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?