Sunday, June 14, 2015

Here we grow again...

Principal ponderings...
Once again, it's hard to believe that I am sitting here writing my last blog post for the school year.  As I said in our staff meeting, this is been quite a different year for me.  Personally, it has been the best year of my life.  At the beginning of the school year, I had one job, being the instructional leader of our school, and now, at the end of the school year, I have two jobs, still the principal of the school, but now I have the privilege of being momma to this amazing little lady...
While it has certainly been a disjointed year for me since I was here and then on leave and then back again, I am gradually growing into my new reality.  Like the little seed in the picture above, I know I still have a lot of struggling to do as I grow into a better instructional leader.  But I am ready for the challenge!  I am excitedly looking forward to spending time this summer planning for next year.  This will be my 5th year at Florence Roche, and I want to make it a great one!  I will be compiling all of the notes you provided during our reflection last week, looking for trends and using the information to set goals.

Thank you.  Two small words that never seem enough.  Thank you to all of you for coming to work each day and doing what you do best...educating our students.  Thank you for being so supportive when I took time off to be with my family.  Thank you to Dianna Fulreader, assistant principal and way more!  Thank you for supporting Dianna in my absence.  Thank you for all of the extra time and energy that you put into providing the best learning experiences for our students.  Thank you for going above and beyond to support more than just the academic needs of our students.  

We have begun to talk about having a growth mindset for our students.  At the same time, we need to also think about having that same growth mindset for ourselves.  Just like in the seed image, for us to grow, we are doing to have to get dirty, we might feel like we are covered in darkness at times, we are going to have to struggle.  But eventually, we will reach the light, and we will be even better educators for having gone through that process.  Besides watching the students grow and learn, the best part of my job is watching all of you grow and learn and helping you improve skills you already have and develop ones that you never knew you could have.

As I was reading some blog posts of other principals that I follow, I came across one that definitely resonated with me and I wanted to share it with all of you:
"Many leaders believe that the way to sustain change is to communicate a vision, and then monitor compliance.  They use evaluation, write-ups, or walkthroughs as a hammer to ensure 100% compliance.  This philosophy will never lead to sustained change...we have to realize that change doesn't get done in the faculty meeting or staff email.  It gets done one conversation at a time.  It gets done in one-to-one relationships.  It gets done with a lot of talking and a lot of listening.  It gets done inviting disagreement and conflict in a safe environment. It gets done addressing the concerns and obstacles of the people closest to the change.  It gets done over the long haul." (
I am excited about the possibilities of what we will accomplish together over the long haul.  In a few more days, it's time to put your feet up, maybe sleep in or don't set your alarm, read some books for the fun of it, be with your families, reflect on the year, wonder about the future, enjoy the lazy days of summer.  Take a break and recharge.  And then get ready to do it all again, even better than this past year.  

What will your growth look like next year?  What will our growth as a school look like?  I can't wait to see!

Currently reading:
Definitely looking forward to scheduling in some regular reading time as soon as the school year comes to an end.  Here is just one of my 'to be read' piles...
Came across this list of fiction recommendations for teachers for summer reading:
Came across this list of nonfiction recommendations for teachers for summer reading:

Events this week:
Monday - Meet Your Teacher for incoming kindergarteners @ 4:00-4:30 (am K 3:40-4:00, pm K 4:10-4:30)
Wednesday - Field Day!!
Thursday - 9:15 4th grade moving up ceremony, End of Year Assembly @ 2:00 on the back field
Friday - Last day!! Step up day at 10:00, Dismissal at 12:15, Staff get together @ 3:30 at Maureen's house

Great things I noticed last week:

  • School Council had its last meeting of the year.  We participated in a reflection activity where we shared things we were proud of, things we need to still work on and questions we have.  We looked for some common themes in those categories.  We also started to look at the parent survey results. 
  • The middle school assistant principals, Mrs. Russo and Mrs. Mancini, came over to talk with our 4th graders and answer questions as they prepare to transition to the middle school.
  • Two of our 4th graders from Mrs. Mills' class and Mrs. Nissi's class did a great job presenting at the School Committee meeting on Wednesday night.
  • I was able to pop into Mrs. Miln's class and see some of their amazing projects they did to go along with a book they read.  
  • Thanks to Sue Wynn for presenting at our final staff meeting all about Eureka math and giving us some ways to get our kids excited about the math they have learned this year and how they can keep thinking about math this summer.  Thank you to the staff for put lots of thought into our reflection activity.  I will be compiling all of your sticky notes and posting them to the drive for all to review.  We will also be able to use the information from this activity to drive our work next year.

Check it out:
Great idea for summer journaling!
Here's a great video clip of an interview with one of my favorite authors, Kate DiCamillo:

And another healthy dose of laughter from Jimmy Fallon kid letters:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Better Learners

Principal ponderings...
Do you recognize this quote?  I shared it with all staff back in August when we came together at our first staff meeting.  Now that we are two weeks away from finishing up another school year, the question is...did our students learn better?  Think about your classroom, the experience each of your students had this year.  Did you challenge them?  Were you setting high expectations and watching them rise to those expectations.  I hope that you started the year with a growth mindset for your students, seeing all of the potential in them.  And in these last two weeks hopefully that growth mindset is still there...what can they still achieve?  Remember, it only takes five days of intervention to change brain matter.

Hmm...have our students had choice?  Well if you think about what we have done in reader's workshop, going away from everyone reading the same book to focusing on giving students the freedom to choose what they want to read during independent reading time...then yes, they have had a lot of choice this year!  It is amazing to see how students have jumped up three or more levels during the year.  But what is even more amazing is walking into a classroom, hearing a teacher say it's time for independent reading and then hearing kids actually cheer!

Think about each of your students.  Have you made each one of them feel significant?  What was it that you did to let them know that they were an important member of the class?  Everyday that I walk into my office, I read the question on my door that says: "Do our students know they matter to us?" Hopefully you can think about each individual child that you work with and your answer to this question is yes.

Our students will be better learners if they are receiving feedback from us on a regular basis.  They need to know what they know and what they don't know.  They also need to know how and what they can improve upon on.  The only way they will know these things is if we give them regular feedback.

So hopefully as you have been doing all of the things in the above quote, you have created better learners.  The good news is we still have two weeks left to work on all of these items.  Whether it's our second to last Monday of the school year or the last ten minutes before they board the buses and we wave them off to summer, let's make sure that we are challenging our students, giving them choice, letting them feel significant, giving them feedback, and making sure they know they matter to us.  Because today they are better learners, and tomorrow they will be even better learners.

Currently reading:
The daughter of a friend of mine decided to have a book sale in her yard on Saturday.  She was selling a whole bunch of her that she could go buy more books!  Of course, I wanted to support that.  I stopped by and filled a box with tons of books that I will be donating to our field day book swap.  Before I turn the books over to the swap, I read a bunch including:
Bunny Loves to Read: Cute book about how bunny ends up convincing her animal friends about how great reading is.

Zoomer's Summer Snowstorm: A good book to read on a hot day and cool you off!
Betty Bunny Wants Everything: The bunny in this book has to learn the hard lesson that she can't get everything that she wants.

Events this week: 
Tuesday - 4th grade classes visit the Groton Library @ 10:30, School Council meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Middle school assistant principals speak to 4th grade @ 1:15 in the cafeteria, final staff meeting @ 3:30 in the library, School Committee meeting @ 7:00, HS Library, 4th graders doing the pledge

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Our library design committee met last week.  We have a designer who we are working with thanks to a donation from one of our parents.  I am so excited about the possibilities that we are being presented with!  Looking forward to a transformed learning space!
  • Mrs. Pierantozzi's students were moving around the room and solving all different kinds of math problems!
  • Mrs. Riley's 1st graders were sharing all of the amazing facts they learned after working on their American symbols projects.
  • Mrs. Benkley's class was busy working on writing stories.
  • Mrs. Hoke's students were running their own morning meeting.  Students were helping each other to identify proper nouns in the morning message.
  • Mrs. Potter's and Mrs. Smith's students were brainstorming their summer reading book recommendations.
  • Kindergartners were demonstrating their amazing knowledge and understanding of King Ed.
  • Mrs. Clark's class was working together to solve some fractions problems.
Check it out:
Check out this list of 100 Best Chapter Books:
Interesting article I read this weekend:

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Not So Lazy Days of Summer

Principal ponderings...

Well on this dreary, cold, wet Monday (only 2 more Monday musings to go!)...I'm sure everyone has summer beach days on their mind right?!  I'm going to at least visualize my beach days today to keep me warm.  Whether the weather looks like it or not, summer time is almost here.  Yes, that means relaxing, maybe no alarm clocks, no deadlines, etc.  But I know that educator summer days are usually anything but lazy.

Summer means a chance to work on a lot of our own professional growth.  It means actually having the time to sit down  and read some professional books that we have wanted to get to all year.  Do you have a few titles that you have jotted down or some recommendations from your peers?  If you are looking for a good professional book, let me know.  I only have a few! ;)  Here is a link to a post that talks about 5 books recommended for professional development.  I know I already put the Digital Leadership one on my list.

Summer also means a chance to write.  The number one way to be a better teacher of writing is to write ourselves.  So as you plan your day trips and your hammock time, think about how you will incorporate some writing into your summer schedule.  Will you write in a journal?  Will you write letters to students or friends?  It's always so exciting to get something that's not a bill in the mail!  Will you sit in your backyard and just write about the sights and sounds?  Or maybe you will write your opinion about changes that we should make in the school!?  Here is a link to a post about summer writing for teachers.

Maybe summer time means a chance to think about how you want to rearrange your classroom.  I know that used to be my favorite thing to do each year...redesign my learning space!  There are lots of youtube clips and posts about ways to set up your classroom so it meets your learning goals.  Here is a fun tool that allows you to actually build a map of your classroom.

Summer might also be a time when you can connect with either your colleagues here or educators in other districts.  I know I love to get together with my friends who I used to teach with and while we are sitting enjoying lunch at a restaurant without the stress of having only 10 minutes before you need to pick up kids from the cafeteria (what is that like!?), we inevitably 'talk shop.'  It's always great to be able to bounce ideas of of them or learn about something new from them.  If you haven't checked out an EdCamp or an Unconference, here is a link to events that will be happening all over the country.  You can always follow the event on Twitter even if you can't attend.  And in August, there will be one in Sandwich so you could take a trip to the Cape!  Scholastic is hosting a reading summit in July.  Of course it is the one week that I am going on vacation!  But one of my education rockstar heroes will be there...Donalyn Miller.  If you get a chance, think about attending this event!

So yes, summer is approaching, and it will be time to kick back and relax.  But I know you will also be a time to focus on recharging yourself with your own professional learning.  I don't know about you, but I can't wait!

Currently reading:
Sad to admit that it was a rough week for reading.  While I did manage to read several online articles, I wasn't able to get to much of my book pile.  I am still slowly working my way through The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck.  Hoping this week will be a better reading week!  Here is one of my many TBR (to be read) piles:

Events this week: 
Tuesday - Dr. Rodriguez visits in the am, 4th graders visit Groton Library @ 10:30, 3rd grade visits Williams Barn @ 12:30
Wednesday - 3rd graders visit Williams Barn @ 9:30 and 12:30, 4th graders visit Groton Library @ 10:30, Kindergarten chorus practice @ 2:25, Liz attending middle school staff meeting @ 2:45
Thursday - half day, 12:15 dismissal, Library Design sub-committee meeting @ 9:00, Evaluation Committee Meeting @ 1:00 at Prescott
Friday - Kindergarten chorus practice @ 2:25

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Our 3rd graders got their planting in just in time before this rainy week!  I managed to catch Mr. Smith's class out front planting.

  • On Friday, our paraprofessionals were treated to a lovely, although slightly hot and sticky, luncheon in the library.  Thank you for all you do for our students and the school!

  • On Wednesday, I had a chance to represent Groton-Dunstable at DESE's spring convening in Marlborough.  Dr. Rodriguez was presenting.  The focus was on educator evaluation, and I attended several great sessions.  I will be meeting with the district evaluation committee this week and plan on sharing what I learned.  I loved this analogy that Brockton school district shared:
  • Wednesday night several FloRo staff helped out at Scoopfest in Dracut.  This event benefits the Joey Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation.  FloRo staff ran a very popular coloring and colored hair extensions.  I'm wondering if we should open up a shop in the school?! ;)

Check it out:
Love this short clip about reading giving you superpowers!  Would be great to share with your students!  I will be sending an email out to parents about summer reading and math.
Interesting post about looking at writing with a different lens:
Grant Wiggins, an author, blogger, educator, advocate, who I certainly have followed and enjoyed reading about or talking with on Twitter, passed away last week.  Here is a tribute to him with some of his quotes:
And at this time of year...some stress busters are important for all of us!