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...

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...


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


 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.  


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?!...