There has been a great deal of discussion lately as to the necessity of administrators utilizing social media as a part of their professional practice. There was even a comment on the Facebook page that I manage for my high school stating that I spend too much time on Twitter. With all of the positives that I feel are associated with social media, and no matter how I utilize various mediums in a professional manner, there seems to always be a large number of skeptics. It is obvious that they do not take the time to read the content that I either create or share, which is quite frustrating. Nor do they care to engage me in a discussion as to why I spend valuable time with Twitter or my blog.
Let's face it, we can all agree that we could use more time in the day. As an administrator, during the school day I spend my time in a variety of ways. A typical day consists of crafting a morning staff email, observing teachers, conducting classroom walk-throughs, attending meetings, engaging teachers/students in conversations, and being a presence in the halls/cafeteria. Obviously, this is a general list of duties, which changes greatly depending on the time of year. Other major responsibilities include evaluations, budget preparation, development of action plans, mentoring, and professional development.
So where, and how, does social media fit into all of this? Let me first discuss blogging. I swore that I would never blog as I strongly felt that I was not a gifted writer and who would really care what I had to say anyway? I blog as a means to reflect on my work as an educational leader and to open up my ideas to elicit constructive feedback from a global collection of exemplary educators. Why do this, you might ask? The answer is simple, to become better in order to improve the teaching and learning culture at my school. Blogging is also used to share student achievements and staff accomplishments. It also creates a layer of transparency and gives stakeholders a glimpse into what I do, how I think, and what I am passionate about. I am not going to sugar coat this, blogging takes a great deal of time. This is the main reason I only write about one post a week.
So when do I blog? I blog at times that do not interfere with my responsibilities as a principal, father, or husband. For example, I am writing this post sitting in the back seat of a car with my kids on the way to see family in Long Island, NY for Easter. Yesterday I wrote a post during a rainy Saturday morning as my wife worked on schoolwork and my kids played with their cousin who was visiting (this took about 40 minutes of my time). Another popular time for me to write is on Monday evenings from 6:00 - 6:45 as I sit in the car waiting for my kids to get out of dancing school. The point here is I am an opportunist when it comes to blogging and take advantage of what little down time I have. I do not blog during the school day as I aspire to be a hands-on principal who maximizes my time during the day to improve all facets of my school.
Then there is Twitter. In 140 characters or less I can communicate with stakeholders by sharing useful information (@NewMilfordHS) for free! At the advice of some of my parents, I only send out a tweet or two a day using this account. It literally takes me seconds to do this. I am a bit more active on my other Twitter account (@NMHS_Principal). Here I share/acquire resources (I add those that I feel my teachers will like to either Delicious or Diigo), engage in thoughtful discussions on educational issues, and acquire knowledge to grow professionally at my convenience (see my PLN post). I will use my Blackberry during the school day to tweet out examples of student work (pictures) and other great things that I see during the course of the day. Who wouldn't want to celebrate excellence and exhibit pride in the work being done in their school in a timely fashion?
So when do I tweet? The majority of my weekday tweeting takes place during the early morning hours and from the late afternoon on. During my brief lunch every day (5-10 minutes if I am lucky) I will peruse through my Twitter stream to see if anyone has shared some great links to educational news, commentary, or websites. If I find value in the information, I retweet it. It is difficult to quantify an exact amount of time that I spend on Twitter, but each tweet read, typed, or link followed is directly correlated to my role as an educator.
The entire purpose of this post is to paint a clear picture of how my time is well spent when it comes to social media. My sacrifice comes during down periods, not at the expense of professional and personal roles that I fill. What I gain is invaluable to my growth as a principal and learner. These are just some of the avenues that I utilize to become more effective, efficient, and better at what I do. For me, time will never be used as an excuse to streamline communications, share the many great things going on at my school, critically analyze educational issues, reflect, and model life-long learning. This is my path. What is yours?
Follow Eric Sheninger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/E_Sheninger