Growing up, I loved school. I was a social kid who loved interacting with my friends in class, at lunch, and at recess. School itself I could take or leave. When most of your days consist of direct instruction, worksheet, rinse and repeat, you tend to learn to just turn in your work and hope for the best. Even in elementary school.
That all changed when I took a leap of faith to go to the Downtown Law, Public & Social Service Magnet High School. Downtown was a magnet high school for juniors and seniors located in Wichita’s City Hall. Our school was a project based high school where we were asked to dig in and learn by doing. We were also provided mentors in our areas of interest to help us learn about the real world while interning at their place of business.
To say the transition between my traditional high school and Downtown was life changing would not be an exaggeration.
When you go from the traditional classroom to one where you are solving real world problems, there is a major shift from being spoon-fed knowledge to having to work for every morsel of information. I was no longer just going through the motions of school. I was fully immersed and an active participant in my learning for the first time in my life.
As an educator, I know there is power in direct instruction. I know that sometimes a worksheet is appropriate. But, I also know that there is nothing more powerful than letting kids dig in and discover. I know that giving them ownership of their education gives them so much more buy-in to what you are asking them to learn.
I lead because I hope to influence teachers to think outside the box. I hope that we can give students opportunities to take their learning to the next level. I want to make it the norm that we give students real world problems that they have to solve in creative ways by researching and creating. I want my students to have the same excitement I did when I went to the magnet school.
Finally, I lead because I want my own children to have the opportunity to learn the way I did. Problem and project based learning isn’t just a concept for me; it’s a mission.
A few years ago, I was sitting at EdCampKS learning about why I should be on Twitter. They told me all about how I could use Twitter to build my PLN (professional learning network) and follow other educators to learn about new ideas to add to my classroom. So, I signed up....and then quickly forgot all about it. Why? I didn't see the value. I had no idea who to follow and I didn't understand the hashtag business! I just seemed to be floating around Twitter-space with no sense of direction.
About a year later, I was sitting at another conference called Podstock. Podstock is an awesome conference held by ESSDACK every year in Wichita that attracts amazing educators and presenters from all over the country. And guess what? These people were on Twitter and doing it well. Luckily for me, they had a Twitter 101 class just for teachers like me...teachers who might be on it, but had zero idea how to put it to use. That class opened my eyes to all the possibilities. I finally got it! I totally understood why I should be on Twitter connecting with others from all over the world. This was truly a game changer.
When I was switching roles from teacher to building principal, it was a no brainer that I needed to start connecting with other principals across the country. I started looking for hashtags related to principals and stumbled upon #PrincipalsInAction. I loved the feel of this hashtag because it was all about being positive and finding ways to connect with kids. The mission of #principalsinaction is clear: be seen, be in the classrooms, help teach, be a voice for the students....and above all else...do what's best for kids, even if it makes adults uncomfortable.
What's scary is that Twitter is just the beginning. There are so many other ways to connect with educators and learn. The power of social media in education is powerful and I know that I would not be the educator I am today without it.
Principal of PreK-6th Grade