Guest post by Annette Wallace

My professional learning network—or as I like to call them, my tribe—is a group of people whose ideas, opinions, and research inform and motivate me as a school leader. I found most of these people online, but I also have used my online presence to develop more educationally meaningful relationships with educators in my district who I often don’t have time to work with face-to-face. I’ve come to appreciate that professional development is my responsibility and taking charge of my own learning has helped me improve as a leader in my own school and district, as well as the wider education community. 

I should begin by giving a shoutout to NASSP and MDMASSP for the opportunity to participate in the National Principal of the Year Institute. The institute instantly expanded my professional learning network. I was already a Twitter user, but my colleagues showed me how to harness the power of a hashtag, create lists, and utilize other Twitter hacks. I also learned about Google hangout, Smore, Voxer, blogging, YouTube live, TedTalks and more.

Through this network of world-class educational leaders, I am able to borrow ideas, collaborate on projects, and seek out sound advice from school leaders much wiser than myself. I love the freedom and the flexibility of social media. My job as a high school principal is extremely time consuming. The ability to participate in EdChats on Twitter late in the evening after a night duty, or catch the Storify of the chat if I miss it, allows me more flexibility than the normal professional development model of sit and soak (absorb the knowledge being “dropped” on you!).

My online professional learning network has not only increased access to educators who help me “keep my bucket full,” but it has also increased my interaction to more educators in my school system who are doing amazing things and changing the lives of students in my local area though our new school system chats, #WoCoTeach and #WoCoLead, that I co-founded. As educators, we can become siloed and work so hard that we miss the amazing things going on in the classroom “next door” or the classroom “two doors down” at a neighboring school. It has truly been wonderful to discover a tribe of people who grind like me in my district.

So principals, get out there and develop your PLN! You—and only you—can prevent boredom and complacency in your leadership development. It is your duty to seek out those who grind like you and learn, borrow, and lean in on those amazing educators!

Annette Wallace is principal of Pocomoke High School, a high-poverty school on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She believes that in order to change her community she must provide students with access to an education beyond high school by breaking down any and all barriers that might get in the way of her students achieving their dreams. Annette is also committed to being a #JoyfulLeader and a #FitLeader. Since losing her father, she has become an advocate for suicide prevention. Annette is the 2017 Maryland Association of Secondary Schools Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter @Aewallace8

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