Archive for PrincipalPLN

Leveling Up My School Facebook Page

keep calm

First of all, to those of you who have followed my blog and asked me where I’ve been…thank you! To those of you who thought I fell off the face off the planet, I promise that is not the case.  I have been working at balancing my home and work life, along with extra time being dedicated to writing a book, with the final manuscript due to ASCD on September 1st. While I’ve spent so much time writing, I have often lacked other ideas to write about for my blog.

Recently, we had Melissa Emler join us on the PrincipalPLN podcast to talk about school Facebook pages. You can read all the show notes and download the podcast from here. I share this here on my blog, because I previously thought I did a pretty good job of communicating with our families on our school Facebook page. I take time every month to schedule posts that will go out a day or more before events to serve as reminders to parents. I post pictures about the great things I see in our building a few days a week so that parents have a “window into our world.” I make sure to post lots of pictures or videos from major events. From looking at our analytics, we get a lot of action from parents and community members that are seeing our posts.

However, Melissa shared with us the news that Facebook changed the algorithm for your feed so your friends’ posts show up higher than pages, which means a school Facebook page post will likely not even show in someone’s feed. She taught us how people can change the setting and I took on her advice right away to share this information with our parents.

I created this screencast to show parents:
I also gave a quick written post a couple of days later in case someone didn’t want to watch the video (and because Melissa said to post every day!):

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Melissa emphasized that you need to post every day to your Facebook page to keep your page showing up in people’s feeds. The more you post, the more opportunities you are taking to share your school’s story. She also encouraged using Facebook Live, something I have never attempted to do, but is on my list of things to try in the next couple of weeks.

If you want to learn more, she has great resources posted here.

So what’s next for me to “level up” my school Facebook page? Here’s what I plan to do:

  • Create a video to introduce our new staff and changed grade level teams and post it to our page. Like this one by Brad Gustafson or this one by Todd Nesloney.
  •  Try Facebook Live. I’ll post ahead of time to let people know when I’ll be going live, but still need to figure out what my content will be. I’m thinking maybe a preview to freshly waxed floors and classrooms ready to go?
  • Find creative ways to keep posting between now and the start of the school year, remembering that anytime you have news to share to have a picture to go with the text to catch people’s eye. I’ve used a variety of tools to create images, but have quickly fallen in love with the app WordSwag. Post ideas include:
    • UPS guy delivering packages of new books (I already got a picture of him and he said that’s the first time anyone has ever cared to get a picture of him).
    • Reminders for online registration
    • Reminders for Open House
    • Pictures of kids in the community staying active (sports, library events, etc.)
    • Picture of custodians working on floors/rooms
    • Pictures of teachers in for professional learning
    • Pictures of teachers working in their rooms
    • Picture of the tech guys working to get iPads ready

If you still follow my page (after my 6 month absence) please feel free to chime in with unique ideas!

Breaking Out of Isolation

Being a principal is my passion; a role that I am grateful to have and enjoy *almost* every day.  While their are many positives to school administration, one of the pitfalls is the isolation that comes with being an administrator. I have previously written and shared in presentations (along with Curt Rees, Jay Posick and Matt Renwick) that is like being on Admin Island. Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 9.34.11 PM

 

I have to honestly say, that I don’t know how I could do this job without being a connected educator.  I learn so much everyday from other educators across the world on Twitter, Voxer, Blogs, and Pintrest everyday. I am certain that if I were to go back into the classroom, I would be a far more effective teacher today than before I was connected.

One of my greatest connections has been with Spike Cook and Theresa Stager through creating the #principalpln podcast, a weekly (ok, almost weekly) podcast focused on providing current and aspiring school leaders with advice, support and ideas. About a year ago we embarked on an exciting journey to write about how getting connected can help break out of isolation, but also address how being connected can also lead to isolation (quite a pardox!)

Breaking Out of Isolation Cover

Getting connected is one thing, and many educators are taking the plunge to become connected. Once connected, how does the leader avoid the isolation inherent in leadership? We have learned from conversations with others that many educators need help balancing their connected journey, and working with their peers. We wrote this book to ensure that the leadership wheels do not fall off.

In this book we help the readers understand the importance of being connected to benefit individual professional learning, mindfulness, and avoiding the traps of isolation . We use vignettes of leaders to give a picture of what the connected leader looks like. We also address the common challenges that come with being connected, such as criticism, isolation and battling mindset.

Pre-orders are available by visiting the Corwin site.

I am excited to announce that this book is now off to the printers and should be out by the end of this month!

Can principals have a life during the school year?

School has been out for three weeks and I have:

  • Read 5 books (mix of fiction and personal development)
  • Enjoyed a family camping trip filled with fun and relaxation
  • Enjoyed fishing and water skiing/tubing outings
  • Acquired enough sunlight to get a tan (for me anyways)
  • Ran 33 miles (one run was a 5K race with my son for his first race) and signed up to run my first 10K
  • Watched 12 baseball games that my kids played in
  • Enjoyed ongoing learning great conversations with members of my PLN at a conference
  • Spent time writing (for what I hope is a future published book)
  • Enjoyed meditation and coffee on my back deck with the sunrise
  • Kept my house clean (ok, that may be a bit of a stretch!)

 

I am still working this summer, however, I am fortunate to be able to work half-days Monday-Thursday (following our summer school schedule). I am thoroughly enjoying the sense of calm I feel, with the only stress I’ve felt has come from bee stings, a dog on the loose and my 5 year-old’s first experience tubing on the lake. A much different pace than the school year.

Why do I blog about this? Because I’ve shared before on the #principalpln podcast several times about my journey to try to become more mindful and frankly, get a life outside of school to be more balanced. By nature, I am a workaholic, and have a hard time slowing down and relaxing. Just today I found myself with two hours of no kids in the house and had to stop myself from pulling out my laptop to do some work (I had to remind myself that I had no pressing deadlines to meet!).

I’m sure that many principals (and teachers) can relate to the sigh of relief being felt right now. But it makes me wonder why I can’t find a sense of balance and mindfulness all year? Why do I have to be stressed during the school year? Why can’t I continue my passions and self-care while working full time?  Is it possible to be a principal and have a life?

The Mindful School Leader

This is a cross post from the #PrincipalPLN podcast:

 

How do you handle to stress?

 Does this sound like you? Maybe you just feel that way at times, which is certainly common in our overwhelming roles as school leaders. But, it doesn’t have to be!
In this episode, the #principalpln crew have an amazing discussion with the authors of The Mindful School LeaderKirsten Olson and Val Brown share their amazing wisdom with us on the importance of mindfulness for school leaders and how we can get started.  We felt a sense of peace and calm come over us just in listening to them speak!
We highly recommend you read the book, but until it arrives you can start with these recommendations from Val and Kirsten:

 


  • You eat a meal every day…choose one meal to really taste your food. Put down your devices and taste your food!
  • Look at the sky.
  • At times throughout the day, stop and notice your breathing.
  • Make a commitment for 10 minutes of alone time in your office.
  • Schedule these things so they become routine.

 


 

 

Do you have your own tips to share with being mindful or just taking care of yourself so you can be a better leader? Or are you (like us) a work in progress and just starting your path to mindfulness? Share your comments below or tweet your tips/reflections/progress using #principalpln.




 

Using Google Calendar for my To-Do Lists

A common topic of discussion on the #PrincipalPLN podcast is on productivity, because principals have a LOT of work to do while wearing mgoogle calany different hats and never enough time to get it all done (seriously, time could stop and we still couldn’t catch up). One of my favorite apps for keeping my to-do list in is Remember the Milk, however, this past year I got away from using it and just started scheduling my to-do work in a google tasks calendar.

 

I have several calendars in Google:

  • My main calendar that the secretaries can see and add appointments to. This includes any meeting or duty that they will need to know where I’m at (as will I!)
  • Staff events calendar-all staff can see this and it’s for any meeting or school-wide event that they need to be aware of.
  • Tasks calendar-I use this to schedule work that I need to do. Anything I used to write on a post-it note (or put in Remember the Milk app) I now put in my tasks calendar. No one else can see this.
  • Student Discipline-only I can see this. I enter in any students I meet with for discipline. This is often used for scheduling when I’m going to meet with someone (usually at the end of the day when I get a parent phone call or call from the bus company about bus referrals from the pm route).
  • Personal Calendar-this is just for me and is shared with my husband. We use this to schedule our own family events, medical appointments, etc.

So, why the tasks calendar? When I have a long list of things to-do it can be overwhelming to look at and decide what to do. I never really want to do any of them! :) But, when I schedule them when I think would be the best time to work on it, then I’ve already made a commitment to work on it at that day/time. When I look at my calendar, I know what I need to do. What’s even better is the reminder feature that pops up and tells you what you need to do; it’s like having my own little personal secretary to remind me what to do. Now, my day is just as hectic as any other principal and my days NEVER go as planned so at the end of each day I review my calendar and often have to move several tasks to another day/time, because I didn’t get to them on that day due to x, y or z happening.

When I shared this on one of the #principalpln podcasts, Spike asked how I can “cross off” that it’s done? I know that crossing things off gives a great deal of satisfaction, but I couldn’t figure out a way to do that in google calendar.

I recently came up with a solution…well, almost.  I created a new calendar and called it “completed tasks” and made the calendar a different color. So now as I complete a task, I simply edit the event and change what calendar it is so I can visually see that it is completed (a different color on my calendar).

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Getting to Inbox Zero

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Is Inbox Zero possible? Sounds like flying unicorns to me.  I’ve often heard Curt Rees talk about getting to Inbox Zero and even though I accomplished it a few times (literally only a few!).  After Curt join us on the PrincipalPLN podcast he helped me understand how and why to get to Inbox Zero.  He also convinced me that it is not productive or healthy to have my work email on my personal phone and I “ripped the bandaid off” right in the middle of the podcast, taking it off of my phone.  It’s been one week since we recorded this podcast and I achieved Inbox Zero 3 days (and I know I’ll get back to it by Monday) and I felt way more productive with my time, getting into classrooms and having conversations with staff.  I also enjoyed ongoing conversation about this topic in the PrincipalPLN Voxer group and could completely relate when Tia Henriksen said, “Flying unicorns exist!!! Who Knew?”

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Here are the shownotes from PrincipalPLN.com:

#PrincipalPLN Episode 47: Conquering Email with Curt Rees

In this episode we are joined by Curt Rees, Elementary Principal and Recess Kickball legend in Onalaska,Wisconsin. Curt’s school is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as a model school for their implementation of Response to Intervention.  Curt is also a current doctoral student at UKSTL. You can find Curt online at @CurtRees and http://curtrees.com/ Curt is also mentioned in chapter 4 of Spike’s book, Connected Leadership.

Some of Curt’s Email Wisdom:

Don’t sit down and browse email. Sit down and “crank” through them when you’re ready to work on them. Don’t touch an email more than once. Decide on your action for it once you read it. If it takes more than 2 minutes to respond, he sends it to his to-do app (OmniFocus) to schedule when to work on it. Don’t let a read email sit in your inbox, schedule it and get it out of your inbox!
Curt recommends not having work email on your phone and was so convincing that Jessica “ripped the bandaid” off and took work email off of her phone while listening to Curt explain why.  Can you do it?
Curt’s Top 5 Tips:
  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (or anything by David Allen)
  1. Have a system: this is beyond just email, to keep track of what you’re going to do and when
  1. Don’t let email dictate how you’re going to spend your time. Our jobs are busy enough!  Make yourself available in other ways.
  2. Don’t let your email inbox be your to-do list!
  3. Don’t clutter up anyone else’s email inbox. Recognize when you need to go and talk instead of sending an email.
Other resources/thoughts on email…
Jessica’s blog post: The Email Monster

#principalpln podcast episode 6: Staying Healthy to Outlast the Marathon of the School Year

PrincipalPLN logo

Another crosspost from www.principalpln.com

We are the best at taking care of others, the worst at taking care of ourselves. In this episode we share tips to take care of yourself first so you can be the best principal you can be to last the whole school year long!
 
Spike’s book is out! Check it out: Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away

#PrincipalPLN Season 2 Episode 4: Twas the Night Before the First Day of School

If you haven’t checked out the new podcast yet, you can go to principalpln.com or download it on iTunes or Soundcloud.  As we add podcasts, I’ll also cross-post them here (although I missed the last couple of posts).

PrincipalPLN logo

 

In this episode we catch up on what we’ve each been working on, what we wish we would have done earlier so we aren’t stressed now (the story of principals’ lives!) and what is most important the first week of school.

Need some ideas on books to read in classrooms the first week of school? PrincipalJ shares ideas HERE.

Stay tuned for future podcasts on…

Staying Healthy to Outlast this School Year Marathon

Guest Hal Elrod, Author of The Miracle Morning

Series of podcasts on tips for being efficient

 

The Podcast is Back!

Many leaders in my PLN are writing outstanding blog posts for  #LeadershipDay14. I love this topic each year that it comes around, however, I’m feeling too busy to write a quality, reflective post in response to it (especially when incredible leaders like Curt Rees overachieve and create awesomeness like THIS!)

PrincipalPLNInstead, I’m just going to use this opportunity to say that my fellow podcasters, Dr. Spike CookTheresa Stager, and myself are excited to start another year of podcasting for principals.  We are rebranding ourselves this year as the PrincipalPLN, which I think fits #LeadershipDay14 well as we strive to have our podcast be a resource for school leaders.

Please check out episode 1 HERE.

 

Are We There Yet? #Principalcast podcast with Curt Rees

This is a tad late for most principals, since the end of the school year has already arrived, but the PrincipalCast crew enjoyed a great conversation with Curt Rees about the end of the school year for principals.

He offered suggestions and tips for ending the school year on a positive note. He suggests that principals get as much information to the teachers

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as possible before leaving for the summer. He works very hard to get the schedule, class lists, and as much other planning for the new school year completed.

Curt encourages teachers and administrators to learn as much as possible over the summer. As for Curt, he will be continuing his Doctoral program at University of Kentucky, participating in chats through twitter, and doing lots of reading. He also suggests that educators spend time eating correctly and exercising to avoid the “end of the school year” burn out.

You can check download the podcast in your podcast app or check it out in its entirety on youtube: