My Blog Story

Edublogs is hosting monthly writing challenges in the form of shared prompts this year, and I’m thankful for the inspiration to help me revive, refresh, and share my thoughts in this creative space.

#EdublogsClub1 prompt: Write a post that shares your blog story. 

I became an elementary principal at the start of the 2008-2009 school year. I created my first blog via Edublogs, The Principal’s Posts, and wanted to blog every day that first year of the principalship, to create a finished story that would enlighten prospective principals about the highs and lows of such a position.

I think I lasted two days. 🙂

I quickly adjusted my expectations and used the blog as a space to share my thoughts about teaching, learning, and leading. I didn’t identify my school district name or even my own full name in those initial posts. I, like many other administrators, was nervous about the prospect of learning transparently.

That quickly changed, however, thanks to Will Richardson.

In 2010 at a technology conference for administrators, Will addressed the audience during his keynote and asked if anyone was currently blogging. I awkwardly raised my hand, and it appeared I was the only one to do so. He asked if I would mind if he projected my blog on the (double) screens for the audience to view.

“Why yes, I would mind very much,” is what my brain said, but my mouth replied, “Sure…”

He proceeded to point out some quality features in my blog, like my use of hyperlinked writing and tags. But he quickly pointed out that he couldn’t really identify much about the author or contact information if he wanted to communicate further about any of my ideas. From that day forward I added my name and contact information to the blog and realized that since I was blogging professionally, sharing my ideas in constructive ways, there was nothing that I should be ashamed of sharing by clicking Publish. Read more about that experience here.

There’s power in personal and professional publishing, public relations pro tip #1 for principals.

#alliteration #tellyourstory

Since then I’ve moved my blog to its own domain, I’ve shared posts via Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, I’ve been published in collective spaces like Connected Principals and Voices of the Learning Revolution through Powerful Learning Practice and Learning Forward, and I’ve been recognized for my blogging efforts and my connected education work. Blogging has brought me so many opportunities to continue to learn, grow, and share, and that would not have been possible without those connections. I also love sharing about the power of blogging in schools through my consulting and professional development work. I’ve seen firsthand how blogging can inspire even the most reluctant writers to share their ideas in meaningful ways. I think there’s nothing more powerful than a blog used by a teacher or principal to forge home-school connections.

I read many other blogs when time permits. While I used to use Twitter as my go-to source for finding blogs of interest, I’ve found Twitter has become a very congested space that makes identifying truly innovative voices a very difficult task. A fan of the old Google Reader, I had a bundle of blogs titled “Read These Blogs” that I made sure to catch up on each week. My reading time has diminished some since welcoming Thing 1 and Thing 2 into the family, but I use the Feedly mobile app to read as much as I can during my spare time. I continue to have a Read These Blogs collection in Feedly, and they include many educational leadership and technology blogs such as those of Audrey Watters, Bill Ferriter, Scott McLeod, Rafranz Davis, Silvia Tolisano, Dean Shareski, Pam Moran, and Pernille Ripp. Here’s a look at some of my Feedly collections:

My advice for new bloggers is to write for YOU. Don’t write for page views. Don’t write for RTs. Write to share your ideas, to reflect, to ponder. Write to unleash your creative spirit. Write to make a difference. Schedule time in your day to write. Write every day, something, somewhere. You don’t always have to click publish. Don’t be discouraged if you hit a lull or encounter writer’s block. I used to blog several times a month, and now I’m lucky if I blog several times a year. Life happens, responsibilities shift…. your blog is a space you can always call home and it will welcome you back with open arms when needed.

While I appreciate this challenge to help motivate me to write, I also appreciate that I will be introduced to a number of new educational bloggers and will strive to comment on three others’ posts per week. I was stoked (a Bill word) to read this post from Mr. Ferriter this morning about his commitment to comment more in 2017.  It’s what I miss most about blogging “in the old days”… the camaraderie, the conversations, the constant connections that emerged in the blogging platforms themselves.

Happy blogging!

‘Tis the season.

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user rust man

Awards mean a lot, but they don’t say it all. The people in baseball mean more to me than statistics. – Ernie Banks

The people responsible for the words on the page -er, the screen – are (hopefully) the reasons many of us take the time to nominate our favorite reads for Edublog awards. It is why I wish to share with you my nominations, with the sincere desire that you stumble upon a perspective you perhaps did not before consider.

Best Group Blog: Cooperative Catalyst 

The writers who contribute to Cooperative Catalyst push my thinking in every post. They passionately and intelligently challenge their readers to consider the questions and possible solutions that drive educational reform. Some of my favorite individual bloggers (John T. Spencer, for one) contribute to Cooperative Catalyst, and it’s a must-read for all educators, in my opinion.

(P.S. My heart belongs to Connected Principals and Voices from the Learning Revolution, however I am affiliated with both of those group blogs, so cannot nominate them.)

Best School Administrator Blog: Jeff Delp, Molehills out of Mountains
Jeff Delp’s blogging reflections always leave a lasting impression on me. He writes about topics of high interest to this administrator, including honest and self-critical reflections of his own practice. As someone who is new to the role of principal, I’d say Jeff’s wisdom and insight into the position rivals some of the more seasoned veteran administrators I know. Thanks, Jeff, for making me want to be a better principal.

Best Teacher Blog: Shelley Wright, Wright’s Room
But what does it look like? I think in theory we’d all agree that an inquiry learning environment is what we want most for our students. But it’s difficult to envision what the shifted classroom looks like – what is the teacher’s role? What are her students doing? Inquiry learning comes to life through the eloquent, honest, real-life-looks-and-feels-like-this posts of high school teacher Shelley Wright. She isn’t afraid to express her hopes, fears, failures, and successes through her writing, and I appreciate her transparent learning in this space. Thank you, Shelley!


Best Individual Blog: Bill Ferriter, The Tempered Radical
Bill blogs about PLCs. He blogs about leadership. He blogs about technology integration. He blogs about learning with and from his students and school community members. He shares what he’s reading. I appreciate the ways he challenges assumptions and has made me feel uncomfortable in my role as an educational administrator on more than one occasion. If I could hand pick my child’s teachers, he would be one of them. Thanks, pal!


Best Twitter Hashtag: #cpchat
I again nominate #cpchat, born out of the brains behind Connected Principals, although it’s blossomed into quite a comprehensive tag where anything related to educational leadership and learning can be found.


Best Ed tech/Resource Sharing blog: Jeff Utecht, The Thinking Stick
Jeff is quite knowledgeable about the ins and outs of everything ed tech from WordPress and blogging to Google Apps for educators (who wouldn’t want to learn how to be a Google Apps Ninja?!), and he’s also a fantastic person willing to take the time out of his busy day to respond to a principal’s email query. Thanks, Jeff!


Best Librarian/Library Blog: A Year of Reading 
One of the things I miss most about the classroom is that I feel out of touch with the latest and greatest children’s and YA book releases. Thankfully there are blogs like A Year of Reading, where contributors Franki and Mary Lee (a full-time school librarian and fourth grade teacher) share delightful reviews of newly released books and poetry. Well worth the visit. Thank you, A Year of Reading!


Best open PD/unconference/webinar series: Teacher Learning Community/Simple K-12 Webinars 
The free webinars offered by the Teacher Learning Community vary greatly in topics presented and intended audience, so there really is “something for everyone.” As an administrator always on the lookout for alternatives to costly, time-intensive PD for teachers, Simple K-12’s webinars offer quality learning experiences for individuals looking to enhance their professional practice. Thanks!

I dislike that I can’t nominate more than one blog per category, and I regret that I cannot personally recognize every member of my network whose ideas spark in me a desire to become a stronger educator, to do things differently- to fearlessly explore the unexplored, take risks and make mistakes, and approach conversations with courage. I have compiled some of my favorite blog reads in this bundle (also in the sidebar of this blog), and I hope you take some time to peruse and subscribe to it, if so moved.

While I know not everyone will take the time to submit Edublog award nominations, I hope you find the way to recognize someone who has positively influenced your learning.

‘Tis the season.

Sharing is contagious!

CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Funchye

Last year I spent some time throughout the school year snapping photos of student work that was displayed in the hallways and classrooms, creating slideshows using PhotoPeach, and posting “I Spy” tours of our student learning displays on our school websites to share with parents.

I Spy, March 5! on PhotoPeach

I admit that I have not been posting these slideshows regularly this year, and today I made a commitment to do so, because there is so much fantastic learning going on in our school! But then I considered why I didn’t feel as compelled to do this.

It’s not because what I see in the hallways or classrooms is any less enthralling or interesting than it’s been in the past … it’s because more teachers and students are sharing student work and learning themselves! It’s like we’ve all been infected with some sort of wonderful, crazy, addictive sharing disease that is spreading like wildfire throughout our school!

My teachers have grown so much in their willingness to engage students in different types of learning experiences throughout this year. Much of our increased ability to share student work can be attributed to the use of social media and the integration of new tools to enhance student engagement with the content.

Our primary students have created Voicethreads and teamed up with intermediate grade reading buddies to create digital stories with Little Bird Tales. They’re trying Voki, Skyping with virtual pen-pals (check out their visitor map!), and have really been dedicating time to writing on their blogs. We’re sharing our school events with descriptive slideshows.

Intermediate students have been broadening conversations with Today’s Meet, working with Xtranormal, garnering input for math data projects with Google forms, and creating Voicethreads. We’ve jumped into collaborating with Google Docs and students use Glogster to summarize their learning. They’re engaging in conversations with their families and visitors around the world! One of our fifth grade classes created a video tour of our school to share with their Oregon penpals, and some students even participated in our staff Sharing Showcase last week! I’ve seen some very eager Prezi creators, and enjoyed reading these Kidblog reading reflections. Our school “newspaper” has been moved online to help easily share our students’ writing and project work. Parents and teachers can more easily comment on what’s happening!


The benefits of sharing are endless. Parents have a wide open window into classroom happenings. Students are connecting with other teachers and students throughout our country and world. Students are active, engaged, and motivated learners in these experiences.  Teachers’ and student excitement is spreading…

Initially, I believe the teachers that felt comfortable risk-taking and trying new ideas with students were hesitant to share their joys about the process, for fear of “bragging” or looking they were trying to out-do their grade level colleagues. Similarly, I think teachers were timid about sharing the struggles they experienced throughout the change, worried that their frustrations might dissuade other teachers from taking risks themselves. We need to overcome this mindset. We need to encourage growth in ourselves and others.

Reading Shelley Wright‘s post this morning, I knew I immediately would share her words with my teachers, because her message to Improvise, Learn, Don’t Regret is one that I want my teachers, and students, to embrace. She has taken the time to document her journey into project-based learning and share that experience with all of us. We have gained insight, perspective, and appreciation for the process because she has done so. This doesn’t happen without honest transparency.

Thank you, Justin, for the challenge to share the wonderful things happening in our schools! We all need to spread the sharing bug… it’s an ailment worth enduring!

Principal 2.0


CC licensed image shared by Flickr user davidr

This piece was originally posted on Powerful Learning Practice’s Voices from the Learning Revolution blog. Visit Voices and be inspired!

“The principalship is the kind of job where you’re expected to be all things to all people.” (Fullan, 2001)

“Wanted: A miracle worker who can do more with less, pacify rival groups, endure chronic second-guessing, tolerate low levels of support, process large volumes of paper and work double shifts (75 nights a year). He or she will have carte blanche to innovate, but cannot spend much money, replace any personnel, or upset any constituency.” (Evans, 1995)

“At the present time the principalship is not worth it, and therein lies the solution. If effective principals energize teachers in complex times, what is going to energize principals?” (Fullan, 2001)

Not worth it. That is a pretty significant phrase, but one that I don’t believe most administrators find true. I would like to instead address Fullan’s question, “What is going to energize principals?” One possible answer? Connected learning.

I experienced some feelings of isolation my first year in the classroom, as my assignment was in a small, rural school where I was the only sixth grade teacher. The feeling of not having readily available help that first year pales in comparison to the isolation I felt in my first year of the principalship. Add to that the increasing demands Fullan describes, and the rate at which administrators are expected to lead change, and the complexity of our role increases hundredfold.

An administrator has the option of seeking guidance from a principal colleague or central office administrator, although there are times when doing so could cause the principal to feel fearful that she is exposing a weakness or lack of judgment. She instead turns inward for solutions, for explanations, until the isolation compounds and the day-to-day management tasks overwhelm the true leadership that should be prominent in her work.

As administrators, we expect our teachers to collaborate, cooperate, and continue to learn. We ask the same of our students. Why should we hold ourselves to a different, even lesser, standard? I believe assuming the role of lead learner in our school community is one of the most imperative roles we can play.

Harnessing the power of social media

We live in a time where the tools and technologies we are afforded have flattened our world. Principals and school leaders now have a vast array of options for learning and connecting with others. I have experienced the very real benefits of time invested in developing my own personal learning network, utilizing the Web and social media tools.

By harnessing the power of social media, principals can take advantage of improved organizational efficiency, solidify and broaden communications, serve as lead learner, and develop relationships that will ultimately build an organization’s capacity and benefit children. Our students will be expected to enter adulthood as critical thinkers, problem solvers, and collaborative, productive team members. We must model the power of digitally enhanced learning for them, for our teachers, and for the community.

We must connect. If you’re capable of connecting and learning from those in your physical realm, consider the power of building relationships with other inspiring educators from around the world. Too often we think: how could that person’s experiences help me when their schools and circumstances differ so greatly from mine? That’s precisely the reason we can learn so much from one another. I have as much to learn from a high school principal in an urban school setting as I do from an elementary principal in a neighboring district. The varied perspectives are invaluable.

So, where can an administrator find these connections? For me and many others, Twitter has been the main vehicle through which we’ve built a network of professional learners. This article can help you get started, and I personally am willing to help any interested administrator embark on this journey! The blog Connected Principals was essentially born out of the relationships built around conversations on Twitter. George Couros, recognizing the valuable contributions stemming from our online discussions, decided to create a common space for administrative bloggers, to bring us together and unite our voices under a shared purpose. I know that if I ever need advice, ideas for projects or resources, or just someone willing to let me vent, I can go to any of my Connected Principals colleagues who will be there for me with a supportive, critical voice.

We must share. As a starting point, consider the simple benefits of using shared, digital spaces such aswikis to organize and exchange information with staff. Respect your teachers’ time by only holding a faculty meeting when there is an agenda item worth true discussion. Empower your teachers to be wiki contributors so they can add information of their own. Stop the insanity of searching aimlessly through email inboxes to try to find that tidbit of information someone mass-emailed two weeks ago! Do you and others often locate great resources to share? Use Diigo or a similar social bookmarking site to share and even annotate those resources in a streamlined, organized manner. Collaborate on projects usingGoogle Docs. No longer do precious minutes have to be wasted in meetings if project authors can work in a common digital space and contribute at times that best suit them.

We must build community. Communications with families and community members are vital to the success of any school and can be powered up through the use of social media. Consider the advantages of writing about school successes in a public blog or Facebook page regularly, highlighting the wonderful accomplishments of students and staff. Social media affords principals the opportunity to develop forums where community voices can be heard and valued. The benefits of managing public relations before outside sources distort the facts are innumerable, and the platforms through which these communications can occur are, for the most part, free to use!

We must be transparent. Are you transparent in your learning? Would you like to be? What does transparency entail? For one, allow your teachers and students to see that you value your own learning. Have you ever discussed with a teacher how a book or article you’ve read could impact classroom practice? If so, you’re comfortable with sharing your learning in a local forum, so consider branching out to share your ideas with other interested parties. Blogging is a great first step to becoming a producer, not just a consumer, of information. Simply take the thoughts you’d normally converse about and compose a post! Posterous, WordPress, and Blogger are all user-friendly platforms and ideal for the beginning blogger.

Keep in mind that there are no right or wrong ways to express one’s feelings and share knowledge. New bloggers often ponder, “Who really wants to read what I have to say?” “What if someone doesn’t agree with what I write?” Begin blogging as a personal form of reflection, to help you examine your decision-making processes and actions as principal. Read other educators’ blogs. Subscribe to RSS feeds and organize the flow of new ideas with Google Reader. Comment and include links to your own writing to develop a readership. Get to know the other educators you’re connecting with. Learn about their philosophies, and let the shared wisdom you discover help guide your work.

Principals leading the way

The role of the principal is definitely worth it. It’s a role that should, first and foremost, be about sharing, building relationships and community, and connecting for learning. Principals need to ensure they are modeling and building capacity in the most efficient and meaningful ways possible. We need to embrace, not ignore, the tools we now have available to build powerful learning communities. We are faced with a compelling need for change, and we owe it to our children to lead the way in bringing connected, enhanced, and authentic learning opportunities to our schools, communities, and world.

Evans, C. (1995) ‘Leaders wanted’, Education Week.
Fullan, M. (2001). The new meaning of educational change. Teachers College Press.


Go. See. Connect.

CC licensed photo shared by creativecommoners via Flickr

Connecting with others through social media? Good.

Getting too comfortable in the same circle of colleagues and not taking the time to branch out into new networks or interact with new members of the virtual community? Bad.

Over the past few weeks I had the privilege to meet, face-to-face (what a luxury!) some new friends at Pete & C, #ntcamp Burlington, and Teach Meet NJ… I’ve also connected with some pretty amazing folks on Twitter as of late, and I would like to share the wealth.

You may already know and love many of the people on this list, and I can imagine that to be true, because of the fantastic work they’re doing for kids. I regret I can’t spend more time listing the names of the hundreds of educators that influence me daily!

Mary Ann Reilly – one of my biggest regrets leaving TMNJ is that I didn’t get to meet Mary Ann. I enjoy reading her blog, engaging in discussions with her, most recently our #FocusASCD discussions about Schmoker’s new book, and she develops and shares the most fabulously detailed lists of global books for kids.

Chris Lindholm – Chris is an assistant superintendent from Minnesota. He blogs about many facets of leadership and is a great supporter of the resources and ideas shared on #cpchat!

Corrie Kelly – Corrie has been quick to respond to many of my queries about integrating technology into our classroom activities with elementary students. She is a valuable resource!

Pete Rodrigues – Pete is, first and foremost, a great sport who allows me to bust on him several times per week on Twitter. Great sense of humor aside, he is an aspiring administrator who shares meaningful thoughts about learning through his posts and virtual conversations. And at one point in his life, he built a suit of armor. #enoughsaid

M.E. Steele-Pierce – M.E. is an incredibly talented assistant superintendent of schools in Ohio. I enjoyed meeting her at Educon and recently have had the chance to work more closely with her for our contributions to Powerful Learning Practice‘s Voices for the Learning Revolution blog.

Ryan Bretag– Ryan’s blog, Metanoia, is a must-read for me. I am always impressed with his well-articulated ideas and his continual focus on student learning. Sometimes his posts make me think so hard my brain hurts. In a good way.

Kimberly Moritz – Kim is a very inspiring superintendent from New York. I had the chance to meet her at Educon and respect her tireless efforts for kids and her thoughtful blog posts.

Justin Stortz – Justin is sparking “new fires” of thought in everyone that encounters his tweets and reads his posts. I enjoy his contributions, particularly the discussions several of us had over clarity vs. content in student blogging.

Lesley Cameron – Lesley is a third grade teacher from Alberta, Canada, who shares her wonderful ideas and classroom happenings on her blog here. I appreciate her positivity, her willingness to take risks, and her dedication to her students. She clearly is becoming quite a leader in her school and beyond.

Marc Siegel – Marc was a participant in the session at #tmnj11 that I co-presented with Eric Sheninger. He was vocal in sharing his concerns about how to best influence his school and district administrators to move in a positive direction with change. Marc seemed genuinely invested in his students and helping make a difference in their lives. Check out his blog, too.

Greg Stickel – wins the positivity award. He is very supportive, comments regularly, shares resources freely, and is a great contributor to our virtual conversations. Hoping he starts to blog soon. 🙂

Again, there are many people here I didn’t highlight… but I’m thinking this may be a regular post topic…. who has been adding to your learning lately? Share with us!