Friday, May 20, 2016

Teach Like A PIRATE Day 2016...Yes You Read That Correctly

Teach Like a PIRATE Day is a day in which we put educational author Dave Burgess' question to the test -- if kids didn't have to be there, would you be teaching to an empty room?  Our kids come to school, attend homeroom for attendance, and when the bell rings, they run to any class that is of interest to them.  Yes, you read all of that correctly.

Our teachers create "experiences" based on their content areas and we compile them in a guidebook which we hand out to the kids a few days before the big day.  One student was walking to homeroom with his guidebook and he said to me, "Mr. McLane, this might be the only time a teacher has given me a piece of paper that I was told to bring back to school that I actually brought back to school."

We had a drone, singing, black light science, the Amazing Race in which kids ran around our campus solving math problems (find the circumference of this bicycle tire) and 25 other amazing experiences that the kids could choose from.  They didn't just choose, they were virtually running to the next class.  Yes, you read that correctly again.

I had a parent contact me last night, TLAP Day Eve, to tell me her high school daughter was jealous of her two younger brothers, because they got to experience TLAP Day and she didn't when she was in 6th grade.  I found out this morning that the high school was on a 2-hour delay schedule today and she had pleaded with her mom to allow her to come to school early, spending the first two hours at our building participating in the amazing activities and then go to the high school two hours later.  High school kid.  Chance to sleep in.  Last week of school.  Wanted to come to school early.  Yes you read that correctly.

In an era in which there are so many experts who have so many opinions on what is wrong with our schools and how they can be fixed, we constantly overlook the simplest of things.  Do the kids want to be there?  It is a simple thing to overlook, but a major mistake if we do.  At our school, we don't try to make school awesome once a year, we strive to do it 180 days a year.

Ryan McLane is the principal at Big Walnut Intermediate School in Sunbury, Ohio and co-author of the educational book, Your School Rocks...So Tell People.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Social Media...The Tool.

Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to talk to college students, young educators, and those who have been in the game much longer than me.  I enjoy doing this because it always gives me an opportunity to learn something and I often self-reflect based on the questions I am asked.  And here is what really hit me lately.  It's not about Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram.

Now you may be thinking, wait a second, you just wrote a book on using social media, is he jumping ship?  Not at all.  The point that may be getting missed, and perhaps I've done a poor job emphasizing this point, is the "why" of social media.

You see, we use all of those tools I mentioned in our school.  We use them on a regular basis.  But we do not use them because they are cool, or neat, or different.  We use them because they are effective ways to communicate with our students' families and our community.  Social media is the tool, and right now it has been the most effective and efficient tool in making sure the message and communication we are trying to establish, not only happens, but is mutually beneficial.

Back in the day, email and school websites were all the rage.  Gary Vaynerchuk, a social media expert, talks about how when email first came out, everyone opened every piece of email they ever received.  And they read it.  Things have changed.  Think about the number of unread emails in your inbox (mine is higher than I'd like to admit).  It is no longer the most effective method of communication.  I also hate to break this news to you, but your school website is not the first place people are going to when they are looking for information about an upcoming school event.

Here's my point.  If all of a sudden people went back to opening and reading every single piece of email, guess what I'd be using to communicate with our families?  You got it.  I don't love social media because it is social media.  I love it because it is the greatest vehicle we currently have to engage our communities.  Right now that is Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube (sorry Twitter).  And when that changes to something more efficient and impactful, I'll be moving right along and adapt.  But don't forget why you are doing this in the first place. You are trying to build relationships, keep your families informed, and have opportunities for two-way communication.  That's the point that can't get lost.
Ryan McLane is the principal at Big Walnut Intermediate School in Sunbury, Ohio and co-author of the educational book, Your School Rocks...So Tell People.