Sunday, February 23, 2014

What?! Vacation is over?!

Principal ponderings...
Hopefully everyone had a great week off.  While mine was busy with moving, at least it was a change from the regular routine and I am excited to be organizing my new home.  To start us off this week, I am not going to write a blog post.  Instead I will include some video clips to make you smile. (The truth brain is still switching back to work mode!)

This is hilarious.  Watch kids reenact some scenes from 2014 Oscar nominated films:
Here is a clip about how Kid President came to be:
And here is a non fiction rap I came across, created by students, for students!

Currently reading:
I would have loved to spend the vacation week reading lots of books, but I had to spend the week unpacking and moving into my new home.  Unpacking lots of boxes of books reminded me of my long list of books that I still need to read!  I don't think the movers were too happy with my multiple heavy boxes of books.  I did manage to start reading The Mighty Miss Malone.  Thank you Mrs. Roundtree for loaning it to me.  I finished reading Rules...can't wait for Cynthia Lord to visit our school next week!

Events this week:
Monday - Welcome back!  Hope you all had a restful, relaxing vacation.
Tuesday - Director of Pupil Personnel Services candidate visits the district, 4th grade author visit
Wednesday - Grade 1 chorus @2:25, School Council Meeting @3:30 in the library, School Committee Meeting at the high school @ 7:00
Friday - Grade 2 Abe Lincoln program @ 9:30, Jack and the Beanstalk in the PAC @ 7:00
Saturday - Jack and the Beanstalk in the PAC @ 7:00
Sunday - Jack and the Beanstalk in the PAC @ 2:00

Check it out:
Of course I love my 'to do' lists, but here is an interesting read about 'to don't' lists:
And since my week (as well as the next several weeks!) has been focused on organizing my stuff...
Quite an editorial piece titled 'You think you know what teachers do? Right? Wrong.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I want to be an instructional leader

Principal ponderings...

Dear Staff,
As we just passed the 100th day of school and are finishing up the 2nd trimester, I felt it was important to write a letter to all of you and tell you about one of my goals for the school year.  While I have been working on many different projects and plans during my first year as a principal, my number one goal has been and continues to an instructional leader.  Being an instructional leader is the most important aspect of my job.  I want to be helping all of you continue to grow professionally.  And the only way that happens is when I am in your classrooms on a regular basis.  I came home after a long day last week, and shared with my husband how frustrated I was from the day.  As I was talking to him, I realized something: the reason that I felt so lousy was because I had not stepped into a single classroom all day.  The next morning I blocked off the entire morning and walked through several classrooms.  It was a much better day.

To be an instructional leader, yes, I need to be in the classrooms, but it goes beyond just simply walking through.  I like to see both what you are teaching and how you are teaching it.  I also like to observe the students and observe the learning that is taking place.  I like to ask students what they are doing and if they know why they are doing it.  To be an instructional leader, besides walking through and observing, I also need to be providing feedback; feedback which will help everyone grow, staff and students.

Just like all of you, I want to keep growing and improving through professional development.  I recently signed up for a 21 day instructional leadership challenge.  Every day I get a short video clip sent to me with some advice and usually a task to try out.  I am also connected with principals and other administrators from across the country who signed up for the same challenge.  Together, we discuss how to make walk throughs and observations more beneficial for students and staff.  I have also been participating in a High Performance Instructional Leadership Network since the summer.  Dianna and I both participate in this network where we engage in monthly webinars about being effective leaders.

Even with everything that is going on with the budget, my goal is to visit each classroom at least once every other week.  I know many of you are used to seeing me in classrooms, but I want to remind you that I don't want to disrupt learning by stepping into your class.  Please don't feel like you have to stop what you are doing or have the students stop what they are doing to talk to me.  I like to be able to slip in and not stop the flow of learning.  And after I have popped into your class, hopefully you will get feedback in some format, whether it's a quick note, an email, something in Evernote or a face to face conversation.  And sometimes, if I have not given you feedback after a classroom visit, it's ok for you to come find me.  I always love to talk about teaching and learning!

Looking forward to seeing you in action!  Thank you for making this school a learning environment where all students can learn and where we can learn from each other.

Liz, your fearless instructional leader! ;)

Currently reading:
I started reading Rules by Cynthia Lord, the author who is coming to talk to our 3rd and 4th graders in March.  It is reminding me of Out of My Mind, the difference being it is told from the perspective of a sibling of a child who has autism.  I'm enjoying it so far.  I also started reading a new book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  It's written by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, who is ranked on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.

Events this week:
One more week before another vacation week.  Can't believe how fast the school year is flying by!
Monday - Have a Heart Campaign will be taking place all this week.
Tuesday - Grade 2 and Multi-age rehearsal @1:00
Wednesday - TLA consultant working with lab teachers, Grade 2 and Multi-age School Show in the PAC @ 1:30, Staff Meeting @3:30 (Dr. Bent will be attending), School Committee Meeting and Budget Hearing at the PAC @7:00
Thursday - Elementary curriculum half day (Grade level teams will have PLC time), Grade 2 & Multi-age Chorus Concert @ 7:00
Friday - Happy Valentine's Day and enjoy the vacation week!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I caught some of Mr. Rider's students doing some partner reading.
  • Mrs. Margolius's first graders were doing 'turn and talk' after listening to a read aloud.  
  • Mrs. Taylor's kindergartners were talking about what good readers look like.  She was sharing some photographs where she had caught students sitting quietly and reading.
Check it out:
Some ways to stay connected to the Olympics in class:
Top 10 Practices for Principals to Promote Literacy:  I'd like to think that I am doing many of these! And there are some that I need to add to my to do list!
Kid President gives advice to someone on their first day here in the world...
Mrs. Kineen played this song for me the other day and I want to pass it along to all of you.  You can't help but dance along to this tune.  And if you watch the see all sorts of people dancing!   Hopefully this song can put a smile on your face and some pep in your step as we start this week... 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...How Does Your Library Grow?

Principal ponderings...

One of our goals this year is to focus on improving our classroom libraries and providing more independent reading time for our students.  I know recently grade level teams had the chance to have some conversation around classroom libraries with the reading coaches.  I have also had several conversations with teachers, and recently I spent some time conducting informal assessments of the lab teachers' classroom libraries.  It's great to see the progress we have made in just half a school year!  Mrs. Potter was just telling me the other day that her students have been reading non fiction during independent reading time, but they were asking her for more time in the day to read some of their fiction books.  Kids asking for more reading awesome is that?!  By developing their reading stamina, implementing a consistent reader's workshop model with significant time for independent reading, and allowing for lots of choice within the classroom library, those 4th grade students in Mrs. Potter's class have developed a love of reading.  Plus, they realize from the environment created in their classroom and their teacher's modeling, that reading is important and valued.  This isn't just happening in 4th grade.  I was in Mrs. Taylor's kindergarten class the other day, and several students were proud of their classroom library and excited to tell me about the different choices of books they had in their room.  Kindergarteners were choosing books and going up to other students and saying, "Hey, do you want to read this book with me?"  Again, awesome stuff happening with reading in our school.

Some of you have already made changes to your library.  Some of you have read articles I shared over the summer, and talked with your peers about your classroom library.  I encourage all of you to keep having those conversations with each other.  Come chat with me...I love to talk books!  Seek out Grace and ask her about ways to improve your classroom library.  Stop into one of the lab teachers' classrooms and take a look at their libraries.  Ask them about how they organized their bins.  Ask them about leveling some of the books.  (Did you know we have parent volunteers who are already eagerly helping some teachers level books using the Fountas and Pinnell website that I purchased for us?)  The lab teacher have done a lot of work to get their libraries organized and running smoothly, where students utilize the classroom library on a daily basis and take pride in their books.  They know that they still need to keep adding books to their libraries, but they all have a great start, so make sure to utilize their knowledge!

Here are a few short articles about the importance of classroom libraries and advice for what to include in them: (Did you know that by simply having a library in the classroom, close to the students, one study found that time spent reading increased by 60%!?)  Some great visuals on Pinterest!

"To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul."

Our classrooms are our students' homes for 6 hours a day.  Does your classroom have soul?

Currently reading:

This week I spent some time reading some of the great picture books that the PTA bought to add to classroom libraries and our school library.  One of the books is called Those Shoes.  It's a wonderful story about a young boy who learns that what he has in his life is worth much more than things that he wants.  Another great book I read was called Battle Bunny.  This book was supposed to be about a birthday bunny, but through the magic of writing over words and adding to the becomes a completely different story.  It's a book that will certainly motivate our young storytellers!
Check out this video where the illustrator explains how he put together the drawings in the book:
I also read a book called Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.  This is one of the those books that remind us it's ok to be different and the illustrations are awesome!  I can see our young students begging to have this story read aloud.  Here is the author talking about his book:

I picked a book back up this weekend, and I was glad I made myself finish it.  It was called Lighting Their Fires: How Parents and Teachers Can Raise Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World.  The author, Rafe Esquith, is a fifth grade teacher who has amazingly high expectations for his students.  The book is written about his trip to a Dodgers-Cardinals baseball game with some of his students, and throughout the innings, he shares terrific advice for teachers and parents on how to raise thoughtful, honorable, successful students.  I absolutely recommend this book!

Events this week:
Tuesday - 2nd grade public library trip (Miln and Benkley)
Wednesday - Kindergarten enrichment: Nashua River Animals in Winter, Grade 2 and Multi-age Chorus practice @2:20, Staff meeting @3:30, Dr. Bent will be attending
Thursday - Report Card Committee Meeting @ 3:30
Friday - Grade 2 and multi-age chorus practice @2:20

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Mrs. McEvoy's 2nd graders were enjoying the poem "How to Talk to Your Snowman."
  • Mrs. Wilkins was reading aloud a story about Chinese New Year to her class and discussing what a narrative non fiction book is like.
  • Mr. Coronis and Mrs. Smith were working with students on understanding the relationship between multiplication and division.  The room was buzzing with eager mathematicians!

  • Mrs. Wenz's students were starting the day off by having two confident students run the morning meeting.

Check it out:
Many of you know that I don't have cable at my house, and since we weren't rooting for anyone in particular, we did not watch the Super Bowl.  I discovered this little list and thought it would be perfect to share: 14 books you could have read in the time it takes to watch the Super Bowl.  My kind of list!

Read about what one teacher has done over her career to save students' lives:

Are we asking our students these powerful questions?

And here is a great reminder of why we teach...