Power of ‘Connection’ Proves Common Thread at Summer Leadership Institute

Whether it applied to building solid relationships between Team HISD members or making the most of tools from the Digital Age, “connection” was the common thread that tied many of the break-out sessions together on the final day of HISD’s 2013 Summer Leadership Institute on June 20.

Hundreds of campus leaders took part in the three-day event at the Reliant Center this year, and many came away with new insight into how the concept of “connectedness” could help boost student achievement.

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In one room, members of HISD’s Multimedia Services department provided tips on how principals could harness the power of social media to more effectively market their schools and showcase both their campuses’ attractions and accomplishments.

“Educators want to know how to use social media to engage parents and their community,” said HISD Multimedia Manager Tracy Mason.

In another, representatives from the Flippen Group shared a bit of the philosophy behind “Capturing Kids’ Hearts,” a process used by a number of HISD schools to build strong connections between children and adults and as a consequence, improve students’ academic performance and behavior.

“You always hear about how the ‘three Rs’ are rigor, relevance, and relationships,” said Flippen Group Director of Human Capital Development Larcel McGhee. “But as Americans, we want to just jump right in and start the work. If you look at any successful organization, the foundation of who they are is built on relationships. Children perform for the people they care about, and you have to create a culture of safety to improve their performance. Part of our ability to think is connected to how much anxiety we’re feeling, and it can become impossible to access the thinking parts of the brain when you’re feeling afraid, threatened, or intimidated.”

In a third conference room, faculty from Burbank Middle School shared various strategies for using technology (such as iPads, SMART pens, QR codes, and learning management systems built on social platforms [e.g. schoology.com]) in the classroom to enhance the quality of instruction.

“Our students are around technology all the time,” said eighth-grade algebra teacher Devin Singleton. “But they need to know more than just how to play games or post things on Facebook. This is about how teachers can make a difference by using technology effectively in the classroom.”

“Corporate America wants tech-savvy graduates who can solve problems and think creatively,” added Burbank Middle School Principal Rosa Hernandez. “So we’re trying to show how teachers can use technology to dig deeper into the curriculum, and how kids can still have access to their community of learners even at eight o’clock at night or later.”

All of these break-out topics are in alignment with the Institute’s theme this year, which is how “Becoming Great All Over” is connected to rigorous and consistent instruction and school safety.