Its a Culture Builder, Not a Selfie Stick

We had our #OpenHouse Thursday night and it was a rousing success! After some heavy promotion and incredible preparation from an incredible staff [#GoBulldogs], we enjoyed a packed gymnasium, full halls and lots of smiles!

We had two separate events – one special open house for 6th graders and a separate one for 7th/8th. Both the same night, just 30 minutes apart. This allowed us to spend time with our 6th graders and introduce our teachers, support staff, share some essential logistics and give them the ‘run of the school’ minus 7th and 8th graders who already have working knowledge of the school but just have to get to know teachers, transportation changes and more importantly catch up with old friends.

Our night was a great success.

School Leader’s Tool for Culture Building

Most of you know that my last staff, #broncopride, gave a me a selfie stick as a going away present. It has without a doubt been a lot of fun at lot different events. It helps start conversations, make introductions and create some great memories. When I was given the selfie stick at the faculty meeting I took 40+ pictures in an hour, the next day in school I took 50+. At these open houses, I effortlessly took 110+ pictures. I’ve loaded some of them below.

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There are a couple of easy takeaways from the draw of the selfie stick in the principal’s/school leader’s hand:

  1. People believe in the approachability;
  2. The selfie stick says its ok to trust me;
  3. We draw together to be a part of something bigger [Relationships, relationships, relationships];
  4. Fun opens the door but the conversations keeps them there.

Culture Building

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can never take culture for granted, it can surface in the most obscure places. That night, I saw new parents and students, returning parents and students, faculty and staff take time to be a part of something bigger and happy! This was a great time because we all were a part of happy event we will remember for a while to come.

Its important to start the year off on a good note and let people know the culture of the school, the values of the leadership both involve transparency, working together and creating a welcoming environment.

So as I move forward with the school year, I’m not just having fun, I’m Who's this guybuilding a positive school culture. I’m not just taking pictures, I’m drawing my community together and letting them know that I’ll be there for them as their proud principal.

[ok, it is a lot of fun]

#edcampldr NC – Connecting, Growing, Leading


A list of some of the #edcampldrs held around the world

Friday July 10, 2015 was a day of great change and innovative learning for school administrators and school leaders in North Carolina. #edcampldr came to Raliegh, North Carolina. While this was not the first #edcamp hosted in North Carolina it was the first to target school leaders, primarily school administrators. Most of the audience was comprised of principals, assistant principals and central office administrators but there were also plenty of teachers represented. #edcampldrNC was also part of a larger world-wide network of other #edcampldrs. While #edcampldrs were held across the continental US as well as China and Chile, this was the local endeavor to join the worldwide discussion and grow our skills and competencies.

#edcamps embrace a fundamental question – what if the participantsThe product of informal learning before the informal learning began determined their learning path? It is a great opportunity to come to a learning event and either start or join a conversation that answers a question specific for the attendee. We were very fortunate to have an eager group of attendees that arrived early and began building the board before the event was kicked off. Our board building was evidence of the power of informal learning in that attendees new to edcamps learned about the building the board from crowd discussions. This marked the beginning of  a great day.

Several things stand out that made this day learning and connecting truly outstanding:

  1. edcampldrNC Planners - Steven Weber, Melissa Nixon, Debby Atwater, Rachel Lawrence, Ashley HurleyThe Planning Team: This is the third edcamp I’ve helped planned and I have been fortunate to have been part of this same core planning team over several years. Each member is not only a contributing member to my PLN that helps me grow, but they are fearless risk takers. We went into this event with a simple goal of creating a day of learning for every school leader in North Carolina (#bhag)! We pushed each other to think bigger with everything including learning spaces, talks, guests and numbers. At the heart of this day was this great group of people
  2. The Attendees: The great conversations, new connections, laughs and sharing could not have happened without the great educators from across North Carolina who gave up their Friday to join other educators in this unconference. For many, this was a new endeavor they learned of from social media which made this endeavor somewhat a risk. But all are to be commended for their courage and participation because all the discussions were a great benefit to attendees. Their energy and contribution made this a great day.
  3. Attending Friday Institute staff and planners
    Attending NC State staff and planners

    The Friday Institute: An edcamp is only as good as the venue that hosts it and we were fortunate to have been allowed to have ours at North Carolina’s own innovation/research, innovation lab at NC State. @FridayInstitute hosts many events and designs learning activities for educators throughout the year. We were fortunate to have had three members, Nancy Mangum @nmangum, Greg Garner @classroom_tech, Mark Samberg @mjsamberg to be part of our planning team and the #edcamp was fortunate to have several other staff members from the @FridayInstitute to join and participate in sessions. Thanks again to the @FridayInstitute.

  4. Dr June Atkinson, North Carolina State Superintendent of Instruction: 20150710_092423Having the state’s highest ranking educational official give an opening talk to set the tone for our unconference and to sit in a session as a contributor and learner gave validation to our attendees to the power of the unconference and informal learning. Her message was on point – embrace the change that is happening everyday.
  5. Great Groups Gathered: I was very impressed by the the number of groups that showed up Friday. It was refreshing to see that many were here with others from their schools and districts to share thoughts and conversations. What a great opportunity to build up a team.

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    The worldwide #edcampldr experience, including #edcampldr backchannel, is happening Monday July 13th. This is a great opportunity to join or continue the learning and turn the global connections from our PLN into personal ones. For those who attended Friday, I encourage you to follow the hashtag and join in some discussions. And for those who couldn’t attend, what a great opportunity to connect with other leaders worldwide.


Connecting and Influence

One of my graduate school professors shared an insight that has stayed with me for after almost 15 years later:

  • Students are the reason we have schools;
  • Teachers are the most important people in the school building;
  • Principals are the most influential people in the building.

As a teacher in program at the time and later as an assistant principal, I didn’t have a good understanding about the principal and influence. My perception was the principal’s role was one of authority – giving mandates around the school on what needed to be changed and put in place to make the school a better place to work and learn. But some good mentors and supervisors helped me understand the power of building a vision and empowering others to be incremental in making change in schools.

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My presentation this week at #ModelSchool in Atlanta  centered around the influence of the school leader and one of the major tools that school leaders leverage in becoming better leaders – getting connected. One of the things I’m most grateful for is how my PLN constantly reinforces and teaches me how to be a more effective leader. I learn from world class experts on leadership best practices that help grow me as a leader and in turn change my school environment. Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School in Iowa, is a great example of this. I visited Jimmy during one of his open sessions while he was coaching a school administrator on how to begin his journey on bringing about systemic, courageous change in his school.  I’ve heard Jimmy speak a number of times, follow of his posts and thoughts on social media and avidly follow his work. I know him to be a great thought leader and leadership coach but I would absolutely not know him if I was not a connected educator. Being connected shrinks our world and brings experts with in arm’s length. It gives us immediate access to their knowledge and experience. I’m a better leader and educator because my PLN [professional learning network] is always there and accessible.

School leaders at every level should make time to build up and engage their PLN. Spend time learning Twitter, Voxer, Facebook and start developing your leadership skills, understand your role as a vision builder and start using your influence help change your school. We will never mandate our way to better schools but leveraging our influence is how we build sustaining and impactful change.

A Connected Educator Should Run Twitter

This recent article on caught my eye about the CEO of Twitter – Twitter’s CEO is stepping down. Here’s why the company’s in trouble.

It was an interesting read about popular social media site. I was drawn to it because Twitter makes me think of connected educators and our learning experiences. Twitter is how many of us connected and its the reason many of us are the educators we are today. Everyone who has taken the dive to be connected educators, via Twitter, is better for it.

twitter-cognitive-spectrumThe article outlines industry critiques about Twitter – which is ironically the same issue we have in other industries like education, such as the lack of ability to innovate like similar products/companies. I haven’t done deep research on this topic so I can’t speak to the market research given here, but when you read the points of how other social media platforms have adopted to users needs and preferences and the essential components of Twitter have remained the same, you have to give some validity to the concerns about the static timeline, design layout for ‘power users’ and of the other features.

After reading it, I was a little saddened because Twitter was the tool that helped improve my thinking and practice as an educator. We still work hard to get other educators to connect on Twitter and grow their practice. What if some small changes on the front end would help beginners/new users see the value and dive deeper into its potential? Naturally, as an educator, I’m thinking of the education field and what can be done. I can’t say if other fields are diving into chats and professional development explorations like we are but what better group to help others realize that potential. So I made the rational leap – a connected educator should head up Twitter!

I think if that happened, we would see several immediate, powerful changes:

  • Rebranding – We would see a serious effort to rebrand Twitter and highlight lots of the features educator have come to value. The picture to the right is what you see when you log into Twitter – if you are a connected educator think of all the things you do right now that are above and beyond what’s described in this tagline. There is great opportunity here to showcase and highlight some great potential from the onset!
  • Bring back Tweetdeck, FULLY! I thought its was a great move when Twitter acquired Tweetdeck. There weren’t a lot of Twitter-client options then but it was a powerhouse, offering connections and links to different social media. To me, the greatest feature was the mobile app – awesomeness at its best! I have never stopped using Tweetdeck for my chats since I first logged on Twitter but I so use other clients for other features because of limited mobility options. When we bring new educators to Twitter, one of the eventual conversations that comes up is using a client like Tweetdeck. Here’s a chance to revamp, enhance and relaunch. Make it a go-to reference.
  • Do a better job of recommending/helping us select new people to follow! There is so much more potential here than the 3-5 mini-bios we see at the top left of the screen. Show me some hashtags/chats I may want to follow; get with Jerry Blumengarten, @cybraryman1, and start an index of the popular chats across different industries.
  • Do some internal product promotion on how to utilize Twitter as a tool for lifelong learning, professional development and personal growth! Incredible opportunity here!

I’m sure we will see a talented individual take the helm and do great things. A connected educator would bring a great perspective to a potential new evolution of Twitter.

Growth is about the Journey #ModelSchools

I speak often, and proudly, about the amazing job my school does is serving a very needy population. As a family, our school rallies together to making small and big differences in the lives of the students and family in the Spring Lake Middle community. Part of the significant issues we work around are high number of families living in poverty, very high transiency rates,, supporting the social/emotional needs of our students and keeping our teachers upbeat and impactful as we work in this very demanding environment.

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Since joining SLMS, I have worked with a great team of teachers and administrators to bring about some changes to our instructional practices and school culture that have translated achievement results for our school. With hard work and planning we have been able to make our growth goals these past years. We have been able to achieve our goals with a focus on several different areas:

  • Strategic planning;continuum icle
  • Collaboration among staff and students;
  • Innovative leadership and learning practices;
  • Focusing on what to teach, how to teach it and,
  • How to effectively assess our impact.

I’m happy to announce that this summer, I’ll be sharing our team’s success at the Model School’s Conference in Atlanta. The presentation will focus on our work to change the learning and teaching in our school and how they align to the Rigor Relevance framework designed by Dr. Daggett and the ICLE.
rr-frameworkWe are proud of our journey and its my hope to share the great work we have to engage in daily to ensure that teachers are teaching at high levels, students are learning and demonstrating the desired outcomes and we are helping meet the various needs of our community. There will be takeaways for everyone at this session.

We all grow together!


Using Infographics in Our Schools


I love infographics. I make a point to share an interesting infographic to my PLN everyday. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a better way to share lots of information in a more concise and interesting display. Its robust and eye-catching.

Steven Weber, @curriculumblog, an active member of my PLN, shared this newly created infographic by his school district Chapel Hill-Carborro City Schools, @chccs. Instead of reading about this district’s information on fact sheet, you can get a great visual experience while reading over some of district’s essential details.They say presentation is everything – in this case, presentation keeps the reader engaged and more likely to retain some of the more pertinent information about this district. Years ago, Steven shared an infographic of similar design from the school he served as principal. It was a great visual and though it was years ago, I still remember my impression from the visual design.

Power of Infographics for School Branding

There is incredible opportunity for schools to use infographics to help promote the great things that happen in schools. When I read the CHCCS infographic, I immediately thought of some banners our school could [and will] create to share some cool, great things we have going on:

  • What middle school is about, strategies for successful transition, study habits
  • Achievement facts;
  • Explanation of the BYOD policy
  • Instead of sharing a stale pdf summary of school improvement goals, , get creative with an infographic;
  • Highlights sports achievements;
  • Explanation of electives, intramurals;
  • Showoff your student/staff of the month;
  • Profile your teachers during Teacher Appreciation Month;
  • Create some great visual on your school’s unique instructional goals i.e., 1:1, blended learning, PBL, focus on literacy, etc.

Promoting our positive school brand is a consistent part of our jobs as school leaders. In addition to committing to spreading the positive word, we have to make sure we are using the language, visuals and tools that help our stakeholders understand our message and take away the important details of our message. Infographics help mitigate the educational jargon, make the data more relatable, and add some essential personalization that our community will buy into.

“If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell a story.”


5 Infographics to Teach You How to Easily Make Infographics in Powerpoint

#edcampldr NC – Connecting and Learning to Improve Leading

Edcamp LeadershipJuly 10, 2015 promises to be a historic day of learning and connecting for North Carolina educators!

Friday July 10th, we are hosting the first ever Edcamp for School Leaders! Edcamps are not new to North Carolina – for years, dedicated educators have been coordinating and hosting these ‘unconferences’ across our great state. These edcamps have brought in educators from different school districts to share, connect and ultimately help others improve the learning and teaching in all our schools. Talk to any participants in these edcamps and they will tell you that these experiences have been incredibly valuable and significant to their personal/professional development.

Edcamp Leadership NC [held Friday July 10 at the @FridayInstitue] is the first of its kind in NC and we have some great reasons to be excited:

This is a first NC unconference targeted for school leaders across the state. Make no mistake, ALL are welcome to this great day of learning but we want to especially create an opportunity for school and district level leaders to start and participate in change discussions that will help their districts and schools;

  • Edcamp Leadership NC is one of many edcamp leaderships held across the nation! There will be many edcamps held that week on the same days, sharing and connecting virtually;
  • We are glad to announce that the esteemed Dr. June Atkinson, our State Superintendent, will join us for this event;
  • As always, there will be many great educators there, looking to connect, grow and learn.

Get Smart Resources:
– To learn more about what an edcamp is, check out this short video. It’s a great 90 seconds take on the value of this informal conference.
– Kristin Swanson, who’s credited for started edcamps, wrote a blogpost for Edutopia about the benefits and genius design of edcamps.


Read about Edcamp Leadership here and our efforts to impact edcators worldwide [yep, there is an edcamp leadership Santiago Chile] with this multi-site, same day event!

As a principal, I know its difficult to find conversations or trainings that will help make a difference for my students and teachers, particularly that will fit my specific needs. Edcamps are a great way to personalize your learning and development. Instead of picking your learning from a menu, you have the opportunity to design a talk special for you. What we often find is that there are others who share your specific questions, needs and thoughts. Come to Edcamp Leadership NC and start a conversation in a breakout session, continue it in the hallway, form a relationship with a colleague and take back some information or challenging discussions that well help us all build schools and classrooms our students need and that our teachers will be on fire to work and lead in!

Visit our site and register here!