Monday, May 25, 2015

A visual post...

Principal ponderings...
Since I have been in evaluation writing mode and dealing with an unhappy, teething baby all weekend...this week's post is going to be a short, visual one.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?!  Here are some images and quotes to make you think...

And this is what I like to call, the ultimate multi-tasking...

Currently reading:
I was very excited to get my ASCD monthly book in the mail this week.  It's called Peer Coaching. I'm looking forward to reading it and learning from it.  The description from the ASCD website states:
"Peer coaching offers a job-embedded learning strategy; it’s a valuable structure for supporting school-wide and district-wide priorities such as analyzing data, improving instruction, integrating technology, and implementing standards. In short, it creates an effective way to support the growth of every teacher and enrich learning processes in any school."

Events this week:
Tuesday - Grade 3 concert rehearsal from 9:30-11, after school discussion with Dr. Rodriguez about fellowship program @ 3:30 in the library
Wednesday - Last PARCC day, Kindergarten chorus practice @ 9:30, Liz at DESE conference, Grade 3 school concert @ 1:30, Scoopfest! @ 5:00 in Dracut
Thursday - Dianna at DESE conference, Kindergarten screening @ Prescott
Friday - Spring pictures in the conference room from 9:00-1:00 (only students who bring in paperwork), Kindergarten screening @ Prescott, Para appreciation luncheon @ 1:30 in the library

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Several parents worked hard to make the entrance outside of my office window beautiful!
  • The kindergartners and 1st graders enjoyed working with special guests from the Eric Carle museum.
  • I caught a kindergartner making his own paper version of Reflex math!
  • Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Novak stopped by our para meeting on Friday morning to talk about plans for professional development next year.
  • So glad Mrs. Kinneen called me into the gym so I could see one 4th grader helping another 4th grader to bowl!

Check it out:
Great idea for a different way to get kids talking about their writing and paying attention to feedback: 
What kind of writer are you?
Need a math challenge?
Wait time is so important, hard to do, but so important:
Help angry kids have better days:
And thank you to Sue Wynn for sharing this really cool video with me.  (And thanks to Andy Collins for sharing it with her!)  Amazing to think about re-wiring your brain!
One more fun thing to check out...learned about this at the MRA conference and I think I forgot to share it!  This blog is short entries about 1,000 awesome things:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Future Looks Even Brighter

Principal ponderings...

The beautiful sunny Sunday drove home the message that summer really is just around the corner.  It's hard to believe that the school year is almost done.  Even though we only have a few weeks left, for me, the approach of summer means the wheels in my brain are already spinning for next school year.  When I was a classroom teacher, even though this was the time that I was frantically trying to get everything in before the last day, it was also the time that I would think back over the year and jot down ideas and goals for next year.  While I was still in the midst of everything, I felt like I was more likely to plan and visualize what I would do differently.  How would I improve?  What changes would I make?

So this is the time for us all to think about this question: What do I need to work on to be better next year?

On Friday, you may have seen the school leadership team meeting (and yes, painting!) in the library.  Several administrators had participated in a book chat about the book, Mindset.  We talked about how we can apply a growth mindset to teaching, as opposed to a fixed mindset.  If I was an educator with a fixed mindset, then as the year winds down, I would be thinking that I am a great teacher, I don't need to listen to feedback, and I don't need to worry about improving.  I am talented and I will just keep doing the same thing next year.  BUT, if I was an educator with a growth mindset, then I would embrace the challenge of a new year, I would accept feedback, and desire to keep improving because I know that ability is continually developed.
During my weekend blog reading, I came across a post where a teacher had developed a list of 50 end-of-year self-probing questions for educators.  I read through his list and pulled a few out for us to think about.  These questions will help you dig deeper as you think about the big question: What do I need to work on to be better next year?

  • If I were my teacher this year, would I have liked me?
  • How efficiently did I work this year?
  • Did I pay attention and stay connected to my students' interests?
  • Did I build strong relationships with my students?
  • Was our class set up to promote creativity and collaboration or memorization and silence?
  • Was the technology in my classroom used in an authentic manner?
  • Did I balance my personal and professional lives?
  • Did I laugh often with students and colleagues?
  • How many colleagues did I observe in action in their classrooms?
  • Did I participate in a professional learning community outside of my school?
  • Did I share creative ideas and thoughts for school improvement with administration?
  • Did I create the classroom I envisioned and contemplated last summer?
  • Am I a stronger teacher today than when I first stepped into the classroom at the beginning of the school year?
Take some time to ponder the answers to these questions.  And maybe even think of some other questions for yourself.  It is crucial for us to continually self-assess and figure out how we can improve.  Because after you think about how you will improve, then you can let yourself think about an even brighter future when next year's students will reap the reward of your growth mindset!

And be on the lookout...I am working on a survey that I will be sending to all staff to help me self assess.  I know there are many things that I need to work on to be better next year.  I will be counting on all of you to give me some constructive feedback!

Currently reading:
I checked out several books this weekend from our school library.  I read Cynthia Lord's Hot Rod Hamster and the Awesome ATV Adventure!  We have a signed copy from her in our library!
I also read Eric Carle's Have You Seen My Cat?
I read a new addition to the library, Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share by Molly Bang.  This small book has big message about our environment.
And I started reading another one of the I Survived series...I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916.  I also took a look at the newest edition of Ask magazine.  Teachers, if you have not looked at these magazines yet, I recommend you do.  It's a magazine with an arts and sciences for kids theme.  If you are looking for some expository writing examples...these magazines have some good, short articles that would be good for models.  I read one titled, "How to Swallow a Crocodile."

Events this week:
**Reminder that it is a PARCC week, see separate schedule from Dianna
Monday - Eric Carle program in kindergarten
Tuesday - Eric Carle program in 1st grade
Wednesday - Grade 3 chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym, Staff meeting @ 3:30 in the library
Thursday - 3rd grade @ Plimoth Plantation until 3:15, several staff at CPI training at Boutwell
from 12-3
Friday - Para meeting @ 9:00 (Dr. Rodriguez attending and Karen Tuomi), Grade 3 chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym
Great things I noticed last week:

  • I was invited to a lunch bunch session with some 4th graders.  I had fun playing games like Ned's Head and an emotions card game.
  • I had a great meeting at the high school with Kelly McManus, the high school librarian, Luke Callahan and one of our parents.  We were discussing plans for our library renovation project.  I can share with you that we will be adding lots of new technology to the library this summer...chromebooks, Apple TV, iPads, oh my!  The next exciting meeting before the end of the school year will be with the design committee and a designer whose services were donated by a parent.
  • When I was checking out some books from the library, I found many kindergartners reading.  A bunch of Mrs. Spiczka's students were getting a jump start for this week...checking out Eric Carle books in preparation of the enrichment program happening.
  • When I popped into Mr. Smith's 3rd grade class, I was lucky enough to catch part of their read aloud.  He was reading one of my all time favorites...Wonder!  During independent reading time, students were participating in biography book clubs.
  • Mrs. Cargg's first graders were working on their interactive science journals when I stopped by for a visit.  They were excited to tell me that they were planting!  I hope they are better than me...I definitely don't have a green thumb. :)

Check it out:
Short and simple post: Are you scared of change?
An interview with Cynthia Lord.  So excited to share that we have booked her to return to FloRo in October next year!
Check out this clip...kid letters to Jimmy Fallon.  I guarantee you will laugh out loud or at least crack a smile!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

If you don't look closely, you might miss...

Principal ponderings...

Last week, was teacher appreciation week.  I know the PTA planned your teacher appreciation week for the week before April vacation, but the official week for teachers was last week.  Of course I could thank all of you for teaching our students, for following the Common Core, for creating engaging lessons.  I could say how much I appreciate that you help our students complete PARCC testing, master their math facts and demonstrate an understanding of the reader's workshop units of study.

But sometimes if you only look at the big picture items, you miss a lot of small, but very important things happening in our school.

If you don't look closely, you might miss...

  • a teacher giving up her lunch so that she can connect with students while they eat and chat
  • a guidance counselor helping a crying child transition out of mom's car
  • a paraprofessional complimenting a child who doesn't usually get compliments
  • a teacher observing another teacher so that she can try out something new in her classroom
  • a teacher encouraging a student to question and wonder
  • a teacher offering to do a family's laundry because they don't have access to a laundry machine right now
  • a staff member tying a child's shoe
  • a staff member giving a student a snack when they don't have one
  • a teacher giving a former student a hug or a high five
  • a paraprofessional greeting a student and helping him start his day with a smile
  • an art teacher listening to a student's story at dismissal time
  • a teacher giving up part of his lunch to play with some students at recess time
  • a music teacher encouraging a student to write her own song lyrics
  • a staff member letting a student borrow some books
  • a nurse listening to a child who is upset
  • a teacher sitting at a back table with a few students reviewing the concept one more time
  • a teacher modifying the lesson so that every child in the room has the ability to access the learning
Each day, I look closely and see educators in our building doing the little things that in the long run make a big impact on the lives of children.  Yes, I appreciate the fact that the staff in our school work hard everyday to teach our students and help them grow, but I have to remind myself that if I don't continue to look closely, I will miss so many small, yet very important interactions happening all around me.

Thank you all for the big and little things you do for our students.

Currently reading:
I am still working my way through Brown Girl Dreaming and it is still a really great read! I am also trying to finish The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck.  I am not as into this one, but I am not letting myself abandon it just yet.  Apparently last week was National Children's Book week.  So here are two children's books that I read this week...I Love You, Stinky Face and You Are My Wonders.  The You Are My Wonders book would be a great read aloud for K or 1.  It would also be a fun book to have older students try to copy the style when writing a book for younger students.
Events this week:
**Welcome back Dr. Novak!
PARCC testing this week for 3rd grade, see schedule sent out by Dianna
Tuesday - Rocks and Fossil presentation for multi-age @ Twomey Center in the morning, School Council Meeting @ 3:30 in the library
Wednesday - Library Fund Committee Meeting @ 8:15, Dr. Rodriguez visits in the am, 3rd grade chorus practice in the gym @ 2:25
Thursday - Dr. Novak visits FR from 10:30-11:30, 2nd grade field trip to Drumlin Farms

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 3rd graders in Mr. Coronis's class were working expository writing when I popped in their room.  They were taking information from two different texts and putting the information into their own words as they typed on the Chromebooks.
  • These kindergartners started my week of on a positive note by sharing their acts of kindness that they wrote about!
  • Be sure and check out the new display in the library.  One section is devoted to the kindness books that Mrs. Middlemiss donated to our school!
  • A first grader saw me in the hall and was so excited to talk about how he was learning to read with expression and making the characters in books come alive using your face, body and voice.  He invited me in to demonstrate and while I was there I also got to see Mrs. Wilkins' class perform a rewrite of a story that they wrote and illustrated!
  • Just had to share that on Sunday we celebrated Mother's Day by going to the Franklin Park Zoo.  Moms got in free AND it was Star Wars Day!  Yes, Star Wars is a big deal in the Garden house.  Emerson, or Princess Leia, spotted our FloRo mascot...the giraffe!

Check it out:
Check out this twitter chat on Monday night from 8:30-9:30.  #TWTBlog is where you can find the's all about conferring during writer's workshop.
Watch this video clip of a principal who is all about creating a culture of literacy...she's my kind of gal!
A great post about summer reading and tells you about the bookaday challenge...anyone looking for a way to push yourself with reading this summer?!  Try bookaday!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Choose Kindness

Principal ponderings...
I had a different post written for this week, but I can't stop thinking about Kate's presentation on Thursday.  Her message was so simple, yet so incredibly important.  I keep thinking about when she and Scott took that first step and purchased a Christmas tree for a complete stranger.  It started with one small act and now those "All You Need is Love" cards are all over the world!  They chose kind.  They could have made a different choice, but thankfully, they didn't.  

And now I have spent the weekend thinking of all the ways that I can spread kindness.  I want to start a ripple and see how far it can spread.
I was so proud of our teachers and students on Friday afternoon when they lined the halls and front circle, enthusiastically welcoming our students back from the Special Olympics.  A small, simple act, yet so incredibly important to that handful of students getting off the bus.  How can we keep the kindness ripple going?
My husband came home from the grocery store today and explained about something that happened with the lady in front of him in line...her husband had left the store before she realized that there were still some items that had not been paid for.  My husband ended up paying for the items and giving them to the woman.  I told him...there was your act of kindness for today!  A small, simple act, yet so incredibly important for that woman.
I am so glad that our students all had a chance to hear Kate's message on Thursday.  Of course we need to teach students to read and comprehend a text.  And they do need to learn how to understand fractions.  But teaching them to be kind is just as important as teaching them academic skills.  
What will you do this week to start your ripple of kindness?  How will you model kindness for your students?  Choose a simple act of kindness and watch it spread!

Currently reading:
Kate Middlemiss and the Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation donated a bag of books to our school last week.  They all have the theme of kindness.  I'm very excited to give these books to our library.  I know Mrs. Simeone will find a good spot where we can have a kindness book collection on display.  Some of the books I have read and some I have not.  One that was new for me was Two by Kathyrn Otoshi.  I have read her other books, Zero and One.  These are all great books about friendship and kindness.
Another great picture book about kindness that I read was The Kindness Quilt.  Cute story about a classroom and the ripple effect of spreading kindness.
I loved the book The Invisible Boy!  I had not heard of this one before, but this is one that we need to be reading to all of our students.  It's all about a student who feels invisible until finally a new student befriends him.  There are even some great discussion questions already listed in the back of the book.
Another kindness book I read was called Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed.  If you are planning on talking more with your class about the idea of spreading kindness out into the world, then read this book to them.  It shows how one person's good deed can spread to so many people!
Events this week:
**Welcome back Amanda!
Monday - 4th grade canoe trips
Tuesday - 4th grade canoe trips, 1st grade map presentation @ Twomey Center gym, Evaluation Committee Meeting @ Prescott, 12-3
Wednesday - Kindergarten chorus practice @ 9:30, 4th grade canoe trips, Staff Meeting in the library @ 3:30
Thursday - District half-day, 12:15 dismissal, last multi-part series meeting
Friday - 4th grade canoe rain date

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We received a $500 donation on Friday from the Tae Kwon Do Karate Club that uses our gym in the evenings.  We are getting ready to order some new PE equipment to go along with field day so this will be put to good use!
  • On Monday, all of the grade levels had the chance to hear from an illustrator, John Steven Gurney, thanks to the PTA.
  • I had some help on Thursday from our principals for the day, Anna and Ellie.  They had a busy schedule, including meeting with the Director of Technology, introducing our guest speaker, accepting book donations for the library, and reading aloud to K and 1st grade!  And no, they were not the ones to plan the fire drill! :)
  • Kate Middlemiss, gave a fabulous presentation about her one kind act and how we can all help spread kindness.
  • Our students who participated in the Special Olympics on Friday were treated to an amazing welcome back by the entire school!  That moment in the hallway made me so proud to be the principal of our great school community.

Check it out:
The perfect prescription for stress...kitten therapy!
A short post about integrating technology as a catalyst for learning:

And love this graphic that I came across from someone on Twitter...