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




Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Ad Meliora

 Principal ponderings...

I don't have any photos on my new fridge, but recently as I was doing dishes, I looked over and saw this one hanging on the side.  My husband had found it while unpacking and placed it there without me knowing.  It's a much younger me in college with my beautiful mom.  

This year has been a tough year for everyone.  In the middle of a pandemic, life keeps happening.  For me, dealing with a diagnosis that is slowly stealing my mom and her amazing brain from me has certainly made this year monumentally more difficult.  But I look at this picture and I smile and some happy tears well up and I think "ad meliora."

My mother was a Latin teacher and spent her life teaching me the root of every word.  She could conjugate verbs like nobody's business and go on for hours about the history of the Greeks and Romans.  I know my mom dealt with eye rolls from her children when she said for the 100th time "do you know where this word comes from?"  And today, I would give anything to hear her break down a word or teach me a new Latin phrase.  But she spent her life sharing her love of language with me so now it's my turn to pick up the torch and carry it.  Today, I am thinking "ad meliora" is the Latin phrase that we all need right now.  It means "better things" or "things continuing to improve."  You may have heard of the English word "ameliorate" which means "make (something bad) better."  Sort of sounds like a spell from Harry Potter.

Today, I want to wave my wand and ameliorate this school year.  I want to ameliorate the pandemic.  I want to ameliorate what is happening to my mom.  Those are all lofty goals.  And believe it or not, I don't actually have a magic wand.  But we are taking a step forward and bringing some of our kids into the building.  It might not feel like this will make things better, but I truly believe it will.  Hopefully soon, educators will be able to get vaccinated and that will make this pandemic better.  And for me and my mom, well I am going to keep remembering all of the words and Latin phrases she taught me over the years because she can't.  And I am going to write down her memories for her and share her memories with others and be grateful that for now she is happy and healthy.  I am choosing to focus on "meliora" or better things.

What will you ameliorate today?

"Always towards better things"


Currently reading:

I have been listening to Obama's new book, A Promised Land.  It's quite long, but whenever I am in the car I try to listen to a little bit at a time.  I feel like I really need to hear his voice right now.  

Events this week:

Monday - MLK Day, No School

Tuesday - Hybrid learning begins, Cohort A in school

Wednesday - Remote day

Thursday - Cohort B in school

Friday - Cohort B in school

Staff Check In:

Feel free to fill out this optional Monday morning staff check-in form.

Check it out:

A friend posted this candle she just purchased...I love it!  Everyone, today, let's take a deep breath and inhale the future, then let's exhale the past.




Monday, January 4, 2021

Home Sweet Home

 Principal Ponderings...

This picture was made by my great grandmother, Marion Forbes Cossler,
and as I have been carrying it from room to room trying to decide the best location to hang it,
I thought it was fitting to add into my post about home.



Wow, I went back and read my post from one year ago...the one where I selected my one word...pause.  At the time, I was forced to pause when I slipped and fell on the ice.  And then we were all forced to pause when the pandemic took over our lives.  I never would have thought that a year later I would still be dealing with pain and injuries from that fall and that we would all still be surviving a pandemic.  Pause was certainly an appropriate word for 2020.

And when thinking about my one word for 2021, I certainly had a few choice words in mind, maybe even some involving expletives, but those are really directed at 2020.  New year, new focus, new mindset, new beginnings.  Saying Buh-Bye to 2020 and all the not so nice words that I associate with it now.  

I have decided that my one word for 2021 is HOME.

I know it seems like a crazy choice for a word.  We have just spent a little under a year, practically confined to our homes.  We have all certainly had our fair share of time to go stir crazy quarantined with our families; life as we knew it put on hold.  But for me, I have developed a new appreciation for my family, my children, my husband, and our home.  Yes, we did just sell our house and buy a new one...which I love...but my word is not house, it's home.  And I feel like home means so much more to me than a physical place where I live.  You know I love quotes, and the one that says "home is where the heart is" has popped into my head a lot as I was trying to decide on my word.  I am lucky enough to have a home where my heart is with my family, but I also feel like Mayo School is my home, and you people surely do have my heart as well!  

This year, I truly hope that we will see positive things happening.  Vaccines.  COVID numbers going down.  Communities coming together.  School back in session.  I don't know if we will ever "go back to normal."  We will simply have a new normal...whatever normal is!  But I don't want to lose what I have gained during this pandemic.  My new appreciation for home.  If I get technical and use the verb form of 'home' then I will certainly make sure to continue to "focus on" what is most important....my home and all of the people that make this school and my house...home.

Music is so good for the soul...here are two songs to go with my one word:



What will your one word be for 2021?

Currently reading:

I am slightly excited that my new home has a space that I am calling the office/library.  I am actually able to fit many of my books in this space...so many boxes of books that I unpacked!  And there is an upholstered rocking chair in it where I can sit and read and escape.  I have certainly had to work hard to keep my reading routine going during the pandemic.  Half the time I was either too exhausted to read or too busy trying to entertain my children to focus on my reading time.  But this space is going to help me get my reading life back.  Over the break, I finished reading Jacqueline Woodson's Before the Ever After.  A book written in verse about a pro football player who has some brain and memory issues after being tackled so many time.  It's told from the perspective of his teenage son.  

I also read another book written in verse called All He Knew.  This book takes place in the 1940s and is about a young boy who is deaf and is sent to an institution.  Thankfully a young man who objects to the war and comes to work at the institution helps the boy get back home where he belongs.
I just started a book called A Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor.  She is the author who wrote The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle.  

And I have several that I am excited about in my Audible account...



 Events this week:

Monday - Welcome back!  PD day for staff

Tuesday - Students start back with remote learning

Wednesday - Staff meeting at 8:00 am

Thursday - Liz meeting with Commissioner Riley @ 10:00


Staff Check In:

Feel free to fill out this optional Monday morning staff check-in form.

Check it out:

A blog post about supporting students' social emotional needs: https://www.daveburgessconsulting.com/2021/01/03/supporting-social-emotional-needs-with-a-feelings-check-in/

And I came across this image...good reminder for all of us, we all have the right to rest.  Let's remember that even when we aren't on a break.



Monday, November 30, 2020

Strange Gifts

 Principal ponderings...

I continue to struggle during this time with writer's block.  I have been writing a blog post for almost 10 years every week.  COVID hit and writer's block seemed to settle in.  But I am trying to break out of the hold this block has on me and get back to my writing routine that I know and love.  This week, when I finished reading Poisoned, one of the last lines inspired me to write a little or at least share the line from the story with you and some thoughts about it.

As I was folding laundry and listening to the last chapter of the book, I had to stop and replay this line to hear it a second time:

"...just another of pain's strange gifts.  From sadness, came empathy.  From grief, came compassion.  From anger, came resolve.  From loss, came love.  These are the things that make us get up when we fall.  Try again when we fail.  These are the most valuable jewels."

In the book, Fear and Pain are personified as a brother and sister.  And Pain continually says in the book, "sometimes I help."  I was thinking throughout the book about that idea...sometimes pain is helpful?  And then this line, brought it all together.  

As we finally bring 2020 to an end over the next few weeks, I am going to let this line sink in more.  This year has certainly brought pain, sadness, grief, anger and a lot of loss...on many different levels.  But as a school community, I have witnessed empathy, compassion, resolve, and especially love.  Pain can be helpful if we think of it the way the author spelled it out for us.  

People who are not in education might say that learning has been limited during 2020.  I would argue that I have learned a great deal more this year.  Certainly lessons that I would have never learned if it was just another "normal" school year.  And I am pretty sure that educators, students, and parents have learned these valuable lessons as well this year.

As we enter into the giving season, I am grateful for the strange gifts that we have received together this year.  What other strange gifts will we receive? 

Currently reading:

I enjoyed having some time over the break to actually just sit and read.  Hasn't happened in a while.  Usually I need to schedule some reading time in and then I feel like I should be working on other things instead of reading.  I finished Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly.  Loved her other book Stepsister.  Definitely two female empowerment books!  I have also been enjoying reading Blended by Sharon Draper, the author of Out of My Mind.  And as soon as I finished Poisoned, I jumped into listening to Making Bombs for Hitler.  Also excited to start a new book club this week with female leaders across the country, reading and discussing the book Leading While Female.





Events this week:

Monday - Welcome back, hope you had a relaxing and rejuvenating Thanksgiving Break!

Thursday - CST Meeting @ 8:00am

Friday - Optional Staff Meeting @ 8:00am

Staff Check In:

Feel free to fill out this optional Monday morning staff check-in form.

Check it out:

Interesting collection of stories/tips for remote learning: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/education/learning/students-parents-teachers-remote-stories.html

And to make you laugh...


Monday, October 26, 2020

We're All In This...

 Principal ponderings...

My brother came across this chalk message on a sidewalk in CA and shared it with the rest of the family.  He said, "obviously the word together washed away but I actually think what's left is a more appropriate encapsulation of the time we are in."

The 'together' part may have washed away, but it was there at one point.  You may feel like the together part has washed away for you, but I promise you it was there and it is still there.  Our minds still automatically fill in that chalk message.  You are not alone.

As we prepare to make another change, and as you are still navigating and adjusting to remote teaching, remember that the together part may not be visible, but it's still there.  We need to support each other.  We need to lift each other up.  We need to remember that everyone is experiencing that same struggles, the same frustrations, the same anxiety.  

I am enjoying co-facilitating a book study with the book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.  Our Sunday night discussion focused on the chapter about the anatomy of the brain and some culturally responsive brain rules.  The first one and the most important one is: "The brain seeks to minimize social threats and maximize opportunities to connect with others in community."  And the book went on to say "The brain's two prime directives are to stay safe and be happy."  Ha, wow, did that sentence jump off the page and slap me in the face during this crazy time we are living in?!  But see...we are hard-wired to fill in that chalk message.  We need to fill in the message.  And our brains fill in that message even if we don't want to in the moment.

Heard this beautiful song and thought it was appropriate to include and share with all of you...

Yep, we are all in this...

Together.

Currently reading:

I was excited to get a new book in the mail called Just Look Up by Joe Beckman.  A prefect, quick read to inspire me right now...

Events this week:

Tuesday - Prodigy Parent Session 7:00 PM, Hybrid/Remote survey due

Wednesday - Half day, Staff Meeting 12:30-1:00, Liz and Laura in a 504 training @ 1:30, 30 minute eSpark optional PD call @ 2:00, SIMCO Meeting @ 3:00

Thursday - Halloween read alouds by High School Student Council Members, schedule coming

Friday - Halloween read alouds by High School Student Council Members, schedule coming

Staff Check In:

Feel free to fill out this optional Monday morning staff check-in form.

Check it out:

So this might hit a little too close to home, but we all need to be able to laugh about all of this...


And if you have not seen this brilliant kid, take time to listen to his #YouCanBeABCs!!


Thank you Kate for sharing this video tutorial about virtual parent conferences...



Monday, October 19, 2020

Rise Above the Mess

 Principal ponderings...

I recently read the We Are Teachers post titled, "Are Teachers OK? No, and Toxic Positivity Isn't Helping." You may have seen it floating around on social media last week. And there were many points that resonated with me. When the author talked about the phrase "it could be worse," it made me think of one of my favorite books growing up called...Could Be Worse. Yes, one of my Reading Rainbow favorites!

I totally get the idea of toxic positivity.  No one wants to hear that it will all be ok, things could be worse, let's only focus on the positive.  If you know me, then you know that I have tried to be realistic and honest during this pandemic mess.  I have agreed with parents...this is a terrible situation we are in.  I have shared with all of you...there is no good answer, this is hard, and the joy of teaching is getting harder and harder to find each day.  

You have heard from me that we all need to stop saying when we are available and start saying when we are unavailable.  It's ok to be unavailable, to not respond to emails late into the night or super early in the morning.  You already don't make the money you deserve, let's stop working 24/7 and bringing the hourly rate down for yourself more and more.  (At this point, are we actually in the negative with our pay with the hours worked?!). 

Yes, will I still try to share inspirational videos with you about how this job is a calling?  Yep.  But at the end of the day...it actually is a job.  Do your students and families know you care about them even if you closed the laptop and went to bed early instead of commenting late into the night on Seesaw or Google Classroom.  Yep.  Do I wish I could take away the stress and the anxiety and the pressure that educators naturally put on themselves.  Yep.  Does the world know you love teaching even though you might not be able to be in your classroom right now?  I love the end line from the author of the post: "You can care about your kids and love teaching and still leave school when school ends."  

There is no award for working the longest school day.  There is no bonus being given out for fastest email response.  Who am I kidding...there is no bonus.  Period. Ever.  That's pretty much the opposite of positive thinking.  But it is realistic thinking.  I certainly don't mean to bring anyone down.  I feel like as a leader I am learning how to walk a very fine line.  How do I lead people through a pandemic?  How do I support everyone and appreciate all of you while also not sugar coating the situation?  How do I remain transparent about a fairly bleak picture of the school year while also trying to calm anxieties and reassure everyone that we will get through it?

I love my Sirius Radio and the other day I was listening to my 90s on 9.  Hootie and the Blowfish came on with the song "Hold My Hand."  The beginning lines of that song have been on repeat in my head...

"With a little love and some tenderness,

We'll walk above the water,

We'll rise above the mess.

With a little peace and some harmony,

We'll take the world together,

We'll take them by the hand.

'Cause I've got a hand for you..."

I will continue to offer you all love and support, along with a regular dose of reality.  I will continue to remind you about self care while also recognizing that none of us can meditate our way out of this current situation and not answering an email tonight really just means it will need to be answered tomorrow.  

I've got a hand for you, please reach out if you need to grab on.  Please keep sharing the text message memes that show how not fun any of this is.  And I promise to continue to answer you honestly in emails or over the phone when you call me in tears and say you don't think you can do this anymore.  I will give you real talk and not tell you it will get better.  You know that I will do what I can to lighten the load, to relieve the stress, to shield you, to reduce the work, to advocate for you.  

This year is a mess. But we will rise above the mess.  You might not feel that way or see it happening, but it will happen.

We will rise above the mess.

Currently reading:

I started reading the book Blended by Sharon Draper. This is the same author who wrote the amazing book Out of My Mind. This book is about a girl who is the daughter of a biracial couple who end up going through a divorce. The book is about how Isabella deals with divorce and racial identity.

I was excited to get two new books in the mail.  One was a recommendation from a principal friend in Illinois.  It's called Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators.  And it comes with a workbook that should be arriving in the mail this week.  Hoping to be able to share some nuggets from this book with all of you.

Another book that came in the mail is called 180 Days of Self Care for Busy Educators.  I am looking forward to working my way through this book and sharing self care tips with all of you.

Events this week:

Wednesday - Half day, STAR Math and ELA self-directed training, 2:00 Prodigy PD, October birthday books available in the lobby

Friday - Parent survey due for remote vs hybrid decision and transportation plans

Staff Check In:

Feel free to fill out this optional Monday morning staff check-in form.

Check it out: 
A video of Colby Sharp sharing some read aloud titles for upper elementary of you are looking for new read aloud options: 
                        
                                                                                    Amen!