Monday, May 30, 2016

Looking Back in Order to Move Forward

Principal ponderings...
When I looked up the definition of reflection, I liked this simple one that I found: serious thought or consideration.  As this school year quickly winds down, I can't help but start thinking about what will happen next year.  But I need to do like the billboard picture above says...stop and think.  Just like we ask students to do.  Just like I ask teachers to do.  I need to stop and reflect on what I have learned this year.  I actually came across a study from the Harvard Business School that discusses how reflection is actually the most important part of the learning process. Reflecting on what we have learned has been proven to make us more productive.  I am always talking with teachers about how we want continuous improvement and growth for our students.  And I have had many discussions with teachers about how they should strive for continuous improvement in their teaching practice.  As a principal, I know I want and need to continuously improve.  In order for that to happen...I am going to take time to stop and think reflect.

Before we can look ahead and move forward, we must look back.  Here are some guiding questions to help you reflect on your year:

What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

What is something you tried in your classroom for the first time?  How did it go?

What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

Which of your colleagues has been the most helpful to you this year?  Have you let them know how much you appreciate them?

How have you helped your colleagues this year?

What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?

Which of your students showed the most growth this year?  Why do you think this student did so well?

Which of your students was the most challenging?  Why?

What has caused you the most stress this year?

What has brought you joy this year?

What was the most valuable thing you learned this year?

What got you out of bed this morning and ready to work with kids today?

We have our final staff meeting of the year this Wednesday.  Technically, there is a staff meeting scheduled for June 15...after field day...the last week of school...nope, not happening!  We will be coming together in small groups at this week's staff meeting to do some reflecting.  While I hope you take time over the next few weeks to think about answers to all of the above questions, for Wednesday we will focus on only 3 questions:

1. What are you most proud of this school year?

2. What areas of focus will you take into the 2016-2017 school year to guide your professional growth?

3. How will you be mindful over summer break and rejuvenate yourself?

Currently reading:
All I have been reading for the past week is evaluations, artifacts and reflections.  Looking forward to getting back into my pleasure and professional reading.  My to-be-read piles are piling up!

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Memorial Day!  No School
Tuesday - Grade 3 chorus practice 9:30-11, Ed Eval Working Group Meeting in pm
Wednesday - Language Acquisition Team Meeting @ 8:30, 4th grade library trip, Grade 3 School Show 1:30-2:10, Kindergarten chorus practice @ 2:25, Final Staff Meeting
Thursday - Curriculum Half Day, dismissal @ 12:15, 4th grade library trip, Grade 3 Chorus Concert @ 7:00
Friday - Para Meeting @ 9:00, Middle School Principal visits 4th graders @ 1:00 in the cafeteria, Kindergarten chorus practice @ 2:25

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:

  • I heard that 4th graders had successful canoe trips throughout the week.  3rd grade had a good trip to Plimoth Plantation on Thursday.
  • We got to meet the future of FloRo!  Thanks to staff who helped do kindergarten screening at Prescott on Wednesday and Thursday. 
  • A special thank you to our Student Council for organizing a Memorial Day Assembly to teach us about the meaning behind the holiday.  We were fortunate to have one of our parents, Fred Corriea, a Purple Heart recipient, speak about his service in the Marine Corps and the meaning of Memorial Day and acknowledge a few Groton community members who lost their lives in combat.

Check it out:
Check out this great post that our very own Dianna Fulreader wrote for the MESPA blog! :

Sunday, May 22, 2016

3 Big Rocks

Principal ponderings...
Working in a school can be stressful.  Being in charge of 20+ students in a classroom can be stressful.  Knowing that you need to help students grow and learn can be stressful.  Trying to balance everything in the last month of school can be extremely stressful.  Getting knocked out by the flu during the last month of school...I think I need a new word to describe my stress.

So it's time to give myself and everyone else out there a little pep post.  I am grateful to several principals that I have connected with this year and have had conversations with about mindfulness.  Right about now, I need a serious mindfulness check.  It's that time of year when so much has to be accomplished, and most of it is stuff that can't be completed at any other time than now.  And as usual, there never seems to be enough time in a day to get everything done.  

I don't know about you, but I am a list gal.  I love making lists.  Sometimes it's short little lists on sticky notes that I stick on my laptop.  Sometimes it's lists that I build using the task tool on that little tool...especially because it lets me cross things off the list.  More than making lists, I love being able to look at a list that has things crossed off of it.

Today, I am so overwhelmed about the thought of what my to do list needs to look like.  Being sick and in bed the last few days was not part of my plans.  Now that I am beginning to feel better and actually out of bed, the never-ending to do list is filling my brain and definitely beginning to cause some panic.  Anyone else out there thinking about all of the things that need to be accomplished before the last day of school?  Let's all help each other stop and take a few deep breaths.  Let's remind each other that everything will get done.  I am going to force myself to use "the three rocks" plan that my Voxer group taught me.

Each day, I am going to select 3 things to put on my to do list.  And that is my goal: accomplish those three things during the day.  If I do more than the three things, great.  But all I need to do is be able to cross those three things off at the end of the day.  I won't worry about what I didn't do yesterday.  I won't stress about what needs to happen tomorrow.  I will deal with my three big rocks today.

What are your three big rocks for today?

Currently reading:
I am excited to order two new books that will be part of my summer reading!  One was written by two principals who I follow and consider to be part of my PLN group through Twitter and Voxer.  It's called Kids Deserve It: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking.

And the second book was recommended by another principal from Kansas who I 'chat' with regularly.  It's called Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom.  

Events this week:
Monday - Clark/Roundtree canoe trip, Jill Greene - new PPS Director visits FR in the pm
Tuesday - Coronis/Mills canoe trip, Nashua River Enrichment with Kindergarten, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Potter/Smith/Nissi canoe trip, Kindergarten chorus practice @ 9:30, Kindergarten Screening at Prescott
Thursday - Student Council Meeting @ 8:30, Kindergarten Screening at Prescott, 3rd grade Plimoth Plantation trip
Friday - High School Peer Leaders visit 4th grade in the am, Liz and Dianna at SLT meeting in the am, Memorial Day Student Council Assembly in the pm

Great things I noticed last week:

  • On Monday, I was honored to be asked to give the keynote speech at the DESE Spring Convening.  I had FloRo and district staff in the audience cheering me on as I spoke about educational equity and shared lessons I have learned from students.
  • I popped into half day K and listened to them tell me about number bonds and how to make 10.
  • I was able to walk over to the Peter Twomey Center gym and see The Bubble Guy as he wowed the 1st and 2nd graders!

  • Unfortunately, the flu knocked me down last week, and I spent several days at home in bed.  I heard that the paras enjoyed a wonderfully delicious luncheon put on by the teachers and specialists.

Check it out:
Here's some clips to make you smile or maybe even laugh out loud...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

When Does One Size Fit All?

Principal ponderings...
I did something I haven't done in a while this past weekend.  I went shopping.  And then I remembered why I haven't been shopping in a while.  Besides not having any time to devote to shopping, I had somehow forgotten about the challenge of finding the right size, reading little tags, and having to take different layers of clothes off and on, over and over.  However, my little shopping trip did get me thinking about our students and the last few weeks of school.

I know in education we usually say one size does not fit all.  And I do still believe that is true.  In this case, as we are finishing our last few weeks of school, I am actually only thinking of one size.  XL.  This is the time of year when our students need extra from us.  I don't mean that they need extra learning...although of course, they deserve for us to keep teaching and learning with them up until the last minute.  What I think they need now is extra love.  That is the XL that I am referring to.

Yes, at this point in the year, we expect them to know the expectations.  We expect them to be making good choices.  We expect them to treat each other and their teachers with respect.  But I can tell you that for a 5-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 7-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 9-year-old, and even a 10-year-old...when summer is right around the corner, when the weather outside is taunting them through the window, when we are planning end of the year activities, it is hard to remember all of those expectations.

So when you are frustrated when a student asks a question that you think they should know the answer to or when two students who are supposed to be collaborating with each other start arguing or when a student interrupts you for what seems like the hundredth time that day...remember that right now they need XL from us.  Our students all need a little extra love this time of year.  

Before you let out a frustrating breath or tell them you are disappointed in them, stop and think about XL.  Give that student and all of the others some extra love these last few weeks.  Soon they won't be around to get your extra love and they won't be around for us to give them extra love.  

And I can guarantee you that we will both miss the giving and the receiving.

How will you use the one size fits all model of XL, extra love, for all of your students?

Currently reading:
Once again, I have to thank Dianna for a book recommendation.  I got my copy of Our Iceberg is Melting in the mail.  It is a fable about a penguin colony in Antarctica.  It's all about dealing with resistance to change, and I can't wait to reference it when I present on the topic of change this summer to other principals.
Events this week:
Monday - Kindergarten PD day @ SU, Liz and staff at DESE Spring Convening, 3rd grade PARCC math testing in am
Tuesday - 1st grade PD day @ SU, 4th grade PARCC math testing in am, Dianna, Maureen and staff at CPI Refresher training in pm, School Council Meeting @ 3:30, PTA Meeting @ 7:30
Wednesday - 2nd grade PD day @ SU, 3rd grade PARCC math testing in am, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20 in the gym, Staff meeting 3:30-5:00 - Teams will be working on placement.  4th grade Parent/Student Information Night @ PAC 6:00-7:00
Thursday - 3rd grade PD day @ SU, 4th grade PARCC math testing in am, Dr Rodriguez visiting in the pm
Friday - 4th grade PD day @ SU, 3rd grade PARCC math testing in am, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20 in the gym, **Supply orders are due to Carol today!

***Yahoo!!!  PARCC testing sessions are done!!!  Way to go FloRo!!!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mr. Rider was a winner of one of the lucky duck tickets.  He got to leave early on day last week, and I covered his class!  I didn't get to snap a photo, but I did have fun reading The Frog Principal to the class.  Then they gave suggestions about me turning into different animals and trying to still do my job.  
  • Student Council is working on a Memorial Day Assembly.  Can't wait to see what they do for the whole school!
  • Check out the awesome bulletin board that Kristen Kinneen created.  Can you figure out who is in the photos?!
  • This kindergartner was all smiles when he shared his writing with me!  He did some great writing about riding a bike.
  • Have you seen the new table and more comfy chairs in the library?  I had fun hanging out at a much lower level...just be careful...when you get down to that level, you might not want to get back up!
  • I loved seeing all of the great charts that the grade level teas created during the recent math multi-part series discussions!
  • And I was fortunate enough to finish my week by covering in Mrs. Mills' 4th grade classroom.  Helping them finish up seed work and beginning to discuss simple machines brought me back to my science teacher days!

Check it out:
Check out the blog posts on the MESPA site.  The latest one is written by a principal who is in my PLN and runs an all kindergarten school in western MA.  Be on the lookout...our very own Dianna will be writing a blog for the website in the next few weeks!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Expect More

Principal ponderings...
Take 10 minutes to listen to this video clip of a teacher talking about how teachers need to expect more from themselves and those around them.

She talks about letting go of things that are not in your control, building relationships, being strategic, and being persistent.

Think about each of the students in your class this year.  Have you done these four things with each student?

Currently reading:
Thanks to Dianna for the book recommendation of How to Speak Dolphin.  Looking forward to starting this book about a girl and her half brother who has autism.
And I'm still enjoying reading The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.

Events this week:
Tuesday - Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, multi-part series sessions in the afternoon
Wednesday - 4th Grade PARCC math sessions at 9:30 and 1:15, Grade 3 chorus practice @ 2:25
Thursday - School Council Meeting @ 8:30, 3rd grade PARCC math session @ 9:30
Friday - Liz at SLT meeting in the am, 4th grade PARCC math sessions at 9:30 and 1:15
**Reminder that supply orders are due to Carol by next Friday, May 20.

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had several 3rd grade authors from Mrs. Fournier's class come visit me and share some interesting stories they had written.
  • Loved popping in to see the owls that came to visit 2nd grade last Thursday!  Always such a great program!
  • Kindergarten and 1st grade enjoyed a visit from the Eric Carle Museum.  They all had a chance to explore making creations just like Eric Carle did in his illustrations.
Check it out:
Don't forget...if you are interested in being a part of the DESE Teacher Advisory Cabinet, read more about it here and apply for it!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Have You Thanked a Teacher Today?

Principal ponderings...

I know we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week a little early, having activities the week before April vacation.  But did you know that this week is technically the official Teacher Appreciation Week?  If you don't believe me, you can read President Obama's Presidential Proclamation here.

Obama states in his proclamation:
"Our future is written in schools across our country. It is likely that the first person who will go to Mars is in a classroom today. Our students are our future teachers, scientists, politicians, public servants, and parents -- a generation that will steer the course we will take as a people and make possible things we have not even imagined yet. We look to the women and men standing in front of classrooms in all corners of our country -- from cities to reservations to rural towns -- to vest America's daughters and sons with the hard skills they will need to put their dreams within reach and to inspire them to dream even bigger. On National Teacher Appreciation Day and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, let us ensure our educators know how much we value their service in the classroom, how much we appreciate all they do for our students and families, and how thankful we are for their contributions to our national progress."

I wonder...have your students let you know how much they appreciate you?  Or have you had students that you have had in the past come back and tell you about their success?  Success that happened because they had you as a teacher?  When I think back over my elementary school days, there are definitely two teachers who made a difference in my life, and I appreciate everything they did for me.

The first one was Mr. Page, my first grade teacher.  It was because of Mr. Page that I fell in love with school.  He did not do anything that different from the rest of the teachers .  But I remember that he took an interest in each of us.  He made sure that we all felt like we could share about our lives in the classroom and that we mattered.  I remember being in the hospital when my brother was born, and I asked my mom, "Can I call Mr. Page and tell him the good news?"  And I did call him!  When I returned to school, he also let me share a poem I had written about my new baby brother.  Mr. Page made us all feel like we had a lot to share.  He also knew how much I loved reading (go figure!), and because I didn't really fit into the colored reading groups, he would let me go to the school library and read.  Not sure if many teachers would have let that happen.  Thank you Mr. Page!

The other teacher who had a big impact on me was Mrs. Simmons.  She was my 6th grade teacher.  We had just moved to a new state, new city, new school.  The elementary school went up to 6th grade so I had one final year in elementary school when we moved.  It was a big move from a farm in a small town in Ohio to the big city of Virginia Beach.  There were two things about Mrs. Simmons that I remember and appreciate.  First, she knew that I liked to write.  So she pushed me to write to the paper.  She pushed me to write letters and share my opinion.  She pushed me to enter into writing contests.  She pushed me to write for our school newsletter.  One of my letters to the paper ended up with a reporter coming to our school and doing a story on an event that we were doing.  And for one of the contest I entered, I actually won!  (Funny, thinking back, I remember that one of the contests was to write what writing in the year 2000 would be like.)  The other thing that I remember about Mrs. Simmons was that she welcomed a special needs student into our class, Damion.  Back then, inclusion was definitely not common place.  But Damion came to our classroom and Mrs. Simmons made sure that he was part of our class community.  He always had the biggest smile on his face.  Mrs. Simmons helped put that smile on his face, and she opened my eyes to the importance of inclusion and just plain kindness to others.  I actually had the opportunity to thank Mrs. Simmons years later.  I was selected to attend a special writing program one summer when I was in high school, and I invited her to a special ceremony to thank her.  I am so appreciative that I had Mrs. Simmons as a teacher.

How about you?  Think back.  Which teachers had the biggest impact on you?  If you were to write them a letter thanking them, what would you tell them?
Currently reading:
I'm excited to start reading two new books that came in the mail last week!  The first one is a professional development book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  It is filled with lots of scenarios about dealing with change, and I know it will be helpful as I plan for a summer presentation about change in school.
The other book that I really excited about reading is called The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.  I have heard about this book from some other readers, including Donalyn Miller, and it sounds like it will be a good read.  It is written in verse, as the students share poems about their school since it is closing after they finish the year.  Can't wait to start reading it!

Events this week:
Monday - 3rd grade starts PARCC testing this week - all 3rd grade doing ELA session (90 minutes) @ 9:30, Clark and Roundtree 4th grade canoe trip
Tuesday - Coronis and Mills 4th grade canoe trip
Wednesday - All 3rd grade ELA PARCC session (75 minutes) @ 9:30, Potter/Smith and Nissi 4th grade canoe trip, Eric Carle Enrichment program for K and 1st, Staff Meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Canoe rain date, Eric Carle Enrichment program for K and 1st, Grade 2 Eyes on Owls program in the am
Friday - Kindergarten chorus practice @ 9:30am, All 3rd grade ELA PARCC session (90 minutes) @9:30, 4th grade Garden Club starts after school

Great things I noticed last week:

  • On Tuesday, many members of our crisis team spent the afternoon taking the refresher course.
  • I was drawn into the music room when I heard lots and lots of drumming.  I saw these 2nd graders trying to read the notes that Mr. Wiesner was challenging them with on Wednesday.
  • I was sad to say goodbye to this 2nd grader on Friday.  She will be attending a new school on Monday. 
  • Our students did an awesome job participating in the Special Olympics on Friday.  Thank you so much to everyone who cheered them on when they returned to school! 

Check it out:
Informative post about integrating technology into writer's workshop:
Don't forget...sign up for TeachersTop3 if you haven't already!
Newest MESPA post about making sure to give kids time to have unstructured play: