Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rockstar Life. #gratitude

 This weekend was Fall CUE in Napa. The weather was beautiful including some much needed rain. 

And every time I leave a conference I usually have a quiet drive home to think. This weekend, I left feeling grateful and was surprised to feel a little emotional. I really missed my family and my puppies. I was also feeling so thankful for all of the AMAZING educators who dedicate their time and energy to sharing and learning all year round. And then I heard this song.

On the outside it might seem like presenting at conferences is kind of a rockstar life. Traveling to amazing locations, presenting sessions and sharing ideas hoping to inspire others to get their students and schools collaborating and creating. I know I am in awe of the knowledge and passion that presenters bring to their sessions.  I count among my friends teachers, directors, superintendents, principals, and more who not only share ideas but also participate as learners. This afternoon I was sitting in a session learning about Minecraft on the iPad. Looking around the room, I saw teachers and teacher leaders taking it all in and looking for ideas to take back and share. 

It's Saturday. And not only are they learning in the session, they're sharing outside the session by tweeting out ideas and resources to the world. 

They do this all the time. 

I'm so thankful to know so many passionate and dedicated human beings. Most of them don't even live near me, but I feel like they are my friends because I see them so often! Today, I think my emotional feelings came from realizing that all of these amazing educators that I get used to seeing all year long, in the summer, and even out of state are taking time away from their families and their jobs to share what they know in hopes that it makes a difference for kids and teachers.

Rockstars? Yes, many names are well-known. But most conference attendees may not realize that ALL of the presenters are there volunteering their time and often paying for accommodations and travel out of their own pockets. 

I am grateful. And I just want them to know. 

Why Landslide? I don't really know, but when I heard it today it made me think. My year has seasons, and things are changing. I'm getting older! I saw my reflection. I love learning and I miss my family. I just want to say thank you to everyone I know who takes time and energy away from their families, their jobs, and yes, even their pets so that I can learn and be inspired. I am thankful to know you. I love to learn with you. And every time I see you I will give you a hug. I hope you take time for you, too. 

Thank you.

I took my love and took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stop. Collaborate and listen.

image credit

This post is a throwback-- to the 90's and the days of Ice, Ice, Baby. Wiser words have never been spoken. 

All right, stop
Collaborate and listen

This post is a throwback, the idea born before I ever had a blog, before I discovered Twitter. 

All right, stop
Collaborate and listen

This post is a throwback to the summer of 2012 when I realized that learning was about more than sharing. It was about listening, too. 

All right, stop
Collaborate and listen

Imagine a room full of 20 passionate teacher leaders reading professional articles, watching demonstration lessons, learning, writing, and reflecting. For four weeks that summer I spent my days and nights learning, having my thinking and my limits challenged in a way I could never have imagined. Along with the learning, we had lively discussions with voices chiming in from around the room. And then one day the director said something that I will never forget. I don't remember her exact words, but they went something like this...

If you are someone who thinks quickly, or who responds first in a discussion, I challenge you to wait. Sometimes people need time to process before jumping into the conversation. If that's you, you might try waiting until a few have responded and see what you notice.

Of course, anytime something like this is said, I always think it's me. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But I definitely started to wait. And I noticed that she was right, it did seem like there were a few who always had their hand up first. I hadn't really noticed that before. Mentally, I made a rule for myself to wait until three other people had shared before chiming in. 

All right, stop
Collaborate and listen

And I learned. I learned that learning isn't always about sharing. Sometimes, it's more about listening. I discovered that I heard different voices, and that sometimes they shared the same idea I had been thinking. I learned that I didn't want to be the voice that everyone tired of hearing first. I learned that sometimes, I didn't need to say anything at all. I learned that I enjoyed hearing the voices of others.

Not that sharing is all bad. Sometimes, we can't wait to share because we are excited or totally inspired by the conversation. This happened to me recently when the first question was posted for the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program that I am participating in. 

Yes! The first question! I had been waiting for it! I couldn't wait to respond and I loved the topic. I sat down that night and wrote my first post. I was so excited and I tweeted it out to the hashtag and waited for the others to appear. 


I had done it again. I should have waited. I was just excited but all of a sudden I felt awkward after posting first. Since then, there have been several posts on the topic and the awkward feeling is gone. Maybe no one noticed or even cared that mine was first. But I'll definitely wait next time until I see a few posts before adding mine. 

I need to remember that it's not all about sharing. It's about listening. I want to listen more and I want to learn. I'm going to try to apply this idea of waiting and listening to any conversations whether they are face-to-face, on Twitter, Facebook, Voxer,  and even email. I'm going to try more to listen and learn before throwing my thoughts out there. I look forward to hearing the voices of others, and I can't wait to see what I notice.

All right, stop
Collaborate and listen

Who knew Eminem was so wise?

All right, stop
Collaborate and listen

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Unplugged Day 2

October is Connected Educator month and I have to say that I feel connected to so many awesome educators in so many ways! We chat via Voxer, connect on Twitter, Facebook, and even face to face. I love it and I have never been more inspired. Yesterday I wrote about being unplugged in Santa Cruz and then I read an amazing post by Anne Schaefer-Salinas about taking time to connect with ourselves and our families. I couldn't agree more. 

Like Anne, I have a hard time just "being". I don't do sitting still well and I too have many things on the fire. I like to be busy. But when I stay home I just don't do a great job of being unplugged. I do read, and have been known to spend a whole day in my jammies just to finish a book. But when I am at home, there are dogs to feed, fur to be vacuumed, laundry to be folded and dishes to put away. I never feel like I can really unwind when I'm at home. 

I feel like Southwest Airlines. Wanna get away? Yes! This summer we took a trip down the coast from Cambria to Santa Barbara, exploring missions and the ocean. This week, I'm in Santa Cruz . Another mission and the ocean. But I also realize something. It's not really about getting away and doing stuff. What do I really love? Sleeping in. No alarm clock. Having time to read, to walk, to blog. To practice my iPhoneography skills. Did I mention this hotel has robes? 

Sitting still. 

Have I checked my email while I'm here? Have I sent a tweet or a vox? Sure. But at least I can just be. 
Right now I'm blogging from my iPad, something I'd never done until yesterday. 

Keeping it simple. Unplugged? Mostly. But I'm happy and that feels good.

How do you unplug?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


There is something to be said for getting away for a few days.
Listening to the sound of the ocean.
Sitting still. 
When I stay home, I never seem to unplug-always checking my email and I invariably end up doing work. Whenever I can, I try to get away, even if it's just for a day or two, resting and recharging so that I can return to school inspired and ready to take on anything that comes my way.
This year for the first time we have a fall break. A week off. 
Right now it seems like the best idea ever. 
This girl is happy to be unplugged.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Like an onion. #savmp

This post will be one of many this year as I reflect and learn about being a leader as part of the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program, or #savmp. I'm totally excited and honored to have Jessica Johnson as my mentor! I'm looking forward to really digging deeper into what I do as a school leader and how I can improve the work I do with students, teachers, families, and other educators.

The first question focuses on the idea of creating strong relationships to build a solid foundation in your school.

“What are some ways you connect with your school community?”

I read this question this morning and I have been thinking about it all day. 
So many layers. 
Like an onion.
My first thoughts focused on the different tech tools I use to communicate with families. And then my thoughts went to my commute. I don't live in Sacramento-- my commute is about 35 minutes, which can make it challenging to feel like I'm part of the community where I work. I even looked up dictionary definitions for the word connect. 

None of them exactly right. 
So many layers, like an onion.
But I did find one that I liked more than the others.

"to form a relationship"

As a school administrator, what are the things I do each day to connect, to form a relationship with my school community? 


Another word with many layers. 
Students. Teachers. Families. Other educators.
Like an onion.

What do I do every day to form a relationship with students, teachers, families, and other educators? I run through my day in my mind.

7:45 am... drop-off. My school has no buses, so all 355 students arrive by car. I love drop off. Every day, rain or shine, I'm out there... opening doors and saying good morning. It's one of my favorite parts of my day. I know it's how I learned the names of most of my students. Now, I'm learning the names of the little siblings in the car who are our future students. I love it when they wave at me and smile. 

Lunch. This year my lunch buddies are my TK friends. They are all five or almost five. Almost every day I spend lunch with them. I'll tell you it's because we need a little extra supervision, but really I hate to miss it. They are so funny and I could listen to them talk all day. Finally, yesterday, I know all of them by name. 

Pick up ends my day and those same kids arriving in the morning are lined up to go home. Again, in 30 minutes, I see almost every student in my school, and many parents. I'm directing traffic and smiling except for the one time I tripped and ended up with a bloody knee. 

I once worked in a school where a parent asked me who "that lady" was. She was our principal. I hope that never happens to me.

There are other things I do to form relationships with students and teachers. Every Monday is No Office Day for me and on that day I schedule no meetings and spend my day with students and teachers- some times teaching, always learning. 

I also teach an after school Minecraft Maker Club with Joe Wood and a parent so that we can explore different tech tools and maker space ideas in a small group before rolling it out school-wide. So far the kids have built a house in our MinecraftEdu server world and built a cardboard game as part of our first DIY challenge. Later this year I'll be leading choir with our Spanish teacher before school on Wednesdays. I can't wait!

And there are the tech tools. I love technology, but really the BEST thing about technology is the power it has to connect us to others and the world. My favorite tech tools include Remind for text messaging families important information about school. AudioBoom allows me to record student voices so they can tell the story of our school and it's published to our school website. We have a school blog and a closed Facebook Group for parents. Twitter and Instagram also let the community know what's happening in our school, not only for current families, but future families as well. 


So many layers.
Like an onion.
Always growing.

image credit

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

You've got a friend: Who I lean on

I love this song, released in 1971, the year I was born. My mom played the record all the time and to this day I think I could sing all of the songs from the Tapestry album. Tonight I played the YouTube video and was both transported and transfixed at the same time. How can a song as old as I am be relevant to my life today? The technology of the time was the telephone and was the only way to reach out and call a friend.

In 2014, we have so many ways to reach out- email, text, phone, Twitter, Google Hangout, Skype, and more. Connecting is easy, and yet it's easy to feel alone. I love my job as a school administrator, but there are days and weeks when I feel overwhelmed, under-appreciated, ineffective, and alone, even while spending my days surrounded by passionate teachers and smiling kids. Even when I'm struggling, I put on a smile and try to sparkle the best I can.

Some days it's harder than others. This week, we had a sub shortage for two days. I ended up teaching a half day of 4th grade yesterday and a half day of TK today so that our teachers could attend a long-planned PD. I loved every minute with the kids, but I also couldn't stop thinking about my to-do list that I just can't seem to conquer lately. 

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm not cut out for this.

Then, today, I had about 10 minutes before I picked up the 5-year-olds from lunch and I checked into my Voxer group, a group of school leaders from all over who chat pretty much every day about leader-ish things- challenges, highlights, inspirational video links, and a few shout outs to the San Francisco Giants. All I did was listen.

Eric Saibel, someone I have never met in person, saved me today. Hearing his voice and the things he was saying made me feel less alone. One by one others chimed in and shared their day, their thoughts and struggles.

I didn't even have to reach out. This walkie-talkie app connects us in a way I never expected.

I'm blown away.

You've got a friend. Winter, spring, summer or fall. All you have to do is call.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#savmp or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

It's kind of like this...

image credit Urban Dictionary

I'm convinced that six degrees of Kevin Bacon is real-- not that I'm connected to Kevin Bacon in any way other than my love for Footloose, but I think the idea that any one of us can be connected to something big in or as Wikipedia states, "any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart,"  is true. And I can prove it! 

Let's take #SAVMP for example. I'm totally excited to be participating in the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program this year! If you aren't familiar with it, here's a little info from the #SAVMP blog:

This year, I'm excited to be mentored by Jessica Johnson, an amazing principal who I have been inspired by for a long time! This connection to #SAVMP and Jessica can be traced in less than six steps!

Here are my six degrees of Kevin Bacon:

Summer 2012 I met Joe and learned about Google Apps 

Summer 2012 I also discover The Book Whisperer who says,
"Get on Twitter! Best PD ever! You can do it in your PJ's!"

So I get on Twitter and my life changes. I discover amazing blogs!
Could I blog? Maybe!

Linda Yollis inspires me to start a classroom blog in 2012. In 2013,
after getting a new job as an adminstrator, I start my own blog--
following and being inspired by other principal bloggers,
including Jessica  Johnson.

And Adam Welcome, who rocks! After reading about his school,
 I visited his school in Martinez, CA and we've been connected ever since!
Adam suggested #SAVMP to me about a month ago.

October 2014-- I'm accepted to #SAVMP and am totally
stoked to be mentored by Jessica Johnson- the inspiration
for my staff blog and the book doors all around our school!

So there you have it! 

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Let the dancing begin!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

October is Connected Educator month! #ce14

October is Connected Educator month and I thought I would take some time to reflect on how being connected has changed, no transformed my life both personally and professionally. The summer of 2012 seems like it was just yesterday, but the day I learned about Google Apps from Joe Wood at the Area 3 Writing Project Summer Institute was the day my life changed. Sound silly? Google? Life changing? YES! Because that was the day I realized I could connect with anyone, anywhere and that technology was magic!

Then, I heard Donalyn Miller speak and she said that we all needed to get on Twitter. Best PD ever and you can do it in your pajamas. Twitter? Wasn't that just for celebrities? I decided to follow her advice. Best decision ever! Follow Donalyn and read The Book Whisperer!

Once I got the hang of Twitter, I realized that many of the amazing educators, authors, and librarians I was following were also blogging to reflect about their learning, leading, and reading lives. After Joe Wood suggested I connect with Linda Yollis, an elementary blogger, I started blogging with my first grade class, mostly about books since I wasn't sure what else to blog about! My students and families loved it! And then I left the classroom. Uh oh! What would I blog about? So I jumped in and started a personal blog. Here's a link to my first post.

Since then, it's been a whirlwind of AWESOME! Somehow, that day learning about Google has transformed my life in a way I could never have imagined. I have met so many amazing people via Twitter, at conferences, through blogging, and by having the opportunity to work with educators from all over as they begin their journey with technology. Here's a map with just some of the places I went last year to connect and learn! And just in the past month, I've gotten to connect face-to-face with educators in Glenn and Butte County, Roseville, Petaluma, and Sacramento, and some tweets from educators connecting.

Virtually, I'm now part of several Voxer groups who connect via a free walkie talkie app and my commute is now my daily source of inspiration! A blog post inspired on Voxer that I co-wrote with 3 other principals was recently published on Ed week! Amy Fadeji, an awesome principal from Petaluma visited our school to talk about getting our whole staff on Twitter! And just this morning I found out that Jessica Johnson, the Principal of the Year from Wisconsin is my virtual mentor for the year, thanks to a suggestion from Adam Welcome. Every day gets better and better. 

Digital tools can connect us to each other, and can also connect your district, classroom, or school to your families, your community, and the world. The kids in our school are telling our story through blogging, Instagram, and now AudioBoom! Below, check out what they have to say about what is happening in our school. Kids can be connected, too! 

Happy Connected Educator month! I look forward to connecting with you and hearing your story!

#noofficeday September

I'm loving my Mondays and being out of the office and in classrooms with teachers and kids. September has been CRAZY BUSY and although I have definitely been out of my office each Monday, I've gotten behind on blogging about it. So, this week's post includes some highlights from the past few weeks. My biggest takeaway so far is that our kids and teachers are awesome!

I'm also loving AudioBoom, a new tool for me that allows me to record what kids have to say and have it posted right away. Check out what our kids have to say!