Sabbatical Sense…or why I'm back!

Back in November, I decided to take a social media sabbatical. I really wanted to reevaluate why I was as involved as  I was  online and what my true purpose entailed. Professionally, I’d been burned this past semester and needed some distance. Personally, I felt overwhelmed and unsure of my “presence”. ( I really have THAT many friends??)  (albeit, this prolly had more to do with the being burned part.;))

GC wrote a post about the irony of trying to keep your personal life and professional life separate and how impossible he thought that was.

After my sabbatical, I concur.

I asked the question of whether it was essential for a leader to be involved in SM:  whether it be FB or Twitter or whatnot, and at the end of  my month, I do know that for me, it is. I was no less busy, no less occupied, but I did feel as if I was missing something.

I read several books…but had no one to discuss them with.

I thought several PD thoughts…but had no one

to dissect them with.

I had several questions…but no one to ask them.

The brevity of learning through my PLN is unmatched through blogs, texts, or even phone calls. Not knowing and being involved with my teachers (some who are true FRIENDS), was difficult. I genuinely felt as if I wasn’t able to connect in the ways that were important to me. Some days are SO busy, I

don’t get to every classroom, but being able to interact through a form of SM keeps me connected.

While talking to a colleague at work, whose opinion I definitely value, she again pointed out that 10 years ago, it wasn’t necessary to be “online” to be successful, and those people did just fine. Compare that thought to a fabulous sorority sister who I shared that with and she said, “Yea…but this isn’t the same world!”

And that’s the bottom line. I can’t lead from a place of fear. I can’t be different than who I am. I will be involved because it DOES

make me a better person, and hopefully, a better leader.

So there.

 

sabbatical stopN,

Amber

 

PS: VERY curious as to other admin’s thoughts on “friending/tweeting”  your teachers…and what your experience has been!

 

31 Comments

  1. Lesa Haney said:

    Amber,

    First I am glad you back. I also took a break from social media–but mine was only for a week. I think the real issue is finding balance. I love being a connected educator and being able to be plugged in. I just need to remind myself that I don’t need to be plugged in 24/7/365. I think a sabbatical from social media from time to time is a good thing. In 2012, I took a “no work” night at least once a week. (That included a break from checking all social media.) In 2013, I am going to do it at least twice a week.

    Good luck and hope you have a good rest of the school year!
    Lesa

    January 3, 2013
    • Hi Lesa! Thank you for reading and commenting! I like that idea, may give it a try as well! It’d be a heck of a lot easier than a month, 😉

      Amber

      January 3, 2013
  2. Dave Meister said:

    Excellent question Amber. I have friended the few teachers who have requested my “friendship” on Facebook. I do not spend much time on Facebook and rarely post anything but a picture or two. I have come across some posts by teachers that were somewhat uncomfortable, but I chose to remain uninvolved in the conversations that ensued. (I think that staff members forget that I am on Facebook, much less on their list of friends.) I follow and “tweet” with several of my staff. I guess my online “self” and my professional “self” are one and the same. I never put anything on social media I would not say in front of a group of students, staff or teachers. (at least I have not yet) That probably makes me a little boring,(okay, a lot boring, welcome to my world) but I feel pretty confident that my online presence follows my professional standards. I, like you find that interaction with colleagues and friends online is irreplaceable. I have matured in my use and do not post as often as I used to. /end ramble/

    January 3, 2013
    • @8amber8 said:

      hahaha, I like it when you ramble, Dave! 🙂

      I think that’s a very important thing for me to keep in mind as well.

      “I never put anything on social media I would not say in front of a group of students, staff or teachers. ”

      Our communications person told our campus this year, don’t post anything on any form of SM that you wouldn’t actually DO or SAY in the lobby of your school. That really clarifies the “don’t post anything stupid” which was my proclamation, 😉

      Innocent pictures can make great headlines…just b/c you know they were innocent doesn’t mean they won’t be used against you.
      #lessonslearned

      Thanks for reading and commenting DM!

      January 3, 2013
  3. Maria Stavropoulos said:

    Amber,

    I am so glad you wrote this post. I was just considering taking my sabbatical to find my balance, but did not want to miss-out on all the updates from so many remarkable people. I have to agree with Lesa that we need to schedule time away weekly to maintain that balance, yet be in the loop.

    In answering your question about friending/tweeting teachers, I believe that teachers should have separate accounts for professional use and personal use. Too often teachers post too much information of Facebook pages that indirectly affects the work relationship among staff members. Often I feel embarrassed for them, but at the same time review what I am posting just so that I do not get caught up in their comfort level.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Maria

    January 3, 2013
    • Maria Stavropoulos said:

      No I had not read this! I can see both sides, but have to agree that once on the internet, nothing is private!

      Thanks!

      January 5, 2013
  4. Glad to hear (and see) that you are back! I give you a great deal of credit for being able to take a sabbatical from social media as I know that I could not do it. It has become integrated into every facet of my professional life and empowered me through incredible connections to re-think how I lead. As for your question about friending staff here is my response. I do not friend teachers on Facebook. I actually did this early on, but un-friended each of them last spring (I did forewarn them that I was doing this though). My reason for this is that I needed some personal social media space to connect with my friends and I did not want this to negatively impact my professional life. Those that I am friends with on FB know that I don’t go overboard and post inappropriate content, but I do believe that my personal life has to be separate from my school life. With Twitter everything is strictly professional. I do follow my teachers and interact with them.

    January 3, 2013
    • Jen said:

      I like that you “unfriended” teachers on FB. I find it hard to be authentic. :-/

      January 4, 2013
    • Thanks Eric! Interesting perspective…the edges of my word are very blurred as I am very good friends with several people that I work with, and have to be grown up enough to define “not” being friends with other work colleagues. Given the relational way that i want to lead, it’s been VERY difficult to not be involved. I have some friends in the admin world in my district that are older and they are very much a keep it separate mindset. Will definitely become a concern if/when I leave this campus.
      I almost want to go somewhere new so I can not make the same “mistakes” I’ve made here, 🙂

      January 4, 2013
  5. Jen said:

    I am friends with my teachers on FB. I don’t care if they see me enjoying my vacations or running half marathons. My actual sentiments are not posted to them. I post to may friends who care what I think. FB is nice that way.

    I use Twitter as my PLC/PD source. I’d be lost without it. Though I’m no as connected as I’d like to be, voyeurism on Twitter is meeting my needs at the moment.

    January 3, 2013
    • hahaha…great reply Jen! 🙂
      thanks for reading & responding!

      January 4, 2013
  6. Johnny Bevacqua said:

    Welcome back Amber. I appreciate your reflections on this topic. As a general rule I don’t post anything I wouldn’t share in a gym full of parents or students. I have also made that a clear expectation with staff. I have yet to be “burned” using this approach. If nothing else, this serves as a reminder that we all (students, teachers, parents) all need to be digitally mindful citizens. Thanks

    January 4, 2013
    • Hi Johnny! That sounds like a great policy to have! 🙂

      January 4, 2013
  7. Pam Holcomb said:

    I say embrace transparency with a passion. Risk-taking and showing a real side is key to developing personal relationships. It’s a challenge to be connected especially with co-workers, but again it’s worth it in order to develop the richness of the relationship. I always think of the three Rs: Rules-relationship = rebellion! Plus I missed you. ;( Don’t ever do that again!

    January 4, 2013
    • Pammykins, I agree. Just wanted to make sure that if I was willing to live by the transparency sword that i would die by the transparency sword, 🙂 Of course, I had a great convo with one Todd Whitaker where he scoffed at he notion of transparency. You’re only as transparent as you want to be, even when you’re transparent…there are levels! I really am trying to live by THAT philosophy! Don’t worry…our texts will still be SUPER transparent, 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      January 4, 2013
  8. Robert Sigrist said:

    Great post, Amber. You were missed. I like the idea of a sabbatical, may need to try one myself, but am afraid I may be much like Eric. I have friended several co-workers (their request) and have not had problems, yet, but most who have asked me already know my odd sense of humor and if they are put off by the “real” me, they probably wouldn’t have asked to start with. Twitter is open to anyone to follow me, so I don’t say anything there that could be taken offensively (hopefully). Again, glad to have you back!

    January 4, 2013
    • Thanks, DocSig! I think most who follow me “get me” pretty quick, 🙂 I love my girls and my Cowboys and stalk Troy. What’s not to get? 🙂

      January 4, 2013
    • Great post, Jess! Enjoyed our convo last night as well, 🙂 Thanks for responding!

      January 4, 2013
  9. Matt Weld said:

    Amber – I took an abbreviated sabbatical during Winter Break, and (like you) felf very disconnected. It was great to spend time with family, but it’s nice to be reconnected. I have teachers as friends on FB, although my FB page is very…well…bland. I use it to keep up with everyone else’s news. The one group I never friend on FB, however, are kids, whether they are past students or my high school daughter’s friends. I think it’s very important to be professionally connected these days, whether through blogs, Twitter, or whatever. I know I am a much better educator because of it. Keep up the good work!

    January 4, 2013
    • Matt, I completely agree. The only former students I am friends with are now in college. (gulp. I’m old!) I can’t imagine how much you’d miss out on professionally if you weren’t connected these days. Even this past month I’ve felt…less intelligent??
      Thanks for reading & responding!

      January 4, 2013
  10. Katie Petersen said:

    Great post. Welcome back! I also really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses about social media and colleagues. After agonizing about what to do about Facebook, I decided to not friend colleagues on Facebook, but to accept requests. This makes the connection entirely their choice. This works for me. I always am excited to see colleagues joining Twitter and discovering cool resources or meeting new people.

    January 4, 2013
    • Hi Katie! Thanks for reading and responding! I love it when my teachers “discover” something on SM as well b/c then I can say aha! told ya it was fabulous! 😉

      Amber

      January 7, 2013
  11. David Truss said:

    Welcome back Amber!
    I’m very open on Facebook. I don’t invite teachers in my school(s) as friends, but accept requests from all. Facebook is an amplification place for me to extend my sharing, and about twice or three times a week I check out other people’s posts and ‘like’ things (more often while currently on holidays). Like George, I don’t know how to keep two different profiles, my personal and professional lives are blurred and my online identity is becoming less and less of an identity and more of a representation of the ‘full’ me. I said in a post about ‘Blurred Identity Lines’:
    “Although we share different things in different places, we are who we are, and slowly our online identity is becoming a fabric of our being.”
    Glad you are back and sharing some of your fabric;)

    January 4, 2013
    • Hi David! I completely agree. When I am trying to keep things seperate I feel like things start to unravel. Too hard! 🙂 Would rather just be me…all of me! Thanks for reading & responding!

      January 7, 2013
  12. So glad you’re back from your SM sabbatical, Amber!

    My breaks from SM are sporadic and unplanned…and usually not longer than a day. I know when I need to step away from the screen (or my daughter tells me), and I take advantage of the times that are good for getting online.

    On the personal vs. professional, I love the thoughts from both George and Jessica, and I’ll echo Eric’s recent sentiments http://bit.ly/10Tx7rd as he put so well, “The Right Way is Your Way.”

    My way on my personal facebook account is to gladly accept friend requests from TMS staff members and former (but not current) students. I’m also happy to accept friend request from parents I know personally. If I do not accept a fb friend request from anyone I don’t know personally. I don’t send friend requests often, but when I do it is to former staff members, current and past colleagues, and other personal friends, family, or close acquaintances I trust.

    For the school, we have a facebook fan page that I run. Most of the families know I do most of the posting to that page, along with one of my assistant principals who is set up as a fb page admin. The fan page has been a huge tool for two-way communication and sharing our story.

    On Twitter, my personal account is all me. Having said that, a big part of being “me” is being a middle school principal. We also have a school account that my assistant principal and I use to post an interact on behalf of the school. In the Twitter 101 sessions I hold for parents, staff, and community members, I tell everyone they are more than welcome to follow my personal account–they just have to be prepared to see tweets from all aspects of my life: pictures of my baby girl, scriptures, quotes from the Sunday sermon, comments on sporting events, etc. in addition to interacting and learning with like-minded colleagues. I tell them if they want to know a little more about me, my personal Twitter account will give them that and then some.

    The key is nobody is going to see me post something I would be embarrassed for anyone in the world to see. That falls into what Todd shared with you about levels of transparency. I’m pretty transparent, but nobody cares to know what brand of pizza I buy or the gory details of any physical ailments. 🙂

    Same goes for my blogging. I have a school principal’s blog that is part of our campus web site, and then my personal blog is whatever I want to write–again with full understanding that anyone on the planet who chooses to see it, print it, copy it, or quote it can do so.

    The cool thing about all SM tools is the opportunity we all have to know each other a little better…to whatever extent we are comfortable sharing.

    That’s my two (or ten) cents worth!
    Loved your post!

    January 5, 2013
    • Carrie! I so love you! Thank you reading & responding! I respect you and have heard such great things about you….I really appreciate your input! This is my favorite line…

      “my personal blog is whatever I want to write–again with full understanding that anyone on the planet who chooses to see it, print it, copy it, or quote it can do so.”

      So that means I am totally moving forward with my fashion blog, 😉

      January 7, 2013
  13. Wow…there are a lot of comments on this post so it must have resonated with a lot of people.

    First of all, you took a sabbatical? I didn’t notice 😉

    Secondly, I think that the idea of “unfriending teachers”, etc. is not really needed if we look at social media in a different way. If you think of Twitter, everything is open and Facebook should be the same was as well for educators. I think that is also a reason that so many educators have taken to Twitter is that you are not worry about the social stigma that comes from accepting or denying friendships. You can share your life with those that are interested, as well as your interest in whatever field that you are in.

    We have to be cognizant that we are always on display and educators have a different set of standards of what we do in our public life. Many argue against it but it is there reality and with every profession, comes some different expectations. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it reality? Yes and I am okay with it because I love the profession that I am in.

    January 6, 2013
    • hahaha…brat.

      I agree. If SM just an “illusion” of who we are, then I think we could anticpate there being a problem at some point. Being genuine, but recognizing that fish bowl, is where we all need to be.

      We’ve had several teachers concerned with what they are saying and doing potentially coming back to harm them, which is a valid concern. We just have to ALL recognize that we do in fact have that different set of standards you speak of…and right or wrong, it can make or break your career.

      Thank you, George, for finally reading and responding!

      January 7, 2013
  14. Matt Gomez said:

    Glad you are back Amber!

    I believe it is essential to be a connected educator/leader if you expect your class/students to be global learners. We have to be the example. Beyond that I have found the connections I have made through social media to be game changers for me as a classroom teacher. I am a better teacher because of the connections I have made. I have always believed relationships were the key to success in the class but it took me several years to realize that also meant building relationships with other educators and leaders.

    I do not think it is crucial for my principal (or leader) to follow me or interact with me via social media because I think those relationships can and should be built in person. However, I don’t see any concerns with it and would prefer to be connected with my leaders if possible. What I do expect is that my leaders are developing their own network and connections with social media and that fear does not dictate their decisions on what is best for the school.

    January 10, 2013

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