The Benefits of a PLN in Your School Leadership Puzzle
Prioritize your professional learning network with these principal-approved resources, tips, and strategies that will help you find a support network and grow as a leader.
Professional learning networks (PLNs) are a valuable piece in the school leadership puzzle. They help you grow as a leader and cultivate a support network that offers immediate connection and a sounding board when you’re faced with difficult leadership decisions.
To learn strategies to make the most of a PLN, NAESP held a Twitter chat to find out how PLNs have supported the leadership journeys of principals and assistant principals. Participants shared what areas of support they reach out for the most, their go-to platforms for keeping in touch, advice for aspiring school leaders, how they make the most of in-person networking at events like the NAESP Pre-K–8 Principals Conference, and so much more.
Here are the top benefits of making PLNs a piece of the school leadership puzzle—in their words.
Other school leaders are the No. 1 resource in a principal’s PLN. If you have a challenge, chances are someone in your PLN has tackled it, too—and sometimes they even have tangible resources to help you.
“No need to reinvent the wheel when someone has something tried and true,” said Ryan Daniel, @heydrdaniel, who counted “resources” as an aspect of school leadership that she finds herself reaching out to her PLN for most often. “My PLNs have enhanced my leadership journey completely! How awesome is it that I have leaders from around the country that I can call on for advice and resources.”
Many of the participants said how they depend on their PLNs to push their limits of thinking and even question some of their leadership decisions, allowing them to reflect and grow in the process.
“A great PLN keeps you in check as much as it gives you a pat on the back,” said Andy Jacks, @_AndyJacks. “Because, if you care about those in your tribe, you watch out for them and want what’s best for them.”
Conference are high on the list of ways to promote professional growth and network-building.
“Attend conferences,” said Daniel. “That’s a great way to network! Find principals and leaders that have leadership behaviors that you want to model. Ask questions. Seek out resources. You’re not alone!”
As Ryan said—and many others during the chat—you’re not alone in your climb up the leadership ladder.
“You are not alone and you don’t need to stay on your island,” said Liz Garden, @PrincipalGarden. “Reach out. Connect. Ask for help. Celebrate small successes. Give yourself grace.”
Connection and Support
Networking for education leaders isn’t just about having a lifeline during challenges; it becomes a trusted group—like a family—for so many.
“I 100-percent could not do this job without my network,” said Jamie Basignani, @J_basignani. “I’ve learned from, leaned on, and love them along the way.”
And like most families, that means group chats, or “text circles,” as Jessica Gomez, @mrsjessgomez, calls them.
“I’ve created a text circle of early career and seasoned principals where we share and ask for resources and advice freely,” Gomez said. “I’ve learned so much from each one of them.”
A big platform to keep in touch was Voxer. Many participants said they’ve used it for years to keep in touch, reach out quickly, and find support.
“I rely on my PLN to collaborate on all the things,” said Kelly O’Connell, @kellyaoconnell. My core group uses Voxer to connect daily and supports each other with just about everything (scheduling, problem solving, climate/culture ideas, etc).”
“Using Voxer to connect with and talk to other school leaders is absolutely the best,” said Adam Welcome, @mradamwelcome. “Voice conversations are so powerful.”
Social media to maintain connections is common, too.
“Twitter has been huge in this,” said Eli Casaus, @MrCoachEli. “I’ve made so many amazing connections; many became true friends. It has then spilt onto Instagram and Voxer to deepen the connection. Fortunate to have met some in person as well.”
Part of leadership growth is passing along lessons you’ve learned to the next generation. We asked how school leaders have mentored aspiring principals, teacher leaders, and early career principals, and here’s what they had to say.
“Mentorship is all about relationships, helping others reflect and create their own solutions, and understanding that everyone can grow in the process, both mentor and mentee learning from each other,” said Jacks.
Once trust is established in these relationships, the sky is the limit with how much growth both the mentee and mentor can have.
“Give them room to try and fail, then discuss,” said Ashley Howard, @ashley_howard1. “They’ll feel and know whether they have your support or not, so showing support in their aspirations and cheering them on!”
“Listening and providing them with authentic real-life situations, including explicit modeling and videotaping in action,” said Edgardo Castro, @DrCastro_NBCT.
“Share experiences and lessons learned,” said O’Connell. “So much of our success can come from thoughtfulness; collaborating and thinking through scenarios is helpful.”
What’s one simple way to kickstart your PLN? Follow the school leaders who we featured in this #NAESPchat recap. To learn more great tips on this topic and many others or to share your own, follow #NAESPchat on social media. Stay tuned to the NAESP Events page for more great opportunities to connect and learn with your peers.
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