In checking out Thesaurus.com, I wanted some synonyms for the word connected. Some of the suggested words are associated, linked, united, banded together, and undivided. Reading these words also brought into focus my #oneword18 for the school year- connected. This focus will be something that helps me with my family, our school, and my PLN. What does that mean? It means that when I'm with each of these groups or individuals, either in person or online, I need to be connected with them during that time. But I also need to realize that there are times when our school and my PLN need to take a backseat to my family. As I often remind our school, family always comes first so that should take precedence over work or friends. That could probably go unsaid, but I need to remind myself of it more often than I care to admit. You may need to remind yourself of that from time to time, too.
So here is my learning journey this summer. It began with ISTE. I left the Park and Ride lot with 5 staff members, some I've known for a long time and others with whom I was just beginning to connect. The drive from the Milwaukee area to Chicago can be smooth or it can be full of stop and go traffic. We were lucky enough to have the stop and go traffic. There is no sarcasm in that statement as there was lots of time to discuss what we'd be learning and how we would share what we've learned with our staff. Excitement and a sense of overwhelming opportunities were everywhere.
Once in Chicago, it was time to check in to the hotel and grab some dinner. We had a blast eating at Dick's Last Resort where I got the nickname "Grandpa", apparently because I was the oldest person in the group. We got to know one another better and took a selfie to remember the moment. We spent more time together walking the streets of Chicago and headed back to the hotel for some rest. Tomorrow was the start of the conference with about 20,000 in attendance and what seemed like 20,000 different learning opportunities. We learned about technology tools, mindsets for change, creation, collaboration, and so much more. There isn't one specific strategy or idea that sticks with me other than supporting those staff and students who want to take risk with their learning to make it more relevant and meaningful. Imagine that going on for 4 days. It was truly amazing.
|Merton crew at ISTE!|
Although we traveled to Chicago and back together, we didn't only learn with one another. We made connections with educators from all over the country. We connected in their sessions, in the exhibit hall, and in other venues throughout Chicago. The learning was fun, engaging, and we have already begun sharing what we learned with our colleagues. Now it's time to focus on what to share and really connect with the educators we work alongside of each and every day.
The second part of my connected learning journey also happened in Chicago at the National Principals' Conference. It started with a 3:30AM drive to Chicago so that I could arrive in time for a 5:30AM run with #BalanceLAP authors Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson. Talk about a great start to the day. From there came the opportunity to connect with #principalsinaction colleagues and to recruit more colleagues to join us. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to become more connected with colleagues from across the country. It was a learning experience I will never forget because I was able to direct my own learning, share some of my passions, and be pushed in ways that I know will make me a better principal for our students, staff, families, and district. Having a meal with my Wisconsin peeps on Thursday night and lunch with Beth Houf, Andy Jacks, and Hamish Brewer were great learning and sharing opportunities outside of the regularly scheduled sessions. And the conversations didn't end on Friday, July 13th. They continue and keep me motivated to be better for our students, our staff, and our families.
But here is the highlight for me. Below this paragraph is a picture of Darcy Willis (@DarcyWilliz) on her third day as a principal. She stopped by to speak with Hamish Brewer (@brewerhm), shaking with nerves. Those speaking with Hamish asked her if she was on Twitter. She wasn't, and the rest is history. The next thing you know, we're taking getting her on Twitter, taking over her phone to enter our Twitter handles, and taking this epic photo of Darcy and her new and growing PLN. Hamish said it best when he told Darcy, "We've got your back. Just reach out to us and we'll be there." Nothing could be more true. I know I feel this way every day with my interactions on Twitter and Voxer with the wonderful PLN that keeps me growing and learning and striving to be better. I will never take this connectedness for granted.
|Darcy's first tweet!|
So now I have this goal, to be connected with family, colleagues, and friends when I am in their presence. Sometimes it might be online but as I've found, the face to face conversations during a meal or moving from place to place or in a Google hangout or Skype are so much more powerful. When I am connected, I need to make sure that I'm listening and focusing on the conversation right in front of me. And I need those I'm connecting with to hold me accountable, too. If you see me disconnecting from our conversation, snap your fingers and bring me back in focus. We all need a reminder sometimes. Thanks to my PLN, those from lil' 'ol Merton, Wisconsin and around the country, for your encouragement, support, and friendship. I am better because of you. Thank you!