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Connecting with Purpose

*This post is a compliment to an article that I wrote for NAESP's May/June edition of Principal magazine. The full article can be found here.*


A few weeks ago, I wrapped up my third year as principal of Epworth and Farley Elementary Schools, and cannot thank our students, staff, families, and community members enough for another fantastic experience. Being the principal of two elementary schools is extremely rewarding, and like all educators at this day in age, never short of daily challenges. I consider myself a connected educator, and about three years ago, I made a conscious effort to connect with educational leaders to build my skills while learning from great minds in the field. The platform that I chose to utilize was (and is) Twitter which I tried to aggressively push upon fellow administrators and teachers within my district. After three years of connecting with my Personal Learning Network (PLN), I have learned a few things and altered my approach.


Begin with the End in Mind When I first made an effort to connect and in the years following, I made a significant mistake. I pushed my administrative colleagues, teachers I serve, and anyone who would listen to get on Twitter. To be completely honest, I have not been very successful with my efforts. A few teachers have taken my advice and I have been able to convince a handful of administrators, but the engagement just doesn't seem to be there. Up until the last couple of months, I would become frustrated with the lack of involvement with Twitter, as I felt that our people were missing out on tremendous personalized professional development. I have come to realize that it is not about the tool; it is much more about determining how the tool can increase positive impact. Facebook could be your platform of choice, Voxer may meet your listening and talking needs, maybe you prefer to read blogs in the comfort of your home, or you might simply prefer face to face conversations with someone in your school. The key point is our work is too important to take on alone, and simply stated, all educators are better together. When you are choosing to connect, you must define your purpose by beginning with the end in mind. What are you hoping to gain by making an intentional effort to connect? It is not about the tool, it is about the proper mindset.


Develop a Connected Mindset Connected educator, connected learning, connected mindset, what does this all mean? Being connected is about collaborating with others to improve practice, enhancing relationships, and ultimately, better serving students. In 2015, we have the ability to broaden our circles by leveraging a number of technology tools: including, but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, Google+, Skype, Instagram, and Storify. Connected educators are intentional with the tools they choose, as they ask themselves, "Which tool will help me to increase my positive impact?" Educators who possess a connected mindset are focused on continuous improvement and will utilize the available technology and human resources to accomplish their goals.


A common misconception about connected educators is improvement efforts are solely focused on technology. This could not be further from the truth. Technology tools are key pieces of the improvement puzzle; however, connected educators realize that there are humans with a great deal of skill, passion, and real experience behind the tweet, Facebook post, or Storify archive. Technology tools allow us to expand our circles exponentially and enhance face to face relationships.


Continual Growth How are you getting better and who's helping you accomplish your goals? Nearly three years ago I made a commitment to connect with others, and it has made a tremendous difference in my years as an educational leader. Together we are better is a saying that I have lived since being connected with my PLN.

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