Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Unexpected

Principal ponderings...

"Even days that are well-planned are filled with unexpected happenings."

I was reading the book Kids Deserve It...for probably the 3rd time...and wanted to think about and write about some of the chapters.  Today I want to start with chapter 1; I love how Adam and Todd jumped right in and challenged educators to break out of their comfort zones right from the start.  The title of the first chapter is "Go Big, Be Creative!"  And in that short first chapter, Todd shares a story of how he totally transformed his classroom and created an "emotional experience" for his students.  He taught the standards but he did it in a way that students would never forget, and he created an environment that they would want to keep running back to.

He tapped into his creative side and transformed his classroom into an operating room.  Did this take a lot of planning and preparation?  I'm sure it did.  Could things have gone wrong and not been how he planned it?  Absolutely.  But he chose to take a chance and capitalize on the idea of the unexpected.  His students never would have expected that experience to happen that day.   But he went for it.  He went big.  He creatively planned an experience that was unlike any other lesson.  He didn't let the voice in his head which sometimes tells us it's not possible or there's not enough time or it won't work...he didn't let that voice take over.  He ignored the voice and went for it.

Since becoming a principal, I have certainly learned that my job is full of the unexpected.  I have learned to try to live by my calendar, but every day, no matter how I planned and scheduled and mapped out my day, there's always something unexpected that happens.  Personally, that's why I love my job so much.  I don't know what to expect.  I do know to expect the unexpected.  Sometimes the unexpected makes me have to use my brain and struggle.  Sometimes the unexpected makes me stop, laugh and live in the moment.  Sometimes the unexpected challenges me.  Sometimes the unexpected wears me out.  And sometimes the unexpected lifts me up.

All of those emotions, all of those experiences, make me a better educator and a better person.  Isn't that what we want to do for all of our students?  Don't we want to transform all of those little humans in our care into better learners, better future leaders?  Don't we want to give them these emotional experiences that will cause them to leave us each day as changed individuals?  At the end of each chapter in the Kids Deserve It book, they ask us to consider some things.  So now I will ask you:

How can you "go big" in your classroom?  How can you embrace the unexpected and create some emotional experiences for our students?  Have a crazy idea that you have been thinking of but you have been afraid to try?

What's stopping you?

Currently reading:
I just added the book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed to my Audible download list.  I'm looking forward to listening to this book and discussing with other educators in our school who are also reading it.  I also spent some time checking out Jessica Lahey's website.  She has some good blog posts and you can see a sample of her speaking about The Gift of Failure on some video clips. If you get a chance, check out her site:
I just got a recommendation for a picture book that I need to order, don't have it yet but will be adding it to my cart!  Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners looks like a good one for me to read to classes.  Anyone have this in their library? 

Events this week:
Monday - Author Jeff Kinney visiting with 3rd and 4th graders in the PAC, 11:00-11:45
Tuesday - 4th grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30
Wednesday - 3rd grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30, School Committee Member Brian LeBlanc visits FloRo @ 10:45, Grade 4 chorus in the music room 2:20-3:00, Curriculum Night K-2 parents from 6:00-7:00, 3rd-4th parents from 7:00-8:00
Thursday - 2nd grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30
Friday - District half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, SST Planning Meeting @ 8:30, 1st grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30, Student Council applications due, Book Fair set up/Teacher preview, Multi-part series meetings and committee meetings in the afternoon

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had fun playing with these 3rd graders during recess time! 
  • I was very sorry that I missed this event in the library this week, but I am hoping to catch it with one of the 2nd grade classes during the upcoming week!  A book tasting, how awesome!  Students got to rotate around a table and "sample" each book and then rate them on how interesting they looked.  And a bonus...Ann Simeone, our awesome library para, tweeted about the event!  Thanks for helping tell our school story Ann.

  • I happened to pop into half day K one afternoon and was able to practice the Lively Letters with them...we were working on the 'P' and 'B' sounds. 
  • Unfortunately, I did not get a photo but I did enjoy going into the 4th grade classrooms and talking to them about Student Council.  The students had great questions about the application process and about serving on the council.  I'm looking forward to all of the ways that Student Council will help make FloRo even better this year!
  • I saw staff and students out and about on Saturday at the Joseph Middlemiss Superhero/RocknRoll run and walk and then also at Grotonfest.  It was a hot but beautiful day to be outside!

Check it out:
In preparation for Curriculum Night, this post will most certainly make you laugh out loud:
Now that you have had a good laugh, here are some resources to read over and consider flipping curriculum night.  Since it is already happening on Wednesday, maybe consider recording videos or using Flipgrid to send info home after the night of information.  A lot is covered that night and parents might appreciate having something that they can go back and watch on their own time.  I am going to be sending out some sort of video after the evening because I know parents will forget what I share during the 1st 15 minutes of Curriculum Night.  Let me know if you are thinking of trying a new way to share info with parents.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ex-SEL-ing in Social Emotional Learning

Principal ponderings...

Last year and over the summer, I spent some time reading and attending conferences focusing on social emotional learning since that is a district focus this year.  And as we discussed during our beginning of the year staff meeting, connecting with kids and teaching them with the social emotional competencies in mind is just as important, if not more, than teaching them academics.

One resource that I kept and was rereading came from The Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice that DESE put out.  They have a section that discusses the 10 teaching practices that promote SEL.  I wanted to share that list with you and get us thinking about what we are doing and what we need to incorporate and improve in our daily interactions with students.

1. Student-centered discipline - Love that this is the first one on the list.  This is going to be a topic of discussion at our staff meeting this week along with some activities.  We need to make sure our disciplinary strategies are developmentally appropriate.

2. Teacher language - Are we making sure that we are talking to the students not at the students?  And are we encouraging students with the language we use?  Are we encouraging them to have a voice?

3. Responsibility and choice - Do we give students the chance to make responsible decisions.  This is one of the 5 core competencies for SEL.

4. Warmth and support - We discussed this during our opening day quote off activity.  Do our kids know that we care about them?  How do we show every kid this every day?  Is each classroom environment and other environments in the school set up so that students know we care?

5. Cooperative learning - We need to be providing numerous opportunities for students to work cooperatively and collaborate in the learning process.  We also need to remember to teach them how to work together; we don't want to assume that if we put them in a group, they will be able to cooperate.

6. Classroom discussions - I have already seen great dialogue about content happening in many classrooms.  We want to encourage lots of dialogue between teachers and students, staff and students, and also between students and other students.

7. Self-assessment and self-reflection - Hmmm...sound like a UDL guideline?!  We need to be making sure that we are having students actively think about their own work.  Self-reflection is such an important skill that we all need to keep working on.

8. Balanced instruction - We have certainly been improving every year in this area.  Are we using multiple and appropriate instructional strategies?

9. Academic press and expectations - We need to be providing challenging work for all of our students.  We also need to make sure that it is meaningful work.  And we all need to believe that every single one of our students can achieve by setting high expectations and figuring out how to help everyone reach those expectations.

10. Competence building - Throughout the school day, are we helping our students' develop social emotional skills?  Are we helping them with self-management, social awareness, self-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making?  Crucial skills that require us to keep talking about how we weave these through all of our instruction.

Currently reading:
One of the keynote speakers at The National Principal Conference was a man named Kevin Carroll.  I actually missed him speak, but followed lots of people tweeting about it and then ordered his books.  One is called The Red Rubber Ball at Work and the other one is called Rules of the Red Rubber Ball.  He was the former 76ers athletic trainer who writes about how to bring a sense of play into work in order to stimulate creativity, encourage risk-taking and achieve your goals.  I just started reading The Red Rubber Ball at Work.
I am working on writing an article about mindfulness in education and one of the books I am reading for writing inspiration is called Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education.  This book was written and published close to home at Harvard School of Education.

Events this week:
Monday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo from 9:30-11:00, PTA General Meeting @ 7:00
Tuesday - Liz out of district all day for MSAA Board Meeting, PTA Room Parent Meeting @ 7:00
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday - anyone who wants to meet on the track at 8:00, come walk and chat!  Liz and Melissa at Elem Curriculum Leadership Mtg @ Prescott 8:00-9:30, Staff meeting @ 3:30 in the cafeteria
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT 8:30-11:00
Saturday - Joseph Middlemiss Super Hero/RocknRoll Road Race (or walk), GrotonFest

Great things I noticed last week:

  • A big thank you to Nancy Caporello for finding an empty bulletin board and filling it with awesomeness! 
  • Some amazing collaboration and creation has been taking place in our new MakerSpace. 
  • I had a great time teaching the Wellness class all week.  We read the book My Brave Year of Firsts and discussed it.  And then in preparation for Dot Day and to practice collaboration and cooperation we played Twister! 
  • Laura Taylor invited her K teaching peers into her classroom to observe a math lesson that she worked hard to universally design. 
  • Even though the weather made us move the party inside...the Welcome Back Party on Friday night was tons of fun! 

Check it out:
Have to admit that I have considered acting out the beginning of this article in a staff meeting.  Since I am putting this link in here, I will spare anyone from public shaming during our staff meeting, but please read this post...great thoughts on why we should be rethinking public behavior charts:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

How Will YOU Make Your Mark?

Principal ponderings...

Did you know that this Friday is International Dot Day?!  What does that mean?  Several years ago, one teacher decided to share Peter Reynolds' book The Dot and celebrate the themes of bravery, creativity and self expression.  And now people all over the world celebrate International Dot Day in many different ways!

So how should we celebrate Dot Day?  Well, if you ask Peter himself, he says, "“Spread the word… On International Dot Day, read The Dot, wear dots, eat dots, draw dots, frame dots, connect the dots, splurge on art supplies, try a new medium — a new instrument, write a poem, rearrange your furniture, reconnect the dots with an old friend, make something, or make something with a friend. Share your creativity with the world.”

Check out this website:  This site has authors, illustrators, and other celebrities who have shared their dot creations.  Students may find some inspiration from seeing what the different celebrities have done.

There are endless possibilities for what you could do with your students to celebrate International Dot Day, either on Friday or during the week leading up to the day.  I am already thinking I need to find some extra games of Twister to have out on the playground!  Be sure and share what you do!  Check out this link for all kinds of ideas:

How will you make your mark this week and how will you encourage our students to make their mark?!
Currently reading:
Since this is the week of International Dot is a read aloud of Peter Reynolds' book The Dot.  If you don't have a copy to read to your class, feel free to show them this read aloud!

Along the same line as the book The Dot, I reread a great picture book called Scribble and Author.  This is a book about writing your own story.  Scribble has a conversation with the author and goes through the beginning, middle and end of the story.  Just like The Dot is about making your own mark, this book is about finding your own path.  Let me know if you want to borrow it!

This summer, our co-teaching teams had some great PD days with Wendy Murawski, a co-teaching guru!  We will be working with her in different ways this year, and I was excited to get some books to read, including this one:

Events this week: 
Monday - Optional staff meeting at 8:30 in the library
Wednesday - 9:30 4th grade band demonstration in the PAC
Friday - Elementary half day, dismissal at 12:15, Welcome Back Party from 4:00-6:00 on the back track

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Kindergartners were exploring, creating meals and getting to know new friends in Mrs. Taylor's class. 
  • I walked into independent reading time in Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Smith's all of the flexible seating and option for headphones. 
  • I popped into the library to listen to a read aloud with Mrs. West.  Love the new table signs! 
  • 3rd graders in Mrs. Pierantozzi's class were working on skip counting to help with their multiplication skills. 
  • 1st graders were working on learning everyone's names during their wellness block with Mrs. Cahill. 
  • Considering the tragic events of this past weekend, this bulletin board seems even more important...

Check it out:
Even though this is a letter written from teachers to administrators...just wanted you to know I read it and certainly thought of how I can strive to follow through with many of the action steps listed in the letter:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Every Kid, Every Day

Principal ponderings...

Every kid, every day.  Seems like a pretty simple statement.  Four words that are going to help guide us all this year.  The statement "every kid, every day" is a simple one, but the meaning behind it is powerful and the work that it will require from all of us is great.  Are you ready to help us achieve this goal this year?  Our theme that we will continue to revisit all year is "Every Kid, Every Day."

I can tell you that I think we are off to a great start after listening to all of you debate about the Kids Deserve It quotes during our "quote off" at the first staff meeting.  There were so many good quotes, words that made us stop and think about why we do what we do every day.  Words that inspired us and motivated us to have an amazing start to the year.  I loved listening to you passionately fight for the quote that you felt was the best.  And so we had a three way tie...even better.  Let's see how these 3 quotes tie into our theme of Every Kid, Every Day:

1. "Our most important job is to love kids and convince them they are absolutely incredible and unique -- to remind them they matter.  Academics are a bonus!"  I know I heard many people mention that they liked the line added on about academics being a bonus.  Here's the best part...if you have kids who know you love them, who feel special, and who are encouraged to celebrate their differences and uniqueness...they are going to want to learn with you.  They are going to want to be share their learning with you and their peers.  So yes, academics will be an automatic bonus.

2. "Kids want to know they matter to you.  They want to know you see them, hear them, and believe in them -- unconditionally."  This is so important at the beginning of the year and throughout the whole year.  Sometimes we are rushed to get through everything we have planned for the day.  Sometimes we are tired and we don't always feel like giving kids our full attention.  Sometimes we all have bad days, kids and adults, and we might for a second forget about that last word in the above quote...unconditionally.  We can't forget about that word.  Last week, I surprised a bus stop and showed to ride the bus with them.  This made a big impact on some of our extra nervous kindergarten friends whose tears changed to smiles (or more surprised looks!) when they saw me on the bus.  But what I remember most about that bus ride was sitting with a 3rd grader.  She was a new student last year so I did not know her that well.  In that ten minute bus ride, I listened to this 3rd grader tell me about her plans for Halloween which turned into a discussion about her love for Paris, France and wanting to visit there and how she knows some words in French but is trying to learn more.  I taught her how to pronounce je t'aime which means I love you (benefit of having a best friend who lives in Paris!) and she was saying it over and over as we were getting off the bus.  I hope that our conversation, really mostly me listening to her, helped her to feel like I was really hearing her.  And now imagine if we took that time for all of our kiddos and based our teaching off of their passions?!

3.  "You never know the power of a simple word or action.  The smallest stone dropped into the largest lake will leave ripple felt miles away.  We can't undervalue our impact, our reach, and our potential." Many of you have students who come back year after year to visit you.  Those of you that are brand new, this is the time to start dropping those small stones and starting those ripples.  Your actions everyday have a lasting impact.  Everything you say, everything you never know what kind of difference that will make for any one of our students.  Remember this thought.  Think about the potential that is always there, every single day.

Thank you all for an amazing start to the school year!  Kids and staff were excited, eager to get the year started.  Let's keep that enthusiasm going.  We want all of our students begging to come back for more each day.  And the way we are going to do that?  Remember this: Every Kid, Every Day!

How are you going to accomplish this mantra this year?

Currently reading:
I am finishing up reading Start.Right.Now.  I was lucky enough to attend a session given by two of the authors this summer at The National Principals Conference in Philadelphia.  This is an inspirational book for teachers, leaders and teacher leaders!  The mantra spelled out through the book is that excellent leaders and teachers: know the way, show the way, go the way, and grow each day.
This summer, one of the MCBA books I read is called Roller Girl.  It's a graphic novel and a great read about friendships, bravery and perseverance.  I gave my niece a copy on Saturday for her 10th birthday.  When I stopped by on Monday morning, she had already finished it! 
Over the summer, I started trying out the Audible app.  I was always going to the library to check out books on CD but not always able to get the ones I want.  Now with Audible I can buy a book and listen to it on different devices.  I can get some free books through my Amazon Prime membership or I can return the book I downloaded and get credits to use on other books.  Right now, I am listening to The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines.  If you like to watch the show "Fixer Upper", then this is a story that you might want to listen to. 

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Labor Day! No School
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! Staff Meeting 3:30-4:30
Friday - Melissa and Liz at SLT from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We added another class to kindergarten lunch time!  That made for some excitement during our first 2 days of K.  But the best part?... Reading notes from home! 

  • Congrats to everyone for the awesome Breakout Edu adventure!  Way to go 3rd grade for breaking out first!  And way to go K team for persevering with a malfunctioning lock! 
  • I loved all of the buzz and enthusiasm and passion at our first staff meeting!  
  • My new favorite thing is confetti cannons!  Loved our countdown to start the year! 
  • Melissa and I rode the bus on Thursday and Friday.  The kids were very excited to see us on the bus! 

Check it out:
Who is interested in doing the Superhero/RockNRoll 5K?!