Sunday, May 29, 2016

When There's No Closure #KidsDeserveIt

Wow, what an ending to a school year.  But as my brother and mentor, Ben Gilpin always tells me, share your story and share it honestly.  So here it is...

I just completed my second year as a Principal.  It was amazing.  By far the best year of my career.  There were so many great memories, tears, laughter, and more.  This year we truly became a family.  We went through death together, we celebrated new life together, we danced, we played, we worked our tails off to give our students the best education and school year ever!

Then, something happened.

This past Thursday and Friday were our last days with students.  Or they were supposed to be anyway.

Both days were scheduled to be half-days, meaning we release at noon.

Thursday went off without a hitch.  We began wrapping things up, we had all plans set for Award Ceremonies and End of Year Parties on Friday.  The kids left at noon on Thursday and the staff stayed on campus to complete our work day.

Then about 2:45pm we got alerts on our phones.  Tornado warning.  Flood warning.  Severe Thunderstorm.  The whole nine yards.  Now you see, we don't get too many tornadoes ever around our parts.  And flooding?  Well that happens a little more often but only maybe once a year.

So quickly our entire staff took shelter in the middle of the school.  We were thankful the students weren't there (as this would have also been dismissal time), but we all were worried about them at home, their families, and our own families.

We stayed in our positions for about 30 minutes or so.  Then the warning was lifted.  We began to hear reports about tornadoes touching down 15 miles north of us, then 1 mile south of us.  Buildings ripped apart, semi-trucks flipped over on the highway, and more.

But the storm didn't let up.  It wouldn't slow down.

At about 4:30pm the storm let up a little and some of us started to venture out.  But we were hearing most roads out were closed due to tornado damage or extreme flooding (we found out later, that Brenham, where I live, in particular received about 13 inches of rain in less than 2 hours).

I tried to head home....I live 30 miles from Navasota.

I got 1 mile through town, and then every road was closed in town. Every city road was under water and it was deep. Just trying to get back to school my SUV almost stalled out.

When I got back to school there were still about 20-30 employees there.  Waiting it out.  Trying to figure out what to do because it seemed every road was closed.  (several ended up having to stay the night at the school)

About an 2 hours later, rain had slowed considerably so I decided to try and head home again.

I found a road that leaded to my highway that wasn't flooded.  And I took it.  My 30 mile trip, then took 5 and 1/2 hours for me to get home due to downed trees over the highway and flooded bridges.  It was terrifying.

But then we got the news, school was cancelled for Friday.  And it wouldn't be rescheduled as it was our last day.

That meant no goodbyes, no parties, no awards, nothing.

Then the flood of phone calls from teachers in tears came in.  You see, our student population is one that we give our all for.  One where we become their school-parents.  They become our children.  And it was heartbreaking to know we wouldn't get closure.

It also meant no end of year staff pot-luck like we had planned. No end of year awards. No goodbyes to staff that were leaving.

Why?  The devastation was huge.  Many of my team were still without power or not even able to reach their homes.

How do you end a school year when there's no closure?  How do you feel like it's completed?  My heart is so torn.  I don't feel like school is over.  I never got to say goodbye.  We never got to have that final celebration.  It definitely isn't the closing I was expecting to this year.

But my team is amazing.  Within hours of knowing we wouldn't have school, every team got together and planned a time this next week where we were going to invite families up by grade level to tell their teachers goodbye, to celebrate the end of the year, to celebrate our kiddos.

That's family.  That's my team at Webb.  Without one complaint, they chose to gave up their just beginning summer break, because they couldn't go through summer without getting their goodbyes.

The end of the year didn't happen as planned. It wasn't ideal.  But even in the midst of unplanned chaos, we can learn something.

So what do you do when something unexpected happens? When there's no closure?  Well, you just do the best you can.  Life loves throwing curveballs, but it's all in how we react to those curveballs.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pre-Order "Kids Deserve It!" NOW! #KidsDeserveIt

Who knew that less than a year ago this day would arrive.

Just 11 months ago, we (Todd and Adam) connected at NAESP in Long Beach, California. Over breakfast and a blog post one morning, the #KidsDeserveIt dream was born.

Now, in just over a week, our first book “Kids Deserve It!” will be released!  

We are thrilled to share with the world a piece of our hearts.  This book was a true labor of love.  It was written so that we could not only challenge the way things have been, share some of our own stories, but also so that we could hopefully encourage those in education and inspire change!

We’ve watched the hashtag take off, guest bloggers on our site challenge the status quo, t-shirt sales (and Donors Choose donations) explode, and more!

And guess what?  This is only the beginning!

So what are you waiting for??  Join the movement.  Pre-Order your own copy of “Kids Deserve It!” now and share with us your thoughts when it releases June 1st!

** If you’re interested in purchasing “Kids Deserve It” in bulk for your staff/organization please contact us at at

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Switch Day at #WebbElem

A few years ago I worked under a principal who had us do a "Switch Day" one day.  What is a Switch Day?

Well we were given a teacher in another grade level and we had switch classes for about an hour or so to get a glimpse of what it was like.

So this year, as the leader at Webb Elementary, I wanted to do the same.

When I mentioned what was going to take place, I got three reactions.  I got groans, excitement, and fear! But as we talked about the experience, people's fears began to be eased a little.  We can do anything for an hour, right?

So I assigned all our classroom teachers partners to switch with.  Someone who was at least 2 grade levels away from their current grade.

I wanted my team to get to experience other grade levels.  To see what other teachers go through.  To see that we all face different challenges.  And to give a better perspective.

We did our Switch Day this past Friday, and it went GREAT!  Teachers were buzzing everywhere about how much fun it was.

Now, some people have asked, If I make the teachers plan the lessons for the classroom they were entering?  Well, they were able to decide that with their switch partner.  Most teachers left a lesson (like they would for a sub) for the incoming teacher to teach.  But I loved walking by classrooms all day and seeing amazingness happen.

I gotta say though, my favorite was seeing science experiments from 2nd and 5th grade teachers being done in PreK.  Those kids were just eating up every second of it, AND learning amazing vocabulary too!

When it was all said and done I asked my teachers for some feedback/ was some of what they said:

It was very fun! 
-Pre-K teachers are amazing! :-) -I enjoyed pre-k WAY more than I thought I would!  Thank you for this opportunity. My mom served as a pre-k teacher/director for years. I definitely have more appreciation for what she did on a daily basis. And, I'm SO thankful for our pre-k teachers. 
I truly enjoyed switching today. It was kind of like the TV show WifeSwap. When I returned to my class my students acted as if they had not seen me in a week! I had missed them as much as they had missed me and it was only for an hour! The kinder students were fantastic but I just missed my kids. There was nothing wrong with the teacher they had and my students all said they had a good time but they missed me for some reason... It was great!
It was neat to interact with kids that I do not usually see other than the hallways or in the cafeteria. I loved being able to see how I could scaffold down activities to suit a lower grade. It was also interesting to see how I needed to adapt my management to a lower grade level as well. VERY eye opening. I would suggest for next year, doing one in the fall and one in the spring.
I loved it!!!!
Loved it!!!
While in the third grade classroom I did not tie any shoes!!!! If we do it next year, I would like to do earlier in the year. I think January would be a good time.
I liked it because it helped me appreciate the teacher I switched with and see what she deals with everyday.
I loved it. We got to plan the activity and the kids were excited to participate. The only thing I would change is the date because the last weeks of school are hectic.

As you can see it went over great!  And I totally agree with some of the feedback of doing it earlier in the year!

I can't wait to continue these conversations and try even more exciting things next year!

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Book, #KidsDeserveIt, and @DonorsChoose

Well it's official, my first book "Kids Deserve It!" will be released in a month or less!!!  I am so stinking excited to have co-authored this book with my buddy Adam Welcome.

In celebration of the book releasing soon, Adam and I are selling #KidsDeserveIt t-shirt!  We've got SIX brand new colors and a new t-shirt fabric that is super comfortable.

Get your shirt here: (only a few days left!)

What's even better than that?  100% of the proceeds from t-shirt sales are being donated to Donors Choose projects!  We've already supported over 30 Donors Choose Projects with past t-shirt drives, so we're super excited to continue supporting teachers.

If you haven't checked out Kids Deserve it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram I encourage you to join the conversation!  You can also check out our website Share constantly the great things your doing using the hashtag #KidsDeserveIt.

There'll be more info on the book coming soon!  Thank you everyone for your support, encouragement, and more over the last couple of years!