Thursday, July 2, 2015

Relationships Matter Most - Be Real #naesp15

This is co-written by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney and cross-posted on both of their blogs.


Relationships for Principals have always and will continue to be of utter importance, it's the catalyst of our work! This week at NAESP (#naesp15) has brought so many different ideas to the forefront, especially after our opening keynote from @ErikWahl


Erik spoke a ton about trust, making all kids feel special, bringing back our artistic mojo which leads to more creativity! Ideas like, think differently about what you do as a Principal, have teachers use crayons to write down ideas at a staff meeting, this will get them to smile.


Research shows that just the smell of Crayola crayons can lower stress levels! Make school fun, teachers and students will reach new heights when they’re relaxed and know you care!


Trust can only be built when strong relationships are at the forefront of what you do each and every day on campus. Relationships with all stakeholders; kids, staff, and parents will fuel your school culture so it burns bright for everyone.


Adam and I have talked a lot about relationships this week and what it means for a school. The video clip below from Jerry Maguire came up and is a great example of what a strong relationship can be, and what the complete opposite looks like as well.


How did Jerry and Rod build their strong relationship?
What actions happened previous to their embrace in the locker room?
How can you as a Principal build strong relationships with all stakeholders?
Or do you want to stand on the sidelines and fake it?


Kids can smell fake - Teachers can smell fake - Parents can smell fake - Be real!




Some of our favorite ways to build, foster, and grow relationships are:


  • We talk about kids, all the time.
  • Know every student’s name, this is first and foremost!
  • Only make decisions that are good for them!
  • Celebrate small moments
  • Talk to kids like they’re a person, they’ll respect you more if you do
  • Recognize genius
  • Give high-fives, fist bumps, hugs
  • Say yes
  • SMILE
  • Create a school motto that lets everyone know what you’re all about - we like #TeamKid
  • Call home for celebrations on a weekly basis
  • Believe that everyone can achieve greatness
  • Send notes to staff members families recognizing the hard work the staff member does
  • Eat lunch with kids/staff
  • Play at recess, kids/teachers/parents love to see the Principal engaged in different ways
  • Talk about what you believe in and stand for, people want to follow someone with a solid plan
  • Be present
  • Servant’s heart
  • Tweet for your school to showcase all the #eduawesome going on
  • Make sure every student sees you each and every day, build those connections


How do YOU build relationships?


Thank you Erik for reawakening our genius, pushing us to UNthink, rediscover and focus on what matters most!


Connect with Erik!
Instagram
(and check out Erik's book "UNthink")




Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Learning Through Conversations

I've had the awesome experience of traveling to Long Beach, California this week to attend NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals). #NAESP15

I love traveling and attending different conferences.  Not necessarily for the sessions, but more so for the connections.

This week especially I was reminded of the importance of having those conversations with others.

So many of us attend different PD and learning opportunities and we sit there and listen to the presenter/trainer and then we leave.  Hopefully taking back a few new tools to try on our campus or in our classroom.

But for me this week was a glaring reminder at just how important (if not more important) the conversations are.

I've been able to talk with administrators from all over the country and just sit and share stories, philosophies, ideas, and more.



And what makes this even greater is the fact that I had already begun these conversations before I even got here.  Through Twitter, Google Hangouts, Voxer, Facebook, and more I feel like I already "knew" these people.



And what's better?  They're my kind of people.  People who are passionate and seek to do what's best for kids.  People who are pushing the status quo and stepping outside of their comfort zones.



So I challenge you.  Step outside of your comfort zone.  Reach out to those in your field.  Because we truly learn more when we invest in the conversations and put ourselves out there.  It's time we shared more and worked together.  Begin today!






Monday, June 15, 2015

Fighting the Fight

I have been given quite the opportunity to travel and speak in different places around the United States.  I talk about technology, inspiring kids, and changing campus/staff culture.

But lately, I've noticed a theme happening.  A kind of disheartening theme.

Many times, after I finish a presentation/keynote/whatever I'll have teachers come up to me, many times with tears in their eyes and say things like....

- but what if your principal doesn't support you at all
- what if you're the only one who wants to be innovative
- what if all everyone does around you is complain and talk down about kids

I've been there.  I've worked for administrators where one was the best ever, another went to jail, another was a screamer, and another was the worst ever.  I've worked in schools myself where I felt like everyone was annoyed by me or what I was trying to do.  Where I felt like I had almost no one to turn to.

The first thing I did that helped was I found Twitter.  That gave me a place to connect with others who would build me up, challenge me, and encourage me.  It gave me a sense that I wasn't fighting a battle alone.

But I often tell teachers, when they come to me with those major concerns heavy on their heart, that I truly believe one person can change things.

When I have teachers come to me with the "what ifs" I remind them that they CAN change things.  It won't be easy, it won't come right away, but you always start with the kids.  Sometimes the loudest voices we can use in the school (but often forget about) are the children.  Let them and their actions speak for what is possible.

I often used my students to encourage other staff members, to speak out about the things they wanted to do or ways they wanted to learn.  It's easy for one adult to ignore another.  It's much more difficult to ignore kindness or an impassioned plea from a child.

So for those of you who are fighting the fight, I say this, hold on.

Find a group of people (whether online or in person) and pull together.  Surround yourself with positivity and don't allow the negative people to drag you down.

But most of all, invest in the kids.  Teach them about kindness, forgiveness, passion and more.  Let them tell the story of what is possible.  Allow them to use their voices.

Don't give up.  Don't give in to hopelessness.  Even the tiniest flicker of light will always break through darkness.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Year One is in The Books!

Well I did it.  I survived my first year as an administrator.  Especially coming straight out of the classroom.

This year was a roller coaster for sure.  I think just about every single thing that could have gone wrong did.  But I learned so much.  And I've always been of the belief that mistakes are ok as long as you learn from them and don't repeat them.

Monday I move onto my new campus, Webb Elementary, and prepare to start as a principal on a campus with 825 PreK-5th graders.  I also start the process of combining my Navasota Intermediate family with my new Webb family since 95% of my NIS folks are coming with me to Webb.   I figured the best way to wrap up this year was to share the parting email I sent to my team yesterday....

Well we did it guys.  We officially made it to the end of a school year.

When I look back at this past year, it brings tears to my eyes.

We are the final family of Navasota Intermediate.  We helped usher in a new era for NISD.  We came together with a clean slate like no other campus in this district has ever done.  There is not, and there will never be a year like this year.

Sometimes it felt like everything that could have gone wrong, did.  From losing staff members, to wild students, to extreme educational deficiencies, hospital trips, floods, and so much more.

But what I will remember most is this family.  How we came together, and worked together to create something special here.

From day one, our motto was "Be Brave" and "You Matter".  I have seen different forms of bravery out of each and every one of you.  I watched you time and time again, step outside your comfort zone, try something new, and push your own thinking to always do what's best for kids.

But to me, being reminded (and reminding others) of how much we each matter is what truly made the difference.  You can put all the world's best teachers in a school together, and you won't see real change unless relationships are number one.

I have sat and cried with countless families and students who were, for the first time, told that they were more important than a test score.  Told that someone was going to do whatever it took to help their child find success.  I watched so many walls get torn down as we cooked hot dogs for families, collected food for the needy, gave turkeys at thanksgiving, paid for school lunches, paid for field trips, collect clothing, and so much more.

We have dealt with students who have never before been told they were important.  That they were valued.  That they mattered.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this year, we changed lives.  And that those repercussions will be felt for years to come.

As some of us head to new districts, some of us to new campuses, and some of stay to carry the torch, let us remember one thing.  A family is not easily broken.  I hope to see each of you again at some point in our journey.  

Please know that you each hold a special place in my heart.  For me, completing my first year, not only as an administrator, but as a Principal, wasn't easy.  There were many days I felt like I wasn't doing a very good job. There are so many things I feel like I could have done better, said better, tried harder, been in more places.  I think that's what a good teacher does though. The reflect on what they can do better, but at the same time they don't forget about all the things that wen't RIGHT. I hope it came across that I always tried to make sure every decision was best for these kids, because they are why we do what we do.  But you guys (and of course these kiddos) are what kept me going.  I wouldn't trade this year for anything, and I haven't for a second regretted my decision to come here and do this.

So as you go off into your next adventure, remember to take time to breathe.  To stop and be grateful.  To spread gratitude to others.  But most of all, remember to Be Brave and let others know just how much they matter.

For the final time, 
Todd Nesloney
Principal/Lead Learner
Navasota Intermediate

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.