Part of the distinction in being named a 2018 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year is the opportunity to be part of a McKinsey leadership program. This internationally renowned company is “the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential businesses and institutions.” In Part I of the McKinsey Academy, I am part of a cohort that began with 26 educators from around the globe. My subgroup is small: it’s simply Renita from Durham and me.
We’ve met digitally many times in past month and, as a group, developed partnerships to investigate better ways of managing effective teams. One dimension is renewal that includes not only taking time to rest and recover, but also to reflect and respond.
Driving home yesterday, I started to think about the importance of renewal in my own job as a high school principal. I am in my 15th consecutive year as the building principal of Joseph Case High School—what do I do to renew myself?
The most obvious answer is to surround yourself with children. Administrators who have lost their direction need to return to the classroom, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, the auditorium—wherever children are in your building—and reconnect. By bearing witness to their academics, their school socialization, their athleticism, and their artistry, these young spirits will recalibrate your day.
But how can you renew professionally? The answer might be literally and digitally within your reach. Although I am a connected educator, each one of these renewals depends on people, not only the company that you keep on a day-to-day basis, but the collection of professionals you can collect via social media: your PLN, or as many refer to it online these days, your “tribe” of like-minded, uber-curious, and growth mindset-guided brothers and sisters who are living it every day.
Join an edchat. There are virtually hundreds of edchats that go on across the nation and the globe that are dedicated to a specific niche of being an educator today. I start each school morning at 5:30 a.m., with a rapid-fire, 15-minute, one-question chat called #bfc530 (bfc = breakfast club). My #bfc530 chums are K–12 educators, teachers, and leaders—both novice and professionally seasoned.
I begin my morning in a reflective, sharing mode over Icelandic yogurt and fruit. Most of all, I am often inspired to begin my school day positively and having stretched myself just a little. Extra points when you meet one of your tribe face to face whom you only have known digitally.
Revisit the edcamp model. I went to my first edcamp about five years ago, and it really changed my perspective on the taking control of our own professional development—cost-free—within our own communities. So many of us have been a part of and later facilitated subsequent edcamps for our own schools. But when was the last time you simply attended an event without being the organizer?
Just last weekend, I was a part of #EdCampSEmass, and it again ignited a passion in me because I was surrounded in person with like-minded people who yearned to be better tomorrow. Extra credit if you share your day’s journey on social media.
Read the last 20 posts in your Twitter feed. Take a step back and reflect on one fresh perspective. Retweet with a comment to show your gratitude. Small acts of digital kindness on social media have the potential to give you the dopamine rush equivalent of a hug. Extra credit if you embrace a new follower.
December brings all sorts of seasonal pressure—school leaders are not immune. But a few simple digital reminders may help you find the strength to begin the new year renewed.
To all my PLN, my tribe, thank you for refilling my spirit in my quest to be an even more awesome leader tomorrow.
Brian McCann is a 2018 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year. He graduated from Joseph Case High School in Swansea, MA, in 1980, where he now serves as principal. Follow him on Twitter @casehighprinc.