Coming From a Place of… “No”?

monkey-557586_1280I love feeling creative and thinking out of the box to solve problems, design new programs, and connect with teachers and students in different ways. This has normally been met with general success throughout my life and career, which has allowed me to continue the cycle of coming up with an idea, telling the right person (or people) about it, and then planning, executing, and reflecting on the successes and failures of the project. This cycle ultimately depends upon the answer to my initial request being something along the lines of “Yes. Go ahead and try _______. Sounds like a good idea. Here are a few things to consider, but I believe in you. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!” Or something along these lines, but always “Yes.” A question I’ve been considering lately, however, is: “What if the Answer is ‘No’?” Not every organization or workplace is receptive to new ideas, or is flexible enough to allow for a degree of risk and uncertainty. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the end of the day, in order to maintain some degree of personal and professional forward momentum as well as to maintain the desire to be creative and forward-thinking in the workplace, it’s become imperative to make the “No” meaningful to me in some way.

It is far too easy to get frustrated after several rejections and just stop trying new ideas altogether. That doesn’t work for me, however, because NOT thinking about improvement, current trends, etc. is almost more frustrating and unsatisfying than making proposals that are ultimately rejected! So I say embrace the rejection, accept the “No”, but use it to investigate the underlying causes of the rejection. Maybe I didn’t talk to the right person to obtain the proper clearance along my path toward approval; maybe the reasons for the proposal weren’t articulated well enough; maybe the potential risk factors were not addressed enough; maybe it was TOO “out there”, and I could have taken a smaller step first; maybe there are political factors involved. All of these are considerations about which to be curious, and I am trying to consciously analyze my more recent proposals to preemptively identify any of these potential pitfalls. Even with my most recent failure, I am trying to take a philosophical approach and consider the factors I’ve laid out here when I reflect on the reasons for its rejection. Rejections also help me understand the organization’s values and beliefs on a deeper level.

Rejection is never easy. Having a growth mindset about it, however, can turn the very real disappointment– and sometimes hurt– into a valuable learning opportunity. It’s a work in progress, but that’s my new plan!


Loving Twitter Part 2: Official School Twitter Accounts + Administrators


As much of a crusader as I am for Twitter as professional development and crucial to the formation of a personal learning network (remember, it’s like for PD!), I’m even more passionate and strident about how important it is for school communities. Yes, Twitter is just one of many social media applications used by students and adults, but I argue that it and Facebook are at the moment the only two that are used widely enough to have significant value to school communities in the ways that I will address in this post. Google+ is amazing, has tons of potential, and is a topic for another post, but it isn’t where the school community (students, teachers, parents, board members, community members, etc.) currently hangs out in their spare time.

There are two major things to recognize when it comes to leveraging the power of social media in schools: one, that schools are vastly underutilizing social media to tell their stories, and two, that if schools thoughtfully, intentionally use social media WITH students, they are powerfully modelling responsible social networking. This post will focus on the power of leveraging social media to tell the school’s story and to connect with the school community, while in a future post I will look more specifically at using Twitter with students. First, if schools consider their communities of students, teachers, parents, board members, community members and media, the one place that almost all of these stakeholders spend some amount of time is on Facebook. I’ll talk about Facebook in a future post. But for now, I want to focus on Twitter. The first objection to Twitter might be that not many of these stakeholders are on it. I think that if you take a “If you build it, they will come” approach, and make it clear what is on your school Twitter feed that doesn’t exist elsewhere, provide ample opportunities and trainings to learn how to use Twitter, and make it satisfying to people by engaging with them, asking and answering questions, and posting lots and lots of media, it can become a place that people start WANTING to visit because of what they find when they do. This won’t work without a dedicated, consistent effort on the school’s part, however, and that’s where administrators come in.

I believe that most school administrators should have a personal professional Twitter account. A very common response by administrators is that they don’t have time to tweet. This is likely true as it stands now– that’s where the technology director/integrator/person in charge of managing the Twitter account can help by providing scaffolding. Just like with students! If that person schedules ten minutes, even every other day, to help the administrator tweet, it has the potential to flip the switch for that admin to understand the power of engaging with the community on Twitter. Even if the administrator tweets just a few times a week it can be extremely meaningful for the school community.

It is very unlikely, however, that top level administrators will be able to manage the school’s official Twitter account. This job should go to someone who ideally does not have a teaching load (or at least not much of one) and who has a passion for and understanding of Twitter. They should commit to tweeting from the school account at least once (ideally 3-5 times) per day in order for the feed to have momentum and fresh content. They should also commit to responding to messages and mentions whenever possible in order to encourage community members to connect with the school on Twitter.  Other ideas for what to tweet include any major announcements that might affect a large part of the school community (school closings, late starts, event cancellations, etc.); upcoming events (include images/video whenever possible); celebrations and achievements; any time the school is in the local media (include links to the media); links to student publications; and anything else that provides a window into the life of the school. This will help the community (especially those who are not actually IN the school building regularly) understand school culture and see it as a community of students and caring adults, instead of as a faceless entity. You never know when this might come in handy, such as at times of referenda, school board voting, local media stories, etc.

Schools have nothing to lose, but so much to gain by creating and effectively using (and promoting) official school Twitter accounts. Notable examples of Twitter accounts from both schools and administrators include: Leyden High Schools (@LeydenPride); Bettendorf High School (@bhspride); Peel School Board (@PeelSchools); elementary school principal Tony Sinanis (@TonySinanis); Sunlake High School Principal (@slhsprincipal); and high school principal Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey).

Who am I missing? I am always looking for more schools and tweeting administrators to follow!