Sunday, June 15, 2014

Taking risks and growing

Principal ponderings...

You made it!  How did we get to this day?  It seems like just yesterday we were welcoming students off the bus on the very first day of school.  It is truly amazing how time flies!  Once again, I am amazed by your dedication to our students.  Your enthusiasm and love of all children is inspiring.  I know some of you will be taking courses over the summer, possibly teaching summer school or working other jobs, but I do hope you take some time to relax and take a break.  You all deserve time to put your feet up.

I want to thank you for all of the hard work you put into continuing to grow as educators this year.  You accepted the challenge of trying to provide a truly standards-based math curriculum for your students, complete with appropriate common assessments.  You all worked hard to learn a new educator evaluation system, including understanding how to best utilize Evernote.  You helped us become a school who believes that every student needs lots of time in front of books.  You began the difficult task of looking at your classroom libraries, reorganizing, leveling books, re-evaluating how you use the library with your students.  I am so excited about the massive amount of work that the lab teachers and Grace did this year in terms of reader's workshop.  I am so impressed with how our reading coach and your peers took on the challenge of being lab teachers and then went way over and beyond what was expected.  We will all benefit from their commitment.  The students in their classes have already begun to reap the rewards.  I am excited about the possibility of having instructional leaders in our building with classrooms that will be open for everyone to visit and learn from them as you all begin to implement the reader's workshop model in more depth next year.  You have become innovative teachers who have been integrating technology into your classrooms.  Looking forward to more new and interesting ways that we will help our students become 21st century learners who are ready to be part of a global education.

There is a poem that I have given out in the past called "The Hand Holders."  The first line is so true: "There is no job more important than yours."  You have all excelled at being the "keepers of the future."  I know that in the next few days you will say goodbye to your class and send them on to the next grade and the next teacher, for some of you, even onto the next building.  You should be proud of the amazing foundation you have given them.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite little inspirational stories:
Two seeds lay side by side in the fertile spring soil.

The first seed said, "I want to grow!  I want to send my roots deep into the soil beneath me, and thrust my sprouts through the earth's crust above me...I want to unfurl my tender buds like banners to announce the arrival of spring...I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and the blessing of the morning dew on my petals!"  And so she grew.

The second seed said, "I am afraid.  If I send my roots into the ground below, I don't know what I will encounter in the dark.  If I push my way through the hard soil above me, I may damage my delicate sprouts...what if I let my buds open and a snail tries to eat them?  And if I were to open my blossoms, a small child may pull me from the ground.  No, it is much better for me to wait until it is safe."  And so she waited.

A yard hen scratching around in the early spring ground for food found the waiting seed and promptly ate it.

Moral of the story: Those of us who refuse to risk and grow get swallowed up by life.

Thank you for creating classrooms that encouraged our students to take risks, to get dirty, to think, to solve problems, to build friendships, to help others, to play, to inquire.  And thank you for taking risks as educators this year, thank you for trying new ways of teaching, trying new assessments, trying new classroom environments.  It has been a true pleasure to watch you and your students grow!

Enjoy this last week.  Enjoy your summer.  I look forward to working with you next year!

Currently reading:
My summer reading list is growing and growing and growing!  Here are just a few of the books that I hope to read this summer:
What books are on your summer reading list?

Events this week:
Monday - Kindergarten Meet Your Teacher @ 4:00-4:30, Multi-age play performance @ 9:30 and 4:45
Tuesday - Report cards should be completed and teachers will be conducting a final check, Mr. Coronis and class field trip to SU at 9:30, Meet and Greet with new assistant superintendent, Katie Novak, 3:30 in the FloRo library
Wednesday - 4th grade moving up ceremony in the PAC @ 9:30, school-wide end of the year assembly in the afternoon (more info to come), Staff gathering at Maureen's house
Thursday - Last day!  Step up day to meet new teachers and classmates @ 9:30, Dismissal at 12:15, no lunch served
Friday - Summer vacation begins!!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We had a special presentation on Monday for two of our students.  Anthony and Kaiden were recognized as young heroes because one morning this past winter when their mom fell at home, they were the ones to call 911 and make sure that she was taken care of.  They knew exactly what to do, and as a result, mom received care right away and is fine.  Anthony and Kaiden were recognized by lots of special guests, and they got to have a very special ride home in a fire truck!

  • Students had lots of fun singing along with Mr. Wiesner during field day.
  • Our half day K students got the chance to spend the full day with us.  It was very exciting to get to eat lunch in the cafeteria!
  • Mrs. Goddard ordered lots and lots of awesome beads so that all of the students got to make cool necklaces during the art station of field day.
  • Mrs. Kineen created lots of fun stations on the back field, and thankfully, we had no rain!  I watched 4th grade using their muscles during tug-of-war.
  • The dunk tank was a very popular station on the playground.  I have to say...we have lots of kids with really good aim!  Thanks to Mr. Dave, Mrs. Cahill and Mrs. Fulreader...the brave souls who joined me in being dunked.  Here is the princess seconds before being dropped into the water...

And I have to say....seeing the smiles on the kids' faces every time one of us got dunked...priceless!
Check it out:
A great post about how one teacher figured out how to make more authentic book clubs:
Another book list for you!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Bloggin'

Principal ponderings...

With only two weeks until summer vacation begins, it's time to think about what you will do with all your time!  I have an idea...spend some time reading and following other educators' blogs.  The great thing about blogs is that you can sign up to follow certain ones and then anytime someone writes a new post, you will get an email sent to you letting you know there is something new to read.  So basically you don't need to go searching for professional learning, instead you can have it delivered right to your inbox.  To get you started I have compiled a list of blogs that I follow as well as some others that are popular education blogs. A blog written by a reading teacher, all about books and reading, go figure!  This is an elementary principal from Wisconsin that I follow. Lots of great discussion about teaching writing! Teacher who created the Global Read Aloud, she has a lot of great things to say! A lot of the articles I share with all of you come from Edutopia. Another great place for thought-provoking articles and resources. This is an assistant principal at an elementary school who is big on technology integration. Here is another teacher who loves technology integration. This is a blog written by two librarians who review non-fiction books This is a great blog written by 3 different teachers who want to share their love of reading with everyone. Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, and a teacher who also writes a blog.

There are many other blogs out there, but at least this is a good list to get you started.  Happy summer reading!

Currently reading:
Some of you may have noticed that my reading has been greatly reduced over the last few weeks.  I still have my piles of books that I really want to read, but I just have not been able to get too much reading done lately.  There is a good reason for it.  Actually, there is one book that I have been reading:
Why have I been reading this book?  Well...because I am expecting!  Surprise!  As the school year winds down and I am entering the second's getting a little hard to hide my growing belly.  But I am glad that I am finally starting to get my energy back so I can get back to more reading.  Growing a little reader is exhausting work! :)

Events this week:
It's the last full week of the school year!
Monday - 4th grade Enviroscape Program
Tuesday - Staff meeting with new superintendent @ 8:30, Smith and Guernsey library trip @ 1:15
Wednesday - Select staff at CPI training 11:30-2:30, Fournier and Crowley library trip @ 1:15, Report Card committee meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - FIELD DAY!!! (Cross your fingers for good weather!)
Friday - Spiczka kindergarten concert @ 11:10, Snow library trip @ 1:15

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Cragg's readers did an excellent job performing two different reader's theater readings for the kindergarteners.  All of the performers did an awesome job reading with expression and getting into character.  Plus, the kindergartners got a sneak peak of what 1st grade looks like!
  • Two students from Mrs. Guernsey's class came to visit me to share a movie that they had made on the iPad.  It was a report about Florence Roche where they had interviewed or written about many different staff members, including me!  The girls were very proud of the work they had done.
  • The true highlight of the week happened Friday night at the FloRo retirement party.  Florence Roche sure knows how to put on a party!  The performances and speeches were very entertaining.  My cheeks hurt from laughing so much.  The kazoo crew was certainly an unexpected surprise.  The food was delicious!  And the company was even better.  Ramona, Pam and Deb...what a special night for three very special teachers.  Hope you enjoyed your night!  Thank you for all you have done.  Happy retirement!

Check it out: A beautiful blog post written by Donalyn Miller...what many teachers are thinking around this time of the year. Some more summer reading recommendations for educators

Monday, June 2, 2014

Remembering Maya

Principal ponderings...
I was truly saddened to learn that Maya Angelou had passed away last Wednesday.  Maya Angelou was an amazing woman.  I feel so honored that I was able to hear her speak recently at the Hanover Theater.  One reason why I love her is because of her way with words so in honor of her, here are some of her words to remember her by:
This is one that I have often displayed on my desk!

And here are the last few lines of the poem that Maya wrote for Bill Clinton's Inauguration...

"The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning."

Hopefully Maya Angelou's words have inspired you to go have an awesome first week of June!

Currently reading:
Since learning of Maya Angelou's passing, I pulled out some of her books that I have and started reading through them again.

Events this week:
Monday - MS AP talking to 4th graders at 1:20 in the cafeteria, Smith & Crowley Williams Barn trip
Tuesday - Crowley and Smith will be piloting the PARCC math assessment at 9:30, Guernsey & Fournier Williams Barn trip, 3 Sisters Garden experience Smith (1:00) & Crowley (1:40)
Wednesday - Crowley and Smith will be piloting the PARCC math assessment at 9:30, Snow Williams Barn trip, Kindergarten chorus practice, final staff meeting of the year!
Thursday - 1/2 day of school, 3 Sisters Garden experience Guernsey (9:30), Fournier (10:10), and Snow (10:50)
Friday - Kindergarten chorus practice, FloRo retirement party @ Groton Country Club!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • The paraprofessionals were treated to a lovely luncheon.  When I stopped by it seemed like everyone was enjoying the food and the company!
  • The 3rd grade concert was truly a magical experience.  The students sang like many of our other concerts, but they did so much more than that.  Students performed songs on the recorder that they had composed.  One student added a verse to the song "What Can One Little Person Do."  We started the show with a very special piano performance by one of our students.  One student wrote a song and performed it with several other 3rd graders.  And yes, I was sitting in the front row crying!  Wonderful concert Mr. Wiesner!

  • And thankfully we managed to get our walk-a-thon in on a beautiful, sunny morning!  It looked like the kids and teachers had a great time walking the track and learning about the history of Groton.  We raised over $4,000 for the Blood Farm Employee Assistance Fund...way to go!

  • Check out the awesome thank you cards that students made for the PTA.  They are hanging on the bulletin board in the front lobby.  Here is one done by one of our 4th graders...she is quite the artist!
  • And on Friday night I attended our GDRHS graduation ceremony.  I saw many of our staff members children receive their diplomas.  Listening to the valedictorian speak, I couldn't help but wonder...will that be one our FloRo students one day?!

Check it out:
I love the idea of summer book chats.  Can't wait until I have more time to read from my giant 'to be read' pile!  Here is a link to someone who is organizing a summer book chat with educators through twitter:  I am thinking I might have to join!

A great article about the importance of reading!