I’m a fundraiser…and everything I need to know about writing for social media I learned in grade 5 and 12.
Like everyone else, I had some good teachers and some bad ones. Even horrible ones (so we just played Battleship during class!). But there are two teachers I wish to pay tribute to because they taught me so much- and I use those lessons I learned long ago in my social media strategy.
Let’s start with Mrs. Freedman- my 12th grade English teacher. I honed many of my writing skills in her class. But one thing stands out in my memory: Précis. It was a tough exercise: read a story a couple of pages long and then summarize it in 150 words or less. I had fairly decent writing skills but this challenged me. By the end of the year, I aced every exercise.
Social Media Lesson 1
Know what a tweet is? A précis. Summarize your thoughts into 140 characters or less. Same with many blog posts: short, sweet and to the point.
I look back and see how the précis exercise helps me now with social media- bullet point thoughts so that people can read and move on. Just the facts ma’am.
I enjoyed having Mrs. Freedman as a teacher. She was always so kind to her students, understanding, warm and wanted to be your friend. Whenever I went to Toronto, I stopped in at my alma mater to say hi and see how she was.
Around four years ago I was told she was very sick with a terminal illness. On a trip to New York I picked up the phone and called her to say a simple thank you for all she taught me. That was one of the most heart-wrenching conversations you could imagine. She cried throughout, thanking me profusely while telling me how she knew the end was near. One month later, she passed away. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to let her know that at least one of her many students was grateful for what she taught me.
In grade 5, I had Mrs. Greene. The memories of that year are etched in my memory forever. Wow- the strictest of teachers but what I learned sticks with me till today.
Simply put: Mrs. Greene was old-school. When I handed in a writing assignment, a point was deducted if I forgot to put a dot on top of an “I” or “j”, if I looped (in script) a “d” or a “t” and if I crossed something out. At the beginning of the year, I stood in front of the class and had to recite the multiplication table by heart. Every Friday we were expected to hand in a report on a different explorer- some of those reports are 5 feet away from me right now. They are a testament to the teacher who made me work the hardest- elementary, high school, university or graduate school.
Guess what? She’s my all-time favorite teacher. I learned the value of hard work and doing things right- it’s Draconian to take a point away for not dotting an “I.” Know what? I agree. But trying to get it right the first time and making sure you check your work BEFORE submitting are important lessons.
Social Media Lesson 2
When you post something on a social media outlet, you better be darned sure that what you wrote is correct. Reread, edit and check again. If there’s a mistake, someone out there is gonna call you on it. And you won’t just lose a point- you lose credibility because word will spread. Fast. Check your facts, spelling etc before tweeting or posting.
Or, as Mrs. Greene would say: Do it right.
I make mistakes. All the time. I’m human. But at times social media can be a very unforgiving place. Be careful out there- it’s a jungle.
A Face-to-Face Thank You
In the summer of 2009, my family gave me a wonderful birthday present: we traveled to New London, CT to visit the city where I grew up. And guess what? On the way home, we stopped in Norwich and I had the chance to see my old school and my grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Greene. Now THAT was the best present of all. I was able to thank her face to face for teaching me the value of hard work, doing the work correctly and getting the job done.
My kids of course grilled her: Is it really true that my Dad did ALL that work in grade 5? They didn’t believe the stories I told them but Mrs. Greene confirmed it all. I told her in person how much I appreciated what she taught me 30 years earlier- and how I still put those lessons to work every day.
If you have a teacher who influenced you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.