Friday, December 2, 2016

12 Educators Worth Following on Twitter #KidsDeserveIt



Every so often I love to use the platform I have to recognize other educators in our field.  I have learned so much through tools like Twitter.  But those tools are only as good as the people you choose to surround yourself with!

These are some educators online who I think have some great resources, ideas, and just flat out big hearts for kids! I hope you show them some love and follow, interact, and learn alongside them!



Jordan is a first year, 3rd Grade teacher in Missouri.  Jordan is dynamite.  He is creative, energetic, and always trying new things for his kids.  And what's better? He's a first year teacher!!!  He is trying to build his PLN online and is sharing things he's doing in his classroom.  Jordan is a definite must follow as I'm sure he's going to be "one to watch" with some of the things he's doing in the classroom.



Nate is a 7th grade teacher in Indiana.  I had the pleasure of meeting Nate a year or so ago when he was JUST getting started on social media.  Nate is a huge encourager and passionate about truly doing what's best for kids.  He's full of great ideas and is someone I would definitely recommend following.



Teresa is a Middle School teacher in New York!  Teresa is a powerhouse.  She is excited about kids and learning but just as excited about sharing that with the world at large.  Teresa is someone who is active online and wants to connect, learn, and grow.



Keith is an elementary Principal in Florida.  Where do I even begin with Keith?  He is always going above and beyond for his students and teachers.  He's got an INCREDIBLE TEDx Talk and is always sharing.  He wears costumes, plays with kids, and isn't afraid of stepping outside of the box.  Keith teaches me something every single day.



Shaina is an educator in Texas.  Shaina is someone who's super passionate about technology and using tech with kids to have them create!  She shares countless great ideas and always has me checking her feed to see what's new in EdTech.



Tom Spall is an Instructional Technologist in Texas. Like Shaina, I view Tom as a leading voice in what's happening in Google and EdTech.  Tom is funny, active, and always willing to lend a helping hand to help you.  He's got great ideas and is coming up with things I would have never imagined! I love learning from Tom.



Like Jordan, Ciji is fairly new to Twitter.  I have come across her tweets recently in different feeds and I have really enjoyed them. Ciji is super encouraging, and shares some awesome things going on at her school as well as just encouraging things in general.  Ciji is another "one to watch"!



Julie is a Reading teacher in Texas.  Julie's passion for what she does shines through on her Twitter feed.  She is constantly sharing the greatness going on in her classroom and online. Julie is also one who will connect and learn alongside you.  She puts herself out there and wants to continually be growing.



Matthew is an Elementary Principal in Illinois.  Matthew is another active user of Twitter and one that loves amplifying others.  He's constantly sharing great links, sharing his own thoughts, and sharing encouraging messages.  I love checking out his feed!



Amy is an Instructional Coach in Texas.  What I love about Amy, besides that fact that like the others on this list she's always sharing her ideas, is that Amy isn't afraid to learn from others.  Amy sent me a DM one day asking to come hang out at my school....with 6 of her colleagues.  She came asked questions, interacted, persicoped, and more.  I love when people step out and learn from others, but Amy really is the real deal.  She is constantly sharing great ideas!


Of course, I have my buddy Chris Pombonyo.  Chris is a PHENOMENAL teacher!  The things he does in his class blow me away.  He is so passionate about doing what's best for kids and loves sharing out his ideas on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  He's full of energy and has already been recognized by some pretty great organizations for the work he's done! Chris is def one to connect with.



Dana is an award winning elementary Principal in Texas.  Dana is one of the kindest people.  I had the pleasure of very briefly meeting her in June, but have followed her online since.  She is doing amazing things at her school and for kids.  She is passionate about change and is someone I strive to be more like!


So there you go! There are 12 people I am really loving learning from right now! Great people to check out, follow, and connect with!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Let's Be Thankful #KidsDeserveIt



Thanksgiving.  That time of the year when we take just a little more time to think of things we're thankful for.  As I was making a list of things I was thankful for, our students kept coming to my mind.  And how we could view so many of them as having trouble making a thankful list, but in reality, they're able to notice the "little" things so much better than us sometimes.

I was having a conversation with a student this week about her behavior.  She's a tough cookie. She's been a "project" of ours for about the last year or more.  She's got a lot of pain built up in her life, and that sometimes comes out of her in the most unfriendly ways.

As she had another episode, I pulled her into my office.  I asked her what was going on, and of course she didn't want to talk about it.  She never does.

So I tried a different approach.  We have three staff members in particular who are working or have worked a LOT with her to get her in a better place.  I told her how much her teacher loves her, I told
her how much our assistant principal loves her, and then I told her how much her teacher from last year loves her.  Because truly, they care about her so much.

Then I told her, that the way she treats those who care about her, hurts them.  And that some people can only take so much of someone being hateful to them before they throw their hands up.  Before they walk away.  Before they say "I've tried everything and I just don't know what else to do".  Before they say, "Does she hate me??" We've all felt that way before about a student or loved one.

And for the first time ever, I saw something different in her.  She looked at me and said "I don't hate them.  I love them a lot too."

What?!?  I had never heard her say that about anyone.

And she sat with me in my office and she cried, with me.  We talked about how our emotions can sometimes get the better of us.  It happens to all of us at one point or another.

But we can't let our emotions control us all the time.  We can't let our hurt, our anger, our pain, push others away just because we choose to lash out at those we love.

We talked about how it's ok to be angry.  It's ok to struggle with work or friends.  It's ok to want to cry.

But we have to verbalize those emotions.  We have to ask for help.  We have to show that we're trying to change and be better.

Did I truly get through to this child? Who really knows.  Only time will tell. And I know she'll lash out in anger/pain again.  But maybe, just maybe she can see a little more that we care about her so very much.  That we want to help her, to be a part of her life, to walk with her down this road.

I tie that into Thanksgiving because I am so thankful to have the job I do.  I am so thankful to work with kids that come to us broken in a thousand pieces, hoping to find someone with a little glue and time to help them put the pieces back together again.

Teaching is a special profession.  It's not something I feel I have to do, but I get to do.

And I am so incredibly thankful to work alongside people like YOU every day.  People who pour their heart, soul, time, blood, sweat, tears into these kids.

People who are more than just educators.  People who are life changers.

Our job isn't easy.  Our job doesn't always feel rewarding every day.  But I am thankful you walk alongside me with these kids.  That you jump off the ledge with me.  That you take risks, love deeply, and keep pushing yourselves.

I am thankful for our parents we have how are doing the best they possibly can to raise their children.  I am thankful for our district administration who makes decisions they feel are for the betterment of kids.  I am thankful for our own personal families who deal with our tears and time away from home because we love what we do.

Thank YOU for what you do.  There is no way I could ever express how needed and appreciated you are.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Some Have No One Else #KidsDeserveIt

This week I was reminded of the simple fact that we have children at our school that have no one else.  That we're they're only one. The only one who encourages them, celebrates them, believes in them.

I have students come into my office every day for "Hats Off" calls to celebrate them.  Friday something different happened.  I had called home to celebrate a third grader who struggles with school quite often.  He was so excited about his "Hats Off" card.  As we called mom (and had her on speaker phone), I told her the great reasons why I was calling home and how proud of her son we were.  I then asked her, as I do every parent, if she'd like to talk to her son to celebrate him too.  Her response? "No, that's ok. I can talk to him later if I feel like it".

Wow.  Did I mention she was on speaker phone? And her son heard the whole exchange.  I watched this little boy lose all sense of excitement and instead put his head down.  It broke my heart.

But it was a reminder.  A reminder that our kids come from homes where they aren't always taught of their worth and value. And socioeconomic status doesn't always play a part.  These kids come from home full of monetary wealth and homes devoid of any material things.  Kids are kids.

It was a reminder for me to hug our kiddos a little tighter.  To give a few more high fives.  To dance a little more.  To laugh as much as possible.  To celebrate every single moment.  For we may be the only way celebrating that challenge and I want to be the pebble in that child's pond of life where ripples are felt for years to come.

Remember this next week, as we get closer and closer to the Holidays, that the holidays aren't happy experiences for all of our students.  Some dread those days where they have to be at home instead of being at school.  And because of that fear and dread they will act out in different ways.

We have to have a big enough heart to love them anyway.  To forgive them time and time again.  To wrap them in compassion, patience, and honesty.  We have to show them we aren't going anywhere, we aren't going to abandon or give up on them, and we love them so very much.  Because we might be the only one.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Learning from Others #KidsDeserveIt

This past week I had the experience of visiting a friend's school and seeing what they were up to.  I've always been a believer in connecting with others online and learning from and with them. But that is only a piece of the puzzle.  To truly learn from someone you have to see them in action!

Time and time again, I have learned so much more from personal visits to schools rather than conferences, webinars, and trainings.

This week I was able to spend a day at Brad Gustafson's (@GustafsonBrad) school in Minnesota.  Brad and I have been friends for years and talk on a daily basis.  Brad (and Ben Gilpin) have been my constant source of encouragement and coaching as I've entered this administrative world.  I met Brad on Twitter, and over the last couple of years through Twitter and Voxer we've become great friends. Our wives are even good friends now and we have traveled together on several occasions.

It's one thing to hear about things someone says is happening at their school.  It's another to see it in action, especially since Brad was just recently awarded the National Distinguished Principal for Minnesota.

I was so impressed with many things I saw.  From the student work posted everywhere, the amount of teachers trying innovative seating/classroom design options, to the clear focus on literacy (student AND teachers advertising what they're reading), to the friendly little touches such as the welcome mats and signage.  It was a great day with lots of learning.

I share all of this to remind and encourage you of the power of connecting with others.  I always say "no matter where you work and how talented the people are that you work with, your ideas are still limited to the four walls".  Putting yourself out there and connecting on sites like Twitter really does expand your learning and opens doors like nothing else.  Then when you can push those "twitter" connections to the next level, and make face to face learning happen, it's a whole new ball game!






Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Words We Choose #KidsDeserveIt

Every one of us know what is feels like when someone shows interest in who we are as a person.  When they truly care.  Each of us also know what it feels like when someone says something hurtful that feels like it cuts us to the core.

Our words are powerful.  Aldous Huxley once said "Words can be like X-Rays if you use them properly -- they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced."

I have a friend who I met 8 years ago.  His name is Sergio.  He was staying with a family friend of mine as part of a foreign exchange program.  It was his very first time in a country other than his own (Venezuela).  He knew no one. He knew no English.  When you're thrown into an environment like that, it's terrifying.  Sergio quickly learned English though (he really had no other choice!)  Sergio and I, for whatever reason, also became quick friends.  He made it through his year of the Exchange Program and afterwards I went out and spent 3 weeks with his family in Venezuela and experienced a taste of what life was like for him, where no one spoke the language I spoke.


It's been eight years, but Sergio and I finally were reunited this week.  It was like not a moment had passed.  We laughed, we learned each other's languages again, and we had a great time.  It was then that I sat with Sergio as we were reminiscing.  I asked him how exactly we had become friends.  His response hit me and was the reason for the the title of this post.  He said "When I came to this country everyone treated me differently.  I was different.  Some thought I was dumb because I couldn't speak English.  Some people talked to me really slow.  But after being here for a few weeks, you were the first person who asked about me.  Who tried to speak my language and get to know the real me.  What I liked, what I didn't like, about my family.  You really cared."


That simple statement reminded me of how powerful our words truly are.

Our words can build up.  They can connect us, change our lives, and develop friendships we would have never expected.  But as I've seen in my own life and the lives of others, words can destroy to.  They can place mistrust, they can destroy reputations, they can cut you all the way to the bone where you wonder if you will ever heal from the hate that was thrown at you.

Every day we come into contact with others we have a choice with how we use our words.  Whether it's in what we say, the look on our face, of our body language.  Those are all forms of communication.

This week I encourage you to think about the words you're using with your students, your co-workers, and your families.  Let's be extra cognizant about the words we choose.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

When We Choose to Serve #KidsDeserveIt

So many times I have seen how much our jobs are like those of servant leaders.  We must continually give of ourselves day after day not only to our students, but to their families, our co-workers, and our own families.

Because of how our jobs so easily look like servant leadership I think sometimes we forget that, as good people, we still need to serve others in different ways than just teaching and giving up of time.

This week I was able to help serve food in the cafeteria.  It was something that had been on my "to-do" list for a while.  Monday evening and Tuesday morning before work I took an hour and a half "Safe Food Handler" course and then a 40 question test.  I passed and got certified to handle food!

It was such a joy to serve next to our hard working cafeteria ladies as they serve our students every day, many many many times thanklessly.  I loved the looks on kids faces.  My favorite quote of the day? "Mr. Nesloney, do you still work as our principal or were you fired?"


With the world we live in today, especially with the way our future political leaders act, it is so much more important now that we show compassion and servant hearts towards all.  So often our custodial or cafeteria staff are viewed as "less than" the rest of our school family.  I wanted to show our students that we can stand next to anyone, regardless of stature, race, viewpoints, whatever and still do something good.

I don't share this as a "woah look at me!" story.  There are numerous instances on a daily basis where I haven't served in the way that I should have.  Where I haven't set the example I know I wanted to set.  But life is about learning.  It's about growing.  And it's about continually finding ways to get better.

So my challenge for you this week is to find someone to serve.  Find someone you can give up some of our resources or time to help, to stand next to and work alongside of.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Leave it in Your Car #KidsDeserveIt

Every day when we come to work, we have a choice.  That choice looks very simple on paper, but in reality it isn't quite that easy.

What is that choice?  That choice is to come to work with all of our baggage or to leave it in our car.

Our students show up to school every day with their own pain.  The absence of a parent and they have to take on the adult responsibilities, the cycle of physical/emotional/sexual abuse at home, the fear of the electricity or water being turned off again, gangs down the street, drugs sold out on the front porch, family member arrested again, little brother sick and no money to get medicine, drunk parent coming home late again, and so on and so on.

When our kids come to school they come longing for a safe place.  A place where they feel loved, appreciated, and wanted.  A place where the monsters go back under the bed for a little while.

They long for a place where they can escape the harsh realities they're forced to live in outside of school hours.

And sometimes they come into a school (or a classroom) where the adults haven't left their own baggage in the car.

Buildings (or classrooms) where they employees are angry and take it out on their students.  A classroom where they teacher never smiles.  A classroom where students are told to sit down, shut up, and do their work.

As adults we all have bad days.  And some of us have more bad days than others.  I am by no means saying that you don't lean on your school family. You do! Go into a colleagues room and just sit and talk and cry.  Go into the office and find a quite space to be alone for a little.  Take a walk around the building to clear your head. All of that is ok!  We all need our "moments".

But what we have to remember, what we can never do, is bring our personal baggage into the classroom.  When we walk into that room, all of our own personal things disappear, and we have to be there completely for those kiddos. And sometimes we have to "fake it til we make it" and put that smile on and bring the energy regardless.  Our kids deserve to have the best, most encouraging, and safest place in the world when they enter your room.

Let's make this week awesome for our kids! #KidsDeserveIt