Monday, September 28, 2015

Why read?

Principal ponderings...

On the eve of our Scholastic Book Fair favorite week of the year...I thought it would be fitting to talk about the benefits of reading.  You all know that I am slightly obsessed with reading and books.  However, since I now have a 9-month-old at home, my reading time has been greatly reduced.  While I am always motivated to read, lately, I just haven't been able to find much time to read.  So I thought I would talk about the benefits of reading in order to help motivate me to find more time to read!  And maybe I will motivate you to find time for that book you have been meaning to read.

Did you know that by sitting down to read a book you can both reduce stress and improve your focus and concentration?  No matter what is going on in your life, getting into a good book can help you escape for a bit.  We live in a world where are daily routines seem to mimic ADD-type behavior.  As I type this blog, I am flipping between articles that I am reading, a Twitter chat talking about books, while also reading and responding to text messages from a family member, and half listening to the TV show my husband is watching.  This is the reality of today.  Everyone is multi-tasking all the time, and it can be exhausting after a while!  But by slipping into a good book, your focus is on one long as you turn off your electronics.  I read a post that suggested reading for 15 to 20 minutes in the morning before going to work.  They say that you will notice that you will be more focused at work.  I'm thinking I might try this!

Reading is good for your health.  Studies have shown that if we keep ourselves mentally stimulated, we can actually slow the progress of Alzheimer's or dementia.  Reading is a great way to get some free mental stimulation!  When you read, you are exercising your brain.  You are also helping to improve your memory.  Just think about all the things in a story that you have to remember.  Each time you create a new memory, you are actually building new brain pathways.  Our brains are amazing, and feeding them a healthy dose of books is such an easy way to keep them healthy and functioning well.

Trust me, I know that the hardest part is finding the time.  You had to find time to actually read this post, and that probably wasn't easy!  But reading is so important not just so that we can help our students become better readers, but reading is important because it makes us better.

So how are you going to carve out some time to stimulate your brain, forge new synapses, and read?

Currently reading:
I was so excited to learn that one of our parents works with Josh Funk, he is a new author who lives nearby.  And he just wrote this really fun book: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  Josh donated an autographed book to our school!
I bought and read another new one from Cynthia Lord, Hot Rod Hamster and the Haunted Halloween Party!  I am hoping she will autograph some books for us and then we can do a drawing to give some away. 
And of course since I have a problem of reading several books at one time, I started a new one on Friday night.  It's called Circus Mirandus.  I've read lots of good reviews about it so I'm looking forward to reading it. 

Events this week:
**Scholastic Book Fair in the library all week!
Monday - 4th grade team @ SU for math & ELA PD
Tuesday - 2nd grade team @ SU for math & ELA PD, 3rd grade classrooms have StarLab from the Museum of Science, School Council Meeting @ 3:30 **Happy birthday for real this time to Dianna!
Wednesday - 3rd grade team @SU for math & ELA PD, Dr. Novak available for FloRo teachers @ 3:30
Thursday - 1st grade team @ SU for math & ELA PD, PTA Family Night at the Book Fair @ 6:00
Friday - Kindergarten team @ SU for math & ELA PD

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Kindergartners learning how to use a new literacy game in computer lab.
  • 1st graders in Mrs. Lanctot's class using their x-ray vision to solve some math problems.
  • As we set up the book fair in the library...students eagerly peered through the windows...they are excited about the new book fair location and can't wait to shop this week!
  • Batgirl and I enjoyed walking with the Fournier family at the 2nd Annual Rock-n-Roll/SuperHero 5K in honor of Joey Middlemiss.

Check it out:
Great post about why every teacher needs to be a reader!
And here's a little video clip about the butterfly effect and kindness:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Need some motivation?

Principal ponderings...
Looking for some inspiration to make this full week of school a great one?  Need some motivation to take on any and all challenges that come your way head on?  I'm hoping these visual quotes can help you.  I know they are going to be helping me!

Currently reading:
I would like to dedicate my currently reading section to one of my favorite children's author and the person who will be visiting us in October...Cynthia Lord!  Have you read her books?  If you haven't, then what are you doing?  Get to the library or book store and check her out!  She covers all the grade levels.  You can check out one of her newest Hod Rod Hamster books: Hot Rod Hamster and the Wacky Whatever Race. 
Cynthia also has a series out that would be perfect for second graders; it's called The Shelter Pet Squad series.  She has a new book in the series that just came out this month: 
And for our third and fourth graders, her newest novel that came out in May is called A Handful of Stars.  This is a great read about the unlucky friendship between a small town girl and the daughter of migrant workers. 
I am so excited that Cynthia Lord will be returning to Florence Roche this year!  She will be spending the whole day with us on Friday, October 9th.  We will have 3 different assemblies, one for kindergarten and 1st grade, one for 2nd grade and one for 3rd and 4th grade.  I'm going to try to get more copies of her books in our building, and I am hoping there will be several Cynthia Lord books for sale at our book fair that will be happening next week.

Events this week:
Wednesday - Bus evacuation, GDEA Fall Social @ The Tavern 3:30
Friday - Book Fair set up, Teacher preview, Dianna and Liz @ SLT meeting at Prescott in the am

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Even though Thursday was a half day for the students, it was an extra long day for the teachers.  I tried to make it around to several rooms during open house.  I popped into Mr. Smith's class in time to see him giving his parents a quiz!  I loved the guiding questions that Mrs. Pierantozzi had on her board.  And I ran into this stylish, young you know who she is??

  • The Welcome Back Picnic sponsored by the PTA was a huge success!  Flo made a surprise appearance.  The Mandarin teacher, Sun Xi, from the high school demonstrated using chopsticks with marshmallows...and she is going to be running a free after school class for our students about Chinese culture!  And Jenny the Juggler was an entertaining show.

  • Grotonfest was quite a happening event on Saturday!  Besides lots of students and parents, I ran into some other Groton-Dunstable employees...
  • And someone was slightly tired after Friday night at FloRo and Saturday at Grotonfest!

Check it out:
Interesting article about growth mindset in math
Love this checklist of 100 Awesome Ideas from Kid President!  Maybe our students will want to do these!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

First Comes Challenge, Then Comes Joy

Principal ponderings...
My first year as a second grade teacher I was a terrible writing teacher.  Yep, I was horrible.  And my principal at the time literally never stepped foot in my room so it wasn't like anyone was going to tell me to change.  (No joke, I remember her sticking her head in the doorway in March and my students asked...who is that lady?) The worst part was I knew I was fumbling through writing instruction all year, but I had too many other things to focus on so I continued to fumble all the way until the last day of school finally arrived.  That summer, as a reflected on my year, I knew I had to change how I taught writing.  First, I had to figure out how to actually like teaching writing so that then maybe I could get my students to like writing and transform them into writers.  So I started reading everything I could find about writer's workshop.  I asked teacher friends about their writing instruction.  And I thought about what I could do to move writing off the back burner which was where it had been all year.

I wanted to be excited about the possibility of amazing things happening every day during writing time.  One way I got all of my students to be jazzed about writer's workshop was that I did a countdown to the start of our first workshop.  Whether it's the excitement of counting down to Christmas or counting down days until a trip to (and adults) love to be able to visually see days ticking away.  So we had a post it note countdown on the board.  I had filled a bag with alleged dates to start.  There was no need to tell the class that every paper in the bag contained the same date.  So we pulled our starting date out of a bag...also helped to build excitement since the students thought they were planning the schedule!  And we started counting down.  They did not really even know what the start of writer's workshop meant, but that did not matter.  With each day that passed, they kept getting more and more excited.  Finally, when we were down to one more day...I actually had a student tell me that she did not think she was going to be able to sleep that night because she was too excited about the first day of writer's workshop.  That was when I knew that this year I was going to be a better writing teacher.  I had to for that girl and every other student in my class.

To keep the enthusiasm going, on THE day, the start of writer's workshop, I had the students' writing binders tied with ribbon and with the soundtrack to Rocky playing in the background and after raising our writing hands and pledging to be writers, we had our own ribbon cutting ceremony to launch writer's workshop.  That day there was no mini lesson.  We simply opened our binders and began to write.  This was the day that we had been waiting for, counting down to.  Writing time was not until the afternoon, and my students could barely contain themselves until we got to that part of the day.  And then once the pomp and circumstance was over, you could have heard a pin drop in my room.  Everyone, I mean every single kid, even the one who I had been told by the previous teacher would never write....everyone in the room was frantically writing.  And they did not want to stop.  I had even invited the principal in (new one, no longer the one that no one knew) and he sat with us and wrote.  I have many days that I think back on and am proud of my teaching.  This was one of those days.  I had not even begun to teach them about writing.  But I had figured out how to hook them in and shown them that we were all going to be writers this year.  I had set the stage, and they were all ready to perform.  At the end of that year, I looked back on the year and I loved how I had taught writing.  What a difference from the first year!

I really should apologize to the students I had had the year before.  I'm crossing my fingers that their other teachers taught them to be writers because I definitely did not that first year in second grade.  They have all graduated by now, and I'm pretty sure none of them will remember the writing they did with me in second grade.  I don't even remember the writing we did that year!  But after I took on the challenge of redesigning myself as a writing teacher and focusing on creating writers in my classroom, the students that first year and all of the students who were in my class over the next several years...I am confident that I gave them a solid writing foundation.  And I know some of them remember becoming writers during their year with me.

First came the challenge.  The challenge to figure out how to become a better teacher.  The challenge to try something completely new.  The challenge to keep the momentum from the first day of workshop going all year long.  But after the challenge, came pure joy.  Looking around the room that first day, I was joyful and I saw students loving to write.  And throughout the year when I conferred with students and saw them grow as writers, I was full of joy.  I loved teaching writing.

I came across this video clip about someone who certainly took on an unusual challenge, but then the end result is that he brings joy wherever he goes.  Take a few minutes to watch and learn about the 'tale of the wandering piano man':

I love when he says that he "wanted to wake up every day, excited to see what would happen next."  With the introduction of writer's workshop this year, you all get to work with our students everyday and get excited about what will happen next with their writing.

Think about what challenges lie ahead for you.

Now imagine the joy that will come after you take on those challenges.

Currently reading:
I am listening to an interesting book on tape.  Have any of you read Bill Bryson's books before?  I checked out At Home: A Short History of Private Life from my local library.  It's an interesting look at each room in the house that then leads to a history of domestic artifacts, items that we take for grant in our house.  It's pretty fascinating to hear for example what led up to the invention of the refrigerator.   
I have also been reading my homework from Grace, A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop by Lucy Calkins.  Don't forget that we need to have read chapters 5 and 6 before our staff meeting on Wednesday! 

Events this week:
**Happy Birthday on Sunday to Dianna Fulreader!
Monday - Dr. Novak and Leslie Wickfield will be at our school from 3:15-4:15 to answer questions
Tuesday - 9:15 Dee Bus Meeting in the cafe, Liz, Sue W, and Nancy C at Ed Eval Committee Mtg 12-3 @ Prescott
Wednesday - 9-12 Liz at DESE Mtg, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, 4th Grade Band Demo @ 9:30 in the PAC, Curriculum Night, K-2 6:00-7:00, 3-4 7:00-8:00
Friday - K-2 Assembly in the gym 9:30-10:30, 3-4 Assembly in the gym 1:30-2:30, PTA Welcome Back Party 4:30-6:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Dr. Rodriguez spent the morning at FloRo, discussing the year ahead and visiting classrooms.
  • Staff did the best they could to beat the heat at the beginning of the week, including setting up an impromptu outdoor lunch spot!
  • Mrs. Fulreader spoke to all of the grades during recess to review expectations and playground safety.  She also read parts of Recess at 40 Below to help everyone think cool thoughts!
  • Thank goodness for the amazing Julie Bushnell!  She had no problem pinch hitting for us when we learned that Mrs. Mills would be out for the start of the school year.  Every time I have popped in the room...she's got it all under control. :)  Hopefully this week we will see Mrs. Mills transitioning back into her classroom.
  • Mrs. Roundtree's 4th graders were typing up some poems about themselves on the Chromebooks.  Very excited that we will have 3 more carts this year!
  • Mr Wiesner was quickly remembering how kindergartners are in the beginning of the school year as he reviewed some expectations in music class with Mrs. Taylor's class.
Check it out:
Imagine what it would be like if we obsessed over teachers like we do athletes...
Love this post about sending a child to school written by two parents who are educators:
Great article about how long it takes to form a habit, good to remember as we start the year with new groups of kids and new lessons:
And another video clip to put a smile on your face...300 Potential Teachers

Monday, September 7, 2015

Third time's a charm...or not.

Principal ponderings...
Not my dog Tom, but the message definitely fit my post!
Our Labor Day weekend started off on the wrong foot on Friday night when our not so bright greyhound, Tom, got sprayed in the face by a skunk.  And of course we did not realize that had happened until he had come back into the house...sharing the lovely smell with the whole house.  This is the third time since acquiring Tom that this exact thing has happened.  You would think that maybe, just maybe, he would have learned his lesson and would steer clear when the next black and white striped creature would cross his path.  Nope, I'm guessing that he will still continue to go running after skunks.  Maybe after a few more encounters he will figure it out.  For now, I'm going to keep my scentsy plug in candles handy, as well as the special ingredients for our skunk shampoo concoction.

My deja vu incident this weekend made me think of the first day of school this year.  I did something different...I showed up at a random bus stop and rode the bus into school with the students.  There were many surprised faces when they saw me sitting in a seat on the bus!  Yet, after the initial shock wore off, I think they forgot I was there.  And it didn't take long before the bus driver and I were reminding several friends to "sit down in the seat" or "keep your hands to yourself" or "don't lean across the aisle into the other seat."  It certainly did not take long for students to settle back into the routine!  At first, I thought...I can't believe that we are five minutes into the first bus ride of the year, and they are already forgetting the bus rules and expectations that we have discussed for the past several years in bus meetings and classroom discussions.

But then I remembered that for some students all you have to do is tell them your expectations and they will adhere to them religiously.  For other students, maybe they need a few reminders and then they get it.  But often students, like my lovable, goofy greyhound, need to be reminded more than three times and then maybe they also need for the expected behavior to be experienced several times and modeled for them a few more times and then maybe, just maybe, they will remember the behavioral expectations of school.

So remember that whether you have some 4th graders who have been here since kindergarten or some kindergartners who think they can do everything 4th graders do (or at least what they think 4th graders can do!), expectations still need to be taught and re-taught.  All of our students are still learning how to navigate this complicated place called school.  You are going to teach them how to solve math problems, write opinion pieces and discuss books, but you are also going to teach them how to be a student, how to be respectful and how to interact with their peers.  Just remember...they are going to run into a few skunks before they get it right!

**In memory of John Demoga - I wanted to add a note to my post about a very special man who I just learned passed away on Saturday.  John was a school psychologist and sped team chair that I worked with in Westborough.  His daughter ended up being one of my school psychologists in Leominster and now lives down the street from me.  John was an amazing guy.  He always had a smile on his face, and he had the ability to put nervous parents at ease in tough meetings.  John worked as a school psychologist for over thirty years in Westborough.  I had actually just attended his retirement party a few years ago.  I have watched people become more aware of ALS through the recent 'Ice Bucket Challenge' of the past few years.  But I became aware of it when I watched John live with ALS everyday.  Walking the length of the hallway was difficult and painful for him, but he did it.  And when it became too hard, he used a scooter to get from his office to the conference room.  And through all of the difficult times, John had a smile on his face and somehow managed to make everyone around  him laugh.  He was 61.  I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful fellow educator who made a difference in the lives of children and families.  I can only hope to be half as brave as John was.

Currently reading:
I just finished I Will Always Write Back:  How One Letter Changed Two Lives.  This was a great story about pen pals, a girl from the US and a boy from Zimbabwe, who began as pen pals and became best friends.  Because they were connected in elementary school and wrote to each other, both of their lives were forever changed.  It is definitely a book that demonstrates the ripple effect of kindness!
I also read a new picture book that just came in the mail this week...Gaston.  This is a great book about the power of love and family as told through the perspective if two dog families.  I'm thinking I will add this to my read aloud list in classrooms this year!
As usual, I have a few professional books going at once, but one that I am focusing on right now is called Digital Leadership.  The author is Eric Sheninger, a principal who I have followed on Twitter for a while.  I'm looking forward to learning about "the strategic use of technology" and how it can help my leadership skills.

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Labor Day! No school
Tuesday - International Literacy Day! 
                    DR. Rodriguez visits FloRo in the am
Wednesday - Fire Drill @ 10:30
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT meeting in am
Looking ahead to the following week...
Staff meeting will be on Wednesday, Thursday is a half day and Open House is from 6-8 that night, grades 3-4 will be from 6:15-7:00, K-2 will be from 7:15-8:00, PTA Welcome Back picnic is Friday after school

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We had a jam packed first staff meeting.  Thanks Nurse Natalie for reminding us about our safety precautions!
  • Sue got us doing some sprint math and jumping jacks!  Looking forward to learning Eureka this year!
  • Love my graffiti reading wall that staff filled out during our scavenger hunt.  I'll be hanging this in the staff room for everyone to get some book recommendations.
  • Surprising students at a bus stop was a fun way to start the first day!

  • First day arrival everyone was buzzing with excitement!
  • You might not be able to see it, but this 2nd grader talked about and drew how hot the first day was a sweaty one but we all made it through!
  • I love our new library tables!  Thank you PTA!  Chairs are on the way!
  • Is it someone famous pulling up to Florence Roche?? What brought the paparazzi to school?  Kindergartners!
Check it out:
I know we are just getting started next week talking about writer's workshop, but this post might be helpful when thinking about info to share with parents:
Nice post about the importance of a classroom meeting area:
Here's a contest for your class to enter!  And the prize is books!  It's called the Be A Famous Writer Contest: or you can find her page here: