by Liz Garden, Principal, Florence Roche Elementary School, Groton, MA
This principaling business that we are in is hard work. And often times, it’s lonely work. We do work with lots of staff, teachers, parents, students, but there is usually only one of us in the building. There were many times when I first became a principal, that I felt like I was on an island. When I had tough decisions to make or days when it felt like everyone’s problem was dumped on me, I got discouraged. When I had an amazing conversation with a teacher or helped turn a student around, I wanted to celebrate my successes. I did not feel like I had too many colleagues to turn to. And then I was introduced to Voxer.
One day, I was participating in a Twitter chat and Adam Welcome, co-author of Kids Deserve It, mentioned Voxer. I reached out to him, and he added me into a Voxer group called Principals in Action, and before I knew it, I was hooked! I was no longer stranded on an island. I was no longer lonely. I had found this place where people like me, principals, school leaders, education peeps, were listening, communicating, collaborating, sharing and supporting each other.
You may be wondering what in the world is Voxer? Voxer is like a walkie talkie. It is a free app (you can also purchase a pro account) that allows you to connect with different groups of people. You can record messages. You can send text messages. You can share photos and videos. There are many different Voxer groups that have been formed or are being formed each day. Right now, I am in several groups, including a book chat group discussing Lead Like a Pirate, a work/life/balance group for principals, of course our MESPAchat group, a group called Principals in Action, and my favorite group called Moms as Principals! Joining these Voxer groups has energized me, helped me feel supported, challenged me and given me ideas that I would have never thought of before.
There is something about being able to hear a person’s voice. What I truly love about Voxer is that I can hear people’s voices. So I feel really connected to people who are actually thousands of miles away from me, but are experiencing the same struggles and successes that I am. When a principal in CA is having a difficult day, I can hear it in his voice. When a principal in Ohio is excited about a new project, I can hear it in her voice. Voxer has turned my car ride into mini PD sessions. I hit the play button, and I listen to educators from all over share. The recorded messages are saved in order, and I can listen to them whenever I want or I can replay them to hear them again. I can also send specific messages to people and they can respond to me…we are basically carrying on conversations that I can select when I want to listen to them.
About a year ago, I don’t think I realized how amazing one of these Voxer groups was going to become in my life. As I mentioned earlier, I am part of a group called #momsasprincipals. This group formed with just a few of us coming together and talking about blogging, sharing stories about being both a mom and a principal, and posting some thoughts every once in awhile on Twitter. What started as seven of us has grown to fifty (with more added each week!) amazingly brilliant women in leadership across the country who collaborate daily on curriculum and cribs, and support each other through the joys of leading a school and struggles of raising toddlers and teenagers. These women have become my dear friends. They have reached out to me when I have doubted myself as a leader, and they have raised me up when I have shared struggles of trying to balance it all. They just get it. The connections I have made through this Voxer group have surprised me and motivated me to constantly grow as a principal and a mom. I can’t imagine not having these women in my life. The funny thing is…most of them I have never met in person! It may be hard to understand how such a connection could happen through a simple walkie talkie app. But through our daily Voxer conversations in the car, on the treadmill, in our offices, in our kitchens, we have connected, we have formed a bond that is hard to describe. I consider them my colleagues, my mentors, my support system, but most importantly, I consider them my friends.
Yes, this principaling business is hard work. And the job of being a mom is also hard work! But thanks to Voxer, I am no longer alone. I recommend that you check out Voxer. Hopefully you too will make some amazing connections with educators across the country! You can find out more information about Voxer here. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in joining a Voxer group.
Be sure to check out the upcoming #MESPAchat this week. The original seven #momsasprincipals will be moderating the chat on Wednesday, April 12 from 8:00-9:00pm, and we will be talking about favorite things in education!
Liz Garden is currently in her third year as the principal of Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, MA. Before becoming the principal of the school, she served as the assistant principal for two years. Prior to coming to the Groton-Dunstable school district, she was an early childhood administrator in Leominster. Liz was also a second grade teacher in Westborough and a communication teacher for children with autism at the Boston Higashi School in Randolph. Before moving to MA, Liz was a teacher in VA. As a result, she is still in denial about wearing a winter coat for a large part of the year! Liz has presented at MESPA, MRA and NAESP conferences, and is excited to be a presenter at NAESP in July. She blogs regularly for her staff (and anyone else who wants to read what she has to say!) at www.floromondaymorningmusings.blogspot.com. When she is not trying to be an instructional leader and mold future minds, she is dealing with her reading addiction, keeping Amazon.com in business, listening to her musician husband sing, and chasing around her wild 1-year-old, Emerson! You can connect with Liz on Twitter @PrincipalGarden and on Voxer @PrincipalGarden, where she is an active member of MESPA’s Voxer group.
Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.