Sunday, January 29, 2017

Spread the Love One Act of Kindness at a Time!

Principal ponderings...
Did you know that last week was The Great Kindness Challenge?  Check out the link here to learn more about this special event that happened around the country all last week.  The idea behind this event was to have one week to try to do as many acts of kindness as possible.  The website describing the challenge stated, "empower your students to create a culture of kindness."  While the week of the this challenge already passed, that doesn't mean we can't still work to spread kindness.  Let's think about how we can create a culture of kindness in our school for our students.

I think right about now we could all use some extra kindness in our lives.  Don't you agree?  If you do a quick google search, you will find so many ideas for kindness challenges.  I have seen ones that are 30 day challenges and others such as the 100 acts of kindness challenge.  You can certainly check any site out for ideas, but I have created a staff challenge for all of us at FloRo.  February seems like the perfect month to challenge each other to spread kindness.  Here is a picture of the kindness calendar I created.  I will also send this out to all of you through email.

How will you spread the love?  What acts of kindness will you share with your students?  Need some ideas for book about kindness to read to your students?  Here you go...

Let's take this month to read about kindness.  Let's talk about kindness.  Let's show our students kindness.  Let's show each other kindness.  Let's create a culture of kindness.

Currently reading:
I was the recipient of an act of kindness this week.  A principal in CA who I know through Twitter and Voxer sent me a picture book in the mail!  It's called Dragon Was Terrible.  I definitely plan on bringing it into some classrooms for a read aloud.  Thanks Principal Peeff!  Now I need to find a book to send to someone else and pay this act of kindness forward.

Events this week:
Monday - AM/PM Kindergarten switch day
Tuesday - Liz at Crisis Management Committee meeting, 1-3 @ Prescott
Wednesday - 2nd grade chorus practice @ 2:20, Staff Meeting 3:30-5:00
Thursday - Technology Meet and Greet @ 8:15 in the library, Ed Eval Working Group Meeting 12:00-3:00 @ Prescott
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT meeting 8:15-11:00 at Prescott
Saturday - EdCampMALeads in Middleton!  Come join me for some free PD! Learn more and sign up here:

Great things I noticed last week:
  • The 4th graders put on an amazing concert for the school on Wednesday and then again for families Thursday night. 
  • Mr. Smith's 3rd graders were working on writing some important opinion pieces about different topics, including this student who was writing about saving whales. 
  • Mrs. Kavanagh's K students were jumping for joy as they read their sight words!  And before this activity, they noticed that writer's workshop was not on the schedule for the day, and they begged their teacher to put it back on the schedule.  These kids love to write! 
  • I popped into Mrs. Roundtree's class and found these 4th graders studying some geometry concepts. 
  • Have you checked out these aerial view snowmen on display in the lobby?!  Thanks for showing off this art project Mrs. Goddard.  I want to make one too! 
Check it out:
Not that we really need reasons for teaching kindness, but here are a few!
Check out this 10 year old talking about kindness:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

It's Time to Play!

Principal ponderings...

I am sure many of you are familiar with the famous phrase from the movie "The Shining,"..."All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."  How about if we switch that phrase around?  I'm thinking we need a day of all play and no work!  And I'm not the only one having this crazy thought.

Check out this Ted Talk by Peter Gray about how play has declined and mental disorders have increased...

Now here's an interesting thought from Plato: "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."  

Did you know that there is such a thing as a Global School Play Day?!  I had heard about this last year, but it was after the day actually happened.  This year, Global School Play Day is happening on February 1st.  And I am hoping that many of you will want to join in on the fun on this day.  Here is the link to the site which explains how the day works:

You might decide to go all in and have your whole day be a play day or you might decide to do an hour of play.  I just hope everyone will participate in some way.  And this play is not structured play, not organized by teachers and definitely does not involve batteries or electricity!

Another elementary school in Massachusetts participated in this day last year, and they unanimously decided to do it again this year.  Check out what some of the teachers and principal had to say about Global School Play Day:

"When I asked the staff about participating again it was unanimous.  Here are some of the reasons they wanted to do this:" 
  • Simply put - you can learn through play!
  • It was a great way to encourage interactions between students, to be able to relax while learning
  • Hands on games are important to developing motor skills
  • I think it's a great way for students to problem solve and resolve conflicts
  • It's important to educate parents and the community about the benefits of play
  • Playing is learning and exploring

So next Wednesday...who is excited about a day of play?!  Think about how much fun you will have with your students and how you will learn so much more about them by watching them play and interact with their friends.

Currently reading:
I have been sick for the past four days and have not really had the energy to do much of anything.  I have still been reading a little more of the book Books for Living.  Hope to have more energy back this week and do more reading!

Events this week:
Tuesday - Grade 4 rehearsal at the PAC 11:00-12:30, Crisis Management Committee Meeting @ Prescott 1:00-3:00 Snow Day!
Wednesday - Grade 4 Chorus Performance @ 9:30 in the PAC
Thursday - MTSS Task Force Meeting @ Prescott 12:00-3:00, 4th grade Chorus concert @ 7:00 in the PAC
Friday - 2nd grade chorus practice @ 2:25

Great things I noticed last week:
I was out of the building 2 whole days last week and then when I was in the building, I was running from meeting to meeting.  Once I finally get back into school this week, looking forward to getting into classrooms again!

Check it out:
A great article about the importance of learning through play:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Precious Gifts

Principal ponderings...

This is going to be a slightly different post for me.  Normally, I don't use these posts to tell you about my weekend.  But today, I want to tell you about my weekend.  Last year, I began to connect with principals across the country through Voxer.  As I have shared in previous posts, this has been an amazing way for me to have ongoing professional development for myself and connect with leaders from all over.  I have been able to bring some new learning and ideas to everyone at FloRo.  And I keep learning everyday!  Through Voxer, I have been involved in the creation (there's my 2017 word again!) of a group of 'principal moms'.  We write a blog, run a Voxer group, support each other, have done a podcast and are looking to do more...  There are 7 of us from around the country who are part of this core group.  Most of us have never met in person, only spoken through our Voxer app.  A while back, we decided that we needed to plan a face-to-face meeting.  That meeting finally happened over the long weekend.

We traveled from Kansas, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts to all meet up in Nashville, Tennessee.  Weather and mechanical issues made it so that we almost did not get to meet up.  My Friday night flight was cancelled and then I ended up being flown to Charlotte and had to stay in a not-so-nice airport hotel and fly out of Charlotte to Nashville in the morning.  We each had our own travel challenge story to share, but eventually we all made it.  Leading up to this weekend adventure, we had discussed that we would all bring a small gift for each other that was representative of our state.  I might have left my shopping until Friday night at the airport...but everyone seemed to like their 'Boston Strong' mugs.  In return, I received gifts such as a Wicked Witch themed chocolate bar from Kansas, a magnet from Ohio, and corn and tootsie rolls from Illinois.  Did you know that tootsie rolls are made in Chicago, Illinois?!

When I returned home Monday night with my bag of gifts, I realized that there were actually many other gifts that I received throughout this weekend adventure.  But these were not gifts that I was going to be able to pull out of my suitcase.  Thinking back over this weekend, what I realized was that I received so many precious gifts besides chocolates and magnets.

I received the precious gift of collaboration.  We spent time sharing ideas and stories about being the principal in an elementary school.  

I received the precious gift of support.  We all had some difficult aspects of our personal lives to share, and we provided support in our presence, our conversations and our laughter.

I received the precious gift of understanding.  Trying to be a strong school leader.  Trying to be a strong mother.  Trying to do it not easy.  This weekend experience, these ladies, they get it and they are living it everyday with me.

I received the precious gift of laughter.  Sometimes you need to just take time to stop and let your guard down.  When your stomach hurts from laughing and you have tears coming down your face, gosh, it's just the best.

I received the precious gift of connection.  Whether you are an educator or an educational leader, so many times the job can seem isolating.  We had formed a connection before meeting in person, but being able to spend a whole weekend together with people who share your passion, your beliefs...that is priceless.

Getting and receiving physical gifts is always fun.  But the intangible gifts that I received from my trip to Nashville are much more valuable and will definitely outlast my chocolate bar!  I am grateful that I have formed this professional learning network of strong women.  While it was difficult to physically fly and drive through ice and snow to this meetup, it was way more difficult to go our separate ways on Monday.  Thankfully, I was returning to MA with all of the precious gifts I mentioned above and probably a few more I forgot.

How have you connected with other educators, in our school or from across the country?  Reach out.  Find your tribe.  You won't regret it.

Thank you Lindsy, Kelley and Claire for all of the precious gifts you have given me!

Currently reading:
Since I spent most of my Monday off in an airport or airplane, I was able to finish reading The War that Saved My Life.  I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this was definitely a good book.  It tells the story of Ada and her brother and how they try to not only survive World War II living in England, but how Ada wins her own personal war of growing up with a mother who did not want her or her "crippled" body.  Ada has a clubfoot that was never repaired when she was a baby.  The two children are taken in by a lonely woman who doesn't want to care about them, but they all end up becoming a family.  She saves them and they save her.
While I was in the airport, I of course bought a new book...I know, so unlike me!  It's called Books For Living.  And since I had two flights and a long layover, I was also able to start this new book.  This book seems like it was definitely written for me to read it!  The author discusses the question, why is it that we read?  Each chapter is about a specific book, how he found the book at the right time in his life or how it found him and what he learned about himself by reading the book.  

Events this week:
Monday - MLK Day, No School
Wednesday - Liz at DESE PAC meeting in Malden, 4th grade chorus @ 2:25, Staff Meeting, 3:30-5:00 - PBIS discussion and math
Thursday - Andrew Green, poet, visiting 4th grade classrooms all day
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT in the am, elementary curriculum meeting 12:00-3:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Our 4th graders, Maddie and Ryan, did an amazing job representing FloRo at Tuesday's School Committee meeting.  Did you know that the interim superintendent is Ryan's grandpa?! 

  • Mrs. Fournier's 3rd graders were diving into opinion writing when I popped in the other day. 
  • No heat?  No problem.  Karen Gartland was doing some fun math work with Mrs. Guernsey's class in the warm library. 
  • Mrs. Cahill was chatting with 1st graders, discussing a book that talked about when "your mouth is a volcano." 
  • Workout Wednesday means 2nd grade started their day with a dance party in the hall.  When I heard the music in my office...I quickly danced my way down the hall to join in the fun.  You should see Mr. Rider's moves! 
  • So glad I was able to see Mrs. Robinson using her newly installed board and projector (newly replaced board!) to talk about America, Today and Yesterday with her students. 

Check it out:
Guess what?!  I was selected to participate in the 'World Book Talk Championship.'  I had to create a 30 second (that time limit is really tough for someone who loves to talk about books!) book talk.  There are 16 videos and they are narrowing them down to 4 finalists and then 1 winner.  The winner will receive $500 from Scholastic to buy books!  Voting for this round ends January 20...Friday!  Go to this link to see the video and then to vote.
Get our students to vote too!  I am also hoping this motivates them to want to make their own book talks!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Who is up for the #ObserveMe challenge?

Principal ponderings...
I am excited to talk about this movement that has been showing up on classroom doors all over the country!  If you are on Twitter, you may have stumbled across people posting and talking about #ObserveMe.  If you are not on Twitter (what are you waiting for!?), then let me tell you about what this movement is all about.  Actually, first take 5 minutes to watch this video clip...
I love the idea of teachers actively seeking feedback from their peers.  Thinking about what they want to focus on or an area they want to improve upon, then taking a chance and inviting peers into their classrooms to see them in action!

I came across this post on Twitter recently and it made me stop and think:
This is certainly a new way to look at how best to give feedback to teachers.  How can I create conditions at our school where teachers can improve themselves?  I think one way to do this is to consider trying out components of the #ObserveMe movement.  What if teachers felt empowered to post signs stating areas that they are seeking feedback on?  I know not everyone likes having people come in and observe them.  But if you will take a chance and be a little vulnerable, imagine the possibilities.  One of the components of universal design for learning is mastery oriented feedback.  By posting a sign that spells out what you want feedback on, you would be laying the groundwork for teachers and administrators to give you mastery oriented that you determined, feedback that you were asking for.

Different staff are always coming in and out of your classroom.  Whether it is someone purposefully observing you or whether it is someone coming into work with a student, why not share what you are working on?  Post some goals and seek out feedback.  Here are some examples of signs that teachers across the country have been posting outside of their classrooms...
You can see that people are posting a variety of goals letting people know what they are focusing on.  Some teachers are asking people to fill out forms or follow a QR code to a survey.  You could certainly do that, but you don't need to.  By simply starting with posting what you want people to observe, you are literally opening the door to receiving more mastery oriented feedback from a variety of staff.  And you are helping yourself to improve your practice and continue growing.

So...who is up for the #ObserveMe challenge?!

Currently reading:
I am working on getting into The War That Saved My Life.  I started it and then it sat on my dresser for a while so this weekend I picked it back up.  I am also hoping to dive into Innovator's Mindset.  I have heard great things about this book from my PLN, and I know I need to read it!
And in keeping with my one word for this year, create, I have been flipping through a book I ordered called The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking.  I love the thought of turning your notes into pictures and words so I thought this would be a helpful book. 

Events this week:
Monday - K ELA session at SU in the am, 1st grade ELA session at SU in the pm
Tuesday - 2nd grade ELA session at SU in the am, 4th grade ELA session at SU in the pm, School Council Meeting @ 3:30, 4th graders doing pledge at School Committee Meeting @ 7:00
Wednesday - Workout Wednesday! PBIS Meeting @ 8:30, Superintendent Search Forum for Admin @ 11:30, Prescott, 4th grade chorus practice @ 2:25, Superintendent Search Forum for Teachers and Staff 3:30-4:15 @ High School Black Box Theater
Thursday - Student Council Meeting @ 8:15, 3rd grade ELA session at SU in the am, Liz meeting with Commissioner Chester @ 10:00 in Marlborough,
Friday - Elementary only half day, 12:15 dismissal

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I enjoyed listening to these 1st grade partners talk about whether certain book reviews were good or if they gave away too much information in the review. 
  • I also enjoyed popping into Mrs. Lanctot's class to hear them start to listen to a book about growth mindset. 
  • Have you seen the awesome new PE bulletin board that Mrs. Kinneen put up?  She had 4th graders from Mrs. Mills' class help her with words of encouragement. 
  • These two 3rd graders were sent to my office for their great behavior!  They were recognized for always exhibiting SPARK behavior. 

Check it out:
Here is the website of the teacher who started the #ObserveMe movement:
And this is a 30 minute interview with him:
You can also follow the hashtag #ObserveMe on Twitter and you will see how this conversation about improving ways to improve practice is being discussed across the country.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Principal ponderings...
I have been reading lots of blog posts about what people are selecting for their one word for 2017.  I had to look back on my posts from the last few years.  Back in 2014, I selected my word or actually I opened a package from my mother and my word was staring back at me on a necklace: hope.  And then in 2015, while I did not select or write about a word, I would say that it could have been joy.  That was the year that I experienced so much joy becoming a mother and bringing joy to my job of principal.  Last year, I did not select a word, but as I reflect on 2016 I would have to say my word could have been connect because I made so many new professional connections that helped me grow as a leader.

For 2017, I decided I wanted to join in the one word movement again.  I have been spending the last week building a list of potential words in my head.  I was ready with a word and planning to write a completely different post when this happened on New Year's Day morning:
Once again, my word was delivered to me.  There were many other things I could be doing or maybe should have been doing, but in that moment I realized that I was forgetting about everything else and creating finger painting masterpieces with my daughter and husband.  It was exactly what I needed to be doing.  I was watching her create designs on the paper and all over her body!  One picture we created was all of our handprints overlapping each other.  Emerson took finger painting literally and at one point, she was actually painting my fingers.  We laughed, we painted, we got messy.  We created the best memory of the start of 2017.  And that is when I realized that my #OneWord2017 is create.

The word create is defined as "bringing something into existence" or "cause something to happen as a result of one's action."  I am excited about all of the potential wrapped up in this little word.  I feel like the word create will motivate me to build, design, imagine, generate, produce and make all sorts of wonderfulness throughout the year.  I do hope to get back in touch with my creative and artistic side this year.  I have been writing, but I want to create more writing in 2017.  My daughter found an old sketchbook of mine and reminded me that I used to do a lot more drawing and sketching.  I want to create more art with her in 2017.  I predict a lot more coloring in the future, both inside and outside of the lines.  (I should have realized my one word when I went to the hairdresser a few days ago and created a new look for me by adding a splash of color to my hair!)

I can't wait to see how my one word motivates me to create new experiences this year.  While I know I will continue to create new memories with my family, I also know that 2017 will bring new experiences as a principal.  That is truly my favorite part of the job, every day is different and I am certainly never bored!  What new opportunities will I be able to create at our school?  What new learning will I help create for staff?  How will we create amazing experiences for kids and how will we encourage them to simply create?  How will I create new connections with parents, families and community members?

I am ready to "cause something to happen."  In fact, I have a feeling lots of wonderful somethings will happen this year.  Today is a perfect day to start.  Ready, set, create!
First finger painting creation I have done in a long time!
What will your one word be for 2017?  I encourage all of you to think about the perfect word for you this year.  Write about it, talk to someone about your word, create something about your word (sorry, had to sneak my word in one more time!), let your one word guide you this year.  Here is a great post to help you through the process of finding your word.  Or watch this video clip where Jon Gordon talks about the concept of one word.

Now go find your one word for 2017!

Currently reading:
So...the start of the new year means I have to admit that I failed miserably in terms of my reading challenge goal for myself last year.  But I am choosing to take the growth mindset approach and look at this failure as a chance to learn and grow.  The reality of my life is that I have a full time+ job of being a principal and I have a 2-year-old.  My reading habits have changed as a result of my life changes.  I need to set a more realistic goal this year.  My goal I just posted on Goodreads is to read 75 books.  That is half of what I set for a goal last year.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can...

I was super excited to discover this post through Twitter.  It's a list of picture books that are being published this year.  I can't wait to order some new books this year!  This list will definitely help me reach my goal.

Did you read any good books over break?  If so, come and tell me about them.  You know I am always looking for book recommendations.

Events this week:
Monday - No school, enjoy the last day of break!
Tuesday - Welcome Back!
Wednesday - 4th grade chorus @ 2:25, Staff meeting 3:30-5:00
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT in the am

Great things I noticed last week:
There were lots of amazing things happening in classrooms throughout the week leading up to break.  I am glad that staff enjoyed the '12 days of giving before break.'  I had lots of fun coming up with ideas and working to put smiles on faces.  I am looking forward to popping into classrooms in the new year and sharing what I see through my blog.  I would also encourage you to find a way to visit your colleagues classrooms.  You all have so much to share with each other and we can all learn from each other.  Future post coming soon about the concept of #ObserveMe!

  • Here is a whole board full of acts of kindness that I found in Mrs. Guernsey's room! 

Check it out:
Interesting read about school climate and having a happy school:
Holy jackpot of best books lists!  Check out this padlet:
Can't remember if I have shared this before, but it's a good one to re-share!