Make Someone’s Day

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Last Monday, I received one of the greatest surprises I’ve ever had. One of my role models; someone I follow and connect with on Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer; and an educator who has reenergized my spirit, stopped by and surprised me as I was welcoming staff back for our first professional development day.

Adam Welcome, amazing and inspiring California educator and cofounder and coauthor of Kids Derserve It, stopped by my school to surprise and meet me for the first time while on his way to central Minnesota for keynoting engagements. This speaks to the quality of this guy that he would take time out of his busy schedule to surprise me and make my day.

Now, I know we all can’t travel across the county to surprise each other like Adam was able, but there are other acts you can take to make someone’s day.

You can make a phone call; write and send a note; text a photo; schedule a Google Hangout or Facebook Messenger video chat; send a heartfelt email; post a funny Tweet or direct message; leave a Voxer message; create and send a video; give a face-to-face greeting; and/or leave a treat on someone’s desk, chair, or mailbox.

I remember the kind actions members of my PLN have taken the past couple years. I have received cards, letters, notes, gift cards, wrist bands, t-shirts, stickers, drawings, phone calls, email messages, Twitter direct messages, Voxer messages, and visits, and I save and remember them all. You probably remember the things you have received from others and now it’s time to pay it forward and make someone’s day.

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Principals, It’s Time To Be Silly

Principal Eric Sacco in Kansas wears his school’s eagle mascot costume on the first day of school. Principal Lindsy Stumpenhorst in Illinois plays a game of hot potato with her staff during the school day. Principal Andy Jacks in Virginia dresses up as Elf on the Shelf and hangs out in the media center. Principal Tonya Hilburn in Louisiana dresses up every Friday and brings the Treat Trolley around to her staff members. I could keep going on about what I have seen from principals in my PLN and how they inspire me, but the point is, principals, you need to be silly.

As an aside, I am an extroverted introvert, and many of my principal friends are, too. We can be “on” and exhibit outgoing characteristics, but we can also be “off” and need time to be by ourselves to recharge. I say this because, although I’ve been silly and worn costumes like a pirate, Horton from Dr. Seuss, and the Mad Hatter for years, it takes preparation and energy to do so. But, principals, being silly is so worth it.

Students, families, and staff members love to see you dressing up, singing, dancing, kissing a pig, camping on the roof, taking a whipped cream pie in the face, all those crazy things principals do.

Being silly also demonstrates to staff members that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. We expect students to do that so we educators need to role model that for them and who is the lead role modeler for silliness? It’s the principal.

Being silly makes you human, accessible, and let’s others get to know you on a different level. You can share hidden talents, passions, unrealized dreams, and show a side that many don’t always get to see from the principal.

A final reason to ride a tricycle through the hallways, zip down the slide, jump rope, and sing karaoke is that it adds to the spirit and culture of a school. If the principal is willing to be silly and have fun, that attitude will be contagious and fun will permeate your school’s hallways and spaces.

So principals, step out of your comfort zone, have fun, and be silly. After being inspired by watching other principals’ silliness, I sang a version of Adele’s “Hello” in my welcome back-to-school video, live, no lip syncing! The reception has been positive and amazing and I’m already thinking about my next act. Dancing anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is This #PIAchat Thing All About?

 

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#principalsinaction is a wonderful group of principals who are always working to be better for their kids and their schools. There is a running hashtag on Twitter where principals, and others in and out of education, can see the great things principals are doing every day. The group consists of about 100 principals that stretch from coast to coast across this beautiful nation.

But there is also a Twitter chat that occurs on Tuesday nights at 8:00 CST that is what we consider the fastest 30 minutes on Twitter. Moderators post a few questions and principals from all over the country respond. We end with a call to action or a challenge that many of the principals take on as the focus of sharing the great things in their school.

For me (Mark), engaging in Twitter chats has provided some of best professional development I have received, and it’s free! I started as a lurker, advanced to answering questions and contributing, to these days volunteering to facilitate and lead Twitter chat discussions. After four years of Twitter chats, I can even engage in two chats at once provided I’m using the TweetDeck tool.

For me (Ryan), Twitter chats have been a way to constantly push my thinking and hear what others have to say on topics that I am not so comfortable with. It took my awhile before I felt comfortable with jumping in and actively participating in the chat. I would sit and watch the chat, but thought that no one could learn from me. I was wrong! There is so much power in sharing your thoughts and your story. Your answer to some of the questions might spark a thought of another person and that is what it is all about. Pushing each other to be better leaders and better people.

For me (Jay), Twitter chats really got me started in the Twitterverse. I initially was a lurker, like Mark, but when I jumped into the discussion, I realized I could learn so much more. The connections began and with it came a comfort level to connect with others face to face at conferences and EdCamps. Before Twitter, I either wouldn’t have known other attendees or I would have been nervous to walk up to speak with them. Twitter became the conduit to deeper professional relationships that fostered learning unlike any other learning before.

Why take part in a chat?

Chats help to focus a conversation. Moderators or co-moderators post questions that pertain to a topic, often in a Q1 (Question 1), A1 (Answer 1) format. Chat participants answer the questions and this oftens provides ideas and suggestions that hadn’t been thought of before.

Chats provide connections to others with similar and different perspectives. This allows participants to grow and learn that don’t occur in other ways, like reading books or blogs. Participating in chats helps to grow your professional learning network, or PLN.

Chats can be searched by hashtag. Our hashtag is #PIAchat, short for #principalsinaction chat. If you happen to miss the chat, you can always go back and search the hashtag to see what you missed.

Hopefully you can join us for the next #PIAchat on August 22, 2017, at 8:00 CST and learn what this #PIAchat thing is all about!

How Do You Challenge Yourself?

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With school starting back up around the country, it is important to start thinking, How do you challenge yourself? Jay Posick, Mark French, and I (Ryan Sheehy) are principals that have connected through being in a PLN called Principals In Action. Principals in Action is a group that was started by one of the Kids Deserve It authors, Adam Welcome. It started with a challenge by Adam to ride the slide with kids then tweet the picture using the #principalsinaction hashtag. The group is now so much more than a hashtag. Using Voxer as our platform, we communicate on a daily basis, discussing triumphs, struggles, and the everyday occurrences of being a principal. We currently are a group of over 100 administrators that have made a goal of being out of the office and truly being a principal in action. Our group stretches from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

One of the ways we have been able to challenge each other on a daily basis is through creating challenges that everyone participates in then tweets about using the #principalsinaction hashtag. These challenges come out each week and are posted all over Twitter by using the hashtag. This past year some of the challenges included: ride a tricycle, ride the bus, serve food in the lunchroom, eat lunch with students, play on the swings, and read to students. These challenges are constantly pushing administrators out of their office and out with kids and staff.

For me (Ryan), last year was my first year as a principal. Being part of this PLN provided me a level of encouragement, professional development, and outside thinking that I was not getting in my district. The challenges provided me an excuse to document some of the fun things I was doing outside of my office. I have shown up to principal meetings and other principals look at me and say, “Ryan, it always looks like you are having fun.” I am and I show it off because school should be fun and the challenges had that component for me. I have enjoyed riding tricycles, slipping down slides, serving lunch in the cafeteria, and just being with kids. We need to be the one that shows teachers, students, and parents that principals need to be with kids, not in their office.

For me (Jay), I was in my tenth year as principal in the same building. #principalsinaction provided the inspiration and support to get out of my office, interact with students and staff, and accept challenges. I honestly don’t remember all of them, but I do remember my favorite one, shadowing a student for a day. I actually shadowed two students- a 6th grader in the morning and a 7th grader in the afternoon Lunch and recess duty were sandwiched between the two shadowing opportunities. The day was spent in classrooms learning right alongside the students. Interested students filled out a Google form and then a random number selector determined who I shadowed. The students and staff were awesome that day and it was amazing being in the classrooms with them as a student. I think the staff enjoyed me being in their classrooms far more than an observation or a walkthrough, too.

For me (Mark), last year was my 35th as an educator and 20th as an elementary school principal. Being connected with other leaders across the country has revitalized my attitude and energized my spirit. I have a group of colleagues who inspire, motivate, encourage, and hold me accountable. The challenges get me out of my office and connecting with students, teachers, food service team members, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, parents, and other stakeholders. I am excited to be a principal in action at this point in my career.

We challenge you to get out of your office and interact with your students and staff members. We encourage you to follow the #principalsinaction hashtag and participate in the challenges. Find ways to share your experiences with your school community through your newsletter, blog, and social media accounts. Join the movement, get out of your office, and show others how much fun being a principal can be!

Why Aren’t More Principals Attending EdCamps? Dispelling Three Myths

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I love EdCamps. Today I attended #EdCampSEMN at Austin High School in Austin, Minnesota, the home of Hormel and SPAM. And, if that’s not reason enough to attend, the beautiful drive down from the Twin Cities through rolling hills and gorgeous farmland, reconnecting with other educators, making new friends, and strengthening my skills and knowledge so I can be a better principal, were all great reasons to attend this EdCamp.

While I was there, and when I’ve been at other EdCamps, I’ve has a similar thought, Why aren’t more Principals attending EdCamps? I have identified three reasons I believe that happens and try to dispel the myths around those.

Myth #1 – EdCamps are for teachers. Yes, they are, but they’re also for principals, parents, future educators, Superintendents, technology directors, curriculum leaders, anyone who has a connection with students and schools. I have learned so much from attending EdCamps and count robotics, coding, programming, drones, video messaging, Teach Like A Pirate, genius hour, makerspace, Flipgrid, and augmented reality among practices I have implemented and continue to use as a principal.

Myth #2 – I’m not a techie. I think there is a common misunderstanding that EdCamps are all about apps and programs and robotics and devices and using and integrating technology. That’s not true. Any topic is up for learning, sharing, and facilitating at EdCamps. In fact, two of the sessions I attended today, one I volunteered to facilitate, were about non-technology topics: managing student behavior and flexible learning spaces.

Myth #3 – I’m too busy, there’s nothing of value for me. That is so wrong! It is true that you get out what you put into an EdCamp. If you make connections, share ideas, suggest things you want to learn about, and have an open mind, there will be value for you. One of the great ideas I received today happened during a lunch conversation with a high school English teacher from Iowa. He talked about how his district was implementing professional development this coming year in which pd goals were determined by each educator. They will create a plan for their learning, document their progress, and share their results. I was intrigued by that concept and left with contact names, website information, and Twitter handles. And, that learning took place outside of the scheduled sessions while eating barbecue.

Principals, you need to find and attend EdCamps in your area. If there aren’t any, step up to help organize one. I’ve taken the EdCamp model of professional development back to two different school staffs and having our own, smaller EdCamp professional development day was very well received. So, dispel those myths, model for your teachers, and engage in great learning at EdCamps. Plus you may get to see beautiful scenery and reconnect with great friends.

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Don’t Just Survive, Thrive!

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I detest t-shirts that insinuate the school year is something to survive. Don’t just survive, thrive! I’m noting four things an educator can do to thrive during the beginning, middle, and  even end of the school year.

First, you need to connect with others. You can do this through Twitter, Voxer, professional organizations, at EdCamps, and in your own building. Being a connected educator has given me many ideas, mentors, friends, listening ears, and ways to reflect.

Second, be positive. There are so many more positive things to share than be bogged down by the negative. Find ways to share those. I make a daily #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay for a different student each day. This is one of my favorites parts of the day. During the summer I count the days between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next with my #95DaysOfGWSummer daily Tweets. Finding and sharing the positive, however small, gives me an appreciation for even the simple things.

Next, have some fun. If you are dreading going to work in the morning or are counting down the days until school is over, then it sounds like you need to have more fun. If you haven’t read “Teach Like A Pirate” or “Lead Like A Pirate”, you’re missing out. These books have inspired me, and countless others, to find our passion and bring joy into our work.

Finally, make some changes. Maybe you can infuse more technology into your teaching, leading, or learning (like engaging students or staff with Quizlet Live or Flipgrid), plan for flexible seating, or even flip your staff meeting. If you’re just surviving, make some changes and start thriving! There are lots of folks out there who can help you learn and make positive changes to your teaching or leading.

Don’t just survive, thrive next school year. Connect with me on Twitter @PrincipalFrench and I will help you find ways to bring more joy, passion, and fun into your teaching or leading.

A Tweet A Day Is The Positive Way

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I’m in my fourth summer of Tweeting my summer learning, reflecting, and adventures. The first year I Tweeted for 90 days, the next year it was 100 days, and last year I used #89DaysOfSummer. This year I am using the hashtag #95DaysOfGWSummer to share a Tweet a day from students’ last day of the 2016-2017 school year to their first of the 2017-2018 year.

Some of the reasons I started this were to share more about myself, show how I spend my summer, and demonstrate that my learning never stops.  But, this year I have discovered another reason for documenting my daily summer Tweets. Doing this really makes me think about the positive things happening with my school and in my life. Finding 95 things to post during the summer days makes me reflect and pay attention to even the smallest things in life. I’ve posted about sunrises, sunsets, trees, flowers, friends, family, and food. I’ve also shared about my readings, connections, collaborations, and planning.

I need to give credit to George Couros for this. In December 2013, at the TIES Conference in Minneapolis, I remember George saying, “If you’re not telling your school’s story, then someone else will.” I took that challenge and started my Twitter journey. I thought, I can certainly find one great thing happening in my school each day and Tweet that using a school hashtag I created. That idea grew and soon I was sharing more than one thing a day and I began connecting with others, participating in Twitter chats, and deepening my professional learning.

I really enjoy my #95DaysOfGWSummer Tweets because it makes me look for the positive things in life. Sometimes I’ll capture an image and save it for a later post but most posts are about something I’ve experienced that day.

I’ve been criticized for only focusing on and sharing the positive, but I’ll take that. Shouldn’t we be sharing the great things happening in our schools and in our lives? After all, there’s so much more of that happening than not.