Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet @ofancyfrench, The Manager of Missing Smiles

This week I'd like to introduce you to someone who has played a huge role in my growth as an educator and as a person, Kathy French.  I am so blessed and honored to get to work with Kathy over at Navasota Intermediate.

But you see, I've been with Kathy longer than just this year.  I've known Kathy since I started teaching 7 years ago.  How?  Because she was my team teacher and partner in crime my first two years of teaching.

Kathy is one of those people that I could sit all day and list the amazing things about her, and on the other hand not think of even one negative thing to say about her.

Kathy taught me how to have fun with kids.  Kathy taught me about building relationships.  Kathy taught me about being flexible with your school day.  But most importantly Kathy allowed me to be out of the box and creative.  She jumped right off the ledge with me so many times.

Over the years I've continued to work with Kathy at my former campus in different capacities.  Kathy was the person I ran to for advice, to vent, or just to get a laugh.

When we had to define our "genius" this year, Kathy named herself the "Manager of Missing Smiles" and that couldn't be more fitting.

Kathy has this unique ability to make even the toughest heart crumble into laughter.  When I asked Kathy to step outside the classroom and join NIS as our Librarian, I had no back up if she said no.  Why? Because there was no one else I wanted for that job.

A librarian helps kids fall in love with reading.  A librarian can be that face that brightens your day.  The library is the heart of our campus and I'm happy Kathy is in there.  You can even read HERE some of the great things she's already doing.

Kathy is such a unique and amazing person.  She is creative, outgoing, outrageous, kind, inspiring, and I could keep listing for days. And in just a few short weeks I've watched her bloom into even more of an incredible leader, teacher, and friend.

If you come to visit Navasota Intermediate, and you're in need of a smile or big hug, stop by our library.  Mrs. French will be there ready and waiting for you.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's Not Always Roses and Sunshine

One thing I've always wanted to do was portray a really honest perspective on this blog and on my career.

As I've entered this new journey of being a Principal/Lead Learner I've tried really showing my journey.  What I've failed to show though, is the struggles.

You see, I absolutely love my job.  I haven't for even one second thought I made the wrong decision.  I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and that God has a great plan for me!

What I want to share though is that this road this last month hasn't been without it's many mistakes and failures.

I tend to be a perfectionist, and that causes many issues in and of itself, but if wielded well, it also helps me achieve great things!

One of my major missteps this school year has been remembering I'm an instructional leader.  That besides just being the figurehead of the campus or whatever, I also need to be helping with instruction.  Especially with so many brand new teachers on the campus.  That became glaringly obvious to me when I invited Erin Klein and Tom Murray to come work with my staff.  As I sat and listened to the many ideas Tom and Erin shared, I was in awe.  But at the same time I was smacked right across the face with what I had forgotten to do.

Immediately after the training I sent an apology email to my staff, letting them know I now realized a mistake I had made. And since then I've made a concerted effort to be more involved with helping create a road map instructionally with the teachers.

Other little things that I've made not so amazing decisions on are the tables we bought, the beginning of the year "trip", and many many more!

You see, this post is to share that even though I've written about the WONDERFUL things that are happening at NIS, I also wanted to send a reminder that there are tough days.  Really tough days.  There are days when you feel like every single decision you make is the wrong one.  There are days where you feel like you're fighting a losing battle.  There are days when you feel like no one is on your side.

But guess what? Those days are the days that make us better.  They make us stronger.  We need the tough days to help us be more grateful for the great days.  Because life isn't going to be all roses and sunshine all the time. There will be those days full of storm clouds and thorns.

Lean on those around you, seek out advice, and keep focused on the goal of always doing what's best for kids.  That's what I do and I know that in the end it will all work out.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Meet @BradfordKevin66, the Commander of Comic Relief

Here is my second entry in my weekly foray of recognizing the amazing people that I get to work with every day.

This week I waned to introduce you to Kevin Bradford.

Throughout my interviewing process and hiring of 36 different employees there are few that stand out as much as Kevin Bradford.  Kevin has worked at Navasota Intermediate for the last few years.  When I interviewed him for him to remain the Special Education teacher, I was instantly impressed and wanted him on our team.

But when I offered Kevin the job, he hesitated.  He had been hurt pretty badly with several experiences at the campus, from before I was here.  And no matter how much I explained to him that it would be different now I could still sense the apprehension.  A few days later, he accepted, and boy am I glad he did.

You have to meet Kevin to truly understand what I'm going to express.  He is a ball of energy.  He is a source of laughter.  Kevin is one of those people that can be so outrageous that he can lift any mood.

In addition to just being a ball of energy, Kevin has such a deep passion for working with kids that it's clear in everything that he does.  As I mentioned above, Kevin is our Special Education teacher.  As you know that means that sometimes he works with those kiddos who struggle to find success.  Every time I watch him interact with those kids though I'm reminded of how grateful I am we have him here at Navasota Intermediate.

In addition to his passion for working with kids, Kevin is also one of the biggest hearts on our team.  He notices when things are wrong.  He's never afraid to step outside of his comfort zone.  He's always my reminder to lighten up when I'm taking things too seriously.  And his concern for his students run so deep that he would move heaven and earth for those kids.

There are few people in my every day life that I would say I "admire", but Kevin is one of those people.  And our team at Navasota Intermediate is better, because he is here with us.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The First Week of School

Well I did it!  I made it through my first week of school as an administrator!

And what a week it was!  I think the biggest take-away for me was how much my daily routine has changed.  As a classroom teacher there was some sort of daily routine that I would sink into.  I knew when the day started, I knew what time lunch was, I knew when to take my kids to their specials rotation, etc.  As an administrator that all goes out the window!  Every day is a brand new day with a brand new "schedule"!  It is absolutely perfect for my ADHD, but it's definitely a mind shift!

There was also something else I learned this week.  I've seen kids hungry for attention, wanting to be noticed.  And this year, with our motto being "You Matter" we've taken a strong stance.  But what I wasn't ready for was the depth at which these kids had been hurt.  In my years of teaching, I had never come across children who seem so starved for a kind comment, a hug, a safe place.  It broke my heart, but at the same time it filled me up knowing that at Navasota Intermediate they were going to get just that.  The first day of school we had quite a few kids who tried to push the boundaries, get an attitude, and show anger.  But we surrounded them love.  We surrounded them with the constant message that they mean the world to us.  And even by the second day of school, I noticed a shift.

One of my favorite moments from the entire week, happened on the second day of school.  A student got sent to my office. Not because he was in trouble, but because at Navasota Intermediate we celebrate. He had handled himself extremely well in what could have been a terrible situation with another student. I got to call home to mom to brag about him. She didn't answer so I left a message. What did he say after I left the message? "My mom is gonna hug me really big tonight". Wow.  I almost broke down in tears right there and made it a point every day from then on out to find a student who had done something great and have them call home in my office to brag to their parents.  It was funny as one parent had the comment, "Wait, you're calling me for something good?  I'm confused.  My daughter isn't in trouble?"  It's moments like that too where I see how much we've missed by not celebrating more successes.

Another exciting thing that happened this week is that my administration team and I are having a competition. About what?  Well we want to make sure every single teacher's classroom is visited at least once a day by one of us. We have a chart on my office door that after one of us visit a classroom door we sign.  Then at the end of they day we see who visited the most classrooms.  You wouldn't believe the difference it makes in the kids to constantly see their administrators in their learning environment and not just a discipline environment.  But just as importantly, it allowed me moments to connect with others on the staff and watch their amazingness in action.  One thing that visiting classrooms every day has shown me is that I have one heck of a team over here.

The other great thing from week one is the fact that as an administration we've chosen to remove our teachers from morning or afternoon duty.  Instead, we as an administrative team do duty with our instructional aides and support staff.  We do car rider duty.  We do bus rider duty.  We do lunch duty.  Why?  Because we are passionate about connecting with kids as well and we don't want to be hidden away in an office.  My favorite part of every day is opening car doors in the morning because I am able to set the tone for each and every child.  I get to make sure every car rider is greeted with a HUGE welcome, a warm smile, and a hug or handshake.  It's just the thing I need every morning to get me going.

As I've been in the classrooms I've seen the relationships already being built.  I haven't seen this side before because I've always been in my own classroom.  But it's so exciting to see this team connecting with kids on such a personal level.  It was amazing watching kids design their own superheros, identify their genius, write you matter letters to people in their lives and so much more.

We're building so much more than a school over here in Navasota, Texas.  We're working to change hearts and therein change lives.  Can't wait to see what the rest of this school year brings!

Meet: @TerryCGarrett, The Queen of Perspective

As I've been on my journey at Navasota Intermediate, one thing has been glaringly clear; I have the best team in the entire world.  Period.  One conscious thing I want to do, is once a week feature someone from my staff and tell you a little bit about them.

This week I wanted to introduce you to Terry Garrett.  Her genius is being the "Queen of Perspective".  I have known Terry for a little over 7 years.  When I started at Fields Store Elementary my first year of teaching, Terry was teaching 3rd grade.  Throughout my 7 years at FSE, Terry went from being classroom teacher, to instructional coach, to Assistant Principal.  As I grew as a teacher those seven years I also grew to really get to know Terry.

Terry has an exceptional gift at patience and listening.  Whenever there is a time that you just need to vent to someone you can rest assured that Terry will find time for you.

When I decided to take the position at Navasota Intermediate, I knew there was no one else I wanted as the Assistant Principal, than Terry Garrett.  We had been through so much together and she brought such a wealth of knowledge and such a great ability to connect with people.  I "worked" on Terry for about a month trying to convince her to come to Navasota.  It was going to be a big change and she'd be leaving the district she'd worked in for many years.

But all it took was one meeting.  When Terry met the Upper Administration in Navasota, and heard them speak, and saw the amount of respect they had, she was sold.

Since that moment, Terry has been aboard.  I couldn't imagine this journey without her.  I loved at the end of our time at Fields Store Elementary, that the staff got Terry and I each a shirt.  Mine said "I'm not a Student, I'm the Principal!" and Terry's said "I"m in charge, NOT Todd!".

That about sums it up.  When I express some of my crazy ideas, Terry is my grounding force to help me keep things in perspective.  She is talented beyond belief.  She makes me laugh at the end of every day.  She is someone I trust completely.  She's a natural learner and has one of the biggest hearts in the world.  She's been stepping out on so many limbs to try so many crazy things, She's also taking the leap in "trying to figure out this Twitter thing"!

There are very few people I admire as much as Terry.  And there is no one else I'd rather be on this ride with.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Take the Time to Listen

As a classroom teacher, sometimes I didn't feel like I was heard or even noticed by my administration on my campus.  And it's not that they weren't a great administration.  They WERE!  But they got so busy, sometimes I felt forgotten.

As an administrator myself now, I wanted to make sure I never made my team feel that way.  One thing that I've chosen to do as the Lead Learner is that once a month each team member will meet with me for about 5-15 minutes just to talk and get one on one time.

This week is our first week of school.  There's a LOT going on.  I didn't want them to get lost in the shuffle.  So for the last two days I've given up about 2 1/2 hours of my day to listen to each person during their conference time.  I am so glad I did.

I just asked them how the first days have been.  What's your biggest concern?  How can I better support you?  What do you need that you're not getting?

It was so wonderful just to sit and listen.  Were there a thousand things on my list that I needed to accomplish?  Of course.  But I'm so thankful I took the time.  I even spent over an hour after school each day meeting with my admin team to fill them in on what happened and how we can better support.

Sometimes as adults, we want nothing more then to be heard.  Then to know someone cares.  I love my team and never for a second want them to think I've forgotten about them.  I don't want to be that person who doesn't take the time to listen.  I just hope my staff knows how heavily they are on my heart.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 1 at @NavasotaInt is in the books!

We made it through our first day of school at Navasota Intermediate!  Wow what an experience and thrill that was.

Just like when I was a classroom teacher, I could hardly sleep at all the night before.  I was excited beyond belief but also a little terrified.  This was my first year as a principal and lots of eyes are on me.  There are those cheering for me to succeed and those waiting for me to fail.  But I will say, my excitement definitely outweighed the fear.

Parents started showing up at 7am.  I've chosen to do car duty every morning and every afternoon.  I really want the time to make that face to face contact with parents.  It was so much fun seeing parents show up with their children.  And there were so many smiles, so many excited faces.

As the teachers took their kids to their rooms, I spent the day, as did the rest of my team, rotating through classrooms.  Checking on teachers, meeting kids, playing games, etc.  One major goal of my administrative team this year is to make sure that every single day each teacher sees an administrator in their room for at least 10 min.  I've worked in schools like that, and in schools where you NEVER see the administrator, and I have seen the difference.  We want to be present for our kids.

We've also made it a point as an administrative team that every day we serve lunch duty.  We want the kids to see us all over the school in every aspect.

The other cool part of the day was a surprise appearance by a local news reporter from KBTX.  He showed up, interviewed me, and then allowed me to show him around the campus.  I didn't really think much about it, until we were on the 5 and 10 o'clock news that night!!!!  Talk about a cool feeling!  My favorite part of the interview?  That he got to meet one of my custodians, AND she made it into the broadcast.  Every single member of our team is important and every piece is needed to make this work!  You can see it HERE.

We got every kid home and even ended the day with a quick staff meeting.  If you've seen my posts online you know we're a staff who laughs AND cries together.  We started the meeting with a game called "Wet T-Shirt Contest" where the staff had to take a wet t-shirt that had been folded up AND frozen, and get it open and put on someone with using only their body heat!  Talk about lots of laughing.

Then in a big surprise, the staff gave the admin team a gift.  Last week I blogged about Angela Maiers and how she inspired each of us on the admin team to make special gifts and messages for every employee.  Well yesterday the staff had special bags made for us and they were filled with goodies, along with personalized letters.  Let's just say there was lots of crying on my end when I got home haha.

And I'd be remiss not to thank Jon Harper for his SUPER kind thoughtfulness in having this AWESOME gift delivered to me on my first day.  Life is so much better with great friends.

I love where I work.  I love who I work with.  And I can't wait to continue to watch this year unfold!