Friday, March 20, 2020

How twitter can serve as a COVID-19 school resource

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How can twitter serve as a COVID-19 school resource?

With the "new normal" that we are all facing and trying to navigate during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantines, this post has a sense of urgency about it unlike anything we've ever faced. 

We're all looking for ways to connect with our school communities and decide which method is most effective. When I'm asked, "Should we use twitter, email, Instagram, or Facebook?"  I just say, "Yes." 

If you've got people who can assist with the different methods of outreach, it's time to deputize folks to assist in staying virtually connected when we can't physically connect. Use as many modes of communication that you can effectively manage. 

This post focuses on connecting via twitter. One of the reasons I love twitter and am a huge fan is because of the number of educators on the platform. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been so many educators who have shared resources, ideas, support, and even funny memes to lighten the load. We are truly better together!

create a hashtag on twitter by

This blog post is about a game-changer that every school leader who uses social media should know about. If you are a school leader, keep reading, and use the ideas in this post. If you're not a school leader, keep reading and share this post with your school leader. AND, offer to help. 

In my digital workbook, Telling your School's Story on Twitter, I go into detail about creating a school hashtag along with other ideas for how and when to tweet, ideas for creating graphics, along with connecting the school with the community. 

Not having and using a school hashtag is a missed opportunity.

It's something I notice when I'm connecting on twitter... I see a tweet about an event in a school somewhere, a celebration of students or staff... and there's no hashtag. Not using a school hashtag is a missed opportunity for connection.

Twitter as a search engine

School hashtags allow stakeholders to “find” tweets about your school by doing a search for your hashtag. They can click on the hashtag in the tweet and see all of the tweets containing that specific hashtag. Imagine what it would be like if parents, teachers, students, alumni, and other stakeholders all used the same hashtag when tweeting about the awesome things happening in a school's community. It's a powerful way to get a "big picture" about a school as well as keep parents informed about successes that may not make it to the newspaper... things like a friendly librarian who makes kids want to request a book and drive through the check-out line, a lunchroom worker who serves meals and knows everyone by name, a lesson online that results in excellent problem-solving practice.... I'm sure you can think of many more examples!

How to create your school's hashtag

There's no "rule" about what you can use or not use for a school hashtag. Keep it pretty short in length, because the characters in the hashtag take up some of the characters you can put in your tweet. Examples include #(schoolname)pride, #go(mascot), or #(schoolinitials)(mascot). This would look like #hixsonpride, #gospartans, #LHSCowboys. For other ideas, check out different school leaders to see what kind of hashtag they use to promote their schools. 

Before deciding on what you will claim as your school hashtag, check to make sure it's not already being used. You can do a search on twitter with the potential hashtag, and if it's not being used or was used only a few times a few years ago, GO FOR IT! 

Here are 4 places to share your school hashtag:
  • School marquee
  • In your email signature
  • In your twitter profile
  • In your school's digital newsletter

Do you use this simple, yet effective, method of telling your school's story on twitter? I would love for you to share this post and tag it with YOUR school's hashtag! 

Monday, March 16, 2020

The COVID-19 Self-Care Challenge

Allyson Apsey and I have a goal to come out of this unexpected break better than when we entered it, and we have challenged each other to come up with a list of things we will do every day to take care of ourselves and others. We know that many other educators have the very same goal and that we are better together, so we're sharing our ideas with you.

As educators, we love the flexibility in our typically tightly-structured schedule that comes along with school holidays. But, if we were really being honest with ourselves, we usually function best with a schedule and a mountain of things on our to-do list. It will be tempting to binge-watch television series during our COVID-19 break, and there is no shame in doing that, but we will feel much better if we also feel accomplished. 

We’ve each created our own self-care challenges, personalized to our needs and goals. To help us keep some normalcy and know that we’ve accomplished some valuable things while on the break, we’ll also check in with each other on our progress. 

Here’s a list of self-care challenge ideas we generated:

  1. Go for a daily walk
  2. Drink a gallon of water daily
  3. Learn something or create something
  4. Check in on someone new
  5. Exercise first thing when you get up
  6. Read 30 minutes each day
  7. Spend 1 hour learning - podcasts, webinars, books, online courses
  8. Post a thought online - a blog post, image, quote, or new idea
  9. Write a thank you note
  10. Give a social shout-out to someone who has inspired you
  11. Clean out & declutter a cabinet, drawer, or shelf in your home
  12. Meditate
  13. Keep a gratitude list
  14. Make your bed every morning
  15. Do something you’ve been putting off
  16. Spend time with at least one family member
  17. Organize something
  18. Walk or run at least a mile every day
  19. Unplug from the TV
  20. Watch a sunset or sunrise

Right now it feels like we have this wide expanse of time ahead of us. But, increased family responsibilities, illness, rescheduling things, and so much more will eat up lots of our time. 

We decided that 20 items on a list was WAY too many, so we challenged ourselves to pick 5-10 things to add to our self-care challenge. 

What did I pick?

Jennifer's list:

  • Work out each day (My post-surgery wait time is over & I’m feeling better & ready to return to working out)
  • Drink a gallon of water each day
  • Choose a drawer or closet to organize and/or de-clutter each day
  • Walk each day
  • Keep a gratitude list
  • Connect with someone each day - phone, Voxer, twitter, email, etc.

Here's what made the cut on Allyson’s list:

  • Workout right when I wake up
  • Learn something or create something
  • Check-in with someone new
  • Drink a gallon of water
  • Stay within my calorie goal
  • Organize something
  • Check 2 things off my to-do list
  • Run or walk at least one mile

Allyson is going to hold herself accountable by using the DONE app.

(She signed up for the paid version when she started the #75Hardchallenge.) The free version only allows a list of 3 things. Since I've got more than 3 things and the paid version doesn't fit in my budget, I'll be using a paper journal to keep track of how I do on the challenge. 

Allyson and I both know that taking care of ourselves helps us be our best in order to take care of others and that self-care is not selfish

We both included connecting with someone each day as part of our routine. Our goal in creating a self-care challenge is to inspire others to be their best as we collectively and individually try to turn a tough situation into one that is productive, supportive, and energizing. 

Please share your self-care list using the hashtag #COVID19selfcare.

Want to hear more about the challenge? Listen to our latest podcast episode!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Improve your teaching by getting feedback from your students

Throughout the school year, I work with our new teachers to make sure that they get time with me, with each other, and time to learn. In small groups of 3 - 5 teachers, I meet with the groups 4 times throughout the school year.

Prior to our last meeting, I shared with them an article by Jennifer Gonzalez from her website, Cult of Pedagogy. (If you haven't visited her website, do yourself a favor and go there now!)

The article is titled, "5 Reasons You Should Seek Your OWN Student Feedback," and in it she shares the 5 benefits and the 3 "how-to" steps to gathering student feedback. 

RELATED POST: No more scores, only feedback

One surprising benefit

Of the 5 benefits, there was one that kept surfacing thorughout the day as I met with the new teacher groups. Jen Gonzalez shares "bully prevention" as a benefit of collecting student feedback. One of the questions that she says should be included on a student feedback survey is, What else do you think I should know?

By asking an open-ended question, it allows students to share information with you that may not have anything to do with the instruction. They may share issues they're having with another student, how they feel about the temperature in the room, where they like to sit and how they learn best. 

Teach students how to give feedback

In the article, Gonzalez suggests that students should be taught the difference between "constructive" feedback and "mean" feedback. With anonymity rampant on the Internet today and the ability for consumers to give ratings, students may not understand how to give feedback that is actionable and helpful. If we teach them how to share information that helps a teacher to get better, we will have a better chance of getting constructive feedback. 

Act on the feedback

Lastly, Gonzalez states several ways to act on the feedback and not sit on it. 

She writes, 
  • Talk. Then talk some more.
  • Look for patterns.
  • Dig into the mysteries.
  • Solve the easy problems.
  • Watch your ego.
  • Notice the positives.

A few of the teachers in the meetings had already given their students a survey after I had sent out the article to them. They were able to share how they had followed the suggestions in the article, and things they wish they had done differently. All of them said that they wished that they had given the survey earlier in the year so that they could have gotten the feedback sooner in the year. 

My expectation that I shared with our new teachers is that by our next meeting (early May), they will either have their survey written and ready to share with students or they will have given their survey by then. 

On a final note, I reassured our new teachers that I didn't want to see the results from their students. My goal for them was to learn from the students they serve and grow as a reflective teacher. I also let them know that I was going to be sending out a feedback survey to our staff members soon, so that I could get feedback for my own growth. (One of my tenets of leadership: Never ask others to do something that I'm not willing to do myself.)

Do you get feedback from the people you serve?

What ideas do you have to solicit constructive feedback?

I would love to connect with you via Twitter or on the Compelled Educator Facebook page. Feel free to reach out!

*If you're looking for ready-made surveys, Gonzalez provides links to her Teachers-Pay-Teachers site at the end of the article.