Friday, August 22, 2014

The Journey is Worth It!

I am not really sure where to start, but I am going to write from my heart for today's post. On April 25, 2011, I found out that I was going to be the principal of McCall. I saved the correspondence as it was the biggest moment of my professional life.  I was so thrilled, honored and felt really ready to start my journey and lead the great teachers of McCall. I had my "big book of ideas" ready to crack open and implement.  In hindsight, I really was nowhere near ready.

I have faced some of the biggest challenges and obstacles in my professional life over the last few years.  While my vision and background in curriculum were solid, many things had to change to fully receive my vision.  As a result, I have had more ups and downs than I ever have in my life.  This role is not for the faint of heart.  I am tough on the outside, but inside, I am so very sensitive.  I have internalized a lot in the past and put on a brave face in much of the adversity and changes that came my way. I began to think that maybe I was not going to be cut out for this role and perhaps no one was going to "get me".  I knew that all these obstacles were placed in my way for a reason, but it was not an easy road to stay upon. The more changes came my way, the more things began to click into place. Even though things began to click, I still silently wondered when I was ever going to feel my personality in the school and when would people ever "get me".

As I sit at this computer today, I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt, I am again experiencing the euphoria of the role that I accepted in 2011.  The obstacles placed before me over the course of the last three years were the foundation necessary to accept the vision and passion that I hold for education.  I know that the people who are surrounding me now "get me" and are my true partners in implementing my vision. Over the last week, the joy and love that I have felt have solidified that this is going to be the year I thought 2011 was going to be when I began my journey. I cannot believe the unbelievable luck that has helped me retain and recruit the most AMAZING people to me who will make this staff the most amazing staff that McCall has EVER seen! It's the people on this campus now who will breath life into all the planning, worrying, and waiting that I have done over the course of the last three years to make McCall all that I know it can become for kids.  Every single person that is at McCall has a special gift and has a passion ready to pour into children and the Colt Community.  I am simply giddy with the anticipation for the school year to start. The excitement is palpable and we are all focused on making this a year for the kids to remember. I cannot wait for the journey to begin on Monday.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

#LeadershipDay14--Let's Start a Revolution!

The late '90s is when my love affair with technology began.  Anyone remember the Palm Pilot?  It was an electronic organizer and oh, how I loved that device.  I upgraded and had two or three Palm's that I went through in the late '90s. I can remember starting graduate school and getting introduced to the world wide web and email.  It was a joyous day when our school finally got email and site calendars online.The JOY of it all!   My love of technology has not waned, and it actually has become a full blown passion over time. I can usually be found to be within an arms reach of at least two devices all the time.   It's what I do and it's who I am--I am a techno geek.  I am also a patient geek.

Why patient?  Well, my home technology use and my school technology use are at disconnects; I almost have to be a different person when I am at work.  At work, I am bound to the devices available to me provided by the district or a slave to the network firewall if I use my own device, which blocks (understandably) many educational sites.  This disconnect used to make me sad, angry, and frustrated. For a long time, I quit learning much of anything new, as the frustration of applying it at school was just not worth it. This is sad fact that I share that shames me as a lead learner whose largest purpose on this earth is to educate kids and adults. In the last year, I have had an epiphany in the last year: there are MORE kids who are like ME, who feel like they are squashed at school and forced to have out of body experiences when they are learning.  This realization about the students at my school has weighed heavy on me and I decided that it is time to start a REVOLUTION for their own good. It was time for me to speak on behalf of all the frustrated learners. I began my game plan.

I started by asking a lot of questions of my central office district friends. I wanted to understand what our stance was and the reasons for our very conservative efforts to roll out educational technology initiatives.  I had pockets of teachers who would use technology in amazing ways, but we just couldn't get the momentum building with other teachers who weren't as savvy due to the district's conservative stance.  The district conversations led to an amazing gift for my campus--I received 20 iPads to pilot.  I was free to use them in a manner that I saw fit and provide feedback to their office.  Hallelujah!  It was a great start. I also got invited to attend some great Google training that lead to my relationship with my district's amazing instructional technology team grow. In that team, I found a kindred sisterhood where we were able to bond, grow, think and forge together for plans for my campus.  I am grateful to these ladies and fully support their own ideas for the revolution that they are also waiting for to unleash in our district.

For this school year, I started a new phase of the revolution over the summer; I pushed some of our staff to engage in Twitter with me and join me in a weekly chat on our own #coltslearn stream.  This strategy led them to amazing resources and teachers that they can grow their personal learning network with on their own through the wonderful world of Twitter.  We are also dedicating a day to technology for our campus professional development where we will start to learn about devices, programs, and techniques to make technology come alive on the campus.  This school year, I plan to hand out the 20 iPads in a different way in order to try and garner a bigger impact upon our classrooms.  Through BYOD and the 20 devices that I have, I am going to be able to have a device in every grade level classroom.  I feel that by having one device in every classroom, as a staff, we can start speaking more of the same language and understand the impact of being digitally in tune to what the trends are in the ed tech world.  Additionally, our kids will start to feel less of a frustration and feel more engaged with the classroom.  So, that's my next step in my REVOLUTION.  I know that my instructional technology team is ready to support my effort and help train my teachers who aren't as familiar with the iPad.  I will continue my conversations with our district leadership in order to keep them apprised of the pilot program, and other ways we can slowly begin to tread out into more programs/applications being used on our campus.  I also look forward to helping other principals in our district start their own revolution by sharing my journey and helping them develop an ed tech vision on their campus.  It's time to spread our wings and show this district what amazing things can be accomplished with just a few tweaks of what we already have on our campus. It's going to be a great year for the revolution to continue and grow at my campus. How will you be a part of ed tech revolutions and leadership in your own way?
Leadership Day 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The First Sunday of Summer Vacation

I have planned this post for weeks.  The funny thing is that sometimes the best laid plans go awry and we have no control over the path suddenly twisting and the resulting changing of plans.  I had been looking forward to attending ASCD's conference for Teaching Excellence in Grapevine for almost six months.  The speakers were the draw:  Jay McTighe was presenting on Essentail Questions and Understanding by Design.  I have been working with those works for a year in preparation of our district making a much-needed curriculum writing shift.  I wanted my teachers to be prepared for the change, so I have been learning as much as I can to help guide them on this shift.  So, given that the conference was local and there wouldn't be travel expenses, I extended the invite to include two teachers as well.  We were set.  My countdown to conference began and as we got closer to June 26th, the stress of the year entered my body by the way of a heavy case of bronchitis.  No conference for me.  Luckily, I had a teacher on stand by who happily took my place at ASCD.  Perhaps one of them will blog about their experiences.  Never fear, there are other GREAT things going on to write and reflect about in the absence of that conference.

As the quiet of June settled in after school let out for the summer, I spent a lot of time on Twitter.  Twitter is such a great guide of current hot topics of all facets of education.  I came across some tweets that advertised #PTCamp.  I became intrigued and researched the hashtag #PTCamp.  It turns out that the basis of #PTCamp is a book that I bought when I began my principalship, Beyond the Bake Sale.  This book is about building you parent involvement and raising parent engagement in your school.  #PTCamp is a six week course, yes course, that involves a Twitter chat, Voxer chat and Apprenet posts.  Of course, my aforementioned health has also derailed the start of this study a bit (hard to vox and video post with no voice and/or a persistent awful cough!), but I am so excited to get my arms around new social media platforms that could possibly impact my delivery of PD at school.  Of course, the idea of studying a book more deeply about parent involvement is also worthy, don't get me wrong!  I shall share my tales of this adventure once I get more into #PT Camp.  In fact, it is one of the course requirements to blog, so I will probably add a page here just for those reflections.

The other exciting event that I am preparing for tonight will be our growing #coltslearn Twitter chat, which is currently focused upon the book, Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.  I am so proud of how this chat is developing.  I hope that tomorrow at 9:30 AM we will have more pirates aboard our chat. Our discussion tomorrow is surrounding Dave Burgess' ideas of Rapport; which serves as the R in the PIRATE acronym that he has organized his book around.  I have mapped the book out for July and August and we should wrap up this series of Pirate chats right as Professional Development week starts for our teachers in August.  I am already trying to figure out how we can keep this chat up during the school year on different topics.  The time will have to change, and possibly the frequency, but I feel like it is a great way to engage with our colleagues and learn in a new and unique way.

As we have learned in previous, #coltslearn chats, the P in Pirate stands for passion.  I am passionate about reading; both for myself and my content area teaching passion.  I have read so many great things this already this summer.  I plan to blog next about my recent reading adventures with Donalyn Miller.  Her book, Reading In the Wild, has inspired me with some simple initiatives that I can take on at school next year to support our student's development of reading and helping them become avid readers.  I will write a quick summary of that book on my Professional Book Blurbs page of this blog.
I read this by the pool today; it's chock full of practical tips that can be infused easily into any classroom.  I hope to shift my focus the next few weeks to some summer reads that will feed my other passionate side of book lover.  I loaded my library card with books and cannot wait for the call to come in that my books are ready to be picked up.  I will enjoy them by the pool just like I did Ms. Miller's book today.

Thanks for reading and learning with me.  I am really enjoying stretching myself in this way!  Happy first Sunday of Summer to all my fellow colleagues who work a near year round schedule with me.