Where Twitter Has Taken Me (Literally)

ImageMany of you get annoyed by Twitter users like me. You get tired of us talking about how Twitter builds a huge, brilliant, world-wide professional learning network (PLN) that provides inspiration, ideas and conversation about education.

You get tired of us talking about how Twitter allows our school communities to have a behind-the-scenes look at some of the goings-on of our districts.

You get tired of us talking about how Twitter provides opportunities to brag about the awesome accomplishments of our students, staff and communities. Twitter has undoubtedly taken me very far in my professional career. 

But do you know what I was thinking this morning?  Twitter has taken me places literally too.

Understand my PLN includes people who are world travelers, people who speak at conferences and school districts around the globe. George Couros, Joe Mazza, Jimmy Casas, Todd Whittaker, Dave Burgess…these and so many more Twitter users are way up in the stratosphere as far as making the most of the tool.

But even Average Joes like me–non-descript guys from northeast Ohio–can find real value by using Twitter. So where has Twitter taken me?

Because of Twitter, in the last year or so I:

  • Was invited to Indianapolis to be on a panel discussion about Common Core State Standards at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Leadership Forum.
  • Was asked to present at the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) fall conference on the use of Twitter.
  •  Permitted (at my request) to present at the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Capital Conference on the use of Twitter and other communication tools.
  • Was invited to be part of an Ohio Straight A Fund grant application (which we unfortunately did not win) with some colleagues across the state.
  • Met and hired the best curriculum director you could ever wish for (@ToddStuart1).
  • Have been invited to be a guest on a WCPN 90.3 radio program The Sound of Ideas to discuss with a few other Twitter users the pros and cons of social media usage among educators.
  • Had maybe the best Mexican food I ever ate at the ASCD conference in Chicago because of the connection I made with my Twitter PLN, particularly Jimmy Casas, Dave and Shelley Burgess, Tom and Leah Whitford, and George Couros.
  • Was interviewed for an article in the American School Board Journal.
  • Was invited to co-moderate #ptchat, a weekly Twitter discussion about how to involve parents more fully in schools.
  • Was given the motivation to start my blog, which you are reading right now.
  • Met a whole bunch of Ohio superintendents that I feel comfortable talking with whenever we see each other at conferences, people who two years ago I never would have spoken to because I would have been too shy or too disinterested.
  • Was given tickets to the Cleveland Gladiators arena football game when I tweeted about my poor experience at a Lake Erie Monsters hockey game (really long story, and not much value here, but it makes my point that Twitter has tangible benefits).

I understand that nowhere listed above is “spent a week in Bora Bora” or “was offered a job making a kajillion dollars” or “traveled the world inspiring millions of teachers and students.”

But what is listed is stuff that never would have happened without Twitter. It is actual, real stuff that expanded my horizons, introduced me to new people, and put some cool stuff on my resume.

All at 140 characters at a time.

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PLN Blogging Challenge

Reed Gillespie, Assistant Principal at Kettle Run High School in Nokesville, VA and a valuable member of my Twitter professional learning network gave me homework over Christmas break. He challenged me to share 11 random facts about myself and to answer 11 questions. Then I had to challenge 11 bloggers to do the same thing.

So here we go…

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I am the youngest of 11 children. My dad and my uncle are identical twins, and my uncle also had 11 kids. And growing up our families lived next door to each other, so there were 22 kids running around the Clark compound.
  2. The greatest job I ever had was as a counselor, bus driver, and director of CYO Camp Christopher Day Camp. If I could have done that job and fed my family, I would still be working there today.
  3. I was a mobile disc jockey for 18 years, doing hundreds of wedding, parties and school dances. I have DJed parties for LeBron James, John Elway and Dan Marino.
  4. I was a creative writing minor in college. I almost sold a short story once to a small literary magazine, but the editor who offered to buy my story was hit and killed by a train. I often wonder what would have happened to my career if I sold that story.
  5. I can’t fix things or build things, but I love to cook.
  6. I love to tell stories.
  7. In sixth grade I was kicked off of the school safety patrol for telling second graders that I would report them for jaywalking if they did not bring me candy. I was only joking, and I deserved my punishment, but I think it is funny now.
  8. I am a huge Peanuts fan and have a huge collection of Peanuts stuff.
  9. I hate shows where people get pranked. It makes me uncomfortable seeing people being tricked.
  10. I used to do some community theatre, and people have actually bought tickets to hear me sing on stage (well, they bought tickets to a show in which I sung on stage).
  11. Even though I am comfortable speaking in front of large crowds, I am a pretty big introvert and am uncomfortable in large group settings where I have to mingle.

 My Responses to Reed’s Questions

  1. If you could redo one thing in your life, what would it be? I would have pursued going away to college. I felt my only choice was Akron or Kent, and I regret not having a “college experience.”
  2. What magical/super power would you choose and why? I would love to be able to fly to get places fast and get a different perspective on the world.
  3. If your life was turned into a movie, who would play you? I would love to say George Clooney, but….
  4. If you could be anyone else in the world, who would it be and why? Any professional golfer. What a great gig…playing golf for money in the most beautiful places in the world.
  5. Which do you choose: milkshake, ice cream sundae, or ice cream cone. Ice cream sundae.
  6. What are you most proud of? My kids.
  7. Who most influenced you? My brother Chris.
  8. Your house is on fire and your family, including pets, has made it out. What is the one thing you save? “Stuff” doesn’t mean too much to me…maybe the last formal family picture in which all of my siblings and nieces and nephews were together.
  9. Would you rather go 50 years into the past or go 50 years into the future? I’d rather go 50 years in the past. I’ll see 50 years into the future when I get there.
  10. What was the best part about your senior year of high school? Hanging out with friends after games.
  11. Why did you start blogging? I was inspired by my Twitter PLN, I love to write, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts that were more than 140 characters long.

 11 Bloggers I’m Challenging

  1. Amber Teaman
  2. Dave Burgess
  3. Tom Whitford
  4. Leah Whitford
  5. Jimmy Casas
  6. George Couros
  7. Tony Sinasis
  8. Gwen Pescatore
  9. Daisey Dyer Duerr
  10. Jeremy Brueck
  11. Ryan McLane

My 11 Questions for You

  1. What is your favorite Disney movie?
  2. You are trapped on a desert island with one person not related to you. It is…
  3. If you could go back in time to apologize to one person, who would it be?
  4. You have $8 and want lunch. Where are you going?
  5. What habit in others annoys you most?
  6. Would you rather be 50 pounds heavier or 12 inches shorter?
  7. What is your favorite vacation spot?
  8. What is one item on your bucket list?
  9. What is one song that most people like but you can’t stand?
  10. What would you tell your 10-year-old self?
  11. Why Twitter?

Great Teachers Help Students Find Their Santa Suits

ImageEverybody loves to know a guy with a Santa suit.

How do I know? I know because I have a Santa suit. I bought it several years ago when I was involved in community theater, and people who know I have the suit frequently ask me either to borrow the suit or to play Santa for them at a party or family event.

Everybody loves to know a DJ.

This I also know from experience. Having DJed for many, many years, I get repeated requests from friends or acquaintances to play at parties they are throwing or to put playlists together for them. I haven’t DJed regularly for more than three years, yet annually I get at least half a dozen requests to help somebody out.

Everybody loves to know someone with a truck.

This I do not know from experience. I know it because I love knowing people with trucks. I don’t want to own a truck, but I am not afraid to ask a friend to borrow a truck if I have firewood to haul or furniture to move, which seems to be at least a few times a year.

While we might grumble a little bit about people looking to get something from us, the truth is we like it. It feels good to be needed, to have a gift that allows us to make others’ lives better.

 As educators, our job is to help our students find their Santa suit.

Each of our students comes to us with a gift, a talent, a skill, that is often unknown to them. Helping them find the gift–helping them find a passion for doing something they are good at—is, to me, what education is all about. When kids find something they are good at and love doing, they are set on a path that practically guarantees success.

That is why we need to offer students a variety of course options and other experiences. And that is why we need to constantly support and encourage our students, to let them know they are capable of more than they believe, and that somewhere within them is something special, something they will be happy doing and others will be happy that they do.

Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Educators are sculptors. Every day we have the opportunity to help kids uncover the beautiful statue inside themselves. Our students have gifts that will change the world. Let us do everything we can to help our students discover their talents, talents that are far more valuable than a Santa suit.