Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Building a Connected School - The BIG C's
Image credit: www.iprospect.com
It is summer, and I am more excited than ever to start school in August! Why? Because my goal for next school year is to lead the “building” of a more connected school.
A connected school is one where collaboration, celebration, and communication are the keys to expanding outside the brick walls that surround us. The 3 BIG C’s. We must collaborate to share and become better. We must celebrate our successes and failures. And we must communicate with all our stakeholders to let them know about all the happenings in the school. “If we don’t tell our story, who will?”
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Merriam-Webster defines the word collaborate as “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.” In education, we are continually striving to discover more methods and tools to help our children be successful in their endeavors. While every educator can be seen collaborating with colleagues on any given day, when I think of building a connected school, collaboration moves beyond our walls to other educators across the globe. We can work together and share our ideas with a much larger group of people, all with the common goal of helping kids.
This year, my goal is to embrace the collaboration already happening within the school and model how it can go well-beyond these walls. We do a great job collaborating within our grade levels. Now, let’s see it vertically within the school. Let’s build time in our day to help each other, build our PLN so we can move our professional development from a set time and place to anytime.
More than ever, I plan to model, model, model the use of technology FOR professional development and collaboration beyond our school. Remember the WHY we use technology - our use will be FOR collaboration and FOR professional expansion in this goal area. I will model using a blog for reflection. I will continue to train my staff to use Twitter to build their PLN and learn from others around the globe, and I will continue to model how it can be one of the most powerful tools out there for educators. We will use Google Apps for Education for sharing and collaborating on a host of topics, and any other tool I can get my hands on to MODEL the power of collaboration. We can expand our collaboration to a Padlet wall of ideas and resources, and add Today’s Meet for a backchannel during our staff meetings. Through modeling of different technological tools and resources, our collaborative efforts will reach beyond our walls and help us grow professionally.
“Anyone who’s just driven 90 yards against huge men trying to kill them has earned the right to do Jazz hands.”
Schools have “earned the right to do Jazz hands”! We are driving “90 yards” daily in our determination to propel students to success. It is time to celebrate ALL of the magnificent work happening in our school! This past year, I created a school Twitter account (@RyanParkRhinos) to share happenings around the school. I have to admit - I wasn’t as up-to-date as I wanted to be, and didn’t showcase NEARLY what I wanted or needed to in order to spotlight the wonderful teaching and learning going on daily. I’ve watched great leaders such as Tony Sinanis (@TonySinanis) and Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) showcase the teaching and learning happening in their schools through Twitter and other social media. My goal is to do the same.
With the added scrutiny on public education, it is even more important today than ever before to celebrate all the exciting work happening in schools. It is OUR job to tell OUR story. As Eric Sheninger shared in his recent book Digital Leadership, “...these tools combined have given my stakeholders and the greater educational community a bird’s eye view into my school and the great things happening here.”
Through social media, I wish to share Ryan Park’s story and all the great teaching and learning going on here. I will send out a positive morning message daily, highlighting great activities at the school that day. I will create a showcase of great work. One showcase will be at the school, visible to students in the hallway, with newspaper clippings, pictures, and great accomplishments. Another showcase will be on my website, featuring our learning and accomplishments. In addition, I will use Twitter as a means to share all of these celebrations, as well as screencast and post YouTube highlights of our activities every other week. For me, this is a start, but one I am excited to begin to celebrate all we do to help our students reach their potential.
“communication: the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else”
We communicate in so many ways. Our communication with others can be personal, professional, friendly, informative, stern, written, verbal, frequent, or infrequent. In today’s schools, our communication can take these many forms, but often times is on paper, in an email, or in a phone call. Our communication with ALL stakeholders is key. This is where we celebrate, collaborate, and inform. I can always improve in this aspect, and this too will be a priority for me next school year.
Above all, I strive to communicate more frequently with all stakeholders and do so in a variety of formats, thus reaching a larger audience. Communication needs to go beyond 7:30-3:30. It needs to be anytime, anywhere, and in multiple mediums.
My communication goal with my staff and students:
I will continue my Weekly Notes with staff (thank you Todd Whitaker for highlighting this idea in so much of what you do). This provides an overview of the week ahead, sharing the positives the week before and what to get ready for next. Now, I am going to take this a step farther. I have built a website this summer, Heavin’s EDU-Idea Place (https://sites.google.com/a/msdsc.us/heavinseduideaplace/home), where I share a Morning Message to the staff and students (this will also go out on Twitter and email). My goal with the Morning Message is to highlight great learning, accomplishments, and be that positive message to start every day. Thank you to great leaders on Twitter for giving me this idea!
In addition to the Morning Message, this website features ideas, resources, videos, and articles for my staff to learn and share, as well as my staff Padlet and Staff Meeting Channel (courtesy of Today’s Meet) to open communication lines for collaboration. The website features a Showcase, where I plan to post great pictures and other pieces of evidence of the wonderful learning going on. This website is ONE communication tool for staff, students, and even parents.
I still plan to communicate with staff and students through Twitter, celebrating accomplishments and keeping them up-to-date on activities. I use Remind with my staff for updates, delays, and closings. I am visible in the school daily, and it is ALWAYS my goal to walk into EVERY classroom EVERY day to greet students, but more importantly show them I find what they are learning important, and I want to see their learning! Creating this personal connection is so important in communication. These are just a few of the many ways I plan to communicate better with my staff and students.
My communication goals with parents:
I will continue to send out a monthly newsletter with a TON of information and happenings. I like sending letters and mail as well, so those will continue to help keep my families informed. But more than that, I am especially excited to communicate our celebrations with more videos and through Twitter. This is an area I have not tapped into yet, but am ecstatic to try! Sharing our story with our families will spread throughout the community, and I cannot wait to connect our school with the world!
Image credit: www.surpriseexperiences.com
The 3 BIG C’s are my goals this year. With these, I will begin the journey of a more connected school. But more than that, my goals of collaboration, celebration, and communication will stay put, the means of which I get to those may change as needed. Remembering the WHY gives me the ability to embrace any HOW to achieve the goal.