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I have been blessed with a wonderful PLN who challenge me and push me every single day.  If you don’t know what a PLN is, it stands for a Personal / Professional Learning Network.  For me, it formed about 4 to 5 years ago when I started to use social media and the platform, Twitter, to engage in powerful professional dialogue about education.  Being an educator for the past 27 years, I have been in the presence of some great people in the business, first as a music educator and then as a leader of a public school.  Once I started using a social media platform such as Twitter, I haven’t looked back.  

One of the first tweeps that I followed and who I consider a mentor is my friend Joe Mazza.  Though he may not know this, I call him a mentor because he has pushed me to realize the potential that I have within myself.  This past weekend, he did a powerful TedxYouth talk in Boston about 10 assumptions he had while growing up and becoming an adult.  As noted by my best buddy, friend, mentor and colleague, Lisa Meade, he as well as all of us are on that bumpy journey, that I call life.  So in the spirit of Joe, here are some assumptions that I am going to list, in no particular order, other than my number #1!.

1.  I thought being diagnosed with breast cancer was a death sentence,  It actually woke me up to what is important in life.

2.  Crying is a sign of weakness.  That’s not true. In my 1/2 hundred years, it is a sign of life, of happiness, of joy, pain and empathy. (And hormones.  LOL)

3.  I’m not smart enough.  That is for sure, but I work my butt off to make good for kids and humans! My mom taught me to look for the good in everyone.  (Memory Eternal Flossie!)

4.  Friends are the only thing.  Nope, have to take my mom’s advice, that friends come and go but my family stays.  That’s for sure.  My family is #1!

5.  Having the next best thing or gadget will give me happiness.  My happiness – relationships with humans, my husband (who is my love of life), my family, friends, PLN!  They are my happiness!

6.  Getting it done FAST is the only way.  I am more of a hedgehog.  Slow and steady wins the race!

7.  That failure is grave and I will be dammed, fired, hurt someone, poor performance.  I am learning to overcome this more and more.  I found out by sissy, this may be a Vissar trait but the confidence is sure in my sissy #1!

I am sure I have three more in me.  But I am procrastinating on other things that I need to get done and there are a few who nudge me to post this, so here it is in all it’s glory.  

Thank you Joe Mazza.  You are an inspiration and you have touched many with your honesty, empathy and compassion.  We are that much better to have you in our midst and in our world.  Humbled and honored to know you my friend!

What are your assumptions?

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A Seat at the Table

A Seat at the Table

A collaborative post, written by Lisa Meade and Vicki Day

We are two passionate principals leading learning in two fabulous schools. We both have had great experiences in our classrooms, one as a music teacher and the other as a special education teacher.  We both believe, and still do, that we needed to reach out and help more students, so we took the journey to becoming lead learners of an elementary school and a middle school.  The journey for both of us may have been different, but one common thread we are finding is that we are two passionate women in a very male dominated arena of education.

During the wonderful Valentine 2/14/2015 #satchat on Twitter, the topic was about Missing Voice in #EdTech. It was moderated by Rafranz Davis, author of The Missing Voices in Ed Tech: Bringing Diversity Into EdTech. This sparked interest in us, not only with diversity in our students, students of race, but also diversity in leadership and gender.  We have presented to many about being connected lead learners, but we feel that as women, we may not be taken seriously.  Between the two of us, we have over 20 years of experience as public school leaders, but when in a room mostly dominated by male superintendents and principals, we still do not feel we have earned credibility in different arenas. Some of that could be our fault, yes. But, some of it is likely beyond our control.

Back in 1994, Myra and David Sadker published “Failing at Fairness: How Our School Cheat Girl”. It was required reading for one of the authors of this post as part of a master’s program examining gender bias and provided examples of how girls were treated differently in school settings than boys. What was learned at the end of the master’s program was that bias exists for both males and females. It just looks differently. We expect certain behaviors from one gender than we do from the other. Unfortunately, not enough has changed regarding those biases.

Case in point:  We presented to a great bunch of leaders, mostly males, about using social media tools to promote connectivity and professional development.  It wasn’t until we used google hangout to bring in two fabulous male educators from our PLN to talk to them about being connected that it kind of clicked.  It was clear how males in the room responded more positively to the males on the screen.  That could be for a variety of reasons, including gender.

We are both passionate about our work, our schools and love to highlight what we are doing as well as what our kids and staff are doing. We love to “brand” our positives in our schools and love to “show off” what our kids are doing as well as what our teachers are doing with students.  But, we’ve both been told we are too energetic, too passionate, too emotional, and to calm down. One of our female colleagues has even been silenced by a male colleague at work with the raising of his hand to signal stop. We wonder if our male colleagues have ever been told that they are too passionate or emotional? Do other males silence each other by raising their hands to signal stop.

For the most part, women are making gains in educational leadership positions, but it is still male dominated.  Why is that?  Are women viewed as not strong enough?  Do fewer women apply for leadership positions? If yes, why is that true? How about within technology and education? Can women be technology leaders? Is there a fear of transparency? Will what I say get me in trouble? Will it impact future possibilities? Is the work that I am asked to do similar to the work my male counterparts are asked to do? In the interest of full disclosure, there’s a fear to be felt in even putting these thoughts to paper. Will others that we work with take these reflections the wrong way? Will these thoughts be misunderstood?

Peter DeWitt recently posted “Where Are All the Women in Educational Leadership?”. The post resonated with many. We are fortunate to consider Peter one of our friends and found his piece indicative of our experience. In it, he asks readers to be more deliberate in their work to include women, hear women and honor women.  Dr. DeWitt writes, “Women shouldn’t be chosen based on being women, just like men shouldn’t be chosen because of being a man. But women shouldn’t be ignored or not chosen because they happen to be female either.”

Luckily, many of the males we work with and are connected to personally honor our work and make room for us at the table when we ask. Occasionally, we are invited to sit at their table and when we are, that speaks volumes to the kinds of leaders making room for more.

We wonder about other diversities beyond gender.

Is there a difference among races, ages, or sexual preference?

Are we all being afforded the same opportunities?

We all say we believe in diversity.

But, do our actions demonstrate that?

“No one gets to the corner office by sitting on the side, not at the table, and no one gets the promotion if they don’t think they deserve their success, or they don’t even understand their own success.” – Sheryl Sandberg


Wrong Drivers

Our NY Stated accountability scores in ELA and Math were published this summer.  I can’t say I am proud of the scores, but I can say, that I am proud of what my teachers and students did to get to where we are now as a school.  Basically, I think our school followed the state norms, raised our scores in Math, but stayed static in ELA.  I am thankful that we didn’t go down in our ELA scores at the 3-5 level.  As a district, we didn’t fair too well in our 3-8 test scores with proficiency.  But, my question is, what does it mean?  Is it that our kids can’t read?  Does it mean that they can’t test as 3rd, 4th and 5th graders?  Are we not “test prepping” enough?  We follow the curriculum, we revamped our teaching style and we use data to drive instruction, but even still, in NY State, we do not grow in our ELA proficiency scores.  Hmm….

As a building principal, as I maneuver through the educational reform agenda and lead my staff, I question why we are placing so much emphasis on accountability rather than creating capacity and professional capital in our staff.  Is it about proficiency, how many kids you can get in level 3 and 4, or is it about growth?  I feel that we have a double system going on here.  We worry that we don’t have enough students hitting the mark in proficiency scores, but we get growth scores from the state.   I am all for assessing our students, standards, et. al., but I need some clearer understanding, is it about proficiency or is it about growth?  Or both?  Isn’t it nerving that schools get growth scores that are 17 or 18 and don’t hit the mark of proficiency?  What does it all mean?

Peter DeWitt published in his blog here whether increased accountability works.  He sites Michael Fullan’s work and that wrong drivers are driving what is happening in education reform.  I think Fullan is on to something, and below is brief outline  of what he is talking about.

Wrong vs. Right Drivers

Michael Fullan published a document, Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform for a symposium in Australia.  He also published many books such as Professional Capital:  Transforming Teaching in Every School with Andy Hargreaves and the latest, The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact.  (The links are documents that have been used in presentations or journal submissions about the book(s).  In both books, Fullan and Hargreaves discuss Wrong vs. Right Drivers that impact reform agendas.  They claim that the wrong drivers can be used, but have to be offset by the right drivers.  Unfortunately, in reform agendas in the US, UK and Australia, the wrong drivers are pronounced more than the right drivers.  So, what are the wrong drivers?

  1. Focusing on accountability vs capacity building.  It’s about people, not “sticks and carrot.”  Develop your people, not punish them with testing. It’s not about the test or the standards, it is how they are being used.
  2. Individual Quality vs Group Quality.  This is about developing the entire system, not one teacher here, one teacher there, one leader here, another there.  It kind of ties in with the accountability above.  Work on raising the bar for all and then get in and work together.  This is where PLCs come in and developing high social and human capital.  It is the belief that we are in this together, not competing against each other.  We help each other as a group to be the best.  Move together, grow together, help each other.  Trust building.
  3. Technology vs instruction.  This is the belief technology is not the end all be all, it is about instruction – how will we use technology to enhance instruction.  Technology will never trump good teaching.  It will only enhance it and good teachers know their craft and how to teach.  It is about pedagogy.
  4. Fragmented vs. systemic.  This means to have a systemic approach, attainable and that all drivers, capacity building, group work, and instruction are all working together.

This makes sense to me.  As a leader, I find that I have to balance this because I believe we are heavily balance to wrong drivers than right drivers.  Fullan does state that there are areas that we do need to use wrong drivers, but the gist is that countries such as the US have focused to heavily on them whereas countries who are successful have a balance.

Take the time to read the document, Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform.  I am sure it will open up some thought to how we are leading our schools, our states as well as our country.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll take a visit over the boarder sooner than later and visit some Canadian schools to see what is happening.  Heck, maybe Dr. Fullan will help us out in New York!  I hope so!

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Reflections of the 2014 NAESP Conference

Yes, I am late, real late to submit my reflections of this past summer’s NAESP conference in Nashville, Tennessee, but life catches up to you so better late than never.

This has been my 4th time attending the NAESP National Conference.  The first one was in Baltimore, MD in 2004 and that is when I sat in this presenters session about What Great Principals Do Differently by a guy named Todd Whitaker.  I was blown away.  He was on to something and every principal in that room was like, wow.  In 2010 I was in Houston, Texas in and out for the Houston conference and made sure to sit through Todd’s presentation again.  Still a wow factor for me.  Remember though, this is before social media became a big part to help me rejuvenate my career

It was in the spring of 2013 that I saw a tweet come through from Joe Mazza to call out for some help to bring a Social Media Lounge to the NAESP Baltimore Conference.  My friend Tony Sinanis and I jumped on it and said yes, we would come down and help.  Boy, did we work that conference!  We held basic Twitter sessions, showed what GHO can do, and really, show principals and leaders how to break down the walls and what connective leadership looks like.  It was an awesome experience and I learned a tremendous amount and connected with even more like minded principals.  Little did I know going into this that I would be sitting with one of my idols, Todd Whitaker and his lovely wife Beth and creating a national PLN of educators and principals!

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Joe Maxxa, Todd Whitaker, Kris Mitzner, Tony Sinanis, Beth Whitaker, Vicki Day

So, came this past year.  I was hemming and hawing, wondering if I should go or not to the Nashville conference.  What came across my desk was the NAESP mentor program flyer.  I have always been curious about this program and decided that this would be something worthwhile for me to pursue.  (You can see my post here about the certification program.)  So, once again, I made the trek to join principals and leaders around the nation.

Once again, Joe Mazza put out a call to principals to help with the social media lounge.  This time, we had more folks connected and more lead learners to present in the SM lounge.  We worked via Google docs to stay connected, form a schedule for the three days as well as connect.  We even had a new tool to use, Voxer, so we could hear our voices.  You can access the NAESP Social Media Lounge schedule here.  It has wonderful links for all to peruse!

I was the first to get to Nashville because I was being trained for the mentor program.  The Gaylord Opryland is an enormous conference center linked to the Grand Ole Opry so there was much to do as well as being in Nashville, the music capital of the world.  There was a huge youth ministry conference three days before the NAESP event, so lots of teenagers were running around the complex.  Since the complex can hold many conferences, the placards started to change to NAESP.  In front of the exhibit hall, our SM Lounge was listed:

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Then friends started to come in!  I found my #EdcampUNY and mentor Peter DeWitt who came in  He was presenting on Flipped Leadership the first morning of the conference.  Peter had a packet house and shared wonderful strategies to help leaders be better communicators for both staff, students and communities.

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Then we had our opening NAESP keynote with Robert Flughum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten..  Jenny Nauman and I were the first to present in the SM lounge on Twitter 101, but we wanted to see the keynote.  Here we are not too far from the front in our selfie during the keynote!

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Jenny was a principal from our 2013 SM Lounge that we mentored and showed how being connected opens a whole new world.  Being an SM alumnus, I reached out to her so we could co-present and help others get on to Twitter.  It may have been the most crowded session in the lounge because of the timing.  No other sessions were happening, plus we all recruited people so we could teach them how to get on to Twitter and use it as a tool for professional development.

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We had Tony Sinanis and others help folks open up accounts in Twitter to help them get connected to the world!!

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We had Melinda Miller and Kathy Melton do a session about using Facebook to Celebrate and Connect in your school.2014-07-10 14.32.46

One of our own SM Lounge buddies, Dan Butler, presented at the conference, so we all ran upstairs to support Dan!

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Flat Vicki and Flat Christina did show up at the NAESP conference.

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Oh wait, the real Vicki meets some folks who followed Flat Vicki at ISTE!

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The day went by fast and we called it a night to get up and do it all over again.  Here our leaders Joe Mazza helps folks get connected and shows the power of a PLN.

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We take a break and run upstairs to support another buddy, Tony Sinanis, as he presents on Branding!

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Hey, that’s Joe Sanfelippo joining us in Nashville!  #GOCRICKETS!

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We also had some fun!

Melinda had a great use of her phone to get ready to kiss a frog and turn it into a prince!

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I really try to get these mannequins to start tweeting, but it really just did work.  Come on you two, get tweeting would ya?

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Is that Tony Sinanis all the way up there at the Opry?

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Oh wait, that’s Melinda behind the band taking pictures of Tony at the Grand Ol Opry.

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Erin Simpson, stop photobombing my selfies!

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Oh, and Melinda, Tony and I help record an Apprenet introduction for the #PTCamp book study Beyond the Bake Sale.

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And again, I meet my idols, Todd Whitaker and Beth Whitaker!

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So, I am blessed to have been in the company of great educators during this week.  If you haven’t attended a conference such as NAESP or NASSP, what are you waiting for?  Start coming, see us face to face, and connect with us.  It is how we become better leaders for our kids!

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The NAESP 2014 Social Media Lounge Ambassadors

Joe Mazza, Tony Sinanis, Vicki Day, Eric Bernstein,  Sandra Trach, Jenny Nauman, Dan Butler, Erin Simpson, Kathy Melton, Melinda Miller

Join us in 2015 in Long Beach, CA!

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