. And proud. It really does describe why I got into this game and why I continue to stay. It makes me smile. And it is a story I think is so important to share with others. I love connecting our kindergarten learners to their community. And often this story, this project and the people involved are used as my gauge to assess if I am on track, if I am staying true to myself and what I believe in as an educator on our social media pages and if I have a story that I feel is worth sharing.
I often get asked how I decide what to share and not share. My posts have certainly evolved throughout the years and have definitely changed and grown with how I see the page being used. But the intention behind Mrs. Mac’s Kinders is still the same. To connect. To tell our story. To share.
The story I shared about the “Burger of the Month” collaboration is important for me to share because it has become my barometer for deciding what to share and led me to the 4 critical questions I ask myself before I post anything. The same 4 questions have guided me on this social media journey and when I use them to make decisions about who to connect with/what projects to take part in and what to post? The answers always lead me to what I need to do.
4 Important Questions I Ask Myself Before Posting
1. What are my “bottom hands” going to say about this post?
Dr. Jody Carrington describes your “bottom hands” as those who hold you, who uplift you, who support you and challenge you to show up in the world to be the very best version of yourself that you can be. The mantra I have learned from her?
“Bottom hands only. The rest don’t score”.
I have learned from Dr. Jody that when you write or create or post something to social media or write a blog just like this one, you should write to your bottom hands. Not to the haters. Not to those you wish to “convince”. Not to those who aren’t “in the arena”.
So, I always think to myself…
“What would my mom/husband/sister/teacher bestie/all my other bottom hands say about this post? How will it make them feel? What will they challenge about it? (Because Lord knows they will.. that’s why they’re my bottom hands!) Will I make them proud?”
This question is the first one I ask before I publish a n y t h i n g and it always gives me the courage and the confidence to know whether I should post or not.
2. How will this post make our families feel?
Not my own family (that is bottom hands territory) but our school families. I am always very aware that sharing my own opinion or the thoughts of others, especially on polarizing topics, has the potential to affect my current relationships with families in our classroom. Therefore, I am always asking myself:
Will a potential Mom or Dad or Auntie or Grandpa ready to send their first baby to kindergarten choose to send them my way or not based on this post?
Will it make caregivers that currently have children in my class worry about their kids spending their days with me (because I seem tired/annoyed/grumpy/”over it”) or will it make them excited for all that we will learn/experience together?
Will what I am writing/ posting be cause for concern or cause for celebration with our families?
Am I showing enough gratitude for the fact that it is an HONOUR to spend this time with someone’s everything?
How will these families feel if we partner with this person/organization for a collaboration? Is it something/someone they can support?
Demonstrating my excitement, enthusiasm, gratitude and love for being a child’s kindergarten teacher needs to be shown in all that I do. Social media is not exempt.
3. How would I feel about this post if my own child’s teacher was writing it?
I want to be real on social media. I want people to know that it is not all rainbows and unicorns BUT how that is shared and who I share that with is incredibly important to me. I am very mindful that there are times I have gone to write something and have thought to myself “Geez. You are tired and grumpy tonight. Do you really need to post about it? How would I feel sending Molly/Casey/Sadie to school tomorrow if I read a post like this from their teacher tonight?”
We know that social media is a place where we need to be extra careful and vigilant in how and what we share so that it is not misinterpreted by those around us. I do my best to be careful but sometimes I get it wrong.
In one of my first years on Instagram, I felt it necessary to do a post about my own personal end of the year countdown to summer. Everyone else was doing it and I jumped right on board. It wasn’t meant to be harmful or offensive at all. In my mind I was just excited for summer! But my intention didn’t matter too much to one Mama who was impacted by these posts. On the last day of school, she brought me the most beautiful gift and wrote a card I have kept to this day. But as she was leaving for the last time, she turned and said “Mrs. Mac? Just one more thing…
“I know you. And I know your heart is huge. And it is hard for me to even bring this up because I don’t want you to hurt but I feel like I just need to let you know… Your Instagram summer countdown? It made me sad. I felt like you were counting down the days until you were done with my baby. Because even though YOU are excited for the summer? We aren’t. Because it means that kindergarten and our time with you is over. That’s just not something I am ready to celebrate yet. I know you love her but it made me feel like you were “over her”. Your actions didn’t show that but I just wanted to make you aware that the thought was always at the back of my mind that you couldn’t wait to be done with her”.
I wanted to defend myself (heck, even writing this I think of ways I want to defend myself!) but honestly? I was speechless in that moment. I didn’t know what to say. It took some time and reflection and letting go of my ego for that conversation to really sink in. In time and after being really honest with myself I came to the realization that although my intention was never to hurt, it did. And that every post I make has the potential to light my families up or potentially bring them down. What an incredible responsibility.
After some reflection time I was able to really answer these questions; “How would I feel if my kids’ teacher was counting down like that? How would I feel if I truly believed their teacher was counting down to being done with THEM?” Since then I have been much more mindful about whether it is NECESSARY to share my feelings (especially the tough stuff) or if that is something I should be keeping for my own circle. What is my intention in sharing? How might I feel if my own kids’ teachers shared these same feelings? Important thoughts I need to take to heart…
4. Is this how I want to be remembered?
I have no need for “Insta-fame” or a million Twitter followers. That is not what this is about. I am much more concerned with making quality connections with our community than I am anything else on social media.
Sometimes, it is easy for me to look at a post that has a ton of likes or see a person who has a particular brand and think “I should do that too”. It is easy to see a trending topic and weigh in just because everyone else is doing it (even though it isn’t in my freaking lane!). It is easy to imitate what you see and what you hear and become something you are not.
But I have decided that easy sucks.
If I am not authentic, I feel it immediately. I feel it in my heart and in my head. I have hit “send” or “tweet” or “post” and have immediately felt regret. Knowing that I was not being myself. Knowing that if this was the last post I ever posted, it is NOT how I would want to be remembered.
I now know that the most important question I need to ask myself before hitting that button is “is this truly the legacy you want to leave? Is this REALLY you?”
If the answer is “no”, I know I’ve got some work to do. I know that I am taking the easy route and repeat after me… “easy sucks”.
I cannot tell you how lucky I feel to be part of the Instagram and Twitter space as Mrs. Mac’s Kinders. It is an honour. I have made friends there that have turned to family (here is looking at YOU Rieley and Kim!). I have built connections that will last a lifetime. I have been able to provide our learners with some incredible experiences that they will remember forever. I have been able to show them dreams come true (right little “maybe he will put it on the menu” burger dude?) and have reminded them that they don’t need to wait to be leaders in our community. They are leaders now.
I will continue to ask myself these questions as I post. Will I get it wrong? Of course I will. Will I keep trying to be the best version of myself I can be in sharing my story and ideas and thoughts with anyone who sticks around? As my dear friend Rieley says…