Todd Nesloney says “Kids Deserve It!”
Todd Nesloney, Principal of Webb Elementary in Navasota, TX, dreams of an environment where children are excited to come to school every day, rather than excited to leave. In a school with a population that is 85% minority and almost 90% free-and-reduced lunch, how do the staff at Webb Elementary approach their students and what are some of the innovative programs behind the school’s success? In this edWeb.net webinar, Todd gave examples of how he works with his students and staff based on his own experiences.
“For the kids that we’re working with now, the technology that they’re going to be using when they have jobs doesn’t even exist yet. We have to be preparing them by giving them as many opportunities to learn as we can,” said Todd, highlighting the importance of technology in the classroom. Todd gave a few examples of how technology can be used in the classroom for free, like Mystery Skype or Google Hangout sessions, where two classrooms get paired up through the platform and the students must guess in 20 questions where in the world the other classroom is from. He also noted an experience from when he taught fifth grade, pairing up his class with a class from Australia over Skype. Through the platform, the students collaborated and gave science presentations together. Using technology, “kids should be creating, not consuming,” said Todd.
Todd also shared many non-tech ideas throughout the webinar. The sending of You Matter Letters, introduction letters that get sent out to the students just before the start of each school year, has become an annual event for the staff at Webb Elementary. You Matter Letters are sent out by every staff member and contain verbiage like, “I can’t wait to meet you,” and, “We’ll work together to find your version of success.” According to Todd, these letters have gotten positive reactions from parents and students, and increased both parent and student attendance at Meet-the-Teacher Night by 60%. If people ask Todd how he gets his staff on board with this initiative, he says, “It’s not optional, we’re going to do what’s best for the kids.”
One of Webb Elementary’s most successful programs was Dinner with a Gentleman. After an unsuccessful attempt to get men more involved in the school, Webb Elementary decided to take a new approach. Since more than half the students do not live with their birth parents, Dinner with a Gentlemen was less focused on recruiting volunteers for the school and more focused on celebrating the students’ uncles, grandfathers, male cousins, etc. At the dinner, every child received a donated book to read later with the gentleman they came to dinner with. There was also a panel of speakers, each of a different ethnicity representing the student population at the school. Over 580 people ended up attending the dinner, and Webb Elementary has already started to plan next year’s dinner.
Todd takes a hands-on approach with the school, trying not to spend more than an hour and a half a day in his office. He helps write exams and lesson plans, covers classrooms if teachers need a break, and plays with the students at recess. “I’m an instructional leader, not a school manager,” said Todd. Because he is so involved with the school, he knows his teachers will be there for him when he needs it. “That’s why my teachers do what I ask them to, because they know I will do it with them,” he said.
About the Presenter
Todd Nesloney is the Principal of Webb Elementary in Navasota, TX. He is the 2015 Bammy Award Recipient for Elementary Principal, the 2014 Classroom Teacher of the Year, the TCEA Teacher of the Year, a White House Champion of Change, a National School Board Association “20 to Watch”, and Center for Digital Education “Top 40 Innovators in Education”. Todd is also the co-author of the hit book Kids Deserve It!. Follow him on Twitter @TechNinjaTodd.
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