Sunday, October 30, 2016


Principal ponderings...
Have you created a Twitter account yet?  Have you spent time scrolling through tweets or following other educators?  Every single week I learn something new, have my thinking challenged, am inspired by what I stumble across on Twitter.  For this week's post, I simply went back through my Twitter account and embedded just a few of the many tweets that caught my eye recently.  If you have not explored Twitter yet, you should!  You can't go wrong with free PD 24/7!  If you aren't sure where to start...check out my account.

Currently reading:
I got a new book for pleasure reading that was recommended to me by a principal friend.  Looking forward to diving into The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.
I am part of a Voxer book study group and this week we are beginning to read and discuss the book Mathematical Mindsets.  Have heard so many great things about this book and how it can change your whole perspective on math...can't wait! 
Events this week:
Monday - Happy Halloween! Brunch snacks provided by 3rd grade in the staff room
Wednesday - 4th grade Lowell Mills field trip, Kindergarten chorus in the music room @ 2:20, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Thankful Thursday! Liz presenting at MESPA, Dianna out of district, Dr. Novak will be our sub principal!  4th grade Lowell Mills field trip
Friday - Liz and Dianna at the high school for UDL Leadership course from 8:30-12:30

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Our first spirit day of the year was a success!  Loved seeing all of the different book characters. 
  • I was able to visit Mrs. Simeone in the library and hear her read The Greedy Triangle
  • Kindergarteners were working on 'one less' and counting backwards when I visited them during math this week. 
Check it out:
Interesting read about a simple way to help struggling students, definitely food for thought:
And some more simple steps to help your students "show up well" to class:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Small Moments = Big Impact

Principal ponderings...

I shared this video clip titled, "Every Opportunity", with you at the beginning of the year.  But I wanted to write again about the importance of all of those little connections we make with students each day, so I thought it would be a good idea to share this video again...
This month, I accepted a challenge to work alongside our cafeteria staff and serve lunch to our students.  I am so glad I put this on my schedule this month!  It was definitely a great experience to see the kids' faces when they saw it was me serving up their pancakes.  Yes, it was breakfast for lunch, a FloRo favorite!  One student said, "If you are serving us lunch, who is the principal right now?  Who is running the school?"  Good news...the school runs itself!

I certainly loved connecting with the students in a different way while serving lunch, but I have to admit the best part of that day was connecting with the ladies who work in the cafeteria.  My lesson learned from my experience was that I have not connected with them, and I need to.  It takes so many different people to "run the school", and each person plays an important part in the lives of children.  In the very brief down time between one grade leaving the cafeteria and another coming, I had a chance to hear a great story from one of our lunch ladies.  She said that one day she watched one of our 2nd graders go to the milk cooler and discover that a container was empty and there was some cardboard that needed to be removed before students could get to the rest of the milk.  Without being asked, he took the cardboard out, walked it over to one of the ladies at the register and then went back to getting his lunch.  The lunch lady went up this student at the end of the lunch and asked if she could speak with him.  His first thought was that he was in trouble, and she said he got bright red.  But he was not in trouble.  She thanked him for taking the initiative to help clean up the milk cooler without even being asked.  She let him know that she noticed what he did and she appreciated him.  As we were talking about this incident, she turned to me and said, "Do you know that now, every time that cardboard needs to be emptied, that student does that?  We have never asked him to do it for us.  He just decided that he was going to help out whenever he saw that it was needed."

This is a simple story of a quick interaction that happened on one random day.  First of all, I realized that if I never came down and spent time behind the counter in the cafeteria, I would have never known that this happened.  Secondly, that lunch lady could have not said anything to that student.  Would he have continued with his random act of kindness?  I am thinking possibly not.  That one small positive interaction had such a big impact.  Now think about how many other small moments happen throughout the day between adults in the building and our students.  Think about the ripple effect of those positive interactions.

On Saturday morning, I was lucky enough to spend the day with Ellen Potter, Angela Smith, Bev Clark and Patti Montague.  We were attending a conference for teachers put on by teachers where the focus was "elevating and celebrating effective teaching and teachers."  The keynote speaker was a math teacher from New York named Jose Vilson. (You can follow him on Twitter @JLV!)  His message was a simple one, yet so important.  He talked about how important it is for us to be active listeners with our students.  He said, "Students are people first and students second.  Show them you care as often as possible."  Just like in the video clip that I shared above...we need to remember to take every opportunity to engage in a positive and meaningful way with our students.  I know it is not always easy.  I know there are times where we get frustrated.  I know a lot of times we feel like we have to rush through the day, and there are times that we need to remind each other to stop and be in the moment.  

We may forget all of our different small moments and interactions with students, but they don't forget.  Our students remember those interactions.  And those small moments can have a huge impact on a child's morning, day, week, school year.

What small moments will you have this week?  How will you show our kids that you care?

Currently reading:
Thanks to Mr. Smith for letting me borrow Goodnight Goon.  As we approach Halloween, this was a fitting book to read this week.
I am excited to be part of a November Voxer book study that will be focusing on reading and discussing the book Mathematical Mindsets.  

Events this week:
**Literacy-o-lanterns being brought into school to display in the library.  Staff - feel free to paint one if you want!
Monday - K ELA session 9:00-11:45 @ FR, 1st grade ELA session 12:30-3:15 @ FR
Tuesday - Some staff at day 2 of CPI training
Wednesday - Workout Wednesday! Principal Coffee with parents @ 9:00 in the cafeteria, 2nd grade ELA session 9:00-11:45 @ FR, 3rd grade ELA session 12:30-3:15 @ FR, Grade 4 chorus in the gym @ 2:25
Thursday - 4th grade ELA session 9:00-11:45 @ FR
Friday - Spirit Day - 'Dress as Your Favorite Book Character!', Liz and Dianna at SLT @ Prescott from 8:15-11:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Lanctot's 1st grader had fun leading seminars during Writer's Workshop!
  • Teachers had some fun trying out while talking about student engagement and math instruction at our staff meeting. 
  • Thanks Mrs. Cahill for the bulletin board.  What zone are you in today? 
  • I caught some kindergarteners working in small groups to practice copying and keeping the beat.  They even let me join in with a group! 
  • Mrs, Roundtree's 4th graders were talking about adding dialogue into their narratives, specifically focusing on using quotation marks. 
  • On Saturday, Ellen and Angela represented FloRo at the ECET2 Conference in Cambridge.  Their presentation focused on the co-teaching model. 
  • On Sunday, the PTA sponsored a great Halloween Hoopla with a Trunk or Treat and parade!  

Check it out:
I thought this was a great read:
And if you want to hear more about Saturday's conference check out this post:
A quick little post with helpful hints about small groups instruction in writing:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kids' Words Matter

Principal ponderings...

Last Tuesday, we all gathered in the Black Box Theater, wondering what a full day of discussion about Writer's Workshop would be like.  I could not have predicted what happened over the next six hours together.  Patti Wright, a consultant from Teachers College, opened her mouth and we were all glued to our seats, hanging on her every word.  You could hear a pin drop in that space.  

If you know me, you know that I love talking about reading and writing.  I was having a hard time typing fast enough to keep track of the nuggets of writing wisdom that our presenter was sharing.  First of all, I loved that she began with the focus of thinking about "why write."  In my head, I was screaming YES when she explained that writing was the most important thing we can teach our kids.  And I was nodding along in agreement when she said, "When you are teaching kids informational writing, you are teaching them how to think."  She pretty much already had me at "hello, let's talk about writing", but she sealed the deal with this truth...

"The most important reason we are teaching kids to write...We want them to know that their words matter.  Writing helps all of us make sense of our world."

That's it, she had me.  I was hooked.  It took everything in me to not jump up, shout amen, and hug every teacher in the room.  Ok, maybe the hugging part is a stretch, but I really did want to stand up and cheer.  Our kids' words matter.  That is what we need to always remember.  Not their standardized test scores.  Not what they can and cannot do on the rubric.  They have important stuff to say.  They have beautifully honest stories to share with anyone who is willing to take the time to listen.  They have valid points to make.  They have opinions and they can't be afraid to share them.  It is crucial as we go on this writing instruction journey this year...we must always go back to the why.  Why write?

Students' words matter.  

If you remember nothing else, just keep repeating that line over and over in your head.  Your students' have so much to say.  And you have the awesome job of helping them speak through their writing. Our presenter reminded us that we need to be coaches, not fixers.  That is so hard!  As educators, we naturally want to fix things.  But we need to be strong and remember that our most important job is to coach our students to be writers.  We shouldn't fix the writing.  We should give students tips about being writers.  We shouldn't expect perfection from our students.  We should value the struggle they will go through as they become writers.

I have included some images of student writing in this post.  They are images that I came across when I did a quick Google search for student writing.  And here is a writing image that I only needed to walk down the hallway in school to find.  This is a letter one of our students wrote to another student.  Yes, our kids' words matter.

Will you remember the why as you are planning the what and the how in your writing instruction?

Kids'. Words. Matter.

Currently reading:
Did you know that our very own Kristan Rodriguez and Katie Novak recently wrote a book?!  Yes, in their spare time they wrote Universally Designed Leadership.  This year, admin in the district are taking a UDL in leadership course during some of our school leadership meeting times and we are reading this book and doing assignments that go along with the book.
I was very excited to get a new book in the mail last week...I know, you are shocked that I bought yet another book!  I can't wait to come around to 3rd grade classrooms to read this one: Frankencrayon!  It's written by the same author who wrote Red: A Crayon's Story.
We are slightly obsessed with dinosaurs in our house, and I have read this lift the flap book several times this week! 

Events this week:
Monday - Student Council applications due from 4th graders, School Council Meeting @ 3:30 in the office conference room
Wednesday - Liz at Prescott for the morning to interview interim superintendent candidates, CPI Training for some staff, 3rd grade traveling to Plimoth Plantation, Grade 2 chorus practice @ 2:30 in the music room, Staff meeting @ 3:30 - Karen G will be leading part of this meeting to talk about math
Thursday - Liz at Prescott for a full day of curriculum work and district data analysis, National Day on Writing!
Friday - Sustainability Committee meeting at FR - 7:30-8:30, Liz out of district at MESPA all day

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I am still smiling when I think about our professional development from Tuesday with Teachers College.  A huge thank you to Grace and Sharon for writing the grant for GDEF and bringing the consultant to us!  So many awesome takeaways from that day! 
  • I was very proud of this 1st grader who came to the office to show me her writing that she had worked on. 
  • I popped in during a book buddy read aloud with Mrs. Mills' class and Mrs. Benkley's class.
  • Did you notice our new curtains in the staff room?!  It's the little things that count.  A huge thank you to our resident seamstress, Nancy Robinson! 
  • We had our first Literacy-o-lantern project come in!  Can't wait to see what other creations our students come up with!
  • In case you missed it, we had a special guest serving lunch to 2nd and 3rd graders on Thursday!  Our cafeteria staff work incredibly hard and often don't get the recognition they deserve.  Feeding 500 kiddos in a span of a few hours is no easy task! 
Check it out:
October 20 is National Day on Writing!  Check out this post for some ideas on how to celebrate writing even more on this day:
Be sure and tweet using the hashtag #WhyIWrite!
And here's how many others participated in this day last year:
Check out this quick video clip of others' reasons for writing:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Watch your language!

Principal ponderings...

There is a new four letter word that has been popping up in schools, and it is one that we all need to get better at avoiding.  Actually, and unfortunately, it's not new.  It's a four letter 'S' word that gets used all of the time, but it should really be treated like other inappropriate words or foul language.  Some of you may have had parents that threatened the bar of soap when you said a bad word.  Some of you, if you were like me, may have had a mother that skipped the bar soap and went straight to the liquid soap.  That definitely got the message across much quicker...we knew that there was certain language that we just did not use in our house!

So what is this four letter 'S' word that adults and kids have been using?


I have to admit that I have been guilty myself of using this bad word.  Sped is an education slang word that has developed out of everyone shortening the term 'special education.'  But what has happened is that we have forgotten that we are using that word to label people, in particular, kids.  We will say things like, "I have the sped kids" or "she's sped, that's why she got that score" or "which classroom has the sped kids?"  Is that the only way we see them?  As the 'sped kids'?

As I was reading and preparing to write this post, I came across a good post on the Global Down Syndrome Foundation page called "Words Can Hurt."  First of all, it was great to discover this foundation's page because if you did not know, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  Secondly, I really liked the exercise that Patti McVay, an inclusion specialist, described in this post.  She suggests that you think of something you don't like about yourself that society has also deemed less desirable.  Now put that word in front of your name.  What if you were called that all your life?  I definitely struggle with piles and disorganization.  (Don't look too closely in my office and definitely don't come over to my house right now!) So if everyone referred to me as 'Slobby Liz' for the rest of my life, I would certainly struggle with improving my organizational skills, and I would most likely have pretty poor self esteem.

So let's think about the kids that we are talking about when we label them as 'sped kids'.  They may have slower processing or may need to be retaught skills over and over before it finally clicks.  They may have poor communication or they may have a hard time regulating their emotions.  But they are kids, just like all of the other kids in the school.  They lose teeth like any other kid.  They would prefer pizza over broccoli like any other kid.  They soak up praise from their teachers just like any other kid.  And they have feelings that can get hurt just like any other kid.

So consider this your dose of liquid soap on your tongue.  The next time you are talking about students, hopefully the thought of using the term 'sped' will leave a bad taste in your mouth.  You may have students who require special education in your classroom.  Let's not stamp that 'sped' label on them.  Instead, why not think of all of the different learners that are in your class?  Yes, we have students who need special education.  But they don't need a label.  That four letter word will not help them learn.  In fact, if students begin to label themselves as 'sped', then that is how they will see themselves.  Once labeled a 'sped student', it's hard to wash that stamp off.

It's hard enough for a student who requires special education to learn and grow and feel good about themselves, let's not make it harder.  A child who has a need for special education should not be defined by the label we place on them.

I challenge myself and everyone reading this: Stop using that four letter word.

Currently reading:
I got more books in the mail this week!  Just love opening up Amazon boxes when they arrive.  The first book that I am excited to share is called Dear Dragon.  This book is by Josh Funk, who is a resident of Massachusetts and actually works with one of our parents!  You may know about his other awesome book Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  This book is a great new take on pen pals and friendship.  Let me know if you want to borrow it!
After a recommendation from a principal friend from Illinois, I got the book A Child of Books.  Here's what the book jacket says about this awesome book:
          Woven together by a simple story line, the one-of-a-kind illustrations in the book provide an                 unforgettable reading experience that will inspire and encourage readers of all ages to 
          explore, question, and imagine timeless stories of their own.
Kids and adults will enjoy taking a closer look at the illustrations and discovering lines from treasured children's classics and lullabies.

And the other new book I got this week is a new leadership book written by a principal who I had a chance to connect with this summer.   The book is called Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson.  I am excited to be participating in a book chat through Voxer, discussing this book. 

Events this week:
Monday - Columbus Day, No school
Tuesday - Curriculum Day, classroom teachers and special education teachers meet at the Black Box @ 9:00, specialists, other staff meet at the PAC @ 8:45 with Dr. Novak, 4th graders doing the pledge @ School Committee meeting @ 7:00, high school library
Wednesday - Special free yoga session in the gym, 8:00-8:30am, run by Laura who will be offering yoga Monday nights through community ed, first BLT meeting 8:30-9:30 in the staff development room, join in on a Twitter chat at 8:00 pm - #MESPAchat - all about professional learning
Friday - PARCC results go home with 4th graders in backpacks, Dianna and Liz @ UDL Leadership course at high school, 8:00-12:30

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I enjoyed going into 1st grade classrooms this week to read the book, School's First Day of School.  I asked the students what they thought our school might be thinking or saying about us.  I have to share one of the best answers that a little girl in Mr. Rider's class shared.  She said, "I think that while we are reading our books or when we are partner reading, our school is listening to all of the stories and smiling."  I'd like to think that is happening too!
  • I popped into Mrs. Benkley's class and heard them thinking out loud about math. 
  • I was lucky enough to be able to cover in Mrs. Cragg's room during one afternoon.  We talked all about being writers, read about an author, did some literacy work stations, and they even shared a special chant and dance they can do to remember to do many steps when writing!  

  • I had fun helping Ellen Potter and Angela Smith prepare for their presentation that they will be giving on an upcoming Saturday.  It is going to be an interactive way for others to learn about the co-teaching model, and I know they are going to knock it out of the park!  Looking forward to reading this article that Angela found about co-teaching. 
  • After reading in Mrs. Wilkins class, I got invited to do the Tooty Ta Dance with the whole class.  How could I say no?!  It was good to get up and move after sitting down to read and listen! 
Check it out:
Here is a post written by a college student about her experience growing up as a special education student:

Monday, October 3, 2016

It Takes A Lot of Slow to Grow

Principal ponderings...
On three different occasions during this past week, I came across this poem by Eve Merriam.  I decided that was a sign and that I needed to share it with all of you and reflect on its meaning.

A Lazy Thought
There go the grown upsTo the office,To the store.Subway rush,Traffic crush;Hurry, scurry,Worry, flurry.

No wonderGrownupsDon't grow upAny more.

It takes a lotOf slowTo grow.

This is one of those poems where I read it and I think, I wish I could have written this!  I wish I could have used so few words to say so much.  I also think...drat, I'm one of those grown ups.  When did that happen?  I look at my schedule for the week.  There is definitely a ton of "hurry, scurry" and there is also a bunch of "worry, flurry" that happens.  And often all that hurry doesn't just happen during the weekdays.  We grown ups are busy, busy people.

We finished September, the first month of school.  It seems like that went by so quickly.  Probably because we were on that back to school high.  We flew through those first few days.  We got acquainted with our new classrooms.  We thought Columbus Day weekend is so many page turns away in our planners.  Now, it's next week.  How did that happen?  We may have rushed through our days, our weeks without realizing it.  We may also be thinking, we have been in school a whole month...our students should be doing X, Y, and Z already.  Let's all remember..."It takes a lot of slow to grow."

While we are two hours or two days ahead in our heads, our students are slowly, steadily growing in front of our eyes.  We grown ups sometimes need a reminder to turn off the fast forward button that we all push for ourselves.  Make sure you are not always thinking about what is happening next.  Make sure you are realizing what is happening now.

One place where I came across this poem was in the book I am reading about leadership and the teaching of writing.  It was placed in the book to remind us that writing can help give our students a voice.  We need to slow down and listen to the stories that our students are telling.  I need to slow down and listen to the stories our students are telling us.

Let's help each other out.  I will remind you, if you will also remind me.

Don't forget...

"It takes a lot of slow to grow."

Currently reading:
I can't wait to donate Andrea Beaty's books to the library.  I read one of them to 2nd grade classes this past week.  The other two are also great picture books:

I am also reading one of the I Survive books.  This one is on the MCBA book list this year:

Events this week:
Monday - Drill around 10:20
Tuesday - Liz at Ed Eval Working Group Meeting at Prescott in the afternoon
Wednesday - Picture Day!, 3rd grade StarLab Enrichment Program, Dr. Rodriguez visits FR in the am, Staff meeting 3:30-5:00
Thursday - SPARK Assembly with Kavanagh and Spiczka @ 10:40

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Dianna hosted a training for our parents who will be helping with recess.  They even had a chance to play some games!
  • Students and staff had fun shopping at the book fair!  I had lots of fun announcing names and taking students shopping for books!
  • I popped into Mr. Crowley and Ms. Green's class and listened in on the mini lesson during reader's workshop.
  • When I was in Mrs. Clark's class, I was impressed with the details and planning that students were doing as they did realistic fiction writing. 

Check it out:
Check out this post about these new teacher plan books.  I am connected with the teacher who designed them and she sent me a few to look at and try out.  If you think you might want one of these, let me know!