Monday, December 17, 2018

Don't Forget To Fill Your Cup!

Principal ponderings...
For my final post in my "how to make it the most wonderful time of the year all year long" series, I was inspired by a very smart lady.  She reminded me that if you are taking care of everyone else, you have to remember to take care of yourself.  As the image above says, in order to fill everyone else's cup, you need to make sure to fill your own cup first.  As educators, we are always trying to do everything that we can for our students.  We are responsible for them.  We need to take care or them.

If we want to make it the most wonderful time of the year all year long, then we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves throughout the whole year as well.  Certainly this time of year, with a little bit of time off, we are all gifted with the opportunity to take a break from work, re-center ourselves, and return in the new year with a full cup.  But we need to make sure we are reminding ourselves and each other throughout the whole year to not always burn the candle at both ends.  You don't always need a winter break or a weekend to take care of yourself.  Think about how you can do something each day to fill your own cup.  Maybe you like to get up in the morning and workout or maybe you like to spend a few minutes in solitude clearing your head.  Maybe you like to listen to music in the car and belt out your favorite tunes.  Maybe you like to go to a place and sit and sip a coffee and people watch.  Maybe you like to go for a run and leave all of the stress behind you.  Maybe you like to put on some slippers and curl up on the couch with a good book.  Whatever it is, make sure that you focus on you and your well-being.

So what do you do to take care of yourself?  How do you fill your own cup?  As we go into the new year, think about how you can put some daily self-care habits in place.  When you are feeling good about yourself, your students will most certainly benefit.  

Currently reading:
I finished Ban This Book and definitely recommend it!  So many different book titles that adults and kids will recognize in the book.  And the story of an introverted little girl standing up for what she believes in is a great message.  As soon as I finished listening to that book, I added a new one to my Audible account: Educated.  I have heard so many people talk about and recommend this book so I decided I needed to check out this memoir.
Emerson and I have been opening up a new book each night; she looks forward to seeing what new bedtime story we will read!  We opened up a fun one the other night that I got from Usborne books...I love the selection they have.  This one is called Muddle and Match Fairy Tales.  You can see in the picture that the alliteration and use of adverbs, adjectives, and action verbs makes this a fun book to read and mix up the characters, but I was thinking that it's an awesome resource for our young writers. 

Events this week:
Monday - Books and Berries Book Swap in the conference room! Liz and Patty have a full day of reading in classrooms! Fire Dept will be delivering fire safety program all day to each grade level.
Tuesday - "Lettuce" Celebrate .- Salad Bar day! Grade 4 team meeting @ 8:00, Grade 5 team meeting @ 8:00, PTA Specialty Sandwich Shop Fundraiser from 4:00-8:00
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday and/or Bling It On - you choose! Grade 3 team meeting @ 8:00
Thursday - Snack Cart! Child Study Team meeting @ 10:50
Friday - Pajama Day - Paws Pantry Spirit Day, breakfast from the PTA

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Even though I did not get to witness it firsthand, I heard that 5th graders had fun in science showing that gas takes up space and has weight. 
  • Always interesting to learn from Scholastic News...had an interesting conversation in the pod about how much certain collectibles, like Barbies and Beanie Babies, are worth. 
  • While it's tough to be out of the building for a whole day, I enjoyed learning alongside a Wachusett team at the S3 Academy...excited about the possibility of systemic student support! 
  • I caught some 4th graders snacking and problem solving for Math Olympiad. 
  • I am working on putting together a video of all of the photos and video clips from the concerts.  But I wanted to thank Hannah, Diane and Dan for their collaboration and hard work getting everyone ready for some amazing concerts.  The students sounded wonderful, looked awesome, and parents and grandparents kept saying how much they enjoyed the performances.  Kudos to all for the wonderful winter concerts!
Check it out:
Some humor to carry you through this week...

Monday, December 10, 2018

Less Kinks and More Peaks

Principal ponderings...
In the spirit of trying to show how we can make it the most wonderful time of the year all school year long, I have talked about creating great classroom libraries.  I have also talked about how the classroom environment can help make your students want to come running into school each day.  For this week's post, I want to focus on the moments you create for your students.  Last year, I read a book and fell in love with the message.  It is actually not an education book, but I feel like it's one that educators should read.  The book is called The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath.

There are so many amazing quotes and stories in this book, but the one I thought of to share in this week's post is...
“In life, we can work so hard to get the kinks out that we forget to put the peaks in.”

Especially during this time of year, doesn't it seem like we are just trying to get all of those kinks out?  We are reactionary.  We are putting out little fires.  We feel like we are running on that hamster wheel with no way to get off and take a break.  Well, if we feel that way, let's think of how that feels for our students who are watching us try to get the kinks out. 

What if we stopped running for a minute, took a breath, and thought about how to put some peaks in?  In the book Power of Moments, the basic idea is that our life is full of moments, but there are certain moments we remember much more than others.  Think about your experience in school.  What memories stick out for you?  I remember when my 6th grade teacher let me go into a 1st grade classroom and read them a story and do an activity that tied into that story.  I even remember what I was wearing because the story was about panda bears so I dressed in black and white.  I don't remember what we did in math class that day.  I also remember when I was in the 10th grade, my English teacher surprised us one day and had us listen to different records that were produced during the time period that we were reading novels from.  I don't remember what I ate for lunch that day.  I also remember when I was in 1st grade and my teacher let me share a poem with the whole class that I had written about my baby brother being born.  I don't remember what I did on the playground that day.

The point is...our life is full of moments...many of them are forgettable and forgotten.  But then there are moments that because of the situation, the action, the events, the way they happen, those moments are unforgettable and stick with us long after they happen.  We need to hit the pause button for a minute when dealing with getting the kinks out.  We need to be putting more peaks into our classrooms for our students.

Need some more encouragement to shift from kinks to peaks?  Here's another great quote from the book:

“If you’re always in a life vest, you don’t know if you can swim. Sometimes you have to take the life vest off — with someone still standing by to offer support and rescue — and say, ‘Let’s see what happens.'”

Who is ready to take off the life vest?  If we want to make it the most wonderful time of the year all year long, then we might need to take some risks, try something new, approach things from a different perspective.  I love this thought from the book...

“In many organizations, our daily obligations — the emails, the meetings, the to-do lists — can numb us to the meaning of our work.”

What is the meaning of our work?  To create amazing learning experiences for our students.  We want them to remember what we share with them.  We want them to think back and say, "I remember when my teacher had us do this..."

Need a starting point?  In The Power of Moments, they say: “Just by disrupting routines, we can create more peaks.”  I remember when I taught 2nd grade.  After the first year, I reflected on my teaching and I thought...I am a horrible teacher of writing.  So I spent the summer devouring everything book, workshop, discussion about the teaching of writing.  And I knew that I needed to hook my students in right from the beginning.  So I disrupted the routine...I set up a sticky note countdown to the day we would officially become writers and launch writer's workshop.  My students ate it up!  They could not wait for that day to come, one even telling me that she didn't think she would sleep the night before the big day.  There were many other things I did on the official start date, like a ribbon cutting ceremony into their special "used" binders, playing the theme to 'Rocky', and even having them take a "writing pledge."  And you know what happened?  They wrote and wrote and wrote!  They were so excited about writing and that enthusiasm continued throughout the whole year.  I created a peak.  A moment that was unforgettable.  That girl who couldn't sleep the night before? She recently found me and told me that she was in college studying to be a children's book illustrator.  She told me she remembered how I encouraged her writing and her illustrating.  That peak I stuck with her.  And it all started by disrupting a routine.

So take some time to stop thinking about working out the kinks and decide...
How will you start putting more peaks in?  What unforgettable learning experiences can you create in your classroom?

Currently reading:
I enjoyed reading a really cute new version of Jack B. Nimble.  This one is called Jack B. Ninja.  This rhyming picture book is one that many young readers will enjoy, especially because there are so many students who love ninjas .  I really liked the surprise twist when I found who the "bandits" were in the story!
A friend of mine who is an early childhood principal in Oklahoma and a fellow book lover, Julie Bloss, recommended that I read Ban This Book.  I downloaded it to my Audible account and am enjoying listening while driving.  Love the story so far...a 4th grader who does not agree when a parent starts banning books like From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler, the Goosebumps series, Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, Junie B. Jones series, and many others.  So she starts the BBLL...the Banned Book Locker Library.  Can't wait to finish this one!  And order some copies so we have it in our library. 
I was excited to get a new book in the mail on Saturday...yes, books arrive in my mailbox pretty much every week. ;) . The book I got is called Reclaiming Our Calling and it's written by a principal friend of mine from Minnesota, Dr. Brad Gustafson.  I love the full title of the book...Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education, and I love that Brad talks about the 4 passions of the profession.  Really excited to dive into this gem!
Events this week:
**All this week it's the BOGO sale at the Scholastic Warehouse in Clinton!
Monday - Jeans Day!  And bundle up with a more plaid, flannel, or sweater...less time planning out your outfit means more time for you.  Last day for Holiday Child collection
Tuesday - Who needs a hug?  The chocolate hugs and kisses version will be available for a sweet treat.  Kindergarten and 1st grade team meetings @ 3:45
Wednesday - Coffee and Cocoa day! Liz, Lisa, Kate and Lynn at the S3 Academy (Systemic Student Support) all day, 2nd grade team meeting @ 8:00, Patty at team chair meeting from 8:00-10:00,
Thursday - Soap-fully a germ free gift day! Liz @ Curriculum meeting from 7:45-10:00, Grade 3-5 concert for the whole school @ 2:00, Mayo Holiday Party at Patty's house after school!
Friday - Are you ready for an elf hunt?!  And breakfast provided by the office staff?  Grade 3-5 Winter Concert for families @ 10:00, Grade K-2 Winter Concert for families @ 2:00

Yikes...busy week, I'm tired just typing it out!  I think we can, I think we can, I think we can...

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I saw some collaborative math work focused on learning about division in 4V! 
  • Cait took a big risk and shared her passion for passion projects, explaining about Genius Hour to the rest of the staff.  Thanks for sharing and thanks to those who are wanting to learn more about it. 
  • Thanks to Kris Dorogi and her K friends, as well as the PTA, our marker recycling program is going strong! 
  • I stopped by pajama day in KM and saw lots of learning through play happening...wish I could have played all day!  Actually...did you know there is a thing called Global School Play Day?!  Read more about it here and maybe we can think about bringing this to Mayo!
Check it out:
Interesting summary of lots of educational research from 2018:
Check out this video of a poem called "The Crayon Box That Talked."

And to put a smile on your face...

Monday, December 3, 2018

If The Walls Could Talk...

Principal ponderings...
Last week I wrote about how we make it the most wonderful time of the year all school year long.  I started off with one of my passions, the classroom library.  This week I want to talk about another part of the classroom.  Actually I want to talk about the whole classroom environment, the physical space.  I love the image posted above...what exactly is your classroom saying?  Just like we should create classroom libraries that get kids excited about school, we should think about our classroom environment; is it a space that makes kids want to be there?  Think about when you have set up a room in your house, and you have seating that you love and lighting and decorations.  Do you love being in that space?  

Our kids are in their classrooms for a long chunk of time.  We tend to forget about what the space looks like and often times we set it up with convenience in mind.  We don't exactly have tons of room and then we have to create an area remembering that it will be filled with 20 or so bodies on a regular basis.  What works for us when we set up the space at the beginning of the year might not be what works best for our students.  And by the way, there is no manual for how to design a classroom.  There are so many options for creative classroom spaces, options that certainly weren't available when we were in school.  I remember every room looking exactly the same.  Thank goodness it doesn't have to be that way now.  

Maybe you have already added some different areas to your room or maybe you have experimented with flexible seating.  Maybe you are not ready, but you need some inspiration.  Take a look at these resources for ideas...

If you simply Google search flexible seating, the blog posts, articles, images, stories are endless.  Be careful, you could get drawn in for a very long time searching me, it may or may not have happened for me on more than one occasion!  The important thing is you should not be trying to recreate something you see.  You should simply start by looking around your classroom and asking yourself...what is my classroom saying?  How is the physical space of my classroom helping with my students' learning process?

If your classroom walls could talk, what would they be saying?

Currently reading:
I was very excited to read a new book with Emerson Saturday night.  She has a special book tree in her room and each night she gets to unwrap one book and read it for bedtime.  Since it was December 1st, the small book on top was the 'star.'  Do you remember the Little Miss books?  Well, the one we read on Saturday night was Little Miss Sparkle.  Lots of fun, and we are looking forward to reading new books during this month's bedtime!
And then on a completely different level...I read the raw and honest graphic memoir, Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka.  He is the author who wrote and illustrated the Lunch Lady series.  He also did the popular Star Wars Jedi Academy series.  Hey, Kiddo is the true story of how he grew up the son of an addict and was raised by his grandparents.  Jarrett grew up in Worcester.  This is definitely not a book for any of our elementary students, but you might be interested in reading it.

Events this week:
Tuesday - Child Study Team meeting @ 8:30
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! Staff Meeting @ 8:00
Thursday - Start of 'The 12 Days Before Winter Break!', Liz at MSAA Board Meeting

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I caught a 4th grader working on his drawing skills during snack. 
  • I had a productive planning meeting with a 4th grade group who is putting together interactive magazines to go into the library starting this week. 
  • I stopped by a table in the purple pod and found some 5th graders excited to talk and write about the book The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle
  • I watched as 4th graders discussed and practiced decomposing in math class. 
  • Conversations with kindergartners are great...especially at lunch time! 
  • BINGO Night a huge success!  Lots of fun, lots of pizza, lots of people, lots of number and letter calling, and then a kindergartener and a 5th grader won principal for the day! Way to go Robert and Jenna! 
Check it out:
Here is the Ted Talk by Jarrett Krosoczka called "How a Boy Became an Artist."