Monday, September 20, 2021

A Little Bit of Wonder Goes a Long Way

 Principal ponderings...

On Sunday, we discovered a secret fairy trail in Shrewsbury.  Actually, thanks to our amazing lunch monitor, Alice, for reminding me about this place.  We told the kids we were going to a secret place and when we pulled up, it looked like a trail that we normally take our dog to on walks.  At first there was a lot of groaning...why do we have to go here?...I don't want to hike...when are we going to do something fun?

And then something magical happened.  As soon as we got a few feet into the trail, they started discovering all kinds of surprises along the way.  I wish I could have bottled up the squeals of surprise and wonder that suddenly filled up the forest...coming from their little bodies.  Their groans were replaced with...look at this mommy!...I found this!...come here quick!

As we got deeper into the secret trail, we discovered shiny pieces of crushed glass in the ground.   Fairy dust!  Even my husband turned to me and said this is pretty amazing.  (After I reassured him that it wasn't broken bottles, and it was supposed to be there!) Every time we turned a corner or peaked under a branch, we found a ceramic bunny or a positive quote on a tree or a stone carved into an owl.

This secret world we discovered brought out so much excitement and wonder in my kids and myself!  There were benches and little tables, spots to stop and observe the magical surroundings.  And what was amazing was we right behind a neighborhood where you could just make out the houses.  It's like we were in a little magical bubble, so close to the real world, but able to be transported to a special place that no one at the time seemed to know about.  We could have spent hours here.  And of course, there was a little free library so naturally getting books from the secret trail made it even better.

I went and searched for more info about this place after we got home.  One of the houses, an offshoot of the trail leads you to it, is owned by the man who created this enchanted spot.  I wonder if he realizes how many kids he has had an impact on?  Just by adding little (and big) items here and there, sprinkling in crushed glass, fairy dust, into the trail, he transformed a simple nature trail into a place of wonder.  I don't have to remind all of you of the power of wonder.  What can you take from this story of our Sunday adventure?  How can you sprinkle in some "fairy dust" into your lessons?  How can you turn groans into oohs and ahas?

While a beautiful tiled bench or a giant metallic dinosaur are amazing creations, you don't need something so big or complicated.  Honestly, I think my kids were most excited about the tiny pieces of crushed glass mixed in the dirt, guiding them on their path of exploration.  

A little bit of wonder goes a long way.  

How will you mix wonder into your classrooms this week?

Currently reading:

I am reading another Alan Gratz book, Allies.  I just love his historical fiction books! 

I am excited to start listening to a new Audible book I got called Start Here Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community. 

Events this Week:

Tuesday - Liz out of the building for MSAA Convocation and Board Meeting, Chess Club starts, 3:30-4:30 in the library

Thursday - Liz at PLT Meeting @ 8-10:00

Friday - Library Committee Meeting @ 4:00, Last day to order Spirit Wear

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:

  • The 3rd grade team made their mark on Dot Day! 

  • Thank you to everyone who was understanding and chipped in to help when we were extra short handed with custodial help.  Our amazing office secretary proved yet again that she can do anything! 

  • Mrs. Leroy's 1st graders shared stories about people choosing to be nice and how it made them feel.  We almost have every student's signature on our banner! 

  • The new gaga pits were a big it at recess this week! 

Check it Out:

Monday, September 13, 2021

I "C" You!

 Principal ponderings...

This Wednesday, September 15th-ish, is International Dot Day!  It's a day (or week) of celebrating creativity, courage and collaboration.  As we talk about our students being seen and heard, this is a perfect day to start helping our students find the courage to make their mark, to be creative, to share who they are.

I learned about this song which I thought went well with the message of Dot Day.  It's by Alex Sampson and it's called "Cannonball."

The line that says..."don't shy away from who you are, jump right in and do a cannonball...", that's the message that Peter Reynolds shares in his book The Dot.  You have to not be afraid to make your mark.  We want our students to know that "everyone else is taken, just be you!"  As we continue to talk about identity, who we are, what we each have to share, I hope we can encourage all our students to do a cannonball...just jump right in!  Start with a dot and see where it takes you.

What will you "C" in your students?  What will they "C" in you?






Currently reading:

I listened to a great book right before school started called Chop Wood, Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great.  It was a short listen, but had lots life lesson nuggets in it.  It's the story of a young boy who is training to be a samurai warrior, but his biggest battle he must face throughout the story is the man in the mirror. 

I got a great new picture book called Sticks.  Can't wait to read this one to kids. 

Events this week:

Monday - 6 feet starts in lunch again, 30 desks in the gym and 2 to a table in the cafeteria, no assigned seating, we are also starting to serve snacks in 4th and 5th grade this week

Tuesday - Bus evacuation canceled for today, will be rescheduled

Wednesday - Dot Day!

Thursday - Liz meeting virtually with the Commissioner at 10:00

Great things I noticed:

  • The gaga pits are here!!!  Huge thank you to the PTA and parent volunteers for making this happen.

  • Mrs. Desruisseaux's class brainstormed many words associated with choosing to be nice and then when they put those words into wordle word art...look what happened! 

  • It was so great to come together as a staff during our first staff meeting of the year.  Excited to start our work of making sure every student in our school has an adult to connect to. 

  • So far I have met with 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade to launch our Choose to 
    Be Nice campaign.  Excited to head into 1st and K classrooms over the next two weeks.  Once I have everyone's signature, we will find the best spot to hang our banner! 

Check it out:

We will be discussing pronouns and identity more, but I wanted to share some articles and posts for you to start reading about and thinking about this important discussion:

Also, I subscribe to a quarterly box distribution company called Little Justice Leaders.  Each box contains a book, along with activities, information about organizations, and a focus on social justice topics such as hunger, mindfulness, race, etc.  I will be keeping the boxes in my office, but please feel free to stop by and look through them and borrow anything you want from them. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

If You Create It, It Will Happen

 Principal ponderings...

Vision boards make me think of the movie "Field of Dreams."  I love that famous line, "If you build it, they will come."  With vision boards, if you create your vision, I believe it will happen.  This year, our North Star guiding us is: Every child should be profoundly seen and heard.  That is a lofty goal, but one that I know we can strive for.  Amplifying student voice will help us on our journey  towards our North Star.

I knew that we couldn't start the year on our staff day with just talking about student voice.  We needed students' voices to be part of the day.  I loved being able to gather and share some initial voices through this video compilation:

I asked them all the same three questions.  
1. What is one thing you wish your teacher knew about you?
2. What is something new or different that we should do at our school?
3. What is something that we should not do anymore at our school?

We are going to be surveying our students throughout the year, using the terms sunset, amplify, and create.  It will be interesting to see their answers.  It will be even more interesting to see if they notice that we are listening to them.  That we are taking their thoughts and their ideas and turning them into realities.  We can talk about how we want to amplify student voice, but actually doing it and actually helping students see that their voice matters...that's much harder to accomplish.  But the thought of it is what gets me jumping out of bed each day!  I think asking students the first question, one thing they wish you knew about them, will be a great opportunity to begin to build connections.  Their answers might surprise you!

I took a risk taking the student voice idea to another level and inviting 5th grade students in to help us kick off the year.  But seeing the end results, the amazingly unique vision boards created by students and staff together, the risk paid off!  Watching all of you interact with our "education experts" filled my bucket.  The kids were excited and loved coming to school a day early!  It's an amazing thing when you can watch educators light up simply by having them work with students to create vision boards.  My goal is to interview the students who created each board to hear more about what the boards represent and what it was like working with all of you.  (Planning to start a Mayo podcast - another way to amplify...literally...student voice!)

Check out each board...I put a few thoughts under each one with things that I noticed, but there's so much awesomeness packed into each one! 
I love the mountain lion boldly stating "a really big family!"

Did you notice the elephant on this one?  Always remembering the baby elephant story.  This group thought outside of the box, or the board, with the sign saying "you belong here."

Love all the rays of positivity and inspiration coming out of this board!

Check out the emphasis on writing and illustrating on this board, even with a tiny notebook and pencil! And I love the statement "all the love you need."

Did you know that the kids who worked on this board left their mark by including their fingerprints on it?! Love the bright colors and the amazing words painted on this board.

Check out the beautiful hearts formed by hands on this board.  And it may be in small print, but the message is huge: "you put students first."

Choice and play - so important.  Love the image of the two different light bulb ideas coming together to make the best idea!

Each board is so unique.  Each board is a product of educators and students working together to visualize what school could be.  We created them, now this year is about making them happen!

What will you do today to start turning these visions into reality?

Currently reading:

I just started reading a book called What Elephants Know.  It's about a young boy who was discovered in the jungle. 

I am enjoying reading stories from educators across the country in the book Because of a Teacher.  George Couros curated lots of inspirational stories, including one by Katie Novak about a principal that made a huge difference in her life. 
I just got a funny new picture book in the mail called Chairs on Strike.  Imagine what chairs would say if they complained; imagine if they finally had enough and went on strike! 

Events this week:

Monday - Labor Day, No School

Tuesday - 5th Grade CTBN Assembly @ 2:30, Library Volunteer Training @ 7:00pm

Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 8:00 in the library, 4th Grade CTBN Assembly @ 9:15, 3rd Grade CTBN Assembly @ 2:30, PTA Meeting on Zoom at 6:30

Thursday - Liz @ PLT Meeting from 8-10:00, 2nd Grade CTBN Assembly @ 2:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • It was a great first week of school and I am excited to be able to get around more this year and take pictures of all the action happening in our school.  Feel free to send me photos as well, since sometimes I am stuck in the lunchroom covering lunch duty!
  • Can't wait to kick off our Choose to Be Nice program this week.  Loved seeing everyone in their shirts on Friday! 

  • I love that kids were trying to collect confetti all day on the first day of school after our countdown to start the year! 

Check it out:

Some great picture books to start the year with: 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Don't Stop

Principal ponderings...

I heard this song the other day and knew that it was the song that was going to get us through this week and the last day on Monday.  As my own kids say, "tomorrow after tomorrow after tomorrow..." basically eventually we will get to the tomorrow that is that end of this school year.  If you need a little motivation, listen to this song, read the lyrics, push through, don't think about yesterday (and all the yesterdays before that).  This year is almost behind us.  You can certainly reflect and think about what you learned from this year.  But don't stop thinking about tomorrow, as in the last day of school, it will soon be here!  

 If you wake up and don't want to smile

If it takes just a little while
Open your eyes and look at the day
You'll see things in a different way
Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone
Why not think about times to come?
And not about the things that you've done
If your life was bad to you
Just think what tomorrow will do
Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone
All I want is to see you smile
If it takes just a little while
I know you don't believe that it's true
I never meant any harm to you
Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone
Don't stop thinking about tomorrow
Don't stop, it'll soon be here
It'll be better than before
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone
Don't you look back
Don't you look back
Don't you look back

Currently reading:
I am listening to a book called Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World.  This book is about a family that lives through a tornado and the 12 year old daughter begins to develop feelings for another girl.  This is the story of her figuring out her emerging identity.  

I was also excited to start skimming through a new book that one of our local MA principals contributed to...

Events this week:
Monday - 1st grade and 3rd grade virtual visits with Gale Free Library
Tuesday - K last day of school!  K field day during specials, K virtual visit with Gale Free Library
Wednesday - Final staff meeting of the year @ 8:00am, K screening from 11-1:00 in the K classrooms, 2nd grade virtual visits with Gale Free Library, Reverse Parade! 2:00-2:30 K,1,2, 2:30-3:00 3-4, 3:00-3:30 5th grade!
Thursday - 1-5th field day during specials, 5th grade and 4th grade virtual visits with Gale Free Library
Friday - 5th grade using the gym in the afternoon for a talent show

Check it out:
Some of you have added sticky notes to our AMPLIFY,SUNSET, CREATE charts in the office.  If you would prefer to add your thoughts to this form, please feel free.  You might also think about making a copy of this or adjusting this form and using it with your students.  I have collected some great data to help us plan for next year.

And to make you smile as we prepare for the start of summer break next week...

Monday, June 7, 2021

Amplify, Sunset, and Create

 Principal ponderings...

I am in that in between phase right now.  Reflecting back on this past year (wondering how we got through it!) and then beginning to think and plan for next year.  It's a tough, overwhelming, tiring place to be.  But it's also an important place to be.  There is a part of me that loves being able to think about what we accomplished during the year and get excited about all the possibilities of next year.

I needed an energy boost last week and I got one in the form of a planning session that several Mayo staff attended with me.  I don't drink those 5 hour energy drinks, but I imagine they have the effect that this planning session had on me.  I started the call feeling worn down, exhausted, and two hours later, I was energized and pumped up about what the future holds.  

One of the activities we did was called Amplify, Sunset, Create.  It's a way of reflecting and planning.  Similar to when we have done something like Grows (areas we need to improve) and Glows (things we are proud of).  For this task, we need to think about what from the last year we actually, surprisingly liked and maybe want to amplify for next year.  Then think about things that we should sunset and be done with.  These could be activities from before the pandemic that we really should stop doing.  Or it could be things that we had to do during the pandemic, but should not do next year. (Pretty sure I can think of one word that starts with R and rhymes with boat!?) And then what are things that we need to create?  What are we not doing that we need to start doing?

I have placed chart paper by the mailboxes with some sticky notes.  If you think of anything under the three headings of AMPLIFY, SUNSET, or CREATE, jot it down and add it to a chart.  Or email me your thoughts or when you see me and you have something to share, let's have a conversation about it.  I would also love to know what students might say when asked these questions.  You could try this reflection activity in your classroom.  It could be about just your classroom or it could be about school-wide topics as well.

I am excited for another 5 hour energy boost this Wednesday with other Mayo team members.  We want to bring some of this feedback to our meeting Wednesday.  But I will continue collecting and gathering info after Wednesday.  I also plan to survey the parents.  Here are some of the team members who would also be happy to hear from you: Maura McSweeney, Liz Hilton, Kristin Baird, Kate White, Julie Rondinelli, and Laura Ramos. 


Currently reading:

I loaded up and added to my to be read pile thanks to the book fair!  I can't wait until I can get to summer mode which means summer reading.  I read one of the new graphic novels this weekend; it's called Camp. It was a quick read that is perfect for students getting ready for summer activities...the main characters learn that they can still be friends even if they have different interests and are making new friends.

Another awesome picture book I got from the book fair is called A Bike Like Sergio's.  It's about a boy who learns an important lesson about money and honesty and doing the right thing.

Events this week:

Monday - 5th Grade Math MCAS

Tuesday - 5th Grade Science MCAS

Wednesday - 3rd grade remote ELA MCAS, make-up MCAS

 Thursday - 5th Grade Nature's Classroom Day!

Check it out:

I listen to lots of podcasts, especially a new one that my friend, Dr. Christopher Jones, has recently started recording.  It's called SEEing to Lead.  He interviews educators to talk about how to empower and engage educators.  Our very own Kate White chatted with Chris and you can listen to their conversation here.

Laurie Coe is another podcast lover.  She always shares great episodes with me, like this one with Oprah Winfrey called "The Give"

Monday, May 17, 2021

Hungry for Books?!

 Principal Ponderings...

Are you ready for a virtual book tasting?  I have several awesome professional development books that I would love to order for you if you are interested in them.  I am going to record some short videos about the books, add in a picture of the book cover and a short blurb about the book.  Just to give you a little taste of the book.  I will send out a survey this week, and if there are books that people want, I will order multiple copies for you!

Math fact instruction is often ineffective: lots of worksheets, drills, and rote memorization. This kind of instruction doesn’t serve students well.  No More Math Fact Frenzy addresses this by examining current research about how to effectively build students' math fact knowledge. The authors then share a new set of best-practices: classroom activities that build students’ number sense and strategies that lead to flexible thinking.

Malke shows how pairing math concepts and whole body movement creates opportunities for students to make sense of math in entirely new ways. Filled with classroom-tested activities and detailed coaching tips, and supported with extensive online video clips, Math on the Move shows how movement can enliven the learning process rather than offer a break from it.

“We believe that play is one type of environment where children can be rigorous in their learning,” Kristi, Alison, and Cheryl write. They provide a host of lessons, suggestions for classroom setups, helpful tools and charts, curriculum connections, teaching points, and teaching language to help you foster mature play that makes every moment in your classroom instructional.

Topics such as racegenderpoliticsreligion, and sexuality are part of our students' lives, yet when these subjects are brought up at school teachers often struggle with how to respond. How do we create learning conditions where kids can ask the questions they want to ask, muddle through how to say the things they are thinking, and have tough conversations? How can we be proactive and take steps to engaging in the types of conversations where risk is high but the payoff could be even greater?

Equity by Design is intended to serve as a blueprint for teachers to alter the all-too-predictable outcomes for our historically under-served students. A first of its kind resource, the book makes the critical link between social justice and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) so that we can equip students (and teachers, too) with the will, skill, and collective capacity to enact positive change.

“Poetry is our wisest writing teacher.” Children’s writer and poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater 
leads us on an adventure through poetry, pointing out craft elements along the way that students can use to improve all their writing, from idea finding to language play.

The kids are the least of our worries. Seriously. If that sounds blasphemous in a book for concerned parents and educators (and anyone, really, who worries about “kids these days”), then I am so glad you’re here. If you own a kid, work with a kid, or love a kid, you will find something inspiring in these pages. Dare I say game-changing. These words were born from the hundreds of stories of kids, their families, and their support systems I was lucky to meet as I worked across Canada and the USA. Regardless of who I met or where I met them, the message was always the same: our kids are okay ONLY if those of us holding them are okay. During the developmental years, schools—and educators—are the most significant connection point to most every child on this continent. But are the educators okay? I believe that most of the great educators want to make a difference. Many tell me, however, that they are finding it more and more difficult “these days” to love what they do. I think it’s time we did a better job of looking after them. First. Plain and simple. This book is for the educators: our teachers, bus drivers, administrators, educational assistants, librarians, administrative assistants, and custodians. And anyone who leads, loves, and supports them. If that’s you, I am so grateful you are here. 

In Leading Literate Lives, Stephanie outlines a framework for reading and writing that makes a direct connection between reflection and classroom practice. In each chapter you will find concrete ideas, tools, and activities for reading and writing to help move you from teacher reflection to instruction. For every specific reflection Stephanie will show you how to put the same idea into practice in your classroom.

Books as bridges enable readers to speak freely, think deeply, and take action.  In Reading to Make a Difference, Lester and Katie build on the work of Rudine Sims Bishop, extending the notion of books as windows, mirrors, and doors. They show you how to move beyond exposing your students to diverse children’s literature by offering an instructional framework that is applicable to any topic and can be adapted to your own classroom or community.

So many amazing choices!  I will send out a Google form later this week to find out what book you might want to dive into this summer.  Clearly, all of these are optional.  I just wanted to share a few great titles with you.  I will also add Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain to that list.  Several of us did a book study across the district with that book.  I enjoyed talking with staff across the district about it and would be willing to help facilitate another group discussion about it.

Hope you enjoyed this virtual book tasting!

Currently reading:

Emerson and I took a field trip on Sunday to Roots and Press, a small, amazing bookstore in Worcester.  And I think I want to spend more time in this space!  I purchased several amazing books, including a wonderful picture book titled Watercress.  This book tells the story of a Chinese family living in Ohio, and how a stop on the side of the road uncovers some powerful memories from the mother's childhood in China. 

I also purchased the beautiful book We Are Water Protectors, which tells the story of the "black snake" that threatens to poison the water and how a young water protector tries to help.  This book is about how we have to protect Mother Earth.

I also purchased and immediately started reading Stamped (for Kids).  I have been working my way through the original Stamped book.  Now I am excited for this book for our upper elementary students as an important resource to open up more conversations about race. 

Events this week:

Tuesday - CST meeting @ 8:00am

Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 8:00am, half day, Liz in a PLT meeting 1:30-3:00

Thursday - CST meeting @ 8:00am, Mountview transition meetings for 5th grade

Check it out:

Not that you don't already know this...