Monday, September 26, 2016

Gonna Keep Running, Even Though It Hurts

Principal ponderings...

On Saturday, I pushed myself to run a 5K.  (And I also pushed a stroller!)  It's been over 2 years since I have run one.  The way I finished it was I ran a mile, walked for a few minutes, ran another mile, walked a little bit, ran some more.  It was great to see so many people doing the race, especially so many kids.  When we were about halfway, I was next to a group of girls, maybe 9 or 10 years old.  The one girl was walking and saying she couldn't do it.  The other girl was encouraging her and saying come on you can do it.  Finally, the girl said, "I'm gonna keep running, even though it hurts."  I heard what she said and I repeated it to myself.  I was going to keep running, even though it hurt!

And then as I got to the end, could see the finish line in the distance, Nancy Taylor came running back to run in to the finish with me and encourage me.  She offered to push the stroller for me, but of course I was stubborn, and I insisted on finishing the race the way I started, pushing that darn stroller.

 I did it.  It wasn't pretty and it certainly wasn't fast, but I did it.  I finished the race.  Last year I walked.  This year I ran.  So why I am I telling you this story?  How can this tie into your classroom this week?  For one thing, I just love that the little girl demonstrated resilience during that race.  Talk about an important skill that we want all of our students to have.  The race.  The school day.  Learning.  Problem solving.  These things can be hard.  Kids will sometimes want to give up.  When it gets hard, the first response is "I can't."  Sometimes they give that response before they have even tried.  So how do we help all students to keep running?  How do we teach them to be resilient, to not give up?  It starts with having the conversations with students about not giving up.  Share your own person stories of having trouble, of not understanding something, of wanting to give up.  Sometimes it means taking a step back and giving them a chance to struggle through and figure out that if they keep going, they will get it.

I also share this story for all of you to think about the concept of when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  We are almost through the first month of school.  Sometimes this is when everything gets a little bit harder.  Your class has been spending time adjusting to the new dynamic.  They have been forming their new community with you.  Now the challenge is keeping the beginning of the year momentum going.  The learning will get harder.  The social interactions will hit bumps in the road.  You yourself will get tired or run down.  But we all have to remember to keep running.  We will have bad days.  We will have lessons that don't go the way we want.  We will want to say, "I can't."  But I want to remind you to keep running.  You can do it.  Your students can do it.  Sometimes we might need a pep talk or a running partner.  Be on the lookout for your colleagues.  If you see that they need support, offer it.  If you need support, ask for it.

The school year is a marathon, not a sprint.  We need to all remember to keep running.  How will you teach this to your students?  Or how will you utilize this mindset for yourself?

Currently reading:
I got some great new picture books in the mail this week!  One of my favorites  that I can't wait to read in classrooms is called School's First Day of School.  It is the school telling his perspective on students coming into school.
I also got 3 books that are all by the same author.  The books are rhyming books and focus on kids being scientists, builders, etc.  One of this is called Rosie Revere, Engineer and has a great focus on growth mindset!  
I also got a new professional development book that I am reading and then writing a book review about it.  It's called When School Policies Backfire: How Well-Intended Measures can Harm our Most Vulnerable Students.  Should be interesting!

Events this week:
**Book Fair in the library all week!!
Tuesday - Optional refresher session with Karen Tuomi about lockdown drills, 8:30 in the staff room
Thursday - Liz and Luke at DESE Advisory Cabinet meeting all day in Devens, 4th grade Rock Detectives Enrichment program, Family Book Fair event, 6:00-8:00pm
Friday - Dianna and Liz at Prescott for SLT meeting until 11:30

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Heard some 1st graders explaining the addition sentences they were writing on whiteboards.
  • I caught some other 1st graders taking a close look and doing some scientific observations of their ladybugs that were moving into the pupa stage.
  • I found some second grade classrooms coming together to experiment with fulcrums and balance. 
  • I had fun eating lunch with 1st graders all week! 
  • Caught lots of 4th graders getting comfortable and engrossed in books during independent reading. 
  • The book fair is coming!!!
  • SPARK assemblies at each grade level...we focused on 'S' for safety!
  • We had so much fun running and walking Saturday morning at the Joseph Middlemiss Superhero RocknRoll 5K!  It was awesome to see Kelly and her family out in full force running and remembering Michael...loved the shirts Kelly!

Check it out:
And just to put a smile on your face today...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Compliments vs Clips, Conversations vs Consequences

Principal ponderings....

Just before school started this year, I read this post by a teacher who writes posts for Two Writing Teachers and who I have connected with on Voxer.  Take a minute to read what she has to say.  Kathleen wrote a very honest post about her struggles and thoughts about behavior management.   She was inspired by another teacher who also wrote about her thoughts on behavior management systems. Pernille Ripp is a teacher who says it like it is in her posts.  She doesn't hold back, and I love her for that!  Take another minute to read her post here.  And at the end of that post, she even shares a link to more posts on the same topic.  Clearly it's something she has been thinking about quite a bit!

Trying to manage behaviors in the classroom is not an easy task.  And while books and blog posts have been written about it and people are always willing to give you lots of suggestions, you are the only one who can figure out how to connect with each of the little humans in your classroom.  You are the one who has to figure out how to change behavior.  Let that sink in for a minute.  I remember when I was teaching second grade.  It seems easy enough to have a plan in mind, and then 24 unique, bouncy, eager, individuals show up in your classroom.  And then your plan...well, if you are like me, then your plan quickly goes out the window and you have to start fresh.

Feedback that I receive every year often mentions how students need consequences for their behavior.  I am actually happy that people think that there should be consequences.  But I am happier that people don't realize that we do utilize consequences all the time with students who make a bad choice.  But we do it privately and with just that child.  It's not done in public, and it should never be done in public.  There is no need to embarrass a child.  Embarrassment does not change a child's behavior.  In fact, I would argue that it might make it worse.

This is a topic that I plan on writing more about, reading more about, talking more about.  I hope you will join me in rethinking how we respond to different student behavior.  For now, read the posts I mentioned above.  Maybe read some others that you find.  And then think about whatever method you use for behavior management in your classroom.  Ask yourself, is this what is best for kids?

Currently reading:
I was very excited to see that the new special edition of Time magazine is titled: "Mindfulness: The New Science of Health and Happiness."  And the line on the back of the magazine pulled me in..."Discover why slowing down and staying present leads to a happier, less stressed life."  This is definitely a personal goal of mine for this year.  How will I slow down and stay present?  Have you thought about how to do this?  Or maybe you already have strategies that you use to be mindful?  One of the articles in this magazine is called "Om for Kids."  The article cites several studies that have shown the impact of mindful practices on students.  It talks about fewer ADHD symptoms, improved focus, better math scores, more kindness and more self-control.  Sounds good to me!

Events this week:
Monday - Don't forget to complete the online staff trainings:
Tuesday - District curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, We will all be meeting at SU to work on math, 1:15-4:15
Wednesday - Workout Wednesday! 8:00-8:30 - Movement session with MaryKaye! 3rd grade SPARK assembly @ 9:40 in the gym, K SPARK assembly @ 2:30 in the staff development room, Staff meeting @ 3:30 - writing focus
Thursday - 4th grade SPARK assembly in the cafeteria @ 1:20, 2nd grade SPARK assembly @ 2:30 in the gym
Friday - Scholastic Book Fair Preview in the library, 1st grade SPARK assembly @ 2:30 in the gym

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We had two nurses from Shriner's Hospital come and talk to all of our 1st graders about burn awareness. 
  • Mrs. Taylor's kindergarteners were reading all about finding friends with their Scholastic booklets.
  • Curriculum Night was a success!  I enjoyed popping into all of the classrooms and seeing our teachers doing some creative presentations and activities with parents.  The parents had a chance to hear an intro from me about PBIS and SPARK.  1st grade parents learned about literacy instruction and reading intervention from Grace and Holly.  And lots of parents checked out our new social emotional learning zone! 
  • 3rd graders working with Mrs. Simeone to organize books using alphabet skills and dewey decimal skills. 
  • I caught some of Mrs. Guernsey's students presenting their planet posters.  I even heard some you know what kind of ring Saturn had when he got engaged??
  • Welcome Back Family Picnic was so much fun!  We had music by a pretty good singer (hee hee) and then we were entertained by a magician.  There was face painting, fire trucks, pizza and fun!  
Check it out:
Quick post about finding your "teacher of writers superpowers"!
Love this post humorous post about Twitter and how it might not be your thing!
Let those kids fidget! Read about the importance of movement, especially for our kiddos with ADHD.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Accentuate the Positive

Principal ponderings...

Did you read the title of this post and immediately start snapping your fingers and singing the song?!  Accentuate the positive.  Eliminate the negative.  Are you not singing yet?   Ok, here you go...
Now that I have that catchy tune stuck in your head, let me tell you why I am singing that song this year and why I want to get all of us singing this song.  People tell stories all the time.  Staff tell stories to students to connect with them.  Sometimes our students go home and tell stories about their day to their parents.  Parents tell us stories about their children so that we can better understand how to reach them.  I tell stories to you through this blog.  Our school has a story tell, but over the years, I'm not sure if we have been doing the best job as storytellers.  You see, great things happen every single day in this school.  Students make discoveries.  Teachers create those 'aha' moments.  Kids struggle and try again and grow.  Friends get into disagreements and then figure out how to problem solve and build stronger friendships.  Staff believe that every child can learn and succeed.  Our school has a story to tell, but the problem has been that not everyone has been telling the story and not everyone has been listening to the story being told.

The song line says, "you've to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative."  There is a reason why I never watch the news.  One, because I have too many other things going on and don't really ever have time to sit down and watch it.  But two, everything on the news always seems to be awful.  There was another shooting.  Someone robbed this store.  Groups of people arguing.  A terrible car accident.  And then of course, there's the political campaigns.  Don't even get me started on that!  When do reporters share the uplifting news?  When do we hear the stories of people helping each other?  Is there ever any good news?  It seems to me that's pretty rare.  Now think about our school system, our district, our school, your classroom.  Just like when people all over tune into the news, people here in Groton-Dunstable often tune into the school news.  But it's usually the negative that people focus on and talk about.  

It's time to change the story.  We must accentuate the positive.  Because there is a lot of that in our school.  I know because I see it or hear about it everyday.  In the past, I have worked on sharing information through our website.  I have created a school Twitter account.  I created this blog.  But still our story was not really being told and the people that we wanted to hear our story were not really listening.  So this year I created a school Facebook page.  And suddenly, more people started listening to our story.

The song that you might still be singing in your head says, "you've got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum."  As you have seen already this year, I am putting a lot of energy into our theme, #bringthejoy.   But there is a method to my madness, actually a reason for my joyfulness.  The more that we push our positive story out there, the more people we will get listening to our story and learning about what we do here.  We make a difference.  We mold future minds.  We push kids to think, grow, learn.  We care about our students and each other.  We do amazing stuff and people need to know that!

So many people gravitate towards the negative story, the bad news.  Let's flip the switch, let's accentuate the positive!  The more we share our positive story, the more the community knows about what goes on within our walls, the better.

So who's with me?  Are you ready to tell the FloRo story?!

Currently reading:
I just started a new professional development book called Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love.  I attended a session with the two authors, Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, this summer at a conference.  And I was totally inspired by their enthusiasm and passion for improving educational leadership!  Looking forward to reading about some of their "right-now solutions for building a rich community, while bringing fun back to school."
I am also enjoying my book club reading that I started over the summer: A Principal's Guide to Leadership in the Teaching of Writing.  I have been reading chapters and then discussing my takeaway points with Pete, Dianna, Grace, Sharon, and now Kelly. 
And thanks to some recommendations from some other principals that I am connected with through Voxer, I added some books to my Amazon cart!  Here's one that I can't wait to get my hands on and read...

Events this week:
**Sept 15-ish is International Dot Day!  Check out this site for more info: or look up info on Twitter using #DotDay.

Monday - Our new elementary adjustment counselor, Kathy Moffet, starts today!  She will be spending the week at FloRo to begin meeting students and staff.
Tuesday - Our Eureka math shipment is scheduled to arrive!!
Thursday - Curriculum Night, 6:00-7:00 3rd and 4th grade parents, 6:30 1st grade literacy session, 7:00-8:00 K through 2nd grade parents
Friday - Dianna and Liz @ High School 8:30 - 12:30 for UDL Leadership course, PTA Welcome Back Picnic 4:00-6:00 on the back field

Great things that I noticed last week:

  • I loved getting handed a copy of this 2nd grader's picture and writing where she stated that she wants to be a principal when she grows up.  I was excited that she mentioned one reason was because principals go into all the classrooms.  That is my favorite part of the job!  She also said principals "do important stuff!" 
  • I popped into Mrs. Pierantozzi's room just in time to see them talking about solving an application problem, reviewing about reading, drawing and writing when solving the problem.
  • If you are curious about this thing called "flexible seating", check out Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Potter's room!  They got a project fully funded through DonorsChoose and now they have lots of seating options. 
  • I read a funny story called Nibbles, The Book Monster to some of our kindergarten classrooms this week.  Before I started reading in Mrs. Taylor's room, I caught these K students engaged in practicing the letter b! 
  • Although it was rather hot both times, I enjoyed meeting with teachers and paras on Wednesday and Friday.  Thanks for some great brainstorming and discussions!
Check it out:
This year, I am serving on the Board for MESPA, which is the MA Elementary School Principal Association.  I help with lots of professional development planning.  In fact, in December I will be teaching a workshop on the power of social media!  There are lots of workshops available.  These are not just for principals.  Take a look at the course offerings to see if something interests you!

And I just love this image that another principal shared with me...

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bring the Joy!

Principal ponderings...

Honestly...there are so many things I could say about this picture...just enjoy it,
it certainly makes me smile!
I wanted to thank all of you for such a smooth start to the school year.  Staff members were smiling.  Parents were happy.  And most importantly, kids were excited about coming back to school!  I definitely saw everyone bringing the joy during our first few days back.  So now, we just need to keep that momentum going.  I will do my best to remind you about being joyful...even when it might be particularly hard on some days.  And I hope that you will remind each other.  It does not take much to put a smile on a colleague's face when they are not having the best day.  And those smiles are contagious.  Once the adults start passing them around, they automatically spread to the kids!  It's a pretty simple message so I'm keeping my post short and simple today.

Currently reading:
I want to tell you about an amazing book I read this summer: Kids Deserve It.  Every educator needs to read this book!  In fact, I loved the book so much, I am working with the publishers to order multiple copies for us to have here at FloRo.
This book was written by two principals from California and Texas.  I had the chance to meet and hang out with one of the authors, Todd Nesloney, this summer when I was at the NAESP Conference in DC.  Their message is a great one.  Here's a quote from the book:

Events this week:
**Dianna will be traveling to recess and lunch sessions to review expectations with students.
Monday - Happy Labor Day, No school!
Tuesday - Liz at SU in the afternoon to interview adjustment counselors
Wednesday - Dr. Rodriguez visits FR in the am, Staff meeting @ 3:30 in the staff development room
Thursday - Liz meeting with PTA president @ 12:30
Friday - Para Meeting @ 9:00

Next week:
Thursday - Curriculum Night, 3-4 grade 6:00-7:00, K-2 7:00-8:00, We are planning an information session that will happen at 6:30 for all 1st grade parents.  Grace and Sharon will be presenting to them about our reading intervention program.
Friday - Welcome Back Picnic!  4:00-6:00

Great things I noticed last week:
  • I absolutely loved our time together last Monday.  From starting with a video of everyone enjoying summer vacation to writing down our promises to beginning to talk about PBIS to our photo scavenger was such a great way to launch our school year, together, smiling, and supporting each other.  Enjoy some of the scavenger hunt photos that different teams submitted...

  • So proud of our 3rd grader, Xander.  That is quite a feat getting up in front of the entire district!  How will you challenge all of your students this year?

  • Mrs. Fulreader and I loved surprising different bus stops throughout the week! 
  • It was such a great first week of school and I have too many pictures to post, but I loved when I had a visit from this 2nd grader who wrote all about her trip to India this summer. 

Check it out:
Here is a video clip of all of our promise cards.  Be on the lookout, I will be posting them in the staff room!
And by the way...I used my new favorite app to create that video.  It's called Quik and it's free!  So easy to take lots of photos from my phone and turn them into a video set to music!

And remember...