Monday, October 11, 2021

Education Fantasy vs. Reality

 Principal ponderings...

Have you experienced the Facebook phenomenon?  Or Instagram envy?  You know when you are scrolling through your social media feeds and you see people posting these images that look like perfect worlds.  Perfect smiles in perfectly cropped images during a perfect moment in time.  Social media has certainly given us the chance to paint pictures that seem like everything is wonderful.  

As the chief storyteller of my school, I have spent years trying to share the story of the schools I am leading.  I feel like it's important for the outside world to see into our classrooms and our hallways.  I always want to share the positive things going on in our schools.  And there are a lot of positives that make it easy to share.  Lots of pictures of smiling kids, teachers working with students, students and staff doing amazing things every day.

But this year I worry that as I try to tell the story of our school, I am presenting more of a fantasy world than the reality that we are living each day.  The picture of the teacher working with the small group looks great, but it doesn't show the child having a breakdown 10 minutes before the picture was snapped.  The pictures of kids laughing on the playground doesn't show the lunch time behaviors that were happening before they ran outside to play.  The pictures of the teachers and staff welcoming students with a smile and a high five in the morning don't show the tears of exhaustion and stress that were wiped away quickly before the doors opened.

Educators and school leaders are putting on a brave face, but this year, the real picture of this year, is not a pretty one.  Social media is not showing the reality of what this year is like.  More than once, I have said to peers that I feel like this year is worse than last year.  How is that possible?!  We survived last year.  We crawled across the finish line last year.  It wasn't supposed to be like this this year.  I said to someone that Monday felt like a month.  The reality is that people wanted to believe the Facebook phenomenon; we all wanted to believe that being back in school, even with masks, would be better, would be almost back to normal.  We wanted the perfectly cropped pictures with the perfectly cropped moments in time.  But that's just not reality.  There are so many imperfect moments before and after those photoshopped moments.  

People who are not living in those in between imperfect moments with us, people who are not educators, do not understand what we are experiencing.  And while I am not going to start snapping pictures of teachers' exhausted faces or kids crying or students throwing food or kids falling asleep or adults and kids visiting the nurse because they are anxious and stressed, I am going to try to make sure I am painting those realistic pictures in other ways.  We need to share the real story with families and with people making decisions for our schools.

While I always love taking selfies with kids, I avoid taking selfies of myself feeling defeated or discouraged because my job as an educator seems impossible this year.  I don't need a selfie to show the bags under my eyes or the added worry lines on my forehead.  (Lucky for me, I have brutally honest children in my home who ask why my skin is saggy!) But I can write about the real struggles.  I can advocate for support for the real needs of our students and staff.  I can acknowledge that I see the real pictures that don't get posted to social media.  

This is not going to be an easy year.  Not that any year in education is ever easy.  But we have a Herculean task in front of us.  People expect us to pick up the pieces and recreate the images that were created before we experienced a pandemic.  The timelines that we followed before, the curriculum trajectories that we worked our way through, the business of doing school that teachers made look easy.  People think those are all able to just be done because we are "back in school."  And if we were living in the fantasy social media world of education, they would be doable.  But we are not living in that world.  We are living in the reality world of education.  The ugly picture/bad hair/weird face world.  The blurred image world.  The pictures that you delete and don't post world.  

Educators everywhere.  I see you.  The real, exhausted, stressed, anxious you.  The social media pictures don't tell the full story; they don't even tell a fraction of the story.  

Currently reading:

I am still enjoying reading Willodeen.  Hopefully I will be done with it by Tuesday so I can recommend it to some students at the book fair!  I am also diving into the book Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom.  Hoping to have some interesting information to share with K-2 from this book. 

I got this beautiful picture book in the mail recently.  Love how it tells the story of immigrants coming to America and the diverse garden that has been created as a resulted. 

I got a new biographical picture book called Jump At the Sun which is the story of Zora Neale Hurston.  She was an author I loved reading and studying in college. 

Events this week:

Monday - Indigenous People's Day, No School

Tuesday - Book Fair in the library all week

Wednesday - CST Meeting @ 8:15, Flu Shot Clinic at Mountview

Thursday - School Picture Day!

Saturday - PTA playground clean-up/weeding from 8-11, Book Fair open to families from 9-11

Sunday - Book Fair open to families from 2-4

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had fun playing Fishy Fishy Cross the Ocean with 2nd graders. 

  • The Tuesday afternoon Chess Club is a big hit!  Hopefully we will be able to run more sessions during the winter. 

  • Have you tried out our new outdoor seating options!?  Mrs. Bercume's class took advantage of the beautiful weather towards the end of the week and did some reading and discussion outside. 

  • Thank you to the specialists, paras, and a few parents who helped us have a fun mini field day on Friday. It was a beautiful day and the kids seemed to have a great time playing outside. 

  • Thank you Lindsay for adding the perfect saying in the middle of our wall of family photos. If you have not sent me a family photo yet, send one my way, still looking to add more! 

Check it out:

Check out this post about Play as Healing from Pandemic Trauma.

Our core value this month is kindness.  Check it out, you could publish a kindness book with your class for free!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Rainy Day Inspiration

 Principal ponderings...

This week's post is not going to be some deep thoughts or a serious topic to read more about and ponder.

This week's post is simply some inspiration for you.

We all need positive affirmations, especially on a rainy Monday in October.

So here you go...

You are enough.

You are strong.

You are patient.

You are dedicated.

You are kind.

You are hard working.

You are a teacher.  You've got this.

Currently reading:

I am enjoying listening in my car to The Midnight Library.  It took me a little bit to get into it, but now I look forward to when I get to drive somewhere by myself and listen to a chapter.  Thank you Patty O. for the recommendation! 

I am excited to read a new book by Katherine Applegate called Willodeen.  I love her books Wishtree and The One and Only Ivan so I am hoping I will enjoy this one. 

Events this week:

Monday - Welcome back Shoshana! Laura Ramos will be out, Test and Stay DESE staff person starts in the nurse's office

Tuesday - Laura Ramos will be out, Chess Club @ 3:30 in the library

Wednesday - Laura Ramos will be out, Liz at Glenwood from 8-9:00, Grade level team time, SIMCO Meet4ing @ 3:45, Flu Shot Clinic at the High School 1:00-5:00

Thursday - Book Fair set up in the library after school, Liz in Admin meeting from 8-10

Friday - Teacher Preview of the Book Fair, Fall Field Day during specials!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Play day was so much fun! 

  • Love seeing some Choose to Be Nice gear showing up!  There will be a 50% off sale for participating schools coming up towards the end of October.

  • Caught Mrs. Kuniholm's class making wind socks! 
  • Loved seeing 5th graders working together with their 1st grade buddies. 

  • Friday's Fall Social was so much fun!  Thank you PTA for organizing a great family event!

Check it out:

Monday, September 27, 2021

Lost and Found

 Principal ponderings...

It's no surprise that I love to read and love to talk about reading.  I am excited that I have several literacy talks coming up during the month of October, including a presentation for the Literacy for All Conference.  During my talks, I often share a quote from the author Alex Gino:

I believe it with my whole soul.  Books really do save lives.  This year, this month, this week...I am thinking there are many educators and students who need books more than ever.  And they don't just need any book.  They need the right book at the right time.  

I love that we get to be part of the "lost and found" affect of books.  Finding the right book so that a kid can get lost in the's the best!  My foster son is a kid who gets lost in books.  For him, books are a calming factor.  His impulsivity, his inability to keep his body still, it all magically goes away as soon as he gets lost in a book.  I wish I could get as lost in a book as he does.  I feel like this year we as adults need to remember to find time for ourselves to get lost in a book.  It's ok to step away from the to do list, from our responsibilities, and just get lost in a book.  And not a professional development book.  Really step away and read a book just for you.

If we get lost in a book, if we encourage our kids to get lost in books, sometimes we will get lucky enough to find ourselves.  Sometimes our students will find themselves in books.  And that's just magical.  Recently, I got to witness the moment when one of our students found themselves in a book I was reading aloud.  As soon as the child realized that the book took place in Vietnam, where her family came from, she lit up and shot her hand in the air to share with the rest of the class her connection to the book.  That moment was awesome, especially since this student is typically very quiet in class.  But it got better.  Her teacher shared with me that the student went home and because she loved the book so much, she got her parents to order the book that night and then she wrote all about it in her Friday letter at school.  One book.  One amazing book did all that for one child.  Those are the moments that we need to be striving for this year.  

COVID and all that comes with it continues to mentally and physically wear us all down.  But books can help.  Books can lift us up.  Books can help us escape.  Books can be a comfort, a security blanket.  Books can wake us up, energize us.  Books can save us.

How will you help your students get lost and found in a book?
Have you scheduled a time for yourself to get lost and found in a book yet?

Currently reading:

I was able to visit my favorite bookstore earlier in the week.  I picked up some new books, including some awesome picture books.  Love the message in the book Be Strong; we must find strength in the unlikely places.  This book is by the author who wrote Be Kind.

I was so excited to get a copy of Amanda Gorman's picture book, Change Sings: A Children's Anthem.  Can't wait to share this one with kids of all ages!

I am in love with the book A Walk in the Words.  This amazing book is for any kid who has been labeled a "reluctant reader" or a "slow reader" or "dyslexic."  Readers can be inspired by the author's own story of struggling with reading, taking his time, learning to love words.  I will be recording a read aloud of this book to share with all of our students. 

Events this week:

Monday - CPI training for some staff members, new dismissal plan starts, Laura at Paxton from 10-1, coverage during extra library for common planning time, 4th grade sharing Curriculum Night videos with families this week

Tuesday - CPI training for some staff members, Chess Club in the library 3:30-4:30, 5th Grade Meet the Teacher 6:00-6:30, 3rd Grade Meet the Teacher 6:30-7:00

Wednesday - Global School Play Day at Mayo!, Half day - dismissal at 12:30, no lunch served, bag lunches available, We will meet in the library at 1:00 for some time together before we split up into grade level teams

Friday - We made it to October!  5th Grade Student Council applications due, PTA Fall Social from 6:00-7:00, STAR assessments 1st-5th should be completed

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I have had fun covering classes in library.  Loved catching these two boys reading with each other. 

  • 5th graders in Mrs. Baird's class working hard during math lesson about decimals. 

Check it out:

I saw this tweet and immediately fell in love with it.  We must not let Mondays take our Sundays!

I am going to try to participate in #TeachWriteober21 where I write in some way every day of the month of October.  Maybe some of you want to join me?


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.