Monday, October 28, 2019

A Letter of Gratitude

Principal Ponderings...

Dear Teachers,

Thank you.  Two simple words that can mean so much, both for the person speaking them or writing them and for the person hearing them or reading them.  But they are two simple words that I don't think I say enough to you.  I was showered with treats, gifts, cards, and kind words the other day during Boss's Day.  Of course, I need to thank you for making me feel special on that day.  I certainly don't need to be given things, but the thoughts behind it was what I appreciate.  I also know that we will soon enter the month of November, a time where everyone thinks even more about giving thanks.  I could write this letter and save it for the end of November.

But this thank you letter is not for those special occasions.  I want to thank you for everything else.  That's a lot to thank you for!  Don't worry, I will try to keep this thank you letter short and to the point.  It is true that I feel like I need to thank teachers for everything they do.  Thank you for getting to know each of your students.  Thank you for being brave and trying new ideas.  Thank you for stepping up whenever the school needs you.  Thank you being sensitive to the needs of students and colleagues.  Thank you also for having thick skin.  Thank you for connecting with your students, your families, and each other.  And thank you for taking time to connect with me!

Thank you for thinking about your students long after they have left for the day.  Thank you for brainstorming with colleagues before school.  Thank you for spending your own money on other people's children.  Thank you for making your classrooms inviting and engaging and safe.  Thank you for challenging all of your students.  Thank you for making mistakes and growing.  And thank you for celebrating the learning that happens when students make mistakes and grow.  Thank you for reading to your students.  Thank you for giving your students time to read and time to write.  Thank you for encouraging them to wonder and question.  Thank you for questioning and pushing back when you don't agree with something.  Thank you for being big thinkers and helping create big thinkers.  Our world needs more big thinkers.

There's so many more thank yous that need to be said and written and shared.  We all need to remind ourselves to practice gratitude more.  Let's not wait until certain events or special days.  Let's be thankful and grateful on all the other days.  Is there someone right now that you need to thank?  Tell them.  They probably need to hear it.

Thank you for being you.  The picture book that I read this weekend (Remarkably YOU) had so many great lines and golden nuggets in it, but I had a few that I wanted to share in my thank you letter...


Thank you for all you do for our students, our families, and our school.

Your Grateful Principal

Currently reading:
Trying not to get overwhelmed by my extremely tall "to be read" pile!  So many good books and never enough time to read them all.  The first book that I read this weekend was a picture book that I have had for a while and just never read.  It's by the same author who did my recent favorite When You are Brave.  This one is called Remarkably YOU.  It would be a great book to read to any kid and then talk about how each child is unique and has something special to share with the world.
And if you want a pre-recorded read aloud of it, here you go!
I loved reading Jennifer Neilson's book Resistance last year.  I just got her newest book at the Book Fair and am enjoying the start of Words on Fire.
I was excited to get a new professional development book in the mail.  It's called Principals in Action: Redefining the Role and it's written by three friends of mine: Mark French, Jay Posick and Ryan Sheehy.  They are all principals in other states.  I love this book because it's all about how many of us across the country are trying to break the typical principal mold and be leaders who are out of our office more than we are in it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my name mentioned in one of the chapters...does it come as a surprise that it was in the chapter about reading?!

Events this week:
Monday - Gr 1 & 2 EL Creative Writing/Tech Club @ 3:30
Tuesday - Fit Club @ 8am, Spell-a-Thon pledge money due
Wednesday - Liz out of the building at a workshop, Term 1 grades close, Gr 3-5 EL Creative Writing/Tech Club @ 3:30, Greater Boston Reading Council Conference 4:00-6:30, Mayo teachers can attend for free, see Liz for details
Thursday - Fit Club @ 8am, Literacy Parade @ 2:15!
Friday -  New Director of SPED Parent Info session @ 10:00 in the library, Financial Advisor available in the library from 11:30-1:30, Raindate for Literacy Parade @ 2:15

Great things I noticed last week:

  • When I popped into 2K, I saw them finishing up an author study about Kevin Henkes, charting physical traits and character traits. 
  • Loved getting an invite to 4B (Miss Dee) for their book tasting!  Reservations, a roaring fire projected on the board, and lots of delicious books to enjoy!  My kind of place.  
  • 3W was concentrating on some suffix word work.  Those ending changes are tricky! 
  • 3D was a taking a close look at a non fiction book about Wampanoags and discussing some of the text features. 
  • I loved co-teaching the EL Creative Writing Club after school with Liz Hilton!  Anyone wants to co-teach a writing lesson with me, let me know.  Would love to collaborate! 
  • 4G and 4S hosted a read and create event Friday afternoon where students worked together to build a bridge.  Thanks to many parents for coming and supporting this engaging activity! 

Check it out:
I can't remember if I ever shared this with you, but it's worth a reshare.  It's a great post for teachers that was written back in August.  I love the message to "be extra."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Would You Rather, the Education Version

Principal Ponderings...
I have played this game,  the education version, on this blog before.  The concept of the game is simple.  You have two choices and you have to think about which one you would prefer.  Are you ready?!

Students who are engaged or students who comply?
Would you rather have students in your class who are engaged and excited every day about the learning that is happening in class?  Or would you rather have students who complete whatever task you put in front of them, whether they are excited about it or not, basically complying with whatever you ask of them?  We should be taking a look at how we are having students do school.  Engaged and invested or disinterested and complying?

React to students or respond to students?
I once saw some principals from Kansas present and I loved how they demonstrated the difference between the words react and respond.  If we were to pantomime or pose for each word...think about what react would look like.  Now think about what respond would look like.  Do you think kids would be affected differently if we responded to them versus reacting to them?

Spend the day working or spend the day playing?
Would you rather work or play?  I think I know the answer to this for many if not all of you.  But maybe the question is more would rather come to school everyday with the mindset of having fun and playing with learning or would you rather come to school to do a job and get your work done?

Just a few simple questions to get you thinking this morning.  Maybe you can come up with some of your own would you rather questions?

Currently reading:
I got some new books in the mail that I could not wait to read and share with you!  One book is Where Oliver Fits.  This is a great picture book about the importance of being yourself even if you don't always fit in with everyone else.
Another great picture book I got is called High Five.  This fun book is a rhyming book that focuses on a high five competition that is interactive with the reader! 
And of course I bought some books from the Book Fair.  I love the message behind the picture book The Bad Seed.  Even if you have been labeled as a bad seed, you can still make a positive change. 

Events this week:
Monday - Liz out of the building, last day of the Book Fair, Gr 1 and 2 EL Creative Writing/Tech Club @ 3:30
Tuesday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, 4th and 5th Grade Math Olympiad, Patty Hurley out of the building at UDL training
Wednesday - Gr 3-5 EL Creative Writing/Tech Club @ 3:30, 1st grade conferences
Thursday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, half day, dismissal at 12:20, K-2 parent conferences, 3-5 PD, Papa Gino's PTA Fundraiser 4:00-8:00
Friday - 2nd grade conferences

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Lots of fun for everyone shopping at the Book Fair last week.  One more day to get some great books! 
  • I popped into KM and watched as they all gathered to engage in math conversations. 
  • Did you see Mayo's little free library behind the school?!  Thank you Kristin Baird for pushing to get this put in and for helping to honor Rebecca Berenson.  
  • When I popped into Mrs. Hilton's room, the students were talking about feelings.  Can you guess the feeling? 
  • We had a super fun time during our "reading blizzard" where all of 1st grade got to throw paper snowballs and Mrs. Garden and Mrs. Hurley.  Five lucky snowballs were selected and then they got to do an extra shopping trip to the Book Fair!  
Check it out:

  • I love Brene Brown and this year she has created a site that is for educators.  She has a section where she has recorded video discussions with teachers around the country on topics such as empathy, shame, disappointment, values.  Check it out:
  • I shared this video with 4th and 5th grade teachers the other day, but wanted to share with all of you.  Really powerful to think about how we might treat each other and students differently if we knew what was going on in their lives:

Monday, October 14, 2019

Write Right Now!

Principal Ponderings...
This week's post is a collaborative effort.  On Friday, I had the chance to spend the day with lots of educators across the state as we focused on writing instruction and listened to Lisa Cleaveland, a kindergarten teacher from North Carolina, discuss what writing instruction can look like in elementary classrooms.  While I enjoyed listening to her, I really enjoyed the great conversations that happened at our table, a table full of teachers from our school who are part of the literacy grant team this year.  After a day of listening, learning, and reflecting, I asked each of them to share some of their thoughts and take aways from the day.

Key Take-Aways:
Students should write every day. Writers’ Workshop should eventually be 45 minutes, including Meeting, Writing/Conferring, and Sharing.
Allow students to write about what they want. CHOICE is key.
Always start Meetings with a mentor text, which can and should include student-written books.
Read like writers, noting:
  • The people who make books
  • Different kinds of books and the purposes they serve
  • Decisions writers and illustrators make in books
Ultimately, we need to reach the state standards and not every element of a curriculum program, so teach accordingly.
Children (K-2) should be making books - 6 pages stapled together
  • Students should take multiple days to complete their work
  • Students decide where to start their work- words, illustrations, front, back etc. 
  • Students should have space to move around the room to find their own working space
  • No lines preferable, but teacher choice
  • Teachers are not modeling good writing, instead showing and discussing mentor texts that exemplify the outcomes teachers are expecting.
    • Use stacks of books
    • Use student books
    • Begin units by immersing students in the type of text you want them to write
    • Teach students to “Read like a writer” noticing author and illustrator moves
    • Students need sustained time on writing EVERYDAY
    • Teachers confer during this time
      • Students read their book to teacher
      • Teacher reads book back to student so they can hear it
      • NEVER write on student work - Can write on a separate paper or post-it
      • Most of the time students should not rewrite their work- their first work was their best effort
    Handwriting can be taught at a separate time of day
    Shared/interactive writing can be done at a morning meeting time

      Several different reflections from teachers after our day of focusing on writing...

      Today’s meeting was all about a developmentally appropriate approach to writing that empowers students to think of themselves as authors and illustrators. The strategies and structure outlined produces independent writers who make moves with intention as a result of teacher guidance and being surrounded by high-quality literature created by authors, illustrators and students alike.

      Children need the opportunity to write about what they want to write about. Through choice, engagement, and guidance young writers can find their voice and joy in writing.

      Students grow as writers when provided choice and the opportunity to explore the craft of writing utilizing students' work as mentor texts along with reading literature through the eyes of a writer.

      As you read the above thoughts and takeaways and reflections, you probably noticed some common themes.  We need to be giving kids the opportunity to write everyday and we need to make sure choice is a big part of that.  We also need to be utilizing mentor texts to help students understand what it means to read like a writer and think like a writer.

      This Sunday is National Day on Writing and I included the link to a page that talks about this more in the events section below.  But we are going to not just think about writing and talk about writing during this month with this special day devoted to writing.  We owe it to our students to think and talk about writing all year long.

      I am looking forward to more work with this grant team, and I am looking forward to sharing our learning throughout the rest of the year with all of you!

      Currently reading:
      Several Scholastic team members visited me this week and they always come with the best gifts...books!  Many of the books were added to the birthday book shelves.  I was super excited to get several Peter Reynolds books, including the newest one I Am Love: A Book of Compassion.  It's even signed by Susan Verde.  I have this one in my office if anyone wants to borrow it to read to their class.  Such an important read for any age.
      I talked about the book The Brain is Kind of a Big Deal during one of my book talk announcements this week.  This book will be in the book fair.  This is definitely a fun non fiction book!  Bonus that it's all about the brain...I am slightly obsessed and fascinated by the brain.
      I have been listening to a great book called Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.  I can't believe I have waited this long to read this book.  It is so good.  I have had many writer friends recommend it to me...glad I finally listened to them.

      Events this week:
      **Book Fair in the library all week until next Monday!
      Monday - Columbus Day, no school
      Tuesday - Liz out of the building at a conference, Flu Clinic in the AM at Mayo, Fit Club @ 8:00am
      Wednesday - Patty out of the building for Team Chair Meeting in the AM, New Director of SEL visiting Mayo @ 2:00, Grade 3-5 EL Creative Writing/Tech Club, Book Fair Family Event 4:00-8:00pm
      Thursday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, Spell-a-Thon challenge day! Liz at Curriculum Meeting from 7:45-10:00 - Central Office
      Friday - Read Blizzard with Mrs. Garden - All for Books winning grade, PTA correcting Spelling Challenges in the conference room, Craft Fair Set Up after school in the gym
      Saturday - Mayo Craft Fair! 9:30-3:30, Book Fair in the library open from 12-2
      Sunday - National Day on Writing!

      Great things I noticed last week:

      • The 5th graders had a great time on their field trip to Sargent Center! 
      • The students in  KL were practicing some counting skills with bead bracelets and different objects. 
      • Loved seeing the positivity spread throughout the building on Positive Post It Day!  These 5th graders kindly delivered some positive notes to me in the morning. 
      • The Book Fair was set up and several buddies met up so that they could help each other complete a scavenger hunt. 
      Check it out:
      Interesting math fact that I learned...

      And in honor of Book Fair week...

      Sunday, October 6, 2019

      Shifting Our Focus

      Principal Ponderings...

      During last week's staff meeting, we just started to explore the concept of restorative practice or restorative justice.  I want to start sharing some resources with you, give you some videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, articles or books to read.  I want us to begin to think about and talk about this new mindset and what this could look like for our students.

      Restorative justice - when we break down that first word, we have the word restore.  Restore means to return someone to a former condition.  It can also mean to repair.  Now let's add the word justice.  Justice means being fair and reasonable.  The heart of restorative justice is the idea that we need to help students focus on repairing the harm that has been done and work on reconciling relationships.  This is a big mindset shift from retributive justice, focusing on punishing the offender, which is what we have been using in schools for a long time.

      Here is two minute clip to introduce the idea of a restorative approach:
      And another two minute video clip that explains what restorative practice is:

      As you saw in the above video, the foundation of restorative practice is really based on relationships and connections.  We have talked about this before.  It is crucial that we are working to build relationships with our students.  And that we are helping them build relationships with each other.  Check out this clip from an elementary PE teacher about ways she has worked on implementing restorative practices by first helping her students build relationships.
      I love listening to this short clip where students are talking about and demonstrating how restorative practices have helped them build their classroom community:

      As a school, we need to discuss how we can shift our mindset from retributive practices to restorative practices.  I will continue to share resources.  Feel free to seek out your own resources.  Talk with your colleagues.  Discuss this with your teams.  We will keep this important dialogue going.  Here is one last short clip that shows the major difference between what we have been doing to what we should be doing:

      We have already begun the work of building community in our school.  How can we use community and connection to improve behavior and respond to different issues that happen in class and throughout the school?

      What if we stopped focusing on punishments and consequences and started focusing on repairing harm that has been done and rebuilding relationships?

      Currently reading:
      I purchased a lot of new picture books this summer that anyone is welcome to borrow.  Since October is Bullying Prevention Month, I am thinking I will be sharing this amazing wordless book with everyone.  It's called I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness.
      Another great picture book I read this weekend is called Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre'.  This beautiful book tells the true story of a woman who came from Puerto Rica to New York City and championed bilingual literature.  I loved learning her story and learning some Spanish word and phrases that are woven throughout the book.
      I am working on an application to bring a Coding Club with Girls Who Code to our school.  It would be for 3rd through 5th graders.  A perfect book to go along with that club is Josh Funk's new book: How to Code a Rollercoaster.  
      Another great non fiction picture book that I read this weekend is called Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins.  This book tells the inspirational story of Clara Luper, a teacher who taught her students how to stand up for what was right by sitting down in a 'whites only' restaurant. 
      Events this week:
      Monday - 5th Grade Sargent Center field trip, Patty Hurley @ Glenwood for CPI Training, Gr 1 & 2 EL Creative Writing/Technology Club @ 3:30, School Council Meeting @ 4:00, Bedtime Story @ 7:30
      Tuesday - Fit Club @ 8:00
      Wednesday - Scholastic Reps to visit Mayo @ 1:00, Gr 3-5 EL Creative Writing/Technology Club @ 3:30
      Thursday - Fit Club @ 8:00, Liz out of the building for an afternoon meeting, Scholastic Book Fair setting up in the library
      Friday - Liz out of the building with Early Literacy Writing Grant team, Book Fair Teacher Preview in the library during the afternoon

      Great things I noticed last week:

      • Walked by some 4th graders in the pod doing some math activities with one of our best volunteers! 
      • Listened in on a webinar about starting a Girls Who Code Club after school for our 3rd-5th graders.  If anyone is interested in working with me on this, let me know! 
      • Thanks to the Holden Fire Department for coming to do fire safety talks with every grade. 
      • Loved all of the signs of appreciation around the school for our custodians! 
      • And it was a pretty awesome end to the week when I got to hold a baby goat during a special 1st grade/5th grade buddy session. 
      Check it out:
      This was the video that some teachers watched during our staff meeting:
      This is a podcast that discusses restorative justice:
      I love this paper about the brain and school climate, but that's because I have a slight fascination with the brain and all of its complexities!  There is a lot in here, but it's worth a read or at least a skim through: