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Being a Connected Educator: Better Than a Top 5

Corwin Connect Button


As a part of Connected Educator’s month, my blog post below was recently published on the Corwin Connect blog.




Social media doodles drawing

Social media doodles drawing

I’m fortunate to have been a Connected Educator for nearly six years and never give up an opportunity to share with others why being a Connected Educator is so beneficial.  I believe in being connected so much that I co-wrote the bookBreaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader with Spike Cook and Theresa Stager. For this year’s Connected Educator month I would like to focus on a concept that we address in our book: the top 5.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn is well known for saying, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” If one wants to become more fit and healthy, then it would become much easier by surrounding yourself with people who can model this for you. If you want to become better in your craft, then surround yourself with people who are great role models, experts in their field. Following people on Twitter is one thing, but what I prefer to focus on most is the strengths of the people I am following so I can better know how I can grow from being connected to them and have more than a top 5. The ability to surround yourself with great educators to learn from becomes even more powerful thanks to social media tools and has become my lifeline as a school principal. Any principal can tell you how isolating it is to be the only person in the building in that role, but even educators with a team to turn to can feel isolated within their own classroom. We can remain isolated by our role, room or even geographical location, just doing the best we can, or we can choose to connect with others so that we are constantly learning and growing to provide our students with the best education possible.

Being a Connected Educator allows me to do even more than find the best five people that I want to emulate…it allows me to find the best five (or even more) for each topic or area that I want to grow in. By connecting with others on Twitter, reading their blogs and having deeper discussions on Voxer, I can find which educators I can learn more from about topics such as RtI, 1common core standards, or implementing a new initiative like Writer’s Workshop or going 1:1 with iPads. I am involved in different Voxer groups focused on the conversations that I want to learn from, such as women in leadership and principals that run for balance in their lives (I do mean literally running in this context!). I connect almost daily with a group of principals who have either been recognized as principal of the year or had their school recognized for their excellence. I learn so much from these outstanding leaders in just a few minutes a day.

Being a Connected Educator with a Professional Learning Network (PLN) allows us to improve the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Are you a Connected Educator? Who are you surrounding yourself with to learn and grow from each day?

If you’re a school leader (or know one) that would like to become more connected then I’d recommend checking out our podcast for principals: PrincipalPLN or follow the hashtag #principalpln on Twitter.

isolation book promo

We Are All More than Just a Number!

Education is so consumed with testing, scores, school report cards, SLO’s and new evaluation systems. It has been interesting to see how mandates have been implemented differently across the country in this process and being able to read the honest reflections of educators from my PLN. For example, I’ve seen Tony Sinanis’s reflections on “his score” as an administrator which you can find HERE.  As I read posts like this, I am constantly reminded of why we are in education and that we need to continue to do the great work we are doing with students and not let ourselves get pulled into a test prep mentality. I am also thankful to be in a state that is not as dead set on numbers as other states are.  As I though about this, I decided to share the following message for my staff in my “Monday Musings” post:

We Are All More Than Just a Number!!


I know that many of you are already starting to think about your SLO and some are starting to stress that this year it “counts” for the state. I will have an email to all staff this week on SLO updates and then also in our EP refresher trainings, but the most important message I want you to receive is that the SLO rubric (“score”) does not just focus on the student outcome, but also the process…the process that you use to analyze your students, reflect, make goals, respond to their needs and continue to reflect again.  We are fortunate that Wisconsin has decided on a model that does not just look at numbers, as many other states do.

I am also thankful that we have a State Superintendent that also realizes this. Tony Evers recently posted this video to share his personal message about the school report cards coming out. He emphasizes that the report card only gives 1 measure, that is relatively narrow. Our report card doesn’t take into account everything that we have to offer and provide our students at Dodgeland.

Here is Mr. Evers’ message:

The Miracle Morning

As I’ve previously written, the principal job can be a tough one.  I used to think that each year gets easier with additional experience, but I haven’t found that to be true.  This past year was my 6th year with some exciting things, like embarking on a 1:1 iPad journey and being recognized as the 2014 WI Elementary Principal of the Year.  Despite these celebrations (among others) it was still a challenging year that left me completely exhausted and nearly burned out by the end.  As I reflected at the start of this summer as to why I felt this way, I realized that I neglected my mental/physical health all year and even, at times, my family.  While I still work during the summer, the schedule is more laid back, so I made a commitment to making some changes that will hopefully become new healthy habits before the hectic schedule starts again come late August.

TMMI mistakingly came across The Miracle Morning, a self-help book by Hal Elrod while listening to The 5 AM Miracle Podcast.   I immediately downloaded the book and devoured it within 2 days, making changes to my morning routine.  I have always been a morning person, yet that typically meant getting up early (usually 5 AM) to get to school before anyone else entered the building so I could get as much work done as possible.  That’s great, but I still stayed until 5 everyday, then went home exhausted and cranky nearly everyday.  I rarely had the energy to exercise or take care of me.

As I listed to The Morning Miracle, one of the most powerful quotes from Hal in the book (I believe he was quoting someone else) that made an impact on me was:

“Your level of success rarely exceeds your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.”

I have always worked on improving my professional self, but I often neglect personal self development.  Since listening to The Miracle Morning, I have been waking up each day with new purpose, going through each of the morning self-development components which Hal named the SAVERS:

S-Silence (or meditation, contemplation)





S-Scribing (writing/journaling)

I have been going to bed earlier (a typical night used to be 11:30 for me) and getting up earlier so I can spend time on the SAVERS before anyone else in the house is up.  Since implementing my miracle morning, I’m amazed by how much I’ve accomplished and how it has spilled over into everything else in the rest of each my days…my productivity, my time with my family, healthy eating, etc. My new morning routine sets my mindset and context for the rest of my day.

I immediately shared this with my PrincipalCast co-hosts, Spike Cook and Theresa Stager, because we’ve had previous conversations on the podcast about what our mornings are like.  They also jumped on board with The Miracle Morning, shared it with others and we now have a voxer accountability chat group for a morning check-in.  We are so excited about the impact of The Miracle Morning that we have invited Hal Elrod to join us on a future podcast…cross your fingers!

Want to learn more?  Find it here:

The Miracle Morning website

Hal’s podcast: Achieve Your Goals Podcast (not just about TMM)

Hal’s podcast #25 explaining the SAVERS

The Problem with Learning from our Failures

I recently watched the TED Talk “What Doctors Don’t Know about the Drugs They Prescribe” given by Ben Goldacre. Goldrace speaks about how medical journals publish the studies that give positive results on the use of a medication, but previously never published the results of studies that found medications to be ineffective or even harmful.  His premise is that if the failed studies were published, they could save time on future studies and most importantly; save lives.

As I listened to his TED Talk, I made the connection to the education profession.  I read hundreds of blog posts/professional journal articles each month and a couple of professional books a month and love what I learn from them.  However, when I reflected on what I’ve read and what Goldacre is saying, I can’t say that I’ve read much on peoples’ failure in education to help us learn from their mistakes.  Why is this?  I read the book Mindset last year (and have blogged about it a couple of times) after the hype on this book from people in my Twitter PLN and have read numerous other blog posts talking about having a growth mindset and learning from failure, but can’t think of any failures I’ve read about. (I do realize “failure” probably isn’t the correct term to use, but will continue for this post with it meaning something that could have gone better…not that someone died or something was done illegally.)

As we blog about our professional lives and reflect on our experiences to grow from we do run the risk of breaking confidentiality or opening up too much in our blog posts.  Is that why I haven’t read any posts on peoples’ failures?  I can think of numerous failures I have had in situations with staff or parents that I could not blog about for this reason, however, I certainly did reflect on them to grow from.  But then I think about the mistakes other administrators have probably made that I could grow from too and learn mistakes to never make myself.

How can we reflect publicly on our failures to grow ourselves, while helping others learn from our mistakes, yet not get ourselves into trouble?