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My Experiences with "Thought Leadership" and Personal Writing and My Own Professional Development

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This entry cross posted to "Sentiments On Common Sense"

I found Scott McCleod's PDF handout on the 100 Principal Blog project almost 3 years ago when I took the initiative to start my school principal's blog. My tech integrator at the time, Jeff Utecht, was so proud. He had been gently encouraging me to think about taking it on as a way to communicate to our school community. One weekend, I sat on the couch, laptop at the ready and leapt into a wordpress blog provided by Scott.

One of the key reasons for principals to blog that Scott mentions in his handout is "Reason 10: Thought leadership".

Andrew Torris

A blog can be a great place to put thoughts out there for the community to chew on. Is a school considering a new initiative or an important change? Does the school want feedback on a particular topic or issue? The principal could post some information and questions on the blog and solicit community participation. This is similar to setting up a meeting with an advisory board or interested group of stakeholders, except that the potential reach is much greater since everyone in the school community can see and participate in the conversation, not just the few individuals who might attend a face-to-face meeting.

Hmmm... great I thought. I wrote. I wrote. I wrote some more. Then it happenned! Proof that somebody out there (except the few who actually left a comment) is reading my thoughts and perhaps internalizing some of my message! My personal blog was cited as a source of information in a committee meeting this week at my school. The teachers and administrators noted value in the post "When is it too much? AND When do we say “DO IT or GO!”?, which was posted on my blog and here at leadertalk and the post "I am probably jumping to conclusions here but- Professional Conferences/Seminars Probably DON’T work!"

Most notably, I write in the post about professional conferences about the need for follow through and deeper learning opportunities. I stated:

The key question that comes to my mind though is when will leaders be held responsible for the follow-up for their entire organization and when will we as learning professionals take on the sustained follow-up ourselves. Isn’t that what a PLN created to do for me? Can we not sustain our own learning?

Then I walked into the room yesterday and there on a piece of chart paper under the words "professional development" was "Andy Torris' blog post". The first words out of my mouth were, "Just another reason to be careful what you post online!"- which got a pretty good laugh from my colleagues! The follow up conversation was about what I had written- nothing to earth shattering if you ask me- but it did help the discussion as the ideas around the commitment of administrators in our organization have to deep, followed up professional devleopment. More importantly though, are the high quality comments to this post. Jon Nordmeyer, a colleague of mine, left some great links to the a site at Berkley. Another leadertalk contributor, Blair Peterson left a comment pointing to a post by Seth Godin.. And yet another blogging administrator Ed Shepard, who also is one of my twitter friends noted that my post made him realize that:

I am under the firm belief that I can get my staff to change or focus on doing one major thing really, really well during the school year. This could be anything from curriculum to classroom management. Either way it is a broad to specific focus designed to create a common practice and develop a common language within the school community. This focus is kept in the forefront and is ingrained in everything we do the entire school year. It requires a bit of research and development, but insures a long-term and long-lasting effect in the school. After the year ends, we start the whole process again with a new focus.

Well stated Ed! Can't that same thought hold true for administrators and blogging educators as well. Many, many educational bloggers and web-designers are quickly realizing that over time, your personal professional learning network is enhanced and thus your "Thought Leadership" is sharpened by leveraging the use of the web 2.0 tools available to us on a daily basis. This learning is not work. It is engagement. It is engagement on the deepest level, as it meets the needs of a social learning WITH access to a rich research base AND expert advice!

I can't close here unless I offer some common sense advice though.

1. Remember: What you write and create is essentially your professional persona that will follow you for years. Use the tool wisely. As I said in my last post on Sentiments on Common Sense, "You really do have to be careful what you write!"

2. BE CLEAR that your blog is YOUR BLOG or the SCHOOL's Blog. I need to go back to my blog and make sure it is plainly stated. People seem to know who I am. People probably know where I work. I hope they see my writing as professional and also a bit personal. I also hope they see that I am not crazy about the content.

3. Embrace the comments and respond to them. I am more apt to read blogs that I get notes back from authors after I have left a comment. Let the commentators know you have read the note and maybe even responded to their notes. It expands the learning!

In the end, it really is about reflecting, learning and modeling that for our community. Don't you think?

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3 Comments

This is a great post. I could relate on so many levels. Especially about being careful about what you post. Ultimately we do not know who are readers are. We need to keep in mind the wide range of perspectives when writing our posts. Being a school leader can be very political and we do not want to damage any existing relationships with a blog post. I try to be reflective and honest but not overly judgmental. Thanks again.

This is a great post. I could relate on so many levels. Especially about being careful about what you post. Ultimately we do not know who are readers are. We need to keep in mind the wide range of perspectives when writing our posts. Being a school leader can be very political and we do not want to damage any existing relationships with a blog post. I try to be reflective and honest but not overly judgmental. Thanks again.

Don,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I would agree, that educational administration is so political. Thus... non-judgemental thought leadership is probably even more important. Reflective, open and honest thoughts will result in quality debate and... I hope positive change in our schools.

Like your post on "How We Learn"( http://principalcowart.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-we-learn-william-glasser.html), it gets the professional juices flowing and has us all moving that idea forward with our colleagues.

Andy

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