Monday, May 28, 2018

Mirrors, Windows, and Doors, Oh My, It's Time for Reflection!

Principal pondering...

This is about the time when I write a post that talks about reflecting on the school year.  It's a little difficult for me to write about reflecting on the year knowing that this will be my last year at Florence Roche.  I do plan on continuing to blog weekly next year...I'll just have to change the name of the blog!

This past week, I participated in a Twitter chat that focused on reflecting on the school year.  I loved the concept behind it and wanted to share it with all of you.  The reflection centered around three parts of a house: a mirror, a window, and a door.  Thank you Kelley McCall, Jay Posick, Mark French, and Ryan Sheehy...hope it's ok to borrow your reflection questions and build on them!

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best educator of them all?  Ok, I might spend a little too much time with princess dolls.  Sorry, that's not the mirror question I was thinking of.  Here was the first question that we discussed in the chat:

Like a mirror, what did you do this year to reflect on your practice?  
I would also add, if you are looking in the mirror, do you like the educator who is staring back at you?  
Are you the same educator that you were in the beginning of the year?  
How have you changed and how has that impacted your students?

With the weather getting nicer, and the sounds and signs of summer beginning to appear outside, this is when students (and adults) can't help but stare out the window thinking about days of summer ahead.  The next reflection question focuses on the concept of the window:

Like a window, what did you see someone else do that you then implemented in your classroom?
I would also add, did you allow yourself to look out the window every once in a while?  Whether that meant observing in another teacher's classroom, learning about something someone did on social media, or simply having a conversation with another educator?
Was there a window into your room?  
Did you allow others to see or hear about your teaching?
Did you celebrate and share your successes with others?
Did you also share your struggles and keep the window open for feedback?

Probably my favorite sound of summer is the opening and closing of the screen door.  Granted...this year I would probably be ok with a few less door bangs from Miss Emerson who spends a lot of time running out to the backyard and running back in!  The question from the chat that dealt with doors was...

Like a door, what opportunities will you open for your students and your colleagues next year?
I would also add, with new leadership next year, there will be lots of opportunities to look at everything through a new lens.  How will you help keep the door open?
In what new and innovative ways will you connect with your students, create learning opportunities, and celebrate growth?

Whether you choose the mirror questions, the window questions or the door questions, it's important to stop and reflect on the past year and think about moving forward next year.  As we reflect, we constantly improve ourselves and our teaching.  And as we improve as educators, automatically our students improve and reap the benefits of our self-reflection.

Currently reading:
I finished listening to Brene Brown's Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.  There are many great quotes that stuck with me from this book.  Here's one of them:
    "True belonging is not passive.  It's not the belonging that comes with just joining a group.  It's not       fitting in or pretending or selling out because it's safer.  It's a practice that requires us to be         
    vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who  
    we are.  We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard       
I am excited that I just added Hillbilly Elegy to my Audible list.  I have heard good things about that memoir.
I am also excited to be reading an advanced copy of a book called Balance Like a Pirate: Going Beyond Work-Like Balance to Ignite Passion and Thrive as an Educator.  It's written by three principals, two of whom I am connected to through social media.  Excited to be reading the copy and writing a review... my review might end up in the book! That would be super cool.

Events this week:
Monday - Memorial Day, No School
Tuesday - Kindergarten Screening all day at the PTYC, 3rd grade chorus practice 9:15-10:45, K enrichment Discover Spring with Aquatic Insects
Wednesday - Kindergarten Screening all day at the PTYC, 3rd grade school show @ 9:30 in the PAC, 2nd grade Farmer's Bridge enrichment program all day
Thursday - 2nd grader and 4th grader are Principal for the Day!, Grade 3 Evening Concert @ 7:00
Friday - Curriculum Half Day, 12:15 dismissal, Science PD with SU, led by Luke Smith 1:15-3:15

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Looking forward to the 3rd grade concert this week!  These two 3rd graders were excited to share a song they had composed. 
  • Head down the 4th grade wing if you want to learn more about honeybees.  I have been reading the book King of the Bees to the 4th and 3rd grade classrooms and have enjoyed discussing these amazing creatures. 
  • 4th graders had fun practicing teamwork and learning about algorithms while doing Breakout Edu!  Remember when we had a little friendly staff competition at the beginning of the year?!  Thanks to Audra for helping the 4th grade team. 
  • I had many kindergarten writers visiting me this week to share more persuasive letters.  Wondering if the new FloRo will have a pool?  They also want a "bring your pet to school" day! Their writing and their ideas certainly put a smile on my face. 
Check it out:
Need some motivation to write this summer?! Check out this link where there will be daily prompts every day from now until September 5:
Love this post for parents by Pernille Ripp about summer reading:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Are We Really Listening?

Principal pondering...

I have been reading about the "emotional brain" in a recent National Geographic magazine; and I can't help but think about how the word emotion contains the word motion in it.  Over the past few days we have all experienced a rollercoaster ride of extreme emotions.  On Friday, we learned of yet another school shooting.  And a Washington Post article shared this unsettling statistic: There have been more people killed at schools this year than have been killed while serving in the military.  Across the country, we were all filled with feelings of sadness, anger, uneasiness.

Like most rollercoasters, there are the downs and then very quickly, there are the ups.  On Saturday, tons of people watched as Prince Harry and Princess Meghan got married.  For a little bit, everyone forgot about the sadness, anger, uneasiness of the day before, and people were happy, smiling, and focused on love.  Bishop Michael Curry certainly stirred up some emotional responses from the wedding attendants with his passionate sermon.  It was clear on many of the faces, the British attendees did not quite know what to make of Curry and his emotionally charged sermon on love:

The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way." There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over-sentimentalize it. There's power, power in love.If you don't believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Oh there's power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There's a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it - it actually feels right.

I wonder if the people who were present for the ceremony really truly listened to the sermon?  I came across a post from The Washington Post that led me to a man who has spent time focusing on listening to kids across the country.  Here is the post:

He put together a movie based off of interviews that he conducted in schools across the country.  The movie is called "Listen."  I plan on watching it, but in the meantime, I found this Ted talk that Erahm Christopher gave.  It's about half an hour, but it is something that we should all take the time to listen to.  His message is an important one, one that we need to hear.
Mr. Christopher shares in his post and in the Ted talk about where the word "listen" comes from.  The root of the word listen comes from an Old English word, "hylsnan," which means 'to pay attention to.' 

Are we really listening to our children?  Are we really paying attention to them?  Like the bishop said in his sermon, "when someone cares for you and you know actually feels right," Do all of our students feel right because they know that we care about them and are listening to them?  In Mr. Christopher's post, he shares some research about how people communicate.  Our communication relies more on body language than on what we actually say.  Research shows that 55% of the value comes our actions and 38% comes from our sounds, whereas only 7% of the value comes from our actual words.

Will you spend these next few weeks really listening to each of our students?  And will you think about how to teach them the value of listening and how to truly listen to each other?

 Currently reading:
I read some great picture books this weekend.  I love Lester Laminack's new book called The King of Bees.  I bought it at the MRA Conference this year after I heard him do a reading from it.  It is a great story about a boy and his fascination with honeybees.
Another great book that I got at the MRA Conference is called New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer.  This fictional book takes place during the 1950s and paints a picture of the discrimination that African Americans faced.  Love that the author creates two girl characters who don't like that they are not allowed to try on shoes in the store so they create their own store where anyone can try on shoes. I also love that the author inscribed my book with a message to my daughter: "For Emerson, Wishing you new shoes--and justice."
I am also reading a great, quick read.  A principal that I know through social media, Allyson Apsey, wrote a book called The Path to Serendipity.  Here is the blurb on Amazon about the book:

"You get to choose what kind of life you want to live. Every day. But it doesn’t always seem that way. When challenges arise and throw you off course, life can feel frustrating, maddening . . . heartbreaking. Even in those moments, you have the choice to find the gift. Through tragedy and triumph—and even in the many mundane moments in between—life offers love, wisdom, and self-discovery. The best gift of all is the freedom to choose who you want to be and what kind of life you want to live. The Path to Serendipity by education leader Allyson Apsey is a funny, genuine, and clever look at the fortunes we can gain from even our worst experiences. Through her personal, relatable stories, you will learn strategies for living a meaningful life regardless of the craziness happening around you. Don’t miss the gift."

Events this week:
Monday - 4th grade math MCAS
Tuesday - Wendy Lochner will be visiting FloRo to observe co-teaching
Wednesday - Wendy Lochner will be visiting FloRo to observe co-teaching, Elementary Leadership Meeting @ 2:15, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:20
Thursday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo in the afternoon, High School Spring Concert in the PAC @ 7:00 pm
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:
Some sort of bug took over the Garden house so I was out sick and then we had a half day on Friday.  When I looked back over the week...I realized I never took any pictures!  But I can still tell you about some great thingsI noticed.

  • On one of the days, we were short staffed so I was lucky enough to be a substitute in several classrooms.  I was rather impressed with Mrs. Olson's kindergarteners.  They were busy bees working on some math skills that involved addition problems with 10s.
  • On that same day I subbed in Mr. Smith's room for a little bit.  We had an interesting conversation about the Tesla sports car that is orbiting the Earth which we read about in Scholastic News.
  • Mrs. Kavanagh's students invited me into their classroom to share some persuasive letters with me.  They requested everything from a pet alligator for the school to a playground that is twice as big as the one we have.  
  • I was able to help be a 1:1 during a first grade music class and had fun trying out different drums in the music room.  We also followed along with Mr. Wiesner as he led us through the disappearing beats game.
  • I popped into Mrs. Guernsey's class and heard several students reciting some poems that they had practiced reading.  I shared with the class that I studied poetry in college; I promised them that I would come back in and share some of my poems that I have written.
  • Be sure and check out the new furniture in the library!  There is a new couch and some comfy new rocking chairs.  Thanks to the PTA for continuing to support improvements to our library.  
Check it out:

Check out this post by Doreen Rappaport who wrote Martin's Big Words  and Lady Liberty.  Love her discussion about writing biographies and how her goal is to "illuminate the meaning in someone's life."
Love the thought of students talking about and writing their reading memoirs:
A friend of mine who is a principal in Bellingham posted this great reminder about dealing with end of year stress:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Let's Learn From Each Other...Part Two!

Principal pondering...
Can't believe that last day of school is getting closer and closer, but there is still plenty of time to learn something new!  I would still 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 more 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.  Many of these videos might come in handy as you are working with your students to wrap up the year and create some final projects.

Here is a screencast video of how to use Google Slides with your own images and png files to tell a story with stop motion:
With end of the year presentations or different final projects, this could be a great way to create some new and different videos with students!  I actually attended a workshop recently at a conference and we learned how to make stop motion videos using iPads and play much fun!

Here is a screencast video that explains the basics of Do Ink to create green screen videos:

Here's a quick video on how to upload pictures or videos on the iPad to Google Drive:

Here's a link to a few screencast videos with iMovie tutorials:

Please be sure and share some of the new skills that you try out!  Or maybe you have something that you are doing and can teach the rest of us!  Let me know so I can highlight you in an upcoming blog post.

Currently reading:
I have started reading a great book that came in the mail recently...Stories From Webb: The Ideas, Passions, and Convictions of a Principal and His School Family.  This book is the next book in the #KidsDeserveIt series.  The author, Todd Nesloney, along with the staff from his school, shares stories of education that we can all relate to.  It is definitely a good book to read during this time of year, certainly a book to reinvigorate educators.

Events this week:
Tuesday - 3rd grade math MCAS
Wednesday - SST Meeting @ 8:00, 3rd grade math MCAS, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20, Staff Meeting @ 3:30 - placement and ordering
Thursday - 4th grade math MCAS
Friday - District half day, 12:15 dismissal, placement work

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 4th graders demonstrated their various art skills while Mrs. Garden subbed as the art teacher. 
  • Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Smith's class had fun mystery Skyping with a national park ranger!  After asking lots of questions, the students figured out that she was from Yosemite National Park! 

  • Mrs. Olson's kindergarteners got to do some collaborative creation activities during Wellness. 

Check it out:
10 Reasons Why We Confer with Readers:
An article from Jo Boaler, how to improve math class:

Monday, May 7, 2018

2-4-6-8-Who Do We Appreciate?!

Principal pondering...

Even though the PTA celebrated staff appreciation week during the week before April vacation, this week is actually officially Teacher Appreciation Week across the country.  It is a little funny to me that we appreciate teachers during a week in May.  First of all, I know how this time of the school year is extremely busy, crazy, stressful.  So maybe it does make sense to show some teacher love.  But I also think...why do we only have a random week in May devoted to teacher appreciation?!  Shouldn't we be appreciating each other all year long? 

Of course, we appreciate our FloRo teachers so much!  Here are some video clips from the hilarious Gerry Brooks.  Hmm, wondering if I should consider some of his gift ideas?

While teacher appreciation is a great time for administration, parents, and students to let you know how much you are appreciated, I think it's also a great time for teachers to let other teachers know how much they appreciate each other.  It's great that we work in a profession where help is just next door or just down the hallway.  I read this post this weekend about teacher mentors:  It is so true that every teacher needs a mentor and every teacher can be a mentor to someone else.  Think about someone who you have mentored or who has mentored you.  Be sure and let that person know how much you appreciate the support and connection.  

In honor of teacher appreciation week, I want to share this short Ted talk with you.  In just six minutes, this chemistry teacher shares what he feels are the 3 rules to spark learning.  Be sure and find a few minutes to watch this clip:  

And just remember...think of all of the students that you have made a difference for and all of the students that you will make a difference in their lives...

Haha, we all know that none of us do just one thing at a time!

Currently reading:
I am still really enjoying listening to Trevor Noah's Born a Crime.  I also read some new picture books that I want to share with you.  Josh Funk has been putting out several new books, and one of his latest is called Albie Newton.  Albie is very smart preschooler who doesn't exactly know the best way to make friends until you see what he creates at the end of the book! 
A perfect read aloud for teacher appreciation week is the one I just read called A Letter to My Teacher.  I student decides to write a letter to her teacher thanking the teacher for understanding who she was and the kind of support she needed.  I love that the character in this book is not an easy kid and it's a girl.  Wait until you see who the character ends up turning into at the end of the book! 

Events this week:
Tuesday - 4th grade canoe trips
Wednesday - 4th grade canoe trips, 3rd grade chorus practice at 2:20
Thursday - 4th grade canoe trips
Friday - 4th grade canoe trips, Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 1st graders in Mrs. Cragg's class were selecting different stations to work on geometry skills. 
  • Mrs. Fournier's class was reviewing their reading behaviors before diving into their independent reading time.  Helpful reminders as we finish the school year strong! 
  • After reviewing reading behaviors, these 3rd graders got right into reading their biographies. 
  • Mrs. Wilkins and her students were talking about using expression and acting out parts of fiction books. 
  • These two 4th graders did an excellent job leading the pledge and presenting to School Committee on Wednesday night!  Way to go Mackenzie and Jack! 
  • Mrs. Pierantozzi's class had fun being reading buddies with Mrs. Kavanagh's class on Friday. 
  • And thanks for a great assembly on Tuesday!  Loved listening to the 4th graders singing that amazing song.  Then I stood in the back of the PAC and cried as I watched the video of our Special Olympics athletes and listened to all of the students cheering for their peers.  And then of course...getting turned into a human ice cream sundae...well that was certainly an unforgettable experience!
Check it out:
An important post for adults to read, all about the behavior we are modeling:
Love this way to get feedback from your students through end of year letters: