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:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

World Kindness Day

Principal Ponderings...

Did you know that Wednesday, Nov. 13th is World Kindness Day?  

World Kindness Day is celebrated annually on 13th November. On this day, participants attempt to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness, either as individuals or as organizations.

Many people are going to be sporting a cardigan, just like Mr. Rogers, in honor of World Kindness Day...

I need to see if I have a cardigan to wear!

Here are a few videos related to kindness for your viewing pleasure or to share with your students.
This first one is pretty powerful, good message for our upper elementary students.
I always love watching this one about coloring your world with kindness.

You can't go wrong with Kid President!
And this one shows the ripple effect kindness can have.

And of course, I have a whole bunch of books that focus on kindness if you need a read aloud or a book recommendation.

Currently reading:
I made a stop recently at my favorite book store, An Unlikely Story, and purchased some new picture books!  The first one caught my eye because in college I studied poetry and I can remember many discussions about William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow" poem.  This picture book explores a possible reason behind why he wrote the poem.
Andrea Beaty just came out with a new book, Sofia Valdez, Future Prez.  She has written other great inspiring and uplifting picture books like Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist.  Check out this one about a little girl who becomes a community leader.
This cute picture book shows the power of using your words to thank others and how you will often get kind words written back to you.

Events this week:
Monday - Veteran's Day, No School, Thank you to all of those men and women who served our country.
Tuesday - Gr 1&2 Fit Club @ 8:00am
Wednesday - World Kindness Day! Liz G meets w/PTA Presidents @ 9:30
Thursday - Gr 1 & 2 Fit Club @ 8:00am, School Picture Retakes, CST Meeting @ 8:30, PTA Meeting @ 7:00 in the library
Friday - PTA Mtg Follow Up Chat in the library @ 9:30, Meet and Greet w/Christine Smith @ 10:00 in the library (for parents), Family BINGO from 5:30-7:00 in the cafeteria

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I popped into 2H and saw students helping Mr. Hacket add similes to a writing piece. 
  • In 2L, I listened in on an interactive read aloud. 
  • I have a lot to share about my amazing day in 3rd grade, but that post will have to wait until I feel better.  Here's just two pictures from my No Office Day. 

  • Thanks to everyone who did some serious work on Friday!  Hope you enjoyed our UDL presenter, Laura Taylor.  And I hope our 3rd-5th teachers had a great day of science work! 
Check it out:
A post I just read about why writing matters:
And a great post about reaching your writers, especially those affected by trauma:

Monday, November 4, 2019

Time for a Techie Tutorial

Principal Ponderings...
This summer I attended the Scholastic Reading Summit in CT and I had the pleasure of listening to Rhonda Jenkins, a librarian in Illinois, share so many amazing technology tools and tips!  My mind was blown with all of her ideas, and this is coming from someone who is a multi-tasking, plate juggling, constantly learning new things person...and even I was a little overwhelmed with everything.  So I plan to share a few new ideas at a time with you. 

Here you go...
First up was a cool website where you can create your own newspaper clipping.  It's a site called  Kids can name the newspaper, pick a date, write a headline and then put their story into a text box.  With the click of a button, a newspaper article is generated.  And it's free! 
Another fun site to check out is called  This site lets anyone make visual stories in seconds.  They curate artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire young writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories.  There is a fee for this site, but you can sign up for a free trial.

Another fun one that also happens to have birds in the title is  There is a cost, but also a chance to try it for free.  It's a storytelling and elearning tool that can be used in lots of different ways. 

Check out this fun site called!  This cool free site ties historical photos to Google maps...I played around with this and it is awesome!  I found this image of Main Street in Worcester from 1909:
Ok, one more super cool site that I have been having fun with is called  This is a free book recommendation site.  Kids (and adults) can type in a book that they just finished and the Book Seer will recommend the next book you should read.

This was just a small fraction of the tools that I learned about this summer, but I don't want to overwhelm you!  Check these out and see what might interest you and your students.  Now that we know that we will soon be adding more technology to our building, I want to keep sharing tech tools with you.

Do you have any cool tech tools to share with us?

Currently reading:
During my morning walks, I just finished listening to Look Both Ways by the amazing Jason Reynolds.  This book is a collection of short stories that Jason magically ties together in the end.  It's 10 different stories of kids walking home from school.  It makes me think of the empathy video clip "Under the Surface" that I shared with many of you.  We see kids in school, but we don't always know what is going on outside of school or even in their heads.  I definitely recommend this book for upper elementary students and simply for teachers to read and get a different perspective.
I also have some reading homework for my next leadership team meeting so I have been reading Alfie Kohn's book The Homework Myth.  A favorite line from the first section that I have read: "Every hour that teachers spend preparing kids to succeed on standardized tests, even if that investment pays off, is an hour not spent helping kids to become critical, curious, creative thinkers."  Let that sentence sink in a little bit.
I also pulled out my copy of From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers to read through it again.  I just love everything about this book, from Dav Pilkey's comic strip story in the beginning about how his mom gave him book choice and taught him to love reading to the top 10 lists in the back, such as "Top Ten Moves to Advocate for Striving Readers Every Day."  A professional development book that encourages educators to be "literacy upstanders" is A-OK in my book and deserves multiple re-reads!

Events this week:
Monday - Report card entries should be completed for term 1, Gr 1 & 2 EL Creative Writing Club @ 3:30, Bedtime Story w/Principal Garden @ 7:30
Tuesday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, Hearing and Vision screening, Liz out of the building, Report Cards available in PowerSchool at the end of the day
Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 8:00, Hearing and Vision screening, Gr 3-5 EL Creative Writing Club @ 3:30, No Office Day for Liz - 3rd grade all day!
Thursday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, Hearing and Vision Screening, Liz @ PLT Meeting 7:45-10:00
Friday - No school for students, Professional Development Day, Gr 3 -5 working on science, K-2 literacy work in the am, UDL in the pm

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Caught some 4th graders manipulating some numbers and symbols to solve different equations. 
  • I had so much fun co-teaching with Liz Hilton with her 1st and 2nd grade EL Creative Writing group after school! 
  • Enjoyed watching students get ready for the literacy parade - so many great book character costumes, hats, posters! 
  • It was fun to see the different "You've Been Booooked!" signs popping up in different classrooms.  The principal's office even got booked with some awesome new bookmarks, thank you! 
  • I was invited into 5OC to get my trick or treat bag of compliments...sweetest treat ever! 
  • Friday was a crazy day with a two hour delay the day after Halloween, but thankfully we managed to have a dry, slightly windy, successful Literacy Parade!  Thank you staff for all your help with this great event.  I only got a few pictures since I was trying to lead the parade (thank you kindergarten for reminding me to slow down!).  But I had some high schoolers there to help us make an awesome video with drone footage - we are going to try to win a literacy contest where the prize is $30,000 for library and classroom library supplies! 

Check it out:
Hmm this is an image to make you stop and think...