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!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meet The Teacher at @NavasotaInt

Well the day finally arrived!  Last night, we were FINALLY able to meet the students and families who would be a part of our group this year! To say it was amazing, is an understatement.

The hours before meet the teacher were insanity.  It was all getting the campus completely ready to welcome our families.

And to show you how amazing my staff is, the night before my mom had sent me a picture on Pinterest.  It was a picture of a school office that had been redone by the PTO to fit a superhero theme.  I showed 3 of my staff (Kelly Kastner, Kevin Bradford, and Julie Eisenrich) the photo and said "can y'all do this?" and they said...... "OF COURSE!" and about 6 hours later, this is what they created:

Amazing isn't it????  Man oh man.

This year's theme at Navasota Intermediate is "Everyone's a Superhero".  So we wanted to go all out on Meet the Teacher.  Every single employee designed their own superhero and came up with their own names.  The best part?  Every single employee DRESSED UP as their superhero as well!  Talk about a magical feeling walking down the halls.

We also called in a friend of mine, who is a party planner.  He created us some huge shields (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Captain America), and created two giant entrances as well as a red carpet.   We wanted our kids to feel special and to have an experience.

We also had a few staff members create a little photo booth area, and Rachel Hughes brought some props and as kids left they got to have their photo taken at the booth and we're gonna post those all over school in the coming weeks.

Then the parents started showing up.  I had wondered how many would show up.  The school I'm now a part of hasn't had the best reputation in the past.  We've worked tirelessly to change that reputation this summer.  The local newspaper (Navasota Examiner) has been so supportive of us and we were featured three different times on the front page this summer.  So we were hoping that would help us in getting parents to show up.

And show up they did.  In DROVES.  It was absolutely amazing to watch it unfold.  Every single teacher left saying that in all their years of teaching, they had never had that many students show up on meet the teacher.  To me, the most impactful part of the entire evening was watching student after student show up, clutching their You Matter letter that their teacher had written them.  Because I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but as a principal I wrote every student a letter about how much they meant to me.  THEN, every single teacher on campus wrote a letter to their students as well that told them how valuable they were.

Those kids were beaming walking through the doors and holding tight to the letters they had recieved.  It was so heartwarming.

I also loved that a little boy stopped me on his way out asking if he could bring his sleepbag tonight and sleep here because he couldn't wait til the first day and he wanted to be the first one through the doors.  That was awesome.

We had our first official introduction to the community, and it was great!  I can't wait to see what else this year will bring!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Day @AngelaMaiers helped @NavasotaISD and @NavasotaInt, Be Brave

Before writing this post I really had to sit back and digest what took place yesterday.

But first let me start with a little backstory.  I was hired for my new position back in March.  Soon after getting hired, the discussion began about a keynote for Navasota ISD's annual Symposium (it's a 2 and 1/2 day conference put on by Navasota Teachers for Navasota Teachers).  They wanted someone who would inspire and challenge all at the same time.  They wanted Angela Maiers.

When I was hired I knew I wanted Angela working with my school as well.  Why?  Because I "met" Angela about a year ago.  She completely changed the way I viewed myself and my skill set.  She cut to my heart and changed the direction of so many things in my career and over the past year has become a really good friend of mine.

So when the conversation of Angela came up no one knew what to do or how to contact her, so I reached out and begged her to come.  Luckily, she was already going to be in Texas that week, so the planning began.

Angela started the day by giving her keynote.  She called it "Be Brave".  And what a challenge that was!  The message was just the message I needed to hear, my team needed to hear, and my district needed to hear. A few of my favorite moments from the talk were....

There are so many other little "nuggets of wisdom" that I could add in here, but that's just a taste.

After the keynote Angela came over with me to tour Navasota Intermediate.  Why? Because you see, Angela has adopted Navasota Intermediate this year.  We are going to be her case study, of the first school in the United States,. to be a #YouMatter school from day one.

As we walked the halls, visited the classrooms, met the team, it was overwhelming.  I loved Angela's comment of "I feel like I've walked into the school I've always dreamed would exist"  That was such a compliment.

I loved too that two of my admin team (Terry Garrett and Aaron Marvel) got to sit down with Angela and share a little of their story of what we're trying to create down here.

After the tour we enjoyed a quick lunch together, and then Angela headed over to the High School to lead an hour long session with NISD teachers about more implementation ideas.

Then the best part came.  From 2-4pm Angela got to work with just my campus (because she's adopted us).

That two hours was so emotionally powerful and overwhelming.  We started the two hours with an idea my admin team had cooked up with Angela.  We got bags from GoNoodle, and myself, plus my 3 admin, wrote a special message from each of us on the bags to the person who would be receiving that bag.  We individualized every single one.  Then inside the bag we put goodies with little sayings on it.  For example we put a bag of Funyins and said "Enjoy your Fun-youngins", and we put a pen that said "Leave your mark" and things like that.

Right away we had some tears flowing.  It's amazing what a personalized message and some special treats will do.  Then Angela lead us in several exercises and ideas.  The most powerful?  We had to get into our teams and we had to sit there while our team shared everything they loved about us.  That was tough.  It was tough for me, as an adult, to sit there and hear nice things said about me by my team.  It took every ounce of self control not to cry the entire time.  It's amazing how just a few kind words of someone noticing something about you changes everything.  In that moment, we completed our transformation from the staff of Navasota Intermediate, and into a family.

I'm not sure Angela will ever truly understand the impact she left on us.  It will take me quite a while to fully comprehend.  But we're not the same, and we're better for it.  Our ideas our flowing!  We know opposition will come.  We know the tough days will come.  Because like Angela said, when you challenge the status quo and try something different, it upsets those who are comfortable.  But like she also reminded us, Good is the enemy of great.  We must be more than just good enough.  There are so many little things that we plan to implement this year that will make sure every single person that leaves our campus knowing they matter, they have worth, and they are valued.

At Navasota Intermediate, You're a Superhero

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The @NavasotaISD Community Walk

This past Saturday, I got to take part in my first every community walk!

Last year Navasota ISD did it for the first time, so this was their second year of trying this out.

What happens on a community walk?  Well staff members from each campus meet at the Administration building at 10am on a Saturday morning.  Each campus stuffed about 120 bags each, full of district information, welcome notes, whatever we wanted!  Then we split up and each campus went and delivered the bags to the homes of families of students who would be attending our respective schools this upcoming year.

It was kind of like a "Welcome to the new School Year" thing.  We had about 22 people representing our campus.  We split up into about 5 groups and headed out to greet our student families!

All the NISD Employees

It ended up being an incredibly rewarding experience.  Not only from my group, but from the stories I heard from the other groups from Navasota Intermediate as well.  Plus it was another great bonding moment for us as a staff.

It was great to greet parents and guardians at their homes.  To visit some of the apartment complexes.  To just really not only see where our students were coming from, but to bring ourselves to them.

I had never taken part in anything like this, and I can't claim credit to the idea at all.  This was all thought up by the incredible upper administration at NISD.

But it was something that I can't wait to continue year after year.  In fact, even walking through the community, we've already all thought of more ideas and ways to reach out and meet our parents where they are instead of always asking them to come to the school.

Sometimes, as educators, we forget how important it is to visit a child's home. To see where they come from.  To show them we care about them enough to give of our own time, on a Saturday, to visit them.  I also loved that each of the Navasota Intermediate bags carried a "You Matter" card too.

I can't express enough how proud I am to be a part of Navasota ISD, and a part of Navasota Intermediate.  My teachers showed up in full force, ready to tackle the day, and they did.  Their passion and dedication is incredibly moving and every moment I reminded of how special this group is.

Thursday is Meet the Teacher at our campus, and I can't wait to meet all our kiddos!