Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Spring Cleaning

 Principal Ponderings...

It's that time of year for spring cleaning.  Especially after a year of being mostly in our homes, everyone is ready to deep clean the whole house.  It's also time for us to do some spring cleaning in our curriculum house.  What do I mean?  Well this year has forced us to do things a little differently.  We have not been able to cover everything we normally cover.  We have had to prioritize and re-organize.  Before we prepare for next year, we need to look back at our lessons, our activities, our classrooms, our curriculum.  

What needs to go?  Some things were tossed out automatically because of the different way of teaching and learning this year.  Maybe some needs to stay gone?  Maybe some things that we tried that did not work should be tossed?  Maybe some things need to be recycled and used in a different way next year?

Do we need to dust some things off that sat on our teaching shelves this year?  Was there a lesson or an activity that you didn't get to use or implement that you really feel you should have done this year?  Just make sure it's really necessary to pull it off the shelf and dust it off.  I am not a fan of unnecessary dusting. ;)

How can we scrub and clean our curriculum?  Maybe we need to purchase some new materials to replenish and refresh?  Sometimes having something that's shiny and new helps reinvigorate me.  Will it be new supplies?  Will it be a new professional development book?  Will it be a new curriculum plan?  What do you think will reinvigorate you?

How about organization?  This was the year of Marie Kondo-ing your classroom and your curriculum plans.  Simple.  Clutter free.  Only teaching what was absolutely necessary.  Will you keep that type of organization for next year?  Will you slowly add some items back but in an organized fashion?  Maybe you need to make three piles...a keep pile, a toss pile, and a donate to a peer pile?

I know we still have several weeks left of this (fill in the blank) year.  But it's time to start spring cleaning.  It's an exhausting and overwhelming task, but I promise you will feel better after you've done it.

What will you do for spring cleaning?

Currently reading:

I was so excited to get a new book in the mail last week!  My good friend, Don Vu, is a principal out in CA who took the past two years "off" to be a dad and write a book.  He is a fellow reading lover like me.  Love his book called Life, Literacy and the Pursuit of Happiness.  I ordered a copy for our amazing Liz Hilton, but if anyone is interested, I will loan mine out when I am done.


I also started listening to Alex Trebek's book...was always a huge Jeopardy fan.  It was a family event to watch that show each night.  Fun fact...I once tried out for Jeopardy...came very close to being on the show!

Events this week:

Monday - PD Day for staff, No School for students

Tuesday - 5th Grade presentation on social media safety with Ellen Miller 2:00-3:00

Wednesday - Half day, CST meeting @ 8:00am, Liz in a PLT meeting from 1:30-3:00

Thursday - CST meeting @ 8:00 am

Check it out:

I was recently interviewed for a principal podcast with NAESP.  You certainly hear me enough, but if you want to listen to more of me...here you go! 

I was proud of the thank you note that my daughter wrote for her teacher.  Like her mama, she knows how hard teachers are working.  Thank you!  You are making a difference and people notice.  I appreciate you!



Monday, May 3, 2021

You're Kind of a Big Deal!

 Principal ponderings...


We didn't need a pandemic to tell us that educators are freaking rockstars.  We didn't need a pandemic to tell us that teachers work harder than anyone.  We didn't need a pandemic to tell us that you deserve way more than you get...more money, more time, more support, just more.  We didn't need a pandemic, but we got one.  And this past year, the whole world has had a window into your classrooms.  Not that you needed to, but you have proven time and time again that you are truly superheroes.  

Thank you.

We appreciate you.

We are grateful for you.

We love you.






Can we say it enough?  Nope.  Going to keep saying it...

THANK YOU MAYO STAFF!

Currently reading: 

I started reading This is My America over the break and could not put it down.  It's not a book for our students, but it may be a book you want to read.  Without giving anything away, the book focuses on a black man who has been wrongly placed on death row and his daughter does everything she can to bring him home. 

Julie Rondinelli recommended the book An Elephant in the Garden to me and I started reading it on Saturday...almost done!  Based on a true story, this book takes place in Germany during the war.  

Events this week:

Monday - Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!

Tuesday - CST @ 8:00am

Wednesday - Staff Meeting @ 8:00am, 5th Grade Virtual Celebration Event @7:00pm

Thursday - CST @ 8:00am

Friday - Don't forget...PD Day on Monday!

Check it out:

Proclamation from the White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/04/30/a-proclamation-on-national-teacher-appreciation-day-and-national-teacher-appreciation-week-2021/

Teacher appreciation deals and giveaways: https://www.weareteachers.com/teacher-appreciation-deals/

Monday, April 12, 2021

Joyfuel

 Principal ponderings...

Don't worry, it's not a typo in the title of this post.  Yes, I am exhausted after our first week of a return to full in person learning.  But I wasn't so tired that I misspelled the word in the title.  I definitely took Saturday to rest and recover from the week and my second shot.  And as I was getting gas this weekend after grocery shopping, I had a spark of inspiration.  As I told the guy working at the gas station to "fill it up" I couldn't help but think about a different kind of fuel.  

Joyfuel.

Some of you might remember the poster I gave everyone a few year's ago.  I have it hanging in my office as a constant reminder for me.


I said in one of my last posts that this year has caused many of us to be running on empty.  We are playing the dangerous game of seeing how long we can drive with the needle pointing very close to E.  Will we make it a little further before having to stop at the gas station?  Or will be break down?  More often this year I have seen the latter happen.  For me as well that has happened too often.  The cup is empty.  The gas tank is empty.  I have felt empty.  I came across this image the other day and man it hit me like a ton of bricks.


I would bet money that many of you have felt this way at some point this year or feel that way right now.  This feeling of being split in many directions.  This feeling of exhaustion.  This feeling of being overwhelmed and under-appreciated.   How about this statement...

I see you.  I know that you are not fine.  But we are coming to the end of this marathon year.  I am not a runner, but I know that you need fuel to keep going, to finish the race.  Joyfuel.  This year has felt like an eternity.  This past month like a lifetime.  Last week felt like shoving a month's worth of work and energy into a week.  But the good news is the pit stop came to us.  The students.  They are our joyfuel.  Their smiles, their energy, their positivity...that is fuel that will help us get to the finish line...or at least to our next stop next week.  

Fill your cup.  Drink their joy up.  Forget about what didn't get done.  Don't worry about if you will finish the unit in time.  Be in this moment with your students and feel your needle move from E to F.  None of us are getting any prizes for seeing how long we can go with the needle on E.  Fuel up.  Siphon some joyfuel from your students.  They have plenty to share.

Currently reading:

I got the best new picture book at Target this weekend!  I plan to do a read aloud of it this week.  I love the idea of kids asking questions and "the road" calmly giving answers.  

I have had a hard time putting Ground Zero down.  I just love the characters and story lines that Alan Gratz creates.  He makes you want to keep reading just one more chapter! 
I finally finished listening to Obama's book...it's a long one, but a good one.  I am excited to be listening to The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person now.  

Events this week:

Monday - One week until vacation...you got this!

Tuesday - Report cards available to parents in PowerSchool

Wednesday - Half day, 12:30 dismissal, School Pictures Retake day

Friday - Wahoo, you made it!  Enjoy your spring break!

Check it out:

Haha, meant to share this last week...


And this statement... #truth

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Best Day Ever!

 Principal pondering...

Last week, some of us got an email from a parent thanking us for what we did for her daughter on her birthday.  The student came home and told her mom that it was "her most favorite day ever in her life!"  We are still surviving a pandemic.  In a hybrid model, with only half of our students in front of us while the rest are in Brady Bunch boxes on our screens.  We have to keep most of our faces hidden behind masks.  Kids don't get to be close to each other and there's not really any high fiving or hugging happening.  Yet, we somehow managed to help this little girl have the best day ever.

How did we do that?  How can any kid feel like these are great days?  Us adults...I know I am not alone when I say that over the past year I have had some of my least favorite days ever, some of my worst days.  Many times I did not want to get out of bed.  Many times I cried myself to sleep.  Many days I thought...just get through it.  I am sick of washing and wearing masks.  My hands are raw from washing and sanitizing.  I just want to be able to hug every kid and have the biggest lobby dance party ever.  Yet, we somehow managed to help a little girl have the best day of her life.  Simply by being here and paying attention.  Her present was our presence in her life.

That thought is going to keep me going.  Next week when we return to full in person learning...our goal is to have more kids feel like it was the best day ever.  I know it won't always feel that way for us, but we have to remember that our students don't see our after hours stress or our middle of the night panic moments.  Next week, most of our students are going to see you in front of them, not on a screen.  Most of our students are going to see their friends in person for the first time in a long time.  They are going to be doing school almost the way they are used to from a year ago.  Yes, there will still be masks and hand sanitizer and reminders to "space out."  But we have a chance to give them the best day ever.  On April 5th and all the days after that.

While it will be nice to have more in person faces listening to your module 4, lesson 12 math lesson, and it will be a welcome change to not have to chase kids back on camera, remember that it's your presence in their lives that is going to make the best day ever.  And we of course want kids to continue to learn about glued sounds and the difference between fiction and non fiction, but it will be how we interact with them and how we show we care for them that will make these last months of the year the best days ever.

This year, we often find ourselves running on fumes.  Let their enthusiasm, their joy, their energy fuel you. 

Now go have the best day ever!

Currently reading:

On Sunday, I read Long Way Down.  It's a novel told in verse by the amazing Jason Reynolds.  It's about a young Black kid who feels like he has to seek revenge for his older brother's death.  And during an elevator ride he encounters several ghosts, friends and family members that were victims of shootings.  Probably not for our students to read, but you might be interested in reading it.  


I also got some great new books delivered from our virtual Scholastic Book Fair.  Can't wait to do some read alouds or book talk some of these...

Events this week:

Wednesday - Last remote Wednesday! Staff meeting @ 8:00am, Liz in a PLT Meeting from 12:30-2:30

Thursday - Masked Reader Event - virtual family event and announcing Read-a-Thon winners - 7:00pm

Friday - Rest up and get ready for Monday!

Check it out:

How true is this?!...



Monday, March 22, 2021

Unfinished Learning

 Principal ponderings...

Here's a thought....the kids will be okay.  The adults - well that's another story.  But our kids are going to be okay.  They have persevered.  They have surprised us.  They have shown us that they can learn in the classroom and at home.  Yet, everywhere you look, people keep talking about and writing about "learning loss."

I am part of a group through NAESP called "Innovative Principals Circle."  Principals from across country gather online once a month to share ideas and support each other.  The other night I was listening to different principals talk about how we are handling "learning loss."  I loved how one principal said they were choosing to look at it as "unfinished learning."  Yes.  That makes more sense to me than "learning loss."

Our kids have unfinished learning.  Lucky for us our kids are elementary age so their learning is always unfinished for us.  That's why they finish a year and then get to come back for more learning the following year.  This year, due to a pandemic that affected the entire world, there just happens to be more unfinished learning than normal.  

But the kids will be okay.  We will meet them wherever they are and help them work towards "finishing" their learning.  (Side note...I don't feel like we ever finish learning, so let's stop worrying about a deadline.). And whatever learning we don't finish this year, well we will be back at this whole educating kids thing again next year.

You may have seen this going around on social media.  
Thought it was appropriate to share with all of you:

In twenty years' time...
People will not ask the children of 2020 if they caught up with their studies.
They will not ask them what grades they made, despite the year off of school.
They will ask them with wonder ‘what was it like?’
They will ask them ‘how did you cope?’
‘How did you feel?’
‘What do you remember of those days?”
They will listen in awe to the tales of clapping on doorsteps for the medical workers.
They will sit open-mouthed to hear of daily walks being the only life we saw and how much we missed human contact and gatherings.
They will be amazed to know about empty supermarkets, online concerts, birthdays spent on a screen and a life lived inside.
They will listen, then sit back with amazement and say, ‘Wow. You went through so much.’
So think about what you would like your children to take away from this whole year.
Tell them they are not behind.
Tell them they are not missing out.
Tell them they are extremely special indeed and they will be forever made stronger by this unique time.
Tell them catching up is not even a thing because they have grown so much in so many other ways.
Remind them too of the fun stuff, the family jigsaws, the window rainbows, the zoom bingo.
The feeling of safety and togetherness amidst the chaos.
Let them take that thought with them through life.
Change the narrative now and it will travel far.
Tell the children they are not behind.
They are special.
They are special.
—Donna Ashworth

Let's change the narrative, our kids do not have learning loss, they simply have unfinished learning.

Currently reading:

I was convinced by 5th graders to start the Wings of Fire series so I am into book 1 and enjoying it so far.  I am also working on finishing Unplugged by Gordon Korman.  And I only have 4 hours left of listening to Obama's The Promised Land.

I also got a great new book from Scholastic called Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women.  It's a wonderful picture book that is described as "a stunning love letter to the important women who shape us."

Events this week:

**Virtual Scholastic Book Fair all week, 2nd week of our virtual fair

Tuesday - SIMCO Meeting @ 3:30

Wednesday - Green pod furniture and 1st grade will be moved into rooms, Liz in PLT meeting from 12:30-2:30, 3rd-5th Grade Bookelicious Info Event @ 2:30, no staff meeting today, but I may try to meet with a few grade level teams

Saturday - Custodians will be working from 8:00-12:00 to finish distributing furniture and setting up the gym cafeteria space.

Check it out:

Interesting read from teen's perspectives of living through the pandemic: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/learning/teens-pandemic-art.html?smid=tw-share

And this...



Monday, March 1, 2021

Earrings

 Principal ponderings...

I have always loved earrings.  I am pretty sure I get that from my mom.  She was always a big jewelry fan and always loved wearing bold, colorful, different jewelry.  I got my ears pierced when I was 4 years old, but it wasn't until high school and college that I started to use earrings as a form of expression.  Little known fact about me...I used to have a lot of piercings in my ears.  And I wore all kinds of hoops, studs, and funky earrings.  These days...I have scaled back and only wear one earring in each ear, but I still try to find and wear all kinds of fun earrings.

Why am I talking about earrings?  Well in a crazy year where connections and relationships are even more important, my earrings have helped me realize how crucial connections with students are right now.  It's not every year that 4th and 5th grade boys can list off many of the different earrings I own!  When they started talking to me about my earrings during lunch, I realized...they are paying attention.  Definitely need to capitalize on that.  So I am very conscious of the earrings I pick out to wear and sometimes the earrings have a story that goes along with them so I share that story with students.  For example, I told a 5th grade class that I own a pair of earrings where one is an exclamation point and one is a question mark.  When I was a high school biology teacher, I would wear those earrings when I was going to give a "pop quiz."  Kids figured it out and news would travel fast as soon as someone spotted me wearing those earrings.  

Since a majority of the time, students are seeing me and hearing me through video with my morning announcements, it's clear that they only see a small part of me.  My earring collection is coming in handy this year!  

I am not saying that the way to connect with students is to go buy a bunch of earrings.  Trust me it's an expensive addiction!  (If you haven't checked out https://thesunriseshopnesloney.com/ yet and you want some awesome earrings...check her site out!) But I am saying find something, whatever it is, to connect with kids.  They are paying attention.  They are craving that attention.  They want to connect.  They want to see you and they want you to see them.  They want to hear your stories and they need to be able to share their stories with us.  

How did you connect with our students today?

Currently reading:

It was so good to have several days over the vacation where I could take time to sit in my favorite reading chair or lie on my couch and read!  I finished A Home for Goddesses and Dogs.  It's another great story by Leslie Connor.  There is loss in it, but it's also full of love and belonging and a family taking care of each other.  If anyone wants to borrow it, let me know.  And it was fitting that I started reading Gordon Korman's book, Unplugged this week.  Always love how he creates different characters.  This book takes place at a Mind and Wellness Retreat in the middle of nowhere Arkansas...no devices allowed!  And I just read Allergic this weekend, a perfect graphic novel for so many of our students who are frustrated with being allergic to different things. 

Events this week:

Monday - Happy March!  Announcement of our March Read-a-Thon!

Tuesday - Read Across America Day! (But really it's Read Across America Month!)

Wednesday - Remote learning day, Staff Meeting @ 8:00am, Liz in a leadership meeting from 12:30-2:30, Laura in a team chair meeting from 2:30-3:30

**Read-a-Thon will take place next week March 8-March 14.

Check it out:

Saturday morning I joined an EdCamp with several teachers from Mayo and educators from across the state and across the country.  Here is a newsletter where there is a link to the collaborative notes that were taken during the event.  So much amazing information shared!

And because Gerry Brooks always knows how to say it better... https://youtu.be/xmsoFewV1Fw


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Puzzled

 Principal ponderings...


On Friday night, I came home from the first week of hybrid and knew I needed to plan something with my family or else I might collapse in the middle of the family room or fall asleep standing up in my kitchen!  So I pulled out a puzzle and announced that it was family puzzle night.  This was an interesting Toy Story puzzle.  It was labeled as a "Together Time Puzzle" and had three different sizes of puzzle pieces, small, medium and large.  The idea is that the large pieces are for children, the medium pieces are for everyone, and the small pieces are for adults.  We spread out the 400 different sized pieces on our kitchen table and got to work.

As we were all working on the puzzle, I couldn't help but think about what we have been asked to do right now in school.  As I chat with teachers and read your parent emails and see you trying to figure this all out, I can't help but think we have been assigned a giant puzzle to try to complete.  There are so many pieces and they are in all different shapes and sizes.  

I found myself staring at my kitchen table and sometimes the connections would jump right out at me.  I see that when I watch you all teach or listen to you with your students.  Even though it may be only two pieces that you connect, I see glimpses of the joy that we all get when working with our students.  But then I would stare at the kitchen table and it would seem like finding a match or a connection was impossible.  And there were moments when I wanted to just give up, walk away from the puzzle and not think about it.  But then I would see my husband find several connecting pieces or I would see Emerson and Cayce helping each other and encouraging each other and cheering when they found one piece.  And  that helped me keep working at it.

We did not finish the puzzle that night.  But we accomplished a lot.  This puzzle that we are all working on right now...hybrid, remote, online, streaming, technology, teaching, learning...we are not going to finish it right now.  But last week, we accomplished a lot.  You all, once again, had the puzzle pieces dumped over your head and were told to just do it.  And of course, you did what you always do.  Rolled up your sleeves and started putting the pieces back together.  

This puzzle we are working on right now feels like one of those extremely challenging ones...the ones where it's 1,000 pieces that are all a similar shade or the ones where the straight edge pieces go within the puzzle and on the edge or one of the puzzles where the pieces are double sided.  It feels impossible.  It feels overwhelming.  It doesn't feel fun.  Just know that within the first week you put some pieces together.  And this week you will put some more pieces together.  And when you want to give up on this puzzle...look at the person across the hall or next door.  Watch them put some pieces together, let them motivate you.  Let them help you.  And when we get through this year and complete this puzzle...it's going to feel good.  

Which pieces will you put together today?

Currently reading:

I am still enjoying listening to former President Obama read his book A Promised Land.  I am also enjoying A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor.

Events this week:

Monday - Cohort A day

Tuesday - Cohort A day, Fire drill in the AM

Wednesday - remote learning day for all, SIMCO meeting @ 3:30

Thursday - Cohort B day, Fire drill in the AM

Friday - Cohort B day, term 2 grades close, report cards will be available to parents in PS on Feb. 3

Check it out:

Check out this short video about 6 ways to be an anti-racist educator:


I get a Sunday blog from Dave Burgess Publishing and this snippet from a former classroom teacher and technology integration specialist, an incredible educational consultant, content developer, presenter, and the author of our newest release, Project-Based Learning Anywhere...Dr. Lori Elliot...definitely stuck with me.  The quote from her friend and the image of trying to carry all the groceries and add one more thing...yep.

3. Making Sense of Things

This past year has been tough. All of us can relate to the toll the pandemic has had on us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I was talking with a friend not too long ago, and she explained her mental state in a way that made total sense to me. She said, "You know when you get home with your groceries, and you don't want to make extra trips to the house, so you carry everything you can at once. Then you grab one more, small item and you drop the whole load. That's how I feel every single day. It is too much, and the small things seem to cause me to fall apart." Isn't that the truth. Things that would never bother us in "normal times" like forgetting a password or an email from a parent with a question seems to push us right off the side of a cliff. The situation my friend explained is really the struggle between Survival Brain and Learning Brain. I found a very helpful video from Dr. Jacob Ham that helps us as educators understand trauma and simple ways we can move ourselves and our students from Survival Brain to Learning Brain. This has been such a great reminder that our feelings are valid, and we are truly still living in survival mode.  Understanding Trauma: Learning Brain vs. Survival Brain