Chase Down Your Passion Like it’s the Last Bus of the Night!

My Journey to Become a 21st Century Principal.

I recently read a blog post entitled 21 Signs you are a 21st Century Principal at Simple K12.  The post could not have come at a more perfect time. Currently I am chasing down my passion to become an elementary principal. View my “About Me” site for more information.

A few years ago I was at a cross roads in my own education. Through the first decade of the 21st century I had immersed my time in higher ed. I had acquired a K-8 reading endorsement, K-12 ESL endorsement, a Master’s degree and a PK-12 Administrative license. I loved the learning path I was on and seriously took a look at continuing. Yet a need for a breather both in terms of scheduled learning and financial restraints was needed. My world changed when Twitter, my daily dose of learning, connections and collaboration, entered my life.

A few of my blog posts have detailed my Twitter journey. (Taking the Plunge, Twitter Buffet to name a few) I have come to realize that the time invested in Twitter and blogging are providing me the additional experiences I need in becoming a 21st century principal. The blog post, 21 Signs you are a 21st Century Principal, outlined so many of the qualities I have been working hard to add to my repertoire.

Looking back, this journey to become a 21st Century Principal, has been exciting. I love learning new things everyday. I am constantly learning from the exemplary administrators I am privileged to work with and the ones in my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a young child I had a favorite saying, “Every day the thing to do is learn a little something new.” In all the years since uttering that youthful sentiment, I find I still adhere to it as much now as I did then.  But at my current level of maturity and experience, I’d revise my words to something even simpler, “Being an effective educator means continuous learning.”  The exciting and boundless truth is that learning is academic and humanitarian, personal and public.

I consider myself a continuous learner as well as a facilitator of learning. Research in education has never been more appreciated and essential. As a continuous learner, I’ve made a practice of being knowledgeable about what the research offers especially in reference to meeting the needs of all students.  I believe my role, as an instructional leader, is to be a facilitator of learning for all individuals in the school community setting.  This includes inspiring and empowering students, teachers, support staff, as well as parents and community members. Consider enhancing the visibility and openness of your educational community by incorporating elements like modern and inviting shop front windows.

I make it a habit to reflect on my journey. Not only has this journey been one of strengthening my own learning, it has also deepened my understanding of all 21st century learners in general.  I have decided to review the list of 21 Signs you are a 21st Century Principal to determine which areas I have added to my repertoire throughout my journey and which areas I need to  focus my attention.

I invite you to also take a look at my résumé and references.

(The following list is from a blog post at Simple K12 entitled 21 Signs you are a 21st Century Principal. My own comments are in italics.)

1.  You know that PLN stands for Personal Learning Network…and you collaborate with yours daily.

  • My PLN is my life-line when in comes to professional learning. They are a constant source of new learning and collaboration. My PLN grows daily. New connections are made. New things are learned! I make it a point to learn from many administrators I admire!

2.  You use Twitter to find and share resources, engage in international conversation about education, connect with other educators, and make announcements to teachers, parents and students that follow you.

  • Between Twitter, my own blogging experience and reading the blogs of others I have had the opportunity to connect with so many insightful educators around the globe. I continue to learn from administrators who use Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Wikis and Google Sites to communicate with teachers and parents as well as other educators.
  • I write a weekly newsletter for my schools. Much of the content comes from what I’ve learned on Twitter.
  • I was intrigued by a school @DMS_Principal recently described in a Google+ Hangout. He mentioned that several of his staff are on Twitter and they hold occasional chats with each other via Twitter in the evening. They also extend their learning with their larger, global PLN and often speak their learning at school. 

3.  You conduct virtual meetings with faculty and parents using the Google+ Hangout feature.

  • I have used Skype as a means to facilitate a learning opportunity for an elementary staff about an hour and a half from my home. Their actual professional development time was going to be less than an hour and it was decided to use Skype rather than having me drive the distance. It worked out beautifully!
  • As an instructional coach I work out of two building several miles from each other. The leadership team at one school is studying and implementing a new approach in order to bring it to the staff next year. Each leadership team member without a classroom (the principal, the assistant principal, the TAG coach and myself) have joined with one of the teachers on the leadership team. The teacher I am working with may use Skype as a means co-plan or co-teach lesson if I am unable to get to the school due to scheduling constraints.
  • I am the current president for Learning Forward-Iowa. We will be holding a Learning Forward-Iowa board meeting via Google+ Hangout in a week. I am excited to try this format. We have members from across the state. It feels great not to have a 6 hour drive for a 3 hour meeting! It is my hope to use the virtual meeting format more often in the future! Board members have expressed their excitement in learning this form of technology!
  • Several of my PLN have begun to meet on a semi-regular basis (when time allows) to collaborate. Our last session was on the use of Evernote from an administrator’s point of view. A PERFECT tool with so many uses.

4.  You’ve replaced the filing cabinet in your office with Dropbox… and can access all of your important documents while out and about.

Need I say more? Dropbox has been a life saver! I share files via dropbox with administrators, teachers and committee members. I enjoy introducing dropbox to others and watch the gleam in their eyes when they realize the potential that dropbox holds!

5.  Your school has started paperless initiatives to help cut down the costs of printing and copying.

  • This would be a goal as a principal. Besides the fact that “Going Green” is much wiser and safer for our planet – paper is a huge cost factor in schools. The more we can eliminate this, the more we have to spend on direct student needs. Besides, I am not a fan of a lot of worksheets! It will be equally important to monitor our use of technology. There are many sites that could be considered online worksheets. We need to continually ask ourselves: Are we using technology to deepen our students learning? The goal is a learning atmosphere that supports “an inch wide and a mile deep” curriculum rather than “a mile wide and an inch deep” curriculum.
  • I have noticed, as a professional development provider, I use much less paper! In the past I have spent hours at a copy machine preparing for a session. Now, I upload necessary handouts and resources on Slideshare, Wikispaces or a Google Site.

6.  You have a school website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account…and they are each updated regularly to keep parents, teachers, and students informed with the latest news, events, activities, and general announcements.

  • Communication is KEY! These tools allow for reaching our stakeholders in effective ways, yet we MUST be very mindful of the technology availability in the home. Paper communication (and translated for limit English-speaking homes) may still be necessary.
  • I enjoy learning from administrators that have school websites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to update stakeholders.  
  • I have spent the last two years learning how to use each with the hopes of using them as described. I have felt it necessary to know how to use each effectively. As an administrator I can’t expect teachers to use these tools if I do not understand and USE these myself!

7.  You not only allow but fully support and encourage the use of social media inside school.

  • I had the opportunity to be on a panel during a local Social Media Conference provided by our Sioux City Chamber of Commence. It was geared toward the business sector, yet applicable for education as well. As an instructional coach and aspiring administrator I certainly support the use of social media at school. We must remember to use these tools safely with students!
  • I have had the privilege of helping several 5th grade classrooms set up blogging projects. Once comments from around the world started to roll in, student writing accelerated! This would have been impossible without Twitter and the #comments4kids hashtag!

8.  You encourage your teachers to take advantage of all of the free resources available online, especially SimpleK12 eBooks and education webinars.

  • This fall I co-planned an #edcampsiouxcity with @lovedrummin. It was the first time a FREE #edcamp was held in Sioux City, Iowa! One of our sponsors was SimpleK12. It was fun to provide a few attendee’s a year’s membership to SimpleK12 (ie Professional Development in your jammies!)
  • I was fortunate to win this same prize when I attended #edcampomaha and have enjoyed the full version of SimpleK12.
  • I love taking part in global conferences, webinars, etc… I will be taking an iPad class from The Principal Center in order to learn more about this venue to develop my own online class for The Principal Center.

9.  You are actively involved in public relations and fundraising to help secure financial support for your school from local businesses and the community.

  • I believe ANYTHING is possible! During the 2010-2011 school year I assisted a school in writing a grant to acquire more computers. The end result was 50 netbook computers! I continually keep my eyes out for other grant opportunities.
  • I have encouraged teachers to use Donors Choose. Many projects have been successfully funded! 
  • I have a pretty lofty goal as an administrators. Securing funds to offset some of my salary is important. I feel it is my obligation to give back to a school.

10.  You watch webinars, read blogs, and tweet to keep current on the latest education trends and topics.

  • Yes, Yes, and Yes!

11.  You encourage your staff to be involved in the selection of new media and technology.

  • I love watching teachers LIGHT UP when introduced to new media and technology. I also feel it is important to continually support them in their new learning. I always end up learning something new myself!

12.  You develop school schedules using a Google Docs worksheet – and have your teachers comment on areas they see as problematic and providing solutions.

  • This is certainly an idea I will remember! Google Docs have come in very handy for a variety of collaborative projects.
  • Currently one school is using Google Doc for the RTI process. We collaboratively developed a template in Google Docs. Intervention data is added to the document. Each document can be viewed by individuals in the school that need access to the data: principal, assistant principal, interventionist, etc…

13.  You’ve organized your own EdCamp: a participant-driven, fun-filled day of professional development for teachers (or you’ve encouraged your teachers to attend a nearby EdCamp!)

  • As mentioned above, I co-planned the first #edcampsiouxcity in November 2011. The unconference was one of the easiest to plan. Once we had a location and the confirmation of having wi-fi, everything else fell into place. I was amazed at the number of sponsors we were able to find. The generosity of many Web 2.0 tools and area sponsors were appreciated!

14.  You collaborate with faculty members regularly via free web tools such as Google Docs and Titanpad.

  • Titanpad is something new to me. I will certainly check it out. If it is anything like Google Docs, I am sure I will find it useful!

15.  Interactive Whiteboards have replaced nearly every overhead projector throughout the school.

  • The schools I work at are fortunate to have Interactive Whiteboards in almost every classroom. This is an area I need to continue to learn.
  • I will be co-planning and teaching with a 2nd grade teacher. When we met last week he already had many things lined up on his interactive whiteboard. I’m excited from the new learning I will acquire in this journey to implement a new literacy approach!

16.  Upon entering the front doors, students make sure they have their mobile devices with them …and that they are turned on.

  • Unfortunately I have not personally experienced this. I love learning about all the 1:1 and the BYOD (Bring your own Device) initiatives across the state of Iowa. My knowledge and experiences will definitely come in handy in the future! As an administrator I will support the integration of technology. We must remember we are preparing students for THEIR futures, not ours.
  • I did get a taste of a more technology connected environment after receiving the 50 netbook computers via a grant. One hundred fifth graders shared the computers. It was a fascinating process to watch. They certainly were more engaged and motivated to learn at much deeper levels!

17.  You collect classroom walkthrough and observation data via Google Forms (click here to see a great template example!)

  • I am trained in a variety of walk-through methods. Google Forms would come in handy with several of the methods. Once the data is collected in an excel format it can be sorted for deeper analysis.
  • I recently took the Level II Instructional Practices Inventory (IPI)class from Dr. Jerry Valentine. I have conducted the IPI in several schools. I was thrilled to learn of all the different ways the IPI data can be used in school improvement initiatives!
  • I have developed walk-though templates in the e-Walk system. One template was developed together with an elementary staff. During a professional development session teachers generated what could/should be able to be observed during a 90-minute literacy block. Once the template was developed groups of teachers tried it out first, rather than the administrator. Revisions were made based on the teachers’ feedback. This process helped them become more comfortable with the tool and the fact the administrator would be visiting their classrooms more often.

18.  Your technology budget exceeds your textbook budget.

  • This would certainly be a goal. The recent Apple announcement of Reinventing Textbooks with iBooks 2 for iPad will be exciting to see unfold. The key will be getting more iPads in the classrooms. Time to look for more GRANTS! I love watching people of all ages become engaged with all the iPad (or other tablets) can do!

19.  Computers throughout the school are fully up-to-date and loaded with software, including quicktime, java, etc.

  • This would be another area I would support. If we expect teachers to integrate technology we owe it to them to provide the most up-to-date software, etc… As an administrator I would be looking to a strong school-based technology committee to assist in supporting the staff and their needs.

20.  You’ve purchased Teacher Learning Community memberships for all of your teachers.

  • Once again, I believe in the power of collaboration. This may be something a school based technology committee looks into. With any school based purchase I have one question – How will this meet the needs of our students?

21.  You tweet this page, blog about it, “like” it, or email it to someone else…  – DONE! Love the journey!

School success begins with the principal. A principal with their sights set on 21st century learning can redefine education so all can LEARN and GROW!

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