Monday, September 24, 2018

UD What?! An Introduction to Universal Design for Learning

Principal ponderings...
I have mentioned UDL or Universal Design for Learning in several different conversations so I thought it might be good to share a few posts on this topic.  So let's start with the basics. What in the world is UDL and why should we be talking about it?

Universal Design for Learning was recently defined and endorsed in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA); however it was defined a while ago...
Actually Universal Design for Learning was first discussed back in 1990.  And it got its start from Universal Design which focused on architecture.  We see something everyday that was universally designed...a curb cut.  Why are there ramps or curb cut outs on streets, entryways, even here at the front of our school?  Curb cuts certainly help if someone is in a wheelchair or using a walker, but they also help with strollers, wheeled suitcases, lawnmowers, carts, roller skates or roller blades, bikes.  The list is endless.  Thank goodness fifty or so years ago someone figured out that the way curbs were designed needed to be changed.  They needed to be universally designed.

Fast forward to today and think about how this idea of universally designing education and learning can benefit every kind of learner.  But exactly is UDL?  Check out this short video clip (2 minutes) of Dr. Katie Novak, UDL guru, giving a simple explanation:

You can also check out another short video clip (4 minutes) of UDL at a glance on the CAST website, a great resource for all things UDL:

The last item about UDL I have for you to take a look at is this graphic.  It shows the three main components of UDL. UDL is focused on these three networks of the brain.  I will share more in future posts and discussions, but this is a little introduction into the amazing world of Universal Design for Learning.

Currently reading:
I recently visited one of my favorite bookstores, Jeff Kiney's store called An Unlikely Story in Plainville.  And of course I purchased a few new books.  One new book is called The Book of Mistakes.  This is a simple story that shows how mistakes can inspire us to create something different.
Another book I purchased is by one of my favorite local authors, Josh Funk.  Josh is actually a software engineer by day and author by night.  He has written several really great picture books...I have a bunch if you want to borrow any!  The new one I just picked up is called Lost in the Library, and it's all about the lions who sit out front of the New York Public Library and an adventure in the library.  
I have also been reading a really terrific professional development book about growing readers called From Striving to Thriving by Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward.  I have heard both of these women speak and I am always impressed with their dedication to young readers everywhere.  I love many things in this book so far, but I especially love the focus on making sure "students remain students and don't become labels."

Events this week:
Tuesday - Liz hosting several area principals in the library for a regional meeting, 7:30-9:00, Bus Meeting w/bus 47 @ 9:15 location TBD, Curriculum Night K-2 from 6:00-7:00, 3-5 from 7:00-8:00
Wednesday - Liz meeting w/PTA President @ 1:00
Thursday - Liz at Curriculum Meeting Central Office from 7:45-9:30, Liz meeting w/Commissioner of Education 10:00-11:30, 3rd grade Senior Pen Pals Program in the cafeteria @ 2:00
Friday - Picture Day! SPED team meeting @ 12:15 in the conference room, Library Committee Meeting @ 3:45

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I popped into a kindergarten class and caught some learners enjoying a movement break and some dancing! 
  • And then when I popped into another kindergarten class, I had fun sorting letters with some students. 
  • Finally, I stopped in another kindergarten class and caught students illustrating some sentences all about kindergarten. 
  • It was good to come together on the half day on Thursday.  I enjoyed listening in on discussions between paras and teachers as we worked through the DCAP and some student scenarios.  It was also good to begin working on and discussing student safety and ALICE. 

Check it out:
A quick, interesting read about emotional regulation for kids with ADHD:

This is a great video clip of Sir Ken Robinson talking about changing education paradigms.  You can watch the entire 11 minutes, but one of my favorite parts comes around 3:35 when he talks about the "ADHD epidemic."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Where is my Couch to Classroom 5K App?!

Principal ponderings...

I hate running.  Seriously, I do not enjoy it at all.  But since the summer I have been getting up around 4:45 three to five mornings a week to run.  Why in the world would I do that?  Even though I despise running, I do actually care about my health, and I am trying to make exercise a regular habit in my life.  And now that I have been doing this for about 3 months, I still don't like running, but I have actually come to look forward to this time.  Don't get me wrong, there are still mornings when the alarm goes off and I think...why is that thing going off?...or I think...what in the world day is it?...or I think...I will just hit the snooze button one or two or five times!  But for the most part, I have stuck to my goal of at least three mornings a week.  How did I make that happen?
Thank goodness for the Couch to 5K app.  I need someone in my ear telling me what to do.  If I had just started running without the app...well I probably would have only run once this summer and then this post would never have happened.  I love that I can put my earbuds in, tap the app, and this lovely voice tells me to start warming up.  Then I start listening to a book on Audible or I select a great station on Pandora, like Pop and HipHop Power Workout Radio. (Don't judge, you know you want to look up this station now and start chair dancing!) And then I just wait for the lady to chime in again and tell me what to do.  What's that?  Begin running?  Ok, will do.  Start walking now?  You got it.  I'm halfway done?  Awesome.  Only one minute left?  Ok, I will go ahead and kick it up a notch for the finish.  Begin my cool down?  Thank you, I will.  After using this app for a while now, I actually run a few miles without really thinking about it.  And next weekend, I am going to run in a 5K race.  I will not be racing, but I will be running and I will complete it.

I have used the Couch to 5K app several times before.  I have also done the Couch to 10K app as well.  I have run 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and once I even did a half marathon.  And I realized that I still hate running, especially for 13.1 long miles.  But I did it, I completed it, and that is something.  So why am I sharing my love/hate relationship with running with you?  I really wanted to talk about the app and the thought process behind that.  By using that app, I was able to go at my own pace, redo days if I wanted to, have someone tell me what to do, and take baby steps (literally...there are definitely power walkers who would blow by me...I am slooowww.) until eventually, I had accomplished the goal of actually running.
When I was running the other morning, I thought how awesome it would be if we had a Couch to Classroom 5K app.  What I mean is wouldn't it be nice to have an app that gave us step by step directions, allowed us to go at a pace that worked for us, gave us positive reinforcement (but also held us accountable when we weren't following through...the app will notice when I have not used it in a while and tell me to go for a run), an basically helped us reach our goals?  No matter what your goals you want your students' math skills to improve?...or do you want to plan lessons that keep all students engaged?...or maybe you want to get better about integrating technology into your teaching?...or maybe you want to try to help your students set personal learning goals?  Whatever your goals are, whether they are student learning goals or professional practice goals, wouldn't it be nice to have an app that guides you?

Ok, sorry to say there is not an app for that.  But I am thinking we can apply the same concept of the Couch to 5K app to our goal setting.  We can give ourselves action steps that keep us moving forward.  We can use those steps as our roadmap and even re-do them if we have an off week.  We can let team members or family members or your even your evaluator know that you are going to need some encouragement along the way.  Some days I like when the lady comes on and tells me I am halfway...other days I want to yell back at her...are you kidding me?!  I have only done half of what I need to do?!  But if we think of writing the plan for our goals and working towards our goals in a similar fashion as the app, imagine how we will grow this year!

What goals will you work towards this year?  The end result is certainly important, but what's more important is the path you design for yourself.  How will you get from here to there this year?

Currently reading:
I am halfway through a new book from Scholastic called Strays Like Us.  This would be a good read for 5th graders.  The main character was being raised by a single mom, but then she is removed from her mom and placed in foster care.  One of the characters is a dog that the girl begins to take care of, and another character is an unlikely friend from school.
I was excited to get another new book in the mail.  It's called The Confidence Code.  I will be reading it and participating in a book chat with female principals across the state.  Looking forward to starting this one! 
I got a new picture book in the mail this week called Hello, My Name is...How Adorabilis Got His Name.  This picture book was actually inspired by an actual event that happened in 2015.  A new species of octopus was discovered...a very tiny, cute octopus.  And this picture book tells how he might have received his name! 

Events this week:
**Reminder that everyone needs to complete the online mandated trainings by Friday
Monday - District Kindergarten Meeting 4:00 @ Mayo
Tuesday - Liz out of the building @ MSAA Board Meeting all day, PTA Meeting @ 7:00 in the library
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! Patty at SPED Meeting at Central Office in the am, Bus evacuation drills in the am, Optional Tech Tutoring session 3:45-4:15 in the library
Thursday - Optional Tech Tutoring session 8:15-8:45 in the library, half day dismissal @ 12:20, We will meet in the library at 1:00. PTA Frozone Fundraiser 4:00-8:00
Friday - Mandated training online needs to be completed.  Holden Elementary Principals Meeting @ Mayo 7:45-9:15, Holden Firemen at Mayo during arrival for High Five Friday!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • When I popped into 3Pz to read, I caught them practicing some mindfulness.  They were working on their belly breathing while Mrs. Palazzo was demonstrating how to fill your belly with air with a great visual. 
  • I had fun reading The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors to many 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classrooms.  After the read aloud, we played a game of rock, paper, scissors entourage! 
  • The 2nd grade team planned lots of fun, creative activities in honor of International Dot Day.  Check out the banner they made and hung up in the pod!  
  • Ms. Hall has the tough job of teaching every single student in the school.  She knows the importance of making connections and establishing relationships with all students.  When I visited her this week I saw her making a point to learn new things and interests about the 4th graders she was teaching. 
Check it out:
Interesting read about why we should not be using behavior charts and what we can do instead:!.aspx
I just love Kid President videos...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Principal ponderings...

Now that we have set a date for curriculum night, it's time to think about how you want that first impression with the parents to go.  I am including the link to the article I discussed at our staff meeting and a link to a video clip about family engagement that talks about curriculum night or open house or whatever you want to call that night that all teachers have to prepare for at the beginning of the year.  I love how Karen Mapp so honestly states that no parent is actually eager to miss out on their normal evening routine in order to come and sit in little chairs and listen to their child's teacher talk at them.

Let me tell you a little don't have to do curriculum night how you have always done it.  It's true.  You can try something different.  If you are thinking of changing up the presentation that you have always done, the first step is put yourself in their shoes.  Actually, even if you are not planning on changing what you do, put yourself in the parents' shoes.  Would you enjoy sitting through your presentation?  Would you walk away and feel excited that you were trusting this teacher with your child?  Let those questions and that reflection activity guide you as you plan for curriculum night.  You only get one chance to make that first impression and then you have the rest of the school year to work with all of those parents.  No pressure. ;)

So what are some different ways to do curriculum night?  Here are a few that I have either done or seen in action:

  • Take the parents through a typical day.  You could take photos or short video clips of the students doing different activities and/or have them talk about or write about that part of the day.  Let's be honest, the parents really want to know what their child is doing all day because most of them get the same answer to the question "what did you do today?"  Nothing.  We know that is not true, but parents don't know what we do all day.  So what if you showed them?  And better yet, what if their own kids showed them?
  • Instead of having the parents sit at the desks, move the chairs in a big circle and have the parents feel part of a community discussion.  You could have some talking points or you could do something where the parents work on getting to know each other, just like you have been doing activities to have your students get to know each other.  Help the parents feel like a welcome member of your classroom with a relaxed conversation instead of a stressful lecture where you are trying to make sure you remember to tell them every little detail.
  • Make this time more of an open house feel.  Set up stations throughout your room where parents have tasks to complete or different learning activities to do.  I used to love to have one station where my parents could answer a question on chart paper.  I had the kids answer the same question so parents could see what their child said, and then students loved to read what parents had to say.  This format also takes the pressure off of you have to stand and deliver and have all eyes on you.
  • I know our current format is one where only parents come to see the classroom.  But something to think about in the future is having students come with parents.  Students become guides for their parents and proudly show off their classroom.  I used to have students create maps of our room and then use those maps with their parents.  They would star five or six areas that they wanted their parents to see.  Was it crowded chaos?  Yes!  But parents and kids were engaged in conversations about their classroom and the learning that they had been doing, and my job was mainly to smile and enjoy watching families spending time together.
So those are just a few ideas.  There are many more that you can find when you start to search online or scroll through Twitter feeds.  I know some schools that do school-wide scavenger hunts using QR codes and some that send out video messages through YouTube or FlipGrid before curriculum night to try to answer questions parents have.  The possibilities are endless.  As you saw during our teacher day and our opening day assembly, my philosophy is create a moment.  Create a moment that people won't forget.  I fully support trying out something different.  Why not surprise our parents?  They are expecting what they have always had at curriculum night.  Maybe some of you will try something new.  Just remember to stop and think...put yourself in the parents' shoes.  

Post about new ideas:
Article about rethinking Open House/Curriculum Night:
Video clip about family engagement, including rethinking curriculum night:

What will your curriculum night experience be this year?

Currently reading:
I finished reading The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle, just could not put it down this weekend.  I recommend this book for 4th or 5th graders.  The author incorporates important topics such as learning disabilities, bullying, friendship, and family into this story.  If anyone wants to borrow my copy, let me know!  I also read Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt.  This is the 3rd book in the early graphic novel series by Ben Clanton.  Graphic novels are a great way to hook some of your more reluctant readers.  This series would probably be one that 2nd graders would enjoy.
A great picture book that I reread last week was called Drawn Together by Dan Santat.  This book has so much in it and lends itself to some amazing conversations.  Through images and a little bit of dialogue and storyline, we see how a grandfather and a little boy realize that they share a common love of drawing, and as a result, they are "drawn together."  I found a short video clip where the illustrator explains a little bit about his process of creating the wonderful illustrations in this book.  

I have also been reading a little more of the book Sparks in the Dark: Lessons, Ideas, and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us.  This book was written by an amazing principal, Todd Nesloney, and an amazing ELA teacher, Travis Crowder.  One of the many inspirational quotes from the book...

Events this week:
**Reminder to staff to complete your mandated training online if you have not done it yet.
Monday - Rosh Hashanah - reminder that no testing is to be done today and no homework, Facebook Live Bedtime Story with Mrs. Garden at 7:00pm
Tuesday - Rosh Hashanah - reminder that no testing is to be done today and no homework
Wednesday - Don't's Wellness Wednesday!  How can you add in some extra movement today?  And if you want...workout wear!
Friday - PTA Ice Cream Social, 5:30-6:30, even though Saturday is Dot would be a great day to celebrate it!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Before I read to this class of 1st graders, I was able to listen to Mrs. Leroy read her class a funny story about losing your tooth. 
  • I have been enjoying getting to know different students when they come to my office to pick out birthday books! 
  • Yes it was another hot day on Thursday, but kindergartners still had so much fun being bridges and rivers in gym class with Mr. Wilde. 
  • 2nd graders enjoyed weeding, observing and exploring the garden on Friday...look at this butterfly discovery... 

Check it out:
Have you heard of Dot Day?!  International Dot Day started back in 2009; a day to celebrate creativity, bravery and self expression.  Have you read the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds to your class?  It's a wonderful story that all of our students should hear.  Click here for ideas about how you could celebrate Dot Day:

On Saturday, I went to see Gerry Brooks speak.  He was hilarious and inspirational all at the same time.  I will certainly blog about some of the things he discussed and share with all of you.  For now, here is one of my favorite videos of his...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Collaboration is the Key

Principal ponderings...

I came across this quote and I thought it was fitting for my first Mayo School blog post.  This is a space where I will write about various topics.  It could be something simple that came up in conversation during the week or it could be something that I feel like you should know about.  Every week I will write, and I hope I will make you ponder, make you smile, or make you start up a conversation.

The above statement was made by a women who was a superintendent in Washington state.  There are many reasons why I like her words, but the the main reason is that she started with what was most important, the children.  As you get to know me as an educational leader, you will learn that I strive to always put kids first.  Kids are why we do what we do every day.  Kids need to be our priority every single day.

As a school, you have been through a lot of change over the last few years.  And now I am new and that in itself is a change that everyone will be adjusting to.  It's your reality.  Of course, even without me you would encounter change.  Every school year is a new experience.  Every day is a new fresh start.  We educators are used to constant change.  Change is a good reality as long as we continue to remember the first sentence: children are the priority.

But Judith's last statement is a crucial one: collaboration is the strategy.  How can we deal with change and keep kids first?  We must be willing to collaborate.  We can't do this alone.  We can't shut our classroom doors and do our own thing.  We need to be inviting each other into our spaces.  We need to be asking for help and feedback.  We need to be meeting with our teams and across grade levels and areas of expertise to have conversations about all of those priorities in our classrooms, our students.  I am looking forward to a year of listening, learning and most importantly collaborating.  Our students don't learn best from just one teacher; their learning experience needs to come from all of us.

How will you collaborate this year?

Currently reading:
In this section, I will share what I am reading.  Sometimes it will be picture books or chapter books.  Sometimes it will be professional books or personal books.  I am always reading!  And I love to share book titles and book recommendations with anyone who reads this.  One book I am reading right now is The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor.  It's an interesting read so far about a boy with a learning disability who struggles with being bullied and losing his best friend.
I also just started reading How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back.  I have only read the first two chapters, but it came highly recommended from several friends of mine.  
A great picture book that I have been re-reading as I visit classrooms is School's First Day of School.  Such a fun book that turns the school into a character who is nervous about all of the kids coming to school on the first day! 

Events this week:
Monday - Labor Day, No School
Wednesday - Staff Meeting @ 8:00, Para meeting @ 9:00 in the library
Thursday - Liz at PLT meeting at Central office from 7:45-10:00
Friday - Paws Pantry Spirit Day - Wear your green! Office Staff hosting breakfast.  Patty and Liz meet with the bus drivers @ 9:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Our staff gathering on Monday was so much fun!  Loved the energy and enthusiasm as we started on our new adventure together.  Lots of great pictures, but the smiles in this photo certainly summed up our day. 
  • A collage of some pictures from our getting to know you chats, #KidsDeserveIt quote-off, and scavenger hunt...
  • I did not get a chance to snap any pictures of our opening day "New Year" countdown, but I did have fun taking some photos on the bus that I rode on the first day of school! 
  • Our kindergarteners had fun exploring classrooms on Tuesday and practicing riding the bus.  Then on Wednesday they were all eager for their first day! 
  • I definitely had fun beginning to give out birthday books this first week! 
  • It was a long, hot, amazing, tiring, awesome first week...thank goodness for the support of Marilee and Patty to help me survive my first week at Mayo! 

Check it out:
A great video clip about the importance of our words.  Remember the impact, that ripple effect, that we have on each of our students: