Archive for November, 2011

Feelgood Folders

No matter how much we love what we do, we all have those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that get us feeling down on ourselves.  It’s in anticipation of those days that I started a “Feelgood Folder”, a manila folder where I store thank-you cards & letters, commendations, emails, and anything else I have received in appreciation for a job well done.

If memory serves, credit for this idea has to go to my cooperating teacher during my student teaching experience in the fall of 1998.  I started my folder toward the end of that semester, and have been contributing to it here and there for 13 years now.  In fact, given the broad scale shift to digital communication in that time, I even started a separate feelgood folder notebook in my Evernote.

It’s not something that has to be public like a blog or website (although there’s nothing wrong with a little shameless self-promotion from time to time), just someplace you can go to remind yourself of all the good you do for so many people every day.  People in professions such as education give so much of themselves to help and support others that they too often neglect themselves.  If you don’t have such a folder, consider starting one; if you’ve already got one, take some time to flip through it and enjoy some well-deserved recognition.  If nothing else, it’s good for the soul.

The End of Isolation

In September, I was very proud to have my first contribution to a peer-reviewed journal published.  When a friend asked if I had publicized this on my blog, I paused, then realized that in the hubbub of the start of school, I had completely forgotten.

So anyway, here goes: in “The End of Isolation”, my co-authors (Eric Brunsell and Elizabeth Alderton, both of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh) and I explore how K-12 classroom teachers use Twitter as a means of professional networking (the research behind the article was the basis of Eric’s and my conversation at Educon 2.3 this past January).  More from the abstract:

The researchers surveyed and analyzed the public Twitter feeds of classroom teachers to determine the specific purposes for which teachers use Twitter. Study participants also completed surveys dealing with social networking. The K-12 educators in this study engaged in true dialogue, where evidence of actual conversation occurred in Twitter over 61% of the time. Additionally, over 82% of the time, the educators in this study chose to follow other educators or content experts related to their field of teaching so they were able to create a personal learning network meaningful to their professional needs. Analysis of data shows that a majority of tweets were educationally focused and were primarily in the categories of practice/philosophy, questions, and sharing of resources. Additional studies looking at how other online learning communities may be used as professional development venues would be beneficial and add to the knowledge base of online learning, professional development, and learning networks.

The article appeared in this past September’s issue of MERLOT’s Journal of Online Learning and Teaching; the full text of the article is available here for your review.  Finally, a huge THANK YOU to the participants in our survey; we truly could not have done this without you.


Alderton, E., Brunsell, E., & Bariexca, D.  (2011).  The end of isolation.  MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 354-365.

Taking Stock

It’s hard to believe that the school year is 20% over already.  The past few months have been a whirlwind for me, due primarily to me starting both a new job and a new graduate program at the same time.  I’ve debated the wisdom of that decision several times over the course of September, but after a rocky start, things have finally evened out.  I feel comfortably settled into both my new job and my new school, and I’m happy to report I’m enjoying both!

The first course in my doctoral program, Experiential Learning, focused primarily on helping students to codify their beliefs about leadership and establish learning goals for the coming year.  In one of my papers, I established the following goal:

Goal #2: Reflect on my learning in a transparent manner.   I have long felt that honest reflection is one of the most vital components of learning, and I required my students to do it frequently, both verbally and in writing.  As a blogger of over four years, I have found great value in writing about my professional practice and considering feedback from my audience […] I hope to gain similar benefits from writing online about my experiences in the doctoral program as I have from writing online about teaching and school psychology.

So what are my reflections upon finishing my first course?  They’re much less to do with leadership and more to do with biting off more than I can chew.  I figured it would be difficult, but doable, but I seriously underestimated how much all this newness in my life would take out of me.  I don’t feel that either my studies or my work suffered as a result of my decision, but my sleep patterns, stress levels, and general well-being certainly did.  I had the opportunity to defer starting my studies for a year, and in retrospect that wouldn’t have been the worst idea, but what’s done is done.  Moving forward, I need to be much more sensible about balancing my responsibilities.  Perhaps that’s not such a bad lesson for a future leader to learn now rather than later.