Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Connecting Comes in Many Forms

Photo credit: http://goo.gl/2Ssfhp
This past weekend I did something I honestly don't remember the last time doing: I used vacation time in the middle of the school year!  My son had a four day weekend.  Our school had a three day weekend.  I took a four day weekend.  And WOW!  What a difference it made.

We can always make an argument for staying at the office another hour.  We can always justify working into the wee-hours to catch up on those last few emails or finalize tomorrow's meeting.  But that can take a toll.  And it was taking a toll.  I was not as productive, tasks were taking twice as long, things were falling off my radar, causing the infamous "fire drill" every day.  On top of that my son was making comments like: "I wish you would just go back to teaching so I could spend more time with you."  Ugh!  How do you argue with that one?

So this weekend I made a conscious decision to lighten up on my connecting with colleagues and my PLN and instead focus on connecting with my family.  If you knew me, you would be asking me how long this somewhat self-imposed vacation lasted.  And you would be right to ask.  I am not good with just "being".  I always have 17 irons in the fire.  But the weekend could not have been better.  I had time to play with my son, hang out with my husband, take care of mundane tasks like pay bills--you know, those pesky ones that don'e have the auto-pay option available yet.  I slept in, took naps, lolled on the couch getting an overdose of post-season baseball, read for pleasure (sorry Zite) and enjoyed every minute.  And what was interesting was that I didn't really feel with-drawls from not remaining connected to my PLN, my Twitter feed, my Google+ communities or my LinkedIn discussions.  In many ways, taking the time to unplug from the outside and plug in to my family was incredibly freeing.  So what if my Klout score dropped.  Just like we tell our students who don't ace a test, "It's not the end of the world!"

Today when I returned to work, I was refreshed, rejuvenated, and most of all rested.  I know that I can't take this kind of time every week.  But it was an excellent lesson in in the importance of connecting with myself and my family on a regular basis.  I know that I was more productive at work today than I have been in quite a while.  I also know that I was more present to my family at the end of the day than I have ben in quite a while.

Finding and maintaining that balance is challenging for anyone in education and I certainly have a long way to go.  However, I am going to draw on this long weekend and remind myself that it's o.k. to take time for myself on occasion.  Reconnecting with "me" is just as important as connecting with everyone else out there.  And the beauty is that my PLN, my Twitter feed, my LinkedIn conversations, my Zite feed, my Voxer groups are all still there waiting for me to jump back in when I am ready.  So during Connected Educator Month, I would make an argument for making sure that you are connecting with all the important stakeholders in your world, including(perhaps most importantly) yourself.  You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Putting Failure in the Spotlight

Photo credit: Flickr http://goo.gl/mI8NLQ
This past weekend I attended  IntegratEDSF (#isf14).  Halfway through my morning session on day 1, my mind was already swimming with new ideas.  Then came the Key Note and look out, full mind explosion!  iSF is a very different type of conference as you only have two sessions in a day that are designed to be workshops rather than an hour of information coming fast and furious and then on to the next session with no time to process in between.  This was my first time attending iSF and I I will be back.  But that isn't why I am writing this post.  I am writing this post to reflect on some of the lessons I learned over the weekend...

Failure to Communicate
My morning session was facilitated by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) author and teacher extraordinaire.  The session was entitled: The Empowered School.  It was a fantastic conversation that caused me to think about when I say "yes" vs. when I say "no".  In addition, the conversation highlighted for me that while I was always very clear with my students about expectations, I have not given the adults that I am now responsible for the same courtesy.  Action: communicate to the faculty my expectations if they want me to say "yes" to a tough request.  This was indeed an "a-ha" moment for me.  This year there have been several people who have come to me with requests that were not the typical "can you get me such-and-such supplies" or "can I do such-and-such with a lesson".  To those individual with "big" requests I realized that I said "yes" to those who argued their case and framed their request in such a way as to demonstrate the benefit of their request to our students, and to the school community rather than simply how the request would benefit themselves.  This successful approach has never been clearly spelled out for all.  So does this mean that I play favorites?  No. It means I have not done a good job of communicating my expectations and need to adjust my communication strategies to ensure all my faculty have the opportunity to convince me to say "yes".

Failure to Acknowledge
The other big "a-ha" piece from our conversation with Pernille was the lack of opportunity to acknowledge  adults in our community when they do good stuff.  Action: find a way to acknowledge and give kudos to the adults in our community.   Teachers work really hard doing the best job they can for their students.  It is important to recognize these efforts.  Period.  No matter how old we get, we always appreciate being, and deserve to be, recognized for a job well done.  This realization has led to several conversations since the weekend and investigations into different ways to provide recognition for the adults in our community.  Stay tuned...

Failure to Reach All
After an incredibly thought-provoking keynote with Dr. Peter Gray who spoke on the role of play in learning (this was an amazing conversation and worthy of it's own post later), I attended a session with Kristen Swanson (@kristenswanson) on PD and came away with the realization that I still have so much to do in order to provide authentic learning experiences for the faculty and staff.  I like to think that I have done a good job of re-imagining PD on our site (you can read an earlier blog post on this topic here).  However, Kristen's session highlighted some huge holes in the process that we now use.  Action: implement the full cycle of User Generated Learning--curation, reflection, contribution--with every PD opportunity.  By turning every adult into not only a learner, but also a teacher, the PD opportunities become much richer and the entire community will benefit.  Currently our model requires only the curation and reflection steps.  Without the contribution step, there is a missed opportunity.  So my task this year is to continue to revamp our PD model to actively include the contribution phase.  This will be something very new for our community so I envision this being a tough sell for some.  That's o.k.  If it isn't tough, it isn't worth doing, right?

Whew!  What a weekend.  Not even a full 48 hours of conference and I now have a pretty challenging to-do list.  That's OK, though.  If I say I am a lead learner.  If I say that I want to model best practices for my staff, then this is a great place to start.  I hope to have some follow-up posts that share out the progress I am making in these areas.

Have you attended a conference recently that sent you home with a to-do list?  I would love to hear what are you working on this year.