A Week(ish) in Review: Back to School

Well, we just wrapped up the first full week of school. It’s Friday night, about quarter ’till ten, and I’m just sitting down to decompress. And wow, there is so much to decompress from. What a whirlwind the past 8 days have been. Last time we met, I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious about the first day of school, so I shared our Twitter for PD Policy we’re piloting in our district. That blog post seems like a lifetime ago! This past week or so has had it’s fill of ups and downs like any week in the life of an educator and parent, but overall, the outlook for the year is bright.

First, I’ll try to (as briefly as I can manage) describe to you how our first half day of school went. This was a day for freshmen and new students to the building. I asked my principal in the spring if I could be in charge of the first day of school and make it my baby. He graciously allowed me to do so, and I had the passion and purpose (those two are a dangerous combination) to make it a fun, meaningful, successful day for our students. The planning that went in to this day was tremendous, but it was nothing compared to the way our school came together and truly put on a show. There were teachers over the summer preparing materials, contacting students, and choreographing and rehearsing performances. I had a group of about 25 upperclassmen who gave up two days out of their summer to come train with me to get ready for the big day. I had volunteers who helped me set up for the day, and they did so willingly and with a smile on their face. I’ve told you before, and I’ll probably tell you again – our school is a great place to be. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the wonderful dispositions of the people at our school. Anyway, the whole idea of the day was to start these new students’ year off on a positive note. But, I didn’t want it to stop there. I wanted them to feel on that first day. I wanted them to feel what it was like to get involved. I wanted them to feel the power of our pep band. I wanted them to feel what a spectacular a cappella National Anthem from our choir sounds like. I wanted them to feel like family as they learned the alma mater and fight song. I wanted them to feel unity as they learned the “freshmen” cheer for pep assemblies. I wanted them to feel as though they belonged during their small group sessions with their group leaders. I wanted them to feel like they could have a successful school year with a few good decisions. I wanted them to feel…like a Cardinal. Was this achieved? I can’t speak for each individual student, but I’d like to think we came close. So for those of you who had a hand in making this day special, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was one of the most stressful, fun, and gratifying things I have been a part of.

The weekend soon followed our back to school bash, and starting Monday, school was in full force. I was able to relax a bit, as our inservice days and first days of school were complete, but it wasn’t long before I was right back into the groove of my “usual” routine (or as routine as we can get) of tackling our next PD days, organizing Tech Tuesdays, completing teacher evaluation tasks, organizing meetings, getting into classrooms – the works. And now that I think about it, although my blog from last week seems so long ago, I also feel like this week flew by. At any rate, last week, I wrote about our Twitter PD opportunities in our district, and this week, I was delighted to see teachers start to take advantage of them. I saw at least three teachers start to interact with other educators, and participate in chats on Twitter. Conversations that I had with these teachers afterwards only affirmed that what we’re doing is the right thing. Each teacher had gained resources, ideas, and a network of people to collaborate with in the future. But what I loved hearing most of all, was that those teachers had fun doing this. That brought me so much joy, and I can only hope it’s a positive sign for what’s to come throughout the year for learning via Twitter (and heck, learning in general).

As I mentioned earlier, the week had both ups and downs.  In the midst of the sad times that can oftentimes come along with the job of an educator, there’s always something that brings joy back into my heart. Tonight, I hugged my baby girl a little tighter, gave her a few extra kisses, and shed two tears as we said our prayers before she went to sleep. There’s no way I deserve all I have been blessed with in life thus far, but each night I will continue to pray prayers of thanks.


Twitter? For Professional Development? You Betchya.

Tomorrow is the first day of school. So, naturally, I can’t sleep. It’s either blog or have a dream that I show up and have nothing actually prepared for the big day. I’ll save the latter for later.  Although I’m so excited about our first day tomorrow (I’m getting more familiar with why they call it “on pins and needles”), I’ll wait to blog about it until it has actually happened. Let’s just say I have roughly 25 upperclassmen taking the reigns for a good portion of the day, and I’m so anxious to see them rock it!

The last few days have been a whirlwind. We, as an administrative team, worked very hard to prepare the first two days of inservice for our staff. We have a lot of logistical changes this year, and our staff, like the champs they are, took them all in stride. I feel very fortunate to work at the school I work at. The teachers are hard working, open to new ideas, and down to have fun. I took them through two ridiculous team building activities, and we had SO much fun with it. Truth bomb – it was the first time I had played these games with adults, and I was a little nervous about it. All I knew is that I thought the games were hilarious and fun (and could deliver the points we wanted to make), and hoped the staff would enjoy them. We may have left the gym sweaty, but we laughed the entire way back to the library, where it was off for more learning. Anyway, back to my point – our teachers rock. Today, one of our secretaries came by my office just to say, “I love where we work. How did we get so lucky to work with such amazing people?” All I could do was agree with her, because she was absolutely correct.

Nonetheless, when presenting new ideas to a group of teachers, it’s easy to find yourself second guessing your presentation, how you delivered it, how it was received, etc. (Which is why we started giving out feedback forms after each inservice day – we want to know how our teachers feel about how our time was spent!) So when I delivered the presentation on how to earn Professional Development Points by learning via Twitter, I was both ecstatic, and a little nervous.

Let me back up just a little bit. Back in February, I attended the NASSP Conference in San Diego. This was one of the best things that I think could have happened to me in my first year as an administrator (because let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get in this still-new-to-me-role). With people like Eric Sheninger, Dwight Carter, and Daisy Dyerr Duerr presenting, how could I not come away with some of the most amazing ideas? (Which by the way, I’ve taken at least one thing from each of those education gurus and implemented a version of it at EHS, so thank you for that!) Even though the presentations I watched from these leaders were not directly about Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice that Twitter was everywhere around me. Hashtags here, @’s there, presenters tweeting as they’re presenting, attendees live-tweeting the conference – I was submerged into the Twitter-verse. So one night in the hotel room, I took a look at my Twitter. I had a private account. I tweeted mostly just personal things, little updates (that no one probably even cared about), the Royals, and occasionally, maybe something about school. That night, I started following the conference hashtag and started following some people from the conference. I started looking at what they tweeted about. I looked at who they followed, and what they tweeted. I found more hashtags. More resources. More everything. I started reading articles on the benefits of using Twitter for professional reasons, and I was hooked. That night, in the hotel room, I made a change. It was subtle at first, but the more I got into it, the more I loved it. I began the journey of transforming my presence on Twitter. I started leveraging Twitter for professional growth and telling our school’s story, and I haven’t looked back. Now, if you look at my profile, it’s nothing to brag about. In fact, 629 followers as of tonight does not qualify me as someone to be looked to for advice on, “How to get more followers on Twitter.” But more importantly than the number of followers I have, is what I gain from Twitter each time I get on. I should probably re-phrase that. Twitter is the tool I use in which to get resources; however, what I gain, I gain from like-minded, driven, passionate educators around the world. From reading articles, to getting resources, to new ideas, to collaboration – Twitter is a vehicle that will take you all of those places, and I knew that night in San Diego, that Twitter was something I needed to get to know. Now.

Last year, I worked with a couple of teachers at my school, and with the professional development council in our district, to write and approve a policy that allows teachers to earn Professional Development Points if they participate in their own PD on Twitter. By submitting a “proof of learning,” they are eligible for up to 2 or 3 points per submission. If you’re interested in the policy itself, feel free to check it out here.

I spent some time last year trying to lay some groundwork so that this policy could be ready to roll out this year. We spent some time as a staff learning how Twitter works, researching hashtags, and exploring what it has to offer educators. Yesterday, I was able to briefly re-touch on those points, and present to the staff the opportunity to gain PD points through their own learning experience, followed by time to explore and play around on Twitter (and Storify).

One of our goals this year is to improve and transform professional development in our building. We hope to be able to bring a bigger, better EdCamp to our teachers, implement Genius Hour, and include other innovate ideas that our teachers came up with for professional development. We hope that by implementing our Twitter PD Policy, it will only have a positive effect on teaching and learning in our building. I think it’s important to note that this is not going to be an expectation of our teachers – we understand that this isn’t for everyone. We simply want to provide teachers the opportunity to get rewarded for taking the initiative to learn on their own, and encourage them to use this massive resource if they feel it can benefit their growth journey.

I had a teacher today tell me that she always has a hard time finding new, innovative ideas for CTE classes. With one of the hashtags from the presentation yesterday, she said she already found a few! I was A) so happy for her that she found some resources, and B) so excited that she shared that with me.  I told you earlier that our staff is awesome.

Here’s to a new school year – one full of change, opportunity, learning, and let’s not forget to sprinkle in some fun and laughter. As usual, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Now off to dream about all the t’s I forgot to cross and i’s I forgot to dot for our first day of school.