Thursday, September 15, 2016

ISTE Reflection Guest Blog from Tracy Stegall, Principal @Aspen Creek K8

Many educators from Boulder Valley School District attended the ISTE Annual Conference in Denver, CO this past summer. From this group, a few of educators have chosen to share their stories and reflections from this experience as guest bloggers. 

We're excited to share the following reflection from Tracy Stegall, Principal @Aspen Creek K8.

From the Director of Learning, Fun, and Safety at Aspen Creek-- Thoughts on ISTE and more...

“Hey, Tracy!  Do you have a minute?”
“Could I talk to you?  It’ll only be a minute!”
“Do you have a minute?”
“Can I have a minute?”
“I need to talk to Ms. Stegall.”
“Ms. Stegall, can I talk to you?”
“Ms. Stegall!  Watch me swing!  Read my paper!  Hug me!  Love me!”

And then…

Silent hallways… dark offices… and the true belief in ghosts.

Late June comes into the office of the PK-8 Principal like mist rises in the early morning.  Everything is covered with a layer of nobody and you have to believe the sides of your eyes to see the students.  They’re the ghosts at the end of June when you’re the only one in the building.  You find evidence of their existence in the form of unfiled discipline sheets… memories of laughter and learning... or in the strange confiscated slingshot made from a paperclip in your desk drawer.  

As the Principal of a school that spans 10 grades, my time goes to supporting the learning and growth of everyone else during the school year.  Most of workshops and conferences and meetings I go to focus specifically on helping other people get better at what they do.  This is by design; it’s a high leverage strategy for increasing student achievement.  Great… except what about me?  

Over the last 12 years in school administration, I’ve had to develop the skills and practices to consciously CHOOSE into my own development.   As a guest blogger here, I was asked  to reflect on my trip to ISTE.  It feels more pertinent to me to offer some of my biggest a-hah’s and learnings not just from ISTE but also from the collegiality that has grown across schools as a result of the Ed Tech Leadership Cohort and the unyielding support of the Ed Tech team to anyone who reaches out!  We are SO lucky to work in BVSD!

Once a month during the 2015-2016 school year, I stepped away from the clawing arms and voices of those “needing a piece of me” and purposefully clawed and grabbed at myself, my growing skills, my heart and attended the Ed Tech Leadership Cohort.   I said to myself, “Tracy- you NEED these minutes for YOU.”  (And...shhhhh…. It’s a secret… I TOOK them! Minutes for ME.  For MY learning.)  I pushed away the Guilt Monster; I covered his gaping mouth so he couldn’t tell me what I SHOULD do.  I covered his eyes so I could enjoy learning for me without feeding his voyeuristic pleasure.  I said, “YES,” to me and my own learning.  I framed my technology work over the last year with a couple of simple questions:

-- How can I use social media in a way that showcases the work we’re doing at Aspen Creek?
-- How can I work smarter, not harder, and capitalize on the time that my staff has face to face?

Here are some highlights from ISTE and beyond!  Over the course of the last year, I...


-learned what in the world Twitter was about, why I should care, and built a personal Twitter Account.  At ISTE, my focus was learning more about Twitter.  Over my time there, I ended up creating another Twitter account and now I use HootSuite on my phone to easily Tweet from both!  Follow me: @stegalltj or follow our ATeam @ACPK8ATeam!  Through Twitter, I’ve found endless resources to share with teachers as they work tirelessly to hone their practice.

-fell in love with Screencastify and used it to flip content in faculty meetings.  Here’s one example as we prepared for a big discussion about restructuring in the spring.  The feedback I received included, “Wow!  I loved that!  I listened to it as I traveled back from another building I’m assigned to…” and “That was too long.  I didn’t like it.”  Of course, I loved the first comment… and the second comment gave me important information about how to move forward.   Screencastifies (plural?) I’ve created this year include a step by step way for a new technology user to share a Google Doc with someone… a reminder for staff on how to finalize their growth plan in My Passport, and “how to” videos for a Schoology course I’m co-facilitating with other administrators in the district.  The applications are endless!

-experimented with video (which required a fairly good sized amount of work around getting over myself and how I look on screen).  Screencastify helped me step into this realm… and then I messed around with video in Schoology… and then, thanks to Erika Morreale from the BVSD Ed Tech, I was introduced to WeVideo!  She met me for breakfast at 6:30AM in early August (because the time that I have for my own learning typically only happens in the dark of the early morning or late night)!  I made a video for Back to School night in lieu of loading over 1000 parents into a hot, sweaty gym.  This allowed me to roam and talk, and it also standardized important information that I wanted my whole community to have (not just the people who chose to come to the evening event).  

-co-created, along with my amazing staff, an In-House Tech Conference to kick off the year.  We have such a wealth of knowledge at Aspen Creek and teachers in my building love learning from and with one another!

And now… it’s fall and I’m back at it, this crazy business of Principalling (verb).  My minutes are consumed with helping other people improve and grow at every turn.  My own growth comes in fits and starts… and yet, here I am.  I’ve pulled myself away from the clawing Guilt Monster and stepped into a cafe’ (shhhh… during the school day!), grabbed at my own heart (shhh… I chose to put chocolate in my chai), and LET myself be in my own learning and reflecting.  Yes.  I can.  I should.   I am.

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