Thursday, May 28, 2015

#NIStlap Day 2015 - The Power of #TLAP

So a year or two ago I read the book "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess.  It is an absolutely incredible book that really talks about teaching passionately and engaging all students.



Then a little while after, I heard about a principal in Ohio, Ryan McLane, took that concept and put on a "Teach Like a Pirate" day at his school.  It was all based under the premise, "If students had to pay $1 to attend your class, would they?"

Basektball

Guys Time (learning about famous men who have dealt with a lot and persevered)

So I knew with my new campus I was dying to do something like this.  I had mentioned it at the beginning of the year, but things got away from me.  Then a few weeks ago 3 of my AMAZING teachers came to my office and brought it back up and wanted us to still do it!  So we ran with it.

Golf

Wiffle Ball


Yesterday we did our very first #NIStlap Day!

Theatre Make-Up (Scars and Bruises)

Making Puppets


What is it?  What does it look like?

Well, for the last two weeks, every staff member has been filling in a google spreadsheet with what they wanted to teach. Only rule?  Choose something you love and are passionate about that you wanna share with kids.  And we couldn't have anything double up.

Robotics

History of Dance (yes they danced after this photo haha)


After all the staff (IAs and Specials Teachers included) selected their session topics, I created a schedule of sessions and where they would be.

Scrapbooking


Since this was our first year doing this, we all decided to only do half a day of TLAP so we could work out all the kinks and be ready next year for a full day.

Horse Halters and Paracord Bracelets


We built up anticipation in the kids, but didn't tell them any sessions until the day before.

Yoga


The day before each student got a Spreadsheet that had every staff member, their session title, and location.  We also made poster sized copies of the session tiles and locations and placed it around school.

Fortune Telling


On the morning of, teachers stepped out into the hall, and students were released to go to whatever session they wanted.  You would think it would be mayhem releasing 350 kids into the hall at one time.


Photography

But you know what?  It wasn't!

No Sew Blankets


Each session had a limit of 20 students (while some more complicated sessions had smaller limits).  So once a session had its limit, a "Session Full" sign was placed on the door.

Jewelry Making

Cookie Mining


Each session lasted 30 min and then I would come on the announcements and release students to their next session.

Skateboarding 101

Girls Day! Nails, Hair, Makeup


Each student was able to attend 4 total sessions that morning.

No Bake Treats

Nursing, What's in Your Heart!


I can't even describe what it was like there.  The energy was palpable.  It was incredibly invigorating and exciting to watch all the teachers having fun and the students were really having a blast.

Making Bouncy Balls

Knitting


Were there some teachers who didn't have kids show up some sessions. Yes!  And those teachers just jumped into another teachers session and participated like a kid.  And actually one of the biggest asks for next year was that teachers were given one session off to go see others!


Making Ice Cream

Painting

I can't wait to do this again next year, but have it be a full day event.  And what better way to end our school year as well!  Since this day was also our last full day of school!


Coding

Soccer






Thursday, May 14, 2015

Enough?

This concept or thought of "Am I doing enough?" has always been a part of my psyche.  Whether it came to work, or my personal relationships, family, or whatever, I always wonder if I could be doing more.

 When I was teaching and only had a handful of students, sometimes I would hear stories from their homes and wish I could do more.  Wish I could just adopt some, or find more ways to show them how valued they are.

But as a Lead Learner now, I hear even more stories.  I see even more pain.  Things that rip your heart to shreds.

Abuse, neglect, emotional scars, self-abuse, bullying, all kinds of things.  If you've been in education for any amount of time you've seen it too.

My current position also allows me to hear more stories from the team I'm on....the adults.

It also has allowed me to become part of many more stories than I had been in the past.

And the last two weeks I've run into one heartbreaking story after another.  And I've driven home each day thinking "can I do more?  Am I doing enough?"

I care about those kids so passionately.  I always have.  It's a part of me, I've always been proud of.

After seeking council from a few other friends of mine from across the country who I respect immensely, I came to a conclusion.

Despite what I want, I'm not meant to save every kid.

Now, don't misread that.  I am sure as heck gonna TRY to save every kid.  But the truth of the matter is, some will not be reached by me.  I may plant the seed, but it may not grow until years later though.

But, as long as I am contacting the right organizations and at the same time building a campus where those kids are safe and loved, sometimes that's the best I can do.

I will never be that person who gives up on anyone; child or adult.  I will use everything in my arsenal and find others who can help as well.  But I'm also having to really come to grips that sometimes despite my best efforts, I won't be able to fix it all.

And I have to find a way to be ok with that.  I have to just continue to give everything I have and continue to create a space filled with safety, love, encouragement, warm hugs, big smiles, high-fives, quiet times, listening ears, tissues for tears, laughter, fun, and more.  Because sometimes that IS enough.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spread Light, Not Darkness

It seems like every day I hear another news story about something horrific.  Or I sit and listen to a family about a tragedy that just took place.  Or I see things happen within my own life.

Our world if filled with so much darkness.  There are so many reasons to be brought down.  Whether it by war, poverty, sexual misconduct, robbery, or even just the slip of a mean comment.

I know we're all aware.  I know we all see it.

But what I find even more interesting is the fact at how quick we choose to play into the darkness.  We leave hateful comments on social media, or we sit and complain about how terrible things are.

When we choose to do nothing but be negative, we choose to spread the darkness.  And though sometimes it can happen slowly, and over a long period of time, the darkness can begin to be more present then the light.

I find myself having to be very purposeful in the words that I choose, the thoughts that I think, and the actions I take.  Negativity is something we are so easily prone to slip into.

But it pains me to see the effect that the darkness can have on one's life, or just the impact it can make in a day, or even in a moment.

But you see that's what's great about the light.  What's great about the good things.

Darkness only exists in the absence of light.  Once light shows up, darkness has no choice but to flee.

Today, this week, this month, and so on, let's choose to be light.  Let's not play into the darkness.

I've always been of the belief that you don't complain unless you have ideas for solutions.  Instead of sitting and talk about all the things that are going wrong, we have an opportunity to work collaboratively to find solutions.  To spread the light even further.

I love, and live by, this quote by Margaret Mead...."Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world.  When indeed, it's the only one that ever has"

So today, spread light.

Monday, April 20, 2015

#PositivePostItDay at @NavasotaInt

A few weeks ago, my good friend Tony Sinanis, told me about something he did at his school called Positive Post It Day.  I instantly fell in love with the idea and we did it on my campus last week.

What is Positive Post It Day?



Tony was inspired by this video (and you can see his blog post HERE). Well we spent three days before it building up the anticipation and talking about it everywhere with kids.  When the time came, every individual on campus was challenged to write at least 4 post it notes and share them with others.  They had to write at least on positive one for themselves, one for a classmate, and one for someone who works at the school.



To watch the day unfold is hard to describe.  It's a very powerful moment to walk by classroom doors of classrooms and see the doors covered in sticky notes.  Or to see kids creating mum-like things out of the notes they were receiving.


It was one of those days on campus that I was so thrilled to watch.  One of those days where all that was RIGHT was celebrate and recognized.



How hard was it to do?  Not at all.  How much an impact did it make?  Immeasurable.



So now I challenge YOU!  Find time to get with your campus (or even your own classroom) and do your own #PositivePostItDay!  You'll definitely smile big.



Monday, April 13, 2015

What If.....

So often at this point in the year we begin to think thoughts we don't normally think at the beginning of a school year.  We begin to think things like...

What if I've been doing it wrong all year?

What if I haven't really made an impact on my students?

What if this isn't the career for me?

What if that parent is right, and I am the worst teacher their child has ever had?

What if I can't make it to the end of the week, much less the end of the school year?

What if I'm the worst teacher here?

What if I could have done more?

What if I gave everything and it wasn't enough?

What if my colleagues don't like me?

And the list could go on and on.....

but I want to challenge you today.  When all those "What if?" questions begin to arise and you begin to doubt yourself, your ability, your impact, and your worth, think about one thing...

What if you're wrong?

I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend my life thinking about all the things I could have done.  I want to live right now and look at the faces and hearts and minds that are in front of me right now.  I want to focus on that, and believe that in spite of all my doubts and fears, that I am valued.  I am important.  And I am making an impact every single day.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Change is On The Horizon

If you've been following me for very long you know that I took the position of Principal/Lead Learner at Navasota Intermediate this past school year.

It has been the most challenging yet most rewarding year of my career and I wouldn't change it for the world.

This next school year, there will be some changes in my district.  Currently we have a PreK-3rd Grade campus (Webb Elementary; about 900 students) and a 4-5 campus (Mine; Navasota Intermediate; about 350 students).  There is also a PreK-5 campus (High Point Elementary) that is on the southern tip of our county.  As part of another reconstitution, Webb Elementary and my campus will be becoming PreK-5 campuses, so that our district can have three campus that can now be aligned.

That would also mean that my campus would get a name change and be gaining more kids, and the Webb campus would be decreasing at the same time.

I am thrilled about this change.  I really believe having a campus with those ages on it will be huge to building even stronger relationships and helping every child find their version of success.

Last week though something interesting happened.

I was asked to move over to Webb Elementary next year as the principal there.  Talk about a huge vote of confidence to move over to a campus with a much larger student population.

After talking with my administrative team (who would be moving over with me), and after praying about it, I felt like this was the right move at this time.  I can't wait to interact with even more staff, students, and parents.

Due to the reconstitution as well, I will not be leaving my entire current staff behind.  With the restructuring of the grade levels there will be quite a bit of movement of staff and in the coming weeks we (the other two principals and myself) will be looking at just who will be going where.

I can't wait for this next stage in my journey.  I have absolutely loved my time at Navasota Intermediate, and will finish out this year blazing strong.  Here's to the next chapter in the story.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Don't Lose Sight

Teaching is hard.  There are often 1,000 things to do every day.  It's so easy to get lost in what we're doing.

Last week, I realized that happened to me.

As an administrator I feel that it's hugely important that I'm actively involved in all parts of the school.  That includes morning and afternoon duty stations.

Every morning I serve morning car duty.  I'm the first person the kids see when they get out of their cars and enter our doors.  I have the ability to set the tone for the entire day.

But work got busy.  With testing season upon us, parents waiting in my office, forms I had to fill out, and so on, I got so busy that for about a week or so I choose to stop doing car duty to get some of the other things done.  I thought it wasn't that big of a deal, and that it wouldn't really matter too much.

I was wrong.

How do I know I was wrong?  Because two weeks ago, I started doing car duty faithfully every morning again.  And I realized something.  Greeting the students with a warm-hug or handshake and telling them I was so happy they made it today, didn't just start their day out on the right foot, it started my day out as well.  It reminded of me of WHY I'm in education.  For them.

Then last week, one student said something that solidified everything.  She said, "Mr. Nesloney, I love you doing car duty because even when my mom yells at me on the way to school I know that I will get here and that you will still hug me and tell me how happy you are to see me".

Wow.

What had happened?  In the midst of all the little things, I had lost sight.  I'd lost sight of the most important part of my job; the kids.

As we near the final lap of this school year I encourage you to check your priorities.  Check your focus.  Have you also, like I did, allowed the little things to steal away your focus?

I promise you, when you turn all your focus back on the kids, it reignites a fire that keeps you going.

Don't forget about our kids.  Don't lose sight.