Are You a Leader?

Lying in bed on a Saturday morning, attempting to sleep in but annoyed with my automatic body clock, I resorted to my phone and checked out what was happening on twitter. Before I knew it, I was immersed into a chat, nothing of which I had planned, and let me tell you, on an iphone is not ideal. The chat however, was excellent! Full of questions, ideas, answers, and opinions about what educational leadership looks like in today’s schools. Here is a mini storify of some of the comments that had the discussion going:

All of these questions and thoughts had me wondering, what is a leader? What defines one? I think often we look to our admin as ways to lead to our school, but being a teacher, we are leaders as well. We are role models to our students, which is an important role. So where do we learn to become a leader? Who attributes to your leadership skills?

The dictionary defines a leaders as “someone who leads.” Someone who shows the way down a path. Clearly, this definition is vague, and after this #satchatwc it became clear to me as to what most educators define a leader as. A leader is someone who:
– takes risks
– is fearless
– steps outside their comfort zone
– has a willingness to learn
– communicates and praises others
– models excellence
– develops a strong PLN
– listens
– shows empathy and understanding

These are the characteristics that we would want in our admin, and what we should strive to be as teachers. Maybe we all need to reevaluate and ask ourselves, “Am I a leader?”

You’re More Than Just a Teacher

Teacher and elementary student walking down school hallway

Heading out on supervision at lunch recess today, a young girl in my class approached me and asked if she could walk with me. Our conversation went something like this:

“Ms.Petley, do you mind if I walk with you today?”
“Sure!”
“Ok, so what do you want to talk about?”
Pondering for a few seconds, I responded, “How about how great life is?”
Looking puzzled she answered, “But my life isn’t great right now.”

Those words broke my heart, and of course, I had to delve deeper into the situation. I asked her what was making her life not great and she talked a lot about home and how her family is always busy and never has time to spend with her. How they are always yelling at the younger kids, especially her cousin, who never listens and is always rummaging through her room. She also was having issues with wearing her glasses, about how initially she loved them but now would rather not wear them.

Although to some these could seem like minor things it reinforced to me how there are numerous outside factors going on in children’s lives that they have no control over. Who knows if while writing her math test, she was thinking about what would happen tonight with her cousin? In many cases, we do not even know these things are going on. I was lucky enough to have this student approach me.

In October of 2012, I attended the Character Education Partnership conference in Washington, DC. There was an excellent speaker there by the name of Hal Urban who really spoke to me. His words about developing relationships with students is crucial for any teaching professional. In his book, Lessons From the Classroom, he said the following:

“Good teachers start teaching at the door. It was the most important thing I ever did as a teacher. It was also the simplest, least time-consuming, most enjoyable, and most energizing thing I ever did as a teacher.”

Building a strong relationship with students can be challenging. Start simple. Start by keeping a checklist of each student and say something positive to them each day. Start by saying hello and asking each student how his/her day is going. Let them share their news. Be available for them. Be present. Something so small could make all the difference in their lives. They need that connection. They need to know you care.

“The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.”
~John Dewey

Can Teachers Connect Through a Tweet?

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Recently, my district has become actively involved in using twitter. We are encouraging our staff to use it for professional development and as a way to connect with other educators all over the world. On Friday, I was asked to give a little introduction about twitter to the teachers at my school and provide any tips to get them started with using it.

As I began to think about what I would say and how I would encourage teachers to use twitter, the thing that stuck in my mind was how you can connect to others and the ways you can post and receive answer to questions with a click of a button. As a means to prove my point I tweeted out and asked the twitter world for tips for a new tweeter, and here are some of the answers I received:

I was blown away by the responses that I received, the tips people offered, and the resources and links they shared, and I thought I should pass along this information to others as well. Thank you everyone!

It does not matter how you plan on using twitter, the frequency, or the dedication to it, but the best advice I can give is to try it out, actively use it, be yourself, and enjoy the many people you will be able to connect with! It’s a great opportunity if you jump into it.

(If you want to see more responses check out #ffcaedu)

Welcome to the World of Twitter

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I joined twitter a year ago, lurked around, and abandoned the idea of yet another social media site to maintain. However, in the last few months I delved deeper to understanding what twitter was all about and the immense abilities to connect, learn from, and share ideas with educators all over the world. The capabilities of this site are endless, and although at times I am overwhelmed when I see the never-ending role of tweets that I have missed, I continue to believe that it is an excellent resource for professional development when used in a meaningful way.

Recently, I have surrounded myself with a plethora of educators who are new to twitter and I thought I could offer some personal advise for tips and tricks to navigate through the world of tweeting.

Your Profile Page:
1) Use your real name. There is no need to create a new one.
2) Nobody wants to see a picture of an egg, so please, put a picture of yourself. It does not have to be a glamour shot, but having a picture removes that sense of mystery and uncertainty about an individual.
3) In your bio, provide information about what you teach. Be specific as this will connect you to more educators like yourself. Also, share something personal; things you like to do, hobbies, etc…
4) Unless you have a strong reason to, keep your profile unlocked. Twitter is a public domain and allowing people to read and share your tweets is a great way to connect with individuals you could have otherwise missed.

Tips:
1) Dedicate at least thirty minutes a day to explore, tweet, and connect with others. The best way to gather a following is to tweet, tweet, tweet!
2) Follow individuals who interest you. Think about the things you are interested in, or the areas where you would like to develop more.
3) If you find a person who either follows a lot of people, or has a lot of followers, look at their profiles. I guarantee you that you will be able to find people to connect with.
4) Retweet all you would like, but also remember to create your own ideas. Remember that people want to learn from you as well, so share the great things that you are learning or doing in your classroom.
5) Be concise! You only have 140 characters so your tweets should be clear and to the point.
6) Use #hashtags! This will also help you to connect and put your ideas, comments, or questions out to the twitter world.
7) Remember whatever you tweet you should feel comfortable saying in front of a student. You are responsible for creating your digital footprint!

Here are some other resources to check out:
10 steps to becoming a twitter master video.
What should a networked educational leader tweet about?
60 dos and don’ts for Twitter newbies.
10 ways teachers can use twitter for professional development.
Essential dos and don’ts for twitter users.