What I Learned in 2013

It is no secret to anyone who knows me for longer than 10 minutes that I LOVE the Holidays. Not just this time of the year, but ALL of them. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Valentines Day, you name it. Each of these special days has a special purpose in my mind. During the New Year’s celebration, I always like to take a look back at the year that has just ended and reflect on what I have learned. Here is my list for 2013.

Your Health is the Most Important thing You Have

August and September were trying months for me and my family, but not for the reasons most educators would think. I was diagnosed with two blocked arteries on August 28th and had a double bypass on September 5th. It was a shock, to say the least. One of the many lessons I have learned from that experience is that we, all of us, need to take better care of ourselves. I improved my diet, lowered my cholesterol and just a few weeks ago I was cleared to get back not the gym. This is not a New Year’s resolution type of thing. This was a life altering event that forced me to reevaluate my priorities. I’ve said it in an earlier blog, but you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.

Twitter is a Powerful Professional Development Tool

I had dabbled in Twitter for a while. But this year I discovered the power of developing a Personal Learning Network. I began by organizing the people I follow by using Tweetdeck. From there, I started to investigate Twitter chats. Then I participated in one, and I was hooked. Not only do I get to interact with  other educators from across the country (and the world), but I get some great ideas and expand my network each time I participate. I learn something new with each chat as well. I now have eight chats that I regularly follow. I have these on my calendar as recurring events and I participate whenever I can. If you have not utilized Twitter you are missing out.

There are many Other PD Opportunities as Well

Besides Twitter, I also took advantage of some other fabulous and FREE professional development opportunities. I started using a reader app called Feedly. This allows me to organize the blogs and websites I have started following into categories. This allows me to read and keep up with a lot of information in a small amount of time. I use these blogs to learn, but also to find information I can share with my staff and PLN. I use Diigo to archive all my bookmarks and share them with  teachers.

Technology Can Assist in Informing the Community and Keep Me Organized

I  utilize an e-mail app to send weekly updates to my parents. I include important dates and events that are coming up, remind them about what is going on this week and tell them about things that are coming up. I also use Remind101 to send texts to staff members with important announcements. I also use Twitter and Facebook to keep my parents informed. Tweetdeck has become a reliable way to organize by PLN and make it easier to learn. I absolutely live in Evernote.

Things I was Reminded of

These are things that I already knew, but as I reflect back on the year I am reminded of their importance. Here is a brief list:

  • Team is critical. I love my staff. They work hard, are dedicated, and are always looking for ways to improve their craft. I am nothing without them.
  • School is not a business. It should not be run like one or function like one. It is ALL about people and relationships…period.
  • Technology is not a fad. It is here to stay and we better do every thing possible to catch up to our kids.
  • What we do is stressful. We need to take every opportunity we can to enjoy the good stuff. Concerts, athletics, academic celebrations, time in the classroom…set time aside every day to do this.
  • Testing and test scores are NOT what we do. We help kids dream, focus, explore, learn, grow and discover themselves. Show me a test that measures that.
  • For some kids in every school, regardless of SES or location, we are the only positive thing they see all day long. We need to remember that.

I wish all of you a wonderful 2014.

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Professional Development, Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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