Monday, August 31, 2015

Be The One #KidsDeserveit

This past summer in Long Beach I took my first Uber ride. It was such a great experience and I've thought about my driver Mitch on many occasions actually. I then stumbled on this Uber video and it has me thinking.......

Educators are like Uber drivers. All our kids are different passengers (students), we pick them up at different places (academic/emotional levels) and bring them to different locations (different goals and needs they have.) Each has a different path, with different needs that we must differentiate for along the way! Uber drivers don't pick-up the same passenger at the same location everyday, it's always something different, just like educators.

It's up to you. Swing for the fences. Be the one that makes it happen. You are the one that can make it happen. Help kids find their path, guide them to their destination! 

We must take the time to differentiate - customize - go out of our way - adapt and simply be the one that puts kids first. 

- Don't let a student walk by you in the halls and not say hello. 
- Know every name, of every student at your school - if you don't, you're not in classrooms enough, that's our job as leaders!
- Be intuitive with students/staff, anticipate their needs before they come to you, have your finger on the pulse!
- Create learning opportunities for kids, don't react to a need at your school, be proactive and make kids famous!

Help kids/teachers/parents with their destination. I think in many cases people don't know where they want to go, they do want to be inspired though. Connect with them, guide them, support them, motivate them, push them, give them the stoke factor they need to achieve their greatness!

Go be awesome for kids, they deserve it!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Principal Lesson #3 - Give Out Lots of High Fives #KidsDeserveIt

Leaders have so much responsibility. So much of the responsibility is behind the scenes with making sure everything is running smooth and where it needs to be.

Leaders should also have the high-five responsibility as well. High-fives help people to smile - to get motivated - to turn a negative morning at home into a positive day at school -  maybe it's just what a kid needs to know that someone cares about them!


Who loved the high-fives the most besides Rob? The kids, did you hear them hoot and holler.

It's simple.

1. Stand in front of your school during morning drop-off and first greet all the kids as they get out of their cars or walk onto campus.

2. Put your hand-up and give just one child a high-five with a motivating good morning or have a great day!

3. Other kids that are around you will smile and naturally gravitate towards you for the same interaction! An awesome high-five is like a magnet, people are pulled in with the energy!
(Please note - some students may be nervous at first, especially if this hasn't been the culture at your school. Once they see a few kids get after it, they ALL follow that lead)

4. Beware - parents love high-fives too and will get in on the action! This is one of my favorite parts of a high-five morning, put a smile on an adults face as well!

5. Don't be stingy with the high-fives, make this your morning routine! If you have an early meeting, try to find a teacher that will take your place, don't be the only one giving out high-fives!

Give. Out. Lots. Of. High. Fives.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Power of a Phone Call #KidsDeserveIt

Ron Clark called yesterday. He called both of our cell phones to talk with us. There’s more to the story that we’ll get to in a minute, but there is serious power in a phone call!

From Adam:
Todd and I were on Voxer back and forth talking about different Principal challenges that we have and he was being kind of drama. So, I decided to call the front office of his school and play a little joke. His Office Manager answered and I told her it was Ron Clark calling for Mr. Nesloney. I had just seen Ron Clark on Persicope the other day surprising a school in Tennessee, or in Ron’s words, bum-rushing a school! Hey, I’ll call Todd and act like Ron Clark, see what happens next!

From Todd:
I had just returned from a training and was sitting in my office.  Adam knows how much I look up to and admire Ron Clark.  Adam also knew that I had just had dinner with Kim Bearden (the co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy) two nights before.  I hear my phone ring in my office.  When I answer it, my secretary says it’s Ron Clark.  I sat in shock.  She asked if she could patch him through and of course I said sure.  Next thing I knew, “Ron Clark” was talking with me, asking if I was at my school, and telling me he was about to pull up in his big red bus and surprise my staff! Well, I may have been in a little shock….only to hear the next few words of….”just kidding, it’s me, Adam”.  Yeah Adam punk’d me.  And punk’d me good.

So what did I do?  Well of course I Tweeted about it and made sure to tag the REAL Ron Clark in the Tweet.

Next thing we know Ron Clark was favoriting the tweet and then responding!  First thing he told me was that it was funny that HE also tried calling my school three times and no one answered.  I thought he was joking of course, only to have him respond a second time that he was serious.  Next thing I knew I was running around the corner to the office, hearing the phone ring, and trying to catch it in time.  And yep, it was Ron Clark.  The REAL Ron Clark.

I could have passed out.  My educational hero.  My person I’d looked up to since I was a junior in high school was talking to ME on the phone.  And it was like we were old buddies.  We chatted for a good 10-15 minutes.  Then it ended with Ron asking for Adam’s mobile phone number so he could let him know not to mess with his buddy Todd Nesloney.  Epic.

From Adam:
After I punked Todd, it was time to work and had to meet with some teachers. I was in Evernote writing down some ideas and also watching Twitter on the side. I saw the entire Tweeting exchange with Ron and Todd and was fully laughing on the inside. Then my cell phone rang, and the call was from Georgia.

No way. It was Ron Clark calling my mobile phone and we chatted for fifteen minutes about education, kids and how much we love our work. Such an amazing phone call, filled with inspiration and energy. Thank you Ron Clark!

So why do we write you this post and share this story?  Because there’s power in a single phone call. The power of a phone call is real. It’s profound. It’s important. It changes attitudes. Voice connects people in a way that email does not.

There’s such power in taking a minute just to tell someone you notice them.  To take that time to share a laugh, a “how are you doing”, a great job, anything!  Take a moment to call a parent and let them know the greatness you see in their child.  Or take a moment to call a child at home and just let them know how much you enjoy getting to see their smiling face every day.  Taking time out of your schedule to make a simple phone call can make a world of difference.

We spoke on the phone after our ‘Ron’ call and tried to process our feelings. If we feel like this after someone called us, how does a parent feel after you call them with a positive message about their child! They. Feel. Amazing.

Call home! Call home more often! Call home to celebrate kids!

Ron may never know it, but yesterday he made a difference in both of our lives.  One we won’t soon forget.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Have Awesome Be Your Ritual #KidsDeserveIt

Lately I've been thinking about my daily rituals as a Principal. I typically arrive at school around 630am each morning and after dropping my briefcase, my rituals begin.

First off I always find our head custodian and check-in, that morning communication is so important and they appreciate touching base!

A quick walk around campus is vital. No matter what type of neighborhood your school is in, there is always a chance for some paraphernalia from the night before. No details here, but I've found some interesting things over the years, many of my Principal friends have similar stories!

Morning drop-off is one of my most favorite times of day. Saying hello and greeting each student as they arrive at school is SO important. Checking out new shoes, someone got a haircut, busted ankle and coming with crutches - another great time/place to check-in with your kids!

However, my most favorite and important ritual of all as Principal is -  finding all those little magic moments that happen for kids each day, a capturing them to share with our community!

- 1st grader sharing their Writers Workshop with the class!
- 5th grade #geniushour projects, having a student research chicken nuggets, only to realize they're not really chicken!
- Office Manager doing what they do best, running the school and taking care of all those boo boo's and scraped knees!
- Your Head Custodian making it all seem so effortless, and having such immense pride doing it all!
- Kindergarten students just being stoked about learning, this is the best!
- Teachers having endless excitement about pushing their students, and Tweeting about what's happening for everyone to see!
- Teaching kids about Social Media and how to be responsible.
- Getting to go to school, not 'having' to go to work!

Basically, my ritual of NOT being in my office during the day and engaging with the school community is my favorite. If you're in your office, processing purchase orders, 'handling' discipline, working on the color of a spreadsheet column, answering emails - then you're totally missing out and in my opinion not really leading your school.

Have awesome be your ritual and find all those magic moments on campus!

A good friend of mine Rachael Peck shares her favorite ritual below! - Elementary Principal in Roseville, CA

As a principal I love connecting with kids.  

I always start with the simple thing of being out in the morning and greeting kids with hugs and high fives. The first positive connection of the day goes a long way. It shows the kids that no matter what kind of night or morning they had, I am here for them and I am happy they are at school.  

I care about each and every one of them. I also make it a point to get out and play at recess. It's not always the same thing; sometimes it's kickball, tetherball, four square or basketball. The important thing is I'm playing. The kids light up and look forward to me being there. We laugh, we have fun, and they see that adults can play too! 

It's also a chance for me to facilitate problem solving on the playground because I am right in the mix of it. Selfishly, it's a chance for me to have fun, relax and relieve some stress from the day!

What's your daily ritual?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Cross the Finish Line Together #KidsDeserveIt

Class goes a long way! People remember the actions that you take. How you talk with kids. How you treat staff. If you put others in the spotlight before yourself! If you work together!


Just today I was talking with a teacher about respect and how we talk to our kids at school. Kids know if you're real. Kids know if you're genuine and really care. 

The clip above and the conversation from today really bring me back to student voice. So many conversations about kids, never have any kids involved in the conversation about them. 

Doing what's right is doing what's best for kids. Thinking about them! Asking them. Putting them in the spotlight before us. We've been to school, we made a conscious decision to be an educator and build the confidence and mojo in the next generation! 

- Don't always focus on the win, focus on the process. 
- Focus on helping others cross the finish line, or maybe even just get into the stadium. 
- Sometimes all it takes is just a little nudge, a pep talk, a high-five, or maybe a note in the mail telling them you believe they can!

Finishing together is so much more enjoyable than finishing alone. Going on the journey together is so much better than being by yourself. 

Yes, you may finish with a 'slower' time if you wait for someone else? Does it really matter? Does it matter to kids? We're stronger for kids if we go on the journey together. Team Kid is a slogan we coined at the last school where I was Principal. It pointed all our decision making towards kids and what was best for them! 

Make sure you connect all the dots! Make sure you believe in each other! Make sure you work together! Make sure you cross the finish line together, we want EVERYONE to cross the finish line!

Top 10 To-Do's for Back to School! #savmp

This post is a collaboration between myself and Kas Nelson who is an amazing Principal in Oklahoma! Kas and I were talking on Voxer about Back to School and what it's like in our schools when we're ramping up for each year. Here's our Top 10 To-Do list each year, enjoy!

First day of school, this is how we feel!

* Communicate with Teachers early and often. My teachers are "my people".  I want them to know they are invaluable to me. My communication may take different forms from texting and tweeting from conferences to using communication apps to sending a personal note through good ol' snail mail.  Since listening to Peter DeWitt at #NAESP15 and reading his book "Flipping Leadership Doesn't Mean Reinventing the Wheel" this summer, I am beginning to study flipped leadership, so a portion of my communication to parents contained 3 "tasks" to either think about or complete in preparation for our first meetings in August.

* Choose a theme.  We’ve never had a theme at my school before, but I have always wanted to try it.  This is the year to try something new, right?  We are going with Dare2Be.  I plan to use the theme as weekly motivation for students and teachers.  For example:  The 1st week or 2 of school, we may use Dare2Be YOU! And highlight students’ differences, backgrounds, activities, character traits, and physical traits.  I can also tag any social media posts with #dare2Be

* Meet with each teacher individually. Why? Again, goes back to relationship building and communication.  I want teachers and myself to be on the same page.  I want them to know I am here to support them and their learning at all times.  I meet them in their room, where they are comfortable.  I like to discuss their goals for the year, in terms of what professional development they wish to seek, areas they feel strong or weak in, etc.  

* Start the Tweeting now! We’re a huge fan of summer Tweeting/Instagram to share with the community everything that’s happening before kids arrive. Any construction projects going on, whenever teachers stop by the office I love taking selfies to share, new furniture arriving is always fun, big shout outs to your custodial crew and the work they’ve done all summer is a must. My all-time favorite summer Tweeting is all the books I’ve purchased and am going to read with kids, get them excited to read now!

* Check in with the neighbors! I’m a firm believer in being a great neighbor and fostering a positive relationship with the people who live in super close proximity to your school. I always give my mobile number out and tell them to call me directly if anything comes up. Someone blocked your driveway during the school day, call me! Delivery truck of school supplies is idling in front of your house, call me! This builds confidence and a great relationships, and they’ll look out for you and the school because they know you care!

* Taking my office staff to lunch is always on my list! Connecting, chatting, catching-up and just hanging out somewhere outside of the office is so important. All Principals know how hectic it can get at school, having strong relationships with your front office staff is paramount! Knowing you can count on them, they can count on you and you’re all their for the kids is what makes your school. Build those relationships from day one and always continue to work on them!

* Plan and Host a fun Back-to-School event!  What causes the most anxiety for students and parents at the beginning the year? Anxiety feeds on fear of the unknown, so let's take away as many unknowns as possible! Why not invite families to visit the school BEFORE the first day of classes?  Students can tour the school, experience his or her classroom for the first time and, of course, meet his or her teacher!  Make the event conducive to conversation (and appealing to the stomach) by including an outdoor hot-dog or watermelon feed, serve cookies and lemonade, pizza or homemade ice cream!

* Start the first day, and every day, greeting students and parents at the front doors!  I want school to be a fun place.  A place where learning occurs daily, but students don't even realize they're learning because they are having so much fun.  I want parents to feel invited, valued, and welcome ALWAYS at school.  When I greet students and parents at the door, I hope my excitement about each new day sparks an excitement within each one of them.  With a smile and a high-five, I want them to know that great things are happening within these doors, and I'm so honored to share our school with them!  

* It’s never too early to start making positive phone calls home. You see something awesome that first week, call parents. Child is working hard, engaged and smiling, call parents. My favorite thing to do is be in a class, see something totally awesome happen with a child. Grab them and bring them to my office, have them call their parents on speakerphone and start telling them what was going on in class. I jump in and tell the parent how totally proud we are of them and had to call home right away to report the news. Parents. Love. It. - So. Do. The. Kids.

* Those first few weeks of school Principals need to have serious ninja status. Being in every classroom, every day,  for the first 100 days of each school year is paramount. Be everywhere! See everything! Build relationships! Ride the school bus! Walk down the street into neighborhoods! Meet with your parent community on a continual basis. Visibility is number one and so many other attributes build from there!

What are your top to-do’s as Principal with school starting again?

Hanging out with Kas this summer at NAESP in Long Beach!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What Should I Tweet About #KidsDeserveIt #teamkid

It may seem obvious to those who've already realized the power of Twitter and have been sharing with their school community! Surprisingly though, when talking with leaders who are just kicking off with Twitter at their schools, the first question they ask is what they should Tweet about?

Here are some ideas from myself and also some crowdsourced from other Principal friends!

- At morning drop-off during spirit days it's fun to snap photos of kids in their gear and Tweet super fast. I write a simple message and copy paste each time I share a photo, super easy and parents love seeing them real-time.
- Kindergarten students during Writers Workshop is the most amazing time. Young writers and their work is fabulous, share share share!
- Kickball during recess is always a favorite, love the action shots.
- Genius Hour presentations are super fun, photos of projects and kids in action are always popular.
- The garden! Love sharing photos with blooms, flowers, bugs, kids working in the dirt, so fun!
- Anchor charts, share those anchor charts! Twitter sharing/collaboration isn't just for parents, it's a great way for teachers to learn from each other also.
- Music performances during the day if not all parents can attend. I love sneaking backstage and taking photos to Tweet, kids think that's fun also.
- Hire some Social Media Interns and have kids Tweet under your direction. Give them an iPad, have them take photos from around campus, then write Tweets together. The ultimate level of Digital Citizenship and also gives your kids a voice!
- Donors Choose grants please! Don't write a grant and let it sit and sit, Tweet it out with a snazzy message, that's how grants get funded super fast.
- Come up with a school or district hashtag. It's an easy way for the community to track what's going on and stay connected.

Catina Haugen - Valley Vista School
- Everything!! 
- What kids are reading, playing, creating!! 
- What teachers are learning and sharing with students. 
- Drop off, pick up, recess & lunch. 
- Custodians, aides and office staff at work too! 
- It all makes for a complete story of your school!

Rachel Peck - Sargeant Elementary

- Behind the scenes things and people that go unnoticed sometimes,  but so important to the school
- Front office, nurse, librarian, food services, custodians, etc.

Jen Duston - ATLAS

- Back to school happenings...maybe a "did you know" for back to school
- Highlight a different grade level each week and showcase work, great teaching, students learning, grade level goals and progress made towards those goals. 

Jennifer Dinielli - Baywood Elementary 

- What got me hooked on Twitter is the idea that magical moments happen in our school all day, everyday. - - The child who perseveres, shared laughter, scoring that goal in soccer, finishing a great book!
- The idea that Twitter lets us share these moments with families & our community, both humanizes and celebrates our schools. 
- Twitter is a game changer, a culture builder and a must for me as a principal. #twitterlove

What else do you Tweet about at your school? Please share!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Two Principals Reading With Kids! #tcrwp

Today's post is all about books and reading with kids. I've co-written with my good friend the amazing Melinda Miller who is an Elementary Principal in Missouri! Please read, especially with and to your students, it's very powerful!

Reading is funny, why does it click for some kids and not for others. I was one of those kids, it didn’t click. The frustrating part is my dad was a teacher. He taught 2nd grade for 38 years and I virtually grew up in his classroom. When I did read at home it was always out loud, which frustrated my older brother.

Then, 3rd grade came along and I discovered Roald Dahl, it clicked! When I taught 3rd/4th/5th grade we'd always go outside to read after lunch. My class absolutely LOVED reading outside and would beg me for a few more minutes, it was the best. I also read myself, modeling is so important and showing kids how engaged I was with a book hopefully gave them more reading mojo! When I became a Principal reading with classes was a top priority. It started with a few books my first year and then morphed into one book each month that I read to every class on campus. I'd then donate that book to our library, which was always a hot checkout after I finished my rounds.

I just recently moved schools/districts and overwhelmingly the most common comment I received from kids was that they loved when I read to their class. Wow!
- Reading with kids works
- Reading to kids is powerful
- Having the Principal read to classes is even more powerful
- Connect with kids
- Model Readers Workshop strategies for teachers and kids
- It's fun
- You can foster deep conversation 
- Gives teachers a chance to relax and listen to a story
- A common story across the school allows for a consistent conversation amongst ALL students
- I have books all over my office, kids pick them up and read whenever they visit, parents do too
- My email signature is below, I even lists books there as well

Here's just a few of my favorites, come visit my office to see many more!

Reading Gaston with a French accent is the best, kids love it!

"I have nothing to write about"  - How often have you heard this? Ralph Tells a Story is hilarious and a great way to show kids that they do have a story, they just need to look for them!

Never judge a book by it's cover, look on the inside first before you make a judgement! Glamourpuss is excellent to read with all grade levels.

Randi Zuckerberg has written Dot Complicated which is a great read for all adults. Love reading Dot to kids, don't forget to balance all the amazing technology we have, get outside too!

When I read One last year to our classes there were numerous parents in different rooms at times, they all cried. I had 5th graders cry........a must read, everyone is important and should be included!

And I just ordered these this week!

Super excited to read Happy by Pharrell Williams

At our school auction every year I do a Principal of the Day! What's their favorite thing to do, read to classes, it's contagious! 

I've also had SO many parents send me pictures of their kids reading, the exact same book that I read that month. Kids love it so much they have their parents buy a copy for home, and they READ!

Well, thanks to my good friend Melinda Miller, I now have some new books to read! Please connect with Melinda on Twitter and her rockin blog!

I vividly remember my grandma reading aloud when I was growing up. Every Saturday night we would spend the night and she would read The Mickey Mouse Picnic, Little Golden Book. Same book over and over. Her voice, her expressions, the laughter, it was magical! This was my first and favorite experience having books read to me.

My next favorite experience was in 6th grade with Mrs. Hagg. She was awesome! Her expressions were amazing. She could draw us into a book and the world would stop.

Then, as a teacher I loved reading aloud to my students. My first year teaching I read Where the Red Fern grows. Without giving the ending way completely let's just say it's "emotional." I could not finish the book. I was crying, my students were crying. One of my boys, Zach, just wanted to hear the end. It was killing him! During on of the "emotional" events he raised his hand and asked, "Can I just finish for you so we know what happens?" He was really into the book. He just wanted to know and it was going to take me a while. Students still come back and mention that 21 years later.

I LOVE reading! I have stacks of books at home and at work. My Kindle is full. Love it! So as a principal I want to pass on my love of reading to my school. Even principals can read to students!

So here's my list:

How Full is Your Bucket?: We recognize good character and this has been our kick-off book for years. Each teacher has a copy and sign up for a time for me to read to their class within the first couple weeks of school.

The Principal's New Clothes: When I cover a teacher's classroom this is a quick activity/lesson the kids enjoy. After I read the book I give the kids a piece of paper with my school picture at the top. Then they have to draw my "new clothes." It's so fun! I have been a princess, a football player, and even their mom.

The Frog Principal: Just for fun the principal is turned into a frog and tries to run the school as a frog. 

The Principal from the Black Lagoon: Well first, I think I look like the principal in this book don't you? It's been 12 years since I read this one so I think I will have to bring this one back. 

You will notice a theme in the books I choose. But then I came across my good friend Adam Welcome's read aloud list. Holy cow! What a list! I am excited to incorporate his books and ideas this year. Check out his list........ (I added them to my wish list on Amazon so I can buy them all.)
You can find Adam's amazing blog HERE!