I had my first meeting yesterday with my new boss, the Director of Secondary Education. She is the person whom I replaced as principal at my new school so we are both new to our respective positions.
She spent some time asking me about my vision for my school, but also asked for input on a few things. For instance, she wanted to know what I thought would be the best use of our monthly “levels meetings.” During these times, all the elementary principals, middle school principals, and high school principals get together with their colleagues. As a new principal, this time is going to be invaluable for me to learn from my colleagues at the other middle schools. My suggestion was that as much of the levels meeting time as possible be spent on sharing best practices, collaborating, and learning from each other. Administrivia, or the unidirectional flow of information items that could be handled via email or a memo should not eat into this valuable time that we will have out of our buildings once per month.
I was also very flattered that she asked me about blogging, and about how the Director of Secondary Education might make use of a blog. Like others I have worked with, she is an “article sender.” I’m certain most educational organizations have a person or persons who will send an email or two a week with some “suggested reading” attached or linked. I shared with her that with the high volume of email that I and other principals receive, it’s not unusual for something that isn’t an “emergency” to get overlooked for a day or two. Further, I don’t really care for email attachments as I think they’re an extremely inefficient way to pass along information.
One other assumption in the article-emailing model is that the information is getting to all of the people who need or are interested in it. This involves managing multiple email lists: one for high school principals, one for middle school principals, one for assistant principals… The list goes on. No matter how carefully you curate the lists, someone who wanted the information will be left out, and someone who doesn’t want it will have to either file it away forever because they think they might be asked about it someday, or (gasp!) delete it.
Even if the sole purpose for creating a Director of Secondary Education blog was to share articles and links, this would be a significant benefit to the folks at the buildings. My preferred way of receiving news is via Reeder on my iPad or Google Reader on my MacBook Pro. From there, I’ll often route longer readings to Instapaper so I can focus on them when I have the time.
Further, a blog would bring leaders and prospective leaders in as opposed to an email that is pushed out. I usually have one or two administrative interns who work with me and, despite my best intentions, I don’t always remember to pass along the articles and links that come my way. A blog would be a great forum to bring these up-and-coming leaders into the “fold” and increase their awareness of what is being discussed at the District and principal level.
Finally, with the ability to comment on blog posts, I could see a blog becoming a better place for discussion than the endless CC loops that email encourages and that, for better or worse, eventually get ignored or archived so I can come back later which I rarely remember to do.
It will definitely take some re-norming with principals, but I think given the success of June’s Leadership Bootcamp we are in a great position to start leveraging some more of these one-to-many means of communicating.
Overall, we had what I think was a very productive meeting and I’m excited to work with my new Director in the coming year. Plus, anyone who shows up in my office bearing breakfast burritos and Loveland Coffee knows how to set the tone for a great year!