by Dr. Todd Schmidt
Over the last several months, I have been making a concerted effort to develop my professional learning network (PLN). Why? Well part of it was personal. Being an elementary principal can be very isolating. Although I have some amazing colleagues who are a phone call away, it can be tough to coordinate schedules, and we all have fires we are putting out every day. My staff is also extraordinary, but it was challenging to find times to bounce ideas of of each other. Also, with the implementation of the Common Core, most of my teaching staff had enough on their plates! Professionally, I was getting frustrated by the lack of relatable and purposeful PD both as a participant as well as a provider. Too often, our PD was scripted for us…programs were initiated, and we all participated…although differentiation is a popular buzzword and something we hope to see in our classrooms for our students, it was not happening in my professional world. Although I had a Twitter account for a few years, I never really did anything with it until the beginning of this calendar year.
At first, I lurked. I followed leaders in education and retweeted their tweets to a small handful of followers. Then, at the encouragement of a former colleague. I decided to engage in my first Twitter chat: California EdChat (#caedchat – Sundays, 8pm PST). It was amazing, and I was hooked. Here were other educational professionals (Teachers, APs, Principals, and District Admin) all in one spot and all there to share ideas, offer support, and engage in topics that I was facing.
It didn’t take long to see the power of Twitter and how it could help me as a principal. For the first time in my 19 year career, I was in charge of my PD. I was in charge of what I was learning, who I was engaging with, and why I was involved. I started participating in even more chats. One of my favorite books when I was in the classroom, and one that I had shared with my staff was Teach Like A Pirate. How cool that there was a dedicated chat on the tenets of the book every Monday at 6pm PST (#tlap)! I started following more people and was surprised to see my number of followers growing as well. I also started getting ideas on how to implement STEAM, technology, iPads, PBL, MakerMovement, robotics, coding, genius hour…you get the idea…the willingness of the Twitter community to collaborate, encourage, challenge (, and even laugh and joke) invigorated me like never before. I started getting up early to participate in amazing chats on the weekend. I am honored to be part of the #leadupchat tribe (Saturdays, 6:30am PST) and the #satchatwc (Saturdays, 7:30am PST) family. I’ve made lasting connections that have even manifested into friendships.
Now, I am excited to share what I have learned with my colleagues and my staff. The power of developing a PLN has allowed me to find resources for my teachers interested in a topic or program in minutes rather than days. I was able to connect one of my rockstar teachers to people and resources as she piloted the first flexible learning environment on campus. Through Twitter, I found out about the edcamp movement and have attended several with teachers and colleagues. I found out about the @cuerockstar camps, both for teachers and admin. I am excited that five of my teachers are heading to one in a few weeks. I am overly thrilled that I get to go the the admin CUE Rockstar Camp in November at Skywalker Ranch!
At the end of this past school year, I told my teaching staff that I was not going to be assigning a summer reading book. After the requisite cheers, I explained that what I was hoping was that they would develop a PLN. I even created a webpage with resources they might need as they started this journey: Developing A PLN. It is exciting to see several of my teachers and some of my colleagues join me in this journey. I even had a few teachers ask if I would do some summer PD on doing a Twitter chat…needless to say, I am thrilled to oblige.
In the end, I know that Twitter had made me a better principal. I am more enthusiastic, energized, knowledgable, and prepared because I have the fortune of learning and engaging with some extraordinary people who are there for the same reasons I am…to do what we can to ensure the best for our students and communities.
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