Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reflections on the first season of #PrincipalCast

I cannot believe the end of the year is here, and I am sure I'm not the only one.  PrincipalCast began as a project: a way to gain information and experience from principals who have been in the field, a way to help others who may also be in my first-year situation, and also a way to connect.  When Jessica Johnson and Dr. Spike Cook agreed to take this on, I was elated.  I have always enjoyed broadcasting and I love talking (those who know me will not take that as a surprise) so I could not wait to start this journey.  

I truly believe that the only way to get through your first year of ANYTHING is to become friends and/or colleagues with someone who has already been there.  Someone to let you know that what you are going through is (or is not) normal, that it will pass, that it will always get worse before it gets better, and that it WILL get better.

I love this job.  I love every moment of it.  I think part of what helps me to appreciate it even more are the people who travel the #PrincipalCast journey with us.  I have learned an immense amount from the principals, retired administrators and teachers who join us every Sunday night for the live PrincipalCast show, those who tweet through the week, and those I Vox with daily.  Side note - if you do not have Voxer or don't use it, you are missing out.  It gives the ability to connect even deeper.  You can send voice messages (in a group!), texts and pictures.  We do all of our show planning on Voxer, and even a lot of our support coaching as well.

We have been honored in 13 episodes to have special guests Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker) and Dr. Bill Sterrett (@BillSterrett) and in our first episode back in 2014 we will welcome Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal).  We have had amazing chats during our live broadcast with Craig Yen (@craigyen),  Chrisopher Nesi (@mrnesi), Tony Sinanis (@tonysinanis), Peggy George (@pgeorge) and SO many more.  We have an audience of collaborators who join us without fail every Sunday night at 9:30PM EST to engage in the conversation and help Jessica, Spike and myself see all different views of the conversation and sometimes see things in a different light.  Our Professional Learning Network (PLN) continually helps us think and grow as administrators and as individuals.

We have been blessed to meet and work with the amazing Jeff Bradbury (@TeacherCast).  Jeff has been an amazing producer for our show, and he works very, very hard to make sure we are not only successful but that we are moving forward and continuing the mission of this podcast.

Spike and Jessica have become my mentors, and I have never met them in person.  It seems odd to many, but makes perfect sense to me.  Twitter and Voxer allow us to plan our shows, vent, and most importantly, support each other.  I think this school year would be going much differently for me had it not been for Jessica, Spike and Jeff.

One of my favorite things is receiving replies on Twitter on the PrincipalCast account.  

"Having a blast listening to your podcasts!  Thx for keeping it relevant and real." - @bretdom 

"You all are the best.  Love the stories.  2013 Highlight: Electrified Fence!" - @CraigYen (Episode 10/20 "When the principal sneezes, the school gets a cold")

"Thanks to the @PrincipalCast team for a great discussion tonight" - @BillSterrett

"I am really missing @PrincipalCast tonight!  All I want for Christmas is that it is Jan 12!" - @mrnesi

Knowing that others are getting something out of these conversations means the world to us.  Thank you to those who listen, those who participate, those who subscribe and those who support.  We couldn't (and wouldn't want to) do it without you.  Celebrate 2013 and let's bring in 2014 with a bang. We will see you on January 12 when we begin our second season of #PrincipalCast with Eric Sheninger.

To all, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

How #PrincipalCast was Born

My educational and professional goal was always to be a principal.  I love teaching, but I also love helping others to improve their teaching.  It is something that I am very passionate about.  

I have been on Twitter for a while with the hande @theresawhite (changed to @theresastager when I had gotten married).  I utilized Twitter mostly for professional reasons - starring and favoriting every idea I could possibly use in my classroom, knowing I would never, ever be able to use them all.  During grad school, I spent a lot of time online learning about administration - what questions were asked during interviews, how to hire new staff, common issues in the career, etc.  I stumbled upon Scott Elias (@ScottElias) and Melinda Miller's (@mmiller7571) podcast, Practical Principals.  I thought it was awesome, and I loved to listen to them every month.  I remember not being able to wait until the next one was available because I always learned so much.  Plus, they were really techie, and I loved that.

Scott received a job offer from Apple to work for their education team, and Practical Principals abruptly ended.  I missed listening to them, but more than that, I missed having a "real" group of administrators share the things I didn't learn in school and provide me with a PLN of administrators that I would never have met otherwise.

Fast forward to July 2013, and I have received my first job as a principal.  I immediately created a new handle - @PrincipalStager - and ran with it.  I also decided we needed a new administration podcast - and I was going to find people to help me start it.  I contacted Melinda Miller to see if she would like to jump in where she and Scott left off, but she was concerned about having enough time to do so.  She suggested Jessica Johnson, a principal from Wisconsin - the prolific @PrincipalJ.  Jessica was next on my list anyway.  Jessica was in and also suggested trying to get one more in on it, and that is where Dr. Spike Cook (@drspikecook) joined the crew.  We decided we would start within the next two weeks, began communicating on Voxer and sharing ideas for a show, and we did a Google Hangout the following Sunday.  I recorded it, and all that showed was me through the entire show.  Not a great plan.

Luckily, in our lack of GHO experiece, Jessica contacted Jeff Bradbury (@TeacherCast) for help, and he immediately added us to his network.  TeacherCast TV has been producing us ever since show #2.

Please subscribe to us at @PrincipalCast on Twitter,, or subscribe to our audio or video feed on iTunes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Short on Time, Long on Resources

short on timeI am so thrilled that William Sterrett will be joining us on PrincipalCast this Sunday, 12/14 at 9:30PM EST.  Please join us!

Article written by Dr. Spike Cook 

ASCD is venturing into a new market through theirarias publications. These books are designed for the busy professional that can be read in less than an hour, but can provide resources for improvement well beyond the time spent reading. Short on Time: How do I make time to lead and learn as a principal? by Bill Sterrett was a great read! It took me about 38 minutes to read it. I found myself hooked from the beginning.

Short on Time will help you with the following:
- Help you take action and realize change in school and professional life
- Gain insights into specific steps that you can apply to your situation
- These action steps involve teaching, innovating, and leading which will require planning, action, and reflection

Sterrett developed a  4 point acronym DISC (District, Instruction, School, Community) to help educational leaders manage their professional schedule. Each of these areas require the educational leader to determine their own allocation of time, but all are important. According to Sterrett, all of the DISC activities should be placed in your master schedule, which should be accessible to key stakeholders.
  • District – Any requirements from your central administration such as BOE meetings, presentations, or meetings 
  • Instruction – Referred to as the heart and soul of your job, these activities include walk-throughs, faculty meetings, school level meetings
  • School – School activities can make the school the center of the community
  • Community – These activities include developing and managing partnerships external from the school

ASCDapp_iconIn addition to providing tips and resources for the educational leader’s own time, Sterrett spends a considerable time discussing the importance of maximizing instructional time for students and teachers. He suggests leaders develop a collaborative scheduling team to examine the master schedule to maximize time for collaboration, reflection, outdoor learning, and time for the whole child.

Sterrett posits that teachers should be provided time for their personalized and school-based learning. In order to use time effectively, leaders should provide time for teachers to improve instruction through meaningful faculty meetings, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), peer observations, and collaboration.

sterrett-w124x160Understanding that we are all “short on time,” Bill Sterrett provides an amazing resource in this arias book for educators to maximize their time on what matters most. Once you read this book, you will see that becoming organized, communicating effectively, and prioritizing your day is not as hard as you might imagine. Although the book is titled “Short on Time” it is long on resources!