Following a Twitter chat this fall a small group of assistant principals created a Voxer group to explore the app as a tech tool. We each downloaded the app. We created the online group. Now what? We are busy people and needed some structure to make it purposeful so we used it as a tool to share our favorite podcast episodes, insights on educational articles, daily struggles, and best practices. Once we realized how much our daily chats were benefiting us, our group quickly moved from articles and podcast reflections to reading Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.
Participation has been completely voluntary and our only accountability is to the membership as we have grown professionally through our conversations. We have picked up new Voxers along the way, even adding members to the group as we bring our first book to a close because we keep sharing our enthusiasm about this experience with others. It has become mobile PD for me. I check in to Voxer after dropping off my daughter for school each morning. Most threads begin with “good morning, I am on my way to school and…” and end with “have a great day, guys.” Others pick up later with “good afternoon, folks, I’ve got a question for you. How do you handle…” Since most of our group are school administrators, we each serve as a sounding board for students, staff, and parents throughout the day. While I give time to others, I’m not good at giving time to myself. Many days when I eat my lunch, it’s over my desk while probing students for information related to a discipline issue. Connecting with my Voxer group is time I dedicate to myself.
Due to the responsibilities of a school administrator there’s not a lot of time left for me to reflect on my day at school while I make myself available for the needs of others. Still, reflection is vitally important to growth. We understand this as educators. We provide time and structure for our students to reflect on their learning. We know it’s necessary to improve our practice. It is even a part of our state’s evaluation instrument. Because of the frenetic pace of my daily school life, my drive to and from school or my drive to an off-campus meeting are my best opportunities for reflection. In many ways my drive time has become my “white space.”
We created the group to reflect together on our daily roles and responsibilities because being a school administrator is tough and we need the support of our fellow school leaders who know the job. We respond to each other’s questions and challenge one another’s perceptions. Sharing our joys and struggles, we have built new relationships with members who are a part the chat. Recently I had an immediate connection with another administrator when we met face-to-face because we have been participating in the Voxer chat together for several weeks. The familiarity we experienced with one another reminds me of the relationships we built inside our cohort while enrolled in classes to obtain our master’s degrees. My Voxer group is a supportive community where I am encouraged and mentored by other educators. It’s a lifeline.
Serving as a school administrator can be lonely. I knew that going into the role and understand why it is difficult to stay connected to others when there are so many tasks to attend to and so few hours in the day. We put ourselves last because our priority is our students and our school community but it takes a toll on us… it takes a toll on me. I am currently serving as a middle school administrator with one other assistant principal in a school of 850+ students. By the end of the day we are splitting up to attend school events, cover games, or carve out time to spend with our families. All that leaves little time to sit down across from one another and just debrief the little things, little things that provide us a chance to check in with one another. Sometimes the planets align and we can spend 20-30 minutes engaged in a relaxed conversation in the visitor chairs in the main office while we wait for a bus to finish a route or a student to be picked up by a parent who is running late. Unfortunately those opportunities don’t occur very often. In the meantime, I can get into my car and can check in with my Voxer group for inspiration, affirmation, support, and an overall sense of community that fills my bucket and helps me to be a better leader for those I serve.