January 25, 2016 by

How to Connect Your School with the Community One Picture at a Time

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By Adam Holman

Start a 180 BlogMy timing has never been the best; I first heard of teachers maintaining a “180 Blog” after I left the classroom to begin my administrative journey. But the allure of a blog where you upload one picture a day from your classroom was too strong, and thus my Admin180 blog was born in the summer of 2013. I was so excited “to be a “blogger” that I actually started posting more than two weeks before the school year started, using negative numbers to describe the days leading up to Day 1.

Even though the reputation of my school was on the rise, many people in Austin, Tex., still associated negatively with the school. Here was a chance for me to be intentional in my leadership with the sole focus of helping change the narrative. I wanted to do my part to show that even in “tougher” schools, there are always great things going on. And using just one picture a day with a short description certainly seemed like a realistic expectation.

And, although I started my Admin180 blog to intentionally shape the view my community had of the school, I soon found some unintentional benefits of daily blogging as well.

  1. Students and teachers actually want to be featured—It always puts a smile on my face when students come running up to me with ideas for my picture of the day or want to share with me what they’ve done recently in class (or outside of class) and ask to be featured. I never anticipated that students would play such an active role in keeping me in touch with all the great things happening on campus. I’m always excited to have teachers e-mail me to describe an upcoming lesson that they’re proud of and let me know what class periods they’ll be doing it.
  2. Blogging holds me accountable—As much as the word accountable is overused in education, I do feel like my Admin180 blog holds me accountable to get out into the hallways and classrooms, where the real magic actually happens. Going to classrooms with the intent to participate in the lesson and possibly capture a great moment is completely different than going in for an evaluation. I’d much rather spend my time building community than just evaluating. This doesn’t mean I never give feedback; teachers still often ask, “What would you do differently?” or “How can I make this lesson more engaging/successful?”
  3. Blogs help get teachers connected—When I’m out for a training or having to take one of those dreaded sick days, I’ll e-mail the campus and/or text a few teacher friends to see if they have anything going on in class that would be worth showcasing. I always receive great pictures and write-ups, and I’ve had a few teachers start reading blogs or join Twitter because I shared what they’ve done in their classroom first. The first step to becoming a connected educator is realizing what an amazing community is already out there.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to start a 180 blog, I have three pieces of advice:

  1. Ask for help—After asking my friends if they had any connections to web developers, I chose Spacecraft (a local Austin company) and they donated some time with a designer to help me get my website and blog organized and set up as I envisioned.
  2. Don’t be afraid—I had never blogged before. I hadn’t created a website since I was in middle school (and that’s when you coded with HTML by hand). Just jump in and try it!
  3. Be transparent—I always tell the students why I’m taking pictures and offer to show them a quick glimpse of my blog to help them see what I’m talking about. They are almost always excited to see it and the most enthusiastic ones often wind up coming back to me with more ideas for my blog. I love when students help!

While Twitter and Facebook are also great places to share the good things going on at your school, having a dedicated blog allows you to reach an audience that’s not on social media and diversifies your online footprint. So take a risk and start a 180 blog today! I promise you’ll enjoy the unexpected benefits that will come along, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or need some help.

Log onto ASCD’s website to spark new leadership ideas and find ways to empower leaders in your school.

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Adam Holman is a member of the ASCD Emerging Leaders class of 2015. He is the assistant principal at Murchison Middle School in Austin, Tex. Connect with Holman on Twitter @AGHolman.