Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#SAVMP: Our Perspectives

I wanted to post some collective thoughts on the School Administrator Virtual Mentoring Program I have been a part of for the past year. #SAVMP connects current and aspiring administrators from around the world and I was so lucky to even participate in the program. My fellow mentee (@JohnFritzky) and my mentor (@TonySinanis) wanted to contribute a collaborative blog post that summarized our experience learning from each other.

You will find similiar posts to mine on John's blog here:
And on Tony's blog here:
I am looking forward to expanding #savmp within my own school district and am so grateful to the work of George Couros and Amber Teamann to connect us. This was an awesome example of how a PLN can really help us grow together.
1. Why did I sign up for #SAVMP?
Andrew: I was an Assistant Dean and Social Studies teacher in a high school setting  when I first heard about #SAVMP. I knew it was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow as a school leader. I was interested in connecting with people from outside my PLN and outside my district. I think the perspective that the program offered afforded me a great opportunity to learn more about leadership. I did not know what to expect when we first started but I knew that I had absolutely nothing to lose by signing up.

John: I saw a post on Twitter from George Couros about developing a mentorship program for new administrators. At the time I was finishing up my Educational Leadership program and wanted to continue to learn from others, I knew this would be a great way to continue my learning.
Tony: I was entering my ninth year as an elementary level building administrator and for the first time in my career, I genuinely felt like I might have something to offer a new or aspiring educational leader. The possibility of mentoring someone was of interest to me because as an educator I feel it is my responsibility to support and encourage those new to the field - to possibly help them avoid some of the landmines I hit during the early stages of my career and meet with greater levels of success. Also, it was clear to me that being paired with people through a mentoring program meant that I would do a lot of learning myself and that is always a priority for me. The appeal of #SAVMP was that it was using Twitter as the platform for the mentoring experience and that definitely spoke to my interests and made me feel like it would be much more manageable.

2. How did #SAVMP help you learn and grow as an administrator?
Andrew: I am one of those people who claim, “I have never won anything in my life”... until now. I won the lottery by getting Tony Sinanis as my mentor. He immediately reached out to me through twitter and we began learning together right away. He gave me feedback on my blog posts and encouraged me to stretch my thinking as a school leader. I think more than anything, #SAVMP exposed me to a different type of school leader than I have observed in my career. There’s power in learning from someone across the country who works with a different population. There’s agency in a process that encourages sharing of ideas and leadership styles. My interaction with my mentor provided all of that, and more. As I began to interview for different administrative jobs, I scheduled Google Hangouts and phone calls with my mentor. Tony was an amazing asset to have in my corner- always coaching me on the logistics of answering questions but also giving me the confidence I needed to be successful.

John: By taking on a mentor who is completely outside of my own school, district, and state I knew it would allow me a chance to look at education, and leadership through a completely different lense. When I was partnered with Tony Sinanis, I knew I was extremely fortunate. Tony reached out to me and immediately began to develop a relationship with me that went beyond the world of Twitter. Tony invited me to his school to see how his school functions and what a typical day looks like for him. I was immediately blown away. It is easy for someone to state what they believe on Twitter or in a blog post, but it another thing completely to turn those beliefs into reality. That is what Tony Sinanis has done at Cantiague Elementary school in Jericho, New York. We spent the entire day in classrooms and I was treated like a celebrity by the student just because I knew Mr. Sinanis. The students at his school absolutely love him because Tony sees them as children, not test scores. He knows EVERY student’s name and can talk to them about their individual interests. I left Cantiague knowing I had a great of work to do to build these types of relationships at my own school. However, I was comforted by the fact that I had seen a great school in action and if Tony could do it, so could I. Throughout the year I would throw questions at Tony about how he would handle different situations and no matter how busy he was, he was always able to get back to me and give me a piece of advice.

Tony: From my vantage point, it is clear that I learned so much more from Andrew and John than they did from me. Their enthusiasm, passion and willingness to take risks in their current roles was an incredible inspiration for me. They provided me opportunities to dialogue about leadership, the current landscape of public education, pedagogy and a bunch of other topics that I am incredibly passionate about and love discussing. Through our conversations and exchanges - whether through email, Voxer, text, in person, through a GHO, I was able to deliberate with them and broaden my point of view and perspectives, which helped me become a better leader and educator. I have done a lot of research about the idea of social learning and the power of learning through social interactions with other like-minded people and the #SAVMP became just that for me - I was learning something through every interaction I had with John and Andrew and was fortunate to be associated with them. Being that I technically had the title of mentor in this relationship, the highlights for me were the successes that Andrew and John experienced this year - John successfully completing his first year as a building administrator; Andrew securing his first administrative position; John pushing me to participate in national podcasts with our kids; and Andrew becoming a father. These are just some of the highlights and in the end, it is an honor to be associated with these incredible educators who have become friends and mentors for me.  
3. What will this program mean for you going forward?
Andrew: I am so thankful to Amber and George for helping me connect to some great leaders in our field. I would love to continue on as a #SAVMP mentor or mentee to continue learning and blogging. I was not able to answer all of the blog topics every week so I am excited to double back to some of them in the future. I would also like to start a mini-admin mentoring program in my own school district using #SAVMP as a model.

John: I am grateful for the opportunity Amber Teamann and George Courus provided me with, to connect and learn from Tony. I feel as though we have developed a stronger relationship than I could have ever expected when I started this program. Moving forward I feel like I am just as lucky to be connected with Andrew. I was lucky to have Tony as a mentor and hear his words of wisdom, but having Andrew to learn with will be an added bonus that I did not foresee when I started #SAVMP. I can’t wait to schedule an #Edcamp where the three of us can get together face to face for the first time.

Tony: There is no doubt that going forward the #SAVMP experience has left an indelible mark on me - both personally and professionally. First off, a special thank you to George Couros and Amber Teamann for facilitating this experience because once again, they helped push me out of my comfort zone and gave me access to experiences that helped me learn and grow. Second of all, I now have access to two awesome educators from different parts of the country who I can rely on for support, perspective and ideas and that is definitely a critical part of the PLN. Finally, participating in #SAVMP has given me two new friends who make my world a better place - I cannot wait until the next time I get to collaborate with John and Andrew! ROCK ON!

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Days of School

Whether it's your first, last, or something else in-between, the first day of school is something truly special. It keeps us awake the night before and it may wake us up early the next morning.  The uniqueness of day one cannot be understated. And truthfully, for many of us the first day of school can be a really long day.

My goal for tomorrow is to make it the best long day I've ever had.

The first day brings great opportunities to everyone involved. Many of our students are looking for a fresh start after a long summer. For some, especially our freshmen, it's a chance to prove to their "world" they have become someone different- perhaps a better version of themselves. Some of our kids need school as an escape and a safe haven. After all, our space may be the most consistent and comforting place in their lives. Others are ready to wear their best outfit to school or show off their patiently crafted summer tan. There is anxiety in their world- but it's a positive energy that's fun and exciting, until you jam a locker.

Our faculty and staff also have an open door to opportunity. Younger teachers have a chance to hone their craft and solidify their place, their voice, and their passion. Veteran teachers have a chance to innovate and bolster the experienced skill set they have developed over time. There's new initiatives, new state testing, and new faces everywhere. But in reality, when the door shuts the goal remains the same- run through walls for the kids, every one of the kids, because they need us.

Oh, and we will all screw up along the way. Teachers will mispronounce names and students will get lost in the halls. Schedules will be changed and we will find mistakes we made in planning over the summer. There are bound to be parent phone calls and paperwork still missing. This is a familiar place for us as former students and now educators.

Yes, the American public school is alive and well. We aren't the online virtual school of the future, but we sure are connected- connected by commonalities that we have all experienced.

The last "first day" happened just long ago that I am still jittery for tomorrow. The unknown is what makes me nervous, but the opportunity is what brings great excitement and anticipation. What other profession could boast having a day at work like this...every year?

If the eleven-year-old version of myself could hear me now, he would shake his head. But I would have to admit: I cannot wait for school tomorrow.

I have a feeling we are among the first schools to get started. To all those starting now and in the coming weeks, have an awesome first day and an even better school year! #leydenpride