Monday, October 26, 2015

Keep on reeling!

Principal ponderings...

When I was in kindergarten or first grade, I asked my dad what the 'crack of dawn' meant.  Somehow that phrase had come up in conversation, and I was curious about it.  Of course, my dad being my dad did not tell me what it meant, he simply said that he would show me.  But he said I would have to wait until a different day before he could show me.  A few days later, my dad came and woke me up.  It seemed like it was the middle of the night.  It was still dark outside.  He had me dress in layers, packed us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and loaded fishing gear into the car.  As we waved goodbye to my mom and pulled out of the driveway, I asked him where we were going.  He said, "Didn't you want to learn about what the 'crack of dawn' meant?"  We stopped off at a convenience store to buy some worms, and then drove to a little pond tucked away from the world.  It was still dark as we began to walk down a windy dirt path with our flashlights and fishing poles.  When we got to the water, the sun was just beginning to show itself.  My dad said with a smile, "That is the crack of dawn."

I was reminded of this story when I came across this video clip of a different little girl fishing with her dad:
In this two minute clip, we see some amazing things going on, besides just the fact that she caught a big fish.  When she first starts realizing that she has a fish on the end of her Barbie pole, she is excited and immediately starts asking her dad for help.  The great thing is...he doesn't jump in and help or take the pole away and do it for her.  He tells her, "Keep on reeling!"  So she does exactly that.  She doesn't give up.  And then as she gets more and more excited about what she is doing, realizing that she is about to land a big fish, she turns to her dad and asks, "Are you making a video?"  When she realizes she is being filmed, she gets distracted from her task and even starts to get a little silly.  Again, does dad take the pole from her and take over the tough job of reeling the fish in?  No, he says again, "Keep reeling!"  And then she does it!  She is so excited that she was able to reel in a fish that is 20 inches long!  Dad asks her, "What do you think?"  And you can see her jumping for joy and cheering, "I got one finally!"  She is so proud of her accomplishment.  It took a lot of work, it was difficult, she struggled, and she did it on her own.

We can learn a lot from this little girl and her father.  This video clip certainly made me think of growth mindset.  We have lots of kids fishing in our school.  We give them the pole.  We guide them to the fish.  But we have to make sure that we are stepping back and encouraging them to "keep on reeling."  They are going to struggle.  They are going to say it's too hard.  They are going to ask for help.  But we need to let them experience the joy and excitement that comes with accomplishing those difficult tasks on their own.

That morning that my dad taught me about "the crack of dawn," he also showed me how to put a worm on a hook.  Once he demonstrated for me how to do it, he let me practice doing it.  I am sure I got frustrated at times and handed the worm and hook back to him, but he kept encouraging me to do it on my own.  It did not take long before I was able to set the hook up on my own.  I was proud of the fact that I could do it all by myself.  I needed my teacher, but I didn't need my teacher to do it for me.

Think about your students.  Are you encouraging them to "keep on reeling?"  When they are saying it's too hard or I need help...stop and remember that they can do it...they can catch that big fish.  And then you will be there to jump for joy with them!

Here's a short video clip with some great visuals related to growth mindset:

Currently reading:
I finally finished up The Wishing Spell, one of the MCBA books.  Took me a long time, but it was a good story, always like the fairy tale twist books.  There are several more in the series, but I am thinking I will take a break before I jump into another one in the series.
I am just starting another MCBA book by an author that lives in our state, Patricia MacLachlan.  I have enjoyed some of her other books, so I hope that I will enjoy Fly Away.  
I have been trying to lower the height of my to-be-read pile which is next to bed.  One of the books on that pile that I picked up to read this week is The Secret Chicken Society.  It seems like a funny book that will be a quick read.
And in preparation for a presentation that I will be giving to other principals in the area, I have been reading different sections of Digital Leadership.
Events this week:
Monday - Latin after school @ 3:30, Mandarin Chinese @ 3:30
Tuesday - Dianna out of district for the day, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Liz out of district for the day, Grade 4 chorus practice @ 2:25
Thursday - Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, Spirit Day! Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Wilkins's class was eager to share their fall sensory writing with me.  I loved this one that talked about "eggcorns."  Have you seen 'eggcorns on your fall walks?!
  • Mrs. Bukowksi was leading a Scholastic News discussion with Mrs. Lanctot's class.
  • I stopped by in the hallway to read Mr. Coronis's writing display.  Check them out...but here's a warning...your stomach might be growling after you're done since they are all about snack food!
  • Mrs. Fournier's class was busy doing independent reading when I popped in.  Check out their display.  The class challenged themselves to read 80 books during the month, and they are currently at 65+!  Way to go readers!

Check it out:
A kindergarten teacher's post about growth mindset.
Here is a really cool video about our amazing brains!...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wait for it...wait for it...

Principal ponderings...
We live in a fast-paced society.  We can get what we want whenever we want by simply hitting a few keys on the keyboard.  In fact, thanks to Siri, we don't even need to type, we can get answers as soon as we push a button and ask for an answer.  We avoid waiting as much as possible.  If you don't want to wait for commercials to end to get back to your show...we have DVR functions that allow us to pause and fast forward shows.  If you don't want to wait in line at Disney World, then all you have to do is buy a 'skip the line' pass and you can avoid waiting in line.  If you don't want to wait for someone to ring you up at the grocery store, then all you have to do is go to the scan your own aisle.  We don't do well with waiting.

But in the classroom, we need to try to remember to allow for waiting.  Considering how fast-paced our world is, it is extremely difficult to think about and incorporate wait time in our teaching.  This is coming from the queen of fast talking herself!  I remember when I was teaching, feedback from peers that observed me usually centered around me needing to slow down my speech and then also reminding me to give plenty of wait time when asking students questions.  

Research shows that wait time means 3 to 5 seconds.  When you have 20+ little faces staring at you on the rug, 3 to 5 seconds can feel like an eternity.  But it is important to give that wait time.  Research has also shown that when teachers utilize appropriate wait time, they end up with more students participating in discussion and students doing more thinking.  Which is what we want.

It's certainly hard to watch yourself and see if you are remembering about wait time.  You can always invite a peer in to do a specific observation.  I am always willing to come in and be an extra set of eyes as well!  You can even think about trying to do some internal counting...even do more than 5 seconds, over-exaggerate if you need to in order to turn it into a habit.  In the past, I have even had teachers who have asked another adult to do a quick video using their phone or used the audio recording function on a phone and then listen back to hear and track how much wait time you are using.

This week, as you are working with the whole group or even when you are working one on one with a conscious of your wait time.  Are we giving all of our kids time to think and respond? 

Currently reading:
Even though I have listened to others read it, I have not actually sat down and read the book How Full is Your Bucket For Kids myself.  So Friday afternoon, at the end of a long short week...I read it and thought about how I will work on filling people's buckets this weekend and next week.  I have a copy in my office if anyone wants to read or reread this book to their class.
I started reading Cynthia Lord's second book in her Shelter Pet Squad series: Merlin.  It's a cute story about a ferret and how a 2nd grader overcomes some obstacles, like being the youngest, to be a helpful member of the Shelter Pet Squad.   As soon as I finish, the book will be donated to our library.  Thank you Cynthia Lord for sending it to us!
After spending some time last week with the poet, Andrew Green, who worked with our 4th graders, I realized I had not read poetry in a while.  So I picked up my book of list poems called Falling Down the Page.  One of my favorites from this collection?  "Book Time" by Avis Harley because it starts with the line "Some many places to read a book" and it ends with "Where do you like to read your book?", with lots of places listed in between those two lines.
I think I shared this at the beginning of the school year, but I am also reading a great book with the district school leadership team.  It's called Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well.  It is rather interesting, and I'm learning a lot from it and am able to apply that learning each day in a different way.

Events this week:
**K and 1 will have vision and hearing screening this week in the conference room.
Monday - 4th grade field trip to Mt. Wachusett, Latin class @ 3:30, Mandarin Chinese @ 3:30
Tuesday - 4th grade field trip to Mt. Wachusett, Optional forum with Dr. Rodriguez @ 3:30, Acting Crazy enrichment class @ 3:30
Wednesday - Liz out of district, 4th grade field trip to Mt. Wachusett, Grade 2 Chorus practice @ 2:25, Staff meeting @ 3:30, Spanish Club @ 3:30
Thursday - Dianna attending Anxiety Conference, Chinese Acrobats presentation 2-4 in the PAC @ 10:00
Friday - Liz & Dianna at SLT @ Prescott in the am

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Most teachers had all day to focus on unpacking Eureka math modules.  I spent time with several special education staff members working on planning for our sub separate programs at the elementary and middle school levels.
  • Wendy Kelly and Amanda Shumaker attended the first session for district CPI training.  Not sure what CPI is?  Ask one of them!
  • I was in Mrs. Spiczka's half day K class and happened to catch Mrs. Shreve who is coming in to work with small groups of students.
  • I was glad that I popped into Mrs. Nissi's class when Andrew Green from Potato Hill Poetry was doing his presentation.  I enjoyed writing with the students and watching him inspire everyone to write about "small things."

  • Thank you to Karen Tuomi and Officer Henehan for coming to our Friday para meeting and following up with more training/discussion about our lockdown drills.
Check it out:
Here is a good post about getting kids to pump up the volume in writing...getting them to write more.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Let's get connected!

Principal ponderings...

Did you know that October is Connected Educator Month?!  What does that mean?  Well, check out this two minute clip about Tim, The Connected Educator.
Are you using 21st century skills to engage your students in the learning process?  If you answered yes, then you are a connected educator.  Of course, before you connect your students, you need to first make sure you are a connected learner.  We live in a world where we no longer have to wait to attend a conference or curriculum day to connect with other educators and learn from each other.  Now we can simply open up our laptop, unlock our phone with a thumbprint or swipe on our tablet.  Educators from around the world are literally at our fingertips.  I realize that sometimes that much opportunity, that many connections can be a bit overwhelming.  But if we have any hope of teaching students to be members of this global community, then we must make sure we are making connections.

To be a connected educator, you can start off by simply seeking out connections.  Start with social media.  Everyday educators are posting interesting articles and resources online.  For example, I belong to a group on Facebook called The Heart of Literacy.  While I don't get to read every post, I make a point to read the ones that interest me.  Or maybe you connect through Pinterest; if you do, then you have probably already found this page of ideas for using Eureka Math in elementary school.  Or maybe you connect through Twitter and listen in on conversations about education from around the world by following #edchat.  How about podcasts?  Next time you are stuck in traffic or need something in the background while you are working in your classroom, check out some of these top education podcasts.  And something really new that I am only just beginning to check out...Voxer!  Voxer is an app for your phone where you can send messages, photos and record yourself talking.  You can join groups and simply listen in to what people in the group are saying or you can join in on the conversation!  It's sort of like a nationwide walkie talkie.  I am just beginning to play around with this and will be writing a more detailed post about it in a few weeks.
I encourage you all to become connected educators or become even better connected educators.  Seek out resources, start up online chats, Skype with a teacher from across the country, blog about your experiences or read and respond to other educators' blogs.

Check out and learn about ways to get connected this month.  There is so much out there for us to learn about and we have so much to share with other educators.  So what are you waiting for?  Let's get connected!

Currently reading:
4th graders will soon be reading the MCBA books...Massachusetts Children's Book Award books.  I have read several on the list and am working my way through the rest of the list.  This weekend, I picked up a very quick read, Jack gets a Clue: The Case of the Loose-Toothed Shark.  This is a very easy read and your students who like mysteries and sharks might enjoy this one.
I also started reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park.  It is an interesting story which is actually two stories intertwined, one story of a child in Sudan in 1985 and one story of a child in Sudan in 2008.  Here is a video clip where the author talks about why she wrote this book. 

I also read a great picture book that I recently bought at the book store.  It's called My Leaf Book and it is perfect fall reading!  It would be good to read this book and take a sensory walk...and you can use the book to help identify different types of leaves.

Events this week:
Monday - Columbus Day, no school
Tuesday - Curriculum Day, no school, classroom teachers begin math PD time at 8:30, all other staff meet at the PAC @ 8:30 for MTSS presentation
Wednesday - Grade 1 chorus practice in the gym @ 2:25, PTA Meeting @ 7:30 in the cafeteria - Sue Wynn, guest speaker
Thursday - Library Fund Committee Meeting @ 8:15, Elementary Math Night @ HS Black Box at 7:00
Friday - Para meeting @ 9:00

Great things I noticed last week:
  • I was lucky enough to pop into Mrs. Hoke's and Ms. Johnson's classroom just as reading partners were beginning to read to each other during reader's workshop.
  • I enjoyed watching Mrs. McEvoy lead students through step by step of taking from 10 within 100.  She had them organizing their steps in their journals. 
  • Before school started one morning this week, I had a visit from a budding kindergarten author/illustrator.  She made a whole book about animals and came to my office to read it to me.  This was a picture of her favorite page, but I loved some of her other pages that said things like: "Here is a cat with a twinkle in its eye." :)
  • Loved the growth mindset work I saw hanging in Mrs. Taylor's room!
  • Mrs. Guernsey borrowed an idea from a Swallow Union teacher...using students' names and interests in the application problem and her class was psyched to try to solve the problem, including the student who noticed it was about him!
  • The new Florence Roche Student Council had their first meeting this past week.  Looking forward to some exciting projects that will be generated by them this year!
  • And of course our week was topped off by a special visit from Cynthia Lord!  Thanks to the PTA, all grades were able to hear her speak about reading and writing.  Some grades even got a sneak peak at her newest Hot Rod Hamster book!  Love her simple message of 4 things that helped her become a writer.  This week I will be drawing some teachers' names and donating autographed books to classroom libraries!

Check it out:
Love this post about the best advice from fictional characters...and the number one character is one of Cynthia Lord's!
DESE has put out a Teachers' Top 3 which is a direct communication sent to you...three simple items that will be sent every other week.  Sign up here:

Monday, October 5, 2015

If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you

Principal ponderings...
It's that time again.  Time to do some self assessments and decide on our goals.  Some of you will be starting a new one year or two year cycle for educator evaluation.  Some of you are in the middle of a two year cycle and will either continue with your goals you set last year or decide to make adjustments.  I want us all to think about the title of this post...if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.  Maybe some of you are saying 'I don't want to change, everything is good just the way it is.'  If you are thinking that way, then you might be stuck in a fixed mindset.  We want our students to have a growth mindset, and that means we all need to work to make sure we are challenging ourselves and moving from a fixed to a growth mindset.  And fortunately, our goals can help us with that!

You have a lot to consider when you begin to plan and write down your goals.  First, you might want to think about our school improvement plan.  I just had our first school council meeting last week and began the discussion with the council about our new SIP goals, as well as what we accomplished last year.  While we are still writing the new plan, I will share with you some of my initial thoughts about what I plan to take on as challenges this year in order to bring about more positive change.  One goal is an easy one because we wrote it last year as a two year goal.  This goal will focus on technology integration and taking a closer look at how exactly technology is spread throughout the standards, along with beginning to develop a plan on how to improve our technology integration in classrooms.  Last year, one of my goals was to develop a communication plan that focused on communication between the school as a whole and families.  Now that we have that plan developed and have been making improvements with how we communicate between the office and parents, I would like to begin to look at developing a communication plan for teacher/parent communication.  As far as academic goals, our school goals will focus on how we begin to improve our writing instruction and how we transition students to a new math curriculum.  Those are just my beginning thoughts about school improvement plan goals; you might think about how your goals will tie into the school goals.

You might also think about how your goals can be team goals.  Maybe there is an area that your team wants to focus on.  The work put into team goals, the collaboration that happens throughout the cycle,  the potential peer observations, and the great discussions can be very powerful and lead to a lot of growth.  Check out this video clip that is part of the ed eval clips create by DESE last year.  Click the link to hear about the value of team goals from teachers around MA.

You are also most likely going to think about your year last year.  Was there an academic area that you feel you need to improve in?  Did your student assessments point to one particular focus area?  I have the same conversation with many people that I evaluate.  They are worried that they will set a goal and they won't achieve it.  I want to remind everyone that by setting a goal that challenges you to make changes in your teaching practice and working towards your action steps, then you will have taken the first step towards achieving quite a bit.  Just like we are looking for growth in our students, I am looking for growth in our staff.  Setting goals and working together towards them ensures that there will be growth.  Even if you don't hit the mark, you will certainly be moving in the right direction to the target!  

What will your goals be this year?  Will they challenge you and change you?

Currently reading:
After a week of visits to the book fair, my book purchases pile was quite large!  One of the books that I bought and read right away was This Book Just Ate My Dog.  This is a very cute picture book that will be a great read aloud for K and 1.  Students will definitely want to interact with this book!
Another sweet, simple book that I purchased was called I Wish You More.  I love this book!  I can definitely see teachers using this book to do a writing extension with or simply using this book to engage in a great conversation with students.  It is a book that could help with discussion about growth mindset! 
I started reading a book that I have heard great things about and was even recommended to me by one of our 4th graders this summer.  It's a graphic novel called El Deafo.  This is actually a graphic novel memoir where the author shares the story of growing up and going to school with a hearing aid called The Phonic Ear.

Events this week:
Monday - Dianna out of the building at a training, after school Mandarin class in ELL room 3:30-4:30, after school Latin class in the library 3:30-4:30
Tuesday - Dr. Rodriguez visits FR in the am
Wednesday - Picture Day! Grade 2 chorus practice in the gym @ 2:25, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Friday - Cynthia Lord visits FR! (Gr 3/4 @ 9:30, Gr 2 @ 10:30, Gr K/1 @ 1:00), Dianna and Liz at SLT meeting @ Prescott in the am

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Mrs. Kavanagh's class was showing her that they could read color words.
  • Students enjoyed visiting the book fair during library time.  There were so many good book purchases!

  • Thank you to the PTA and the volunteers who helped run the book fair this past week!
  • This 3rd grader was very proud of his hard work paying off on his spelling test.  Love that happy face!

Check it out:
I love this guided reflection that uses metaphor to reflect on learning in a meaningful way!
If you are on Twitter, check out #MathMindset...I'm working on a future post about this topic.
Came across this list and I love it!  60 ways to help students think for many are you doing with your class?