Thursday, October 20, 2016

Connecting Part 2...#SAVMP

What are some ways I connect with my school community?

When I think about connecting, I think about building relationships and communicating. These two things are reliant on the other in order to be effective. These are both two things that I've always tried to make a priority as a school leader.

A big part of building those relationships is done via my attempt through a consistent stream of communication. That being said, I need to do a better job of soliciting feedback re. my communication. Is it too much? Am I communicating the information that my parents, families, and other stakeholders are seeking?

The following list is a sampling of some of the platforms that I've used for communication:

  • A school Facebook page, a school Twitter handle, and a school Instagram account. I try to share at least one thing, daily, on these platforms.
  • A hashtag (#RocketsRock) to organize all of our Tweets and social media posts
  • Digital signage that streams in our office for all of our guests to see
  • I am going to attempt to utilize Storify (this week, yet) to share our social media posts with our families that don't utilize social media
  • I create a newsletter via Smore and send it out to families, every-other week
  • In the past I have used Remind to send families text messages
  • Birthday Selfies with students on their birthdays - thanks Brad Gustafson!
  • #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay - thanks Mark French!
And don't ever discount the positive effects of being present and being visible. Being around for arrival and dismissal are crucial. Getting into classrooms, routinely, is our job. Spending time connecting with students, informally, at lunch and recess allows us to create more authentic and personal relationships with the students that we serve.

These are things that kids go home talking about. And when kids go home talking positively about you that is proof that 1) you've made a connection with a student, which then proves that 2) you've given yourself the benefit of the doubt with parents due to the connection that you've made with their child(ren).

Relationships + Communication = Connections

Connecting Part 1...#SAVMP

What are some ways I connect with my school community?

I would NEVER question a leader for not living in their school community. There are many circumstances within our lives that have the potential to prohibit this from happening. Prior to this year, at the end of the day, I left my school community and I went back to my community. These different scenarios certainly provide their own unique set of pros and cons. However, my experience tells me that working in the same community where you live provides a definite set of professional advantages.

For the first time in my five years as a school principal, I am living in the community where I work. And it is amazing. Aside from the fact that my wife and young children definitely enjoy it, there is just so much connecting that happens naturally. And it happens All. The. Time.

I have a much better idea of what everyone is talking about. I'm walking, running, and biking through their neighborhoods. We are eating dinner at the same restaurants. We are standing in line together at the same grocery stores. We are going to the same little league games. They are able to see me as a husband, as a father, as a person. The opportunity for connections is everywhere.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tech is the Vehicle

I was at a technology and education conference, earlier this week. But as I reflected on my learning from the conference, I came to the conclusion that it didn't seem like a technology conference.

Instead, it was a mindset conference. It was an innovation conference. It was a conference about the power of connectivity. It was a conference that encouraged people to shift the way they think.

It was amazing!

I even got a little Selfie 101 from George Couros
One presenter at the conference, the keynote, George Couros, went so far as to discourage participants from applying the "tech" label to themselves. What?! He was talking to a room full of the "tech" people!

I have had/still have this tech label applied to myself. It is probably because I tweet and I blog, The fact that I communicate with our school stakeholders via various social media platforms probably adds to this. My enjoyment of the latest and greatest Apple (I have an Apple Watch and an iPhone, and I used to be dependent on my iPad) devices probably contributes, too.

Like my friend, Adam Welcome, I like computers. They have the ability to enhance our lives through a multitude of ways (they also have the potential for a negative impact, but I like to focus on the positives when I'm looking at things).

My son, like most kids, likes tech, too. He is in kindergarten. He has his own iPad and he has since he was two-years-old. In fact, if you ask him what his most valuable possession is, he'll probably tell you that it is his iPad. He uses his iPad more than my wife and me wish that he did. We'd prefer that playing with his Legos or going outside, or looking at books would trump his iPad. But that's not our reality. Now I could be like a lot of adults and tell you that this is detrimental to him and detrimental to the future of our society, but I won't. I disagree with that line of thinking.

Instead, I like to think about the possibilities that his interest in his iPad allows. I like to think about how he consumed YouTube videos to completely self-teach the concepts of Minecraft. I like to think about how interested he has become in making his own YouTube videos to share his own knowledge of things for the benefit of others. This is a valuable tool with a lot of potential.

Not many people will argue that engagement is a negative. Tech leads to engagement. Engagement leads to learning. Learning is a good thing.

Tech is the vehicle. It's a means to an end. It's not about the tech. It's about creating. It's about connecting. It's about breaking down the traditional classroom walls, and not allowing them to constrain our teaching and/or learning. It's about about giving students experiences, and providing them with a broader audience. It's about getting our students excited about their work, making it meaningful for them, and ensuring that they are producing their highest quality. It's not about the tech.

I like technology. In fact, I like it a lot. But I don't want to be the tech guy because tech's not the destination. I want to be an innovative guy. I want to be someone who is known for thinking a little bit differently. I want to be someone that is willing to push the envelope. Most importantly, I don't want to be someone who thinks about the limits that we have upon ourselves; instead, I want to be someone who thinks about all of the amazing things that we have the potential to do.