Monday, November 4, 2013

Professional vs. Personal: The Balance of Time

As a secondary school administrator, many of my weekday nights are filled with board meetings, Home and School Club meetings, and various other school events. Truthfully, many of these events are very valuable to attend, whether it's the community-building school-wide fundraiser or the silliness of our school dances. It's a blessing to meet with fellow district personnel and school community members outside of the normal school day and have honest, open discussions about all things in the education realm. The opportunity to make these personal connections is a huge part of the vision and presence my fellow school administrators have set in the past for my school site and something that I, as the principal, have tried to continue. With all of these additional night events, it can be a challenge to balance one's professional life with one's personal time. Thus, when the opportunity to spend eight hours on a Saturday at a local technology conference arose, it was with much pause that I explored the possibility.

The conference was titled EdSurge Tech for Schools Summit: Silicon Valley with the intent to "getting educators and entrepreneurs together for a day of hands-on edtech." One of my former colleagues had sent me the link for the day-long conference and encouraged me to sign up to attend with them. Likewise, I share the idea of the conference with a staff member who was currently testing out some of the very same concepts in their classroom. While the conference itself sounded valuable, the challenge as an occasionally scheduled-filled site administrator was the concept of giving up a Saturday with my daughters (and the weekly Saturday morning Costco trip we took) and instead replacing the father-daughters time with more professional growth and work events. However, over the next 24 hours, the positives of the conference started to take hold.

And so I began to make a mental list of "why I should go to the conference" and came up with seven key reasons:

  1. The event was free - as silly as this sounds, I wasn't costing the school any funds and since it was on a Saturday, I wasn't missing any work;
  2. Many of the educators I follow on twitter would be attending this (or have attended like) event(s);
  3. There was a promise of a decent lunch (yes, food motivated);
  4. Many of the companies who would be presenting at the conference were curriculum products and classroom tools that I had previous interest in and wanted to learn more about (with the companies selected from a panel that included my former journalism teacher and one of my former middle school principals during my classroom days);
  5. The event was an opportunity to network with both my former colleague and other like-minded educators;
  6. The commute was just 10 minutes, door to door;
  7. And perhaps most importantly, if I were an educator at a Bay Area Middle School, would I want to work with a principal who had taken the time on a Saturday to research innovative classroom products? Is this a quality that I would like to see in someone I needed to rely on to help support my efforts in the classroom and my own professional growth? I asked myself, how can I best support my staff and share new ideas when I'm not availing myself to these opportunities to learn more about the specific products?

And I'm happy to say that it was the right decision. I felt that I saw numerous educational innovations that our staff can implement within 24 hours and already improve upon the amazing student learning taking place in their classrooms. The staff member who attended the summit walked away with a Google doc summary of all of the companies and their products; they've actually already added me to a "test class" for one of the classroom tools they discovered! I networked with numerous other educators through twitter throughout the event, discovered amazing blogs and feeds that I would not have had logical access to otherwise. All in all, it was a very worthwhile event and I'm already looking forward to the next opportunity to experience it all over again.

(and for those of you concerned about the lack of a Costco trip that weekend, my daughters and I were fortunate to be able to sneak out of the house that evening for our weekly departure to Costco land. It was a good day.)

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