Monday, September 30, 2013

Climbing mountains

Principal ponderings...
I think it is interesting when life and my professional world collide sometimes.  This happened this month as I have been reading the latest edition of Educational Leadership.  The topic is 'Resilience and Learning.'  The month of September has certainly been a test of resilience for me.  And with the Middlemiss family loss last week, the resilience of many staff in the building was put to the test.  I had been formulating in my head what I would write this morning, but before I could start, I had to notify everyone of Phyllis Maynard's loss.  And as I sit here typing, I am finding it hard to be resilient.

But I will hang in.  I have stood back up after being knocked down a few times.  I have no choice but to continue to try harder.  With so much recent sadness, I know it is difficult for all of you to remain strong; however, I do believe that together we will pick ourselves up and carry on.  Life has presented us with an extremely important teachable moment.  We want our kids to persevere, to keep going when the going gets tough.  One message that came from the Educational Leadership magazine is that "resilience is a process, not a involves how we move on a positive trajectory of success and health in the midst of adversity, trauma, and everyday stress."  As we work on getting through our September traumas and stress, let's remember that we are modeling resilience for our students.

So far, my favorite article in the magazine is titled, "I Can Climb the Mountain."  It talks about hope being an important component of resilience.  The author, Maddie Witter, discusses several practices that teachers can incorporate into your daily instruction to help students become more resilient.  She mentions things like building stamina, inspiring a growth mind-set, and incorporating lots of positive interactions.  I could relate to her discussion about climbing a mountain.  This summer, we did some hiking in the White Mountains of NH.  My husband is much better at hiking than I am and he is able to get up the mountains quicker.  I found that while I was hiking, I focused most of my attention on the hiking trail.  I tried not to really look ahead.  As I did this, and took one step at a time, the miles that we hiked seemed to go by faster.  Eventually, when we came to the clearing at the top of the hike, I did look out ahead and the view was absolutely stunning.  Witter says that students can climb mountains as well, as long as we help them "focus on the path, not the peak."

I am very glad to be saying goodbye to September today, and I'm looking forward to a fresh, new start in October.

Events this week:
Book Fair will be next door in Rm 136 all this week.
Tuesday - 4th grade from FR and SU will be working with reading coaches in the am, 3rd grade will be with them in the pm
Wednesday - 2nd grade will be doing reading work in the am, 1st grade will be in the pm, staff meeting at 3:30, guest speakers will be one of our new parents and Rachel Mead from the Groton Police
Thursday - Kindergarten will be doing reading work in the am, 6:00-8:00, evening book fair event sponsored by the PTA

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:

  • I walked into 3 different 3rd grade classrooms last week and everywhere I looked, kids were reading!  Teachers and paras were meeting one on one and talking about books and everyone else had their nose in a book.
  • Mrs. Potter was talking to her class about finding a comfortable spot in the classroom to read.
  • When I was in Mrs. Spiczka's class reading a story, the students were pointing out all the lively letters that they had already learned in the first month of school.
  • Mrs. Taylor's kindergarten students were fully engaged in a Scholastic News lesson being shown on the mimio board...all about Johnny Appleseed.
  • I did not see this with my own eyes, but I heard about it...Rob Crowley has been hosting his own Evernote trainings with teachers who are new to the evaluation model.  Thank you Rob!
  • Mr. Coronis has posted a post it note activity in the staff room.  People have been stopping by to jot down some nice thoughts about each other.  Thank you Mark!
  • Teachers have been talking about and working on their classroom libraries.  I am including some pictures that I snapped throughout the building.

Check it out:
A article about writing for an audience:
Here is a blog by a K teacher who has 1:1 iPads in her classroom:
Interesting presentation focusing on digital portfolios for elementary students:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Yes, I am an education information addict.

Principal Ponderings...
They say admitting it is the first step.  So I have a confession to make...I am an education information addict.  I have always loved to read professional books, whether they were about education in general or whether they were specific topics, such as the teaching of writing or working with children with disabilities.  There is nothing quite like frantically opening the Amazon box on my porch that contains brand new books or sitting in the education aisle of Barnes and Noble, getting lost in the titles.  My bookshelves in my office and at home are full of books, books that are full of information about education.  Yes, I know it is a problem, but there could be worse addictions!

Within the past year, my addiction has been fueled in a new way.  I jumped on the Twitter bandwagon last year, and have been enjoying the ride!  It's one thing to be able to read a good professional book that makes you think and wonder about education.  It's an entirely different thing to be part of a PLN (professional learning network) that stretches from my home in Shrewsbury to places like Wisconsin, Alabama, Florida, or even overseas to England or Germany.  Now I can not only read blogs, articles, thoughts about all aspects of education, but I can actually connect with peers who are trying to do the same thing I am trying to do...provide the best education for kids.  Just last week, I participated in a webinar with a principal from Wisconsin, a principal from New York and an instructional coach from Iowa focusing on the topic of 'Coaching for Instructional Improvement.'  I follow all three of them on twitter and have been able to share ideas that we use in our school as well as gather ideas from them.  Since I had a lot of time on the couch last week to recover, I also participated in a few Twitter chats.  These are scheduled online discussions that you can either simply read what people are saying or you can comment and participate in the chats.  Some of the ones I participated in last week were: #educoach on Wednesday night where the discussion centered around how administrators can use Evernote as an organizational tool, and also on Wednesday night was #sbgchat which is a weekly conversation about standards based grading (Wednesday's topic centered around how to help parents understand standards based grading).  A few weeks ago I participated in a great chat called #titletalk, and I learned about some great new children's literature titles that I had not read yet.

I will continue to share information that I gather from Twitter with all of you, but I recommend that you check it out on your own as well.  You can very easily sign up at  You create a twitter handle that starts with the @ symbol.  My twitter handle is @clorn8d1and you can find me and follow me!  Andy also set up a special hashtag for GDRSD so you can find other staff in the district who include #gdrsdchat in their tweets.  Here is a good little cheat sheet about twitter for newbies:
I will continue to feed my addiction to education information...and I hope you all will join me!

Events This Week:
Monday, Tuesday and Friday - Students will attend the fire safety program during gym class
Wednesday - 4th grade instrumental rental night from 6:00-7:00

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:
Unfortunately, since I spent much of my week on the couch, I do not have too much that I was able to actually see in person!

  • Family Fun Night was a huge success.  Thanks to the PTA for organizing this, and for changing the way we ran it.  Dismissal was much smoother and parents and kids were more relaxed at the event.  Thank you to those staff members who came out to the track for part of the event.  Parents and kids were excited to see all of you.  I personally loved the entertainment, especially the singer! ;)  Fun was had by all.
  • Several teachers attended the optional SMART Goals training on Tuesday.  Hopefully you picked up some pointers to help you work through planning out your goals.
  • Several teachers stopped by the lab on Thursday afternoon to practice using Evernote.  I appreciate those of you who are already Evernote users who were there to help your colleagues.  I have seen that many of you have entered notes already into your notebooks.  Way to go!
  • I was not able to attend, but I heard it through the grapevine that the lab teachers had a great day with our TLA consultant, Joia.  They got to watch a demonstration lesson in Mrs. Fournier's classroom and then discuss how it went.  Mrs. Fournier said that the next day her students asked, "Could the teachers tell how much we love reading?"  How awesome is that?!

Check It Out:
If you have not watched a clip of Kid you go!  I love this kid!
Here is an interesting opinion piece from the LA Times written by a Boston teacher about not being afraid of the Common Core:,0,4172556.story
Here is a great blog post from a teacher I love to follow on Twitter; she talks about how we should challenge our students to make us proud instead of punishing them.  She is also the teacher that created the Global Read Aloud project.

And I will leave you with this great quote:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It Takes a School...

Principal Ponderings...
As I lay in a hospital bed in the emergency room Thursday night, thinking about Open House happening without me, it became clear what my Monday reflection article would be about.  I watched the minutes tick by and thought about the parents listening to teachers talk about curriculum.  I thought about parents getting signed up on iParent.  I thought about which parents were the last ones in the building and how they were probably being "encouraged" to finish their conversations.  I thought about teachers finishing up a very long day and finally being able to drive home.  And as much as I was upset that I was not there, I realized that Open House happened, without me.

It's funny, earlier on Thursday, I had been in Mrs. Taylor's kindergarten classroom to do a read aloud and meet the students.  When asked if they knew what I did, one student said, "You run the school."  I smiled and told him that no, I did not run the school.  That would be too difficult of a job to run the school by myself.  I told all of the students in that class that luckily, Florence Roche has so many wonderful teachers and staff, and that, together, we all run the school.  Little did I know how the reality of that statement would become even more clear to me by the end of the day.

So now, I am sitting here on my couch typing this, stuck at home.  Thank you for the flowers, the chocolates (my husband and stepson were especially appreciative of those!), the emails, the positive thoughts.  As difficult as it is for me, I am listening to my body and resting and recovering from surgery.  This is definitely a new level of exhaustion that I am experiencing.  You all know how hard it is for me to not be at school!  But the great thing is...the students have all of you to keep the school running smoothly.  It is comforting to have complete trust in the people that I work with.  I hope to be back on my feet soon, although I may not be the fastest one through the hallways for a while. ;)

I am stealing and changing the phrase "It takes a village..."  Over the last few days, I have learned that it takes a whole school.  Thank goodness I have all of you.  And thank goodness our students have all of you.  Have a great week!

**That same student who I quoted earlier...when I said that I was glad that Mrs. Taylor let me come in and read to her class...he said, "Well of course she said yes to you coming in, she always has to say yes to anything you ask!"  Laura, I will remember that, and always expect a yes from you!**

Events This Week:
Tuesday - Administrators, coaches and school psychologists will be attending a training on district determined measures (DDMs) from 12:30-3:30 at the PAC
Wednesday - Staff meeting from 3:30-5:00
Thursday - Curriculum half day, lab teachers will be working with our TLA consultant, Evernote help will be provided in the computer lab, Genius Bar with tech dept at the high school
Friday - PTA event...Family Fun Night 4:00-6:00, staff are welcome to attend, Mr. Garden will be singing!

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:

  • Every day our school nurse takes care of all of our students.  But last week, Lorinda dealt with 2 emergency situations in one day.  We had a child who fell in the classroom and had to be brought to the hospital.  Then we had a child have an allergic reaction, and Lorinda had to administer an epi pen.  The child was then taken to the hospital.  I just wanted to recognize Lorinda for doing the right thing and keeping everyone safe.  It was a stressful day for everyone, but in the end, our students were ok because she was there to take care of them.  Thank you Lorinda!
  • Mr Smith was leading his 3rd graders in a writing brainstorm during snack.  Using the ELMO, he was demonstrating how to make a list of writing topic ideas.
  • 1st graders in Mrs. Cragg's class were listening to one of my favorite stories, Two Bad Ants.
  • I saw some great anchor charts up in Mrs. Fournier's classroom.  I could tell from the charts that her students had talked about different kinds of books that they like to read, and they had discussed challenging, easy and just right books.

Check It Out:
This link is an inspirational talk by Rita Pierson called "Every Kid Needs a Champion."  Give yourself 8 minutes and watch it.

If you have not read the book The One and Only Ivan yet, you need to!  This is a great blog entry about a teacher and her experience with reading it to her class.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Care is just as important as Core

Principal Ponderings...

In my weekend reading, I came across several blogs and articles that focused on the same topic: the importance of building relationships with students.  Since reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this summer, I have been thinking a lot about relationships.  Something Stephen Covey said in his book has stuck with me: "As a teacher, as well as a parent, I have found that the key to the ninety-nine is the one-particularly the one that is testing the patience and the good humor of the many.  It is the love and the discipline of the one student, the one child, that communicates love for the others.  It's how you treat the one that reveals how you regard the ninety-nine, because everyone is ultimately a one."  Of course, in my role, I am usually thinking about how I interact with all of you and how I interact with parents.  But this weekend, I started thinking more about how we interact with our students and the relationships we form with them.

When I think back to teachers that I had in school, I really can't remember most of them.  And, believe it or not, I don't remember their well-planned lessons or their knowledge of child development or how they differentiated instruction.  But the ones who do come to mind?  My first grade teacher, Mr. Page, because I remember that he took an interest in the fact that my baby brother was born that year and let me share with the class a poem I wrote about the whole experience.  He even let me call him from the hospital to share the exciting news!  Another one was Mrs. Simmons, my 6th grade teacher who got to know me and my interests.  I was the only new student in the class, and she helped me make new friends and also encouraged me to write since she knew how much I enjoyed writing.  Of course, there was also my second grade teacher, Mrs. Watson, who definitely made me cry on more than one occasion and who rarely let us use the bathroom.  I had many more teachers, but it's the ones who had an impact on me emotionally that I remember.  I am not saying that what we teach our students is not important.  We do need to continue to dive deep into the Common Core Standards and make sure that we are challenging our students to grow as learners.  But as you get to know your new class of students this year and as you plan and prepare lessons, make sure part of your lesson plans include how you will get to know each and every one of your students.  Make sure that you are building relationships with them because that is what will help them be successful in school.  When your students know that you care about them and believe in them, I guarantee that they will learn more and perform better.  Literacy, math, science, social studies, yes, the curriculum is a key component of what we do each day, but relationships, they are the true core of our curriculum.

Here is an interesting article from "The Washington Post" that certainly got me thinking about this topic:

Events this week:
Tuesday - Fire drill at 10:00
Thursday - Open House, 6:00-8:00

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:

  • John Wiesner on the floor of the music room making kindergartners giggle and sing.
  • 3rd graders in Mrs. Guernsey's class writing bio poems.
  • Teachers and students calmly handling our "smoking light" incident.
  • Teachers taking their laptops and tech questions next door to the middle school for the first of many weekly 'Genius Bar' help sessions.
  • Anne Marie and Shaunna sharing helpful information about specific behavior plans with all of us at the staff meeting.

Check it Out:
Here are 10 ways to use writing and speaking to help students develop a deeper understanding of math:
An app that helps you assess reading fluency!
Celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration!  September 15 is International Dot Day! Such a great book:

One more thing...
I have chatted with many of you about how you are reorganizing or rethinking your classroom libraries. I know that in order to make some of the changes that people have been talking about, many of you will need to order some organizational materials.  If you are redesigning your classroom library and could use some new bins or containers, let me know.  I want to help you make books even more accessible in your classrooms!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Principal Ponderings...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I can tell you that I certainly slept well last week!  Our first few days flew by, and I found myself exhausted by the time I came home each night.  Even though I think it will take the adults some time to get back into the swing of things, it was amazing to see all of our students jump back into the familiar routine of school.  I received a lot of positive feedback from both parents and staff in regards to our new arrival process that we implemented.  Parents said they enjoyed being able to see the class lined up together, as well as being able to see the classroom teacher.  Several teachers told me that it was nice to be able to bring the whole class in at once and give those first key directions to the group as a whole, instead of having to repeat it over and over as kids filed into the room.  Thank you for trying something new!  And for being understanding when I completely forgot to do announcements on the second day!  This week, we will resume our normal arrival process.  We will all need to make sure that we are available in the halls in the morning in case some students still need directions.

I want to thank everyone for being patient as the team of SPED teachers and I worked and reworked the para schedules.  On Friday afternoon, we readjusted the schedules in order to try and cover everyone.  Some teachers may be short some minutes, but everyone who needs para coverage at least has close to the full amount that they should be getting.  Hopefully these will be the last changes to classroom support that we need to make.  Unfortunately, we are still trying to make the recess and lunch duty schedule work so there may be more changes as we work on the coverage.  Thank you for being flexible and understanding.

I mentioned at our Monday staff meeting last week that we are forming a partnership with Tyngsborough and Dracut elementary schools.  We are all three working with TLA for reader's workshop, but are at different points in the process.  We will be bringing teachers together once a month to collaborate and talk about instructional practice in regards to literacy.  The first meeting will take place at Tyngsborough Elementary School at 4:00 on Monday, September 30.  Any teacher that wants to attend is welcome.  Please let me know if you are planning on attending.

Events this week:
Monday - Labor Day, No school!
Wednesday - Staff Meeting, 3:30-5:00
Friday - Congrats!  You made it through a 4 day week!

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:

  • In Mrs. Nissi's 4th grade class, I saw students brainstorming and writing personal goals for the upcoming school year.
  • In Mrs. Hoke's 2nd grade class, I saw students, teachers and paras building the classroom community by singing and dancing together.
  • Mrs. Kineen getting kids moving and running and sweating in P.E.!
  • First graders in Mrs. Riley's classroom starting the day writing on some great lined mini white boards.
  • Kindergartners eating lunch for the first time in the cafeteria!
  • Mrs. Fulreader on the ground face to face with a new kindergartner, comforting him and helping him transition away from mom into the line on the playground.

Check it out:
Have you heard of the Global Read Aloud project?  This is an optional project that runs from September 30th to November 8th, and it mainly involves reading a certain book to your students.  Take a look at the website:
From the website: Why participate?
"This is meant to make the world a little smaller, to open our eyes to the rest of the world and look at all of our shared experiences.  How phenomenal for a child to know that the same book they are reading is being read in classrooms across the globe."
If you are interested, let me know and we can put together an order for the books.

Strategies for helping kids become better listeners:

Why Instilling a Love of School Should be Your Highest Priority:

New Beginnings

Principal ponderings…
New Beginnings - As I sit here in my office listening to the sound of the clock ticking behind me on the wall, anxiously awaiting the start of the school year, I just can’t believe it is already that time again.  Back in June, Labor Day seemed so far away.  Back to school shopping was not on anyone’s mind. The summer vacation relaxation and rejuvenation plans were just getting started.  And then all of a sudden, it was August.  Time for those back to school rituals to begin.  Time to join all the other families who are combing the school supply aisles.  Time to pick out those first day of school outfits.  Time to set up the classrooms.  Time to set the alarm clocks again.  For me, there is a comfort in those August rituals.  The first day of school is our chance to hit the restart button.  It’s a chance for new friendships, new experiences, and new knowledge.  There is something exciting about the first day of school and the anticipation of a great school year ahead.  I still get butterflies in my stomach the morning of the first day!  This morning I am looking forward to my ‘new beginning’ here at Florence Roche.  I am looking forward to growing and learning alongside all of you.  Cheers to a productive, positive, challenging and exciting school year!

Events this week:
Monday - Technology Training 10:00 in the cafeteria
    All staff meeting 1:00 in the cafeteria
Tuesday - Para meeting at 9:30 in the library
    PTA luncheon begins at 12:00 in the cafeteria
    New Family Welcome at 2:00 in the gym, brief intro
                of staff, tour of the building
Wednesday - First day of school for 1st through 4th!  New   
                      line-up procedure on the playground
          Kindergarten bus run sessions at 11:00 and 12:15
Thursday - First day of school for all kindergartners!
Friday - Congrats!  First week back completed!

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:
* Many teachers came in on Friday afternoon to pick up their shiny, new laptops!
* Several teachers were already in setting up their classrooms.
* In the new literacy space, Grace has some great books on display...including a few that I want    
 to borrow and read, like Patricia MacLachlan’s Word After Word After Word.
* Dianna and added some extra special touches to the bathrooms in the teachers room. :)
* Florence Roche is now a wireless school!
* We have cameras in the lobby and a new monitor in the office.
*Our wonderful custodians were making sure every inch of the building was spotless.

Check it out:
Interesting article about rethinking classroom design