Monday, December 16, 2019

Dear Teacher...

Principal ponderings...

Dear Teacher,

I hope you enjoy your winter break and have time to rest.  I know how hard you work.  I also know that my child is just one in a class full of kids.  But she is my baby.  She will always be my little girl.  I know you are helping her learn to read, solve math problems, ask questions, find answers, and make friends.  Honestly, I just hope you are helping her become the amazing person that I know she will grow up to be.  I know that she sometimes makes bad choices.  I know that she sometimes says she doesn't care or that she would rather be outside.  I know that sometimes she clams up and doesn't share her feelings and then other times she over shares her emotions. I know that she sometimes knows how to push all of your buttons.  She has had a lot of practice doing that at home with us as well!

We just hope that you see her.  We hope that she is not just another name on your class list.  We hope that you take the time to pronounce her name correctly and take the time to look her in the eyes when you are talking to her.  We hope that when we aren't with her during the day, you are.  We hope that she is just as excited on the 86th day as she is on the 1st day.  We hope that she is not afraid to be herself and that you encourage her risk-taking just like we do at home.  We hope that whatever emotion she is experiencing on any particular day, she feels comfortable to share her feelings with you instead of keeping them bottled up inside.  We hope you celebrate her mistakes and challenge her successes.  We hope you help her develop a sense of pride in who she is and who she is becoming. 

You work so hard everyday and have so much responsibility resting on your shoulders.  Each child in your class has an army of supporters and advocates in their corner.  For some kids it's a small army of one single parent.  For others, it's a bigger army of parents and extended family.  No matter the size of the army, we know that all those advocates add up to a lot of pressure on teachers to help each little human become the best they can be.  It's exhausting just thinking about that.  And you wake up every day and welcome that exhaustion.  And you probably go to bed everyday thinking about how you have to wake up and welcome that exhaustion tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

Know that we see you working hard and we appreciate you.  And we are always going to wish that our child gets your very best.  Because we think she deserves the very best every single day.  Thank you for caring for my kid.  Thank you for helping her shine.  Thank you for recognizing her potential for growth, understanding she is a kid who makes mistakes, helping her become a good human, and for loving her and learning with her through this whole growing up thing.

Happy holidays!  Enjoy your winter break.  Know that you are making a difference and that we are counting on you to keep going strong.  Thank you for choosing this career, which is certainly a labor of love.

Every Parent

Currently reading:
I finished the book I was listening to, definitely enjoyed it and will certainly take a look at that author's other titles.  (My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry)  I am also still finishing up Other Words for Home
I am excited to start listening to Shouting at the Rain by Linda Mullaly Hunt.  

I have a giant to be read pile that I am looking to tackle over the winter break.  Don't forget about our book swap this Friday. While the students are swapping books in the gym, the adults can get in on the book swapping fun in the conference room.  Bring a book, take a book, bring a pile of books, take a pile of books!  Hopefully everyone will find something good to take home over the break.

Events this week:
Monday - Flannel and Jeans Day! Motoko visiting Mayo 5th graders, Bedtime Story @ 7:30
Tuesday - Frozen Puzzle Day! UDL PLC @ 8:00, CST Meeting @ 8:30, District K Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Bling it On Day! Patty @ Team Chair Meeting, Motoko visiting Mayo 5th graders,
Thursday - "Lettuce" Celebrate Day! Liz @ Curriculum Meeting 7:30-10:00
Friday - Jammie Day! Paws Pantry, Book swap for students during specials time, book swap for staff in the conference room!

Great things I noticed last week:
  • What a pleasant surprise I found on the back of my office door!  1L had created this beautiful kindness tree with so many lovely notes to me.  It certainly made my day. 
  • The Holiday Concerts were amazing!  Here's a video compilation of some of the pictures and video snippets from both of the shows...

Check it out:
This interesting video was shared with me last week.  Definitely worth the 10 minutes to watch and think about what is important in education...

Monday, December 9, 2019

It's a Beautiful Day in the Mayo Neighborhood...

Principal ponderings...
After seeing the new movie about Mr. Rogers over the Thanksgiving Break and all the posts and stories about Mr. Rogers recently, I was inspired to share some of his wisdom in this space.  I did also experiment after reading this post:
I pulled up an episode, one of my favorites, and watched part of it with my daughter.  It was the one where we learned how crayons were made.  She was fascinated and I was brought back to my childhood in an instant.  I can't help but agree with the many writers who have shared how Mr. Rogers simple, calm demeanor and his willingness to talk about tough topics with kids (and adults), is maybe what we need more of today. 

Here are a few of his nuggets that I hope to use with our students and my own children...

What did you learn from Mr. Rogers?

Currently reading:
I am still working on Other Words For Home and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry.  I also spent time reading the latest Life Magazine edition focused on Mr. Rogers. By the way, did you see our new magazine rack in the library?  Thanks to donations from parents we will soon have lots of magazines for our students to look through during library time.

Events this week:
Monday - National Christmas Card Day!  Write a note for a colleague!  Motoko, writer in residence visiting 5th grade, 9:30-10:45 - Gr 3-5 concert rehearsal in the gym, 1:45-2:45 - K-2 concert rehearsal in the gym, School Council Meeting @ 4:00
Tuesday - Extra email from Liz today! Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8:00am
Wednesday - Hot cocoa, coffee, and candy canes!
Thursday - Holiday Party after school at the Hurley House! Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8:00am, Optional Staff Wellness Check from 8-11 in Deb Bixby's room, Winter Concert for School @ 2:00
Friday - Hugs and Kisses Day! Winter Concert Gr 3-5 for parents at 10:00, Winter Concert K-2 for parents @ 2:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • You will see Motoko in our building over the next month.  She is a Japanese storyteller who is also our writer in residence, working with 5th graders to write folktales.  Loved listening to her meet with the whole grade and do some storytelling and then loved the question she discussed with each class. 

  • When this is the view from your office window and you have already had two snow days and it starts snowing more on a Friday afternoon...aaaggghh! 
  • But you have to love the smiling faces that were happening during recess after all of the snow! 

  • I loved listening in on your stories during Friday's staff meeting.  Hope you got some great "gift cards!" 

Check it out:

My cousin shared this post with me and I just love it.  I have not read all of them, but enjoyed skimming through these positive news images from 2019:

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Time for the 10 Days Before Winter Break!

Principal Ponderings...

Wow, that was a lot of snow!  Hopefully everyone enjoyed the extra long Thanksgiving Break.  Can't believe we only have 13 days until winter break.  But that's 13 days to do amazing things with kids!  Since we only have a short time, let's make every moment count.

And while you are taking care of our kids, I have come up with some special days to hopefully help take care of all of you!  Here's our 10 Days Before Winter Break.  I was inspired by some winter movies:

I included many favorites from our house.  What are your favorite winter movies?

Currently reading:
I am enjoying listening to the book My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry.  It's told through the eyes of a 7 year old girl.  I liked the review that said it's about life and death and the right to be different. 
I also started reading a new book written in verse called Other Words for Home.  It's the story of a young girl who has to leave her home in Syria to move to the United States.

Events this week:
Monday - Snow Day!  Look, our 5 day weekend turned into a 6 day weekend!
Tuesday - Snow Day!  Round 2.  How about a 7 day weekend?!
Wednesday - Motoko - Writer in Residence spending the day with 5th grade (Scholastic Warehouse Sale is happening starting today in Clinton!)
Thursday - Liz @ MSAA Board Meeting, Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8:00am, SLPs, OTs and Psychologists out of the building from 11-3
Friday - Staff meeting @ 8:00am, SPED team meeting @ 2:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I popped into art with 3rd graders and watched them use a black wash over their colorful pumpkin drawings. 
  • KL was the highest earning K class for the spell-a-thon so we had a fun game party! 
  • 1B was the highest earning 1st grade class so we had a rainbow loom party! 
  • 5O was the highest earning 5th grade class so we had a gimp weaving party! Many of them had to help me learn how to do it.  

  • It was fun to see staff finding tricky turkeys around the school...some lucky winners even got to spin the prize wheel! 
Check it out:
Are you aware of the site DonorsChoose?  This is a great way for teachers to get resources for their classrooms.  You can create a post for a special project or supplies that you want for your class and then people donate to your project.  Check out the site and let me know if you want help trying to set something up:
Another popular way for teachers to get things for their classroom is to create an Amazon wish list and post on Twitter using the hashtag #clearthelist.
During this time of year, people are always looking for ways to give back and often companies will match donations.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Thank You Universe.

Principal Ponderings...
This is the time of year when everyone talks about or writes about what they are grateful for.  It's a time for all of us to be thankful.  Over the years, I have shared different gratitude posts.  Last year, I wrote about how I was grateful for a plate-full.  The year before that I wrote a short post encouraging others to write short and sweet notes of appreciation to fellow educators.  The year before that it was all about having an attitude of gratitude where I listed a top 10 things that I was grateful for.  The year before that I shared what my staff was thankful for at that time.  And the year before that I was crazy enough to write a post where I listed 100 things I was thankful for.  Yep, I have been writing thankful posts around this time every year.

This year, I want to thank the Universe.  I am not trying to be flippant.  I listened to a podcast this weekend (love listening to Sarah Johnson's "In AWE" podcast where she interviews women educators and lifts their voices up for all to hear).  This podcast was part of her series on gratitude.  The woman she was interviewing talked about that notion of putting things out into the universe and how that can often bring about positive things in your life.

I really do feel like I need to practice appreciating the Universe.  I need to thank the Universe.  Over the years, I have put a lot of messages, pleas, bargains, suggestions to the Universe.  And usually the Universe responds in a positive way for me.  Of course, I still have to go through the tough stuff sometimes.  It's not like the Universe always hands the good to us right away.  I was thinking this weekend about my decision to leave my last district and come to Mayo.  I even flipped through my giant binder of letters from former students.  I might have cried a little when I discovered this gem from a little boy who I certainly won't forget...
Before I could make that hard decision to leave and start over, I had to struggle and commit to putting it out to the Universe.  I had to be ok with leaving a comfortable space and starting over.  The transition was not easy, but the Universe responded to my desire for a change and placed me right where I think I needed to be...with all of you!

As I get ready to celebrate my little girl turning 5 in a few ...I can't help but think about how badly I wanted to be a mom and how I practically screamed that message out to the Universe over and over.  And how the Universe made me first experience loss and more loss and more loss before finally giving me my miracle.  I am so grateful that I put that request out to the Universe. 

I think I am pretty good at putting my messages out to the Universe.  It's the appreciating part that I need to keep practicing and not just during the month of November.  Found this thank you letter to the Universe that seems fitting to me...

Do you need to stop and thank the Universe?  More importantly, are you putting your messages out to the Universe so you have something to thank the Universe for?!

The Universe is always listening, waiting to respond.  What are you waiting for?

Currently reading:
I finished Words on Fire, definitely enjoyed it.  I started two very different books...we will see which one I stick with.  The first book is definitely not a book for our elementary students, once I finish it I will let you know if it would be ok for some 5th graders.  It's called The 57 Bus and it's based on a true story.  The tagline is that it's "a true story of two teenagers and the crime that changed their lives.
I also started reading a book called Dear Sweet Pea.  It's about a 7th grade girl who is dealing with her parents' recent divorce and her father's recent coming out.  While her neighbor, a local advice columnist, is away, she is managing her mail and can't stop herself from opening and responding to some of the letters.
I read a great picture book that I might read for my Thanksgiving break bedtime story.  It's not about turkeys, but it's about chickens...chickens that "talk" by writing!  
Another fun read is the picture book called Yes Day!  I have a friend who celebrates yes day every year with her kids.  They mark it on the calendar and the answer to all of their questions on that day is...YES!  This would be a great book to read with your class and then have them come up with some of their own questions to ask on Yes Day. I especially love the calendar in the front and back of the book.
Another cute story I read that I think our K and 1 students would love is called Not Quite Narwhal.  Kelp is not sure whether he is a narwhal or a unicorn.  I love the funny about the author page in this book!

 Events this week:
Monday - CST Meeting @ 8:30
Tuesday - Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8am, CST Meeting @ 8:30, Bedtime Story with Principal Garden @ 7:30pm
Wednesday - No School, Thanksgiving Break
Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday - No School, Thanksgiving Break

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I visited 4S and watched as students moved around the room and partnered up to solve math problems. 
  • Students in 4V had the choice of working on a regular piece of paper or they could choose to draw and create factor rainbows on giant paper. 
  • Enjoyed taking a deep dive into the writing standards with our K-3 writing team on Wednesday.  I always enjoy spending the day collaborating and talking about writing instruction with the members that are doing this grant work. 
  • We were lucky to have Wendy O'Leary come into K and 1 on Thursday and Friday to share her book Breathing Makes It Better and to talk with our students about the brain and using breathing to calm ourselves down. Can't wait to have her back in January for PD with staff. 
Check it out:
I came across this post that has been going around on social media this weekend, thought I should definitely share with all of you!

From not having a break from school in months, parent teacher conferences, being overloaded on grading, dealing with student behavior issues, formal observations, pretests, test, and post tests, etc. (the list goes on-and-on)- the month of November can be downright exhausting.
It's around this time of the year we hit the November Wall. A lot of the energy you had at the beginning of the school year is starting to wane, and your patience and enthusiasm might be growing thin. You might even be having thoughts like:
"What's wrong with me? Why do I feel so gassed?"
"I'm not having much fun anymore."
"How am I possibly going to make it through the school year if I feel like this?"
Or maybe even,
"I'm not sure that I am cut out for this work."
So let me just speak this to you:, if this describes you in any way, know that you are not alone in these thoughts. This is typical for educators this time of year, as the work has only grown more complex and challenging, and yet you have not had a break in months to recuperate and reset.
November exhaustion is normal and usually does go away as vacation breaks are on the horizon, as well as the energy that comes with a new year.
But right now, you are tired. And there are ways of finding new energy and thriving during a tiring month like this, but that's not what this post is about.
This post is just a reminder that the way you feel is normal. It's shared by thousands of other teachers right now. You are not deficient. You are not weak. You are not broken. You are not a bad teacher.
You are enough.
You're just tired. And that. is. okay.
(Author unknown)

Monday, November 18, 2019

The View From the Rug

Principal Ponderings...

The other day I had the chance to be a 3rd grader.  I spent the whole day traveling in and out of the different classrooms, eating lunch in the cafeteria, playing outside on the playground, singing (out of tune) in music, and basically seeing the whole school day from the students' perspective. 

I have done shadow a student days before and have learned so much.  While my day in 3rd grade was a little different since I wasn't just following one student around, I still learned so much about the kinds of learning experiences that we create for our kids.

Here's what I learned:
1. Our teachers strive to create a welcoming experience in classrooms.  In several rooms, I had a space created for me to sit at.  Some rooms I even had my own nameplate!  And there were supplies for me to use.  This welcoming mentality spilled over to students.  They would offer me a pencil or would tell me where I could find what I needed.  In one class, during independent reading time, a student offered me a book if I didn't have one.  (Of course, you know I brought my own book to read!)

2. Our teachers find and capitalize on teachable moments throughout the day.  I joined in during a morning meeting on the rug.  As we were going over the schedule, the students were curious about how I would get into each classroom so the teacher turned that discussion into some authentic math discussions about elapsed time and division.  And the students quickly figured out how much time I needed to spend in each classroom! 

3. Our teachers think about how best to start and end the day with students.  Loved that our 3rd graders were able to start their day with "good morning bins."  My desk group had a container filled with Scrabble tiles.  We were able to build words or use them like dominoes or make a design...whatever we wanted.  Other groups had mini cubes.  Another group had a container of Legos.  It was such a great way to start the school day!  And then I finished my day in another classroom where the teacher had promised the students that after they did some of their social studies work, they would come together for a quick game.  We all gathered on the rug and just a quick round or two of "Doggie Doggie Where's Your Bone."  After a long day of packing lots into the day, it was nice to have few minutes together as a community, to laugh, interact, and get ready to transition home.

4. Our teachers give our students independent reading time and time to write.  In several rooms, I happened to be in the room either during independent reading time where students had their special places all over the room to read from their book bags or book bins.  And the classroom teacher was able to work one on one with a student or with a small group.  I was also in several rooms during writing time where again the students were given time to work on their writing while the teacher worked with one student or a few students.  During both of those times, the students were really into their books and really into their writing.  I was able to read a few chapters in the book I was reading and was able to write a piece that I have been working on.

5. Our students in the upper grades are still learning through play.  When I was outside on the playground, I was quickly brought into a game of store where there were shoppers, people selling, people organizing the items (lots of different acorn creations), people gathering the items, people advertising, etc.  Students found the job that appealed to them the most and quickly got into character.  There was problem solving happening.  There was some money discussion.  There was some creativity in terms of the different creations.  I was designated as a "gatherer."  This game took up most of recess and involved several different students.  We need to remember that there is so much learning that happens through play!

There were lots of other things that I learned during my day in 3rd grade, but I am just choosing to share these 5 for now.  I know it might be uncomfortable at first for teachers, but I really love getting the student perspective for a day.  I am thinking in December I will plan to be a 1st grader for the day!

Currently reading:
I am still working my way through Words on Fire by Jennifer Nielsen. 
I have also pulled out the book I shared with some people last year to reread some different sections: Welcome to Writing Workshop.  I especially love that this book has tons of links to short video clips to see writing teachers in action.  Been going back and watching several that I never watched.
I have also been reading the different UDL links and watching the video clips that our presenter, Laura Taylor, shared with us when she came on the PD day.  She shared the information with me and I will share it with everyone since I know 3rd-5th was not with us.

Events this week:
Monday - School Council Meeting @ 4:00
Tuesday - Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8:00am, Claytime Fundraiser 6:30-8:30pm
Wednesday - K-3 Writing Grant Team at Regional Literacy Meeting, Patty to Team Chair Meeting 8:30-10:30
Thursday - Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8:00am, Wendy O'Leary visiting K classes
Friday - Wendy O'Leary visiting 1st grade classrooms

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Popped into Mrs. Baird's science class as students were learning about the earth rotating around the sun while actually rotating around their paper suns. 
  • I listened in with 2T as they read a non fiction book and discussed text features. 
  • I listened to 4th graders practice several songs and work on their recorder playing skills. 
  • 2nd graders impressed me with their small moment stories...lots of details and zooming in on one moment in time. 
  • This 4th grade book club group was having an engaging conversation and acting out some of the new vocabulary. 
  • Bingo Night was tons of fun on Friday night!  Lots of lucky winners and some new names drawn to be Principal for the Day.  I also had fun trying out my new toy...a prize wheel! 

Check it out:
Was reading an article about student engagement and loved this quote that was in it...
Came across this post with 9 free resources related to UDL:
And someone shared this video clip with me about Patagonia, just wanted to share it with you, a company doing good for the environment: