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Sunday, January 26, 2014

How Much Time For Personal Growth Do You Have?

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It's Saturday. Do you: Play 18? Visit some garage sales? Go to that winery you've read about? Do yard work? Grade papers? Other?

Everybody has the same amount of hours in the week and days in the year. And, each month has 8 weekend days.

Many (most) of the teachers I have worked with keep their weekends sacred. And, on a certain level, there isn't anything wrong with that.

If you think about the hours, after the "normal" work hours, that teachers do things like lesson planning and grading of assessments, then it's bordering on "cruel" to expect them to do school-related things on the weekend.

So, as an educational leader in your school or district what are the expectations that are placed upon your weekends? Do you attend the sporting events? Do you attend the plays/musicals and the concerts? Do you get your car washed or buy baked goods at the fundraisers?

Suddenly you feel the pull of these "expectations." And this pull is, often, diametrically opposed to your own personal "expectations." Personal expectations can be from your kid's sporting events, your involvement in youth (and adult) organizations, or your spouse or other family members.

You can't possibly give up any of your weekend time - because you don't have much of "your time" left!  But what about improving yourself mentally? Do you take weekend time to make yourself smarter? When do you fit that in?

This weekend I was lucky because my diametrically opposed "expectations" didn't affect each other. Yesterday I was at my school helping to run an Academic Competition. I left home at 6:30 AM and got home just after 6 PM. My wife was out of town on business. My son? He had plans for the entire afternoon and didn't get home until right before I walked into the door. Only my cats were upset with my day away from home.

But my personal growth WAS impacted by yesterday. Yesterday was the Saturday session at Educon 2.6. It started Friday night and I wasn't around to keep track of my Twitter feed to see what I was missing (we were prepping for the academic competition that night). And yesterday I wasn't able to look at my phone (never mind my laptop) the entire day so I missed that feed. And so, most importantly, I missed the live streams from yesterday's sessions.

Ever since Educon 2.2 I have virtually (or physically) attended this conference.  In my opinion it is the one conference you shouldn't miss virtually (every year) and you shouldn't miss going to - at least once in your lifetime. It's that good!  I repeat - it's that good!

Today I wasn't able to get connected to the conference until Session 4 which went from 9:30 to 11:00 (my time). But I jumped online; selected the session I wanted to attend; checked the Twitter stream to see who else was attending virtually: and, found two of my friends, who were not only talking about the conference, but they had selected the same session I had opened!

Before you knew it, we had a Google Doc open and we were discussing the topics being presented and we even were able to submit our conversations to the session facilitators because they were prepared and had a Google Form to fill out with any discussions that were going on at the session (physically there and virtually).

Now I'm (kind of) attending a session while I write this post. There wasn't anything on the list that totally blew me away so I took the opportunity to start the feed and then work while listening. I even opened a google doc and shared with one of my earlier friends so she and I could add things we heard during this session (and all three of us will be back together for the next session).

And what is this costing me, in terms of time? I'll be hyper focused for 90 minutes for each of the sessions I tune into mentally.  This is something every educator can do. And I'm not talking about doing this every weekend. Just pick one weekend a month to focus on being a better educator.

You could select an Edcamp to attend and that will be the one day you devote to improving yourself for that month. You could select a conference to either attend physically or virtually and that could be another month's learning moment. If you can string together 12 of these (one for each month) then you can carve out the time so that everyone - your school, school district, and family - will know that this is important to you.

What do you have planned for February? Pick something now. I'll be attending TCEA in Austin TX. In March I'll be attending SXSWEdu, again in Austin. Starting the year with Educon, TCEA, and SXSWEdu each year really gets the year started in the right direction.

Remember you do NOT have to book a flight and a hotel for every conference you see on a calendar. Attend virtually. Many provide livestreams and most provide twitter feeds. And all of them will have connected educators tweeting, facebooking, snapchatting, or somehow connecting with their friends and followers.

Just dedicate one day a month to be totally involved in your own professional development. Your students and colleagues deserve this from you. Getting your family to agree to this, on the other hand, is your problem. But worth the potential headache - I promise.