The Spaces Where I Learn and Work

This week’s #EdublogsClub prompt asks us to share insights about our learning spaces and processes, including tours of our classrooms, offices, and work spaces.

I smiled when I read it, because I planned to share a bit of news this week via my blog, and that news fortuitously intertwines with this week’s prompt.

I remember my first years of teaching…. “decorating” my classroom was one of my favorite school year preparation activities. I loved sharing inspirational posters, bright colors, inventive bulletin boards, and creating spaces where my students could post and share their own work. Desks were in groups or in pairs or we used tables, and my earliest years of teaching sixth and fifth grades are among my favorites in my career! My classrooms were beyond colorful, beyond cluttered, and if I had the chance to do it over today, I’m sure I’d make some changes.

My 2001 Classroom!

I inherited the principal’s office from my predecessor and it served as a functional workspace. In my second year I decided to move my office to a more central location in the intermediate hallway and this larger space afforded me the chance to personalize it and make it an enjoyable space for kids. The putting green, basketball net, bookshelves filled with kid lit, and beanbag chairs were put to good use! I loved being out of the “main office” area and in the heart of the school.

As an instructional technology coach, I used a desk/counter space/table in the hallway in each of the elementary buildings I served, and my classrooms were the teachers’ classrooms!

Well, the time has come where I no longer have an office in a school, or a classroom space that is my own. For the past year I’ve been on leave from my school district after the birth of our daughter, and last week I submitted my resignation.

While on leave I’ve had the great privilege of developing my skills as a consultant, most notably with Kiker Learning offering Google for Education trainings on a variety of instructional topics to a broad range of participant audiences. Professional development is truly my passion. I absolutely loved that aspect of the principalship: designing… facilitating… watching teachers learn and grow…. and before I moved into administration I enjoyed learning alongside my teaching colleagues.

As anyone who has raised two young children knows, these moments are fleeting. I can’t thank my husband enough for supporting my work in this way and affording me the opportunity to stay home with our babies. Serving as a consultant allows me the flexibility to do so while also continuing to learn and serve schools. It is truly an honor to work with so many dedicated teachers, administrators, students, and staff members across the Northeast. I’m thrilled about what’s next and can’t wait to see where future opportunities take me!

My home has now become a place that needs to support my creativity and productivity, whether it’s at my office desk, in the family room, or at the kitchen bar island. I can say that working from home is one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced in my career! It’s even more incredible trying to find a home-work balance when your work is often done in your home!

I can’t wait to see the variety of different spaces where I’ll work and learn this year. Every school, classroom, teacher, principal, and student I have the chance to interact with strengthens Maybe it will be in your classroom, school, or district?! 🙂

To learn more about opportunities to learn with me, visit the Hilt Consultants, LLC website or the Work with Me page of my blog.

Thanks for reading!

Live with intent.


In 2013 I wrote about Beginnings. Last year, I shared my desire to Embrace the everything in my world.

One Little Word.

The past few weeks have been quite contemplative for me, both professionally and personally. I don’t know what 2015 holds, although I hope it will involve a lot of growing and change. I’m eager for new adventures and challenges. Decisions will be made and futures shaped. There will be smiles, love, frustrations, fear, and exhaustion. I’ll travel and collaborate and meet new people and help current relationships thrive. I want to make more, be more, write more, feel more, give more.

All of that is possible if I feel and act with intent. 

In 2015, I will be intentional with my words and actions.

It’s easy to get in a rut. To go through the motions. To be a creature of habit. To say things you don’t mean. It’s much more difficult to act intentionally in order to bring more positivity and excitement and challenge and joy to life.


Wishing you all a magical 2015!


The first year.

Image via icanread
Image via icanread

This year marked the fifteenth (gak!) in my career in education, so it’s nice that I still have the opportunity to reflect upon firsts. As time passes, many of us transition into new and exciting roles, and the 13-14 school year was one of those for me.

I accepted the position of elementary instructional technology integrator for our district after my son was born last school year. I had no desire to attempt to balance the demands of new motherhood with the likely-more-insane-and-less-fun demands of being an elementary principal, so I resigned at the end of my maternity leave. (People often ask me if I miss administration. That is a terribly phrased question. I do not miss administration. Do I miss being the principal? Every now and then. I miss kid time and -some- decision-making authority.)

My current role is to support the teachers and students of three elementary schools in our district. I have a “base” in each of the three schools, and spend my work days each week traveling to the three buildings. I commute a decent distance so I will say one of the lows of this position is all of the driving that is involved. I dislike commuting immensely, so I need to devise a plan to make that time more worthwhile. Perhaps a Voxer podcast? 🙂 I also end up schlepping around my belongings from place to place, thus my cart and I have become intimately acquainted this year. (And for the record, I really need one of these. Cords are pesky.)

To guide my reflections on this year, I’m using some questions shared by Elena Aguilar in her collection of coaching tools  (also check out her post, Reflecting on a Year of Learning for more great tips on the reflection process). I uploaded her Questions for reflecting on a year of learning document here in Google Drive for you to access. It’s available in Word in her post.

My reflections go a little something like this.

This Year

This year I crafted the role of the elementary tech integrator kind of from scratch, as it did not previously exist in our district, although my job description mirrored that of our secondary tech integrator. I spent time getting to know the teachers and students at each building. I made sure certain online accounts were up and running, such as those for Kidblog and Qwertytown. I devoted a good deal of time to curating and sharing resources. I used Google Forms for record keeping purposes, to easily track the grade levels, teachers, students and teams I worked with, as well as the different topics and tools that I coached/provided tutorials and/or direct instruction. My summary of responses indicated that I spent a lot of time working with grades 3-6 and less time in the primary grades. Reflecting on that, our Grades 4-6 students learn in a 1:1 setting and therefore have more opportunities for fluent tech use on a daily basis, where the primary classes typically share devices and/or utilize the computer labs for project work. Google Apps for Ed accounts begin in grade 3, and I completed numerous lessons and push-in support for students and teachers on GAFE topics this year. I worked 1:1 with a number of teachers, supporting their classroom endeavors, and also with specific grade levels supporting needs as requested. I had the opportunity to push into a grade five classroom during their Genius Hour project work time for a handful of hours, and the students really inspired me with their questions, thinking, and project work! Also this year I finalized the K-6 technology integration framework that is built on ISTE Standards for Students, and I worked with the secondary tech integrator, the mighty Tim, to write Spartan Digital Competencies for Teachers based on ISTE Standards for Teachers. This will be used in conjunction with our teacher evaluation system to provide teachers with the opportunity to set goals and make plans to integrate technology meaningfully into their practice and classroom activities. I worked through the Common Sense Media scope and sequence and instructed students in grades 3-6 on various lessons from that framework, and also met with our computer lab personnel to help them roll out these lessons in their settings as well. Throughout the year I developed and presented sessions during our elementary in-service days. We learned more about blogging with students, incorporating Google Drive into classroom activities, digital storytelling projects, and formative assessment with digital tools. Tim and I co-planned the end of year “Tech Day” for all K-12 staff, which was held on the last day of school. We received some really positive feedback about the structure of the day and the sessions offered! I also ended up assuming the role of overseeing some of the district’s social media channels.

I’d like to think I made a positive impact this first year. I noticed an increase in use of many of the digital tools our district offers, and I received some complimentary feedback on a personal level from a number of teachers. That being said, I didn’t reach as many people as I could have. I didn’t “push” enough and perhaps didn’t make myself as available as possible. My hope is that now that my position is well established, folks will think of me sooner than later next year, and eagerly ask for my input and help when needed. What I learned about adult learners is that they want relevant, timely resources. They want to be coached in a way that does not belittle them or make them feel as though the skills they already have are not important. Teachers will not plan to use technology/devices/tools that are unreliable. There is nothing more defeating than getting psyched up to take a risk and try something new in your classroom, and then have a huge fail: device fail, network fail, battery fail, whatever. What I learned about students is that they want to talk about their digital interactions and their lives using technology. Even our youngest learners are using technology in ways that can be powerful, yet many are subscribed to services and using apps and platforms that are collecting their data and using their personally identifiable information, and they’re doing so without a parent’s permission or without some adult in their life looking over their activities. That makes me nervous and further solidifies to me that we, as educators, need to model for our students what it means to be a critical, wise, healthy, and kind consumer and creator in the digital age.

As I spent a lot of time locating, curating, and sharing resources for my teachers and school community, I can share evidence such as my Elementary Tech Integrator blog, Tech Tidbits issues made on Smore, and family newsletters. I also created instructional materials to accompany the Common Sense Media digital citizenship lessons we taught in grades 3-6 and became a Common Sense Media Certified Educator this year. I presented with some of our district support staff at a Title 1 parent conference at our IU to share family-focused digital citizenship resources.

In the connected edusphere, I had the opportunity to write a chapter for an upcoming Learning Forward publication, presented at FETC, PETE & C, and several webinars for Simple K-12. I facilitated another successful Educational Leadership in the Digital Age course for PLP (hoping to run another section in the fall, if you’re interested!) and next year I am slated to attend and present at Edscape, the Learning Forward conference, and integratED PDX.

This Summer

Truthbomb: this summer I am going to spend a lot of time with my ridiculously handsome and personable toddler and family and a lot of time at the beach! My position is a teacher contracted position and thus I am no longer a 12-month employee. I am scheduled to work a handful of days in the summer months, which will include

  • Attending IU13’s e-Learning Revolution conference next week, presenting on digital age professional development on day 2 and the Bucks-Lehigh Edusummit in August to share about elem. tech integration
  • Providing a day of training for staff with our new district blogs through Edublogs/Campuspress!
  • Continuing to update the Elem Tech Integrator blog and sharing resources with staff
  • Working with our grades 1 and 6 teams who are transitioning to a hybrid instructional model next year
  • Reading Invent to Learn and putting some ideas together for an elementary makerspace
  • Continuing to moderate the Instructional Technology Integrators and Coaches Google+ community
  • Capturing family moments in thousands of photos and videos, using Day One to journal our special time together, and working on my Project Life 2014 album

No matter what your role this year, take some time to reflect. You’ll be surprised at how this process allows you to see how much you’ve learned, the ways in which you contributed to your learning community, and the things you need to do to improve and grow professionally to make an even more lasting impact in years to come. This post is certainly worthy of a TLDR tag, and I know I didn’t articulate all of the ways in which I served my district this year, but this reflective process is truly a powerful one.

In my next post, I’ll tackle the final two sections of Aguilar’s reflection guide: what I hope to accomplish come August/Fall and Next School Year. Stay tuned!

Until we meet again…


Dear Principalship,

It’s been quite a ride.

I transitioned into administration in the summer of 2008, not knowing what to expect. But, after 9 years in the classroom, I welcomed with open arms (and a whole boatload of nervous) the new adventures you’d bring.

It’s hard to summarize in a single post the valuable leadership lessons I’ve learned over the past five years. I’ve blogged about many of them. I don’t want this post to be a total rehash of everything I’ve ever written about the life of a principal, so suffice it to say that serving as the principal of Brecknock Elementary School has allowed me to learn about myself as a person, teacher, leader, manager, caregiver, organizer, disciplinarian, partner, mentor, mentee, coach, supervisor, friend, teammate, and student.

I laughed, and I cried.

I will greatly miss interacting with my students on a daily basis. (Understatement of the century). When I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I’d see one of their smiling faces, or one of the kids would say something so innocent and ridiculous I’d laugh my head off. Thank you, students.

I worked with a large number of teachers during my principalship. New teachers, veteran teachers, and teachers somewhere in between. Teachers with a variety of strengths, needs, and all inspired by the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child. Thanks to the teachers who supported me, challenged me, and everything in between 🙂

Thanks also to all of the members of my PLN who’ve supported me over the past five years, who’ve read and shared my work on leadership, and who’ve joined in the conversations both here on my blog and on Twitter. Thanks also for your support of my webinars and conference presentations. I appreciate everyone at Connected Principals (not sure if I’m permitted to post there anymore 🙂 and the educators who contribute to #cpchat and #edchat. I’m so grateful for the contributions of these communities. Much love also to Powerful Learning Practice and all of the plpeeps! You’ve all nurtured me as a learner and leader, in one way or another.

The bad news? I suppose I’ll need a new title for my blog!

The good news? I’m not going anywhere!

I’ll be serving as our district’s elementary instructional technology integrator beginning next school year. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work closely with teachers and staff seeking to best integrate technology into our classrooms and to help bring about “the shift” that is so necessary in the ways in which we approach teaching and learning for today’s learners. I’ll have the chance to design professional development, co-teach, coach teachers, and facilitate student project work. The position will afford me with the freedom to pursue my passions and to help teachers get connected and transform learning experiences for their students.

Thankfully I will still have many leadership opportunities, and this summer I’ll be teaching both my first college course to prospective principals (tech for administrators!) and an online course for admin through PLP (check out the details here, because I’d love for you to learn with me!), so I’m very excited about my continued role working with school leaders.

If you’re reading this post, please please comment with the names and blogs and Twitter profiles of people I should connect with to help me be the best I can be in my new role. What hashtags should I follow? What do I need to know? What can I learn to extend my thinking and strengthen my skills in this area? Reach out to me here, on Twitter, via email… thanks in advance!

I could write this farewell post ten thousand times over and remember fondly a different aspect of the principalship each time. I’m looking forward to change, growth, and to new beginnings.

Goodbye, Principalship. Until we meet again… because we will, someday.




Learning as leaders.

from Scott McLeod’s Pinterest

As part of Pennsylvania’s Inspired Leadership (PIL) program, as a principal I have the opportunity to participate in professional development sessions offered through the National Institute for School Leadership.

I’m now involved in the fourth and final course of the program, which includes three units: The Principal as Driver of Change, Leading for Results, and a culminating simulation.

The program is comprehensive, and over the past few years I’ve experienced sessions that have greatly enhanced my understanding of my role as a leader, and others that have barely made an impact on my practice. Sessions are led by various educational professionals, both retired and practicing administrators, and I can definitely say the quality of the session and my learning is highly dependent upon the skills of the facilitators. (Sound familiar?)

Another potential beneficial aspect of these sessions is the ability to network with other principals and administrators in our local area. The most meaningful time in our days of coursework came when we were given the opportunity to talk, at length, with our colleagues. Not all sessions are designed in this fashion, and in far too many we were being “spoken to” rather than actually involved in the conversations. While the curriculum itself was designed with a purpose, in some sessions, the needs of the participants clearly varied greatly than what was delivered. (Evident by audible sighs and grumblings.) On those days, most of us were busting at the seams to talk to one another about actual situations we were experiencing, roadblocks we were encountering, and just reaching out for a general sense of support from someone in our role who “gets it.” Just this week I had the chance to talk about the Daily Five with another elementary principal who was looking for a literacy framework for her school. She had never heard of it, and without the opportunity to discuss ideas with one another, she would have left the session not knowing it existed.

In my first few courses, taken about two years ago, we were given strict instructions to “power down.” That, obviously, didn’t go over well with me, or the other 30 principals in the room who were out of their buildings during the school day and who felt a need to be connected to their buildings. For me, I obviously wanted the immediate access to information. If a facilitator mentioned a great book I should read, I was forced to write the title down on the side of a piece of paper located in my ginormous binder of resources (the contents of which are difficult to easily reference and share with others) rather than quickly access it on Amazon and add it to my wish list or add it to my Shelfari list.

After that first adamant directive: “Turn off your devices, folks,” I was brutally honest when completing the session evaluation that afternoon. The devices give us access to information; some people learn very effectively in that manner; we’re principals whose schools are in session and our people need to be able to contact us; oh, yeah, and WE’RE ADULTS. Day 2? They changed their tune. “We understand some of you might use your devices to take notes or access information, so you may use them, just please be respectful of others in the group.” There’s an idea.

On subsequent evaluations I always mention the need for a course that includes learning about the role of the connected educator and the need for skills in networking and familiarity with technology and innovative teaching and learning practices. In one session I was given 15-20 minutes at the end of the day to promote the use of social networks in education, and from that talk I convinced a handful of folks to give Twitter a try and work to update some of their school communications. But even this past week, when asked by the facilitator, “Who among you are using social media for the task of communicating with parents and staff?” (the thought of using it for professional growth wasn’t even mentioned), my hand raised, and after my explanations I again answered questions about safety, fear regarding negative comments on blogs, etc. I’m not surprised, considering the facilitator began her social media discussion by sharing how 9th graders in her school used Facebook to coordinate an end-of-the-year food fight, and it was clear the majority of the blame fell on the tool, not the individuals involved.

So, on one hand, the NISL folks are telling us how the US is lagging behind other countries in so many areas of educational performance, including global awareness, and on the other hand, many facilitators admonish the use of the tools that can GET US CONNECTED.

We leave the sessions, the only connection we have to one another are our shared conversations and a mass email list that goes out to remind us of the session assignments and location. There would be great benefit in developing an online, interactive portal in which participants could network. One time, we tried setting up a cohort wiki, but it didn’t take. I understand there’s a tremendous cost involved to the state for funding this type of professional development for administrators, and perhaps therein lies the problem. We’re neglecting the use of the free and on-demand tools that can connect us together in learning.

Questions and Elemeducon.

Shared by CarbonNYC on Flickr

I left Educon 2.4 with questions. I think that’s the point. For every new “a-ha” moment, a handful of extending questions surfaced in my brain. Some energized me, some exhausted me.

“What if?” This was the first question I was asked to ponder at Educon. David Jakes led a session that caused us to truly expound on our thinking about topics ranging from hallways in our schools to shopping cart design. Design Thinking for Educators is a resource that I’ve referenced in the past but would like to explore in depth. I see tremendous power in this process, yet could also see how many of us were extended past our comfort levels in thinking about change. Our experiences tell us that the ideation process should typically have limits. The design thinking process says, “No, it doesn’t.” We need to start asking, “What if?”

“Social media-fueled PD: is it making a difference?” Lots of chatter here. Jon Becker, Meredith Stewart, and Bud Hunt asked us to consider whether the time we spend engaged in learning through Twitter and unconventional methods. The #edchat and #edcamp folks amassed in this session, I believe, to stand firm and defend their methods of learning through social media. I don’t think the facilitators questioned the value we find in these methods so much as they wished for us to consider how we would defend the impact of this learning to parents, administrators, etc. A few months ago a conversation on Twitter emerged about how we measure the effectiveness of this PD. What actual difference is it making in our schools? How is that impact measured? And should it be? My take-away comment from this session came from Shelly Blake-Plock, who essentially declared that this type of learning “ruined his life,” in so much as it turned his life upside down; changed his way of thinking; caused him to relocate, change jobs, and devote himself to working with at-risk students. I’d imagine his students are quite thankful for this transformation.

“How do we ask the right questions?” Zac Chase’s session asked us to consider our inquiry-based practices in schools. What questions are we asked our students? Teachers? Why? He opened with a story about a young boy and his mother in the airport. The mother seeking to keep her son distracted from through a proposed “game” involving the arrivals/departure board; the son asking to change the “rules” of the game in order to better meet his needs.  So when we allow the learner to change the rules- if it gets us to the same goal, does it matter? Perhaps more importantly, are the questions we’re asking leading to the right goals?

“So you’re connected… now what?” Team Couros & Larkin again hosted a session to discuss the administrator’s role in propelling learning organizations forward through immersion with connected learning. This follow-up session also sought to define and describe real ways in which connected learning are influencing students. Not surprising, the topics of administrative fear, apprehension, and skepticism were raised. Many administrators are still uncomfortable with the ideas of connecting themselves, their teachers, and their students. Are you an administrator? Or do you know one? Send them to Connected Principals. Get them connected with one of us. It starts with tough conversations, but it has to start somewhere.

“How can we rethink learning spaces?” Michael Wacker and Glenn Moses kicked off their conversation by asking us to consider, “What is the most meaningful PD you’ve ever had?” Many mentioned Twitter (I stand in my position that Twitter in itself is not PD – the conversations and connections with other learners through that vehicle could constitute development, but Twitter is merely a tool), #edcamps, and the like. I remember when I taught 5th grade, one of my colleagues ran a PD session as a requirement for one of her master’s courses. It was the first time information was formally presented to me by a colleague. As I think back on that now, I found that session to be very engaging and informative, and I believe it was that much more meaningful since the ideas being shared were from someone I worked with on a daily basis. It was personal and real, as all PD should be, no matter if the learning space is physical or virtual.

Elemeducon. I proposed my conversation because in past years, I felt there hasn’t been much of an elementary focus in the conversations at Educon. I think that’s now changing, as there were several sessions this year with an elementary focus. My hope is that we can continue the discussion raised in our energizing elementary innovation session on the final day of the event. We asked a lot of questions. I’m working on a separate space to share our thoughts from the session, to create a place where the many passionate elementary educators in our world can share ideas and support one another through this journey.

Do you have ideas for what you would like to see in this space? Format? Must-haves? Essential components? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Stay tuned! 

The bar has been raised.

“How do we get reluctant administrators on board with utilizing technologies to communicate, connect, and collaborate?”

This is one of the most prevalent questions I encounter when chatting with educators on Twitter, through informal conversations, and in presentations I’ve shared. It came through loud and clear in the Connected Principals ISTE session that teachers want their administrators to value the opportunities to use technologies to enhance learning opportunities for students and to encourage collaboration and connected learning.

I decided to roll with Scott McLeod’s prompt suggestion of: Using the National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A) as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?

How do reluctant administrators begin? By owning up to the fact that their participation and leadership in this area is essential. It’s crucial. This is one of my favorite graphics that Scott created:

In my opinion, it can happen…. I’ve seen many rogue teachers propel their classes forward in a manner not necessarily supported or understood by the administration. But it’s not easy. And it’s not systemic. And it won’t be as meaningful for all kids as it needs to be.

The NETS-A was developed with a critical understanding that the bar has been raised for school leaders. A school leader who wishes to “create and sustain a culture that supports digital age learning must become comfortable collaborating as co-learners with colleagues and students around the world” (aka “I don’t do technology” is no longer acceptable.)  Also, this framework seeks to help school leaders propel their organizations forward as members of “dynamic learning communities.” Vision is vital.

The NETS-A are organized around 5 major themes: Visionary Leadership, Digital Age Learning Culture, Excellence in Professional Practice, Systemic Improvement, and Digital Citizenship. 

If you are an administrator, read the descriptions of the components of each category and ask yourself, “Am I there yet?” If so, how will you influence and develop others in order to contribute to the shared vision? If not, how will you begin to develop professionally in order to get there? So you can get your teachers and kids there?

Visionary Leadership: Educational administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization.

Key ideas: all stakeholders; purposeful change; maximize digital resources; exceed learning goals; support effective instructional practices; develop and implement technology-infused strategic plans; advocate for this vision at the local, state, and national levels

Digital Age Learning Culture: Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging education for all students.

Key ideas: ensure instructional innovation; model and promote effective use of technology for learning; provide learner-centered environments to meet the individual needs of students; ensure effective practice in the study of technology and infusion across curriculum; promote and participate in learning communities that allow for global, digital-age collaboration

Excellence in Professional Practice: Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources. 

Key ideas: allocate time, resource and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration; facilitate and participate in learning communities to nurture administrators, teachers, and staff; promote and model effective communication and collaboration using digital tools; stay current on the latest educational research and emerging trends in educational technology to improve student learning

Systemic Improvement: Educational Administrators provide digital-age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources.

Key ideas: lead purposeful change to maximize achievement of learning goals through appropriate use of technology and media-rich resources; collaborate to collect, analyze, and share data to improve staff performance and student learning; recruit highly competent personnel who use technology creatively and proficiently; leverage strategic partnership to support systemic improvement; manage and maintain a robust infrastructure for technology

Digital Citizenship: Educational Administrators model and facilitate understanding of social, ethical and legal issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture.

Key ideas: ensure equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources to meet the needs of all learners; model and establish policies for safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information/technology; promote and model responsible social media interactions; model and facilitate a shared cultural understanding and involvement in global issues through the use of communication and collaboration tools. (ISTE, NETS-A, 2009)

When I read over these components, none appear glaringly over-demanding.  I cannot image an instance where an administrator wouldn’t consider these competencies important enough to at least begin to acknowledge, given the needs of our children who walk through our schools’ doors each day. Is it going to happen in a year? No. Will competencies and the expected skill set of a principal change continuously throughout her career? Yes. Are the daily demands of a principal exceedingly unreasonable and intolerable some days? Absolutely.

But I think where it begins is with connections. It begins by developing a supportive network of peers that can enhance your comfort and familiarity with the components of these domains. I think where it begins is with no excuses. Try something new. Read about the latest. Communicate in a different way than you did before. You’ll find that you like it. Empower your teachers and students to help you develop in this area professionally, and share what you learn with others.

In last year’s post for Leadership Day, I reflected upon my experiences utilizing various technologies in my role as an administrator. I conjectured about how it came to be that I became so comfortable with the tools and connecting, collaborating, and communicating via social media. I re-read the list of ways in which I used technology to communicate with my school community and further my own professional growth, and this made me realize that my knowledge base has blossomed in so many different directions since Leadership Day 2010. I owe much of this to to the ever-expanding network of professionals I have the privilege to engage with each day and my own self-driven desire to continue to learn more about the benefits of connected learning. Thank you to everyone who continues to contribute. A post recently written by Jon Becker really made me think. Yes, many of us are good at sharing, collaborating, creating. But what do we have to show for it? How can we demonstrate our growth in ways that demonstrate the impact on student learning? I am going to set a goal of sharing more of those stories this year. Of working to ensure what happens in our classrooms isn’t necessarily about the latest tool or gadget, but rather has a focus on learning.

It’s Leadership Day 2011! I hope you’ll add to the conversation!

Getting to “I Can”

Educator Kiran Bir Sethi shared this inspirational message in November 2009, so perhaps you’ve already heard the story of how she and her colleagues in India’s Riverside School empowered their students to lead change among themselves, their school, their community, and their country. I just recently viewed this talk and found her message to be so simple, so real, and so attainable that I wished to share it with you.

Sethi sought to design a process that could “consciously infect the mind with the “I Can Button.” She believed that if learning was embedded in real world contexts, thus blurring the boundaries between school and life, that children would embark a meaningful learning journey. The steps of this process involve students seeing the change, changing themselves, and then leading the change in others.

Aware – Enable – Empower

Feel – Imagine – Do

This process directly increased student well-being and allowed students to become more competent and less helpless in their own learning. I was so intrigued by Sethi’s descriptions of the authentic examples of how her students changed the perceptions of child labor in their community. Having first lived the experience, they enabled themselves to transform their own thinking. These experiences changed mindsets. They caused her students to passionately educate and lead adults in their community to understand more about this issue. And these weren’t high school students taking to the streets with their message- these were 10 and 11-year olds.

The “I Can” mindset is a shift from “teacher telling me” to “I can do it.” Isn’t this what we want for all of our students? How can we make this happen in our classrooms on a daily basis? This technique may seem well-suited for lessons involving the social sciences, but what about math? Reading? What about the pressures for students to succeed on those pesky standardized tests?

The Riverside School parents had the same questions. While they appreciated that their children were becoming better human beings, they said to Sethi, Show us the grades. As she replied in her talk, And we did. Her students outperformed the top 10 schools in India in math, reading, and science. When children are empowered, they have the tools they need to do well in all aspects of their lives and education.

The Riverside School students influenced their city to devote time and “give to the children” because in the future, the chlidren will give back to the community. As we debate over tax increases to fund our schools and deal with incessant budget crises across our nation and beyond, I sometimes think our taxpayers and politicians fail to recognize that an investment in our students’ education is an investment in human capital. We want our children to return to the communities that educated them, and use their gifts to enhance our lives in many ways. Sethi’s students inspired their communities to recognize this important fact.

Sethi ends with, Contagious is a good word.  As we work to inspire children to say, “I can,” their enthusiasm will empower us as a learning community to say, “We can.”

How will you infect your learning community this year?

You know who you are.

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user always be cool

So a little bird tweets me that there is some sort of list out and about that has my name on it. Neat-o!

Only, upon further inspection, I examined the list and realized, Hey. Let’s all simmer down here. The fact that my name appears on that list is silliness. I know for a fact there are other edu-tweeters out there that are waaay more influential than me. (And have a significantly higher Klout score, for what it’s worth. (Not much.)) Plenty of fantastic people are represented, from whom I learn an awful lot on a daily basis. But this post is not going to debate who should or shouldn’t be on that list. To do so would give it even more attention than it warrants.

What’s worth recognizing is that the list exists. And why is that? Because someone is paying attention to us. We, as a collective network of educators who care about children and their futures, are sharing with one another on a regular basis and helping to influence our practices in positive ways. People are noticing.

I’m thinking about my network. I can easily name ten people who influenced my practice today. Do I need to publicize it in a list? No.

You know who you are.

This influence is not limited to the intertubes, of course. I’m considering the people who’ve shaped me into the educator I am trying to be today. Most of those people aren’t on Twitter. They don’t blog. They don’t have Facebook accounts, can’t get into Google+ no matter how many invites they receive (thanks for nothing, Google), and they surely were not at ISTE. But their influence, care, compassion, and support have forever changed me. They’re the people that demand I put the phone away when we’re out to dinner. Or at an administrative retreat. (I was taking notes, I swear!)

You know who you are.

Tonight I was all set to compose my post-ISTE reflection post, and it seems as though I am now going to combine both my reflections of that event with my ramblings about online popularity. They’re weirdly related.

Cliques. Clusters. Cadres. Cohorts. Cavorting. Cackling. Keynotes. Abuse of alliteration. Cafes. Conversations. Contempt for Comic Sans. Connected Principals. Some sort of fancy dance. All of this and more, at ISTE 11! Many of the ISTE reflection posts have focused on the power of relationships, the importance of conversations, and the jr.-high-esque social mentalities that can ensue when you bring a whole bunch of people together. #sigh

I’d like to highlight two of my favorite memories from ISTE. First, this: Kids displaying their awesomeness. Like this sharp-dressed young man:

who eloquently explained how his school’s project involved using technology to improve our Earth’s ecology. I listened to his podcast using ear buds that probably 100 other people placed in their ears. And I didn’t really care. He shared his thoughts in carefully dictated English, his second language, mind you. This group had it made. They sent out recruiters – pint-sized bits of adorableness- into the crowds to ask attendees, “Do you want to hear our presentation about technology and ecology?” Heck yes, I do. And then they led me to the booth. Gold.

To the kids who inspire me every day, from those in my first sixth grade class to the children I only briefly interacted with at ISTE: You are amazing. You know who you are.

My second favorite memory of ISTE is Irene from the Newbie Lounge. I wish I had taken a photo of  Irene. She was truly awesome. By no means in her first years on the job (or her first twenty years), Irene sat on the couch with her iPad 2 and called out, “Can you help me with this?” as I walked by, with just a few minutes to go before our Connected Principals panel session. (Thanks, by the way, to everyone who attended. It was slightly overwhelming.) I wanted a bottled water desperately. I glanced at the mile-long concessions line longingly and then thought, What the hell am I thinking? This person needs me. So I sat with Irene for about twenty minutes and walked her through the process of bookmarking a website on her Safari browser. She was truly astounded that whenever she wanted to visit that wiki filled with resources from the last session she attended, she could just go to her bookmarks and … poof! There it was. She was so happy. I was so happy.

Irene, thank you for centering me and helping me realize how much I love being a teacher. I will agree with others that the shared conversations in hallways, cafes, museums, sidewalks, and #Edubros venues were certainly well worth the price of admission. I became a tad bit emotional having to say goodbye to some very good friends on my last day there. Yes, I said it, friends. Real live avatar-people that turned into friends. Shocking! Thank you to the presenters and attendees, young and old, who inspired me at ISTE.

You know who you are.

I guess, that in the end, that’s all that really matters. That you know the positive influences you have on the work and lives of others. I agree with Kristina that many of us felt as though something was missing before we developed this supportive network of professionals via Twitter, blogging, and other media. The connections have certainly added value to our lives.

Yet in a way I also disagree. I am not so sure that something was missing so much as it was lost. Lost inside of each of us. After experiencing powerful learning, working to positively influence others, and doing the right things for kids, every one of us should be able to examine our personal accomplishments and be proud. Be very, very proud. We will make mistakes, falter, and lose our way. We will share ideas and then take too long to act on them. Just pick yourself up, put a plan in place, do something, and continue to be awesome. No list can define our ability to do so. Only you can make that happen.

You know who you are.

Leading the charge.

In many school districts, when summer arrives, administrative teams come together for the annual “admin retreat.” When I first heard this term, I envisioned principals and central office personnel packing up their camping gear, overdosing on bug repellant, and venturing into the Pennsylvania woods somewhere to discuss the trials and tribulations of the role of the administrator. For the past two years, my experience with the admin retreat has consisted mainly of day-long meetings (drowning in data) held in overly air-conditioned rooms (how can I concentrate on all of this delectable data if my body temperature is 92 degrees?) at a local conference center or golf course banquet hall (greens fees not included).

Not so this year.

Kudos to my superintendent for exploring alternative options for our retreat this year, as we spent the day immersed in stories of leadership through the lens of the American Civil War, on the battlefields of Gettysburg. Battlefield Leadership, led by former school administrator Dr. Michael McGough, was highly engaging, personally relevant, and one of the most meaningful days our administrative team has spent together.

Interwoven through his detail-rich tales highlighting the people, places, and events that comprised the battle of Gettysburg, Mike used examples of Civil War leaders’ thought processes, strategies, and character traits to shape our understanding of various leadership styles and provide us with essential principles for educational leaders. He often referenced Jim Collins’ Good to Great, John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, as well as wisdom shared by Lee Iacocca in Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

I’d like to share with you several of the leadership principles and ideas we discussed yesterday.

  • “A leader without followers is just a person taking a walk.”
  • A leader understands her role in the organization.
  • A leader doesn’t allow his followers to forge ahead without first surveying the lay of the land. He leads from the front, but he always gauges where his team is, and knows how he will adjust if necessary.
  • Great leaders always have a plan B. And a plan C. A great leader is always focusing on his next move in checkers, not the move he’s about to make.
  • True leaders breed other leaders.
  • Powerful leaders know the people they’re leading. Build relationships.
  • “The absence of leadership is chaos.”
  • The people you’re leading should always know exactly what you’re asking them to do. When there are communication lapses, it causes frustration for both the leader and his followers.
  • Leaders understand that they are part of the emotional framework of the organization. They lead with civility and compassion.
  • Always be willing to adjust long-term goals based on short term successes and strategies.
  • What one thing made Lincoln such a powerful leader? Unwavering vision. (Did Lee lack this quality?)
  • A leader knows the difference between winning and not losing.
  • A great leader concerns herself with the critical mass. She does not base her effectiveness on the accolades of the two people who think she walks on water, nor the two people who criticize her every move.
  • Ego-driven leaders are not true leaders.
  • You’ll never hear the bullet that hits you.
  • Leaders effectively and eloquently react to unexpected circumstances.
  • Leaders are directly responsible for some successes, and others are delivered to them by successful team members. Know the difference. Recognize and celebrate the team members who bring the organization success.
  • It is essential for a leader’s followers to respect the leader and what he does. It is not essential for a leader to be well-liked by everyone in the organization.
  • Leaders know when to admit defeat and take responsibility for it.
  • Leaders have the desire to express a lot of things… but true leaders know what’s appropriate to express and how to do so.
  • Leadership is time, place, and situation sensitive. Leadership can be studied, refined, and augmented to meet any condition.
  • When issuing directives, make it clear whether you want the task completed effectively or efficiently. Dedication to one may be at the cost of the other.
  • A great leader knows where a person best fits within the organization. He delicately and personally evaluates each person’s performance and moves them to another role if necessary for the good of the organization.
  • Leaders make sure to differentiate between fact and opinion when someone else delivers information to their door.
  • It’s not degree or pedigree… true leaders are born of hard work. True leaders are tired at the end of the day.
  • Leaders understand the power of words and know how to use them.

We were asked to consider each thought in the context of our role(s) within the learning organization, and I encourage you to do the same. At the start of our day, we were given green and yellow index cards. Our task was to consider our goal-setting, our strategies, our actions, and jot down things we wished to stop doing on the yellow cards, since these things were not contributing to or aligning with our ultimate visions. On the green cards, we were to document ideas for how we might improve in an area or do things differently. At the conclusion of the day, we sealed the cards in separate, self-addressed envelopes, which we will receive anytime over the course of the next six months. These short messages will serve as reminders of our day together and all that we have learned.

If you would like to inquire about this learning experience and how it can serve your organization, Mike can be reached at Many thanks to Mike and my administrative colleagues for a day immersed in history, learning, and camaraderie.