Saturday, June 6, 2015

Reflecting on my #PLN

Photo Credit
People reflect and write a lot about how much they love their #PLN.   You can set up an IFTTT recipe to thank new followers on Twitter, the hashtag #FF is a popular tag on Fridays to recognize people you respect and want to acknowledge publicly for great contributions to your learning, and Twitter provides analytics that allow you to review and track reach and followers.  All of this is great.  And I know many people who are as data-driven in their personal lives as they are professionally.  In this day of social media, if you want to grow in any field, you have to put yourself "out there".  I understand that, and honestly, I work at it in spurts.  There are many a night when you can find me marveling at the Google analytics for my blog.  Hey, who doesn't like to see a new country pop up on your map of readership?

But reach and data are not what I want to write about.  For me, my #PLN has become something much more personal than Twitter feeds, G+ community members or LinkedIn connections.  Over the past 18 months, my #PLN has become my greatest team of advocates and supporters, the ones who push me the hardest, the ones who celebrate my successes with me,  the ones who point out my mistakes, the ones who collaborate with me.  Yes, there are folks at my school site who fill many of these roles too, no doubt.  But my core #PLN colleagues and friends have really ingrained themselves into my daily habits and endeared themselves to me as much more than Twitter handles and avatars-real or not.

It was as I worked on my 1st year CPSEL summary for clearing my Tier II  this week that it truly hit me just how valuable this group has been in my formation and advancement.  In logging my progress, I reflected on how instrumental my #PLN had been in much of what I accomplished.  Here is just a partial list of what is in that summary:

  • I not only attended conferences (11 this year--up from 6 last year), but I also presented at 8 of them 
  • I helped to organize an Ed Camp 
  • I have been inspired to push more of our faculty to think outside the box
  • I was able to get an Innovation Lab approved and built in under a year
  • I write this blog
  • I actively solicit feedback on my performance from the teachers at my school site
  • I am learning how to have difficult conversations
  • I visited other schools to see what they are doing and get information and ideas to bring back
  • I have encouraged our teachers to attend conferences and workshops (totaling over 1,000 hours this year of outside PD, not counting what they are doing this summer!) 
  • I use Voxer and Twitter to get real feedback, engage in meaningful conversations, problem solve, dream, and find inspiration on a daily basis  
If it wasn't for my #PLN, I would be struggling as a second-year administrator to find support and solutions.  Essentially, I would not be effective.

In the past year we have made a lot of meaningful change at our school.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • A parent commented to me that on a scale of 1-10, our school is definitely a 10 in the arena of innovation.  I was shocked by this feedback.  I would put us at a 7-8.  For her to say she views us as a "10" was amazing, inspiring, and gratifying!  
  • I was able to introduce Design Thinking and Project Based Learning to our faculty (primarily through my Twitter connections)
  • At some recent PD, our faculty led and shared for much of the time and I was so proud!  To see other teachers stand in front of their peers and share their enthusiasm for a process or an app or a site was amazing.  And many of these individuals wouldn't have dreamed of doing so just a year ago.  
  • We have an amazing teacher on our staff who is one of the five finalists for the Comcast Bay Area All Star Teacher Award (we find out July 8 who won). Her ability to be selected is completely because she is a rock-star teacher.  But honestly, if it wasn't for my #PLN, I wouldn't have been able to write her nomination because I would have had no idea of just how amazing she really is in comparison to many teachers out there.
This summer will be spent planning for next year.  We have much to do and many new initiatives from this year need to continue, so support and follow-up need to be firmly put in place.  But I look forward to this planning work because in looking back on this year, I see so much growth at our school site.  It excites me to think of how much further we can go next year as we build on this year's successes and learn from this year's flops.  

And I know that my #PLN will be there every step of the way, questioning, sharing, guiding, pushing and cheering.  

I don't want you to see this post as "oh, look how great I am", because I have made LOTS of mistakes--this is a post from the fall that highlights a few of my mistakes, and believe me, I have made MANY more since then.  Rather, I hope that you will see the benefits of creating your own #PLN, the benefits of putting yourself out there just a little bit more--or perhaps this blog post can be used to encourage one of your colleagues to get a little more connected.  Regardless of your interpretation, I am proud of the fact that our school site is better because I--and many of our faculty--are connected.  And I am not only proud, but extremely confident in knowing that we (the faculty and our collective #PLNs) are working together to ensure our students can have the best possible learning experiences at our school.