Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The power of connections- NPC17

People either get it, or they don't.  The connections that we make via social media can have a lasting impression on our lives as educators.  It was never more evident to me than during my time in Philadelphia for the 2017 National Principals Conference. I have had the privilege of connecting with educators from all over the country and the opportunity to meet these educators face to face, sometimes for the first time in person, was incredible.  I don't have pictures of them all, but here are some that I will share with you because of their importance and, more importantly, because they are the ones I could find on my phone.  I only wish that I had one really good one with Ryan Sheehy and Mark French, two outstanding #principalsinaction who I had the privilege of presenting with early on Sunday morning.  So, here goes.

Saturday night I had the chance to connect again, briefly, with Tony Sinanis, a dear friend who without the magic of social media I would never have met.  I am lucky enough to be in a Voxer group with Tony and these amazing educators- Joe Sanfelippo, Amber Teamann, Melinda Miller, Jessica Johnson, Curt Rees, Leah and Tom Whitford, and Tim Lauer.  It's an amazing group.  Tony lives in New York City and I live in rural Wisconsin.  What are the chances we would have met without social media?  We have spoken on Voxer, tweeted one another, and met face to face on at least three different occasions.  When I stepped into the restaurant, Tony was one of the first ones to call out, "Jay!"  We hugged, spoke briefly, and then he was headed out the door for home.  New York City Tony and Wisconsin Jay are connected and we are friends.

On the same night, in the same restaurant, I reconnected with two middle school principals, Joy Wright from Connecticut and Don Gately from New York, that I have met face to face only once before and had the pleasure of connecting with another middle school principal, LaQuita Outlaw from New York, face to face for the first time.  We are part of a Voxer group of middle level principals.  Middle school principals are a different breed and we need our support system.  We are able to share the successes and the struggles of daily life with middle school students and staff.  We know that we can rely on one another for advice and suggestions and a place to vent.  We have all made each other better for our students and staffs, too, because of our connections.

Again, I heard someone say, "Jay!"  There was Doc Sheilah, Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac from New York, one of the first people I connected with on Voxer when Joe Mazza started a world wide book discussion of Beyond the Bake Sale.  Joy Wright is also in the picture as the first place I met her was on social media during the book discussion.  We have been friends for over 3 years.  The conversations we have had about our schools, and our families, and our families in our schools, have truly built a strong relationship.  We know that we can count on one another even though we are miles and miles apart.

The final picture is of our #principalsinaction group.  We had planned to meet in the restaurant before the conference.  When we saw each other face to face, it was like we had met before.  For many of us, this was the first time that we actually had met face to face.  The friendships we have developed on Twitter and Voxer meant that hugs and high fives and smiles were everywhere.  We continued conversations, started conversations, and deepened relationships that night.  It was an experience I will never forget.

And that was just the first night, the night before the conference even started.  These connections continued to be fostered over the next three days.  I could go on and on with more pictures from Saturday night and the conference days but it would just be more of the same.  You all know who you are and I could write a paragraph about each one of you, but I won't.  The connections were fostered on runs, during sessions, between sessions, at meal time, at gatherings in restaurants and beer gardens and hotel lobbies.  Why am I sharing this?  Because as educators, we need to continue to develop connections with other educators.  Share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Sharing will make us all better.  Reach out to your colleagues who aren't as connected and offer to help them along the way.  That's another connection right there.

I watched as two different groups of educators, #principalsinaction and #momsasprincipals, grew membership because they reached out to connect.  A third group, #dadsasprincipals, was born.  It was great to see the variety of educators that grew together at a conference because they were first connected on Twitter or Voxer.  It was amazing.  Because of the connections I made with Mark French (Minnesota), Ryan Sheehy (California), and Don Gately (New York), we were able to prepare for our presentations without even being in the same room let alone the same state.  That's incredible.

I encourage you to reach out to others.  Connect on social media and face to face.  It's what's best for our kids and our staff and each other.  There are plenty of us out there to help and support you along the way.  So what's stopping you?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hats at NPC17

As principals, we all wear a variety of hats.  But I'm not going to talk about the different hats we wear.  I'm going to talk about two hats I got from vendors at NPC17, hats I wasn't looking for but hats that found me.  And my wife will tell you I certainly don't need anymore hats, but I couldn't resist them.  The reason I couldn't resist them is messages they have for me and for anyone attending a conference or participating in any kind of learning experience.

Participate
This is in no way meant to be an advertisement for www.participate.com/chats, a website I use to find educational Twitter chats.  It is meant to be a call to action.  Learning is an active process.  We learn by discussing, questioning, listening, moving around, answering, and sharing our thoughts.  Participating is not limited to scheduled sessions, either.  It includes the times you make up your own sessions with those you have connected with, eating a meal with new and old friends, going for a run with others (check out my previous post), hanging out in the airport or hotel lobby, and just about any other way you can connect with someone.  I challenge you to connect and not just hang out alone.  Your learning will be much deeper and meaningful if you can speak with another learner.

Ripple Effect
When I saw this hat in the exhibit hall, I couldn't believe that it existed.  The hat was at the Overcoming Obstacles (https://www.overcomingobstacles.org/) table and made me pause and speak with the nice people who were there.  I feel that we all have a ripple effect in our schools.  We all create ripples.  We drop a rock in the pool and the ripples go out from there.  Good "rocks" create good ripples.  Bad "rocks" create bad ripples.  And it's not just the principal that creates the ripples.  Students, staff, and families all create ripples.  During NPC17, the ripples were everywhere.  #momsasprincipals led to #dadsasprincipals.  Speakers like Jimmy Casas and Todd Nesloney and Kevin Carroll spread ripples about relationships and believing in our kids, among other things.  I need to be aware of the rocks I drop in my school, with family and friends, and with those I meet while I'm out and about.  The ripples will have a lasting effect and I want them to be good ripples.

What two things from NPC17 impacted you the most?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Runs at NPC17

I haven't been home for even 24 hours from the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia.  I'm tired and thinking too much, about everything, and what I should do next, so I'm writing a blog to reflect on my learning, my discussions with old friends and new friends, and the challenge that I put forth to our #principalsinaction group of finding that one thing to focus on.  But those reflections will come later.  This blog is about the 3 runs while I was in Philly and how they changed the way I think about attending conferences.

Day 1- Alone (and a bucket list check off)
At the top of the "Rocky steps"
Rocky statue selfie
On day 1 in Philadelphia, I ran, alone, to the "Rocky steps", a bucket list run and a total of 4 miles.  It's how I used to attend conferences, too.  Alone.  Interacting with few people.  Afraid to take a chance or move out of my comfort zone.  Hearing great ideas but never, or rarely, speaking with anyone about them, at least while I was at the conference.  But then something changed.  I connected with a couple of top of the line Wisconsin educators, Curt Rees and Jessica Johnson, on Twitter.  We talked about feeling alone on a desert island as principals and in need of support and encouragement.  We shared our message of being connected with anyone who would listen, informally as well as in sessions at our state conferences.  Now that I'm connected, I don't ever want to go back to attending conferences alone, quietly moving from session to session.
*Full disclosure- I presented at 7:30AM on Day 1 with Mark French (Minnesota) and Ryan Sheehy (California) and needed to clear my head as presenting at a national conference is also a bucket list item.  Check.

Day 2- Old friends and new friends
Ben, me, Eric, and JR
On day 2 in Philadelphia, I had the distinct pleasure of running with Ben Gilpin (Michigan), Eric Ewald (Iowa), and JR Raybold (Virginia).  We started out with an idea to run to the Liberty Bell, then added the Delaware River, and then added the "Rocky steps".  The plan was to run 4 miles but we just kept talking and laughing and enjoying the morning and 4 miles became 7 miles.  I've met Ben in person once before and ran with him at a conference in Chicago.  That run in Chicago was awesome.  I know Eric from our interactions on Voxer and Twitter as part of the #principalsinaction group.  I met JR on day 1 as he was introduced to me by Hamesh Brewer, a relentless educator and cheerleader for kids.  This run was how I now attempt to learn at conferences.  I meet up with old friends, catch up, and talk about our schools.  I meet people I've connected with on Twitter or Voxer and deepen our professional relationship.  I meet new people and start conversations.  The variety of connections stretches my thinking, challenges me, and supports me.  These three types of relationships will continue to grow and flourish and only get better with time, especially if we can, once again, meet face to face.

Day 3- Sharing your learning
Joe, Laura, and me
On day 3 in Philadelphia, I enjoyed a run with Laura Jennaro (Wisconsin principal) and Joe Schroeder (assistant director of our Wisconsin principal association).  We ran to the Liberty Bell, the Delaware River, and ended at City Hall, just over 4 miles.  It was an incredible run with a focus on our learning, how we can share our learning with others, and how we can get more connected as a state.  I'm sure that it's the first of many conversations that we'll have over the course of the year.  It was a great final run in Philadelphia.


This post was not meant to suggest that you run every morning at conferences that you attend.  It was meant to demonstrate a few of the ways that one can participate in a conference.  The total time of the three runs was less than 2 hours, but the conversations (I do talk to myself when I run alone) kept pushing my thinking.  I encourage you to have your future conference experiences be more like my Day 2 and 3 runs.  You'll get so much more out of your learning.

Friday, July 7, 2017

#principalsinaction anticipation

I'm one lucky guy.  I am married to my best friend.  We have a beautiful daughter.  We live in a great house in a quiet neighborhood.  We have had opportunities to travel to beaches and lake houses and Niagara Falls.  I'm one lucky guy.
I started writing this blog as I sat in Virginia Beach, alone, reflecting on how my life has changed in the last 5 years.  My family and Wisconsin friends have stayed the same, but my school family, friends, and life have changed, and it's because of connections with educators all over the country.  And this is the reason for the title of this post- Anticipation.  In one day I'll be connecting, and reconnecting, with educators I have met on Twitter and Voxer.  I can hardly wait!
I look forward to reconnecting with those I've already met in person and am excited to meet those who I know through Twitter, Voxer, and Google hangout.  I only hope that I have enough time.  Three days doesn't seem like enough time.

I'm also a bit scared.  What happens if I don't remember someone's name?  Our profile pictures on Twitter and Voxer can be a bit deceiving.  What if I don't have a chance to connect with everyone?  There are so many great people in our #principalsinaction group.  We have a saying in this group- Get out of your office!  I'm changing that saying a little bit for this weekend- Get out of you hotel room!  There will be plenty of time to sleep on the plane ride home.  I'm hopeful to meet up with as many of my #principalsinaction family as possible.
Mark French, Ryan Sheehy and I have a session about #principalsinaction at 7:30AM on Sunday morning and we'd love to see you there.  By the way, I've met Mark once in person and look forward to meeting Ryan for the first time in person.  We've prepared our session through Voxer and Google hangouts, connecting in ways that weren't possible when I first became a principal ten years ago.
If you have the time, #PIAchat will also be live on Monday at 8EST at the Tenth Floor Grill of the Hilton Garden Inn.  We hope to see you there.

See you in Philly!