Making Time for Professional Growth #MSSAASI

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In today’s busy world, it takes a lot of energy to prioritize and execute a to-do list filled with our work, family, and social responsibilities.  As professional educators we often leave our own professional growth and development to our district leaders to figure out for us.  Some of us engage in professional learning networks on social media and that recharges the batteries for us to keep us running full throttle during the school year.  One way I’ve taken a more active role in my own professional growth since becoming a school administrator is to join Massachusetts Secondary Schools Administrator’s Association.  If you too are a busy educator who yearns for high quality professional learning opportunities outside of your own school or district, I highly recommend seeking our your local branch of your national organization, whether it’s NCTE, ACTFL, NASSP, NCTE, NCHE, ASCD or ISTE, these organizations help to connect you to other educators to expand your own professional network while also providing you access to conferences geared towards personalized learning.

This week, I attended a conference called Summer Institute by MSSAA.

Not only did I have a chance to connect with some truly inspiring educators, many of whom I follow on Twitter, but I also got to attend workshops that helped push my thinking on how to engage with students, teachers, and parents as an assistant principal.

Here are my notes from three workshops I attended over the past two days:

This morning (DAY #2) I attended another workshop entitled, “The Alchemy of Social Media: Prioritizing Relationships to Nurture Whole School Community through Legacy Building.”  I know the title is a mouthful, but it really captures the entire hour discussion hosted by Marty Geoghegan and Brian McCann.  In their workshop they discussed how as school leaders they have experimented using social media and in doing so have created gold.

Sometimes as educators we spend so much time in our respective buildings working our to-do lists, solving problems and organizing events and activities, that we lose sight of what’s happening in the field of education at large.  We also can tend to feel cut off from educators in other schools and districts.  Ever since I started this journey as an educator who connects with a Personal Learning Network on Twitter and as a blogger, I’ve discovered that there’s no better way to find inspiration than to put yourself out there on social media and engage with peers and colleagues both within and without of your district.  I’m grateful to my superiors in my home district for supporting me in my desire to attend this conference as a professional development activity.  I’ve spent two days with a whole community of leaders in education, and I feel reinvigorated to return to my school and get to work on the new school year.  Please take some time to read through my notes from the workshops posted above and explore the links to the educators I’ve mentioned.  If you appreciate what you see, please follow them on Twitter and on their blogs.

If you would like to connect with me and become part of my PLN, please follow this blog and/or follow me on Twitter.

#APCamp16

 

At the start of National AP Appreciation week, the MSSAA hosted this day of professional learning for Assistant Principals around the state of Massachusetts at the Doubletree Hotel in MIlford.  Dr. Henry Turner, Principal of Bedford High School, was the keynote speaker.  He acknowledge that “APs and school secretaries are the real people who run schools.”  He gave the crowd of about 120 people the ground rules for the Edcamp model, including “vote with your feet” and “good conversation and good coffee.”  He challenged all participants to use today to challenge the way you think to try to discover new ways of doing things or improve practice that you’re already committed to.  The more diverse the group of people you invite into the discussion, the richer the discussion will be.  Henry’s message was very eloquent and deep that if you take a risk by sharing, you will grow your own professional learning network that will keep on giving.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb.

Henry’s main recommendations if you want to bring Edcamp to your school to push forward from the PD model into the Professional Learning model are to start small and keep it focused on your learners.

After Henry’s presentation, our participant proposed topics for the breakout discussions by  building the board of discussions for the day posted here.

We moved into a presentation by Deb & Dana Hult of Core Trainings.  They politely asked us all to close the laptops and put away the devices so we could do the hard work of making personal connections with our team.  We had a very fun activity of building a tower with uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows.  It was a blast!

The sessions I attended were very productive.  All the notes for every session can be accessed on the MAIN BOARD, set up by Mary Anne Moran

Thanks to the MSSAA for putting on this great day of Professional Learning and Networking!

 

What I learned at #LFL16

    Today I was a participant and a presenter at Leading Future Learning at Holy Cross in Worcester. The day began by hiking up numerous pathways and stairs trying to find Hogan Hall on this beautiful campus. Once I found the space, I was greeting by a friendly familiar face at the registration and then I found a spot at a table with my teammates With whom I will be presenting in the afternoon. As the keynote started, I was please the Caitlin Krause began her presentation by doing some exercises to remind us to be in the moment. This was especially helpful to me as my mind was racing with the inevitable swirl of details from work, all the loose ends that I was unable to tie up at the end of the workday yesterday. The whole purpose for me to attend this conference was to step away from my school for the day and connect with and learn from educators from around Massachusetts about how to effectively use social media in schools today. I wanted to be able to bring back what I learned to my team and my colleagues in a way that is productive and supported by best-practices. With all this on my mind it was so important to hear Caitlin’s message of being in the moment and to practice the meditative exercises she began with. It was funny to look around the room and see a room full of tech-savvy educators with their devices blazing before then breathing in and breathing out in an attempt to be in the moment! Is this even possible in this day and age of hyper connectivity?  But Caitlin’s wonderful presentation took this question head on and reminded us all that what makes an educators job so powerful is leveraging the power of community-building in class and using technology to help amplify the quieter voices to a global audience that becomes a part of a student’s individual learning network. 

The first session I attended was put on by colleagues from the Sharon school district about how to create a living, kid-friendly AUP that helps teachers teach digital citizenship. It was very cool to hear how the district approaches the Acceptable Use policy as a teaching tool that is layered and revisited and built upon each year in students’ lives, helping inform parents as well of the snares and potential pitfalls their kids might experience in their use of digital tools. 

The second session I attended was put on by a panel of Twitter using leaders, Pat Larkin, Brian McCann, Jim Adams and John Clements entitled “Embracing Social Media in Schools.” The panelists discussed how to create proactive policies and how to use social media to build relationships that create the fabric of the culture of the school and district. They took questions from the audience such as “When do devices become a distraction to learning? How do you get your tech folks to let down the blocks?  How do you teach kids how to be responsible citizens? How do you create PD opportunities to help engage staff and develop their own skills?

In the afternoon I attended a session on social media for PD with Jonathan Werner. He is great and shared his resources with us. This session was very upbeat and fast-past with a very slick presentation that hit on the idea that we have to re-think the paradigm of PD. He introduced me to Teachers teaching teachers as a model (#ttt). 

I had the honor of also serving as a presenter at this conference! When I saw the call for proposals for this conference back in the fall, I thought I would love to bring together a panel of school leaders who are social media users. I went on Twitter and invited a few school admins to work with me. I was for fortunate to collaborate with Tom Bresnahan, Brian McCann, Bill Burkhead, and Bill Chaplin. We used Twitter direct messaging to flesh out ideas and the worked on a shared Google doc to plan out our session which I used in creating the proposal. The two Bills ended up being pulled away from attending the event, but their collaboration on the bones of our session was essential. As I sit now waiting for our session to begin, I’m excited about being able to lead a discussion with school leaders about how to navigate through the social media “Shark Tank”.  Follow our discussion here: #LFLTank2016 

In conclusion, what I take away was a great opportunity to touch base with the real people behind some of social media accounts I follow. At its essence, bolstered by the message of its morning keynote speaker, Leading Future Learning 2016 is a collegial activity to contribute to  a professional network of educators who believe in technology. 

Here’s a photo of the Sharks at the debrief session:

  

Notes from #EdcampLdr Boston

Have you ever thought about attending an Edcamp?  Here are my notes from my experience at Edcamp Leadership held at Bedford High School in Bedford, MA on 7/13/15.

Entering the school, I saw a couple of former colleagues, Dan Richards and Henry Turner  and it was great to re-connect with both of them.  As I entered the auditorium, I started to recognize several people, many of whom I know as Twitter Rockstars, including Tom Bresnahan, David Hochheiser, Rik Rowe, Brian McCann, Marty Geoghegan, Patrick Larkin, Steve Guditus, Tara Bennett, Jamie Murray Armin.  It is very exciting to be able to make real-world connections with folks who have been so active and supportive via social media.

The formal activities of the day began  at around 9:00 AM with a welcome presentation by Henry Turner during which he oriented the group with the idea behind the Edcamp model.  By a show of hands, the majority of attendees were new to Edcamps and this shows that the idea is spreading.  Today’s camp here in Boston is happening at the same time in locations around the US and even in South America.  If you haven’t experienced an Edcamp, I highly encourage you to take the plunge.
You only have to bring an open mind and a device to be able to build your own Professional Learning Network.  Henry explained that all edcampers are encouraged to put a question on the big board with a large sticky note.  You don’t have to be an expert and present; rather, you just need to have a question and be comfortable acting as a facilitator.  The board was populated by ad-hoc “courses” over the course of the opening hour, while folks were sharing coffee with colleagues in a very informal, welcoming environment.

In the first hour-long discussion session that decided to attend, a group of 16 educators got together to discuss #Makerspaces.  Brian McCann facilitated a discussion with the opening question, “What exactly is a Makerspace?”

Participants shared that it is more about problem-solving than creating an actual space.  It’s a concept that could be done in specific classrooms that use the idea to help students solve problems that are hands on.  Or you could incorporate the Makerspace model in common areas of one’s school, like the media center.  Some examples provided by participants are “Create your own bookmark using LED lights and simple circuits” and “Using 100 styrofoam cups, who can create the tallest tower.”

The conversation really took off from there and it became really hard for me to follow.  Participants began sharing resources immediately to the shared google doc for the whole session.  I got lost trying to find the link for that google doc.  I tweeted out a request using the #EdcampLdr hashtag for the google link and waited for a response on Twitter.  I know I could have just asked someone in real time what the link is, but I already asked another edcamper while walking to the first session and I could not find the link where it was described to me to be.

The really cool part about Edcamp is that we are all here to learn together, collaborate and network.

Many of the participants came to learn about Makerspaces while others came because they are experienced with the concept and want to share ideas and build on what they know.

How do you get folks in your building on board with this idea?

The whole purpose of Makerspaces is to get kids to experience hands-on learning.  This idea is going to be something that teachers agree with.  It’s not an initiative that needs to come down from above.  It is better incorporated in a grass-roots kind of way.

While I was trying hard to keep up with the energetic discussion, I received a notification on my Twitter account and received the link for the google doc.  If you’d like to check it out, click here.  On this big board, you can click on the specific session and see the running notes that are being put up by participants in each session.  At edcamp, we are encouraged to “vote with our feet” and using this big google doc helps us do that by giving us the chance to monitor in real time the discussions that are taking place in the classrooms nearby.

If you take a look at the google doc notes for the Makerspace class during the 9:30-10:30 block, you will see that participants who shared in the live session also posted their thoughts and resources on the google doc.

Session 2 10:30-11:30 How to overcome leadership roadblocks

Participants gathered in BHS’s Large Group Instruction room to participate in a discussion with EdcamptLdr New Jersey via Google Hangouts.  The central question was “What roadblocks have you encountered and how have you overcome them?”  If you’d like to read the notes taken by participants, here’s the link to the google doc.

This was not my first experience using Google Hangout, but it was the first time I’ve seen it used to facilitate discussion between two groups of people in different locations.  This would be a great way to have discussions among educators in different schools around a district, as well as allowing classrooms of students to discuss with other classrooms around the state or the country.

The discussion was hampered at first by some small technical gliches, getting used to the sound and managing the feedback loops that occur when multiple mics pick up the live audio.  However, it didn’t take long for the discussion to really take off, as the notes suggest, and I just enjoyed listening to the comments more than trying to take accurate notes on this post.

Session 3 11:30-12:30 Learning Walks: How to open up those classrooms

Ann Jones opened by sharing how she used learning walks with teachers to help support a cohort of beginning teachers in her building by creating collegial relationships among new and more experienced staff.

Some of the questions we discussed:

How do you get experienced staff to open up their classrooms to new teacher?

How do you make the peer observations happen?  Schedule them or let them happen more organically?

How do you help teacher-observers know what to look for when they are observing?

How do you build the culture where teachers welcome peer observation?

How can your admin team use learning walks to improve their practice and comfort level with walk thrus?

It’s important for all staff to realize that we’re all in it together and the point of Learning Walks and evaluations is to learn and grow, not gotchas.

School-Family Partnership

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It’s no secret that schools and parents have a vital interest in developing and maintaining a constructive relationship.  They both want the best outcome possible for the student.  Sometimes, though, we find ourselves in adversarial footings due to circumstances on the ground.  A school is an organization and as such has to keep policies in place to ensure that the place runs smoothly.  As educators, we have to enforce the policies, many of which we had no hand in creating, but nevertheless, they are a key component of our job descriptions.  When families come up on the wrong side of a school policy, difficult, sometimes charged, conversations result.  Sometimes, these conversations result in the school revising its policies, while at other times, these conversations result in the student changing his/her behavior.  When I’m having one of these difficult conversations with a parent, I try my best to keep my temper in check.  I do this by keeping in mind that the discussion is essentially about doing what’s right for the student.  In my experience, parents want to do this as well.

Another way to minimize the frequency of highly-charged conversations between schools and families is to proactively build relationships.  This is a challenge because there’s only so much time in a day and it’s physically possible to talk to each parents on a daily basis.  We may not be able to communicate daily, but we are committed to creating opportunities in which cordial discussions between school personnel and families can take place.

Social media provides us a relatively easy and cost-effective way to communicate often with families.  The challenge here is that many parents and educators feel like they have “missed the boat” on social media and don’t know how to get started.

My message here is that it is never too late!

If you take the first steps and get connected on Twitter, you will quickly find that there are many people who want to help.  But the best way to learn about Twitter is by using it.

My goal is to help parents, teachers, students, & community members get on board with Twitter.  I am organizing local workshops for members of the North Attleboro High School community that will take place when we return from the holiday break.  If you are a member of our school community and would like some help getting started with Twitter, please fill out this brief questionnaire.  I will set up workshops that will be held at school at times convenient to you.

I look forward to seeing you!

Twitter Workshop for Teachers

20131117-222741.jpgLet’s begin by clicking on the link below.  The TwitterWkshp1 slideshow will guide us through our 45 minute workshop.  Please feel free to work as slow or as fast as you’d like!  

Twitter Workshop1

Questions can be asked live or on Twitter if you mention me: @JoeSco77

Here’s the Twitter for Educator’s: A Beginner’s Guide that I emailed around to folks last week, if you want to use it as a reference: