Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What About the Adults? #KidsDeserveIt

Back in September we were having a lot of discipline issues.  And through all of those discipline issues we noticed almost all of our daily focus was on the students who were making poor decisions.  We had begun to completely ignore those who were making great decisions.

Now, I'm not a believer in a reward system for kids.  I don't think kids should be sent to the office to get a pencil, sticker, or some other tangible thing for making good choices.  I think if we want people to make great choices, there has to be an emotional piece included, not just a physical piece.

So I had an idea.  I had bought these "Hats Off" cards at a teacher supply store over the summer and I made sheets of them, and gave them to teachers.  Every week teachers got 8 Hats Off cards to give to kids.

When a student received a card, they'd get to come to the office, and one of the administrators would get to call home and celebrate that student.  It was a powerful movement that really helped change a lot of focus and discipline on our campus.

But then I got to thinking.....as educators, and especially leaders, we do these great ideas for kids, but for whatever reason we act like we can't do them with adults.

So this week I've started giving "Hats Off" cards to our staff members as well.  Yesterday was the first one.  I had seen one teacher do an excellent job in an ARD and keep things really positive, I'd seen another transform her learning space into a space ready for a writing workshop, and I had another use technology in a new way and really push himself to try something new.

So I told them I needed to see them briefly during their conference.  When they met with me, I gave them their card. They smiled.  They said thank you.....and then the big part....I asked, "who do you want me to call and celebrate you?".  They were shocked.  They all asked if I was serious.

Of course I was serious!  This is the same process we go through with the kids, why couldn't I go through it with the adults.  All three of them chose their moms and off to the phone we went.

I put it on speaker phone and called each of their parents and spoke just like I did with the kids...it went something like this...

"Hi, Mr./Mrs. _____?  This is Todd Nesloney.  I'm the principal at Webb Elementary in Navasota, Tx.  Is _________ your child?  Well I have them up here in my office, but don't worry it's for good reasons!  They have been doing _____________ and I just wanted to call home and celebrate them and let you know how much we enjoy having them here"

There was laughter, there were a couple of tears, but most of all there was joy.  It was so fun!

I knew if I was challenging my teachers to give out Hats Off cards to kids, why couldn't I give them to teachers and challenge myself too??

We've only just begun, but I can't wait to continue doing this throughout the year!  My challenge is for all of you...if you're a teacher, find ways to call each student's family this week and celebrate them WITH the principal present.  If you're an administrator, call home to staff member's family and celebrate them like they were little kids!  It's oh so easy!

Here's a Periscope I did last night to talk through it as well!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Two Words #KidsDeserveIt

I'm sorry.  Two words.  They seem so easy to say.  As educators we teach children every day how and when to apologize.  But as adults, those two words become more and more difficult.

As a classroom teacher there were many times I had to apologize to my students.  When I taught a lesson wrong, when I got upset and yelled, when I wasn't as prepared as I should have been.  There were also times I had to apologize to parents for any number of reasons.

As a campus leader, apologizing for things is part of the job description.

I don't mind apologizing.  It isn't always easy but I know it's necessary.  I know I make mistakes, so why wouldn't I apologize when I do?

But being honest?  I hate when I have to apologize a lot in a short amount of time.  Because then I feel like I'm just failing one thing after another.

The last nine days have been full of apologizes leaving my mouth.

The funny thing about being a leader?  Many times we have to apologize and bear the repercussions of decisions that weren't made by us.

This week I had to fall on my sword.  I had to apologize for something, I had nothing to do with.  BUT it was something that came from the campus I am the leader of.  And in the end, all of that does fall on me.

It was a moment of swallowing my pride. It was a moment of putting myself and my emotions on the back burner.  But it was a moment of me seeing the bigger picture, and understanding that a leader will take the hit for the betterment of this team.  And you know what? The craziest thing happened. At a concert event later in the week, a parent came up to me and said "thank you for sending out that apology letter to all the parents.  You don't know how refreshing it is to know that someone in a leadership position will actually accept blame AND apologize",

Then I spent days apologize for poor decisions I made.  Or last minute changes I had to make.  Or areas where I dropped the ball in keeping the lines of communication as open as they should have been.

And it wasn't just at work.  I was also apologizing to friends and family. I was apologizing for getting upset.  Apologizing for allowing my sarcasm to overflow.  For speaking before I chose to stop and think.

Apology after apology.  These last 9 days have been full of them.

And in the end I have no real excuse.  I made poor choices.  But I'm also a learner.  I'm an evaluator.  I know to take the mistakes and learn from them.  To try and not make them again.

And in a moment of weakness, when I'm down on myself and doubting, I stop and remember that we all make mistakes.  We all have those weeks where we feel like we are doing more things wrong then we are right.

As a leader, I want to be the best.  As a teacher, I want to be the best.  I want to reflect strength, compassion, patience, thoughtfulness, empathy, creativity.

Mistakes are a part of life.  But so is sensing when you've made a mistake, owning it, and apologizing.  And meaning it.  It isn't always easy, you don't always feel like it, but as an adult who is being watched by little eyes and little ears, we have to set the example.  We have to do what's right, even when it's hard and even when it hurts.

I'm sorry.  Two words.  But those two words can make all the difference.