Saturday, July 28, 2012

To the Twitterverse and Beyond! (A Tweep is Born)

I guess you could say I am still a Social Media "infant."  I've only existed in the "Twitterverse" for 6 months.  Why did it take me so long to get on board?   Well, I was one of the many Twitter hold-outs.  I just couldn't understand how Twitter could possibly be useful to me at age 40+.  Heck, I'm not even on Facebook!  Wasn't Twitter the younger generation's "thing?"  Well, according to two of my teachers, Twitter was becoming a great source of professional development for them.  It was giving them inspiration, and they began encouraging me to check it out.  Still, I was hesitant to put myself out there.  I had no clue how to "Tweet!" However, seeing their excitement began peaking my curiosity.  So one evening last February, I finally decided I was going to give it a go. 

Much to my surprise, I found setting up my Twitter account to be fairly easy.  The site walks you through a simple step-by-step process.  I had heard that picking your screen name was pretty important.  Since I knew that I was going to use this account as a professional tool, I decided to go with the handle @MMEPrincipal.  Knowing a few of my teachers and principal colleagues were already connected helped me begin choosing who to add to my PLN.  (Personal Learning Network,  for you newbies!)  Once I got all set up and sent out my first official tweet, I was welcomed into a whole new world that would transform me in ways I could never have imagined.  It took me a while to get the hang of mentions, hashtags, and chats, but it's like anything else--you learn by doing!

Though I've only been on Twitter for 6 months, in that short time frame I feel like I have been reborn.  A whole new world of learning has opened up to me.  I have learned so much from other people all over the world.  Not only have I made connections with fellow principals and teachers, but I have also connected with Twitter friends who are authors, bloggers, librarians--and generally just very smart people!  I have become a voracious reader--of blogs, of books, of ideas being streamed non-stop through my Twitter-feed.  Most importantly, I feel I have truly become the lead learner in my building.  Social media has inspired me and given me the vehicle to navigate this important role!

One of the first smart people I followed was @PrincipalJ.  One of my fifth grade teachers, @MMEGrade5, had forwarded something to me that she had written about her school's  journey into implementing Daily 5 and CAFE school-wide.  This really resonated with me because we were doing the same thing at my school.  It was a great feeling to know there was someone else out their leading her building through this process.  As soon as I realized @PrincipalJ also shared many of her other ideas and reflections via a blog, I decided I wanted a piece of that action as well!  I caught the blogging bug,  and A Principal's Pensieve was born. 

I will say that I have done a much better job keeping up with my Twitter account than my blog.   After over 1,000 Tweets and having the very surprising honor of being named one of 48 Indiana Educators to Follow by @StateImpactIN, I'm  feeling pretty comfortable within the confines of 140 characters.  However, I am less confident in my ability to write with enough finesse to attract readers to my blog.  And I thought I was putting myself out there via Twitter!  I had no idea how daunting writing lengthier pieces for the entire world to read can be.  Blogging really exposes you and makes you feel extremely vulnerable.  However, I'm happy to say that I've finally come to the realization that I just need to get over it!  I realize that I need to have this outlet to reflect and write about things that are important to me.  My posts do not look like they are professionally written , but they do contain my thoughts, my reflections, my opinions, my hopes and dreams, and they also help express who I am. As you are reading this,  I hope there will be a small part of this born-again social media geek that will resonate with you, just as so many terrific bloggers have done for me.  (A small sample of some great blogs is listed on my homepage.) 

If you are one of the hold-outs who has been hearing the buzz about Twitter or other social media outlets but you're still afraid to give it a try, I urge you get out of your comfort zone and just dive in!  If I can do it, anyone can!  You will not regret granting yourself access to a professional development portal that is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  There are great minds out there who love to share their knowledge and continue to help all of us remain a committed and cohesive group of lifelong learners.  So don't miss out--get connected!  You'll be glad you did!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Preparing Classrooms for Another Year of Learning

I started back to work this week, and I am impressed with the number of teachers who have already begun working in their classrooms.  We had quite a bit of construction in the building over the summer, and many of them have been chomping at the bit to get into their classrooms and begin setting up for the big day--August 14.  It will be here before we know it! 

This is an exciting time for me too because in addition to preparing the school for students and staff to return, I also have a classroom to prepare.  I am fortunate to have an extra room in which I can hold all of my Instructional Improvement Blocks (IIBs).  IIB is a daily time block in which we meet as an entire elementary staff for a 30 minute professional development session.  This summer all of our textbook deliveries were placed in this room, which meant I spent the entire day on Tuesday unpacking boxes and delivering books to the classrooms--I lost count after box number 124.  Yes, that's a lot of books!  Now that the books and cardboard boxes are out of there, it is up to me to create a welcoming environment in my classroom.  Hmm...what to do?

Last year, I put up a CAFE board and Daily 5 choice chart as focal points in the classroom.  We are school-wide with both, and I wanted to keep the staff focused on them throughout the year. I created cute little strategy cards for the bulletin board and hung them under each letter of CAFE, thinking it would be a great visual.  I referenced the board a few times during our IIBs, but I didn't give my teachers any ownership in this display.  There were countless days that we spent honing our skills in D5 and CAFE in which I would show videos, share teaching strategies and expectations, teachers would share ideas and collaborate, and we would discuss our progress.  However, I kept forgetting about that wall!

This year, I plan to have the teachers create the strategy cards as we are focusing on them in our sessions.  Just as the teachers have the students create them as they are taught, I feel it would be meaningful to do the same with my teachers.  I have devoted one day per week to CAFE/D5 so that we stay up to date and current in our instructional practices.   Just as I expect my teachers to refer to their interactive CAFE boards during instruction and have their students take ownership, I will be doing the same with them.

So, in setting up my classroom, I will have the CAFE board and Daily 5 choices posted, but I will wait for my "students" to take this journey with me and record our learning as we go.  Even though we have been doing CAFE and Daily 5 school-wide for more than a year, there is always room to grow.  Plus this year we have 5 new teachers that will take this journey with us! 

As far as the rest of the room's decor?  Well, I have decided to leave the rest of the bulletin boards "bare" so that my teachers will have opportunities to show ownership of this classroom.  My goal will be to have them create items based on what we work on throughout the year.  I want it to be OUR classroom, not MY classroom.  As you reflect on decorating your classrooms this summer in preparation for the beginning of school, I urge you to think about whose classroom it is and how you can create a sense of ownership and community with your students. 

Will any of your bulletin boards be bare?