“Many of our school leaders (principals, superintendents, central office administrators) need help when it comes to digital technologies. A lot of help, to be honest. ” Those are the words of Scott McLeod.
In an attempt to improve the situation, McLeod has invited bloggers around the country to step up to the plate with their suggestions, and for all of us to do so today. The initiative is being called Leadership Day 2010, and you can read about it here.
Last year, I participated in this event, and in a post called “Focused or Fragmented,” I talked about why I think principals need to blog. Since that time, I have seen the idea gain steam.
This past spring, “Improve Communication One Blog at a Time” appeared in Principal magazine. More principals are seeing the benefits of the blog as a tool to communicate with faculty and staff. One shining example is Heights’ Highlights. Principal Robin Gilbert of Middleton Elementary School in Middle Heights, Idaho uses the blog to keep faculty and staff informed (both during school and during holidays), ask for their input through polls, direct them to documents stored electronically, and acknowledge the good which is going within the school.
Another example is the brand-new “4 Young Teachers.” Principal Pattie Thomas of Raymond L. Young Elementary School (Talladega, AL) has for nearly three years maintained a blog to communicate with parents. This second blog is a warehouse for all of the various schedules and forms, thereby eliminated much of the need for a faculty handbook. The warmth of this blog replaces the random e-mails principals have traditionally relied upon.
Kerry Palmer, middle school principal at Trinity Presbyterian School (Montgomery, AL) has maintained blogs for both parents and staff for two years. Palmer’s Pen keeps faculty and staff informed year-round. The re-designed look is attractive and serves a great model for others.
I hope other principals will take this opportunity to start their own blogs.
Ryan BretagJuly 30, 2010 3:30 pm
You mention the idea of principals leveraging the idea of a blog to communicate to faculty, staff, parents, etc.
How do you approach the notion of a blog becoming one-way where the principal is broadcasting their thoughts and information without allowing for commenting?
Also, a critical aspect of personal blogging for principals and other administrators is to help with isolation. The research often speaks about teacher isolation but there appears to be an equal if not greater sense of isolation in administration undoubtedly due to a lack of people in similar roles within the building.
Social media and connective technologies like blogs offer an ability to connect with other administrators potentially helping the unhealthy feeling of isolation.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts and how you’ve perhaps seen this in your experience with blogging promotion
Dr. Frank BuckJuly 31, 2010 9:50 pm
One of the key elements that makes a blog different from a the traditional newsletter to parents or even a website is the ability for the reader to provide feedback through comments and to do so easily. On my blog, and on the blogs I maintained while a principal and then central office administrator, and have always allowed comments. What I have found is that people are slow to comment, but when they do, I find it opens up a whole new dimension to the conversation.
You mentioned isolation, and yes, school administration can be a lonely place. Back in the early 90s when i entered administration, I was a member of a listserv for school administrators. That one vehicle put me in contact with so many good people on a daily basis. Whether I asked a question or just read the threads as they went back and forth, I was learning from others. Along the way, writers would ask for input for their articles, and by responding, I was able to bring my thoughts to a larger audience. In fact, practically every opportunity on a national level that came my way, I could trace back to that listserv.
All of that was before the days of what we would call social networking. The avenues are greater now and offer a way to gain a broad perspective.
That being said, in additional to the large number of colleagues we whom we can network, there is no substitute for developing close relationships with an administrator or two back home. There are those times you need to confide in someone who knows you and what what is dear to you, someone who knows you as well as you know yourself. Social networking can’t compete with that one.
Thanks again for stopping by and for your input!
Gavriel ShawAugust 3, 2010 7:23 pm
I support the idea of teachers getting organized. What concerns me is that making a bad system efficient means making things worse faster.
Is there anything in this initiative to help steer teaching away from political establishment agendas and more towards liberated and creative teaching methods?
Dr. Frank BuckAugust 3, 2010 10:41 pm
You make a good point. A ladder helps you scale the wall quicker, but the ladder does not know which is the right wall. We have to make that decision. With organization, we have set goals so that we are making progress on the right kinds of things.
The Leadership Day is all about trying to help administrators become knowledgeable user of technology and leaders of technology in their own environments. So much of the creativity we are seeing in education today is coming from the disciplines of technology and the arts.
The political establishment agendas to which you refer conjure in my mind the high-stakes testing presently in place where nothing is valued except reading and math and the bar is set pretty low for those. After all, if you are going to get every single student in the school over the bar, that bar is not going to be very high. In my own state, I am seeing some outstanding schools not make AYP while schools which produce far less quality did make it. The difference had to do with the size of the school. Large schools have enough members in subgroups such as special education and Limited English Proficient that their school count towards the school making AYP. Slightly smaller schools can have far worse scores in those subgroups, but if they don’t have a certain number of students in those subgroups, the scores do not count.