Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Power of Pronouns

Principal ponderings...

Yes, I was an English major who actually enjoyed learning about parts of speech and grammar.  Yes, I have a secret desire to become an editor - a job where I get to read books all the time and edit mistakes.  And yes, I am a huge fan of mad libs.  But none of these statements explain the meaning behind the title of my post.  Take a look at the following sentence and see what happens when you plug in different pronouns.  How does the sentence change?

______ (They or We) should figure out how to help _____ (my, our) students because ______ (I, we) need to make sure the needs of all of _____ (my, our) students are met.

Pronouns are small, but mighty little words.  While it's true they are simply words used in place of nouns, pronouns are important, and our sentences would not be the same without them.  When we are talking about education and classrooms and students, it's important to choose the right pronouns.  

It can't be about me and you; it needs to be about us and ours.  

We have to be careful not to always fall into the trap of I am planning this and 
my classroom needs that.  

Instead of thinking I can do it on my own or you don't have the same group of students as me...We should be looking at how his or her classroom management strategies can make all of us better, and their student growth data trends can push us all to make changes in our practice. 

If you are thinking why am I feeling overwhelmed and not able to help all of my students...let's figure out how we can support each other and make improvements for our students.

In the district, we have to move away from thinking in terms of us and them and move towards thinking we are responsible for their future.

This isn't my school.  It isn't your school.  It's their school.

And they need us to do everything we can to give them the best education possible.  

Which pronouns will you be using this week?  
Will it be all about me and you or will it be all about them?

Currently reading:
I am listening to an interesting story on my drive to work.  It's called Rooftoppers, and it's about a little girl who survived a shipwreck and how she is trying to find her mother.  The young main character, Sophie, is a book lover raised by a man who found her and is also a book lover.  So far, it's an enjoyable book to listen to.
I just finished My Happy Life.  This book is great on so many levels.  First of all, it is an early chapter book, with very short, easy chapters that some early readers who really want to read chapter books could certainly handle.  It is simply written, but handles difficult subjects like the loss of a parent and friends moving away.  I like how the School Library Journal reviewed it, saying, "The difficult subjects are handled gracefully, allowing children to realize that happiness comes and goes, and that everyone has hardships to face."
I am excited to be part of another online book chat.  I am rereading The Book Whisperer.  Donalyn Miller is so great.  If you haven't read this professional book yet, I am pretty sure there are copies available in the curriculum office to borrow.  I came across a cute picture book in my local library called Previously.  It goes through lots of famous fairy tale characters and talks about what they were up to previously!
**Don't forget March is Reading Month!  (Even though...every month is really reading month!)

Events this week:
Monday - ELA/Math curriculum day for 3rd grade, Zumba with MaryKaye at 3:30 in the gym!
Tuesday - ELA/Math curriculum day for 4th grade, Variety Show practice in the gym after school
Wednesday - Happy birthday to Dr. Seuss!  Shadow a Student Day! Liz will be shadowing a 3rd grader all day! Play preview @ 2:15 in the PAC, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Kindergarten Orientation @ 6:30pm
Friday - 1st grade chorus practice @ 2:25, Performance of GDCE's Seussical, the Musical at 7:00 in the PAC
Saturday - Performance of GDCE's Seussical, the Musical at 7:00 in the PAC
Sunday - Performance of GDCE's Seussical, the Musical at 2:00 in the PAC

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Check out our new comfy seats that are in the library now!
  • I popped into Mrs. Riley's class and caught her 1st graders working on identifying adjectives that they could add to their writing.
  • Ms. Johnson and Ms. Hoke's 2nd graders were practicing their listening skills and discussion skills in non fiction book clubs.
  • Kindergarten, 1st grade and 2nd grade teams had ELA/math curriculum days with the coaches, and I was able to sit in for a little bit with kindergarten.
  • I enjoyed pulling up on the rug and sitting next to this 1st grader who was reading all about penguins during independent reading!
  • I was excited to open up my mail and find these books.  I ordered them for our school council members.  Looking forward to some small group book chats!

Check it out:
Watch this video clip!  Simple, yet powerful message to students.  This project had teachers selecting one student to tell them why they think they are important and that they are "the reason they come to work each day." 
Check out this new feature on Scholastic...students can write their own book reviews and read book reviews written by other students!
Can't remember if I shared this article with you already: Becoming a Math Person: about how you can help students develop a math mind.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Making It Count...1,2,3,4,5 Challenge

Principal ponderings...
I am part of a Voxer group called #PrincipalsinAction.  No, that's wrong.  I'm not just part of this group; I am engaged, motivated, pushed, inspired, challenged, changed for the better by this group of principals from all over the map.  Every time I listen to messages from this group or read what they are writing on their blogs, I learn something new.  I think...yes, awesome, how can I try that?! They push me to keep improving my practice.  They challenge me to do more for our students.  They remind me every day why I love my job.  Recently a member from the group named Kas Nelson (@kasnelson), an elementary principal from Oklahoma, challenged our group to write a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 blog post...and I accepted the challenge!

1. What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?
Hmm...only one?!
I think back to my first staff meeting where my message this year was that this would be the best school year yet.  Fast forward to today, and I have to admit that it has been a bumpy ride this year.  The year started with the teachers being asked to bite off more than they could chew...implement a new, rigorous math curriculum and at the same time dive into the Lucy Calkins Writing Units of Study.  It was a daunting task, one that would have had teachers spending all of their time reading and planning, leaving little time to think about connecting with kids and meeting the kids' needs.  We ended up moving the writing work to next year and focusing on math this year.  This gave everyone some breathing room.  But for me, I have to admit I was discouraged with the process of reaching an agreement.  I let myself get discouraged and definitely began to doubt myself as a leader.  I am the eternal optimist, yet I found myself letting the negative thoughts creep in.  I have been working hard to push the negative out and get myself back on track so that I can keep encouraging my staff to still make this the best year yet!

2. Share TWO accomplishments that you are proud of from this year.
Even though it was part of the struggle I discussed above, I am extremely proud of the staff rising to the challenge of a brand new math curriculum.  Eureka math is a rigorous program.  Eureka math makes kids think.  Eureka math makes parents think.  Eureka math makes staff think.  At the beginning of the year, reading through one lesson was was packed with so many activities, so many new vocabulary words, so many new techniques.  We were all dealing with learning how to teach with this new program.  Now, teachers have actually said to me, I love it.  Parents have told me they are amazed at what their child is able to do.  And the students...well there is only one word for the joy, the sense of accomplishment, when they find an answer and can explain their thinking...Eureka!

I am also extremely proud that our students love reading!  Kids get excited about their reading stamina.  I walk into classrooms and everyone, every single student is reading.  (Not too long ago, I walked into classrooms and no one was reading.)  And more importantly, they are reading books that they have chosen, books that interest them.  Thanks to our PTA and other donated funds, we have continued to build up classroom libraries and our school library so that we have books, books and more books!  Students, teachers, and administrators are recommending books to each other.  I am so proud of the reader's workshop model that our school has embraced.

3. What are THREE things you wish to accomplish by the end of the school year?
There are more than 3 but I will just list the top 3 that come to mind...
I want to be better about planning my days and weeks.  I want more time in classrooms and less time in meetings.  I need to get better about being selective when scheduling in meeting times.  There are days when dismissal comes around and people wonder...was she even in the building today?  I want to be part of the magic that happens in the classrooms.  I miss being in a classroom all day.  It's simple...I need to make sure that most of my time is spent with students and teachers.

And being present in classrooms more means I also want to get better about giving timely and effective feedback.  When I was a teacher, I craved feedback, and I never got it.  Actually, I did get some feedback, but that was only when I invited my peers into my room to observe me.  I want to continue to try to spread the message that educator evaluation is about helping every educator grow so that we can keep giving our best to students.  We all have room for improvement and that should not be viewed as a bad thing.  I want to push and challenge my teachers to be better than they were yesterday.  #kidsdeserveit!

Thanks to my #principalsinaction group, I started purposely making positive phone calls home.  Best. part. of. my. day.  Typically, when a parent hears that it's me calling, their first instinct is...what happened, what went wrong?  It was amazing to call parents and simply share with them how proud I am of their child and how I think their kid is awesome.  Is it possible to hear a beaming smile through the phone?  Yes, it is.  I certainly had tears in my eyes during several conversations.  And another bonus...reading the positive thoughts that teachers had to share about their students.  I plan to keep up the positive phone calls home!

4. Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today's rough culture.
At the beginning of the year, the superintendent challenged us to share what education is in 3 words.  My words were: molding future minds.  That is why I have to be in education.  We get to do awesome things...we mold kids' brains!  We are shaping the future.  That is super cool!  How could you want to do anything else??

Even though there are a million different acronyms, and even more initiatives, and mandates...there are so many hard-working, passionate educators who care about kids before anything else.  Watching educators connect with won't find anything like that in a 9-5, cubicle job.

Another reason why I stay in education?  Every day is new.  Every day I learn more.  Every day I make connections with educators across the world.  I see the big picture, and I love that I am a teeny tiny piece of the puzzle.  For every challenge that comes up in the field of education there are dozens more inspirational stories that energize me and renew my faith in society.

Three years ago, during my first year as a principal, my mother retired after 25 years of teaching.  The speech I gave at her retirement party can be found at this link, and it talks about her influence on me.  She was and always will be my favorite magistra.  The impact she had on so many kids over the years...I want to have that same impact on kids.  Someday I want someone to give a speech at my retirement that describes how every interaction I had, every decision I made was for kids.  Maybe someday it will be my daughter telling me how proud she is that her mom was an educator.

5. Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?
I challenge any of the fabulous teachers at Florence Roche to take the challenge.  If you don't have a blog for yourself or your classroom, then start one.  Here's your first prompt!  Actually you don't even need to do this on a blog if you aren't ready for that yet...simply answer these questions for yourself.  And I'll even throw in a challenge to our superintendent, Kristan Rodriguez (@Dr_Rodriguez21).  She is a blogging queen...I know she might not want to stray from her Friday update...but even answering these questions for yourself is good for the soul. :)

I would like to challenge Patricia Wilson @PKJWilson, a new principal in North Augusta, South Carolina.  She literally just sent me a random message through Twitter thanking me for writing my blog and helping her figure out how to connect with her staff.  Made my day reading a message from a complete stranger!  Here you go Patricia...better get writing!

I would like to challenge Rachael Peck (@rachaelpeck23) .  She is a principal out in Roseville, CA and through #SAVMP...a virtual mentor program that I joined through Twitter...I am her virtual mentor and have been working on connecting through email, Twitter and Voxer.

I would like to challenge Claire Giardino (@cgiardino3), a principal in Ohio, who I recently connected with through Voxer.

I would like to challenge Scott Middlemiss (@ScottMiddlemiss).  Not sure if he blogs, but he should!  A little birdie told me that he has been giving me a hard time for not being able to attend our collaborative admin meetings...well I am going to throw this challenge at him...get to it mister!

I can't do a counting post without throwing in a counting song video clip...

Currently reading:

I sat down and read Fish in a Tree cover to cover over the break.  This book is amazing!  I put it in the same category as Rules, Wonder and Out of My Mind.  It's about a student who doesn't believe in herself and a teacher who cares enough to help her see her potential.  The author paints such a powerful picture of a young girl struggling with dyslexia: "I wish she could understand my world.  But it would be like trying to explain to a whale what it's like to live in the forest."  Go read this book right now!  It's contains a message that everyone needs to hear.  I am also finishing up listening to Hoot on my drive.  I am rereading The Book Whisperer as part of a Voxer book chat.  I did not read the whole thing before, and I want to.  And I started reading Cynthia Lord's newest book in her Shelter Pet Squad series....Paloma.  A copy will be in our library as soon as I am done!

Events this week:
Monday - Welcome back!  Hope everyone had a great vacation week!  Zumba with MaryKaye in the gym @ 3:30
Tuesday - PTA Meeting 7:30 pm - Topic will be about summer camp opportunities
Wednesday - ELA/Math curriculum day for K, 1st grade chorus practice @ 2:25
Thursday - ELA/Math curriculum day for grade 1
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT meeting in the am, ELA/Math curriculum day for grade 2

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Be sure and pop in the might see some changes!  Thanks to Ann, Casey and some parents (and Ann's son) for coming in and helping rearrange book shelves, redesign the layout and shelf books in new spots.
  • I was super excited to open up a special package that was delivered on Friday before the books from Cynthia Lord for our library!  She autographed them for our kiddos and reminded them all to "Dream big!"  Cynthia Lord rocks!
  • Thursday before vacation the 2nd graders put on an amazing concert and performed some Valentine's poems.  Here's a clip of some scatting! 
  • Spirit day was on Thursday...check out the crazy hair, crazy socks and sports jerseys!
  • And Sydney, our principal for the day had a jam-packed Wednesday! 
  • Last week, the staff started practicing for our special performance at the upcoming variety show...we should start every morning with dancing!
Check it out:
Great article about the importance of letting children cry, tears help support social emotional development:
Love this simple message of starting a writing conference with a student by saying, "I want to give you a compliment."  I know I like when conversations start that way!
Thanks Marcia Cragg for sharing this article about how important it is for us adults to play...helps with our work/life balance!
The World Book Talk Championship has narrowed down the list to 4 people...2 literacy legends and 2 lead the clip and vote for your favorite!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What if?

Principal ponderings...

It's Super Bowl Sunday, and even though around here most of us are rather upset that our beloved Patriots are not in the game, it's still on many people's minds today.  I know when I went to the grocery store...the packed parking lot and the deals on chips, dips, and wings were certainly signs that many would still be watching the game in the evening.

I thought I would reflect back on last year's game.  The one where the Patriots won.  I actually don't really want to talk about the specifics of the game.  Instead, I decided to do a little research and want to share some interesting numbers with you.

Did you know that last year's Super Bowl was the most tweeted Super Bowl ever?  There were 28.4 million tweets about the game or the half time show.  Last year's game also broke records on Facebook as well.  There were 265 million posts, comments or likes related to the Super Bowl.  That's a lot of people talking about a football game.  Posting on social media.  Reading what others are writing.  Writing and sharing thoughts with each other.

What if one day, that many people were talking about what we were doing in school?  What if for a few hours millions of people were talking about student learning?

Here are some more numbers.  Did you know that prior to the Super Bowl, NBC sold out of ad space at a record $4.5 million per second.  Per second?!  Are you serious?  So that means...if my math is correct...that's $270 million in a minute!!

What if we were able to have that much money and more go to our schools, our educators, our students!?  Here I am writing out grants for $2,500 or $500.  Imagine what we could do with the money spent just on Super Bowl ads alone.

The average price of one Super Bowl ad?  Last year, it was $4.2 million, up from $2.5 million in 2005.

What if businesses gave that money to each school instead?  You want more technology in your classroom?  You got it.  You want to purchase standing desks and exercise balls for students who need them?  You got it.  You want to redo the playground?  You got it.

It's the start of budget season around here.  There's lots of talk about data and numbers and dollars and needs.  Of course lots of talk does not translate to millions of tweets, or millions of dollars for that matter.  We are not the Super Bowl.  We are just a bunch of hard-working educators trying to mold future minds with minimal funds.  Yet, for some reason, our society puts more money into trying to sell us stuff while we sit on a couch watching grown men play a game.

Did you know that in 2013, the average amount spent per student in the U.S. was $10,700.

What if kids, the future of our nation, were more important than Doritos and Budweiser?

Currently reading:
I am still working on listening to Hoot in my car and am enjoying it.  I checked out some picture books from my local library.  Appropriate for our snowstorm last week and the potential ones this week... If It's Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws!  I think any kiddo would love to listen to this read aloud.  In fact, if you want me to pop in and read it to your class this week, let me know!
Another interesting read was a book called The Library Pages.  Pretty funny story about what happens when the librarian is on maternity leave and the kids decide to be "helpful" while she is out!  I have been working on Fish in a Tree and even sent a tweet to the author Lynda Mullaly Hunt (@LynMullalyHunt) and now she is following me!

Events this week:
Monday - Zumba at 3:30 in the gym with MarkKaye!
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday -  Sydney D. will be Principal for the Day!, 4th graders from Potter and Roundtree doing the pledge at School Committee Mtg @ 7:00
Thursday - Student Council Meeting @ 8:30, Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, Grade 3 Enrichment program in the am - Groton Light, Spirit Day!
Friday - Dianna and Liz at SLT meeting in the am, Grade 1 chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym
Enjoy your February vacation!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Unfortunately, the stomach bug, a meeting at DESE and a snow snowstorm meant that I was only in the building for one and about one fourth of a day last week.  Looking forward to being out and about and healthy this week!
  • I did love reading aloud to all of you at our staff meeting and then beginning to discuss the book...before we had our lovely fire drill.
  • And when I was in Wednesday afternoon, this picture shows Dianna with a 2nd grader...right before we all did the happy dance because he had been working so hard in class.  Afterwards, he informed me that I needed to get some more legos for my office.  I will work on that over the break!

Check it out:
I heard that lots of you enjoyed the math snippet I sent you on the snow day.  Here's another one...about going to the nurse!
Check out this post about the Super Bowl of Book Chats!
And are you looking for a great new shirt?  I will be ordering some of these.  Adam and Todd are two awesome principals who are putting out a great message...#KidsDeserveIt!!The-KDI-Project-KidsDeserveIt/jykdy/56ae2eba0cf2dc1600d97888

Monday, February 1, 2016


Principal ponderings...
I participated in a Twitter chat with the group #EDthink and the topic was "Relationships: Building a Foundation for Learning."  When it comes down to it, relationships are everything in the business of education.  We build relationships with our peers.  We build relationships with our students.  We build relationships with parents.  Relationships can be easy.  Relationships can be difficult.  But they are the glue that holds everything together.  And it is especially our relationships with each and every student that makes learning and growth possible.

When I saw someone tweet the above acronym...I had to borrow it for this post!  What if we all remembered S.M.I.L.E.?  We need to make sure that for every student that walks through our front door (or side door!)...we show them that they are loved.  I know that on some days this is not easy.  Maybe you have something going on at home that is weighing on your mind.  On some days it is not easy because for some students you might have a hard time finding the love.  But I am hear to tell you that each student needs to be loved by you.  Every student deserves to be loved by their teacher.
Here's another great quote to think about.  Your students are going to want to learn more from you as soon as they know that you truly care about them.  They will want to impress you with their learning.

We are much more than their teachers when they are here with us for 6 hours.  We are their parents.  We are their counselors.  We are their nurses.  We are their shoulders to cry on.  We are their hugs when they need them.  We are their cheerleaders.  We are their coaches.
I can't remember if I shared this already, but it doesn't hurt to share it again!

So my question for you all this week...
Will you S.M.I.L.E. at each of your students...even on the rough days?  Will you keep working on building those crucial relationships that we know have a direct impact on student learning?

Currently reading:
I am listening to Hoot during my drive, just started it, but it certainly has some interesting characters in it.  I have to admit that I just read Red: A Crayon's Story this week.  Yep, I ordered multiple copies of this book for our school without having read it, but I trusted those of you who recommended it!  It really is such a simple book about a crayon, but when you think about it, it is so much more...there are a lot of themes that we are going to be able to pull out of this book as we discuss it with our students.

Here is a 30 second books trailer about the book: 
And here is a post that Grace found where a mom talks about the different possible themes of this book:

Events this week:
Monday - Zumba with MaryKaye in the gym @ 3:30!
Tuesday - Dr. Rodriguez visits FloRo in the morning, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Liz at DESE in the morning, Acton Discovery Museum visits 1st grade: Color and Light Exploration Workshop, Grade 2 Chorus Practice @ 2:25, Staff Meeting @ 3:30

Great things I noticed last week:
  • I was very excited to open this box of books!  Our One Book, One School book, Red: A Crayon's Story arrived.  Looking forward to handing these out at our staff meeting and starting discussions around the school about this book! 
  • It was so great to see everyone come together to say goodbye to one of our awesome paras, Emily.  We wish her the best of luck in her new adventures out of state.  Last week, we also welcomed Sue Schumaker, a new para who will be working with the students in Mrs. Robinson's classroom. 
  • Popped into Mr. Coronis's class during Reader's Workshop and listened in on a non-fiction mini lesson.  Students were practicing reading non-fiction passages and using "teacher voices" to share what they read. 
  • Half day K students switched sessions this week, and I took the opportunity to go in and read a story to both groups.  Amazing to see them change before our eyes throughout the school year! 
  • I was walking down the hall and this 3rd grader stopped to show me his flashlight that he designed!  Love the young engineers and electricians in our school! 
  • I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday at the Groton Country Club as part of the Future Search.  Dianna Fulreader, Mollie Kavanagh, Sue Wynn and I, along with 80 different parents, teachers, administrators, business leaders, community members, current and past School Committee, participated in activities that helped us find some common ground about what we all want for a vision for GDRSD. 

Check it out:
Even if I already shared this post with's worth a second and third read!