Hammering Out a Social Media Plan for a School Community #cpchat

Today, without really intending to do so, I started to craft what I’m calling a “social media plan” for our upcoming school year.  Through the past several years we have built a very strong social media system in our building, and it’s continuing to grow as more classrooms are sharing learning online.  I’m very proud of the work we’ve done in establishing:

    • strong blogging practices among the classrooms and staff
    • a very well accessed Facebook page, Twitter account and Google + system
    • use of video and photos to share who we are with the community and families (we’ve gotten very good at posting fun stuff like the video below too!)

Even though we’ve gotten very good at these things I’ve felt strongly that we aren’t using these and other tools to the fullest.  I feel that I can be using them much more as a school leader to reach families and the community, thus the creation of a social media plan.

Now mind you this just kind of happened, so there wasn’t a template or a plan, so if there are suggestions on how to do this better send ‘em my way please!

The first thing I started with was outlining the systems that we already had going and what can we do to enhance those existing systems.  For example:

  • Facebook – We currently use Facebook to share school events, repost classroom blog posts and this is the only place that we post information about camps and offerings for students outside the school.  Facebook probably has our highest subscription rates within our learning community and is also where we share the most information.  Given that high rate of involvement it seemed like a logical next step for us in improving is to present more feedback opportunities for families via Facebook, so that went in the plan
  • Our School Blog - We have a strong school blog that feeds both our Twitter account and our Google + accounts (we also repost our blog posts on Facebook).  We’ve built a great practice with our blog, now going strong with multiple authors in the building contributing.  Again, we have extensive subscriptions and high levels of access to this so the areas of enhancement really centered on:
    • improving the depth of our content.  We share events like nobody’s business…video, photos, etc. and they’re awesome.  I feel strongly that we should be sharing more of the instructional insights, curriculum information and involve more teachers in the communication of that information.  So that will be a big push for this coming year.

After reviewing what great stuff we already had going I just started to brainstorm some of the areas that I know we can do well in but aren’t really accessing at the moment:

  • Instagram - There are several staff that have an Instagram account as I do and we all occasionally post photos and info about things that are happening at school (and many times due to the nature of Instagram they are completely amazing photos!) and we try to retweet those when we stumble on them; but, we never had an account dedicated to the school.  Well we do now!!  I’m a firm believer in the power of images (and video) so my hope is to use this medium to continue to share amazing photos that really share who we are as a school community.  The management of multiple Instagram accounts isn’t a whole lot of fun at the moment, so if anyone has insights, please leave them in the comments below!

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  • I put Pinterest on the list, but I’m not sure about using it effectively or efficiently on the school level.  I was just brainstorming and thought that maybe a Pinterest account could be used to share projects, reading tips, resources for parents, etc. versus using it as a posting platform.  One of the reasons I added it to the list was simply that I know it’s very popular and I have a philosophy that you need to try to meet people where they are!  We’ll see.  I’ll need to research if other schools are using it.

The next section took a geeky turn, but it’s where I live so…it is what it is.  I wrote down the words Video/Audio/Visual and just started listing all these great tools that I’ve noted other admins or schools using.  As I mentioned earlier I have a big bend toward audio-visual and the power it has to convey feeling to an audience.  As a school community we’ve got the videoing of events down to a moderate science, but there’s sooooo much more that we can do and ways that we can include the student scholars in the process too.  So here’s my list:

Touchcast - This is a great app that allows you to basically be an entire television studio on your mobile device.  It’s great and many schools are already utilizing it and involving students in the production of video. 

Audioboo - I’m a big podcast addict, so anything that allows for easy audio upload I’m all over it. I’ll get back to that.  Garageband  and Soundcloud are awesome for this too.

Ustream - We currently don’t offer live streaming of school events…could be a great option for families that can’t join us.  We’ve tried with Google + a few times but not totally successful.

Fotopedia - Great app for showcasing images and text

 As you can tell I really got into this today (shame it wasn’t on my list of things to get done!).  By the end of the time I was working on it I was convinced that I should produce a podcast program looking at education across our state!  That’s when I knew it was time to take a break and back away from the computing devices!  Still, I think what felt good was that sometimes we establish great practices and stay static with them, not considering the continuous growth.  Outlining a plan felt good and helped me think about the systems for the coming year.  Great use of time and energy for the day!



Beat the Summer Principal Funk

image from newsone.com

I’ve found myself in a bit of a funk this week.  If I think back on it I’m pretty sure that it happens just about every summer at this time.  I find summers as a principal very interesting and don’t think that people have a good sense of what it’s like or the work that is done.  It’s honestly quite busy!  I always tell people to imagine that they are going to open a business with about a month and a half of planning and prep.  That business will feature about seventy staff, up to 300 customers on the first day that you open, have about four days to train your staff for opening and have more moving parts than Hubble.  That’s summer.  It’s equally challenging to do the planning and prep with limited access to the staff that grace these hallways for the school year.  Just to be clear, the folks I work with are super dedicated and more often than not spend many hours of their summer here; however, I do my best to give them the time they need and deserve to recoup and energize with their families by not calling on them during the summer if I can help it.

So back to my funk.  Just having those days where I don’t feel super productive, can’t see the progress I’m making toward being ready for the beginning of the school year, etc.  Luckily for me I’ve learned from past experience how to push through the funk.

Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Just keep moving and grooving.  Smile, connect with people and just keep plugging away.  The groove will return with time.  Don’t stop moving.  Dig in on stuff that you’ve been working on for a while.  For example, I’ve been looking at using video more in supervision and evaluation.  Check out https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/improve-teaching-with-video if you’re interested in a peak.  Ten minutes of reviewing this stuff and I’m hooked again.


As I thought about my funk, I realized that I had slacked off from my number one source of inspiration and motivation…my PLN.   As Tony Sinanis pointed out recently in a post called PLN Redefines PD, your PLN can be the best source for that kick in the seat that we all need sometimes just to keep going.  Last night I started to dig back into my online world and immediately found myself saving ideas, taking notes and making a list of things to check out.  It felt good and exactly what I needed.  Here are a few of my finds:

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How to Start a Conversation You’re Dreading s.hbr.org/1qE5A8S

Give Yourself a Break

We’ve all heard the advice “listen to your body and mind” but we often don’t listen or we listen and ignore.  If you feel like you’re needing a break, figure out a way to make that happen.  Maybe it’s a series of small breaks, whatever the case, sort it out.


Focus on Happiness 

Just read a great post by @BergsEyeView called Feeling Good Feels Good.  Seth Berg’s advice is:

When I think about where I’ve been, what I’ve experienced, where I’m headed, and how I aim to get there, I always ask myself, “will this path contribute to enhanced happiness for me and for those I serve?”  That question helps me focus on what’s important to me.


So I’ve got a strategy, got a plan and I’m going to keep on keeping on.  



Annie Go Get Your Briefcase





Today was just one of those days in our house.

If it could be dropped, it was dropped.

If it could be broken, it was.

If it could escape from the house, it did (our indoor cat took a wrong turn).

The internet went out, the cable and phone stopped working, garage door got stuck, gas stove got sketchy…you name it we had it.  So that’s why early this morning it seemed like a great idea to take my youngest daughter to work with me while my amazing wife dealt with all of the above (actually pretty certain I made out well on that deal).

I don’t get to bring my kids to work with me often, so it’s a big deal when it happens.  Luckily my schedule today was forgiving and I was able to make it work.  My youngest has never made this trek before, so it was good to learn what happens when Annie comes to work!  Such as:


Immediately the amazing people I work with take pity on this poor child for having to put up with my sarcasm and whit all day so they bombard her with all sorts of craft items, games, glitter, glue, stickers, paper, pipe cleaners, feathers, colored pencils, rocks, gems, etc.  To the point that your once organized work space now looks something like this:



I also found very quickly that some of the office staff suddenly have access to all sorts of treats and what not that I normally don’t have access to??!?!!?  What’s up with that?!

All that aside the most obvious thing I now know about bringing Annie to work with me is that it’s a pretty great time!


Communication Sure Looks Different But Should Stay the Same

This is just a quick post to note some observations I’ve stumbled on today that aren’t going to be shocking or new to anyone!

We’re getting a new phone system in our school.  Here’s one of the phones in the office:

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No need to adjust your screens, that’s really what the phone looks like!  I keep waiting for it to transform and ask me if I’m with the Autobots or Decepticons!  I started thinking about how just a short time ago we had this:

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This one now sits outside my office in homage to the technology of the past.

Then look at this:

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How many schools have a sign like this at their entrance?  Tons, right!?  These signs were donated and built for schools long ago (in some cases not so long ago) as the best way to keep the community updated on what’s happening at the school.  You could only update once a week or so and had to make sure you had enough letter e’s or o’s to make it through the message you wanted to share. Now, many of these signs, like ours, are falling away…literally (we’re sadly taking ours down soon due to rotting) Now we have this:

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I’m proud of our progress, but also awed and painfully aware of the importance of not losing the human connections in all this change.


7-8-14 Daily Journal

One of the things I love about summer school is that every morning most, if not all, of the staff sit out in front of our school to greet the students.  It’s something that we’ve never said or expressed as an expectation, I just find that the folks who are a part of summer school are very empathetic and supportive of our students.  Such a great feeling for our students, families and for each other!  We even have our breakfast outside in front of the school.  Students, staff and families sit and eat a healthy breakfast before each day starts.  There’s just something cool about it (even though it was out of necessity more than design). It really sets up a nice chance to connect and form relationships with families and students…great thing to think about and how that same work looks during the school year. 

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Our school and many others in Vermont participate in the Four Winds Nature program.  This program puts community resources, parents, teachers and students in touch with what is going on around them in nature through supported educational programming.  Our school, staff and parents have been working together this past year to try to increase the connections between our existing curriculum and the work of the Four Winds folks.  We generated some great ideas today and have some energy moving forward.  Both our school and the Four Winds program seem to be facing a lot of the same challenges in the efficient use of time for students, the changing expectations and standards that are placed on learning opportunities and the value each places into their programming.  Despite the challenges of logistics we are facing, everyone in the conversation is clearly looking out for the best opportunities for student learning.  It’s not going to be a quick fix, but we all felt really positive about the work we did today and recognized the challenges in front of us.  Our next steps include really looking at the planned Four Winds units and lessons and intentionally finding those connections to our existing curriculum, engaging teacher’s in the design of natural education as it relates to their existing instructional components, continuing to examine how we as a school support strong parent participation and genuine partnership opportunities (we say it a lot, but do we really practice it) and tapping into additional resources on a supervisory union level.  Big stuff, but fun!  

We also conducted interviews for our Farm to School Coordinator position today.  Hiring for this position is an exciting opportunity for our already strong programming to continue to grow.  It was great to work with our Food Services folks on this interview.  I never cease to be amazed by the depth of knowledge that they have and the wide world of healthy foods that I only know a little bit about!  The candidates also shared some new learning for me, talking about the programming that they know is going on throughout the state.  Great stuff.  Check out http://www.vtfeed.org/ It’s worth a look.

I’ve been so busy during the days that it’s hard to remember that it’s the summer.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!


Michael and the Dragon Boat

This year I have the opportunity to be a part of something pretty cool…and very different than anything I’ve ever really done before.  A colleague here at school brought this experience to the staff and shared that we could put together a school team.  So I’m proud to say that I am one of many members of the RES-Q Dragon Boat Team!?!?!?!  This is for an amazing cause and we’re very excited to have this opportunity…and a little worried about what our dancing will look like, our chant, the costumes and the sheer act of paddling something called a Dragon Boat but why sweat the small stuff, right?

The Festival benefits our whole community with a day of paddling and entertainment. In addition, the Festival raises funds for two local cancer-related nonprofit organizations, Dragonheart Vermont and Survivorship NOW. Dragonheart Vermont is a breast cancer survivor and supporter organization and Survivorship NOW is Dragonheart’s Initiative to help bridge the gap in support for cancer survivors between treatment and recovery. Survivorship NOW is coordinating a Network On Wellness to serve our community with programs that guide, equip, and empower cancer survivors to live life well. The vision is one day to create a Vermont Cancer Wellness Center in collaboration with other local institutions to create opportunities for therapeutic treatments, strengthening programs, education, and support. 
If you want to make the donation securely online. Please log onto the festival website (www.ridethedragon.org) and click on the Donations tab. When you fill in the form, please be sure to note that this donation is in support of Michael Berry, so my team and I get credit for your donation. If you prefer to donate by mail, you can download a mail-in form from the same web page (http://ridethedragon.org/donations/make-a-donation-form.aspx).
I’m sincerely excited to be a part of this effort, even more proud to be a part of this as a staff team.  Participating as a staff in things like this will continue our efforts to build strong bonds and a sense of community…and it’s just cool to say we paddled a Dragon Boat!


From the Fourth of July to Summer School

I had an awesome fourth of July weekend with my family.  Some highlights included:

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building an arbor with my daughter

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spending a lot of time learning about snakes…as they seem to be everywhere around our home

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put together a pool we received from a colleague

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built a fire pit


and was able to enjoy those famous fireworks that everyone talks about on the fourth of July.

But one of the best moments of my entire weekend was getting this tweet:

Vicki Day (@VictoriaL_Day)
See what I’m wearing on the 4th of July! @PrincipalBerry @resvtpic.twitter.com/MMXlrYdfyy

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@VictoriaL_Day, besides being a fantastic educator and administrator to follow on Twitter, is currently the principal of the elementary school that yours truly attended as a lad!  Talk about the power of Twitter and connections for educators.  I posted some information a while back about our t shirt fundraiser and @VictoriaL_Day being the amazing person that she is signed right up…from a state away!  There’s just something cool about the principal of my own elementary school wearing a t shirt from the school that I’m a principal at…just awesome!  I was also at one point a student of @VictoriaL_Day, but she probably doesn’t want me to say that (oops).  Just an amazing connection and one that I’m grateful for.  I wondered how many other folks have taken the time to check in on their childhood schools and the educators there now.  It’s an interesting journey!

Then today was our first day of summer school.  Our school hosts students from across our supervisory union of our summer school program.  It’s always a learning experience to be a part of summer school.  You have students that you don’t know, staff that are new to you and the students and a whole new learning community that seems to crop up out of nowhere for a few weeks.  I’m looking forward to the learning and getting to know everyone as the summer progresses!