Sunday, March 27, 2016

Share the Positivity Love!

Principal ponderings...

"One drop of positivity can change an ocean of negativity."  This was something that Caitlin Haacke's mom had always said to her.  And a few years ago, she took her mom's advice.  As a high school student, one day Caitlin was the victim of cyber-bullying.  Someone had hacked into her account and posted some terrible things on her Facebook page.  What did she do?  She decided to respond with kindness.  A lot of kindness.  She came into her school the next day and posted 800 sticky notes that had positive statements on them all over every single locker in the school.  She wrote things like, "you are beautiful" or "you're awesome" or a favorite, "you are a cupcake with sprinkles in a world full of muffins."  This simple act, turning a negative into a positive, sparked a movement.  People all over the world started sharing pictures of their positive post it notes.

Here is a video clip of the news story:

And here is a compilation video of positive post it notes written in one day:

It is rather amazing to think how a small piece of paper, a 3x3 colorful paper piece of paper, with a simple message on it, can have such a big impact.  Caitlin's decision that day was inspiring.  Now, many people all over will be participating in #PositivePostItDay; people all over will be writing positive messages on post it notes on Tuesday, March 29.  I will be joining in on this day, and I encourage all of you to join in as well.  I loaded up on sticky notes to add to the already full basket that I have in my office.  On Monday, I will be setting time aside to write out lots and lots of positive post it notes!  I will be posting them throughout the school, so be on the lookout.  I am also going to email parents and encourage them to send post it notes in their children's bags and lunch boxes.  Let's all share the positivity love!

Will you join me on Tuesday for #PositivePostItDay and spread the positivity at Floro?!

**And check out this idea that I found online...Tootling- the opposite of tattling. Tootling is when students write a positive note about their classmates or teacher and stick it up on our tootling board. They love doing it, and it helps promote a cohesive classroom community! 

Currently reading:
Appropriate for this time of year, as we begin to think spring, I read This Year's Garden by Cynthia Rylant.  It's a lovely description of the different phases a garden goes through during the year.
I also checked a funny book from the library...recommended by some 1st graders...Pirates Don't Change Diapers.  Definitely a good read aloud for young kids! 
And thanks to Mrs. Fulreader for the recommendation of The Most Magnificent Thing.  This is a great book to talk about growth mindset, perseverance, creativity, simple machines, you name it!  Thank goodness my brother gave me an Amazon gift certificate for my birthday...just bought this book and a few others!
I will most likely finish Crenshaw before I go to sleep tonight...another amazing book by Katherine Applegate.  Then I can't wait to start Pax; I have been reading reviews and getting lots of recommendations for this one! 
And one more week until one of my favorite weeks of the year...the book fair!  Can't wait to see what books I will add to my collection.  Also, excited that I am apparently on track with my reading challenge to read 150 books during 2016.  So far I have read 35.  Love keeping track on!

Events this week:
**The SAFE Trailer will be here all back and students will visit it during gym time.
Monday - Our last marvelous Monday in March...time for an egg hunt!  After 8:30, be on the lookout in the staff room and the office for eggs! Zumba with MaryKaye @ 3:30
Tuesday - Positive Post-It Day!
Wednesday - Curriculum committee mtg (BLT team) @ 8:30 in the conference room, Grade 3 chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym
Thursday - FR and SU Grade 1 math PD time in the pm, Zumba with MaryKaye @ 3:30
Friday - 2nd grade field trip to the NE Aquarium, FR/MS transition meetings, Book Fair preview in the library
**Elementary Science Fair will take place in the MS North Gym at 1:00 on Saturday!  Come see what our young scientists have done for projects!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I popped into Mrs. Spiczka's kindergarten class, and I enjoyed having students read to me and talk about books.
  • Mrs. Guernsey's class did some persuasive writing and invited me in to share supporting arguments to try to convince me that they should have one night a week of no homework.
  • It was just me and the giraffe hanging out at the back table in Mrs. Clark's class, listening to a discussion about angle measures using a clock. 
  • Some of Mr. Smith's students were using an online program to look up the levels of some of the books in their classroom library. 
  • When I dropped into Mrs. Mills' class, they were just about to start planting! 
  • And on Friday, I was lucky enough to be Mrs. Lanctot's sub for the start of the day.  We might have had a dance party and danced a conga line around the room...we also did a read aloud and sang a funny song from a Tacky the Penguin book!
Check it out:
If you want to hear Caitlin tell her story, watch this TedTalk:
A post about teaching perseverance and grit:

And check out this free PD that will be happening online this Saturday...

Monday, March 21, 2016

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It!

Principal ponderings...
Last week, a principal from Virginia (@_AndyJacks) sent me the link to this video clip about resiliency:
While the title of the clip is resiliency, and we could talk about being resilient and having the strength to get through anything...the line that stood out for me the most in this clip is "if it was easy, everyone would do it."  I thought this was a good message for us all at this time of year.  We have finished up the second trimester.  We have been doing assessments and filling out report cards.  We have been continuing to work our way through a new math curriculum.  We have begun preparations for implementing a new writing curriculum next year.  We have been trying to provide social emotional support for many students who need it.  We have been completing evaluations and participating in many team meetings with parents.  At the same time, we have been dealing with different family issues in our own personal lives.  
As educators, we have a very difficult job to do every single day.  It is hard work.  There are no easy days.  There are even some days where, like Buster Douglas, we get knocked down.  We might feel like we are down for the count.  But then, we remember why we do what we do.  Why do we choose to be educators?  Why do we choose to be part of a career that requires and encourages continuous growth?  Because we are responsible for molding future minds.  We have students in our classrooms who are at all different levels, and we get to take them from where they are to where we know they can go.  That is ridiculously hard work.  But, as Tom Hanks says in 'A League of Their Own', the hard is what makes it great. 
I was motivated by the resiliency video clip as soon as I watched it, and I have watched it several times since that first time.  This is the time of year when we need to remind each other to find that strength that every educator has within themselves.  We might let ourselves get knocked down by all of the responsibility, all of the hard work that we are expected to do every single day for our students.  Just remember your why.  Why do you do this job?  Your why is greater than anything that knocks you down.  Our students need us.  They always need us.  Even if we are tired.  Even if we are feeling overwhelmed.  Even if we have too much to do and too little time.  Our students are always our why.

If teaching the future was an easy job, everyone would be in education.  But it's not easy.  You are an educator.  You are part of a very special group of people.  And you are strong.  

The bell has rung.  It's the next round.  Get up, get going.  Show the world that your why is greater than your knock down.  Finish the school day stronger than you started.  And then find someone who is not an educator...and ask them what exactly they accomplished today.

Currently reading:
I checked out a few picture books from the school library.  One book was called Stella Louella's Runaway Book.  It's a great read for anyone who has ever lost their library book.
In honor of Pi Day last Monday, I read the book Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi.  Great math story that mixes in the explanation of Pi.
I also read one of Cynthia Rylant's High-Rise Private Eye series books, The Case of the Fidgety Fox.  I used to read all of those when I was teaching 2nd grade...guess I was a little nostalgic this week, remembering my classroom teaching days! 

Events this week:
**Report cards should be completed and reviewed by Tuesday
Monday - Since it's a snow day...our Marvelous Monday March Madness Matching game will happen Tuesday morning.  Check your email for instructions!
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 3:30, PTA Meeting @ 7:30 pm
Wednesday - 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25, Future Search Vision Meeting at Prescott - 5:30-7:00, Report cards available to parents online
Thursday - Student Council Meeting @ 8:30 am, 4th grade team half day math session in the pm
Friday - School Leadership Team meeting at the high school in the am

Great things I noticed last week:
  • The 1st graders did a fabulous job singing songs and reciting poems at the school show.
  • I caught some 3rd graders working outside of their classroom, mapping out the school.
  • On Tuesday, Ann Simeone and I were invited to a Daisy troop meeting, where we were presented with a check for $200.  The girls in the troop raised some money and wanted to donate it to the library to buy more books.  How awesome is that?!
  • I popped into Mrs. McEvoy's class to listen in on one of Mrs. Cahill's lessons about making up with a friend after getting into an argument.
  • On Thursday, I was lucky enough to be invited to be a community reader in Ms. Sherry's room.  I enjoyed reading Bucket Filling A to Z to the preschoolers.
  • Community Reader Day at FloRo was a huge success on Friday!  We had so many community members in our school, and students did an awesome job collecting needed items for Loaves and Fishes.  We even had Ed Harding from Channel 5 news come and read to some 2nd grade classes!
  • The Variety Show on Friday night was so much fun!  Dancing, singing, and lots of laughs...can't wait until next year!  Nina and John did a great job with the family band.

Check it out:
Interesting read about the change happening in libraries across the country:
Love this post from a principal...all about being a reader in the school:
Not sure if Sue already shared this...great clip showing the progression of addition and subtraction!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Creative Spaces and Inspirational Places

Principal ponderings:

Spring forward...yes, we all had to move our clocks ahead this weekend, which means we lost an hour, but on a positive not...spring is just about here.  And with the weather being what it has been for the past week, I am thinking that we can look forward to more good days ahead.  Only a week away from the first official day of spring!  This is the time of year when everyone starts thinking about spring cleaning.  Spring cleaning might also mean rearranging.  At least in our house that is what it sometimes means.  My husband loves to rearrange our furniture in a room or reorganize the cupboards and closets when I'm not home.  It's always fun when I suddenly need to hunt for the measuring cups or locate a certain pair of shoes!  (There might have been some slight sarcasm in that last statement.)

But the thoughts of spring cleaning and/or reorganizing got me thinking about my old classroom and how many times I used to change the layout throughout the year.  I loved changing things up quite a bit.  I wish Pinterest had been around when I was teaching.  There are so many creative classroom set ups that teachers are trying out.  And then what's great is they are sharing their ideas online for everyone to see.  I have been participating in a book chat about Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer, and the chapter that we are discussing this week talks about the spaces in classrooms that are available for independent reading time.  Of course, I am well aware usually our classrooms do not have much space to begin with, but sometimes a little creative energy can make space that you never knew was there!

I might have spent some time getting lost in lots and lots of pins on Pinterest this weekend.  And I am definitely missing the days when I had my own classroom to arrange and rearrange.  Although it's not the same, I did find some pins that I might be able to use in my office.

Here are some pictures and links to get your wheels spinning, thinking about classroom design or redesign...

In this post, 2 teachers talk about how they emptied their classroom and completely redesigned it...definitely not your traditional classroom set up:

Here's a creative use of the chairs in the room for comfy reading...
Unfortunately this teacher's blog link is no longer available
I used to have a million crates...when I was going through my addiction to storage containers stage...check out how this teacher made these great DIY stools!
Have filing cabinets in your about creating a reading nook with them?

Several teachers have been looking into alternative seating, alternatives to having a classroom full of standard desks.  Here is one teacher who did some looking into alternative seating and then shared what she purchased in her classroom:

And here is a teacher who shared a whole bunch of pictures of favorite reading areas in classrooms:

And is a list of 'epic inspirational classroom decor.'  I know you might look at some of these pictures and think it's a little over the top, but I thought you might pick out something in the pictures that would get your creative juices flowing for your own classroom.

Or do your own search to find inspiration for spring cleaning or future planning.  In fact, you will be getting a survey that asks you to think about furniture and needs for your classrooms.  The district is developing a 10 year capital plan which means we need to be thinking about how we will improve the physical space of the school.

If you could create your ultimate classroom in the space you are in now, what would it look like?  And then there's the question of what to do with all of the old furniture...

Currently reading:
I checked out some cute picture books from my local library.  Considering the bug that has been going around school, I thought this one was an appropriate book to read...
I read another book by the same author.  This book reminded me of my husband when he gets frustrated that his students don't practice in between music lessons...

This book put a smile on my face, especially since I am always talking to the kids about how being a student is their job...
And finally, this was a sad one, but certainly a good book to help a child understand when a grandparent suffers from Alzheimer's...

I have also been selecting certain sections to read in the book, The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers.  This is a great resource!  I know that there are several copies in the curriculum office so if you are looking to earn some PDPs in a book club or on your own, this is a good one.  It has 300 strategies to work with readers on!  I have been reading over the strategies in the 'Teaching Reading Engagement' section.  It tells you the strategy, gives you some prompts to use with your students, and then includes a possible anchor chart or visual or template to use.  Everything is broken down to let you know what level reader the strategy would be for, genre, and specific skill.  Check it out!
Here is short video of the author explaining her book:

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Pi Day! Variety Show Practice @ 8:30, It's a marvelous Monday in March...check your mailbox! Zumba with MaryKaye @ 3:30 in the gym
Wednesday - 1st grade school concert @ 9:30 in the PAC, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - 2nd grade attending 'James and the Giant Peach' 9:30-12:30, Variety Show practice 3:30-6:00, 1st grade concert @ 7:00 in the PAC
Friday - Community Reading Day! Dr. Rodriguez visits FloRo in the am, Variety Show at the PAC @ 7:00!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • On Tuesday, I was hanging out in the OT room and watched Mrs. C working her magic with some of our students.
  • Also on Tuesday, I enjoyed sitting in the lunchroom while kindergarten was eating.  So great to see a student effectively using his assistive tech device to express his needs.
  • On Thursday, I was lucky enough to be the guest teacher during computer lab.  2nd graders were working on creating Google slide presentations about endangered animals.
  • On Friday, I listened in as Mr. Wiesner had the entire 1st grade in his room practicing for their concert this week.
  • Also on Friday, we hosted the admin team from around the district in our building.  Officer Mead and Karen Tuomi continued to work with training us on how to handle different safety issues and protocols to use.  The admin team also had a chance to pop into a kindergarten class, a 1st grade class and a 4th grade class.  They were all impressed with what FloRo students were doing!
  • Student Council members worked hard to get posters put up around the school.  We have Community Reading Day this Friday and we are reinforcing the themes of kindness and empathy from the books being read by having a food and supplies drive for Loaves and Fishes all week.

Check it out:
It's a long article, but an interesting read about distributed leadership ideas:
And since I was posting about this video of the "Evolution of the Desk" (You have to scroll down a little bit to get to the video.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Child's Eye View

Principal ponderings...

On Wednesday, I took the #shadowastudent challenge.  I spent the entire day as a student in 3rd grade.  It was quite an experience to see everything from a child's eye view.  Having been a classroom teacher, I feel like I understand the teacher perspective, but it is entirely different to go through the school day as a student.  I started my day by riding the bus with the young girl who I was shadowing.  I was told by several students that normally on the bus kids were much louder and were not always sitting in their seats.  Apparently, the principal sitting on a seat on the bus changes the environment!  I have to say that the conversations that students were having with me on the bus were a pleasant surprise.  One student asked me what my reading goal was this many books was I going to try to read?  Another student chimed in that he was trying to read a certain number, and a different student shared that her class was trying to read a certain number of books.  Then the conversation changed to a student asking me what my favorite book was.  He was sitting on the bus reading one of the MCBA books, and I told him I had read that book.  I also told him I would have a hard time picking a favorite since I love so many books.  And then a little girl sitting in the seat next to us shared that she was writing about a book in her journal that she had and she showed me the page that she was writing on.  Everyone wanted to talk books and reading with me!  I was excited to witness firsthand that the students see me as a reader.  They see me as someone who will always want to talk books with them.  The bus pulled up to the school, and we were off and running (well not running, more like quickly walking through the hallways to get to class!).

When we arrived in the classroom, I was excited to see that I had my own desk set up, complete with a name plate and my own behavior chart to monitor my own behavior throughout the day.  Everyone has one on their desk and moves themselves up or down the color coded chart.  Adriana told me that I needed to get my snack out and bring it to my desk.  When we got settled in our seats, we were able to work on some writing or do some reading.  I realized that the day got started pretty quick, announcements happened, the teacher entered her attendance, and then she called us to the rug to start talking about writing.  The class has been working on writing, revising, editing and now publishing some informational writing pieces.  Our mini-lesson was about how the students had been working hard and now it might be a good time to stop and compliment your writing.  The students talked about what they were proud of in their writing, something they had learned as an informational writer, or just talked about how they had really put a lot of time and dedication into their stories.  And then it was time to get into writing.  The student I was shadowing was working on copying over the final draft of her piece that was several chapters long, all about bunnies.  For students who were already done with their writing or someone like me, we were given some different prompts that we could work on.  I chose to write about which sport I thought was the best and why.  It seemed like we had not been sitting very long when we were called to go to work with the special education teacher in a different room.  So we gathered our work and made the long walk to the other side of the building.  Some of us in the small group were working directly with the special education teacher on writing pieces and others were able to continue to work on re-writing and publishing.  Soon it was time to gather our work again and head back to the class so we could go to art.

The art teacher gave us some quick instructions on how to make 3-D masks.  She also had some students help remind everyone of the difference between 2-D and 3-D.  I love art so I was excited to participate in this special!  We were working at different table groups, and what was most interesting was being a part of the discussions at the table.  A few students were eager to jump right into the project.  What I noticed was many of the girls at my table lacked confidence in completing different steps.  They wanted me or someone else at the table to draw out the different parts for them.  Or they would see someone else's piece and want that person to make theirs for them.  One girl started to try to do it on her own but kept feeling like what she made wasn't good enough.  So for the majority of the art period, she really did not get much accomplished.  I was able to get some of mine completed, but definitely had to leave art with an unfinished project that I will be sure and finish up and share with the art teacher!

After art class, it was back to the classroom for math.  There were rulers out on the desks so I knew we were going to be doing something with measuring.  The teacher led us in a discussion about measuring and finding area, and we talked about why we would need to know about could we use this in the real world?  She helped us measure a few rooms that were displayed in the math journal, reminding about starting at zero and using the centimeters side, displaying the page and ruler on the ELMO for us all to see.  Then we were able to work independently.  After some time working in the classroom with the special education teacher, we again had to pack our work up and head back to the other side of the building to work in a small group with the special educator.  In this small group, even though we were all working on area, some students from one class were working on a slightly different assignment while the students from the class I was in were working on the assignment that had been started in the classroom.  The special educator had the difficult job of going back and forth between the different students, giving them individualized attention.  Pretty soon it was time to pack everything up and go back to class to get ready for recess and lunch.
Recess!  What did I learn during recess?  Well I learned that my hips can just barely squeeze down the slide!  But more importantly, I learned that kids still need help figuring out what and how to play on the playground.  There were a few students engaged in a version of soccer and some were trying to do some kickball.  But the majority were running up and down and all around the play structure, tagging and retagging each other in random games of tag.  And a few kids were walking around carrying hula hoops.  Our mostly blacktop playground, combined with kids not really sure what to do, makes for a recess time that definitely has room for improvement.  We headed into the lunch room and took our place in the long line to get the spaghetti and meatball lunch.  Since I had just had that exact meal for dinner the night before...I brought a delicious peanut butter and fluff sandwich and some fruit!  There was a discussion about how one of the girls at the table had packed her own lunch for the first time.  She was quite proud of herself and her friends let her know that they were impressed!  Once again, it seemed like we had not been sitting there very long when it was already time to quiet down, take our last few bites, clean up and line up to go back to class.  

Finally after favorite time of day...reader's workshop!  The teacher gathered us on the rug and told us that we were starting a brand new unit, biography.  We talked about what biographies were and how there was a difference between biography an autobiography.  We were instructed to go back to our seats and have some independent reading time and that small groups would be called to the back table to pick out some biographies to browse through.  Our group was called first.  I selected a book about Ghandi and a book about Louis Armstrong.  I started to read the Ghandi book and was able to read the whole book.  The teacher was conferring with individual students while we all read.  You could have heard a pin drop in the room.  A few times I popped my head up to survey the classroom...everyone was really into reading.  At the end of reading time, we came back to the rug to talk about what we had learned about the people we had read about.  This was definitely the time of day where I did not feel rushed or had to move from classroom to classroom.  And the teacher told us that we actually showed awesome reading stamina...we read for almost 50 minutes!  

The last part of the day was a little different than normal.  We were all heading over to the PAC to see the play preview.  Some of the students in the class were actually in the play so they were going to participate in the preview and then stay to get ready for the dress rehearsal.  When we returned from the performance, we were missing several students from the class and there was not much time to start anything.  So we packed up our bags and played a quick game of 20 questions and heads up.  And just like that, the day was over and it was time to head to the bus.  
It was a busy day, and I was certainly tired as I headed into a classroom after school to lead our staff meeting.  My mind was busy thinking about my experiences throughout the took a little adjusting to put myself back into the principal role!  I am still thinking about and reflecting on my day as a student.  It is clear that those little minds get quite a bit thrown at them throughout the day, on top of just juggling being a 9-year-old!  And if you add to that being a student who may be a struggling learner and who needs specialized, small group instruction...well, the best word I can use to describe the day of learning is disrupted.  It is hard to focus on tasks, not necessarily because of learning needs, but because of the schedule that we, as adults, have put in place for kids.

I still have a lot to think about.  But I will ask all of you...what do you think it would be like for you to be a student in your classroom for a day?  How might changing your perspective change your teaching and planning?

Currently reading:
While I was spending my day in a 3rd grade classroom, I had the opportunity to read a biography about Ghandi.  It was an interesting read, and I learned some new facts that I did not know.  During independent reading time, I also had time to read more of Crenshaw, by the same author that wrote The One and Only Ivan.
I checked out some picture books from my library to read, including these two: Still My Grandma and Lulu's Piano Lesson.

Events this week:
**Kindergarten registration taking place this week.
**Teachers are able to begin entering report card info.
Monday - Marvelous Monday for a 'soup-er' staff!  Check the staff room for soup, sandwiches and salad! Zumba in the gym with Mary Kaye @ 3:30!
Tuesday - Variety Show practice @ 3:30 in the gym
Wednesday - Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, paras multi-part series sessions, School Committee Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - Variety Show practice @ 8:30 in the gym, Student Council Meeting @ 8:30, Zumba with Mary Kaye @ 5:00 in the gym
Friday - Variety Show practice @ 8:30 in the gym, SLT meeting - hosting admins from the district in the morning at FloRo!, 1st grade chorus @ 2:25 in the gym, Trimester 2 closes

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I was so proud of this 2nd grader who shared his informational writing with me...he knows a lot about parakeets! 
  • I had such a great day shadowing Adriana in 3rd grade all day on Wednesday! #shadowastudent 
  • Thanks Mrs. Pierantozzi for organizing the bulletin board in the lobby for our school-wide book, Red, A Crayon's Story.  Can't wait to see the final product! 
  • I caught Mrs. Taylor's kindergartners filling in some number bonds and writing out addition equations. 
  • The 3rd and 4th graders did an amazing job during the performance of Seussical, The Musical this weekend! 

Check it out:
An article that talks about importance of work life balance for educators:
Love this!...