MESPA Presentation 11.06.15


Click the photo above to download the opening Power Point – I highly recommend you follow all of the Principals mentioned!

Learning By Doing: Twitter

Step 1: Create a Twitter Account: Visit Keep your user name short – with 140 characters, every character counts!


Step 2: Build Your PLN: Find your team members on Twitter and follow them!

tweetStep 3: Composing a Tweet: In the upper right hand corner of your screen, click on the ‘Compose Tweet’ button. Compose a tweet sharing one take away from Kim Marshall’s key note. Add the hashtag #MESPAChat to your tweet.

searchStep 4: Using the Search Function to Follow Job Alikes: In the upper right hand corner of your screen, there is a search field. Type your job title (e.g. Elementary Principal) into the search field. On the results page, click on ‘Accounts.’ All of these people mentioned being an elementary principal in their profile. Click on their bolded name or their Twitter handle to open their profile. Find one person who interests you and follow him/her! 
nameStep 5: Using the Search Function to Follow a Specific Person: Type my name, Julie Vincentsen, into the search field. Click the follow button if you want to follow me. This is how you would then search for people by name on Twitter.
hashtagStep 6: Hashtags: Use the search field to find #MESPAChat.
likeStep 7: Liking & Retweeting: On the #MESPAChat, find a post someone else wrote that you find interesting – favorite it and retweet it. You will see that you can add a comment that will appear above the retweeted quote – it is not required though!
DMStep 8: Direct Messaging: On the top left of your screen, click on the ‘Messages’ button. Follow the steps to send one of your followers a message. This is how you send a private message to someone through Twitter – there also is not a character limit. 
Step 9: Use Twitter to Get Ideas: Think of a question you have about Twitter (or anything related to education). Compose a tweet asking that question to the #MESPAChat community. Be sure to include the # in your tweet.
listsStep 10: Subscribe to Lists: Find my profile again. To the right of my picture, click on the word lists. This will bring you to a page of all of the lists I either subscribed to or created. Scroll down and find ‘Elementary Principals.’ This feed represents the tweets of the 426 elementary administrators who I added to this list. Creating a list like this allows you to filter your feed. If you hit the ‘subscribe’ button, this list will be added to your list of lists :) Do you want to be added? Send me a tweet and I will be sure to add you!

We’re Better Together: The Power of the PLN


Whether it was fate or just perfect timing, I will never know, but I could not have asked for better motivation this morning than #LeadUpChat. On Friday I am presenting about the power of a PLN to a group of elementary principals at MESPA’s annual Fall Conference. My goal is to illustrate the importance of developing a strong PLN and support participants in this effort by showing them how to begin with Twitter and Voxer.

I have been reflecting a lot about my presentation and had set aside time today to put those thoughts in motion. Coffee in hand, I sat at the kitchen table, opened my computer and decided to get some motivation from my PLN by hopping on Twitter for a bit! Here was the Tweet that flew across my feed:


As we began the exhilarating, all-be-it intense hour, my introductory remarks began to take shape and then it hit me. Why am I starting my presentation speaking about my PLN? Why not let my PLN speak for me? I grabbed several of the Tweets that resonated with me and put together a slideshow of their words that screamed the importance of a PLN from the rooftops. Here are some of the highlights:

  • @lauriemeston writes: Yes! I’ve learned more in the last year supported by my PLN than I have in previous 30 yrs in eduction.
  • @brmohr writes: I also love that I can learn from my PLN anytime of the day or week – from all over the country
  • @PrincipalOgg writes: We help each other out when we can. We develop a growth mindset of learning and helping each other reach their goals.
  • @AmyHeavin writes: Through our conversation, we share insights & ideas. When we act on those ourselves, we grow. When we share others grow too!

In the presentation (click here to download it in its entirety – it’s only 3.5 minutes) which will be my opening remarks Friday, there are 50 quotes representing NINETEEN states and three COUNTRIES!!!! What more powerful message do I need than that? In the past, to learn from that diverse of an audience, I would have had to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to go to a national conference. The power of PD in 2015 is that your PLN is there for you when you need them 24/7. The PLN breaks down, no smashes down, the walls of isolation in what can be a very isolating career.

PS: If anyone knows how to get a Power Point presentation to play as a movie WITH the music, please share your expertise in the comments below. I can save it as a Quicktime movie but the audio does not convert with it.


The Power of the #


Imagine having a very organized filing cabinet filled with resources, ideas and support from thousands of educators across the globe. In an instant, you could access these educators, learn from them, share with them and get support from them whenever you needed it!

If you are interested in this type of resource then Twitter is something you absolutely need to explore. At first, I was resistant to join #TwitterNation because I, like many of you, thought it was yet another way to connect with people online or to learn mindless details about celebrities lives. After joining Twitter thanks to @sguditus, in July 2010 I realized just how wrong I was.

In five short years, I have come to appreciate Twitter as the most powerful Professional Development tool available to educators in the 21st century. The reason behind that is simple. The people whom I follow are all educators who are equally passionate about their own learning as they are about the children whom they serve.

If you are interested in exploring this PD tool, I encourage you to join today. Start by following @jvincentsen. Look at my followers and see if they may interest you. If so, follow them and continue to repeat that step! You may also be interested in looking through the list I created of over 400 elementary principals on Twitter. In no time you will begin to build your Personal Learning Network (PLN).

From there, start following some of the most popular hashtags (#) for ed leadership. What’s a hashtag you ask? This often seen symbol is an easy way to organize, sort and categorize the millions of tweets that are written each day. Hashtags serve to:

  • Help you find tweets about topics in which you are interested. Check out #MESPAChat, #PrincipalPLN, #PrincipalsinAction, #WeLeadEd, #LeadUpChat, #cpchat and #EdChatMA for popular #s in Ed Leadership.
  • Instantly link your post to a group of others about the same topic. For example, if you do not use a #, your post is only accessible to those who follow you. Add #MESPAChat and all educators who follow that # will see your post.
  • Sponsor chats (live q and a sessions) around a topic. Check out the feed from #EdChatMA at 9:00 pm on the first and third Tuesday of every month for an example.
  • Showcase your school community. Anyone from the school community can spread positive messages using your school’s #. Check out #bukercommunity (Hamilton-Wenham, MA) and #HarringtonHawks (Lexington, MA) for examples.

If you are new to Twitter or interested in joining but want some assistance, feel free to tweet any questions you have to @jvincentsen or by email at Looking forward to sharing with and learning from you online!

Capturing Struggling Readers

In a recent IEP meeting, a parent shared that her son was frustrated because he could not read the same books as his peers and he felt ‘out of it’ because he couldn’t engage in their conversations about the latest and greatest books they were reading. This led to an engaging conversation about audio books and I immediately emailed my sister as she struggled with the same thing with her two boys until they discovered audio books. She put the below together for me to share with parents. Thanks, Lisa :)

Audio books allow us to foster a love for literature separately from the mechanics of reading.  This is essential in motivating struggling readers.  Audio books also allow children to read independently and enjoy the same titles as their peers.  With the availability and discrete size of iPods and mp3 players, a student can listen to a book in class without drawing the attention of peers.

Sources of audio books:

The public library is a great first place to check.  Many libraries provide audio books that can be downloaded to your computer or mobile devise for free.

  • Availability: is a commercial outlet and is available to all.  It is owned by Amazon and works seamlessly with the Kindle as well as other devises.
  • Price: Membership is $15/mo. and includes one download per month.  Additional books can be downloaded for a fee ($8-15 ea).  Audible often offers membership deals and other specials.  Call their customer service for the best current plan or to suspend membership.
  • Quality: Audio books are available for many titles and are read by professional actors.
  • Read-along: In order to read along with the audio, the book must be obtained separately.
  • Devices: Each book can be downloaded onto multiple devises including personal computer, mp3 player or iPods.
  • Textbooks: Textbooks are not available.
  • Other: Some schools are obtaining memberships from Audible at discounted prices.

BookShare (

  • Availability: Bookshare is available only to people with print-based disabilities. 
  • Price: It is free.
  • Quality: The audio is computer generated and can be sped up or slowed down.
  • Read-along: BookShare is unique because the download includes text and audio.  The text is highlighted to assist reading along.
  • Devices: It is easy to use on a computer or iPod app.  The app can download a book in less than a minute, even while on the go.
  • Textbooks: Textbooks are available, but only if the membership is obtained by the school and the child is on an IEP.
  • Other: This is a great tool for people with tracking issues and to assist in fluency rates by reading along with the highlights.  However, readers can be frustrated by the computer-generated voice, which, for example, pronounces “Hermione” incorrectly.

Learning Ally ( (formerly Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic)

  • Availability: LearningAlly is available only to people with print-based disabilities. 
  • Price: An individual, unlimited, annual membership fee is $99.
  • Quality: Books are read by humans – volunteers, authors and professionals.  Some readers make mistakes.  Some books are read by multiple readers.
  • Read-along: In order to read along with the audio, the book must be obtained separately.
  • Devices: Audio books can be downloaded onto a computer or iPod app.
  • Textbooks:  LearningAlly is unique because textbooks are available to all members and illustrations and graphs are also read and described.  Textbooks are frequently read by experts in the field.
  • Other:  If a book is not available, it can be requested and will be recorded, often within two weeks.

Thanks also to @KarenJan who shared via Twitter: “& don’t forget the Speak Selection and Reader features built into iOs devices.”

Thank you Dr. King

I sent this email to the families at the school where I am Principal this afternoon and thought I would share here as well:

Good afternoon,
As we pause today to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I cannot help but be struck by how far we have come as a nation and as a people in the past 60 years. It is astonishing to me that it was only 58 years ago (1954) that the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Bd. of Education that the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in the sphere of public education. Society takes time to catch up with legislation as is clear by the fact that nine years later, in 1963, Dr. King gave his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech. Visiting classrooms last week, I was able to participate in many lessons focused on Dr. King and his legacy. We are fortunate to be educators, parents and guardians in 2012 where we have the responsibility to teach our children the values of peace, equality and inclusion.
If you are interested in exploring Dr. King’s legacy further with your child(ren) I encourage you to visit Wonderopolis – a website sponsored by the National Center for Family Literacy. Today’s “Wonder of the Day” is “What is a civil right?” There is a powerful, short video and some extension activities in which you may be interested.
Michael Jackson’s lyrics in the background of the video are so fitting: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror…if you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make the change.” I think Dr. King would agree that this is a powerful message for us to share with our children who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
Have a safe and enjoyable week,
Julie A. Vincentsen
Helen Keller Elementary School
“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children.” John Dewey

‘Tis the Season of Report Cards: Praising Effort & Setting Goals

As we move into the season of ending trimesters, distributing report cards and conferencing with parents, I wanted to share my weekly communication with families on this topic. 
Good evening,

Can you believe that it is already December and the first term of our school year is over? The teachers and I look forward to welcoming you to Parent Conferences this Thursday and Friday.

The distribution of report cards can be a big day in the life of our students. For many students, this brings a great deal of anxiety as children are concerned about how parents/guardians will react when they open the envelope. Growing up, I remember this same feeling. My parents’ mantra was “It is not the grade that counts as long as you try your best!” No matter how many times they said that though, I was still nervous handing that report card to my mom when I did not receive straight As or get top marks on effort and conduct.

I want to share with you a portion of an email sent home regarding report cards from a colleague of mine who is a 4th grade teacher in another school. She writes,

“There has been much anxiety over the report cards coming up in our morning meeting discussion sharing comments such as “If I don’t get top marks, my mom is taking away my ipod” or “My dad said I would be grounded for a month.”  Now, some of this is “talk”, but this fear of “bad” grades is real for your nine and ten-year-olds. Your children want to please you.  They want to impress you. They want you to be proud.

When I was a child, my dad was a teacher (and he still is—39 years later!). On report card day, he would look through the report card and only point out the things that really made him proud.  Then, we went out to eat or for ice cream to celebrate “Cara’s math grade, Jenna’s conduct marks, and Erik’s grades in PE and Art.”  He didn’t burst our bubble by pointing out things to improve at that moment of anxiety.  He made us feel good for our talents.  Then, a few days later, we would have a serious discussion about areas of excellence and areas to improve.  But at that moment of truth, as we stood in front of our parents holding our breath and hoping they were happy, he made us feel important, valued, and special.  When my own children’s report cards come home, I still remember the way our dad treated us and try to do the same.

When your kids come home this week with their progress reports, hug them, kiss them, tell them you are proud.  Hang up the report card.  Call the grandparents to share the great news.  Head out to celebrate hard work and effort. You’ll gain bonus points as a parent and as you head into the adolescent years, you’ll have the respect and trust of your children.”

Her story is a powerful one and it is clear that her father’s approach had a profound impact on her as a child, as a mother and as a teacher. I encourage you to take time this week to celebrate your child’s strengths and their effort over the last several months. Find a time in the next week, perhaps after conferences, to discuss his/her challenges and areas for needed growth. Ask questions like, what are your goals to improve in this area? How can I help you reach that goal? These are conversations we have in school with your children on a regular basis. I am confident that working together, we can help your child reach his/her goals!

Have a safe and enjoyable week,

Julie A. Vincentsen

Helen Keller Elementary School

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children.” John Dewey

Happy Arts in Education Week

I wanted to share a letter I sent to my families today regarding a new chorus program we are implementing. It has a dual benefit – increased arts for children and increased collaboration for adults. Who could argue with its value? : )

Dear Parents/Guardians of 4th and 5th graders,

This week educators across the country are celebrating National Arts in Education Week. The resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives initiating this week states, “…Arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theater, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.” The Arts Education Partnership further articulates the goal of this week being “to promote and showcase the immense role arts education has in producing engaged, successful, and college and career-ready students.”

Here at Keller we will be celebrating this week by offering a new arts opportunity for our 4th and 5th grade students. Beginning Wednesday, September 14th, they will begin to participate in a weekly chorus block. Fourth graders will meet from 1:00-1:45 and 5th graders from 1:45-2:30. We are excited for the students to be able to enhance their arts education in this way.

I encourage you to learn more about the research base that shows the importance of the arts in education by visiting the websites of the Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. You will find links to both groups on the Keller homepage.

In addition to increasing time on learning in arts education, we are also looking forward to utilizing this block to increase time for teacher collaboration. Research clearly shows that student learning and teacher efficacy are enhanced with increased time for teachers to work in partnership regarding their practice. To this end, while children are working in Chrous, teachers will be meeting to collaborate on a myriad of topics in the areas of teaching and learning. I am greatly looking forward to working with the staff during this time and am confident we will see the benefits from this coordinated planning in the classroom.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Julie Vincentsen


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