Last weekend I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the ASCD’s annual conference in Chicago, just a short drive away. This conference boasted some amazing speakers, but it also provided an opportunity to simply spend time with educators I’ve met through my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter. Outside of the prescribed conference sessions, I enjoyed meals and conversation (and even a little karaoke) with some educators who have pushed my thinking and helped me see what is really possible when we work together and encourage one another. I was also with some educators I have the privilege of working with on a regular basis in my local school district and immediate community.
Perhaps one of the best ‘non-session’ conference sessions came in the final hours of the conference when my assistant principal and friend, Katy Schafermeyer, and I sat to catch up and talk about what we had experienced over the course of the weekend and what we might contribute at a future conference. Before long we were sitting with George Couros and Tom Whitby talking about being connected educators and the compelling need to share with one another for the sake of improving our practice. George and I had connected on Twitter and met in person at the ISTE Leadership Forum. Tom and I also had connected on Twitter through mutual acquaintances and met in person the day before we served on a connected educator panel at the ICE Conference earlier this month.
In the hour and a half or so we spent together, George talked to us about staring Connected Principals and Tom shared about the beginning of #EdChat. Before long, what started as reflection moved on to action. For Katy, it meant starting her own blog. Over the course of this school year, Katy got started with Twitter. George’s perspective that afternoon reinforced that people who don’t know Katy could learn from her through the public sharing a blog provides. We talked about some of the ‘uncomfortable-ness’ that comes with public declaration of our thoughts. A barrier to my own writing has sometimes been my concern with making a blog post a finished piece of work rather than simply my thoughts at a point in time or an experience I’d like to share. I’d also sometimes gone from considering too many topics to write about to not writing about any at all. Interestingly, I believe that the steps I’ve taken with blogging and Twitter have made me much more comfortable, confident, and purposeful in some face-to-face conversations with other educators.
For me, that time with Katy, George, and Tom also resulted in changing my Twitter handle and moving my blog to my own domain. That’s where the ‘A’ comes in to the story. My principal title was part of both my blog address and my Twitter identity as I used @principalkmelt. As George and Tom explained, changing both to a version of my name allows for me to claim that space for the long term regardless of the role I hold and makes me more easily remembered and accessible to others. Likewise, that change keeps the focus on me as a learner rather than me as a title. Admittedly, I got a little held up on the Kathy A. part, as I’d rarely used my middle initial, especially without my full name of Kathleen. So I could continue to think about it and possibly lose that space or I could go for it. Why not?!
Learning a new blog platform has been challenging, but the key is that I don’t have to learn it on my own. In the past couple of days, I’ve reached out for help and recommendations and have not fallen short on replies (Thanks, too, to Dean Shareski!). When thinking about my PLN, I am consistently amazed at the willingness of individuals to share their time and their resources with people, in some cases, they have seldom or never met face-to-face. At the core of that willingness is an unwavering commitment to support learners in the ranks of students, parents, and educators. I want in on that. You should want in on that, too. That ‘A’ (stands for Ann, in case you were wondering..) now reminds me to take that Action.