Monday, December 21, 2015

The Power of a Song

Principal ponderings...
I loved this line that I read over the weekend, from Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace

       "But that is the power of a song.  It can keep you or it can make you want to go away."

For today's post, I am going to make it as auditory as possible.  Music has the ability to change our mood, make us cry, bring us together, and get us moving.  A song can be so powerful.  So  here are a few different songs to listen to today, save for later, get you through the holidays or just make you smile.

One of my favorites...

A new one that makes me want to dance...

Another new one that makes me tap my feet...

An oldie, but goodie...

It wouldn't be a song list without at least one Queen song...

Of course I need to include a Beatles song in the mix...

And in honor of the movie that just opened up last week...

So what songs do you love to listen to in your car, sing in the shower or think in your head that put you in a good mood?  How do you utilize the power of a song?

Currently reading:
I heard great things from the 4th graders about Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace, so I decided to start reading it.  It's another one of the MCBA books.  If you haven't checked out the book recommendation bulletin board on the way to the 4th grade wing, you should stop and read what kids are saying about the books.  I had actually brought the book I was reading to the School Committee meeting to read while I was waiting for the meeting to start.  One of the Swallow Union students who was doing the pledge saw what I was reading and was excited to chat with me about that book and other MCBA books that we had just read.  Hopefully we can plan some Google Hangouts between FloRo and Swallow Union 4th graders to have more book chats!  I am looking forward to finding some time to read more books over the break.

Events this week:
Monday - 10th Day of Giving...Give a hug, get a hug day!
Tuesday - 11th Day of Giving...Gingerbread, prizes and treats, oh my!
Wednesday - 12th Day of Giving...Wear your favorite festive outfit today!  Make it tacky or keep it classy, you choose!
Have a relaxing, enjoyable holiday break!  See you in the new year!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 4th graders came down to share a poem that one of them had written.  Loved the poem and the illustration!
  • Several 4th graders from each classroom were selected to help deliver baskets to senior citizens throughout Groton.
  • I caught student council members loading up Mrs. Cahill's car with tons of donations for Transition House!
  • Check out the great recipe poems on display in the hallway heading towards the 4th grade wing!
  • And has anyone seen the Gingerbread Baby?  Kindergarteners have been on the lookout for him!  Miss Natalie told them that he stopped by and she gave him a teeny tiny bandaid for his booboo. :)

Check it out:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Every Kid Has a Story

Principal ponderings...
Each time I ever applied for a job, I rewrote my cover letter.  But I always kept the same quote in all my different cover letters.
        "Every child has a story to tell, and within that story is the secret to reaching her or him as a                learner.  Children's stories are windows into their uniqueness and clues on how to connect the 
         child and the curriculum."
                                                              --Herb Kohl
I loved that quote because it summed up my belief about working with kids.  Each student has so many stories.  Their stories make up who they are.  Sometimes we know some of their stories and sometimes we don't know their stories at all.   Getting to know each child's unique stories can help us make those important connections.  

I was thinking about children's stories and I started thinking about my own siblings and their unique stories that made up who they were.  My sister had lots of unique stories.  One of the earliest school related stories I remember happened when she was maybe in kindergarten or first grade.  She had taken a test and had let the majority of the test blank.  My mom was called in my the teacher to figure out what was going on.  They decided to ask my sister why she didn't answer most of the math problems.  She had answered the first one and the last one.  Her explanation...well, they were all asking the same thing so I did the first one and the last one because clearly you would know that I know how to do that whole page.  That was part of my sister's story.  She was never one to waste time or effort if it wasn't needed.

I will share another sibling story.  This one is about my brother Phil.  One day at school around Christmas time, they were working on a project.  Everyone in the class was making a reindeer face.  Everyone had a triangle piece of construction paper.  Everyone had two circle eyes.  Everyone had a red nose.  Everyone's reindeer looked the same.  Everyone, except my brother.  While the rest of the class had followed the directions and had a front view of a reindeer's head, my brother had decided that he wanted a side view of his reindeer.  So he only used some of the materials and had a final product of the side of the reindeer's head.  We were brought up in a house where creativity was encouraged.  So my brother's stories often involved thinking outside of the school box.

And my final story to share involves my other brother Carl.  This story actually happened when he and my brother were in daycare at a center.  My brother did not like going to the center.  So one day, he planned an escape.  He had a ziploc bag of goldfish.  He went and got my other brother and then proceeded to try to walk out of the center to go home.  He had decided that the best thing to do was bust out and run away.  Thankfully his plan did not work.  My mother was arriving for pickup around the time that he was trying to escape.  This story definitely sums up my brother.  He does not always like being told what to do.  Even as an adult, he continues to try to be someone who does not have to work for anyone.  He is also someone who loves being close to home.  And he is very close to and cares about my other brother...which is why all those years ago, he was not about to escape daycare without his little brother!

These are just a few stories, they all have many, many more, but my point is that each student in our school is made up of lots of stories.  By getting to know these stories, we can better understand our students.  We can connect with them.  We can connect them to the curriculum.  

My question this have you learned about the unique stories of each student in your class?  How has this information helped you better understand how to teach them?

12 Days of Giving continued....
Monday - Surprise Prize Giveaway Day!  Dianna will be giving away prizes throughout the day.
Tuesday - Cupcakes make everything better...I will be baking some yummy cups of cake for all of you.
Wednesday - Staff Breakfast...who likes breakfast pizza?!
Thursday - Check your staff room mailbox...I will be leaving you a special surprise.
Friday - Inbox Zero...No email from me all day today and no email all weekend!  Woohoo!

Currently reading:
I finished listening to Tuck Everlasting.  It is such a good book to listen to.  I recommend getting the audio version or reading it aloud to some of the upper grades.  It's also a great book to just use a portion of when teaching writing.  The figurative language is phenomenal!  We celebrated my daughter's birthday this weekend and surprise, surprise...she got lots of books!  My favorite was the set of classics in board book form that you got from her aunt.  Can't wait to read all these with her!
Of course, I am pretty sure her daddy will enjoy reading this new set with her...

Events this week:
Monday - Last Latin class @ 3:30
Tuesday - High School Band Performance in the PAC @ 9:30, School Council meeting at 3:30
Wednesday - Jackie Reis, Media Relations Coordinator for the Commissioner, shadowing Liz in the morning, Staff Meeting @ 3:30, School Committee Meeting @ 7:00 - School Improvement Plan presentation
Friday - High School Chorus Performance in the PAC @ 9:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Students and staff have given so much to our community service drive.  I didn't get to grab a picture of our Student Council prepping the baskets and sorting, but they have been getting everything ready to distribute this week.
  • Students enjoyed participating in Hour of Code activities in the lab and the library.  
  • On the half day, paraprofessionals across the district participated in a variety of professional development, including this one on executive functioning hosted by our very own Dianna and Maureen.

  • Teachers have been enjoying the 12 days of giving...Friday we had lots of people in comfy clothes! 
Check it out:
Sue had shared this post that a teacher had found, I wanted to share it again...positive math mindset!
And a great clip from Kid President...Life is Like a Comic:

Monday, December 7, 2015

12 Days of Giving

Principal ponderings...

Educators are givers.  They give their time.  They give energy.  They give students extra help.  They give kids a hug when needed.  Educators give other educators ideas.  They give parents information and support.  They put in long hours and spend their own money on supplies and books for their classrooms.  They give out knowledge and show students how to gain their own knowledge.  They give band aids and ice packs.  They give smiles.  They give life lessons along with science lessons.  They give pats on the back.  They give stickers and smiley faces.  Educators are givers.

You are all givers.  It's part of your job description.  It's part of who you are.  And since this is the season of giving, I have decided to do a small act to try to recognize and thank you for what you do throughout the whole school year.  Starting on Tuesday, I am going to do "12 Days of Giving" for Florence Roche educators.  Some things you will know in advance and some will be a surprise.  Here's a sneak peak at your 'gifts' for this week...

On the first day of giving, your principal will give to you...something good to eat
lots and lots of yummy sweet treats.
On the second day of giving, your principal will give to you...not a single email to read,
that will you give you more time indeed!
On the third day of giving, your principal will give to you...breakfast drinks for all,
hot cocoa should keep you warm in the hall.
On the fourth day of giving, your principal will give to you...a dress down day,
Sweats, slippers, jammies...hooray!

Tuesday - Check the staff room for some afternoon sweet treats to perk you up!
Wednesday - Inbox Zero...I promise to go the whole day without adding a single email to your inbox.  Hopefully the time you would normally spend reading my emails, you can find something else to do!
Thursday - Drinks in the morning...who wants hot cocoa, hot cider or hot coffee?
Friday - Comfy, cozy day.  Feel free to dress comfortable today.  If you want to wear your jammies, great.  If you want to wear sweats, even better.  If you want to throw on your favorite t-shirt and jeans, go for it!  No need to get dressed up today!

Wait until you see what next week brings!

Currently reading:
During my drive, I am currently listening to Tuck Everlasting.  
I read a pretty funny picture book at my library called Everyone Loves Bacon.
I also found a good picture book about two friends, one who loves to read and one who hates to read, and how they help each other.  It's called Library Lily.

Events this week:

Monday - Latin Class @ 3:30
Thursday - Student Council Meeting @ 8:30, District Curriculum Half Day, 12:15 dismissal, Teachers will be working on math at SU

Great things I noticed last week:

  • One 4th grade classroom and one 1st grade classroom have been trying out standing desks...maybe we will see more of these in future classrooms?
  • Thumbs up for Mrs. Kavanagh's class who was learning some new words!
  • Yes, those are shoes on the table.  Mrs. Goddard's art students were working on foreshortening.  Can't wait to see the final product!
  • Mrs. Lanctot's class made some great reading strategy posters to hang in their classroom.
  • The Holiday Fair was a huge success!  Once again, Mr. Wiesner managed to wow everyone with each grade level concert.
Check it out:
A post about quiet writers:
And as I continue to read and think about mindfulness, here's my quote for the week...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why Do I Lead?

Principal ponderings...

I know I have previously shared my education information addiction with you.  I have tried to get many of you to try out Twitter.  I have talked about making connections with a PLN group (Professional Learning Network).  I have shared blog posts written by other educators that I follow.  My newest social media addiction?  Voxer.  It's like a free walkie talkie that connects me with principals across the country.  I can record short messages and listen to messages from others.  One of the groups that I am part of is called 'Work. Life. Balance.'  And it is definitely a group I need!  Recently, an elementary principal from Iowa who is in the same Voxer group with me, shared this post with our group:

 20 Facts About Principals Every Teacher Should Know

There were several sections of this post that stuck with me, certainly some more than others.

#18...yep, this is definitely a stressful job.  There are days where I think about going back to just being responsible for my own classroom.  Or better yet, I think maybe it would be nice to become a toll collector.  I am grateful to my Voxer group that is helping me figure out how to bring balance to my life.  And you will probably be hearing more about what I am learning from our book chat about The Mindful School Leader.

#15...please, I hope that you can and will give me feedback.  I don't always have the answer.  I need to look at things from different perspectives.  Just like our students, I am here to learn and grow.

#12...I became a teacher because I wanted to have an impact on the students in my class.  I became an administrator because I wanted to have a bigger impact.  The only way for that to happen is for me to keep challenging all of you to continually grow and improve.

#11...My husband will often ask me..."did you get your work done?"  And my answer is always..."I got a lot done."  The reality is that my work is never done.  It is a demanding job, but it is one that I love and that is so worth it.

#9...Remember...I wanna marry mistakes!

#3...Yes, I am a slight control freak.  Need to work on that.  Especially since we have so many in our school that can be teacher leaders.  Must. work. on. delegating.

And #1...I want all of our students and teachers to be successful.  Being a principal is not an easy job ever.  I never know what I will encounter each day.  I have to make difficult decisions.  I have to rely on data to help with decisions.  I have to prioritize and work through my never ending task list.  But the stress, the long hours, the is all worth it because I get to see students making progress, learning growing.  It's all worth it because I get to see teachers making progress, learning, growing.

Why do I lead?  Because I know I am making a difference one student at a time, one teacher at a time.

Currently reading:
I finished up the graphic novel, El Deafo.  Let me know if you want to borrow it.  I know it would be a great read for our 2nd, 3rd or 4th graders.  I am currently working on Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year.  And I am still enjoying reading The Mindful School Leader.

Events this week:
Monday - Picture Retake Day
Tuesday - Dr. Rodriguez visits FR in the am
Wednesday - Half day dismissal at 12:15, evening conferences, dinner provided by PTA
Thursday - Half day dismissal at 12:15, afternoon conferences
Saturday - Holiday Fair!

Great things I noticed last week:
  • I caught some of our students studying the display in the lobby and grabbing some items from the cornucopia.  Thankful that we have such giving students and staff!
  • I walked into Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Smith's 4th grade class just in time to hear a lively debate sparked by something they had read in Scholastic News. 

  • Students were eagerly participating in morning meeting in Mrs. Robinson's classroom.
Check it out:
In my search for mindfulness...this Ted Talk is a step in the right direction:

Monday, November 23, 2015

We are Thankful

Principal ponderings...

Short work week this week, where many will be spending their evenings cleaning their houses and prepping for turkey day on Thursday.  At our last staff meeting, we started off by simply writing down on a slip of paper what we are thankful for.  And now in the office, we have a thank bank full of thankful thoughts.  Of course, this time of year, we all take the time to think about what we are thankful for, appreciate what we have, wrap our arms around our loved ones, and slow down to enjoy the moment.  We need to try to make sure that we do this more than just during this week of the year.

As I shared, the recent attacks in Paris hit close to home for me since one of my best friends lives in Paris with her family.  It was certainly a panicked evening for me as I spent time glued to social media, my only way to possibly communicate with her.  Thankfully, she sent me a message to let me know that she and her family were all safe.  She was supposed to go to that soccer match.  I am thankful that for whatever reason her plans changed.  That Friday evening scare made me pause and think about both the world we live in today and how grateful I am that my daily stressors are minimal compared to what my friend is dealing with all around her.

I wanted to share a list of what we as a staff are thankful for.  It's a good reminder of the good in our lives that we need to celebrate and not ever lose sight of.
We are thankful for...

  • working with dedicated, caring people
  • my job
  • a supportive family at home and at work!
  • a healthy body
  • my wonderful family
  • the wonderful staff at FloRo
  • being able to teach such kind and hardworking children
  • support of my family
  • supportive friends
  • my grade level team
  • paraprofessionals
  • a warm home
  • the love of my family (furbabies included)
  • devoted and accomplished colleagues
  • students that brighten my day
  • weekends!
  • my children
  • time to be with my family
  • that I have access to pursue an education to become a teacher
  • my ability to laugh and to make others laugh!
I hope you all have an enjoyable holiday break.  Happy Thanksgiving!  How will you slow down, take a deep breath and be mindful of the good in your lives?

Currently reading:
I am enjoying listening in my car to The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop.   This is a good book for fans of books like Harry Potter and The Magic Thief series.  It's full of kids, magic and chocolate!
Just read a cute picture book about friends called Friendshape.  It uses some shapes to talk about what is great about having friends.  
Another book that I just checked out from my local library is called Rufus, the Writer.  This picture book tells the story of a little boy who opens up a story stand instead of a lemonade stand.  He shares some of the stories that he writes for his friends and family.
I also started reading another MCBA book: Charlie Bumpers vs The Teacher of the Year. 

Events this week:
Monday - Reminder that you should be done entering your report card info today!
Wednesday - Half day of school, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served
Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy time with your family and friends!
Friday - No school

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Two of Mrs. Clark's 4th graders did a great job representing Florence Roche Wednesday night at the School Committee Meeting.
  • Mrs. Kavanagh's kindergarten class invited me to come hear some of their writer's workshop stories.  They have been doing a great job adding detail and telling their story across several pages.
  • Thanks to all of the staff for supporting our first bus open circle meeting.  We had a great turn out with many of the bus drivers participating in our morning meetings.
  • Love this display I found outside of Mrs. Pierantozzi's classroom.  Have you set any reading goals for yourself?  And have you shared your reading goals or reading plans with your students?
Check it out:
Kate DeCamillo talking about her memories of being read to:
Interesting post about music and arts integration helping the core subject areas:
A post about how to make a kid hate reading:
And a picture of my brain! :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

One Sheet of Paper and 15 Minutes?!

Principal ponderings...
'Tis the season for report cards and parent conferences.  You've been doing everything you can to educate each child in your classroom, and now you have to figure out how to let parents know all about their child on one page front and back and in 15 minutes face to face.  Is that even possible?  I would say no.  Hopefully, report cards and parent conferences are not your only interactions with parents.  Over time, report cards and parent conferences have stood out as the main communication with parents.  We all know that's not true.  But that doesn't change the fact that you need to present parents with an outline of their child through the report card and then in 15 minutes give them the complete picture.

Sorry if I am painting a bleak picture for you.  But I know this is the reality you are all facing over the next few weeks.  I remember those conference days all too well.  It was like an assembly line, one parent in, one parent out, one parent in, one parent out.  Never enough time to give my full attention to each parent and share what I wanted to share about their child.  I was thinking about the next conference while I was in the middle of the current conference!  So what is the best approach to parent conferences?

First, I would say that you should have already been in contact with all of your parents.  You don't want your first interaction with a parent to be a rushed 15 minute conversation.  Hopefully you were able to start the year with a positive phone call or email home for each child in your class.  And then if you have had an concerns or information that you felt necessary to share with parents, then you have already done that.

Second, I used to give out a little sheet before my conferences that simply asked parents what their concerns were or what they wanted to discuss.  Some years I found that I was prepping lots of information about a child's reading, when in actuality all the parent wanted to really talk about was how they were doing socially...were they making friends and interacting with peers?  If you can give parents an opportunity to give you a heads up about what they want to focus on, you can save yourself a lot of preparation time.  This could be a form that goes home or it could actually be a Google form that you send through email and then collect all the info in one place on line.  It is helpful to know the agenda that parents are walking into the room with because it could be different than your agenda.

Third, let it go.  No, I don't mean start singing the Frozen song.  I mean you need to accept that fact that you won't be able to cover everything that you may want to talk about in a 15 minute time slot.  You definitely want to plan ahead and be mindful not to overload yourself with conversation topics.  If you did not find out what the parent wants to talk about in advance, then ask them.  It needs to be a conversation that they feel part of, not a one-sided, rapid-fire lecture from the teacher about their child.  If you had planned to discuss three things and only get to one, let it go.  Don't let yourself get stressed about not being able to talk fast enough.  Remember, the parent conference should only be one small part of the home/school communication connection.

Fourth, be sure and take notes.  Parents may share information or ask for follow up about something, and you are should not think that you will remember what was said at a 5:30 conference after you have 8 more conferences that follow that one.  Take notes for yourself and then after conferences are all done and you give yourself some recovery eat and sleep!...then go back to your notes and think about how you will use that information or how you will follow up with that parent in future communication.

Fifth and final for now, remember that while you may have 24 (or 44) different sets of parents to meet with, each of those parents is only concerned about their one child.  To the best you can, give them your undivided attention.  If they see things differently than you, resist the urge to be defensive. Listen to what they have to say, and let them know that your number one job is to be there for their child.  Even though you care about and are charged with supporting a whole class, their only interest is in their most prized possession, their child.  In my experience with parents, I have learned that the biggest thing they want is for you to care about their child and for you to hear them.  You are the child's teacher for one year.  They are the child's teacher for a lifetime.

Does communication with parents happen on one sheet of paper and in a 15 minute conversation?  No.  So how are you preparing for not just parent conferences, but for the whole year?  Each student needs and deserves a team that is working together for them.

Currently reading:
I finished listening to Absolutely Almost and really enjoyed it.  I think this would be a goo read aloud for 3rd or 4th grade.  It's actually a book that is mainly character development, not one that you are going to find a definitive plot.  On the audio version, I was also able to listen to an interview with the author.  The main character is a student who struggles with learning and navigating social interactions.  I could imagine several of our students who would enjoy hearing or reading this book.

I am excited to start a new book: The Mindful School Leader.  Here is the description from Amazon:
Big results come from small steps.
Written with school leaders in mind, this inspirational yet practical handbook teaches you how to add mindfulness into your day, bit by bit, whether you are sitting in your office or walking down the hall. With mindfulness, you will get better at managing meetings, responding creatively to complex situations, and achieving resilience—you will become a more effective leader and a more positive force for your staff and students.
I am participating in a virtual book club with a few principals across the country, looking forward to engaging in great conversations about this book!
Events this week:
**2nd. 3rd and 4th grade will have vision and hearing screening throughout the week
Tuesday - 4th grade field trip to Lowell Mills, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Bus Open Circle Meetings @ 9:20, Grade 2 chorus @ 2:25, Staff Meeting @ 3:30, School Committee Mtg/Pledge @ 7:00
Thursday - 4th grade field trip to Lowell Mills, Kindergarten classes Discover Fall Enrichment Program, PTA General Membership Meeting @ 3:30
Friday - Dianna and Liz at SLT meeting in the am, 1st grade field trip to the library
**Reminder that report card entries will need to be completed by Monday, November 23

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Recently Dianna attended a conference on anxiety.  She shared insights that she gained from the conference with the district leadership team on Friday.  I know she will be sharing helpful pointers with our building as well.
  • Mrs. Spiczka's am class was doing writer's workshop...writing stories where they were teaching someone about something.
  • Mrs. Clark's 4th graders were using Chromebooks to research the Northeast region.
  • Be sure to check out the fall poetry that Mrs. Wenz's 2nd graders wrote.  I noticed lots of great descriptive language being used.

Check it out:
Interesting post about typing out some of your favorite writers in order to better understand and teach writing technique:
Through this Friday, DESE is seeking public comment about the revised science standards.  Take a few minutes to visit this link and then complete the survey.
Love, love, love this visual that I came across on Twitter!...