Celebrate Their Tweets & Leave a Little Twitter Dust

When I logged into twitter for the first time, I never knew the trajectory it would take me on. The value of twitter is not in the tool, but in the relationships and connections I have developed as a result. I find daily doses of inspiration and motivation in the people I learn and connect with. 

As I was scrolling through tweets at #LeadLAP, I saw an amazing idea from @BethHouf. Beth is a co-author of Lead Like a Pirate and had the idea to leave “Fairy Gotchas” to staff tweeting about her school with money attached for the soda machine. The goal is simple: recognize and reward staff for being self-motivated learners by connecting and growing their personal learning network or celebrating their classroom activities and achievements at their school hashtag

It was one of those ideas that was quick and easy to implement and came at the perfect time! I was seeking ways to honor my staff for the added work they do to learn and grow for the benefit of our students. With a quick search through images and a Word document that I whipped up, I was ready to go. I logged onto twitter and scrolled through our hashtag, #dgsroyals and was ready to make my mark.


With plastic “Royal” wands left over from a previous activity and some candy, I made my rounds to leave some twitter dust in classrooms. The feedback was positive as teachers tweeted their sweet surprises!


With such feedback, I decided to spread some twitter dust to other buildings in my district and staff that used our district hashtag, #323learns. Baggies filled with a note of appreciation, chocolate, glitter and a wand were sent through interoffice mail to celebrate the tweets of colleagues across the district!

A little twitter dust to recognize and celebrate the staff in our district for growing, learning and connecting brought a little joy and glitter to all our days while promote the development of a PLN and sharing resources!

Promoting the Positive with an Office Referral

She saw on the caller ID that school was calling. Her son was in 4th grade and she had received calls many times before.

  • “Your son pushed a friend at recess.”
  • “Your son chose to use inappropriate words at lunch time.”
  • “Your son refused to comply with staff directions.”

So it was no wonder she answered the phone with, “What’s wrong?” with a tone in her voice that was already defeated and concerned.

The trajectory of that phone call changed when I said, “Your son is ok. He’s actually in my office because he received a positive phone call! He was part of a cooperative learning group that showed others and led by example with his behavior. He was a strong collaborator, showed genuine interest in his peers’ opinions and sweetly celebrated their successes. You should be proud!”

Small moment of silence followed by a shriek of excitement, “Yay! I am so happy to hear that.”

All the while, that child stood next to me beaming with pride. I had called him down a few moments earlier. He entered the office much like his mom answered the phone. Defensive he asked, “What did I do?”

With a smile on my face I shared with him the positive referral I had received from a staff member. His smile was enough to make you cry with joy. “My mom is going to be so proud!” He radiated!

He was all smiles as he signed the Wall of Honor in the office. He beamed when I had him stand beside me as I made a phone call to his mom.

This all took a manner of minutes, but the impact was big. The obvious positive impact was on the student and the parent. Celebrating the positive behaviors and accomplishments of our students is important! The impact extends beyond that. My mood was instantly improved as I made the conscious decision to focus and promote the positive. Classroom teachers are given a model for promoting the positive and are encouraged to do the same.

Receiving a positive office referral and making positive phone calls home are highlights of my day! I enjoy recognizing and building the relationships with students that are leading examples in our school.

The process is simple:

  1. A staff member sees a positive behavior or accomplishment
  2. A staff member completes a paper office referral form or Google Form submission that is sent to the office
  3. The student is recognized at all school morning announcements
  4. The student is called to the office
  5. The student gets praised and celebrated and signs the Wall of Honor
  6. The principal calls the parent to share the great news
  7. The principal puts the kid on the phone with the parent
  8. Everyone does a happy dance!

I took this concept a step further when I wanted to share and celebrate the staff. With spouses or parent phone numbers in hand, I make phone calls to the families of my staff as well. Imagine the surprise and pride when a husband gets a call from the principal to recognize their spouse for being an important part of the school culture by being a leader and exceptional teacher.

Benefits to Positive Phone Calls:

  • Developing relationships
  • Instilling pride in students and families
  • Building trust
  • Promoting the Positive
  • Quick and efficient
  • Celebrates student success

Barriers to Positive Phone Calls:

  • NONE

So get out there and pick up the phone! Promote the positive in your schools!


Patio PD

In an effort to personalize professional learning this summer, we hosted our first Patio PD at a local restaurant. The event was held to allow teachers to collaborate and connect in an informal setting where building relationships and networking was just as important as learning new tools and strategies.

We chose to structure our #PatioPD event like a trivia night that is held at many local establishments. As teachers arrived, a variety of conversation starters were placed on their tables that allowed them to discuss topics informally until we started the learning activity.

We chose to model the learning activity after Scatteggories in which teams of teachers were given a topic and they were asked to generate as many resources or ideas that related to that topic in one minute before sharing them with the larger group. Teams were awarded points when they shared a resource that no other team had written down.

Topics included:

  • Favorite Hashtags to follow
  • Must read professional books
  • Tools for developing a PLN
  • Strategies for communicating with families
  • Must use tech tools in the classroom

To add to the fun of the event, we gave prizes to the winning teams that included a variety of classroom supplies, books, and PatioPD decals and mugs!

Hosting a PatioPD event is easy and proved to be a lot of fun. Watching teachers come together to learn and grow together in an informal environment proved powerful, meaningful and effective.

Classroom Crawl Staff Meeting

If you walk into any classroom in my building, you would know that the staff takes considerable amount of time and energy in creating a learning environment that is student centered and promotes student ownership. I wanted each staff member to see their colleagues’ spaces and celebrate the various elements of their classrooms that make them unique and student friendly.
Using the foundation of “Kids Deserve It,” I charged my staff to participate in a “Classroom Crawl.” We walked from classroom to classroom to tour the learning environments the staff had created for their students. They were given a list of ten components or elements to look for on their tour that were pulled from ideas in “Kids Deserve It. As they toured each classroom, they tweeted examples of innovation, teachers as learners, creativity, building relationships and more! In addition to their pictures and tweets, they were encouraged to make a positive phone call to a current or former student and write a note of appreciation and support to a colleague.
Staff enjoyed getting to show off their classrooms and learn by examining the environments of their peers in anticipation for the first day of school. This interactive option for PD got them moving, learning and collaborating from each other, and celebrating the positive elements of our school!

Back to School “Emotion”

It seems like we spend a lot of time in the car, travelling between activities or events and my daughters and I have some of the best and most entertaining conversations during our commutes. Since it was back to school time, our conversation was geared at the to-do lists that we had:

  • Finalize school supply shopping
  • Be prepared for Open House
  • Pick out our first day of school outfits
  • Start our back to school sleep routine back up

Among the conversation, my eight year old piped up; “Why do mamas get so emotional at back to school time? I was driving down the highway, but I wanted to stop and pull the car over and hug her. At first it was an easy response. “We get emotional because that means our babies are growing up!” In reflecting, I think I define ’emotional’ and get ’emotional’ in may ways and for so many more reasons at back to school time.

  • Because as a mom, I am beaming with PRIDE that my children are about to tackle a new grade level and adventure and that although that is equal parts scary and amazing, they are equipped for the challenge.
  • Because as a mom, I am placing TRUST in the staff members of their school to lift them up academically, socially, and emotionally and that is a large task.
  • Because as a mom, a new grade level means I am NOSTALGIC over the moments and grade levels, memories, and milestones before.
  • Because as a mom, I am ANXIOUS and WORRISOME that they succeed in the ways that will make them happy and fulfilled; Ways that allow them to be creative, collaborative, and pursue their passions.
  • Because as a mom, I am AWARE that society doesn’t set standards that measure success in all the ways our students can be successful.
  • Because as a mom, I have bittersweet SADNESS that my little girls are growing at a pace more rapid than I can soak in most days despite my intent and that even as they begin this school year, that I know that I will blink and their school days will be coming to an end.
  • Because as a mom, I am filled with GRATITUDE that I am able to send my children to schools that provide them a world class education, knowing that not all children have that access.

So little one, I am ’emotional’ when you go back to school. ‘Emotional’ for so many reasons. Some that bring me tears and some that make me smile, but all because I love you.

I can’t always put into words what emotion can sum up all the feelings I have when my children have their next first day of school, but I do know, that as a principal, I know how each of those emotions feel and I am walking them amongst other moms and families that share the same canvas of varied emotions. We walk in this together and just as I am honored to be the mother of my own children, I am honored in the trust that is placed in me to care for the students in my school family.

Coffee and Selfies

There are many aspects of my job that are rewarding, but one that is at the top of my list in the ability to engage and empower teachers to be better versions of themselves for the betterment of teaching and learning. I am addicted to learning new ways to coach and develop learning opportunities that provide teachers a model for teaching and learning, but also personalized avenues for them to learn about topics and strategies that are both meaningful to them and will also challenge them.

I was given the ability to coordinate several PD events for our district this summer and CoffeeEDU has been one of my favorites. Today we hosted our second successful CoffeeEDU event with a Selfie Challenge Twist!

I had written a previous blog post (Coffee.Connections. and Conversations: How to Host a CoffeeEDU event) about the structure and preparations of our first CoffeeEDU event. We had success with the educators at our first event sitting in small groups and discussing meaningful and relevant topics. For this event, we wanted the opportunity for educators to do more networking, connecting, and communicating on a variety of topics. With some inspiration from my twitter PLN, the twitter selfie challenge was born.

Attendees were simply greeted at the event and provided a copy of the Selfie Challenge Board and the directions to meet and mingle with others that have met the criteria on the board. Once they discussed the topic and shared any ideas or resources, they were then asked to take a selfie and tweet it to our hashtag.

Those that completed the challenge were given a “Solid Gold Rock Star Trophy” aka plastic guitar from Oriental Trading, to commemorate their experience and congratulate them on being a connected educator! You can read and see images in the storify below. If you’d like an editable version of the template, direct message me on twitter @mandyeellis

Book Study #BookSnaps

I’ve been leading an online book study featuring “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros in my district and have been enjoying the collaboration and reflections of the dedicated staff members that are engaging in the learning process throughout their summer break. As part of the book study, I issued them a challenge. It read:

If you are on twitter, I am going to challenge you to do a #booksnap this week and share it at #323reads and #innovatorsmindset. Some of you have already done them and they are a great avenue for reflecting and sharing what you’re reading and what stands out to you. You can view how to do a #booksnap at http://daveburgess.com/booksnaps/

The responses from staff were great! They learned how to use a new tool to engage kids in their classrooms, but also to use as a professional reflection strategy.

Following Part II of the Book Study I shared the following information with the participants:

Thank you to those of you that took a risk to try Book Snaps for the first time! I’ve compiled them at https://spark.adobe.com/page/y5UP5E1cbwtv6/ The power of a book snap is in the reflections you have of the text and each of you took away some key concepts and ideas from Part II as a result and learned a new strategy to learn with your students as well! Book Snaps can be done on the Chromebooks as well with the Emoji keyboard if you are interested in embedding that into your classroom learning. You can’t use SnapChat on your Chromebook, but you can use Google Drawings! Students can use the Google Drawings tool to create a #booksnap and annotate or reflect on what they are reading. By using Google Drawings, the students are creating original content and can share. You can read more on how to do this at http://bisdlearntech.com/booksnaps/

Click on the image below to see all the #booksnaps from the participants of the book study!

#323Reads BookSnaps

What it Takes Conference 2017

I attended the What it Takes Conference the week of June 12, 2017 in Galesburg, Illinois. With keynote by Matt Miller and sessions by several key players in my Personal Learning Network (PLN), I knew there would be some great take-a-ways. You can view my storify of the tweets to summarize the experience below! I’m thankful that such strong Professional Learning was available within close proximity and was driven by the participants and educators themselves.

Give the Gift of Books with a Birthday Bookshelf!

A book is a gift you can open again and again. —Garrison Keillor

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift. —Kate DiCamillo

Books are very relationship driven. There are opportunities for educators and students to connect over titles, topics, and genres of books. As a leader, you have the power to be the hub of reading in your building.


Let’s be real, pencils, erasers, crowns, or stickers can acknowledge a student on their birthday and make them feel special, but not too long after that token is given to them, are they discarded or lost. To build a culture of readers in your building, match your rewards, incentives, and gifts to your goals, vision and philosophy.


A birthday bookshelf is an opportunity for students to come into the principal’s office on their birthday, select a new book, and have it signed by the principal. During these interactions, the principal learns about the child’s preferences in reading, is able to have a short conversation to build relationships, and provides a copy of a book to the child No Strings Attached! I have also used this time to take a #birthdayselfie with the students and send a picture to their family or post on our school social media pages.


Logistics are simple. Students that are celebrating birthdays (or half birthdays for summer birthdays), are given a birthday bookmark with their name on it from the office. These are printed inexpensively at print shops or can be done on cardstock on your own. The bookmarks serve as a reminder of students to come to the office to claim their birthday book and also as a pass to indicate to office staff why the child is in the office. As the student gets their book, the book mark goes in, and voila! If I am not in the office to sign a book, they can be left with the bookmark for me to sign and I personally deliver them when I am available.

Every child receives a bookmark as their reminder to redeem it for a birthday book!

Funding for these books is made possible by our Parent’s Organization. They use funds from our book fair revenue to purchase books in a variety of levels, genres, topics, and interests for students. This is done twice a year to build inventory on the bookshelf and maintain current and popular titles. A birthday bookshelf could also be done at a classroom level with book order dollars.


Giving the gift of books sends a clear message that you value reading and that you are intentional about developing a culture of readers through your gifts and tokens. In what ways could you apply or extend this practice in your school or classroom?

Kids Deserve It

I had the wonderful opportunity to be featured on an episode of a weekly “Kids Deserve It” podcast/videocast. These sessions are hosted weekly by the authors of “Kids Deserve It,” Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney. I read their book while ago and was a quick fan at their message to support kids, build relationships, and make schools a memorable place for students.

It’s a simple philosophy that we drives my work as an administrator and lead learner. It is also a message that we continually need to focus on in our work as educators.  We were able to connect at the Illinois Computing Educator’s Conference in February 2017 and I’ve enjoyed watching them spread the positive message through twitter, instagram, remind, voxer, and in any and all ways possible.
Our conversation was able to focus on one of my favorite topics and passions: literacy and developing a culture of readers! I shared a simple challenge with the viewers… Connect kids with books with no strings attached. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below. Tell me how your school or classroom fosters a love of reading!

Some ideas I suggested for connecting kids to books during the summer months:

  • Host a story time at school during the summer months. Think of a fun theme to engage kids. We’re hosting a “Popsicle with the Principal” and “Donuts and Pajamas.” Each one includes a story, treat, and playtime on our playground. Simple, easy and fun! I even solicited our Scholastic representative to loan us their Clifford Costume for one of the events:)
  • Record a read aloud and post it to your school facebook page or social media site. Go further and have members of your staff each record a read aloud on a flip grid and share them periodically.
  • Send a book in the mail to students! Make sure to leave a special inscription.
  • Show up to your local library’s story time and see what students are there! Ask to read with them!
  • Create a Little Free Library on your playground or outside your school. Consider placing one in a neighborhood or area of town that could benefit from it. Place “honor book” baskets in local restaurants and coffee shops with your logo and encourage kids to read!
  • Create a summer reading blog and have students share their reading reflections throughout the summer and comment on each other’s posts!

Our conversation also focused on developing relationships with kids by remembering to have FUN with them. Whereas I will always encourage staff to be safe, use their professional judgement, and follow district policy, it is also important to have a little fun with kids. This can include:

  • Sitting down and eating lunch with them.
  • Getting a HULK Hand and giving High Fives
  • Using a bicycle horn to send them on their ways or to walk into a classroom
  • Having fun at recess and taking time to chat with kids! They love when they can show you their newest trick on the monkey bars or play a game of catch with you.
  • Wear a crazy hat or head piece.
  • You can read 75 MORE ideas at a previous blog post of mine HERE 

The point is… go out there… be a champion for kids!

Thanks Todd and Adam for allowing me the honor of being #77!

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