Friday, July 30, 2010

Leadership Day 2010 #leadershipday10

A year ago, I wrote my very first blog post for Leadership Day 2009. Since then, I have begun picking up steam as an edu-blogger. For most of the school year, I used this blog to highlight the great work going on at school. Occasionally, I posted my opinions. I really got going in June when I took a challenge to write every day. July has been a month of vacation from most things school-related (except the a couple blog posts and virtual #ntcamp).

Now, Scott McLeod, has put out the call for Leadership Day 2010. Since I have vacation brain, I will shy away from deep, thoughtful missives about leadership. Instead, I will stick with a practical, concrete topic. One of Scott's prompts for those of us who like being prompted was this:
What is a technology tool that would be extremely useful for a busy administrator (i.e., one he or she probably isn’t using now)?

To start, I would refer you, dear reader, to my short series of posts about Organization for Principals that I spilled in June. Then, I wrote about using gMail to manage todos (I still do); Evernote as the most amazing note keeper; Dropbox, the one folder that rules them all; and our fledgling steps to use Google Docs.

Today, I will write about RSS.

RSS might be one of the most essential tools for a school principal. Although it will not help manage the flood of tasks, RSS will help a leader immeasurably.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (I have seen variants on that theme). Basically, RSS lets you keep track of many other websites. A classic use is to subscribe to the RSS feed from your favorite news organization. Instead of going to the news website, you go to your RSS reader (more on that in a moment) and read the headlines. Then, decide which to click on and read.

As a principal, I subscribe to the RSS feeds of many education bloggers from all over the world and the ideological spectrum (I can't prove that and suspect I may be reading a more heterogeneous set of viewpoints). I also follow several other topics of personal interest.

Google provides the standard for web-based RSS readers with Google Reader. Most of the desktop and mobile RSS readers will either sync with Google Reader or merely be a front for it. For many months, I used Reader. As my list of feeds grew, I found that it was getting hard to keep up with all of the articles that I wanted to follow. Now, I use an add-on called Feedly. I like the My Digest view because I can easily see what there is to read. Feedly is available for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.

On my iPhone, I have been searching for the best way to read the feed. Again, I started with Google Reader for mobile (a website visited through mobile Safari). Good, but sometimes slow to launch Safari. I have tried several in the past month, and I think I will settle on MobileRSS. I am currently using the free version, but I might pay $1.99 to get rid of ads. MobileRSS seems the easiest and cleanest. It just updated to version 3 and is a great improvement.

What ever way you choose to look at your feeds, RSS is the best way to follow lots of thinkers and ideas with the minimum amount of work (of course, Twitter helps with this too, but that is a different story).

Updated: Here is my collection of Education Related Blogs and Feeds. You can also see this on the left side of my blog.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Written Praise

A couple of weeks ago, Nathan wrote about his secret stash in his top desk drawer.

Right away I thought about advice I got from Ralph Watson, my last principal when I was teaching. I was interning to earn my principal's license so Ralph often shared with me his helpful practices. On one particularly tough day, Ralph showed me his written praise file. His was not in the top drawer, bit was otherwise exactly what Nathan wrote about. Anyway, Ralph opened the written praise file and randomly pulled out a note he had received sometime earlier. While he did not share the contents of the note with me, the smile on his face made it clear that his written praise file had done its job.

Since that time, I have become a principal with a written praise file of my own. I have needed it more often than I realized I would, and I am proud to say that it has filled up faster than I imagined it would.

One thing that Ralph didn't tell me that day, but I experienced first hand, was the power of filling up someone else's secret stash or written praise file.

As principal, I have taken to writing thank you notes or encouragement notes as often as I can. I try to write to as many different staff members as possible. For some, it is just a note; for others it is something special for the principal to thank them in writing. Whatever the case may be, it is important as the leader to put my praise in writing.

I would write this post by hand for each of my readers, but that wouldn't take too long for the three of you. Besides, this is meant to describe written praise, not be the praise.

If you are the principal, write a note to someone today. S/he may need it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spilling Ink Challenge: A Failure?

I think not. I did not fail. It is true that I did not make the goal of writing one post per day during the month of June. I know that the other two principals who tried, Melinda Miller and Jessica Johnson, also came up short.

That said, I see that we all came out ahead by posting far more than any of us had recently posted.

For me, the challenge was successful because I finally started using my blog for posting my opinion about education issues. Prior to the Challenge, I had only posted opinion pieces five other times. I have a few article ideas that I didn't get to during the challenge so I hope to be blogging more often now.

I never did read the book called Spilling Ink. I did not meet the technical terms of the challenge. I did not fail. I succeeded because I blogged more. I succeeded because I will blog more.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Squirrels Have Squirrels (# 24)

Gerry, the mentor that I mentioned earlier, would often say, "Squirrels have squirrels" shortly after certain parents left the school. Most of know this phrase better as, "The apple doesn't fall  far from the tree."

I don't know why Gerry used squirrels instead of apples, but I like it. I use it now on occasion to explain a student's behavior. Before teaching, I would not have understood the sentiment.

I can remember the first squirrels that I recognized. In my first year teaching, I had a student I will call Bill. Bill was sloppy, disorganized, disheveled, and not really interested in school work. My partner teacher and I called a meeting with Bill's parents. We'd met Mom already and knew her to be nothing like her son. We were perplexed. Until Dad walked in.

Dad was a larger version of Bill. They were like twins (except for the 30 year age gap). Now I got it.

Now, after 14 years in education, I understand squirrels. I have learned to work with squirrels. I have learned to value meeting them and listening to them.

Of course, my own mini-squirrels are now running around. I wonder how long it will be until some teacher meets me and thinks, "Oh, now I get it. Squirrels have squirrels."

Day 24 of my month of blog-a-day (Spilling Ink 6 posts remaining. Ok, so I am a little bit behind. I've been kind of busy (and stressed, but more on that later).