Tag Archives: George Couros

Confessions of a rebounding blogger

img_9726Looking back through my posts, one topic that emerges the most is my lack of blogging. Candidly, this is in direct opposition to my firm believe that educational leaders must take risks and model what we hope to see in others. It makes my cries that everyone has something to share and our voices are valuable seem just a bit hypocritical, don’t you think? As George Couros noted in Blogging is your job, “If you see reflection as crucial to what you do, don’t find time; schedule time.” So here I am with my mocha, an R & B playlist and a pile of work I can tend to later.

Over the past couple years, I’ve gotten to know Jennifer Kloczko through our #LeadWild Voxer group. This summer we finally had the opportunity to meet in person, and I’m more than excited for some upcoming projects we’ll tackle together. Aside from being school leaders, we shamelessly share a love of Justin Timberlake. Can you blame us? This weekend, Jennifer shared more musical goodness through her post Leadership Lessons #maroon5. Before getting to those lessons, she, too references George’s post about blogging. Jennifer writes, “You see, I write blog posts in my head all the time. When I’m walking, and driving– inspiration is everywhere. And once in awhile a post makes it out of my head and onto the page.” I can totally relate to blogging in my head, but blogging in my head doesn’t help anyone but me. To be honest, it doesn’t even help ME as much as getting my words on a page. As I updated other parts of my blog tonight, I couldn’t help but reread old posts…old posts with words I barely remember writing but very much needed to read.

This is the part where I’d typically make a grand statement about being back on the blog train for good. Instead, I’m going to hit Publish (before I overthink this) and put that next writing time on my calendar! What are you doing to protect your reflection and sharing time?

Being that engaged parent

This morning I was catching up on some reading of my often neglected feed of blog posts and came across two separate, yet very connected, blog posts. One was from George Couros, called Engaging Parents in the Learning Process. The other was over at Nerdy Book Club, called The Great (inbe) Tween by Lindsey Leavitt. George writes, “Being able to engage in the process with your child, like reading, will help improve their learning.  That type of engagement brings learning to a different level in the home.” As a mom to four elementary-aged children, I often consider  my own kids and how their interests and experiences apply to my work with kids at school. Likewise, as decisions are made at my school, I think about how I might feel in that parent role. This perspective often gives me common ground with our parents to acknowledge what we truly want for our kids.

This takes me back to a couple of weeks ago when my son, a huge fan or Star Wars, came home from school talking about Tom Angleberger‘s upcoming local author visit. My son and I had the opportunity to see Tom upon the release of his last book, too. That first night, Mark, my son, and I enjoyed the shared experience of a dinner out and seeing some of his classmates at the book signing. Most recently, my husband, Jim, took all of our kids and they were joined by his brother and our nieces, too.

In her post, author Lindsey Leavitt makes the following statements that stand out to me looking back to meeting an author when she was a student:

  • “I’ve long forgotten my locker combination, the classes I took, some of my teachers names, but I vividly remember meeting Alicia.” Such a great example of an authentic opportunity! This takes writing from a pencil-paper task to connecting with the people that make stories come alive. It moves from stand-alone skill practice to a real, powerful, memorable experience. 
  • “I also remember thinking how ordinary she looked.” After the most recent author visit, my husband noted how Tom took time to talk with the kids and presented as such an ordinary person. This down-to-earth person wearing a Star Wars shirt connected with his audience in a way that made them feel they could become authors themselves. This doesn’t take away from the goodness of his work or make it more ordinary, but it does inspire kids, including my 5th grade son in his Star Wars shirt, to think that they, too, have stories to share.
  • “My seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Mullaly, did that for me, and now teachers and librarians are doing the same thing with my books.” (Referring to teachers and librarians bringing books to the kids that will connect with them best.) This reminds me of both the power we have as educators to offer such opportunities and connections. It also speaks to the importance as a leader and as a parent to thank and encourage the people who do add such value to student learning.

So Mrs. Witcpalek and Ms. Shammas, thanks from the Melton family. We appreciate you sharing these opportunities with us and our children. And thanks, too, to authors like Tom and Lindsey who model their experience for our kids.

Using the ‘A’

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.

Connecting…and preparing to STAY connected

With a new year with students starting for me next week, I am very much reflecting on the importance and the challenges of being connected. This post is prompted by Connected Educator Month and Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day 2012 today! As I continue to mold my time with my staff at the start of next week, I am so excited about the possibilities for them, our students, our parents, and my colleagues. I am both motivated and confident in taking risks because I know the power to enrich our school community’s learning experience is more than available to all of us thanks largely to my Professional Learning Network (PLN).

My staff theme this year is #makeitcount, inspired by a Nike campaign in which filmmakers hired by Nike took their budget and embarked on travels around the world. This crossed my Twitter stream, courtesy of George Couros, in June right as our school year was coming to a close.  This really spoke to me about taking those risks and providing engaging, thought provoking, authentic experiences rather than a nicely packaged rehearsed “film”. I shared this with teachers in my final time with them last year and highlighted some of the ways we “made it count” for the benefit of students. I prompted them, as they both reflected on last year and prepared for this year, to think toward the authentic experiences in which we can engage as a staff and provide for our students this year; we’ll pick up at that point again, come Monday. Trusting them and working alongside them as professionals, I also want them to think big, reach out, and take risks that would further student learning and family connections. I also shared how I encountered that #makeitcount resource, again, to put power behind growing a PLN. In other words, I shared the resource itself as the primary focus, and came around to Twitter the tool I used to make connections and acquire that. This is a strategy I’ve also used with administrator colleagues; it is essentially creating the relevance first and then teaching the tool. After a few opportunities to expose colleagues in this way, I share more of the “how to” phase of getting connected themselves.

While the summer is busy, most of us can agree that the pace still changes rather drastically in those first weeks when teachers and students arrive. Here is where my challenge comes in…I do not want to lose ground on the connections I make and continuing to both contribute and utilize the powerful resources my PLN consistently shares. I am aware that I have been less attentive to my PLN in the last couple of weeks in which my summer doctoral term brought exams and literature reviews as it wrapped and teachers returned to prepare their classrooms.  I am not satisfied with that. I do not want the nuts and bolts of my work to take precedent over the value I can add to our community through true leadership. How do you integrate that into your day? Anyone else feeling this way?

I prepare to leave my office today thinking of …

I’m still a bit amazed that all of this was here without me really knowing it before recent months, and I know I still have much to learn.  I am inspired and grateful for the opportunities I have and the time that is generously given by others to connect more people and support one another in the critical work we do. Thank you, PLN!

Getting started…finally!

Over the course of the past year, I’ve come to really value Twitter and the Professional Learning Network I’m developing through my interactions there. Honestly, I started by following educational organizations or publications and not really tweeting at all. It gave me a quick way to stay informed about what was happening as journals from those same organizations piled up on my desk, often unread. Eventually, I began to retweet occasionally and started making connections with some other educators, thanks in part to some conversations with @stumpteacher and @j_bednar, who I am fortunate to know in real life, and interaction with @joe_mazza through #ptchat.  With those connections come amazing resources, additional sets of eyes and ears, and support for the important work we all do for kids.

I also began reading more blogs. While I had blogged about my family’s adoption journey, I had never blogged in a professional light. Looking back, though, the adoption blog was a way to share with progress with our extended family and friends, as well as other families who were also in the adoption process. It only makes sense to that this would serve us well in other areas of our lives. So, I’d read education blogs and it would prompt me to comment or set up a blog and write a post…but I didn’t. I wanted to wait until I had time, like a day off or a class finished, or I thought something through a little more. Over spring break, my family took an awesome vacation to Disney World, and I unplugged from my school work and my doctoral work (well, for the most part) (but not from ESPN because that was when the Tebow trade was going down). On that trip, I was really energized despite the busy, busy days! As we traveled home, I wrote a list of about 20 lessons from Disney that applied to my work and I planned to write about them on. That was in March…still haven’t written. Today, though, I encountered this post on why sharing matters from another educator, @gcouros, whose candor and reflection I’ve come to value greatly (not to mention quality You Tube video sharing). And I decided today was the day I would get started and follow through (…despite, or maybe partly because of, the two chapters of stats homework waiting for me tonight!).

I’ve always enjoyed infusing technology into my work and my personal life, and I have been spreading the Twitter PLN goodness to my principal colleagues, doctoral cohort members, and my building staff. I have seen directly how my students at my school can benefit from this, too; for example, I connected two of my kindergarten classes in Illinois with kindergarten classes in Port McNeill, British Columbia, Canada for some amazing, authentic learning about where each group of students is from and some hands-on science sharing about our chicks and their salmon. I know that if I’m going to continue to develop as a leader and develop leaders and move my school forward, contributing and sharing is every bit as important as the information that is shared WITH me…and what others have shared has undoubtedly made a difference to me and helped me do that for others.

So here I am… And those Disney ideas are still rolling around in my head; so are some tweets and posts I’ve seen about the how we can promote creativity and curiosity in students given the demands and accountability placed on us, the value of doctoral programs, and the need for quality administrators and empowered teacher leaders. Now I’ve made myself a nice little place to put them!