Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Using Twitter for 24/7 Professional Development

Recently I shared the following article in our state administrators association monthly newsletter and thought it would be great to cross-post here. Maybe this will help you get started or you can pass it on to your principal if he/she is not on twitter.

“What is twitter?” “Isn't twitter for celebrities?” “I don't have time for twitter.” “There's no place for social media in the school.”

These are all comments I have heard before and I, too, thought twitter was ridiculous and a waste of time, even after I first signed up and tried it.

Twitter is an extraordinarily powerful way to connect with inspired, innovative educators who have a wealth of resources and information to share. It’s easy to develop a network in a short amount of time with this tool, and it’s very easy to share ideas and resources. I have made connections with other principals and teachers on twitter that have allowed me to ask questions to improve my practice and share resources with my teachers.

You know that feeling you get when you attend a conference? That feeling of inspiration or affirmation of the work you’re doing and the excitement to get back into your building to do great work? That's how I feel each day when I check my twitter feed.

As an instructional leader of a school, it is essential that you are continuing to learn and model learning for your staff. This is why “twitter time” is valuable to my professional learning and growth. I have developed my own personal Professional Learning Network (PLN) through twitter. I continue my learning every day by reading blog posts, news articles or new research that other professionals “tweet” each day. I can tweet a question and get replies from other administrators almost instantly. Someone recently tweeted the quote “great leaders learn from their mistakes, brilliant leaders learn from other mistakes.” The only way to learn from others is if you are connected.

I have had the pleasure of sharing the power of twitter along with fellow principals Curt Rees (Onalaska) and Jay Posick (Merton) at the AWSA convention and SLATE conference. It has been amazing to see the Wisconsin PLN expand on twitter. Chad Harnisch (Principal in Rice Lake) sent out a tweet that is a perfect example of discovering the benefits of twitter: “27 hours after my indoctrination, I’m left to wonder what took me so long...Twitter is changing my brain. Great way to find the good stuff.”

So, are you ready to get started?

Here’s a helpful checklist of things to do once you’re on twitter:

Some great principals to start following:

@AWSALeaders1 (AWSA)

@PrincipalJ (myself)











Thursday, February 9, 2012

Share Your Writing Life

*Here is another cross-post from my Friday Focus post
on my staff memo blog:

Photo courtesy of J. Lauzier

Share Your Writing Life

"I write out of ignorance...It's what I don't know that stimulates me.

I merely know enough to get started." ~Toni Morrison

In Regie Routman's book Writing Essentials, she discusses the importance of sharing your writing life with students...even if you don't think of yourself as a writer. As you examine your writing over an ordinary week, it may include lists, letters, emails, cards, journal//reflection book, book/movie reviews on amazon, etc. Routman states, "the simple fact is we have to see ourselves as writers if we are to teach writing well." She goes on to discuss the need for students to see why we write and why good writing matters.

As I reflected on this, I asked myself the question, "when did I become a writer?" To be quite honest, it wasn't until I started blogging about 3 years ago. Of course, I wrote whatever essays were assigned to me throughout school, dutifully following whatever criteria each of my teachers graded on and managed to get A's. However, it wasn't until I had choice in what I was writing and wrote for an "audience" that I could get feedback from online by sharing their comments that I became excited about writing. I recall the dread I felt having to think of what to write (in any class), however, now I am constantly adding to the list of topics I want to write about as I read new books and just experience life. My list is long, because I think of the ideas, but don't have the time to write about all of them.

This also makes me think back to how I taught writing in the classroom. I'm sure I never really inspired my students to write, because I wasn't that excited about writing. I taught lessons on the 6 Traits using picture books that our grade level agreed to use, and led students through grade level specific writing pieces. I also used a 6 Traits program that consisted of packets of activities and writing prompts on each trait. As I think back to those packets, I think of how boring and meaningless it must have been for my students (let's face it, I was bored with it).

What I was missing, was my own realization that I am a writer and to share that with my students. Routman suggests bringing in examples of your real-life writing to share with your students to show them that you are a writer. You can easily share your reflection journal or a printed email with them without actually reading it to them. In addition, you should model writing for your students using the same concept of a mini-lesson with a think-aloud that you do when teaching the literacy strategies. One strong suggestion from Routman is to not only model writing in front of your students, but to do it "cold" (not rehearsed) so that they can see you struggle with it. To let students see what "real writers" do as they think through what they're writing. This concept was entirely new to me, as I can recall wanting to get my model writing piece "perfect" before I wrote so my students would see what was needed, however, it's the actual struggle that helps them learn.

As I read Routman's book I was also intrigued to learn about the process of writing to learn, especially since we know that writing across the content areas is huge in the common core standards. Routman states, "writing enhances thinking and helps develop it." I used to always think that I had to have all the information before I could write something, however, it is the process of writing that helps you figure out what you know and don't know.

My reflection prompt for you: to think about yourself as a writer and how you can share it with your students:

  • The next time you sit down to write, examine your process--do you just start writing, do you need to make an outline/web, do you need to talk it out first? Do you write straight through? Stop to reread? Revise as you go? Look up information? Apply what you do as a writer to teaching your students.

Photo Courtesy of Writing Talk