Sunday, May 31, 2015

Year One is in The Books!

Well I did it.  I survived my first year as an administrator.  Especially coming straight out of the classroom.

This year was a roller coaster for sure.  I think just about every single thing that could have gone wrong did.  But I learned so much.  And I've always been of the belief that mistakes are ok as long as you learn from them and don't repeat them.

Monday I move onto my new campus, Webb Elementary, and prepare to start as a principal on a campus with 825 PreK-5th graders.  I also start the process of combining my Navasota Intermediate family with my new Webb family since 95% of my NIS folks are coming with me to Webb.   I figured the best way to wrap up this year was to share the parting email I sent to my team yesterday....

Well we did it guys.  We officially made it to the end of a school year.

When I look back at this past year, it brings tears to my eyes.

We are the final family of Navasota Intermediate.  We helped usher in a new era for NISD.  We came together with a clean slate like no other campus in this district has ever done.  There is not, and there will never be a year like this year.

Sometimes it felt like everything that could have gone wrong, did.  From losing staff members, to wild students, to extreme educational deficiencies, hospital trips, floods, and so much more.

But what I will remember most is this family.  How we came together, and worked together to create something special here.

From day one, our motto was "Be Brave" and "You Matter".  I have seen different forms of bravery out of each and every one of you.  I watched you time and time again, step outside your comfort zone, try something new, and push your own thinking to always do what's best for kids.

But to me, being reminded (and reminding others) of how much we each matter is what truly made the difference.  You can put all the world's best teachers in a school together, and you won't see real change unless relationships are number one.

I have sat and cried with countless families and students who were, for the first time, told that they were more important than a test score.  Told that someone was going to do whatever it took to help their child find success.  I watched so many walls get torn down as we cooked hot dogs for families, collected food for the needy, gave turkeys at thanksgiving, paid for school lunches, paid for field trips, collect clothing, and so much more.

We have dealt with students who have never before been told they were important.  That they were valued.  That they mattered.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this year, we changed lives.  And that those repercussions will be felt for years to come.

As some of us head to new districts, some of us to new campuses, and some of stay to carry the torch, let us remember one thing.  A family is not easily broken.  I hope to see each of you again at some point in our journey.  

Please know that you each hold a special place in my heart.  For me, completing my first year, not only as an administrator, but as a Principal, wasn't easy.  There were many days I felt like I wasn't doing a very good job. There are so many things I feel like I could have done better, said better, tried harder, been in more places.  I think that's what a good teacher does though. The reflect on what they can do better, but at the same time they don't forget about all the things that wen't RIGHT. I hope it came across that I always tried to make sure every decision was best for these kids, because they are why we do what we do.  But you guys (and of course these kiddos) are what kept me going.  I wouldn't trade this year for anything, and I haven't for a second regretted my decision to come here and do this.

So as you go off into your next adventure, remember to take time to breathe.  To stop and be grateful.  To spread gratitude to others.  But most of all, remember to Be Brave and let others know just how much they matter.

For the final time, 
Todd Nesloney
Principal/Lead Learner
Navasota Intermediate

Thursday, May 28, 2015

#NIStlap Day 2015 - The Power of #TLAP

So a year or two ago I read the book "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess.  It is an absolutely incredible book that really talks about teaching passionately and engaging all students.

Then a little while after, I heard about a principal in Ohio, Ryan McLane, took that concept and put on a "Teach Like a Pirate" day at his school.  It was all based under the premise, "If students had to pay $1 to attend your class, would they?"


Guys Time (learning about famous men who have dealt with a lot and persevered)

So I knew with my new campus I was dying to do something like this.  I had mentioned it at the beginning of the year, but things got away from me.  Then a few weeks ago 3 of my AMAZING teachers came to my office and brought it back up and wanted us to still do it!  So we ran with it.


Wiffle Ball

Yesterday we did our very first #NIStlap Day!

Theatre Make-Up (Scars and Bruises)

Making Puppets

What is it?  What does it look like?

Well, for the last two weeks, every staff member has been filling in a google spreadsheet with what they wanted to teach. Only rule?  Choose something you love and are passionate about that you wanna share with kids.  And we couldn't have anything double up.


History of Dance (yes they danced after this photo haha)

After all the staff (IAs and Specials Teachers included) selected their session topics, I created a schedule of sessions and where they would be.


Since this was our first year doing this, we all decided to only do half a day of TLAP so we could work out all the kinks and be ready next year for a full day.

Horse Halters and Paracord Bracelets

We built up anticipation in the kids, but didn't tell them any sessions until the day before.


The day before each student got a Spreadsheet that had every staff member, their session title, and location.  We also made poster sized copies of the session tiles and locations and placed it around school.

Fortune Telling

On the morning of, teachers stepped out into the hall, and students were released to go to whatever session they wanted.  You would think it would be mayhem releasing 350 kids into the hall at one time.


But you know what?  It wasn't!

No Sew Blankets

Each session had a limit of 20 students (while some more complicated sessions had smaller limits).  So once a session had its limit, a "Session Full" sign was placed on the door.

Jewelry Making

Cookie Mining

Each session lasted 30 min and then I would come on the announcements and release students to their next session.

Skateboarding 101

Girls Day! Nails, Hair, Makeup

Each student was able to attend 4 total sessions that morning.

No Bake Treats

Nursing, What's in Your Heart!

I can't even describe what it was like there.  The energy was palpable.  It was incredibly invigorating and exciting to watch all the teachers having fun and the students were really having a blast.

Making Bouncy Balls


Were there some teachers who didn't have kids show up some sessions. Yes!  And those teachers just jumped into another teachers session and participated like a kid.  And actually one of the biggest asks for next year was that teachers were given one session off to go see others!

Making Ice Cream


I can't wait to do this again next year, but have it be a full day event.  And what better way to end our school year as well!  Since this day was also our last full day of school!



Thursday, May 14, 2015


This concept or thought of "Am I doing enough?" has always been a part of my psyche.  Whether it came to work, or my personal relationships, family, or whatever, I always wonder if I could be doing more.

 When I was teaching and only had a handful of students, sometimes I would hear stories from their homes and wish I could do more.  Wish I could just adopt some, or find more ways to show them how valued they are.

But as a Lead Learner now, I hear even more stories.  I see even more pain.  Things that rip your heart to shreds.

Abuse, neglect, emotional scars, self-abuse, bullying, all kinds of things.  If you've been in education for any amount of time you've seen it too.

My current position also allows me to hear more stories from the team I'm on....the adults.

It also has allowed me to become part of many more stories than I had been in the past.

And the last two weeks I've run into one heartbreaking story after another.  And I've driven home each day thinking "can I do more?  Am I doing enough?"

I care about those kids so passionately.  I always have.  It's a part of me, I've always been proud of.

After seeking council from a few other friends of mine from across the country who I respect immensely, I came to a conclusion.

Despite what I want, I'm not meant to save every kid.

Now, don't misread that.  I am sure as heck gonna TRY to save every kid.  But the truth of the matter is, some will not be reached by me.  I may plant the seed, but it may not grow until years later though.

But, as long as I am contacting the right organizations and at the same time building a campus where those kids are safe and loved, sometimes that's the best I can do.

I will never be that person who gives up on anyone; child or adult.  I will use everything in my arsenal and find others who can help as well.  But I'm also having to really come to grips that sometimes despite my best efforts, I won't be able to fix it all.

And I have to find a way to be ok with that.  I have to just continue to give everything I have and continue to create a space filled with safety, love, encouragement, warm hugs, big smiles, high-fives, quiet times, listening ears, tissues for tears, laughter, fun, and more.  Because sometimes that IS enough.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spread Light, Not Darkness

It seems like every day I hear another news story about something horrific.  Or I sit and listen to a family about a tragedy that just took place.  Or I see things happen within my own life.

Our world if filled with so much darkness.  There are so many reasons to be brought down.  Whether it by war, poverty, sexual misconduct, robbery, or even just the slip of a mean comment.

I know we're all aware.  I know we all see it.

But what I find even more interesting is the fact at how quick we choose to play into the darkness.  We leave hateful comments on social media, or we sit and complain about how terrible things are.

When we choose to do nothing but be negative, we choose to spread the darkness.  And though sometimes it can happen slowly, and over a long period of time, the darkness can begin to be more present then the light.

I find myself having to be very purposeful in the words that I choose, the thoughts that I think, and the actions I take.  Negativity is something we are so easily prone to slip into.

But it pains me to see the effect that the darkness can have on one's life, or just the impact it can make in a day, or even in a moment.

But you see that's what's great about the light.  What's great about the good things.

Darkness only exists in the absence of light.  Once light shows up, darkness has no choice but to flee.

Today, this week, this month, and so on, let's choose to be light.  Let's not play into the darkness.

I've always been of the belief that you don't complain unless you have ideas for solutions.  Instead of sitting and talk about all the things that are going wrong, we have an opportunity to work collaboratively to find solutions.  To spread the light even further.

I love, and live by, this quote by Margaret Mead...."Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world.  When indeed, it's the only one that ever has"

So today, spread light.