The #E-Tickets 2012

Typically at this time of year I reflect on personal and professional goals and accomplishments and yes, make a few resolutions for the new year.

This year, after reading George Couros‘ post, The #Georgies2012, I’m inspired to create my own compilation of things and experiences I enjoyed this year.   In addition to sharing my professional side in this blog, I agree with George Couros and believe in the value of sharing a personal side of who I am.  After all, my personal side helps fuel my professional work.  The 2011-12 school year marked the beginning of my principalship.  I will confess, because the responsibilities of being a single administrator at an elementary school of approximately 600 students, a faculty and staff of about 40 adults learners, and a dedicated cadre of 20-30 parent volunteers, my life is currently tipping more towards my professional side which is to be expected with a new position and new responsibilities.  That being said, I have two main reasons to archive my personal interests here and to begin to keep track of them yearly.  The first reason is to remind myself of my personal side and make sure it thrives no matter the working conditions.  The other reason to archive my interests yearly is to track my own tastes and trends. Knowledge of ones self is beneficial in many ways.  (Just today, while cleaning out my closet,  I discovered trends in my fashion silhouettes and colors, no matter the size.)

“The Georgies” is a very cute name for George Couros’ list of random likes.  As I said, inspired by his blog, as I often am, I am creating the “E-Tickets,” (“The Emilys” doesn’t sound good to me at all, and “Emily’s List” is already taken.)  I like the E-Tickets. It’s a call back to my childhood when tickets were required for rides at Disneyland and E-Tickets were for the popular rides for which I’d ask my parents to buy more tickets so I could enjoy the fun over and over again.

As I said, my life is currently tipping more towards the professional side.  I have not read a book for pleasure in while.  I’m hoping summer vacation, 2013 will present time to lounge with a good work of fiction.  For now, the things listed on this year’s “E-Tickets” are a compilation of my professional and personal side, they may have a direct educational or professional connection, or not. In any case, the things listed brought me some degree of joy throughout the day, the week, the months and the year.

Favorite Workout: Spinning!! In November of 2011, I was diagnosed with a bilateral emboli, (two blood clots on my lungs, one on each.  I appreciate symmetry).  I humbly recognize I am blessed to be here and healthy, as others that year with the same diagnosis died in 2011. As part of my recovery, I started walking, graduated to “slogging” (a slow jog), and completed the Superbowl 10K to celebrate my healing.  After training for the 10K, I wanted a new challenge.  The music from the spinning class at the gym lured me in, and I’ve been hooked all year, cultivated new friendships, and feel my body getting stronger and able to take on new challenges.

Favorite Creative Outlet: iPhoneography!!  While attending the 2012 CUE conference in Palms Springs, my friend Mathew Needleman invited me to an iPhoneography workshop led by Nicole Dalesio  After the workshop, like the spinning class, I was hooked!  iPhoneography is a simple and practical creative outlet!   My iPhone is with me 99.9% of the time and during which I can use my iPhone to shoot, edit and share photos anytime, anywhere, literally within the time it takes standing in line at the grocery store!  By following  amazingly talented iPhoneographers like Nicole and Josh Johnson who share their how-tos to create the work they’ve posted on various sites like
Tumblr or Instagram.  By connecting with various artists about their work,  I’ve cultivated new friendships, broadened and strengthened my perspectives and creative abilities.

Favorite Song: Diamonds in the Sky by Rihanna. (Really?..I know..yes, really.) When it comes to music, I’m a jazz and old school R & B kinda gal. After all the years, Tom Brown’s trumpet in Funkin’ For Jamaica is still guaranteed to get me movin’ and groovin’. This song, “Diamonds”, I actually downloaded the ring tone, something I’ve never done before.  The opening lyric, I relate to when Rihanna sings, “I chose to be happy.”  So shine bright like a diamond in the sky….I know I’m quoting a Rihanna song..oh well…Shine bright!

Favorite TV Show:  Scandal. Yes, I know Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is a flawed heroine.  No, I don’t condone extra marital affairs.  Yes, I aspire daily to be a “gladiator in suits.”

Favorite Concerts: Sade and Charlie Wilson.  A minimal set themed in red, black and white, was the back-drop to Sade’s welcome back tour accompanied by her band. Together they put on an incredible show where the music was the show.  On a different note, I’ve been a fan of the Gap Band since sophomore year in high school.  The group retired and Charlie Wilson carries on the legacy.  Charlie Wilson’s show does have a few extra dancers, but his classic R & B voice and his music are still center stage.

Favorite Restaurants:  Taste and Red O.  I’m a foodie, which is another reason I’m thrilled with my spin class.  I discovered Taste from a colleague’s husband who is a chef.  Friends took me for my birthday, and I was hooked. (I see a trend here).  The meatballs, truffle mac and cheese were all incredible and well worth the extra time at the gym…..Red O is another favorite restaurant, not so much because of the food, but because of the ambiance.  The dinning environment is beautiful!  The food is ok.  I return for the duck taquitos and jalapeño cocktail.

Favorite Book: Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William Bridges, PhD.  As the author explains, it’s not change that can be fatal, it’s the transitions.  As a new principal I’m in transition leading a school that’s in transition within a district in transition.  I have a paper copy of the book, downloaded it on my iPad and my iPhone. The author provides practical step-by-step strategies to help managers navigate the transitions of the ever constant changes in an organization.

Favorite Ted Talk: Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work.  I stumbled on this video last year and after watching it, decided immediately to share it with my staff at the opening of our new school year.  Based on the talk, we started keeping track of the things, people, places for which we are grateful.  The research is clear about benefits of happiness at work.  As educators our work is literally life-changing, and being happy at work and about our work is vital.

Favorite New Cookie Recipe: Oatmeal Carmelitas, (aka “Oooie gooie goodness), and Oatmeal white chocolate, cranberry and walnut cookies, (a revision of Ina Garten’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, with added white chocolate, cranberries and walnuts instead of raisins and pecans, bake for 20 min.)

Before winter break the Leadership committee hosted a holiday cookie-exchange after work. (Coincidentally, there is a body of research pointing out the happiness cookies create in the brain.) Every cookie was worth every bite, and yes, more time at the gym. I added two new recipes to my dessert portfolio.

Favorite Podcast:  Practical Principals!  Melinda Miller and Scott Elias, two principals who’ve never met face to face, create a great show of practical tips, advice and experiences of being a public school principal.  The show is about “what you didn’t learn in grad school.”

That completes the list of “E-Tickets” for 2012.  It was a good year.  Looking forward to more “E-Tickets” in 2013!  What are your top 10 favorites for 2012?

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The Birth Announcement

The Birth Announcement

It’s my first blog post, ever and I feel the need to explain.

The Name-A Little Context

One description of the Renaissance, according to wikipedia, includes words like, “dissemination of ideas, resurgence of learning, intellectual transformation, gradual but widespread educational reform.” All words fittingly describing the two purposes for my blog:

1. A place to document and reflect on my process, practice and learnings as an elementary school principal.

2. Connect and share with other school administrators.

The birth of my blog, A Principal’s Renaissance.

The Conception

It kind of all started with wanting to create an avatar. Around this time last summer. I thought I wanted to become an elementary school principal, and applied to an elementary school in Los Angeles who wanted, among other things, “a collaborative, hands-on instructionally focused administrator, who understands how technology compliments traditional educational practices.” Although I wasn’t on the “cutting edge” of using technology in my instructional practice, I wasn’t on the fence either. I heard about the “digital divide” at a CUE conference and made a personal pledge to take action to close that gap. I had a laptop, an iPhone and was about to purchase an iPad. I believed these devices had an authentic and valuable place in school in the hands of learners. How to use those types of devices meaningfully in an instructional setting was a guiding question I had just begun to explore in my work as a Reading Intervention Instructional Coach, the position I held prior to taking the leap into administration.

Towards the end of summer, I received “the call.” I got the job. My knees started to tingle. Had I’d been standing I would’ve had to sit down. Because I was driving, I had to pull over. I phoned Mathew Needleman, one of my “life-lines.” I confessed my fears and doubts about becoming an administrator at this school. Yes, I’m fascinated by the use of technology. Yes, I’m a collaborator. I know no other way to work. I even collaborate with myself by processing out loud! Yes, I love learning, discovering, practicing, reflecting and celebrating. While I don’t like failing, I respect and value it’s importance as a necessary step in the whole learning cycle. Without some degree of failure, or skip it, innovation will not happen. And yes, I am passionate about instruction and teaching.

“Those are the reasons you’ll make a great administrator, Mathew said. “You’re a passionate learner. That’s what a great administrator is. You’re also a good cheerleader. Teachers and students need their principal to cheer for them, to support them. You’re funny and like to have fun. Teaching and learning are hard work and you’ll bring fun and humor to the work place.”

I knew then as I still do now, and candidly stated to the interview panel, that there is SO much more I didn’t know about being an administrator, but I know I’m a dedicated teacher, and collaborator, which means I know how to learn and I know how I need to learn.

That being said, I survived the first year with a few minor set backs that propelled me forward on the path to achieving a few of my personal and professional goals, one of which was to learn about my team of teachers.

It’s a Girl! The Principal is a Life-long Learner

My school has a reputation for its digital edge program. Because technology is constantly evolving, I thought the teachers and staff were comfortable with the change learning brings. Needing to “catch-up” to where I thought the staff was in their knowledge and understanding of how to use technology in the classroom, offered me the opportunity to lead by being open about the learning I needed to do and continue doing. I asked my teachers and my students to teach me. I went to workshops, participated in webinars, used youtube as an independent study partner and joined the technology PLC in our administrative district meetings. I shared my learnings and invited all teachers to participate. I started reading What School Leaders Need to Know About Technologies and Social Media and invited the technology committee to start a professional book club. That led us to CUE, then to ISTE12!

The Christening: “Cue to the Future” and “Connect, Consume and Contribute!”

Four teachers on the tech committee came with me to CUE and we were “born-again.” Returning as evangelists, I invited the entire staff to attend ISTE12. One of my teachers accepted. We went and were transformed! It was like a church revival! We went to a welcoming event to become acclimated to features of the conference. They encouraged us to tweet, to use web 2.0 tools to connect, and form professional learning communities or networks, to share our learnings and engage in the conversation. I sent out a tweet and received a mention!

Fate led me to The Daring Librarian hosting a session in the Digital Playground about creating avatars. I started following her on twitter. She pushed me to “break the egg,” post a photo, create profile and go public. She shared her wikis and blog with me and invited me into her PLN. Once I clicked on the link, I knew I’d never sleep again. Inspiration ignited!

Thank you Gweneth!

By way of web 2.0 tools, I was introduced immediately to and started following some of the most thoughtful, reflective, supportive, generous and innovative educational leaders from around the world!

Now that I’m connected, and am consuming, I’m inspired to contribute. The Daring Librarian encouraged me to blog. “About what? I asked myself aloud. I’m learning how to use “all of this.” As if on que, “Summer Blogging Challenge” from George Couros , arrives! In his post he writes:

“I would like to just offer an idea for people that are either trying to start a blog, or give themselves a jumpstart. Sitting with David Wees last night, he reiterated the importance of a blog as being his space for learning, which is something that I think is extremely important. This modeling of learning is something that I really believe we need to do as educators/leaders. Often though, many people are trying to have the next great original idea, when blogging is a great space to just share thoughts on what they are learning.”

His blog post reminds me about the humility and confidence in being a learner. As a principal, as an “experienced learner” George Courous’ post gave me the support and the structure to push past the fear, and “just do it!” WRITE!

Thank you George!

In the new school year I’m inviting my teachers to blog about their learning (including #learn365), as am I. This blog post reminds me that yes, my teachers are “experienced learners” who also need support in their learning process.

In your school what supports and structures do you provide for your teachers to feel safe and to document, reflect and share their practice as elementary school teachers?

So, thats it! My “great space” or place to document, reflect and share learning is born!

I’m excited!