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Last week’s annual National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) conference took place in beautiful Baltimore, Maryland along the inner harbor. Below are some highlights from three days of learning, connecting, sharing and meeting face to face with many really talented educators from around the country.
Arne Duncan was at the conference in person to speak to a half filled room of principals. Low attendance possibly suggests that school leaders around the country have heard enough of all about the budget crises, common core implementation, high stakes tests, waivers and accountability measures that we’re currently working through. Informal questions were not taken following his speech, but prepackaged questions were taken from principals days leading up to the conference and infused in – these participant selected questions revolved around school safety, mental health and support for teachers and principals– the areas many of us feel should be at the real “core” of our school reform efforts. One of the best recommendations I have for our Secretary for the upcoming year is that he follow a few teachers on Twitter, and become engaged in the day to day work of a large group of people who are stubbornly dedicated to educational reform. Check out Tony Sinanis’ letter to @ArneDuncan here.
My wife and I sat with Beth Whitaker during her husband Todd’s keynote. I’m not sure you’ll find a more edu-invested family than the Whitakers. Even their kids are teachers and Beth, a current professor at Indiana State University, is a former principal of the year and a connected educator herself! Follow and learn with her at @BethWhitaker2. Todd inspired a capacity crowd on the final day of the conference with his blend of whit, humor, high expectations and a no excuses attitude in leading today’s schools. He made a big push to get all of the principals at the conference on Twitter, and spoke of the connections and support network he’s made since personally becoming a connected educator. I’ll second @PeterMDewitt’s EdWeek piece on the value and importance of getting yourself connected. For the “un-connected” print it out and pass it along to folks at an admin meeting, hang it in your office or fill some mailboxes. More on what Todd Whitaker shared during his talk from Vicki Day’s Evernote notebook here.
Social Media Lounge
Something that has bothered me since I became an elementary principal back in 2007 was that our Association was the least innovative of all of the professional organizations. Like the NASSP, elementary lead learners have some innovative leaders working for kids. People like Chis Wejr (@ChrisWejr) of Canada, Lyn Hilt (@l_hilt) of Pennsylvania, Jessica Johnson (@principalj) of Wisconsin, Spike Cook (@drspikecook) of New Jersey, Erin Simpson (@ehuthsimpson) of Ohio, Ben Gilpin (@BenjaminGilpin) of Michigan, Curt Rees (@CurtRees) of Wisconsin <—ALL must follows… and many others doing some really innovative things at their schools to encourage, inspire and model connect teaching, learning and leadership. For us to grow together, must find a way to tap these connected thinkers from within and get their ideas out there for others to move their respective “innovation needles.” This year, NAESP tried something new and opened the doors for some of their own connected members to teach others “how to fish” for professional development, resources, relationships and support so to speak using social media tools.
During the conference, I had the pleasure and privilege of volunteering in the first NAESP Social Media Lounge with great educators in my PLN – Tony Sinanis (@cantiague_lead) and Vicki Day (@vickivissar). Together, we delivered six social media workshops to conference attendees over the three days and met informally with many others who couldn’t make the actual session times. The space was initially set up for 12 chairs, but by the middle of the first day, conference leadership created more space and brought in some more “loungy” furniture to accommodate the 40+ attendees that would join us for the remaining sessions. We’re hoping all of the new principals who signed up for Twitter, learned about Skype, Google Hangouts, social media policy, engaging families in low and high tech ways, PLNs and Appy Hour will continue to connect, share and become valued members of our respective PLNs. For a listing of connected elementary leaders who joined us at NAESP add your own information here on this Google Doc. Grow your PLN! Don’t waste another minute.
We held a “Tweet-up”
On Thursday night, we held a tweet-up for connected leaders to meet other connected leaders face to face. Meeting people I follow and learn from on Twitter face to face was a highlight of the conference as everyone wasn’t running from point A to point B to try and get to the next session, keynote or meeting. I really enjoyed getting to know educators like Erin Simpson, Pam Moore, Celese Nolan, Ryan Hudson, Justin Baeder, Peter DeWitt, Spike Cook, Jane Tremblay and of course some friends from our doctoral program at @PennGSE who were at NAESP presenting on Online Simulations for Educational Leadership Development.
Several connected leaders/presenters stopped by the Social Media Lounge to record a short @audioboo podcast. Have a listen below.
New Milford High School Principal Eric Sheninger (@nmhs_principal) of New Jersey discusses communicating and connecting using social media.
Katie Greer (@KatieLGreer) of Massachusetts discusses Internet & digital Safety and how schools can be prepared to take on a proactive approach.
Elementary Lead Learner Adam Drummond (@AdamDDrummond) of Indiana discusses leadership behaviors that elicit best practice in our staffs.
Crayola’s Cheri Sterman discusses building creative leadership teams.
Other resources/notes shared by NAESP and/or attendees
- Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung honored with NAESP’s Distinguished Service Award
- Freeman Hrabowski calls on principals to create a “culture of support”
- Focusing on What Matters – 4 Facts & Strategies by Eric Jenson
- Presenters challenges principals to build strong relationships
- On Common Core, principals told to let go and embrace tech
- Help teachers be their best by Todd Whitaker
- Seriously, Why Haven’t You Joined Twitter Yet?
- Adam Saenz- Rediscover Your Calling and Support Your Teachers in Theirs
- Daniel Pink – Art Education is Fundamental, Not Ornamental
“Gross motor exercise literally grows new brain cells. Don’t keep kids in from recess, ever.” —Eric Jensen #naesp13
**Ideas on making #NAESP14 in Nashville, TN even better next year? Please include them in the comment section below.