Monday, December 18, 2017

The Gifts that Can't Be Bought

Principal pondering...
It's the season of giving.  Everyone is rushing to shop in the department stores, the mall, the bookstores, the grocery stores, or if you are like do lots of your shopping online.  While it is fun to give things to others and see the look on people's faces when they open up a gift, there are many things that we can give that can't be bought.

One gift that we can give all of our students is the gift of time.  We can stop to be in the moment with kids or we can try to make an effort to give each student our undivided attention.  Yes, I know that everyone says 'time is money,' but time with our students is precious.  Think about how you can give your students the gift of time.  Make connections and watch how those connections help your students become better learners.

Another gift that does not cost a thing is the gift of kindness.  Even when we are tired and frustrated, we can all stop, take a breath, and choose kindness.  We are the best models for our students.  If we want them to be kind to each other, we need to model that kindness in all we do.  And we can also choose kindness when we interact with each other.  I am a definite believer in karma.  If you give kindness out to the world, it will come back to you.

The best gift we can give all of our students is love.  We can love them all, on the good days and on the rough days...especially on the rough days.  We are their home away from home.  We spend lots of time together, and we can give them the gift of loving them unconditionally.

A bonus gift that we can give our students is the gift of failure.  We can show them that we make mistakes, and it's ok.  We can help them see that making mistakes is how we learn.  We can encourage them to not be afraid to take risks and to feel comfortable making mistakes in order to learn and grow. 

Those are just a few gifts that cost nothing and can't be bought in any store.  I am sure you can think of several other gifts that you can give to your students.

What gifts will you give to your students during the holiday season and continue to give to them into the new year?

Currently reading:
As we wind down 2017, and get ready to dive into 2018, I love to look in my Goodreads account and see the different books I have read this year.  I also like to see what books I missed that I need to add to my always-piled-high to-be-read pile!  Here are some links to lists of good books from 2017:
I can't wait to spend some time over the break curling up with a good book!  How about you?

Events this week:
Monday - Elf Hunt Fun in the am! Dr. Chesson visits in the am, Elementary Curriculum Leadership Mtg @ 2:15
Tuesday - "Lettuce" get ready for the holidays!  Office/nurse/guidance are providing a salad lunch in the staff room
Wednesday -  Bling it on Day!  Wear your best festive wear! GDRSD HS Chorus Concert in the PAC @ 9:30, Staff meeting @ 3:30, Farewell Party for Russ Hoyt at Boutwell from 3:00-4:30
Thursday - The ever-popular snack cart will be making its way around the school today! GDRSD HS Band Concert in the PAC @ 9:30
Friday - Pajama Play Day! Liz and Melissa at SLT in the am

**I encourage everyone to leave as soon as the students are gone.  I hope you all enjoy the holiday break with your family and friends.  See you in 2018!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had so much fun taking the 4th graders to see the movie "Wonder" on Tuesday!  Students were glued to the screen during the whole movie, and many asked me if I cried. Yes, I did.  and so did many of them.  Great conversations that have happened since watching this movie, and I am looking forward to what our 4th graders will do to pay it forward after this trip. 

  • These 3rd graders from Mrs. Fournier's class stopped by to visit with me in my office and share some information writing that they have been working on.  I learned several new facts about the ocean as a result of our chat.  I didn't get a picture, but I also stopped into Mr. Smith's class and learned that his students are writing about topics such as sloths, soccer, and Nascar.  Going to have to go back in and read more information books! 
  • I did not get to snap any pictures (but Mrs. Miln snuck one!), but I did enjoy reading in several different classrooms on Thursday.  I read Malala's Magic Pencil to several classes and we discussed how our words and what we write is magic and has special power.  I also had fun reading The Case of the Stinky Stench to some first grade classrooms and we brainstormed our own fridge adventures and food landscapes! 
Check it out:
Jess Lahey, the author of The Gift of Failure, has been putting together some video clips in response to frequently asked questions.  Here's one called 'How to Motivate Kids Who Coast':

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's Not Like It's Brain Surgery

Principal ponderings...

I have a slightly bizarre fascination with the brain.  I have always loved the study of anatomy, and I especially love learning about how the brain develops and all of the intricacies of the brain.  It's also why I love being involved in education and child development.  What and how kids are able to learn is, excuse the pun, mind-blowing!  Recently, I finished listening to the book When Breathe Becomes Air.  As part of the story, the author describes some of his operations that he conducted as a neurosurgeon.  Here is a section from the book:

“Once, I was doing a late-night case with one of the neurosurgery attendings, a suboccipital craniectomy for a brain-stem malformation. It’s one of the most elegant surgeries, in perhaps the most difficult part of the body—just getting there is tricky, no matter how experienced you are. But that night, I felt fluid: the instruments were like extensions of my fingers; the skin, muscle, and bone seemed to unzip themselves; and there I was, staring at a yellow, glistening bulge, a mass deep in the brain stem. Suddenly, the attending stopped me. “Paul, what happens if you cut two millimeters deeper right here?” He pointed. Neuroanatomy slides whirred through my head. “Double vision?” “No,” he said. “Locked-in syndrome.” Another two millimeters, and the patient would be completely paralyzed, save for the ability to blink. He didn’t look up from the microscope. “And I know this because the third time I did this operation, that’s exactly what happened.” Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. The decision to operate at all involves an appraisal of one’s own abilities, as well as a deep sense of who the patient is and what she holds dear. Certain brain areas are considered near-inviolable, like the primary motor cortex, damage to which results in paralysis of affected body parts. But the most sacrosanct regions of the cortex are those that control language. Usually located on the left side, they are called Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas; one is for understanding language and the other for producing it. Damage to Broca’s area results in an inability to speak or write, though the patient can easily understand language. Damage to Wernicke’s area results in an inability to understand language; though the patient can still speak, the language she produces is a stream of unconnected words, phrases, and images, a grammar without semantics. If both areas are damaged, the patient becomes an isolate, something central to her humanity stolen forever. After someone suffers a head trauma or a stroke, the destruction of these areas often restrains the surgeon’s impulse to save a life: What kind of life exists without language?"

As I was listening to the above passage as well as a few others, the phrase "well it's not like it's brain surgery" kept jumping into my head.  The author certainly did a great job of explaining how specific and painstakingly detailed brain surgery truly is.  Can you imagine the stress of a job like that?  Just the slightest mistake and you take away someone's ability to speak.  One millimeter too deep and you paralyze someone.  I just don't know if I could handle the stress of a job like that.  But then I started thinking...

What if we as educators started thinking of our jobs the same way that neurosurgeons think of their jobs?  What if teaching really was viewed as brain surgery?  A brain surgeon has a bad day, makes a millimeter mistake, and a person's life function is forever changed.  An educator has a bad day, doesn't connect with a student, doesn't give his or her all to teaching and learning, and a child's life is forever changed.  We really are responsible for molding kids' brains.  Our actions, our words, every day, thanks to neuroplasticity, have the power to positively impact and get synapses firing or negatively impact and disrupt those synapse connections.  

The responsibility that is in the hands of a brain surgeon is tremendous.  Guess what?  I would argue that the responsibility that is in the hands of every educator is even greater.  And here's the tough thing.  A person might only have one instance in his or her whole life where they have to trust that a neurosurgeon will not make a mistake, will not change them forever.  But a child has to trust that every year, every day, the teacher (and all of the other teachers that they will have) will not make a mistake, will not change them forever.

Some may say "well it's not like it's brain surgery" when referring to the teaching profession.  I am going to have to disagree.  Educating children is like brain surgery.  We are molding their brains.  They are trusting us to take care of them and their amazing brains.  They are counting on us, all of us, to make the right decisions, to be focused and precise, to be prepared to go the distance for them, to not make a wrong move, but instead make all kinds of right moves in order to help those beautiful, amazing, delicate, fascinating brains grow.

So get ready!  You are needed in the operating rooms more commonly known as our classrooms.  There are complex brain surgeries to perform.  There are kids who need you to commit to giving them nothing but the best possible care.

Are you ready to scrub in?

Currently reading:
I am still really enjoying listening to The Power of Moments.  And it's giving me lots of ideas for future blog posts.  I highly recommend that you check out this book when you get a chance, lots of great stories within it.  I love this new picture book I just bought: Malala's Magic Pencil.  It's a great book about a little girl who works hard to turn her wishes into reality.  I am looking forward to reading it to different classrooms on Thursday.
I am also very excited about a new book purchase called Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult.  In this book, the author revisits classic children's books, such as The Very Hungry CaterpillarCharlotte's Web, and The Cat in the Hat, and explores the backstories of the books and the authors that wrote them.

Events this week:
Monday - 3rd grade team meeting @ 2:45
Tuesday - Teachers need to have report cards completed, School Council meeting @ 8:00, 4th grade "Wonder" field trip
Wednesday - 2nd grade team meeting @ 8:15, 1st grade team meeting @ 8:30
Thursday - Kindergarten team meeting @ 8:30
Friday - Curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, K-2 math focus, 3-4 ELA focus

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Loved seeing high school students helping our students with Hour of Code activities! 
  • Caught 2nd graders working on their basketball moves with Ms. Kinneen in the gym. 
  • Thanks to the PTA for bringing Melissa Stewart to our school!  Loved popping into her sessions over the 2 days that she was with us.  Can you believe she has written 191 non-fiction books! And many of them are in our classroom libraries! 

Check it out:
A friend shared this video clip with me, pretty great story about the power of one caring adult:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Time for the 12 Days of What the Staff Deserves!

Principal ponderings...
We kicked off the school year with a focus on the book Kids Deserve It and have been focusing on the idea of every kid, every day.  I have seen your dedication to students in action.  Thank you for working hard to make a difference in the lives of all of our students.  And's the most wonderful time of the year.  It's the time of year when we kick off the 12 days of what the staff deserves!  That's right, you all deserve to have a little fun during the last days leading up to the holiday break.

Check out the following link to see what will be happening over the last 12 days, beginning on Thursday!

Currently reading:
As I was doing my grocery shopping, I listened to the end of When Breathe Becomes Air.  Such a beautifully written book, although people were probably wondering why I was silently crying in the produce section while shopping!  I read a fun picture book that I just got in the mail.  It's the newest book by Josh Funk, The Case of the Stinky Stench, a sequel to the awesome book Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  I can't wait to read this to some classrooms in the future!
I also got another book in the mail this weekend called The Miracle Morning for Writers.  I already started reading it last night and am looking forward to trying out a new morning routine that gets me writing each morning.  Beginning to start working on writing a book with some other principal friends of mine...excited to write even more!

Events this week:
Monday - Discovery Museum visits 1st grade, Hour of Code activities
Tuesday - Hour of Code activities, Liz out of the building at meeting w/the Commissioner and MSAA Board Meeting
Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 3:30, School Committee Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - Melissa Stewart, non fiction author visits FloRo
Friday - Melissa Stewart, non fiction author visits FloRo, Melissa and Liz at SLT meeting 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I was excited to pop into Mrs. Taylor's class and catch the launch of reader's workshop.  Students were excited to talk about mini-lessons, guided practice and independent reading.  And Mrs. Taylor got them super excited about the idea of reading during this very special time of the day! 
  • Thanks to everyone for welcoming educators from the Quabbin School District on Tuesday.  We hosted 14 teachers and math specialists, and they were all so excited and appreciative of what they saw and discussed with all of you.  It was great to see how your hard work and efforts to implement the math curriculum has truly paid off.
  • The principal of Ruggles Lane sent me some pictures of how two days after a visit to all of you...her teachers had already started trying out a math workshop model with Eureka.  Love the idea of collaborating and learning with other schools!  Just got a request from another district to come see our co-teaching teams in action! Thanks for making me proud.
  • Student Council is planning a hat and glove drive to collect donations for Transitions House at Devens. Thursday morning they were hard at work making posters to advertise the drive.
  • I caught this reader in the hallway, and he was super proud of his hard work!  He has been working hard to persevere...keep up the good reading! 
  • Holiday Fair on Saturday was a huge success!  Thanks to the PTA for putting the whole event together.  And thanks to Mr. Wiesner for the amazing performances by every grade level! Thank you teachers for taking time on a Saturday to stop by and support your students.

Check it out:
Check out this post that reminds us to "humanize our approach to interventions" :