Time for play; The story of #Twitterboy

The Current Face of Twitterboy

So this is both a serious and not so serious post about a discussion that started all because of some late night tweets that kept my brother up last night.

Since I am still not adjusted to the time zone in Barcelona, I woke up in the middle of the night and started responding to some tweets and woke up my brother.  Today this led to him lovingly referring to me as #twitterboy.  As soon as this happened, several people from my Professional Learning Network (PLN) started making jokes about the whole concept of a Twitterboy superhero!  The conversation continued (it may even still be going) so I am guessing you are wondering what this has to do with education.

Through this topic and joking with my colleagues, I know that we will actually form a stronger relationship through our PLN.  It is these types of moments that build relationships that are essential to learning and having “play time” that is essential to growth.  Talking to Joyce Seitzinger this morning, we talked about the importance of humour in our learning environments and its importance for connecting with one another.  Shelly Terrell also continuously emphasizes that it is essential that we have fun with our PLN or why would we come back?

The next time you teach your class, don’t ever hesitate to have some time to joke and show this humourous side to them.  Through it, your connection and relationships will be a lot stronger!  Relationships are the key to education, and through them, learning only gets deeper and stronger.  Never forget to make time to have a laugh.

Thanks for the fun convo Meredith, Alec, Michelle, Joan, Jen, Beth, Diane, Hadley, Mary Beth, Amanda, Kathleen (for making the beautiful picture) and to ALL MY PLN who make learning fun and enjoyable every day.  If we can all do that for kids in our schools, that is when we will see true change in education.

Will technology improve writing? Check the proof!

Dad with two of his grandkids!

I know my brother did a similar post on my Dad several years ago, but I just wanted to share with you on my blog something that is absolutely amazing to me.

My dad, who just turned 80 years old in May, was born during the time of war in Greece.  Although he wanted to go to school, his country needed him to serve, and he was not able to serve past grade 2.  Later in life, my Dad moved to Canada, worked hard and eventually owned his own restaurant.  My Dad taught all of my siblings the importance of hard work, but he wanted to ensure that we could get an education that he was not able to receive.  Because of this, he had worked extremely long hours and actually never learned to read and write in English (he was able to slightly in Greek).

Fast forward to all of these years later, you can now find my 80 year old Dad with a facebook account as he knows this is a great way to stay connected with his sons that live far away and are all highly involved with social media.  As I was not able to call him when I arrived in Spain, I thought I would try to write on his facebook wall and see if I could get a response from him.   Here are the results?

I know it is not perfect, but this is someone who has mainly used technology to learn to read and write.  He has never had any formal lessons, and it is amazing how he has come so far because he wants to keep connected.

I am so proud of my Dad and how far he has come.  Imagine what students could do with this AND more training to being able to connect with others? I really believe the possibilities are endless.

An Open Letter to School Administrators

First of all, if you are reading this, thank you. Any time I am able to have someone read my work and allow me to share my thoughts with them I am highly appreciative.  I honestly pour my heart and soul into my writing (which often leads to grammatical and spelling errors) as it is important for me to always wear my heart on my sleeve.  If you are an educational administrator and you are aspiring to be a GREAT educational administrator, I just wanted to share a few of the things that I have found in the last few months of my career.

Leadership is action, not position.
— Donald H. McGannon

Being a school administrator can be a challenging job.  Although I find it very fulfilling, it definitely has its days that are tougher than others.  You surely experienced the same thing as a teacher.  When you are working to build an environment to create the leaders of the future, do not expect it to be a smooth ride the entire time.  In the last few months though, I have found that the support I have received through Twitter and other social networking sites, including this blog, have inspired me to learn and share with so many other great educators.

No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew.
-Albert Einstein

Take for example, Chris Lehmann from the Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  If you ever wanted to see someone who is full of knowledge, cares about kids, and is motivational, watch one of Chris’ speeches.  Although I have never met Chris in person (none of the people I am going to talk about have I ever met in person although I hope to change that soon) through following him on Twitter and on his blog, he has taught me so much about what is important in education and how to move forward towards these goals.

Great necessities call forth great leaders.
— Abigail Adams

Or Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey.  Here is a principal that was a proponent of social media in schools, and now he uses it along with his students in his school to further learning and share successful practices.  He is not only brilliant, he is supportive of all those that he has come in contact with.  If you want to move your staff and students forward, there are several posts (here, here, and here) that Eric has shared with his school and his Personal Learning Network.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
— John Quincy Adams

Or take Patrick Larkin, Principal at Burlington High School in Massachusetts.  He works tirelessly at promoting his school to move forward and share his experiences through his blog.  In fact, he recommends that ALL principals should have a blog and I would agree with him.

If we always do what we’ve always done, we will get what we’ve always got.
-Adam Urbanski

Sadly, I guarantee that I have left out several amazing administrators that I have connected with over this past six months.  If you are on Twitter, here is a list that Eric put together of other educational administrators that I know would definitely be willing to share their learning with you: Educational Administrators on Twitter

The price of greatness is responsibility.
— Winston Churchill

Do not for a second think that I am saying that you must connect with these other educators around the world to be great, but it definitely does help.  Fact of the matter is that, as a principal you may not yourself aspire to greatness.  For many, being a principal is just a job. That is fair as well.  As a leader though, it is your responsibility to make sure that you give the people the opportunity around you to be great.  That is ultimately how you will be judged.  It is not how well you can speak, or the knowledge that you bring to your school, but it is how you empower those around you to do amazing things.

A good leader inspires others with confidence; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves.
– (Unknown)

As a principal, I expect my students and staff to posses the qualities of a lifelong learner and by furthering my own knowledge will I model this.  You could definitely further your knowledge through a university course, or reading a book by a great business leader, but I am finding that I am learning more from others that are in similar positions as myself.  These are not great principals of yesteryear, but these are educational leaders of today.  Through them I see unbelievable innovations everyday.

To lead people, walk beside them.
— Lao-tsu

Don’t know where to begin? Try this list of school administrator blogs that can help you.

It is today we must create the world of the future.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

As a true leader, I am assuming that you already know that administrators are not the only leaders in your school.  My school is full of  them and so is yours.  In fact, many of the leaders in your school have maybe already shared resources with me in my pursuit to help my own staff.  My kindergarten teachers asked me how they could use more technology effectively in the classroom at the end of the school year.  I asked this same question through social networks and found these resources immediately. You could do a google search, look through resources, assume which ones work.  You could also ignore the question and say “I don’t know”.  It is okay to say you don’t know.  In my own career, I would rather say, “I don’t know but I will see what I can do to help you”.  Although, similar to when you start anything new, there needs to be time spent connecting with others. As my own connections have progressed though, I actually end up saving time as I have an entire community helping my school to get better.  This way gives the opportunity for everyone to become leaders.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
— Ralph Nader

There is no shame in being the quiet leader.  I believe that relationships you build with school community are the MOST IMPORTANT indicators of whether you will be successful or not.  Knowledge is secondary to those connections. I am also by no means saying that I have achieved the level as a principal that I would like to; I definitely have so much to learn in my career. But you have accepted your role as an educational administrator and as a person who cares about the future of all children, you need to do everything in your power to serve those you work with and lead them to unleash their greatness.  Isn’t that why we are in this position in the first place?  Use the collaborative nature of social networks to improve your learning along with the opportunities for staff.

The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.
— John Buchan

Hopefully I have given you enough tools to get you started, but if you need more, don’t hesitate to ask.  There has been no better time to learn from one another then there is now; take advantage.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.
— John C. Maxwell

This is not about technology. This is about connecting and sharing with others and yes, technology can be a fantastic medium for this. It is still ultimately about the relationships you create. Remember that there is a difference between an educational administrator and an educational leader. How do you want to be remembered?

Coming Home

http://www.flickr.com/photos/49053756@N03/4497831492/in/set-72157623789462312/

My aunts and I in Greece on Flickr – Soula on the left and Marika on the right.

As I sit in the airport, thinking about my upcoming trip to Europe, I cannot help to reflect on a story that really affected me the last time I was in Greece.  I had heard this story (somewhat) before but it affected me so much since it was now connected to my life.  This post has nothing to do with education, but it just a piece of my life that has helped shape who I am today.

Having not been to Greece since I was five years old, I had not seen any of my relatives since I was a child.  I was very excited to come back to my dad’s birthplace and see family, while enjoying Greek lifestyle.  Alec, my friend, and I had pulled into Astros (where my dad is from) late at night and we were extremely tired.  My aunts (Soula and Marika) had been waiting for us and were extremely excited to see my brother and I, especially me since they had not seen me for such a long time (Alec had several opportunities to go back).  Immediately, I felt a connection with Soula in some amazing way.  I found it strange at first that she would sit beside me and basically rub my throat when she spoke to the others.  She spoke no English, and I spoke no Greek, but we had connected in such a wonderful way.

Not sharing the same language, Soula and I spent a few afternoons together at her house and would just sit there and look at pictures.  She even helped me tried to call home but since she had a rotary phone, I was unable to use my calling card!  It was extremely frustrating and funny to not be able to call during this time but that is a memory that definitely sticks with me.

Every morning that I would go for a run, Soula would be waiting for my return home.  She would ask “why” I would go and put myself through such torture, but she would be there with lemonade and fruit, while toweling my hair off to ensure that I was okay.  She had taken the same care of me that my mom would have.

One specific morning when I returned, I sat down with my aunts and my brother and watched Soula tell everyone a story while Alec translated.  In our family and in Greek tradition, the boys in the family are always named after grandparents.  My brother Michael is named after my grandpa on my dad’s side while Alec was named after my grandpa on my mom’s side. That left me as the third boy to be a wild card.  Eventually I was named after my Uncle George who died at an early age due to a horrible accident.  I had heard the story before through my dad, but never through Soula.

As she talked, my brother Alec started to well up with emotion that I had never seen before.  He translated the story of Soula  as a young girl, had watched as her brother George had his rifle go off into his stomach when they were home.  Not knowing what to do, and panicking, Soula did everything and told us how she tried to “push his guts” back into his stomach.  She had said to Alec that on that day, she had lost her brother and knew he would never return (this was in the 1940’s).  She then told about the night that we came to Astros late at night, and after all these years (as she continued to rub my throat), her brother had finally returned home.  I immediately understood the connection that I had with her and why we had connected in such an amazing way.  She had shared that I looked a lot like her brother and had the same distinct Adam’s Apple that he had.  It was one of the most amazing and emotional moments of my life.

As Soula is in her 90’s (if not older), I appreciate that I will be able to see her again.  That day had really taught me to appreciate my family and how lucky we are, but also to try and enjoy every moment we have one another and appreciate the connections we make with people, as family, as friend, and as educators.

I look forward to Soula seeing her brother come home again.