Sunday, April 29, 2018

Would You Rather, The Education Version

Principal pondering...
I am sure many of you have either heard of or played your own version of the game "Would You Rather?"  I have had a few questions swirling around in my head lately so I thought I would write them out and see what you think of them.  Or maybe it will make you think of your own education related questions as well.

Would you rather spend the next 10 years teaching a class of 45 students knowing that you could have any supplies, tools, technology, resource, basically whatever you needed?
Would you rather know that every class you taught was going to have less than 20 students, but you would not be able to add any supplies, tools, technology, resource to what you currently have?

Not sure which one of these I would pick.  Have a giant class, but all the stuff I could think of?  Sounds tempting.  But then again to always know that I had less than 20 I really need all of the stuff?

Would you rather spend the rest of your time teaching?
Would you rather spend the rest of your time learning?

I think the educator I was several years ago would say that I would rather spend my time teaching.  I did really love teaching.  But I am older, and I would like to think a little wiser now.  And now I would much rather spend the rest of my time learning.  Now, I know that teaching, true teaching, is all about learning.  I want to be constantly learning, and I want to see staff and students constantly learning.  I can teach, but not learn anything.  But when I am learning and modeling learning, then I am also teaching.  (Pretty deep, right?!)

Would you rather have a salary similar to Tom Brady, but never be allowed to collaborate with any other educators ever again?
Would you rather keep your current salary, but have unlimited access to any educator in the world and be able to collaborate with as many different people as you want every single day?

We all know that we certainly never got into education for the money.  And while a salary with that many zeros in it is definitely tempting, I would argue that being able to collaborate with superstar educators from all over the world would be even better compensation.  Call me crazy, but there is just something awesome about being able to benefit from working with like-minded colleagues.

So those are just a few "would you rather" questions that had popped into my head.  I shared my thoughts, but how would you answer the above questions?  Can you come up with your own for this education round of "would you rather?"  I'd love to ponder some of your questions.  Share some in the comments or simply strike up a conversation with another educator.

Currently reading:
I started listening to a new book on Audible.  I am enjoying Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.  He tells the story of his childhood and growing up in South Africa.   Trevor Noah is the one reading the book on listening to his accent!  And so far, it's a sad but interesting story.

Events this week:
Groton Fire Dept Safe House at school all week
Monday - 4th grade ELA MCAS
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 8:00, All School Assembly in the PAC @ 2:30
Wednesday - K and 1st grade have Eric Carle enrichment program, Dr. Chesson attending staff meeting @ 3:30, 4th graders recite the pledge @ School Committee Mtg @ 7:00
Thursday - K and 1st grade have Eric Carle enrichment program, Liz out of the building for MSAA board meeting
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00, Elementary half day, 12:15 dismissal, all teachers meeting at FR for math focus

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Gribi's class became construction workers and the classroom became a work zone the other day while they were building and deconstructing compound words! 
  • I had tons of fun with all of the 1st graders at their field trip to the Ecotarium in Worcester!  We learned about different animals, took a trip through the solar system in the planetarium, and even felt what hurricane force winds feel like! 
  • Be sure and check out the bulletin board leading to the 4th grade wing.  Mrs. Potter and Ms. Schumaker had their students write some great poems about growing up and some of the changes that have happened over the years. 
  • Saturday was a fun day where FloRo took over Fenway Park!  The Red Sox may have lost, but we all had so much fun at the game with our families!  Thank you PTA for organizing this event! 
Check it out:
Check out this post about starting each day with student-centered choices:

Have you heard this new song by Jason Mraz?  Definitely an inspirational song that I have a feeling will be used in many end of the year videos and graduations!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

One Day or Day One?

Principal pondering...
Over the break, I was out driving and I passed a sign outside a business that caught my attention.  It said, "One day or day one?"  It was one of those moments where I read it, tucked it in my brain, and continued driving, not really thinking about it.  Then, after I had finished my errands, and I was driving home, that phrase popped back into my head.  And I started to really think about the message behind it.

We have 42 days of school left.  It's easy to get stuck in the mindset of counting down until the last day of school, and talking about things you will do differently next year or things that you have not been able to get to this year.  That would be taking the "one day" approach.  Let's not get ourselves into the mindset of thinking that one day I will try out that new idea or one day I will plan my lesson differently.

We have 42 days of school left.  Let's go with the mindset that this is "day one."  Instead of thinking about what you will do differently next year or try out one day in the future, let's say that it's day one. Start now.  Don't wait.  Don't put off making a change for your students.  Don't put off trying out new technology because you want to learn more about it one day.  Today is day one.  What if we treat every one of the last 42 days as day one?  Think of the difference you can make for your students.  Start each of these 42 days with the enthusiasm and excitement of day one.  Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today.  Don't put off for next year what you can do this year.

And this mindset is not just for your teaching and your work with all of our students.  What's something personally that you have put off for later or have said "one day" I will do that.  I know for me, I kept telling myself that one day I would get back into my morning routine of going to workout. It was vacation week and I certainly would have liked to have slept in.   But instead of saying "one day," I decided to make it "day one" of getting back into my morning routine.  What is something that  you want to do and need to shift your mindset to "day one" thinking?  What are you waiting for?  Stop waiting for one day and make today day one!

One day or day one, which will you choose?

Currently reading:
During vacation week, I enjoyed reading and listening to several books.  How about you?  Did you get to spend some time reading?  During my morning sessions at the gym, I listened to the book Refugee on Audible.  This book is certainly interesting as it tells three different stories of three different children who are refugees during different times in history and from different countries.
I read a book that a principal friend of mine wrote called Be The One For Kids.  It's a quick read and gives some great reminders of how we can continue to always put kids first.  The author, Ryan Sheehy, is a principal in California who I have connected with through social media; we co-moderate a Twitter chat once a month for NAESP, #NAESPchat. 
I am in a Voxer book study and we just started reading the book Visible Learning for Literacy.  It's a pretty dense read, but I know the weekly discussions will keep me going.  And when John Hattie is one of the authors then you know it's going to be a worthwhile read. 

Events this week:
Monday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo in the am, Elem Leadership Meeting @ 2:15, Staff yoga @ 3:30
Tuesday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS
Wednesday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS, Grade 2 Life Cycle Enrichment program, kindergarten chorus @ 2:20
Thursday - 4th grade ELA MCAS, 1st grade field trip to the Ecotarium
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00, District half day, 12:15 dismissal, K-2 Math, 3-4 ELA, Special Olympics!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I enjoyed presenting at the MRA Conference and attending some great sessions.  Several FloRo staff attended as well and I know they are looking forward to sharing their learning with the rest of us! 

  • These K friends wrote a how to book about winning the golden tray.  Hmmm...I am thinking we might need to share this story with some of our older grades! 
  • Thanks to the PTA for showering the staff with appreciation all week!  So many great treats.  And I loved getting this special cookie from a student...
  • I popped into Mrs. Devereaux's class and listened to students sharing "tag" words that they found in their reading and could then go add into their writing. 
  • Mrs. Wenz's 2nd graders shared some amazing beginning paragraphs for their writing...they really hooked me in and had me wanting to read more! 

  • Mrs. Cragg's class was having some fun collaborating on some STEM kits when I popped into their room! 

  • On Friday night, I was excited to start vacation week by picking up Adam Welcome, the co-author of Kids Deserve It, from the airport and take him to dinner in the North End with some fellow MA principals.  Adam was in town to run the marathon on the horrible, cold, wet Monday.  It was great to talk all things education with him and some of my principal friends! 

Check it out:
Some info about Earth Day for you:

Since I started this post with a saying from a billboard, here are a few more inspirational billboards for you...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Let's Learn From Each Other!

Principal ponderings...
I know that the end of the year race is starting to kick into high gear, but there is still plenty of time to learn something new!  I would love to highlight some of you in these posts so that everyone can see that we have a lot of built in professional development within our school walls.  If you have been doing something that you want to share, let me know!  Or I may approach you and ask you if I can share your awesomeness with everyone else!

Today, I want to share some helpful videos/links that Audra, our digital learning coach, has shared with me.  She has created some screencasts and tips for different tech related things.

Here is a screencast video of how to use the arrange tools to align text boxes and create columns:

Here is a screencast video of how to use the find feature to search for keywords on a website:

Here is a screencast video of how to use the advanced image search to filter your results.  Exclude copyrighted works or include specific images only, e.g. clipart, transparent backgrounds, etc.:

And one more for now!  Here is a screencast video of how to create hyperlinks within an existing Google Slide for table of contents or as you wish:

Have fun learning something new and let me know what you want to share with your colleagues!

Currently reading:
As usual, I have quite a few books going at once.  Looking forward to the vacation week where I hope to spend a chunk of time reading.  I know several of you took books from our book tasting event.  Are you enjoying the book that you selected?  A great new picture book that I read was called It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk.  Josh Funk, a local author, put out another great book!  In the book Jack and the other characters end up having a dialogue with the narrator where they argue about why certain parts of the book are happening.  I think kids will be laughing out loud with this book!
A friend of mine just released a book called Hacking Early Learning.  Jessica Cabeen is a principal of an all K building in Minnesota, but we have connected through social media and met up at conferences.  She sent me her manuscript online and asked me to read and review it on Amazon.  I started to dive into it this weekend; it's good common sense about our youngest learners.  I'm glad someone finally wrote this book! b
I am so excited that this book arrived in my Amazon box Saturday morning!  You know my love of books and I couldn't wait to get my hands on It's All About the Books: How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries that Inspire Readers.  Tons of great pictures, ideas, book lists, and resources in this book! 
Events this week:
The PTA will be celebrating all of you this week for Teacher Appreciation Week!  Enjoy the goodies in the staff room throughout the week!
Monday - Liz and staff at MRA Conference, PTA Meeting in the cafeteria to discuss principal search with Dr. Chesson @ 6:00
Tuesday- Liz and staff at MRA Conference
Wednesday- 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20, Grade 4 presentation about canoe trip in the PAC from 1:30-3:00, Elementary Curriculum Committee Meeting from 3:30-5:00
Friday- Enjoy your Spring Break!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Caught this reader really into his book! 
  • I received some amazing persuasive letters from Mts. Potter's class including this gem: 
  • You might have seen me walking around with this lady.  Her name is Courtney Jones and she is a principal of an elementary school in VA.  We have been connected through Voxer and the Moms As Principals group.  Small world...her father lives in Groton and they were up visiting so she surprised me and came to see FloRo! 
  • When I took Courtney around, we happened to walk into this K lesson about how to make a pizza!  Complete with Mrs. Taylor's awesome pizza hat! 
  • These young ladies were so proud of their writing.  I had them come in and interrupt a meeting to share.  They had collaborated and written a book on how to make a fairy house. 
  • Caught these 3rd graders all diving into their reading...if you squint you can imagine them all at the beach reading in their chairs! 
  • I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Leading the Nation event at the State House on Thursday.  I witnessed the swearing in of the new Commissioner of Education for MA, Jeff Riley. 

Check it out:
Here is a quick video from Saturday's Science Showcase!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

To Infinity and Beyond!

Principal ponderings...
Sorry, this is not a post dedicated to the movie "Toy Story."  Even though I can't help doing my best Buzz Lightyear impression while typing out the title of this post...this is not going to be about that favorite Disney movie.  But I was excited to come across the image above...the one with the infinity symbol.  That symbol can also be called a "lazy eight."  Did you know that symbol, infinity, also known as lazy eight, can help students with reading?

I have known about the connection between working on crossing the midline and improving reading skills, but I had not thought about it in a while.  And then I attended a session at the ASCD conference the other weekend and was reminded of this important skill that we should be practicing with all of our students.

By drawing or tracing or making the shape in the air, students are working on improving visual attention and eye motility which is necessary for crossing the midline and reading smoothly across a page.  If you have students practice this simple skill, you will help them build pathways in their brain, and you will ultimately help them become better readers without even opening a book.  Whether you are working with kindergartners or 4th graders, think about working in some lazy eight practice at different times of the day.  Students could trace the shape with fingers or with pencils.  They could draw lazy eights with their fingers in the air.  Have them try it with both hands, don't just encourage doing it with the dominate hand.  Students can make lazy eights on a whiteboard and trace over their drawing several times.  You can have students practice this before they start reader's workshop or have them do it before they begin independent reading.  You may remember a few years ago when we talked about Brain Gym?  This is an example of a Brain Gym activity that we should have all students continue to practice.

Who is ready to do some brain integration work and help improve reading for students at all levels?  To Infinity and beyond with reading instruction!

Currently reading:
Thanks to the Scholastic book fair and attending the ASCD Conference, I have some more books that I have added to my collection! One fun read aloud book I got is called The Library Book.  It's a celebration of books, reading, and libraries!
Another book that I just had to get from the book fair is called Dear Girl.  It's written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal along with her daughter Paris Rosenthal.  Since Amy passed away last year, I continue to buy any books that she wrote.  This is a book that I will enjoy reading to my daughter again and again. 
I loved finding another book in the Elephant and Piggie collection.  The book We are Growing! is all about blades of grass growing and the conversation they have with each other as they grow.  Check it out! 

Events this week:
Monday - Light it Up Blue for Autism Day!  Wear your blue, Optional meeting with Superintendent about Principal search
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 8:00
Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Liz attending Leading the Nation event @ The State House
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00, District half day, 12:15 dismissal, Unit A contract day

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Love seeing the different BINGO boards in classrooms and hearing about all the books everyone is reading for the Read-a-Thon! 
  • I enjoyed listening to K students reading to me their 'how to' books...and is that Mrs. Spiczka using the interactive projector?! 
  • More kindergartners learning about text features in non fiction books. 
  • Ms. Allen, one of our student teachers, was reading a great picture book to students to get them thinking about writing how to books. 
  • These kindergartners from Mrs. Olson's class had fun using teamwork to create Lego houses. 
  • I had fun shopping in the book fair all week, and we had a great time with families during our Family Literacy Night! 
Check it out:
There's a new Twitter chat focused on literacy happening this Tuesday, April 3 at 9:00.  Here are the questions...might be a good chat to check out!  You can follow it at #curiositycrew