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".


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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Learning on a Saturday

One of my biggest goals in taking over Navasota Intermediate, has been to instill a love of learning.  I've always said I wanted to be a part of a school where kids are running INTO school instead of running out of it.

As an administrator I feel it's my role to do all that I can for the success of these kids.  I don't want to be boxed into any of these stereotypical roles that administrators are perceived to be (and some are).  I have never wanted to be the Principal who works out of his office all day.  From day one I have said I wanted to be actively involved in the education of these students.

I have taught classes, filled in for teachers, taught after school tutoring, and so much more as an administrator.  But I wanted to test a theory I had and try something that would require a little more sacrifice from our students.

I wanted to try a Saturday School.

But I wanted to do it differently.  I didn't want to mandate it for anyone.  I just wanted to share with the students what my plan was for that day, invite them, and see if they'd show up.

So this past Saturday we did our very first ever Saturday School.  I had about 60 kids show up!!

I had kind of planned it last minute, so I was able to get my wife (who works with PreK) to lead an art station, my mom (who teaches 4th) to lead a writing activity, I led a math activity, my instructional coach did a character education activity, and one of my SPED teachers lead a reading activity.  And it was a blast!

 We had 4th graders from 9:30-11:30 and 5th graders from 12:00-2:00.

The feedback was great from the students and many asked if we could do it every weekend.  That's when I was reminded of something.  Many of the students in this population come from homes or environments with which they seek to escape.  As adults, many of us look forward to the weekend and the break from work, but so many kids dread the weekend and the solitary moments it may bring or the scary moments or the harmful moments.

Now, unfortunately I don't have the time or resources to do this every weekend (yet!) haha.  But our plan is to offer this once a month.  I already have teachers who have approached me and asked if they could do robotics, or teach french, or teach sewing!  And why not?  Why can't I invite kids up to school and allow them to choose what they want to learn about for a Saturday? To create a kind of "edcamp" for kids!

My mind is just spinning with the possibilities of what this could morph into, but I know it's only the beginning!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Each of Us Holds Value

This week we had our monthly staff meeting, and it was a powerful one.

Every month when we have our staff meetings I try to begin and end with an inspirational video and some sort of activity.  I want out staff meetings to be about more than just a relay of information.  I want us to find ways to come closer together and to have fun.

The past week or two has been especially tough for me.  There had been a lot of negative things coming into play that were just dragging me down.  And I could sense that some others on campus were facing similar battles.  Then I remembered what I like to do most when I'm feeling upset, and that is find ways to encourage others.  And then I remembered how perfectly that would fit into our motto of being a Choose2Matter School. Hence, our idea was born.

Everyone came into the faculty meeting and found their seat based on where this paper below was sitting.  They weren't given any instructions other than sit where I've placed your name.  It was printed in color and on cardstock.  Then each person was given a different colored sharpie marker.

I started the meeting with a quick video (below) that I found and just fell in love with.

After watching the video I talked about how the Spring semester of school can be a trying time on parents, kids, and us.  And that sometimes what we forget to do is remind those around us how much they truly mean to us and how much value they hold.  I reminded my team that every single one of them holds value on our campus and are a needed piece of our campus puzzle.

Then each person was asked to stand up and take their sharpie and go to the different pages around the room and write an adjective, phrase, quote, scripture, saying, whatever!  They were just encouraged to write something about that person whose paper they were standing in front of.

After 15 minutes we all sat back down and were given time to just look over our papers.  As an adult one of the most difficult things to do is sit down in front of another adult, look them in the eye, and accept the compliment they're giving.  I saw quite a few tears well up and I know when I read mine I had to hold back as well.

Why do we forget?  Why do we lose sight of our worth?  I think sometimes we can get lost in the moment or lost in the negativity.  We must take those times, not only to understand and remember our worth, but also take the time to remind others.  Imagine how different this world could be if we took time every day to tell someone how important they were to us.  These pages we created are going to be displayed in our teacher's lounge until the end of the school year so we have a constant visual reminder of the worth each of us holds.  Then on the last day we'll get to each take them home with us.

Take time today to share your gratitude with someone.  Call your parent, send a note to a sibling, FaceTime with your niece or nephew.  Just find time today to remind someone of the worth they hold in your life.  It can make all the difference.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Grip of Abandonment

I can still remember it as clear as if it happened yesterday.  The day my father walked out, 18 or so years ago.

I remember him walking up to my brother and me and sitting us down and telling us that he was leaving.  That we'd still get to see him, that he still was our father, and so on and so on.  It took about 3 minutes for him to tell us, pick up his suitcase, and walk out the door.

It wasn't a surprise to me when it happened.  Kids aren't dumb, they know when things are off between their parents.  And at the time, I was actually relieved.  That was less yelling that I was going to have to hear around the home.

And I was never super close to my father anyway, and he was often working many days on the oil field, so by now seeing him every other weekend it would be about the same as I was already seeing him.  Right?  Right?

Little did I know the effect that would have on me for years to come.  Going through High School was rough without my father present.  He couldn't come to my tennis matches, he never saw my extracurricular activities, he didn't know my teachers, didn't know my friends, didn't really even know me.

But I covered the pain.  I told myself it was better this way.

As I grew older and did a lot of soul searching, I learned something about myself in my early 20s.  I learned that I struggled with abandonment issues.  I was terrified that people only entered my life to then find a way to conveniently leave it again, and to leave me standing with the pieces.

I blamed myself.  I blamed God.  I tried to place the blame anywhere.  Tried desperately to figure out what was so terrible about me that even my own father would walk out and leave.

And the funniest part is, that I didn't begin to feel that way until I got older.

But I share all of this to say that as I work with children, especially those from broken homes, I see the fear of abandonment in their eyes.  I see them lash out at others as if to say "If I can make you angry enough, you'll abandon me too".

I sit with kids on a daily basis and hear their struggles.  Today alone I sat along side a 5th grade boy and just cried with him as he talked about his mother walking out again.

So many of our students come to us with pain.  Sometimes it's pain they can identify and articulate, but often times it's such an intense pain that they can't tell you where it's coming from.

To this day I still struggle with abandonment fears.  Will this friend still be friends with me when they know this?  Will that person still love me when I do this?  Will I still hold importance in this person's life when I lash out like this?  And yes, I even wonder some days, in my darkest moments, when God will abandon me as well.

I have a faith that I've grown in for years, and I know I have a Father who deeply and desperately loves me and will never abandon me.  One of my favorite lines from a song is "there are no strangers, there are no outcasts, there are no orphans of God".

And that's why I come to work every day.  That's why I love teaching.  Because I get the opportunity to walk up to kids every day and say "I'm here.  I'm not going anywhere.  And nothing you can say, nothing you can do will ever make me not come back tomorrow and love you all over again".