Last week I attended a workshop for administrators on blogging. To be honest, I am reluctant to put my thoughts “out there” for the world to read. Several teachers at my school are blogging and they have created classroom blogs, as well as individual student blogs. It is the work and risk taking of several of my teachers who have inspired me to take this leap into 21st century learning.
Two of my primary teachers have really taken the leadership role in our Innovative Learning Design Project. Niki Leech and Lora Sarchet are primary teachers at my school and they are doing amazing work integrating technology into their daily instructional practices. Mrs. Sarchet’s blog post entitled “My Word” was my tipping point. Her word is connection. I loved what she wrote. The word has powerful connotations. As an Administrator, connecting with others to build a positive school culture, with meaningful learning experiences at the center, is my primary role. So what are meaningful learning experiences for students today? Are they the same as what yours and mine were? I think not.
For school life to be meaningful and connected it has to be personal. How I build connections with others is deeply personal. I know how important it is to students that I learn and remember their names. Personal touches are important and addressing students by name when greeting them, helps me forge stronger, connected relationships. It is important that I take the time to get to know some of the interests of the students in my building. I try and watch some of the television shows they like, just so I can connect with them. I read the entire Hunger Games series so that I could have deep conversations with a group of students who were reading the books during their independent reading time. I had a great time sharing my highs and lows of the twists and turns of the events in the books, and listening to their perspectives really opened my eyes to their thoughts and feelings about the social and human themes the books depict. This sharing is the heart of the praxis in education, the reciprocity of our relationships as learners and mentors. I think Paulo Freire sums it up best, “For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry humans pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other”(Freire, P. 2005, 1993. P. 72). This is the reflective process I engage in with the people in my building.
Personal touches are also important when getting to know your staff. I make sure I take time to really get to know the amazing educators who work in my building. I read their blogs, and I learn so much about them from their reflections in their blog posts. I ask about their families. I am very interested in who they are as people. A few of us run together after school a couple of times per week. It is during these runs that we share stories of our families, and how we balance the complex lives we lead as parents, teachers, sons, daughters, wives and husbands.
I know parents appreciate it when I take the time to listen to them about their children, their successes or challenges at the end of a day. These are the personal conversations that build trust, community and an ethic of care that solidify the foundations of a school culture that promotes safety, learning and friendships.
I was reminded of this personal touch at the blogging session I attended last week. I was creating my wordpress blogging page and I was having difficulty getting the photo I wanted to appear on my page. Jordan Tinney, our new deputy superintendent, came to my aid. I was quite impressed that he took the time to help me. Little acts of kindness go a long way in developing relationships. I left the administrators’ wordpress workshop feeling empowered to learn to use technology applications, not just for me, but so I can help my staff, students and parents.
If I do not learn with my teachers, I will soon be left behind and will not be able to support them in the important work they do. I will not be able to speak the same language they know and I will not be able to help them with the problems they encounter when integrating technology with their students.
So to sum up, why am I writing this for all to see? Well, I am hoping as a connected educator, some of you will have a comment to make that will help me on my journey. Not harsh words, but helpful, thoughtful words that will help me be a better-connected educator.