Monday, May 27, 2019

Toes in the Sand and Nose in a Book!

Principal ponderings...

The beautiful weather this past weekend makes me think about all of the sunny days we hope to have over summer vacation!  Perfect weather to bury your toes in the sand and your nose in a book.  And the crazy storm Saturday night made me also think about those summer storm days when it's perfect to curl up on a porch and read with raindrops in the background.  Yes, with only a few short weeks until summer vacation, it's time to start thinking about summer reading.  Not summer reading for your students, summer reading for you!  I love that I have more time and more energy in the summer and can move quickly through my "to be read" pile which is currently a leaning tower on my night stand about to fall over any day now.

Do you have a reading plan or have you been thinking about a reading plan for this summer?  I do still work in the summer, but my schedule is certainly lighter during the day so one thing that I do is actually schedule professional development reading time and writing time.  Might seem silly, but if it's on my schedule, I usually follow through with it.  Think about creating a regular reading time and writing time for yourself.

Do you have books that people have recommended and you have tucked them away during the school year?  Now it's time to dig them out so you can get ready to dive into them!  You know I have a whole list of books to read for professional development, books to read so I can book talk with students, and books to read just for fun.  How about you?  What's on your summer reading list?  Here are some books that I am excited to dive into this summer...

I am working on creating a plan for our optional summer book club with Katie Novak's book, UDL Now.  Even though I have read articles, been through some coursework and implemented UDL components, I have not read this book.  Looking forward to reading it this summer!

I have been skimming through another new professional development book, Welcome to Writing Workshop.  I ordered several copies for any teacher who is interested in reading it this summer.  Since we will be focusing on writing instruction as a staff next year, I want us to have some current resources to work with.  I love that this book is full of video clips from current teachers and principals so you can read a section and then also check out a video clip about the topic. 
One of my dear friends and one of the leaders who I worked with to form Moms As Principals, just wrote a book with Adam Welcome, the author of Kids Deserve It.  This new book is called Empower Our Girls, and I am super pumped to get my copy in the mail this week. Can't wait to read this one! 
I loved Serpent's Secret and loved that I was able to sit next the author during my Scholastic board meeting in February.  I am presenting in CT for Scholastic at the Reading Summit in July and Sayantani Dasgupta will be speaking there.  I will definitely be reading her second book before I see her in July! 
Another book that I was given recently but am saving for summer reading is Front Desk.  It's about an immigrant family who works in a motel and the main character is a 10-year-old girl who works at the front desk.  I have heard rave reviews about this book and can't wait to dive into it.  
Besides reading a ton, I hope to also do even more writing in the summer.  I would love to get myself in more of a habit of writing in a journal.  I have written in several over the years, but I can't ever seem to make it a true habit.  After seeing Jack Gantos speak at the MA Reading Association Conference in April, I am excited to use his book to help me with my journal writing.  I am also part of a group called TeachWrite, there is a Facebook page, Twitter chats, blog posts, and they even offer courses where you are able to connect virtually be motivated by other educators to write.  I am thinking of doing this Monday course in July:
I belong to a Book of the Month club.  I keep trying to cancel my subscription because I can't keep up with the books that come each month!  And then my brother just sent me a few free months as a gift.  I have to fly out to Washington State to do a presentation, and I am thinking that will give me lots of reading time!  One book that was delivered but I have not had time to read yet is Maid.  I have read several good reviews about it so I know I need to read it. 
I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan.  I have seen her speak, been fascinated with her research process that she does with every book she writes, and have been sucked into many of her complicated stories packed with so many current issues.  I would like to read her newest book, A Spark of Light.
Ok, so now you know just a few books on my summer reading list.  What books are on your summer reading list?!  Will you participate in any book clubs?  Will you set a goal and record your completed books on Goodreads?  Will you bury your toes in the sand and get lost in a book on the beach?!

I am excited about our book swap for the students on field day.  I have heard from many of you that you might be interested in a staff summer reading book swap.  How about if you plan to bring in books during the last week of school and on Thursday and Friday of the last week, I will set up another staff book swap in the conference room like we did back in December?  Maybe you will leave for vacation with some "new to you" books to pack in your suitcase or add to your night stand!

And do you have any recommendations for me?  I know I always have a long "to be read" list, but I love getting recommendations from fellow colleagues!

Currently reading:
One of the many perks of being connected to Scholastic and serving on their Principal Advisory Board is that I sometimes get read advanced copies of books.  I spent my Sunday morning reading White Bird by R.J. Palacio.  You might remember this author?  She wrote Wonder!  (If you have not read Wonder, you should stop reading my post and start reading that book right now!).  Her new book is a graphic novel and it's historical fiction.  It tells the back story of Julian, a character who most of us did not like in Wonder because of how mean he was to Auggie.  This book will be available to buy in October and I think it will part of the fall Scholastic Book Fair.  Here is Colby Sharp talking about it...
I have a principal friend in California who just wrote a picture book about kindness.  The book is called One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak.  The book shows how one small act of kindness can create a ripple effect, and we see that we all have kindness within us.  Sometimes it just takes a little work to bring that out of all of us. 
You might have heard me book talking Peter Reynold's new book over the announcements the other day.  His book is called Say Something.  In the book, he encourages everyone to speak up through words, art, music, poetry, or simply by being present and showing support.  It's a great message for all kids (and adults) to hear.

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Memorial Day, No School
Tuesday - Grade 4 team meeting @ 8:00, Mountview Middle School Concert @ 9:15 in the gym
Wednesday - Force and Magnetism Enrichment Program for 3rd grade, Liz at Dawson from 9-10 for a transition meeting, Grade 5/Mountview Transition Meetings from 3:30-5:30 in the conference room
Thursday - Liz at Central Office for PLT Meeting from 7:45-10:00, Grade 3-5 Spring Concert @ 2:00
Friday - Grade 3-5 Spring Concert for Families @ 10:00, Grade 5 End of Year Celebration from 6:00-8:00pm in the gym

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Monday afternoon I stopped by in the yellow pod for a celebration of the amazing girls who participated in Girls on the Run.  A big thank you to the staff that helped these girls conquer fears and push themselves: Merle Olson, Jamie Leroy, Shelley Brennan and Sarah Shaughnessy!
  • Kindergarten Orientation happened on Tuesday night.  We had lots of parents attend, and I showed them this quick video of our current kindergarteners explaining what happens in full day kindergarten! 

  • Even though I was not able to go on the 1st grade field trip to the zoo, I did get some photo updates.  Looks like the 1st grade team had a ton of fun and loves the zoo...but looks like they are missing a few students?! ;)

  • 5th grader Michael did an awesome job being the Principal for the Day on Friday!  He read to a 1st grade class, visited classrooms, met with Mrs. Hurley, helped load buses, and enjoyed lunch with a was just another busy day at Mayo!  Even though it was a half day of school, a lot was accomplished! 
Check it out:
Here is another video clip of Colby Sharp.  This time he is sharing some great ideas for the end of the year.  I love the idea of having kids create favorite books from the year lists.

And if anyone needs a feel good cry for the you go...seriously (ugly cry happening for me when I watch this!)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Looking in, Looking Out, Looking Through

Principal ponderings...

Every year around this time, I write a post about reflecting on the year.  I have done it in different ways over the years, but one of my favorite ways was from the end of last year when I had everyone think about mirrors, windows, and doors.

Last year, I participated in a Principals in Action Twitter chat (#piacahat) that focused on reflecting on the school year.  I loved the concept behind it and wanted to share it with all of you.  The reflection centered around three parts of a house: a mirror, a window, and a door.  Thank you Kelley McCallJay PosickMark French, and Ryan Sheehy...hope it's ok to borrow your reflection questions and build on them!

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

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

With the weather getting nicer (maybe we will have a day with no rain?!), and the sounds and signs of summer beginning to appear outside, this is when students (and adults) can't help but stare out the window thinking about days of summer ahead.  The next reflection question focuses on the concept of the window:

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

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

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

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

For me, I am excited to take time now and once school is out to reflect on my first year here at Mayo School.  It was certainly a big change for me to leave a place that I had spent seven years growing and learning in, but I am so glad that I made the transition.  Change is hard, but you all have made this change a positive experience for me.  Thank you.  

As I think back on the work we have done so far, mainly getting to know everyone and connecting with everyone in the building, I love thinking about this quote from another reflecting principal...

"Many leaders believe that the way to sustain change is to communicate a vision, and then monitor compliance.  They use evaluation, write-ups, or walkthroughs as a hammer to ensure 100% compliance.  This philosophy will never lead to sustained change...we have to realize that change doesn't get done in the faculty meeting or staff email.  It gets done one conversation at a time.  It gets done in one-to-one relationships.  It gets done with a lot of talking and a lot of listening.  It gets done inviting disagreement and conflict in a safe environment. It gets done addressing the concerns and obstacles of the people closest to the change.  It gets done over the long haul." (

I feel like I have done a lot of talking and listening with each of you this year.  Some staff more than others, but hopefully everyone feels like I have connected with them in some way.  I am excited about the possibilities of what we will accomplish together over "the long haul."  There's so much for us to do to keep having a positive impact on our students.  As we begin to finish up our first year together, I am already looking forward to rolling up my sleeves with you and doing even more work together next year!

Currently reading:
We went to the public library on Saturday to check out some new bedtime books.  I don't usually check out books since I am currently reading several.  But I started reading Mountain Dog while the kids were playing and decided I wanted to keep reading it.  It's a novel written in verse about a boy whose mother goes to prison and when he moves in with an uncle, he forms a bond with a search and rescue dog.
Super excited to get a new order of books in the mail this week...including this funny one...
Will let you know how it is!

Events this week:
Monday - Grade 5 Science MCAS, Windows on Wildlife Program for 4th grade, Town Meeting @ 7:00
Tuesday - Grade 5 Team Meeting @ 8:00, Grade 5 Science MCAS, Kindergarten Orientation @ 6:30, PTA Meeting @ 7:30
Wednesday - Patty at Central Office in the morning, PTA Dairy Queen Fundraiser 5:00-8:00
Thursday - MCAS testing window closes, Kindergarten field trip to Davis Farmland, Grade 1 field trip to Southwick Zoo
Friday - Half day, dismissal at 12:20, 5th grader Principal for the Day, Staff Appreciation Luncheon, paras at 11:30, teachers at 12:30

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Lots of 1st graders have been book talking and this book talk included a model of the toy boat in the story! 
  • 3Pz was working on some genius hour projects when I popped in the other day.  Besides help from Mrs. Palazzo, they also had help one day from Mrs. Palazzo's mom who came to visit! 
  • I walked into one kindergarten class full of scientists who were recording observations of plant growth. 
  • And then I saw another group of kindergarten scientists having fun exploring bubble science! 
  • Ellen Miller from the District Attorney's office came on two different days to meet with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to discuss bullying and internet safety.  Hoping to bring her back next year during the beginning of the school year, and we might even add in a parent coffee chat session. 
  • On Thursday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Wind Beneath My Wings Awards Program at Davis Hill.  Several of our staff were nominated for their work with students with special needs.  Thank you to all of the teachers and staff who work hard to provide the best services to students on IEPs. 
Check it out:
Some ideas to think about instead of taking away recess time:
A list of some awesome books from 2019 to check out:
Wondering if I should use some of his ideas for teacher appreciation?!
And Donalyn Miller's latest infographic about motivating students to read...

Monday, May 13, 2019

Movie Motivation

Principal ponderings...
Since I have gone to the movie theater the past few weekends and you will be focused on soaking in lots of professional learning today, I thought I would keep this post simple and give you some inspiration and motivation from movies.

What is your favorite inspirational movie line?

Currently reading:
I am enjoying reading a new book I got called The Bridge Home.  It's the story of two Indian sisters, one who has a disability.  The sisters want to escape the domestic violence happening at home so they run away and try to survive as two young, homeless kids.  They find shelter and friends on an abandoned bridge.
I also started reading a professional development book that the leadership team was given called Learning By Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities At Work.  I will be using on the professional development day.  Hopefully I will gather some good information from it to share with all of you.

Events this week:
Monday - No School, PD Day 8:00-2:30
Tuesday - 4th and 5th grade internet safety program, Liz G meeting with Superintendent @ 2:30, Kindergarten and Grade 1 team meetings @ 3:45, Girls on the Run @ 3:45
Wednesday - Grade 3 team meeting @ 8:00, 3rd grade internet safety program, Liz G to visit Mountview @ 1:30, Girls on the Run @ 3:45
Thursday - Bubble program for kindergarten, 3rd grade math MCAS, Girls on the Run @ 3:45, Wind Beneath Their Wings Ceremony @ 7:00 at Davis Hill
Friday - 3rd grade math MCAS
Sunday - Girls on the Run 5K, Lake Park in Worcester, race begins at 10:00!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We had several lucky duck winners including one who even had came to the office with a quacking duck beak! 
  • I popped into afternoon kindergarten just in time to be served some amazing pizza...which was worth the $50 it cost me! 
  • I enjoyed joining some 5th graders in Mrs. Hilton's room as they played Jeopardy for science MCAS review. 
  • Saw lots of great hats on PAWS Pantry day, including these 2nd graders... 
  • Even though I was out of the building at a meeting, I got to enjoy some video clips of 1st graders in Mrs. Leroy's class doing some booktalking! 

Check it out:
Love this reminder from Danny Steele...

And a one minute inspirational video clip from the "Pursuit of Happyness"...

Sunday, May 5, 2019

What Can Happen in 6 Weeks?!

Principal ponderings...

6 weeks.  Do you know what can happen in 6 weeks?  I did some research to find out what changes can happen over a 6 week time period.  When a kid breaks a bone, it takes about 6 weeks for the bone to heal itself and fix the break.  I had several broken bones when I was little...may have been just a tad bit of a clutz...and I swear it felt like I had to have a cast on for way longer than 6 weeks.

In 6 weeks time, a tomato seed can grow and change from a tiny seed into a plantable seedling.  Check out this cool time lapse video of tomato plants growing.  Fascinating how a little seed can change so much over a short period time with regular TLC in the form of water and sunlight.

Did you know that by the time a woman is 6 weeks pregnant, the baby growing inside her already has a developed heart that has begun beating at about 110 beats per minute.  That amazing heart is part of a little being that is barely a quarter of an inch long.  And once the baby is born, after 6 short weeks, the baby usually starts smiling and begins to reach out to try to grab things with his or her tiny hands.  

What else can happen in 6 weeks time?  Well, you can fill out an application and then in 6 weeks time you can travel the world because you now have a passport.  Probably might need to spend more than 6 weeks saving money for your travels!

Why am I writing about different changes that can happen in 6 weeks?  Well, we now have 6 weeks of school left.  We have 6 weeks to still do so much work with the students in front of us.  If a tiny seed can change into a flourishing plant in 6 weeks, then we can absolutely transform each and every one of our students in the last 6 weeks of the school year.  With a little TLC from us, our version of watering and providing sunlight to our kids, we can help them grow even more.  Several years ago, I attended a conference and I remember Eric Janson, the keynote speaker, telling us that structural changes in the brain can happen in just 5 days!  Forget 6 weeks.  By the end of this week, if you are smart about your teaching and the interventions that you are putting in place, you can successfully rewire a few brains.  Next Friday, I expect to hear about your brain changing success stories.  I read a post recently where someone said we need to "get neurons firing together to help get them wiring together."  Check out these brain images below.  I am thinking we can bring back an old slogan and redesign it...this is your brain on teaching and intervention:
A lot can happen in 6 weeks.  Don't let countdowns or time ticking down until the last day make you think that you can't accomplish much now.  You can make some major changes in 6 weeks.  We don't want kids checking out early, so that means we can't check out either.  Don't get stuck in the mindset of "I will just wait until next year to try that."  Today is the day.  Carpe every diem.  Take advantage of every teachable moment.  Fire up those neurons.  

What can you do in 6 weeks?

Currently reading:
I was excited to finish listening to Michelle Obama's book Becoming.  It was a very long book, but so good, especially because she was the one reading it.  It felt like she was in the car with me having a conversation!  During the 5K on Saturday, I began listening to Brave, Not Perfect.  I am definitely enjoying this book - all about how girls have been raised to be perfect, but we need to help rewire them and teach them to be brave and take chances and make mistakes. 
I got two new picture books this week.  The first one is called Poetree.  It's a beautiful story of a little girl who loves words and poetry.  She writes a poem for a tree and it seems like the tree writes back to her.  It's a great story celebrating poetry and surprising friendships. 
I also picked up a really funny picture book called We Don't Eat Our Classmates.  This author has written books like one of our family favorites...Be Quiet!  I would love to come read this story to a classroom!
Events this week:
Monday - Girls on the Run @ 3:45
Tuesday - 4th Grade Math MCAS
Wednesday - 2nd grade team meeting, 4th Grade Math MCAS, Girls on the Run @ 3:45
Thursday - Liz G at a Curriculum Meeting at Central office from 7:45-10:00, Raindate for Bus Evacuation
Friday - PAWS Pantry Hat Day!, Liz G half personal day - out of the building in the AM

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 2nd grade had a great enrichment program from the Museum of Science.  I popped into the cafeteria to hear all about states of matter with them. 
  • I was glad that I stopped into 5O just in time for read aloud.  Mrs. Olson was reading Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech and 5th graders were eagerly listening to the story. 
  • 5G managed to catch some nice weather and took advantage of the opportunity to do some MCAS math preparation outside in the fresh air. 
  • On Wellness Wednesday, I joined 3P and tried to tackle the rock wall.  Ms. Shaughnessy mastered it...I still need some more practice. 
  • I loved my surprise book titled "What Does My Principal Do All Day?"  Some many favorite pages, but I love that many 2nd graders think that I read all day long.  I wish I could do that all day! 
  • The Girls on the Run crew did a great job with their practice 5K this week.  Thanks to many staff for coming out and cheering them on.  
  • 4th graders got some great hands on learning at the New England Aquarium on Friday.  Students and staff were excited to share about their trip at the end of the day!  
  • Mayo students, along with some Davis Hill and Dawson students, ran the fun run and the 5K on Saturday afternoon.  Callum and Lyla Hoey were our top finishers!  While Alex Leith made sure to keep everyone company at the front of the 5K, I made sure that the runners/walkers at the end of the group were not alone! 

Check it out:
Check out this great article by Jessica Leahy, the author who wrote The Gift of Failure.  Love this quote in it: “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about.”  To help our students learn, we need to make sure we are engaging the emotions:
I hope to share more info with you about writing and to give you some resources to look at over the summer that focus on writing instruction.  Here is a short post about letting kids play with writing: