Monday, October 29, 2018

Exposing the Heart

Principal ponderings...
Sometimes I am at a loss for words.  Usually I have a lot to say and a lot to write about...this is why I have been writing blog posts for many years.  But this weekend was one that was full of such a range of emotions that I am having a hard time putting my thoughts together in a cohesive message.  Instead I will share with you snippets of my emotional thoughts...

Friday night was a dress rehearsal for Halloween in our house.  For good or bad, I told Emerson about a party at the Y.  She has worn her costume a few times, but this event was special because she got to "wear make-up!" (said with a high pitched squeal.) . There was a moment when I was watching her admire her glitter and pink lipstick and jewel-stickered face in the mirror and I was so overcome with emotion that I had to quickly hide the tears in my eyes.  Watching your child grow, watching her become this thinking, feeling, amazing being...well there are moments when my heart feels full.  And you just don't want those moments to end or at least you don't want to forget them.  Especially when two hours later we were back in the bathroom and I was no longer the one crying.  Putting on the makeup and costume is exciting.  Taking it off and showering when you are tired and overstimulated from a crowded event...not so exciting.

On Sunday, as I was driving home from the funeral service of a staff member that I unfortunately never met in person, I saw this billboard: "Caring. It's What We Do."  It was an advertisement for a medical facility.  Even though I never met Rebecca, I had heard stories from staff members about how she cared for others.  The full temple and stories from loved ones were a testament to the caring life she lived.  Caring was exactly what Rebecca did.  One thing that struck me at the service was the Jewish tradition of "Keriah", which is the rending of garments prior to the funeral service.  I wanted to learn more about this so I came home and read about the tradition.  Considering what happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, it seems that we all should be in mourning, we all need to be practicing keriah.  It seems that our whole country should be "exposing our hearts" and tearing our clothing over our torn hearts; our hearts are broken.  Unfortunately, I have a friend who is from Pittsburgh and two of the victims were her family members.  How can we be living in a world that has caring people like Rebecca and someone who could be so full of hate?  

I came across this quote which I am going to try to live by:
I refuse to let yet another senseless tragedy weaken me.  I choose to care.  Caring.  It's what we do.  It's what we all need to do.  

This weekend was all sorts of emotions mixed together.  And as educators, we have to always remember about the emotions that we have experienced and are experiencing, as well as what our students are also dealing with before they even step into our classroom.  I thought about the joy of a staff member getting married.  Even wind and rain couldn't put a damper on that awesome experience.  Isn't that the great thing about love?  And then of course there was the excitement and pure joy of celebrating the Red Sox last night.  World Series Champions.  We all got to celebrate for a few minutes, jump up and down in our living rooms, high five on the couch, cheer.  Yes, this weekend ran the gamut of emotions.  From really high to painfully low.  That's the thing about this whole being human issue.  It's great and it's really hard, all at the same time.  

My new obsession right now is Brene Brown and here's a quote from her that I wanted to share with all of you:

Currently reading:
I have had Kate DiCamillo's book Raymie Nightingale for a while, but after another recent recommendation, I fianlly picked it up and read it pretty quickly this week.  Overall, the book is about an unlikely friendship between three very interesting girls.  But as we meet each character, we learn that Kate covers many different topics within this book.  The biggest theme for me was the concept of family, all different kinds, and how life is full of positives, but also many negative, sad times.  How do these three girls figure out how to "save" each other from the reality of their lives?  Read this book and find out!
I am listening to an amazing book called Dare to Lead by researcher Brene Brown.  I am enjoying this book so much that I went and ordered a copy of it so I could listen in my car, then go back and reread and highlight and take notes in the actual book.  I have read a few other books by Brene, but this one is definitely speaking to me.  I am only about a third of the way into the book, but I have already pulled out so many quotes that have resonated with me.  I actually kicked off our 3rd through 5th grade PD afternoon with this one... (and naturally I had a clip of "let's get ready to rumble" included)

Events this week:
Monday - Patty and Liz part of a webinar training for the new website from 1:00-3:00
Tuesday - Liz at Regional Principal Gathering in Leominster @ 7:30-9:00
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday!  End of term 1, Literacy Parade at 2:30!
Thursday - Liz at a PLT Meeting from 7:45-10:00
Friday - Rain date for Literacy Parade,

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I popped into 4th grade music and movement and caught Mrs. Sweeney helping Mr. Wilde with demonstrations.  Working those biceps! 
  • Mrs. Petersen's 3rd graders were excited to show me their projects for the literacy parade!  They were being very creative with their character sandwich boards. 
  • Mrs. White's class was working on writing about the character traits of some of the characters they were reading about.  
  • On Friday, I was able to watch the 3rd graders cross the Atlantic!  Students had fun answering questions as a team while riding in their imaginary boats in the pod.  

Check it out:
To go with my emotional weekend and emotional post, someone shared this video clip with me.  Music always makes me feel.  And watching Pink sing with and encourage her daughter to sing is awesome.  Not to mention, the soundtrack for "The Greatest Showman" is definitely one of my favorite things.  This song, "A Million Dreams" the line "I think of what the world could be...a million dreams is all it's gonna take..."
Also, here's a post that I wrote about ed tech and connections for Big Deal Media:

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Few Key Ingredients

Principal ponderings...

Image result for ben and jerry's slogan
This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to make a quick trip to Stowe, Vermont.  It was a beautiful drive up and back; the fall foliage and the mountains and hills on both sides of the highway made for an amazing backdrop.  On the way home on Saturday, I made a few stops along the way, including a stop for all things apple at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill.  But a necessary stop was the Ben and Jerry's Factory.  I have been on the tour before so this was just a quick stop to get a waffle cone full of Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream ice cream.  After I got my cone, I walked around to the back of the factory since that is my favorite part of the place.  (Besides the flavor graveyard...where flopped flavors like Peanut Butter & Jelly and Economic Crunch now rest in peace.) As you can see in the picture above, these giant containers in the back of the factory show the main ingredients...sugar, milk and cream.

Taking this picture, I couldn't help but think about a connection between the Ben and Jerry's not-so-secret ingredients and our school.  What if we had the key ingredients to a great education on display in big containers behind our school?  What would our three main ingredients be?  The first ingredient that jumps into my mind is connection.  If we are going to provide a quality education, then our main ingredient, the sugar in our educational ice cream, needs to be connecting with our students, with our families, and with each other.  The second important ingredient is engagement.  This is certainly one of those edu-buzz words whose meaning sometimes gets lost.  What does engagement really mean?  There are many layers to it.  We want to be encouraging active learning where students are engaged with the process.  We want students collaborating during the learning process.  We want to be providing options, not only for different product outcomes, but also options for how our students go through the learning process.  We want students to be self assessing and self reflecting...another important layer of engagement.  Now what would be the final key ingredient?  Since cream gets two giant containers, I think we could add curiosity and creativity as our main ingredients.  We want our students to be continually asking why, seeking answers, problem solving, asking questions.  We also want them to be expressing themselves in a variety of ways.  We want them to create and be creative.  We want to encourage them to be out-of-the-box thinkers (which means we have to step out of the box ourselves as well!).  When you mix curiosity with creativity, you get innovation.  We need to be innovative and we need to support and encourage our student innovators.    

Instead of three main ingredients, it appears that my quality education recipe actually contains four key ingredients: connection, engagement, curiosity, and creativity.  Would your recipe for a quality education have the same key ingredients?  While those giant containers at the factory tell us which ingredients are the most important, we know that Ben and Jerry certainly added different ingredient combinations to create amazing flavors such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.  It's the same in the school; while we need those key ingredients, there are certainly many different combinations or additions that we provide to our students to give them the best quality education that they deserve.  Why is Ben and Jerry's so good?  Those key ingredients are the solid foundation.  Some combinations are amazing and some don't make the cut, but always there is the core of sugar, milk and cream.  

Think about each of your lessons.  Think about every activity.  Think about every single interaction with your students.  Do you have those core key ingredients to start with?  Connection, engagement, curiosity, and creativity.  If one of those ingredients is missing, what happens?  Ben and Jerry might end up making Triple Caramel Chunk, but they always start with sugar, milk and cream.  You might add in some different components, but hopefully you have those key ingredients at the core of everything you do.

How will you make sure that the key ingredients are part of all of the teaching and learning in your classroom?  What delicious concoctions will you whip up for your students that will keep them coming back for more?! 
Image result for quotes about ben and jerry's ice cream
Currently reading:
I was excited to add some more picture books to my collection thanks to the Scholastic book fair.  One of my favorite new books is Click, Clack, Quack to School!  I love all of these books by Doreen Cronin.  And this one will be a great one for me to share...thinking it might need to be my next Facebook Live bedtime story.
Another great new read is called Good Rosie!  This book is written by Kate DiCamillo, and you just can't go wrong with Kate.  It's actually several little stories within this one book.  It's a great read about building friendships as seen through the eyes of three very different dogs. 
And the last week I will mention this week is called All Are Welcome.  This great rhyming book is filled with colorful pictures of all kinds of people.  I love the important message that is the focus of this book; I especially love when the author says "Our strength is our diversity.  A shelter from adversity."  
Events this week:
Monday - Holden Elem Principals meeting at Mayo @ 7:45, School Council Meeting @ 4:00
Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00, Hearing and Vision Screening
Wednesday- Wellness Wednesday! Hearing and Vision Screening
Thursday- Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00, Hearing and Vision Screening, Half Day dismissal at 12:20, K-2 parent conferences, 3-5 MCAS PD in the library, paras ELL PD

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I found 1st graders doing all sorts of reading in different classrooms.  
  • Ms. Hall was teaching 3rd graders how to read rests on their music, practicing vocalizing the notes before they tried it out on their recorders. 
  • 2nd graders in Mrs. Cotting's class were using their muscles to spell tricky words and then practice on their magic writing boards. 
  • Loved seeing kids and teachers shopping for books all week at the book fair!  I enjoyed being a unicorn for a day although I heard from some students that they wanted me to wear the costume all week! 

Check it out:
Interesting read about "unlearning" old habits in order to be innovative:
Love this list of 10 core concepts to think about your teaching differently:

Monday, October 15, 2018

It's Always Time to Read

Principal ponderings...
Since this week is one of my favorite weeks of the only makes sense that my post this week is focused on reading and books!  More specifically, I want to talk about time and money.  No, I did not get confused and just switch to a math focused post.  I want to talk about the not-so-novel concept of giving kids time to school...every day.  And if we are talking about having kids reading every day, well then we need to talk about having books...lots of books...available for them to choose from.

But why do we need to talk about this?

Let me start with some facts that certainly go way beyond our little school.  Around the world, 775 million adults are illiterate. (UNESCO)  Approximately 32 million adults in America are considered to be illiterate; about 14% of the entire adult population cannot read.  Reading material becomes more complex for students around the fifth grade, and some 30 million adults aren't able to comprehend texts that are appropriate for 10-year-olds. In terms of lost productivity, it's estimated that the portion of the population that can't read costs the nation a staggering $225 billion each year.

Ok, let those facts sink in a little bit.  In fact, go ahead...go back and reread that paragraph.  When I read those facts, besides thinking about how it feels incredibly overwhelming and a little, ok a lot impossible, I pull my growth mindset pants back on and think about the role that I need to play as an educator in this country, in our state, in our district, and especially in our school.  Reaching 32 million adults in this country is a daunting task, but reaching and having an impact on the the 500 readers in our school...I say bring it on.

Now let me share some more important facts with you that come from a 2017 Teacher and Principal School Report: Focus on Literacy that came from Scholastic (4,700 teachers and principals surveyed)...

  • 77% percent of teachers set time aside for independent reading/read-aloud, but only 36% do this every school day. Students who have this opportunity to engage in independent reading/read-aloud time spend 22 minutes on average on this activity.
  • Many teachers (63%) wish independent reading/read-aloud time occurred more often. 90% of teachers identify demands of the curriculum as the primary barrier to preventing independent reading from occurring more frequently.
  • 94% of principals and teachers agree that students should have time during the school day to read a book of their choice independently.
  • It seems pretty simple to me.  Did you learn to ride your bike by practicing once or twice a week for 20 minutes?  Are you into knitting?  Did you get better at it by picking up a project once a week?  Did you play a sport?  I was a competitive swimmer, and at the peak of my high school swimming career, I was practicing every day for about an hour and a half and some days I was practicing twice a day.  Were you a dancer or into choreography?  I bet that you did not memorize routines or correct your form by dancing only when there was time, a few times a week.  When you learned to play a card game...did you play it once and then remember exactly what to do the next time you played?  Am I getting my point across?  If kids are going to learn to read and then get better at reading, then they need to be practicing every single day.  We need to give them a chance to make that daily practice happen.

    Now that I have talked about time for independent reading...let's talk about having books available to read.  The school library is a very important place in the school; I like to think it's the heart of the school.  But we can't teach our kids that the only place to get books is the library.  They need books to be within arms reach of where they are spending most of their time learning...the classroom.  

    Rather than waiting for students to discover the joys of the library, we must bring the books to the students. Students need to be surrounded by interesting books daily, not just on those occasional days when the teacher takes them to the library. ~ Kelly Gallagher, Readcide

    So let's think about some facts related to classroom libraries...

    • Internationally, most fourth grade students(89%) attended schools with libraries, and had classroom libraries(69%) (Overview of Progress in International Reading Literacy, 2007). 
    • Access to an abundance of books within the classroom results in increased motivation and increased reading achievement (Kelley, M. & Clausen-Grace, N., 2010; Worthy & Roser, 2010; Guthrie, 2008; Routman, 2003).
    • Students in classrooms with well-designed classroom libraries 1) interact more with books, 2)spend more time reading, 3) demonstrate more positive attitudes toward reading, and 4) exhibit higher levels of reading achievement (National Assessment of Educational Progress Report, 2005).
    •  Large classroom and school libraries that provide ample collections of instructional level texts play a key role in literacy learning (Worthy & Roser; 2011; Gallagher, 2009; Miller, 2009; Atwell, 2007; Mosenthal, Lipson, Sortino, Russ, & Mekkelsen, 2001).

    Here's a short post that offers suggestions of how to build up your classroom library:  I also love that this post has a classroom library checklist embedded in it for you!

    Yes, it's Scholastic Book Fair week.  Yes, the kids get a little crazy when they see all of the books set up.  Yes, I have a reading problem and buy more books than I have time to read.  Yes, I talk about books with anyone who will listen, especially all of our students.  But after reading this post, hopefully you understand why I am passionate about getting kids reading and talking about books everyday.  And hopefully you will see the Book Fair as one way to change the reading lives of every one of our students.  32 million illiterate adults in our country.  That's a tough sentence to type and hopefully an even tougher fact to read.  Literacy instruction is an urgent issue that we all need to be focused on.  Let's focus on our 500 kids here.  Let's make sure they are not part of that statistic.

    How will you find time for independent reading every day in your classroom?
    How will you build up your classroom library so that your students have immediate access to books?

    Currently reading:
    After chatting with the Scholastic reps who came to our book fair preview, I have more books to add to my to be read pile!  One of the recommendations is a book that I have had for a while but just never read: Raymie Nightingale.  This book is by Kate DiCamillo who you just can't go wrong with.  I just bought her newest book, Louisiana's Way Home, which is about one of the characters in Raymie Nightingale.  Clearly I need to read one before the other.  So I am starting this one now.
    One of the picture books that we brought home from the library this weekend is called Gazpacho for Nacho.  It's a fun rhyming picture book about a boy who only likes to eat gazpacho.  His mom gets him to shop with her and make his own gazpacho, and then he decides he wants to cook and eat more things.  Throughout the book, you learn all sorts of Spanish words and at the end there is a recipe and a glossary of terms with a pronunciation guide.  

    Events this week:
    **Scholastic Book Fair in the library all week!
    Monday - Child Study Team Initial Meeting @ 8:15 in the conference room,  Facebook Live Bedtime Story with Principal Garden @ 7:00pm
    Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am
    Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! Patty at CO Meeting, 8:00-10:00, Family Night at the Book Fair 4:30-8:00
    Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00am, Liz at Curriculum Meeting @ CO from 7:45-10:00
    Friday - Liz out of the building for the day, Craft Fair Setting Up in the gym, lobby, cafeteria beginning @ 3:00
    Saturday - Mayo PTA Craft Fair 9:30-3:30, Book Fair open from 1:00-3:00

    Great things I noticed last week:

    • I caught 3rd graders doing some active listening during a read aloud.  They were jotting down .questions on sticky notes that came up as Mrs. D was reading to them. 
    • 5th graders in Mrs. G's class were working together to read Scholastic News and find out new information. Learned about the calorie count in some of the items at favorite restaurants...yikes!
    • Caught a 4th grader working on creating a math cartoon during snack.  Mrs. Greene's students have a chance to select snack activities they enjoy, such as arts and crafts or cartooning. 
    • Kindergarteners practicing reading letters and pictures and making sight words through music and movement. 

    • Thank you to all of the teachers who came to preview books.  Hope you learned about some new titles and have some good recommendations for your students! 
    • I enjoyed running a 5K on Sunday with several Mayo families to benefit an organization created by one of our Mayo parents, MBB Foundation. 

    Check it out:
    If you are looking for more research about the importance of independent is a comprehensive post by Donalyn Miller with links to many articles:
    P.S. Donalyn Miller is one of my edu-crushes.  She is on a mission to spread the reading love to all schools.  If you have not read Book Whisperer or Reading in the need to ASAP!  Seriously, stop reading this post and start reading anything that Donalyn has written.

    Monday, October 8, 2018

    What If Inspiration

    Principal ponderings...
    Since it's a short week, I will give you a short post this week.  I have included 3 quick, inspirational video clips to get you pumped up for a great week.  Go be amazing for kids!

    What if we acted more like geese?  Yes, I am all for spending time in warmer weather, but that's not what I am talking about.  Check out this clip that has 5 lessons for us to learn from geese:

    What if we challenged ourselves to do more with less?  What if we could let learning be guided by kids' passions?  Watch this 5 minute video about a group of kids who were motivated to problem solve and let their passion lead them to great things. 

    What if every kid had a can do attitude instead of a cannot attitude?  What if students did not let deficits, disabilities, or disappointments keep them from being successful?  Watch this 8 minute video clip about a man who was raised to believe he could do anything if he put his mind to it.

    Currently reading:
    I had about 10 chapters to go to finish reading Resistance, and I just could not put it down this weekend!  I have to stop saying that I don't like reading historical fiction, because there are so many great historical fiction books being written for upper elementary and middle grades.  This book tugs at your heart strings and forces you to try to imagine the unimaginable time during the war when Nazis had taken over Poland.  I had to keep reminding myself that the main characters, two young girls, were merely children, yet they were fighting to save as many Jews as they could.  The book is full of wonder sentences written by the author that make you stop and think about how awful is was to be fighting for your life during that period of time.

    I went to a bookstore the other day...surprise, surprise.  And I bought a few new books.  One is a picture book by Jacqueline Woodson titled The Day You Begin.  This is a beautiful book about when students feel different and sometimes like they are not a part of the group.  But then the book shows what happens when students begin to feel brave and share about what makes him or her special, and then how that sharing sometimes helps us discover that we can be different and find similarities and feel good about that.  I just love everything Jacqueline Woodson writes.  I also started reading her new book for upper elementary/middle grade readers called Harbor Me.

    Events this week:
    Monday - Columbus Day, No School!
    Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8am, PTA Studio Art Fundraiser in the cafeteria 6:30-9:00pm
    Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! PTA Craft Fair Meeting in the library 6:00pm
    Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8am, Flu Shot Clinic from 8;00-10:00 in room 212 across from the library
    Friday - Holden Elementary Principal Meeting @ Mayo 7:45, Teacher Book Fair Preview in the library from 11:00-4:00.  Liz will be providing food in the conference room and then teachers can check out the book fair!

    Great things I noticed last week:

    • The 5th graders had an exciting, tiring, full day of team building on their field trip to Sargent Center in New Hampshire. 
    • We had some great discussions about behaviors and expectations at our staff meeting.  I enjoyed showing everyone how to use Kahoot! 
    • Mrs. Hilton was discussing what opinions were during her writing work with 2nd grade authors. 
    • So much fun to start World Smile Day with a dance party in the lobby...#1 song choice..."Happy!" 
    • 1st graders were practicing their drawing skills with sharpies...look at those awesome pumpkins! 
    • Our 5th grade chorus group did a wonderful job representing Mayo at the Providence Bruins game.  They sang the Canadian National Anthem and then had fun dancing and cheering for the home team.  Way to go Ms. Hall for directing this group!

    Check it out:
    Since I decided that this week was about inspirational video clips, check out this one.  I just love the idea of using human connections to give everyone involved in this exchange program more than just the English lessons learned.  I tear up every time I watch it!

    Monday, October 1, 2018

    Smiling is My Favorite!

    Principal ponderings...

    Did you know that in 1963, Harvey Bell, a resident of Worcester, MA, created the smiley face?!  The smiley face is the most recognizable symbol of good will on the planet.  Harvey decided that the first Friday in October should be World Smile Day.  That's this Friday!  Like many other people and places, I think we should devote the day to smiles and acts of kindness.

    Did you know there is even a Smiley Face Song?!  Here's the video and song that you just have to smile along as you listen:

    And here's a short video clip with some facts about smiling:

    We have a parent who is donating smiley face stickers to give out to all of our students, as well as some posters for us to hang up in the school!  We can encourage our students to come in wearing a smile...and maybe yellow to support World Smile Day.  I would also like to encourage everyone in the building to think about some random acts of kindness to complete either this week or on the actual World Smile Day.  Be sure and talk to your students about what acts of kindness could look like...especially the part about how sometimes you do them and no one knows, and the reward is that you fill your own bucket by helping others.

    How will you help one person smile this week?  How will you help our students learn about being kind to others?

    Currently reading:
     I have so many books I want to read and never enough time!  This weekend I read a great picture book that will be added to our school library very soon.  It's called How Do Dinosaurs Learn To Read?  We love Jane Yolen and Mark Teague's dinosaur books in our house.  The great thing about this book is that at the end of the book, it gives parents some tips about working with early readers.
    I am definitely excited about reading the historical fiction book called Resistance.  I love that the main character is a girl who realizes that even though it will mean risking her life, she has to try to do something instead of just giving in to the Nazis who are occupying Poland.  She becomes a currier and joins a resistance cell that sends her on some very dangerous missions. 
    Thanks to a book recommendation from Jamie Leroy, I am also reading a book called The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.  It is a memoir that tells the story of two men who grew up near each other, similar childhoods, same name, yet one became a business leader and the other a convicted murderer serving a life sentence.  It's definitely a thought-provoking read!

    Events this week:
    **All for Books Coin Collection in the lobby
    Monday - 5th grade trip to Sargent Center
    Tuesday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00 am
    Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! Staff Meeting @ 8:00 in the library, 5th grade committee meeting @ 7:00pm
    Thursday - Mr. Wilde's Fit Club @ 8:00 am, Liz at CPI Refresher Class all day, 2T Curriculum Night @ 6:00pm
    Friday - 3rd-5th DRA assessment end date
    Saturday - Grade 5 singing at the Providence Bruins Game @ 7:00!

    Great things I noticed last week:

    • Thank you to everyone for an awesome curriculum night!  The parents gave lots of positive feedback about the evening and the different formats that many of your tried out.  I spoke with several teachers who felt like the evening was a success.  Kudos to all of you!
    • I caught some 5th graders reading and talking about a great book...Out of My Mind
    • I happened to walk into the pod when 3rd grade was practicing for their pen pal program, and then I was lucky enough to be in the cafeteria and experience the launch of this awesome program! 

    • On Thursday, I was able to be in meeting with Jeff Riley, the new Commissioner of Education for MA.  He is a great person to talk to and I am hopeful for the direction this state will move under his leadership. 

    Check it out:
    Check out this "kindness in the classroom" project that one school did:
    And out of the mouths of babes...check out this video about kindness through kids' eyes: