Author Archives: George

5 Characteristics of an Innovative Organization

As the year has wrapped up for most North American schools, I look back at my year and realize how blessed I am to not only be able to travel the world and share my experience with others, but also the opportunity to still work with Parkland School Division on a part-time basis.  I think that this allows me to still “do the work” in schools while also having the ability to share it with others as well.  The balance that this has created to both see other organizations and share my work, and vice-versa, has been immeasurable for my learning.

From what I have learned about Parkland School Division, I believe it is a world-class organization, that is not just talking about newer opportunities for learning for our students, but is creating powerful learning environments for our entire community.  We still teach the curriculum and we still have to “follow the rules”, but we try to be innovative within the parameters that are provided.  The content that we have to teach is often decided for us, but the way that we teach, and more importantly our students learn, is where the magic truly happens.

So how did this happen?  Well to be honest, we still have a lot of work to do, but that will always be the case.  We are a “learning organization” which, by the nature of the term alone, means that we are focused on continuous growth as a district.  It is not only that we have leaders that model themselves as learners, but it is done as at the organizational level as a whole.  This growth as a group has led to the development of individuals.

Looking back, here are five things that have really stuck out to me this year and have helped us to grow.

1.  Promotion and modelling of risk-taking.

The term “risk-taking” is one of those “buzzwords” that drives many people crazy.  An “innovative environment” will always promote this, but it does not mean that it is happening.  It is only when the leaders of organization model the risk-taking that they talk about, does it happen en masse in schools.  I have watched our superintendent Tim Monds, try many different things in his own learning that have been displayed openly to others in Parkland School Division.  It started with things such as using Twitter, more focus on cloud tools such as Evernote and Google Apps for Education, and more recently, sharing his monthly message through YouTube videos.   His understanding and willingness to try different ways of learn and sharing has trickled down to others.  You can see that more educators are trying different things, and then implementing their learning with their students.

It is not only that our leaders have jumped in and shared their learning, but they have flattened the organization and learned from others as well.  I will see many of our superintendents attend events such as “Innovation Week” to see what is happening in our schools, so that they can either share their learning with others, or act as connectors.  It would be easy to “lead from above”, but it is more important to get involved and “lead by example”.  This is something I have seen often from our administrators at every level.

2.  Competitive-Collaboration.

Collaboration is talked a lot about in schools as an “essential trait”, but there are many people that thrive off the notion of competition.  To me, it is not one or the other, but a combination of both that really push our organization forward.  “Competitive-Collaboration” is something that I believe will really push us to the next level.

For example, if we are looking at other school divisions around the world and we see some really amazing things going on, we want those same opportunities for our students.  To build a “world-class organization”, you have to look at what is happening outside your organization, not just locally.  Because of this drive, we have implemented a lot of what we have learned from others, and remixed it to make it applicable to our own students.  The other element of this notion is that we are more than willing to share what we have learned with others as if our works helps kids, no matter where they live, that is to everyone’s benefit.  The more we share, the more others become opening to sharing with us. The balance of being able to both push and help each other will get us to become a better organization a lot quicker.

3.  Proud of where we are, but know we have a way to go.

Parkland School Division has been a place that has spent a lot of time recognizing what both are students and educators have done while giving them an opportunity to showcase this to others around the world (ie. 184 Days of Learning).  With that being said, our schools continuously push to get to the next level.  When you get to a point where you think you have arrived, that is usually when you become irrelevant, and become the school equivalent of “Blockbuster Video”.

Many organizations simply take the word “innovation” and used it to replace the word “technology” but innovation and technology are not necessarily synonymous.  A telephone would be a technology yet would not be considered “innovative” as this point in time, yet at one point it was a great example.  Innovation, in short, means “different and better”; it is not innovative if it does not have these two elements.  The notion of “innovative thinking” is one that we have focused on, and I have seen that our teachers are continuously questioning their own practice and trying to do things both different and better.

We can always appreciate our growth as both individuals and an organization, but we cannot simply pat ourselves on the back and quit doing the work.  When you serve kids, our focus needs to be to get better every day.

4. The focus on sharing.

One of my favourite videos is Dean Shareski’s “Moral Imperative”, where he talks about the need for teachers to share.  This is a video that many of our staff have watched, and have learned a great deal from, and the willingness to share has helped ideas to go “viral”.  Whether it is a focus on inclusion, health and wellness, technology, Identity Day, or almost anything, you will find it shared through blogs and twitter, so that these ideas are not kep in isolation within a classroom or a school, or even as a district.

Scott Johnston, a great friend, thinker, leader, and new Associate Superintendent, talked about the importance that we move to a place see themselves as not only part of a school, but that we are all a part of Parkland School Division.  When we see every kid in every school as one of our own, “sharing” becomes vital to our success.

5. Relationships, relationships, relationships.

No matter what we have learned about, what new initiative or technology there is, a focus on relationships has been the cornerstone and foundation of what has happened in Parkland School Division.  Without a strong focus on relationships first, nothing else happens.  Our “bosses” have focused on this from day one, and it is rare that any conversation that we have not start off checking in on individuals “personally”.   I have always been asked about my family, and I have always felt comfortable sharing because Parkland, in many aspects, has become like a family to me.

When I first came to the school division, this focus on relationships was something that was new to me and I didn’t really understand.  Now I could not understand how we could get anything done without it.  I am more apt to go the extra mile for someone when I know that my leaders care about me personally, then if they didn’t.  When the top levels model this, it (again) trickles down to every level.  The mind and body can not do much when the heart is not there.  This focus on relationships has helped me to focus on always serving the “whole person” as opposed to just focusing on my “job”.

As people get some time to rest up and head into another school year, I look back and realize how proud I am to be part of an organization that is more than just about “school” but about growth and development of people.  It is written in our “vision”:

Parkland School Division is a place where exploration, creativity and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams.

If you notice the term “learners” is in place of where many organizations use the term “students”.  To me, this vision and focus on the notion of “learners” says that we are all in this together, and we get better as a whole when we do whatever we can help ourselves and each other grow as individuals.

May I…?

My good friend A.J. Juliani has a new book coming out soon and I was honoured to have been asked to write the foreword.  Here is my “unedited” version of that piece in honour of his book coming out this week.

Est-que je peux aller aux toilettes?

Out of everything that I learned in taking French classes for eight out of my twelve years in my K-12 schooling, this is the one phrase that I will always remember.

Translated it says, “May I go to the bathroom?”

When I think about that question, that was easily the question that I asked most in my time as a student in school, whether it was English or French.  If you think about it, if school is to spark the curiosity that we hope for ourselves and our future generation, shouldn’t our questions start with “why” or “how”, not “may I”?  That last question is not about thinking deeply or exploring passions, but it is about compliance.  How many times do you now ask someone else permission to go to the bathroom?  What a weird thing to think about.

Yet we wonder why we see articles like the one in Newsweek in 2010 about a “Creativity Crisis”.  According to the Newsweek article, 1500 CEO’s were asked what the most important “leadership competency” was that they would look for and “creativity” came in as a clear number one.  In the same article though, schools were listed as one of the reasons that children were not creative and stated that within schools, “there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.”

A question that has always driven my own thinking is do people become creative because of school, but in spite of it?

As most students, I walked out of school having no idea what I wanted to do.  What we were told over and over again was that university and college was a way to a better life, and without having any dream of other than being an NBA basketball player (which was not happening), I started on the costly endeavour of going to university without having any idea of what I loved.  It is a very costly way to “find yourself” and is more so now when careers are harder to obtain more than ever.  Unfortunately after six years of university, I still had no idea of what I loved, only what I was about to do.  My post-secondary education was more of a checklist to the next stage of my life, than a way to explore my passions.  Luckily years into my career, I found my niche and I couldn’t imagine doing anything different now, but how different is my story from others?  Years and years of time, thousands and thousands of dollars, and I luckily felt that I found my passion in my third decade on this earth.

I am grateful that I found my passion and every day I leave my house, it is with a spring in my step, but I was a lucky one.  As someone who has a career in education, one of my beliefs is to do everything that I can in our schools that students can find their passion during their time in classrooms.  How could I have known what I love if I did not have an opportunity to explore different passions without the help of my teachers?  School should be a place not where answers go to die, but questions come to life.

So how do we make this happen within the confines of a system that was built to enhance and mirror industrialism?  First off, educators need to start seeing themselves as innovators.  We can talk about the constraints of testing, curriculum, poor leadership, and a million other things, but that is pointing the finger away from what we can do ourselves.  We ask our students to solve problems all of the time, and we need to model this ourselves.  If you think the system doesn’t work for your students, then let’s start to think different.  A.J. does a nice job debunking the myths of a non-traditional classroom but it is up to you to implement them.

Next, we have to start looking what the world looks like outside of schools and bring that into our classrooms.  As much as I hate to say it, Google has a bigger “research and development” budget than any school I know, and when they are openly sharing some of the ways that they not only engage their employees, but also create environments where innovation flourishes. We should pay attention.  What great organizations do is develop their people as thinkers, leaders, and “intrapreneurs” who constantly push innovation from within.  Can you imagine what your classroom could look like if we adopted that same mindset as educators?

As I read this book and the ideas that A.J. has shared, I felt my head nodding emphatically thinking, “I wish I went to school now.”  Not only is it more engaging, but it has the potential to be so much better.  In a world that the only constant will be change, how do we get students to think of themselves as innovators not only in the future, but today.  As any good book on the notion of innovation will often lead to more questions, and A.J. has written something that will push your learning long after, while also giving great ideas and a framework to really push your own learning ahead.

Nothing different will happen with your students until something different happens for your first. Hopefully the “why” and “how” will become the common question starter for our students, as opposed to “may I”, no matter the language.

The Vulnerability of the Web

I am probably babbling but here goes…

This week has been tough.

Travel is always wearing on a person, but having to make an impromptu trip home to say goodbye to a long time friend (my dog Shaq), has worn on me.  I miss her a great deal and am going to have a hard time going home this weekend and not see her waiting at the door for me, wagging her tail.

The documentation of my life, the ups and downs, in an open space, has been some of the most powerful learning that I have done.  Reflection has been extremely therapeutic in dealing with some tough times, but the love of people from around the world that genuinely care and try to make things better for others, has been overwhelming.  As I shared one of my last pictures of my sweet girl and I on Instagram, many people sent their condolences and love my way.  The “virtual hug”, as always, was greatly appreciated.

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From my sharing of this picture, I received several messages from dog lovers who may have given their own pup a little more love, an extra treat, or just spent some great time with them.  That loss of life may have reminded others that life is short and fragile, and we need to appreciate all that we have as much as we can.  I know that every time I see something similar to what I have shared, it brings me closer to the loved ones in my life.

Sitting in my hotel room alone and trying to deal with a range of emotions that I was going through, from sadness of losing my baby girl, and relief that I had made it home to say goodbye, I casually and almost lifelessly looked through Facebook and twitter to try and pass the time.  In a short 24 hours, I saw so much from people that way past “education”, but deeper into humanity.

My good friend Chris Wejr, who is a big of a dog person as I am, really struggled with the idea of bringing another dog home after the loss of his beloved Ozzy.  We had several conversations about getting another dog, and I was at the vet saying goodbye to Shaq, Chris was bringing a new dog home to his family.

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The hurt of saying goodbye and then the power of saying hello. Sharing death and sharing renewed life.  In my loss and grieving, I smiled at my friend who loves dogs, giving one a new home.  I was so happy for him and his family.

Then I received a message from Paige that my niece Bea had sent her condolences through a video message to her and I.  It stopped me in my tracks.

So much love coming from such a place of sadness that was so powerful. Even though she is so far away, I felt her love and caring, and social media and the literacy of creating a video allowed me to FEEL that.

I woke up the next day wondering how I would make it through an emotional day of speaking to educators.  If there is a place that I would feel safe, it with individuals that are in the “people business”, where nurturing and caring is part of what they do.  When I had shared what I had went to, they grieved with me, whether they knew me from Twitter or my blog or whatever.  Seeing others struggle often brings out the best in others to step up and help, and I knew that I could be vulnerable around them.

But about 15 minutes after I was done speaking, I received a text message from my 9 year old niece, who sent me a picture of her new baby brother.  Remembering when she was born and now seeing her send me the news through a text message was a pretty amazing reminder of how time flies by so quickly, and how a mobile phone has allowed us to connect so much more now from when it had existed before.  I quickly checked Twitter and Facebook, and saw my brother share the following picture and realized that I had a beautiful new nephew:

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Death, life, sadness, and happiness.

All  of this was shared in 24 hours from people that are close to me emotionally, yet far in terms of proximity.  The humanity that is shared from those simple “tweets” is what brings me so much closer to them, and them to me.  The “learning” through social media is great, but the human aspect is why I stay.  The willingness to share ourselves is something that is very powerful, yet makes us very vulnerable. I have tried to embrace that vulnerability although sometimes it can be extremely tough.

What I was reminded of in this short amount of time, while I still try to deal with something very tough, is that there is more good than bad out there, and every little share we make can bring us closer together.  We have to remember the impact we can make on others, both positive and negative.   I am also reminded of how social media can truly “humanize” us, when we deal with the great moments and also the tough ones. That “humanity” can bring us closer together as people than we have ever been before.  I was also reminded of the following quote:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Unknown

Every action can make an impact; I am going to try every day to make it a positive one.

Goodbye My Sweet Girl

As I sit here with my dog Shaq in her last moments, listening to her breath as she sleeps, I think about all of the times that I have had with her that have made my life so much better.

Almost fifteen years ago, as a coach of a high school boys basketball team, we went on a road trip to my hometown for a tournament.  As we sat in a Burger King, and I read the classifieds to them, I said, “Do you guys want to come get a dog with me?”  Of course, they said they absolutely would love to go.  We went to a farm just outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and there were ten puppies there to pick from, and while nine of them ran up to me, the one that ran away was the one that appealed to me.  She seemed so shy and that she just needed love.  Myself and twelve basketball players were in a van with this sweet puppy, and you watched this dog take some of the toughest kids you know and reduce them to mush.  When I asked them what I should name her, they said, “Well you already have Kobe, so you might as well name her Shaq.”  I thought that it was a ridiculous name for a girl, but they said well it is short for “Shaquelyn” (rhymes with Jacquelyn), and I was sold.  A new puppy had entered my life.

As I already had Kobe and he suffered from severe separation anxiety, I felt that giving him away would be too hard, and that another dog was the answer. My girlfriend at the time, said it was a bad idea, yet I still returned home with a surprise that charmed her immediately.  Every single day I left Kobe, he would start to destroy things, bark wildly, and tear at the floor in front of the door.  The first day that I left him with Shaq, he didn’t even notice I left.  She immediately made an impact on both of us.

Even as a puppy, she controlled the house.  There were the “Shaq Rules”, where basically she got whatever she wanted, which lasted her entire life. She was shy but sweet, and was leery of people, but very loyal to me.  Although she was not a “snuggler”, she was in every room that I was in, all of the time.  She would sleep at the foot of the bed, she would stand at the top of the stairs, or she would sneak her way into the bathroom.  Presence was everything to her.  I had her since she was 6 weeks old and although I would like to think that she needed me for protection, she saw it the other way around.

At about 9 months old, I took her to the vet to get her spayed, but unfortunately the operation couldn’t happen that day; she was already pregnant from the town stray dog.  A few months later, in a house that had only 500 square footage of room, I was now home to 2 dogs and 10 puppies.  12 dogs in my life and I was living a real-life Disney movie.  I gave every single one of those dogs to students in the town, and I am sure that some of her offspring are still around, but I also know that she outlived a few of them.

For the last fifteen years of my life, Shaq has been a constant.  She had been there through the loss of Kobe, the purchase of my first home, the loss of my dad, and getting engaged, amongst a myriad of other things.  Through several ups and several downs, I was always guaranteed to come home to her running to the door and wagging her tail.  About three years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer, I decided that serious medical treatment was going to be too much for her, and decided against it.  The doctor predicted that she would live for six months and three years later, here we are.  Shaq was a fighter.

My last couple of years I have spent a lot of time on the road due to work and leaving Shaq and Odom had been the hardest part of that experience.  When you are used to a house that always seems to be full of love, it is tough to spend a night in a quiet hotel room.  I have been so used to sleeping with my dogs, that I often held a pillow and slept on one side of the bed on the road because that was my routine.  The dogs ruled the house, with Shaq as the ultimate boss.

I got the call while I was in Indiana that Shaq hadn’t eaten, and when she went to see the vet, she told me that Shaq had “given up”.  I said okay, cried profusley, and booked a flight home.  She had been there for so many good and bad moments in my life, that there was no way that I was going to absent for her last.  I rushed home as soon as possible, fearing that she would not be alive when I got home.  As I rushed out of the cab and downstairs, I saw her lying there with hey eyes open, waiting for me.  I picked her up (which she had NEVER been okay with until today), and carried her just like when she was a puppy, relieved that she had waited for me.  She nestled into me and you could see a sigh of relief in her demeanour that I had made it home.  I have not left her side since.  As I prepare to take her to the vet tomorrow morning, I think about how much love she gave me and how the house is already starting to feel a lot more empty.  Dogs have brought life to a home, and made it more than a place to live.  It is going to be so tough to be in a room and not feel Shaq’s presence as she watches and hovers over me.

Just like she has been by my side for fifteen years, I am going to be by her side until her last moments.  Shaq taught me how to love unconditionally, and forgive easily.  We can learn so much from our dogs if you are open to the love that they are willing to give, and even if sometimes you are not.

Tonight will be our last night together and tomorrow I will say goodbye to my sweet girl.  I am going to snuggle her like crazy and give her as much love as possible while enjoying one last NBA FInals game with her, since I have watched so many with her by my side.

Thanks Shaq for teaching me so much…Just like Kobe, your impact on me will never be forgotten and I will try to be the person you have seen me to be.

Sleep warm my sweet girl.

One Step At a Time

The push to totally change the way school looks, is coming from many that believe that education as it looks today is not sufficient for our kids.  Although I do believe that we have to change some major elements of school, I also believe that there are lots of positive elements that we can build on as educators.  When we say “everything has to change”, we also tell educators that “everything you are doing is wrong”.  We have to build upon our strengths, while also paying attention and developing on our weaknesses.  This does not happen overnight.

Barry Schwartz talks about the “paradox of choice”, and in his Ted Talk (one of my favourites), he talks about abundance of choice often making people miserable.  This would be no different with what is happening to many educators.  When we say “change everything”, people are often overwhelmed and change nothing.  Personally, I understand that although teachers need to question the system, they also need to work with inside of it to make change.

So if we are really going to make powerful long lasting change, we have to realize that this happens one step at a time.  Although we might have a vision of where we want to go long term, successful leaders will help break the BIG VISION into smaller, achievable steps.  With every single step, we move closer to our goals, while building confidence in a “new way of learning”.

My suggestion for people wanting to change what they do?  Focus on one thing at a time.  Look at something you currently do, and ask how you could do that better, and improve learning opportunities for kids.  Once you have seen success, move onto another thing.  I love this story from Will Smith about something he learned from his dad when he was young:

When Will was a 12-year-old kid, his dad gave him an impossible task: rebuild the brick wall in front of his business. It took Will and his little brother a year-and-a-half, but they built the wall.

How did a couple of little kids build a big brick wall? Will explains, “You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say: ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid.’ And you do that every single day, and soon you’ll have a wall.”

Success breeds success, and if you focus on that one brick at a time, soon you will have something that is so much better than what you started.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu

Transformative to everyone?

If you are in the educational technology field, you have probably heard about the “SAMR Model” and “TPACK” as ways to implement technology in powerful ways in our classrooms.  Many of these models (and others) say something similar; how are we using technology in ways that we couldn’t do before?   For example, should we use technology to write notes (which we could do with a pen) or are we going to use something like blogs so that students can connect with the world? Technology is transformational and the opportunities that exist today in schools are pretty amazing and these “models” encourage teachers to take advantage of that.  This is a good thing.

So when we talk about things like “differentiation” and “inclusion”, how does this apply?  Well if we are expecting all students to do the same “transformative” thing, it feels like we are still expecting all kids to do the same thing.

Maybe instead of asking, “what does the technology allow us to do now, that we couldn’t do before”, maybe we should ask, “what does the technology allow the student to do now that they couldn’t do before”?  The ability to write notes on a document  might not be transformative to all of us, but to the student who does not have the same ability to write using a piece of paper that others might have, this (what many would consider simple) use of technology may be transformative to that student.  In our race to put everything in education into a neat acronym, we often give standardized solutions for individual people.

Perhaps we should step back and see that what technology provides is often the ability for a teacher to help make learning very personal  for our kids and create opportunities that didn’t exist before (for them).  Every standardized solution often seems to reduce our kids to a name on a piece of paper or simply a number, when they deserve so much more than that.

The Value of Everyone Else

I have the honour to be working for the next couple of days with a variety of people that are connected with education but not “educators” with the Peel District School Board.  This would include, but not me limited to, secretaries, finance department, IT staff, facilities, communications departments, and so many other people that do things to help create the best opportunities for our students.

Talking with them, I remember thinking about my school janitor from when I was a kid named Mr. Rohrke.  He was someone who not only kept the school clean, but was someone we loved talking to and connecting with every day as kids.  He was one of those people that made your day better.  He could have easily ignored us and did his “job”, and there were probably many days he had to stay later because we could talk his ear off, but he always loved talking with us.  His job was to make the school a great place to be and he did not that by only keeping the school clean, but also by taking the time to make us always feel welcomed.  If anything, I am glad that he made that time and from people I know that are involved in education, the kids, no matter their position, are part of the reason that they show up everyday.

So when we talk about all of the great things that are happening in schools, let’s just remember that there are so many people behind the scenes that never seem to get the credit they deserve to help us create the best conditions to serve our kids.  I know that I have been guilty about complaining about the WiFi not working but also on the other hand, not thanking the same people I have complained to when it works.  I need to get better at that.

With schools changing so much and it happening at an extremely rapid pace, let’s just remember the value of everyone else that are NOT educators that we so often tend to forget.  The more they know they are a valued part of our team, the better we will all be for kids.

The joy of learning

The ability to connect on Twitter has become one of the biggest blessings in my life.  I have connected with some of the best minds, but in reality, I have made my strongest relationships through the medium as well.  It is not just about what I have learned, but it is often about the enjoyment I have in learning with others.  If you look at my Twitter feed at any point, it can range from goofy conversations about Applebees, discussing opportunities in the classroom or leadership, sharing music, or sharing videos of dogs to make people smile.  The balance for me is important.

When we plan for students, we too often focus solely on the “learning”?  If a kid enjoys texting and connecting with friends, and actually becomes more literate, why can’t that be a powerful opportunity for kids?

Sometimes we get so focused on the “stuff” that we forget the “joy” (as Dean Shareski would say) that can happen during informal learning.

How much do you remember from your grade 2 science exam?

Exactly.

I promise you that if learning can be “fun” and have some choice, more people will love to do it.  I love the learning that happens in social media but I know that I keep coming back for the connections and happiness it brings me.

Fun can be a great thing for learning. Let’s not forget that while we are trying to get through a curriculum at the end of the year.  The “stuff” will fade from a kid’s memory, but that connection to their heart won’t.

A conversation starter…

I saw the following image online: Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.50.43 AMWhat surprised me about the conversation about it was that most educators (that I connect with) thought the student was ingenious for this “invention” and applauded them.  They were “fighting the power” and found a way to snuck in their device to a classroom. A couple of questions I have when I see this picture… Why would the kid have to create something like this? Why would adults not have to do this?  (I know that if I am disengaged I might gravitate to my device, but I also know that if I am engaged, I also tend to gravitate to my device.) Do you think this is wrong by the student, or cheer them on for their subversiveness? What do you think?

A Little Piece of Yourself

The best teachers in the world connect with their students on some personal level.  

I have always believed that.  It does not mean that you share every element of your personal life, but it does mean that you do share parts.  The teachers that impacted me, I remember knowingmore about them than simply what they taught, and it is the reason I became a teacher.  I wanted to make that same impact.

So why do we believe something different when it comes to social media?  Many people are worried about revealing too much about themselves and that will somehow be an invasion of privacy, yet it is always up to the individual on “what” and “how much” they share.  My personal belief and guideline on social media is the following:

“Whatever you can say to a classroom of students is what you can say online.”

If you follow that, you should not only be fine but you can make some pretty powerful connections.

Which brings me to why I am writing this in the first place…

After a presentation that I had made for Peel District School Board in Ontario, I had an educator approach me and tell me that she wanted me to share a story.  As she teared up, I worried about how I might have offended her or said something wrong.  Actually the opposite.

In my tweets, I have shared music I like to the hashtag #georgetunes.  I am a huge music fan, and although I share the occasional One Direction or Wham song (as a joke…maybe not), I am a huge fan of a lot of very mellow music such as William Fitzsimmons, Iron and Wine, and Keane, which has led people to sharing music from bands from The Avett Brothers.  This is something that I would have shared with students so it is not something I was reluctant to share online.

So as this “stranger” shared her story with me, she told me about how someone suggested that she follow me on Twitter.  Although she shared that she appreciated my educational tweets, she really enjoyed a lot of the music that I shared, as we had similar tastes.

And then her mother passed away.

She took a risk, reached out to a stranger (my email is listed on my blog), and shared that she connected with me on Twitter, loved the music I shared, and told me about how her mom had passed.  She then asked me a suggestion for a song.  Of course, I responded immediately, and gave her a suggestion to which she told me that played at her mom’s funeral.  She thanked me for not only responding, but for being willing to share in the first place.

I have not stopped thinking about what she told me and her story.

People have made fun of me for sharing some stuff online (like #georgetunes), but I don’t see myself as an “educator first”, but a person with many sides and interests.  Those connections are what I believed in as an educator, and carry over to what I do online.  I also have been reminded once again that every little thing you share can make a big impact, no matter how insignificant it may seem, so try to focus on the positive.  Who knows what it can do for someone else.