Monday, January 27, 2020

Music Moves Us

Principal ponderings...
Being married to a musician, clearly music is a big part of our life.  But I know that even without a musician husband, I have always loved how music can move me.  The lyrics and the notes and the beat have the ability to bring me to tears or make me pump my fist in support or make me grin.  This weekend, I noticed the music in my life.  Saturday night was all about bagpipes and drums as I attended Burns Night at Mechanics Hall with my extended family.  The beat was mesmerizing and made me remember spending time with my great grandmother who came over from Scotland.  Friday night was about a daddy singing his daughter to sleep.  I watched with tears in my eyes as Emerson selected "Hakuna Matata" as her bedtime song.  Some nights it's the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine", some nights it's Queen's "We Will Rock You."  She requests the song, her daddy quietly sings it to her while stroking her hair and she chimes in on the chorus as she slowly drifts off to sleep.  He is not always home for her bedtime, but when he is, it's magical.  Sunday night was about celebrating the music and the performers while watching the Grammy's.  This weekend, after the tragedy of yesterday's helicopter crash combined with learning that a friend from high school lost his battle with cancer, I knew I needed music to move me.  I did not get to watch all of the performances, but I recorded them so I can spread out my viewing this week. 

There are so many great songs that have been written and shared over and over, and there are so many new songs, as Billie Eilish said "being written and recorded in bedrooms" all over the world.  Our students are fortunate that they get music every week and Mrs. Popek works hard to expose them to the amazing world of songs, instruments, rhythm, and melody.  And I see teachers using music in their classrooms.  Music can be a powerful tool.  Let's make sure we are always considering how we can include it in the learning process.

Here are some songs that moved me last night.  I have tried to include video clips with the lyrics included so you can read them, some truly amazing lines.

Alicia Keys performed this great song "Underdog."  Love her message that she is saying throughout the song.  And she even includes "young teachers."  We are all part of that group...we were all certainly "young teachers" at one point!
This Thursday we will be focusing on the overall student and mental health and systemic student support.  Demi Lovato's song and her performance after surviving an overdose was a powerful one.  She even had to stop and start over because she was so emotional.  Listen to her sing "Anyone."
Another moving moment was when Camila Cabello sang "First Man" to her dad who was sitting in the front row. 

What music moves you?

Currently reading:
I am still listening to The Boy Who Was Raised as a is definitely a tough book to listen to.  I am almost done with Innovate Inside the Box.  This book is full of ways to blend an innovator's mindset with UDL components.
Another great new book that will be in the Book Fair in March is a picture book called Hair Love.  This is a wonderful book about a dad and his daughter and how he tries to style her hair. 
Check out this Oscar-nominated short film created by the author: 

Events this week:
Monday - Motoko visits Grade 5, CST Meeting @ 8:30, Welcome back Liz Bercume
Tuesday - Fit Club @ 8:00, UDL Book Club @ 8am, CST Meeting @ 8am, Report Cards available to parents in PS, Grade 2 @ Glenwood for F&P training
Wednesday - Motoko visits Grade 5, Grade 1 @ Glenwood for F&P training
Thursday - Fit Club @ 8:00, Half day, dismissal at 12:20, Afternoon PD begins at 1:10 in the library, Sandwich Co PTA Fundraiser 1:00-8:00
Friday - Emma Appleby is Principal for the Day!
Saturday - MSAA EdCamp in Franklin from 8:30-12:30 - check out this link:

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I have been enjoying reading in several different classrooms over the past week.  We had some thought-provoking conversations about equal rights, race, and education with the books Someday is Now about the Oklahoma Sit-Ins of 1958 and Malala's Magic Pencil about educational inequalities in Pakistan happening in recent years. 
  • I popped into Mrs. Hilton's 1st grade group to see her using Scholastic Literacy Pro to read about germs before writing about germs. (Certainly a popular topic in school lately!) 
  • I don't have any pictures from Wednesday night, but all of the Holden principals joined the HPD and HFD to present to parents about ALICE and school safety.  
  • On Friday, I enjoyed listening to Matt Glover at the early literacy institute with our writing grant team. 
Check it out:
Here is a motivational speech from Kobe Bryant:
And a remembrance clip with clips from the short film and poem "Dear Basketball":

Monday, January 20, 2020

Play is Powerful!

Principal ponderings...

I came across this slightly depressing headline and took some time to read over this post:

I can't help but think about how I played when I was younger compared to what tends to happen with our students today.  From 2nd grade to 5th grade, I lived on a farm in Ohio.  We lived in a big, old farmhouse and I can remember playing throughout the house, out in the big yard, inside our barn that only housed a dog and cat, and even exploring some of the acres behind our garden.  My mom was not usually with us, we were never in structured programs, and we created lots of grand adventures and acted out wondrous scenes.  We were allowed to play with pretty much zero adult intervention.  Yes, we argued, but we figured out how to solve problems and resolve issues on our own.  Yes, we got hurt and our beyond the garden explorations sometimes ended in one of us having to suffer through poison ivy, but our scratches and bruises healed and we quickly learned to identify the leaves that we needed to steer clear of!  Those years of play in that farmhouse and outside on the land were glorious and I am grateful for those play memories.  In 6th grade, we moved to Virginia Beach.  Slight culture shock to go from a farm where you had to drive to trick or treat because neighbors were miles apart to a cookie cutter neighborhood in a city that was much more modern than the small town we had lived in.  But still I can remember riding my bike and playing outside until it got dark.  I also remember my parents having a giant pile of dirt delivered to our backyard.  Our house was a brand new construction and there was no yard when we first moved in.  Whether they did this on purpose or whether it just happened that they weren't ready to start the yard work, we had that amazing giant dirt pile in our backyard for at least a week.  Every kid in the neighborhood wanted to come play in our backyard!  And our parents let that happen.  We were filthy and needed extra long showers (also an exciting new experience that we never had in our farmhouse), but those uninterrupted, unstructured hours playing in, on, around that giant dirt pile were worth it.

I don't know if all of our students are getting the same unstructured, unscheduled, unsupervised time to play.  I know that many kids are scheduled into lots of after school and weekend activities.  Soccer games, hockey practices, social skills groups, arts and crafts classes, gymnastics sessions, swim lessons, robotics clubs, the list goes on and on.  I know as a parent and a working mom of a child who will soon enter the world of public school, I fear the activities/clubs/sports circuit.  And I worry about how I will be able to help my child enjoy the activities that she might want to be part of.  And the trouble is...this culture of activities and structured time and organized sports is here...hard to go back to the days of play that many of us grew up experiencing.

That's why I am so glad that Global School Play Day exists and is coming up in February...February 5th to be exact.  Of course, it is also a little sad that our society has changed in a way that it's necessary for us remind each other about the importance of play.  The topic of play and the importance of learning through play was actually an agenda item during my conversation with Commissioner Riley last week.  For those of you new to Mayo this year, here is my post last year about Global School Play Day.  Teachers and teams explored this new idea in different ways last year.  Some teams chose to set up classrooms with different types of play and had students rotate through and then used the pod space for building some epic box forts.  Other teachers chose to spend half the day playing and the other half of the day sticking to a more typical schedule.  It's up to you how you want to do it, but I would like to see all of our students have part of their day dedicated to play! (It's also World Read Aloud Day so I am sure there will be lots of read alouds happening as well!)

Here's a clip from Colby Sharp, 5th grade teacher in Michigan, all about his day of play back in 2018.  I definitely recommend that you record parts of the day in some way, either video, photos, or writing about your observations.  You will learn a lot about your students if you give them the freedom to!

Let me know if you have any questions or need some help planning for Global School Play Day!

Currently reading:
I am part of a virtual book study with other principals in the state so I just downloaded and started listening to The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog.  Looking forward to learning more about how to help kids in trauma.
I got an early copy of the new I Survived series...the graphic novel version!  Kids are going to love this new format and especially since the first book is all about the Titanic.  It will be available in the March Scholastic Book Fair.
You can't ever go wrong with a Peter Reynolds book, and I love his new one called Be You!  I am excited that many teachers signed up to have me come read to your class over the next few weeks.  I have lots of great read alouds to choose from.
Events this week:
Monday - No School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Bedtime Story w/Principal Garden @ 7:30
Tuesday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, CST Meeting @ 8:30
Wednesday - Motoko visiting grade 5 classes, Holden Principals host Safety Information Night for parents 7:00pm @ Mountview
Thursday - Fit Club @ 8:00am, Liz at MSAA Board Meetings in Franklin during the day, Parent Teacher Night Out sponsored by Holden PTAs at Recess from 6:00-9:00
Friday - K-3 Early Literacy Writing Grant Team @ Literacy Institute in Worcester all day

Great things I noticed last week:
  • 2nd grade classrooms have been transformed into different habitats.  I saw an igloo being built in 2K and students were exploring ocean creatures in 2T! 

  • I heard lots of students talking about what dreams for the future they had.  I stopped by to hear things like "I dream that all people will be safe" and "I dream that everyone will have a home" from the students in KM. 
  • I stopped in a 5th grade class to listen to Motoko, our writer in residence, teach the students about writing Haiku riddles to add into their folktales. 
  • If you have not been down near Liz Hilton's classroom, you must make sure to visit and see the 'House of Joy' that she created with her students! 
  • And now for your public service announcement for the week...Wash hands, Wipe down surfaces, and Stay healthy! 
Check it out:
I wrote an article for Principal Magazine about how I brought co-teaching to my last school:
Do you know that you can create a free account on and then they have a CAST UDL Exchange page where you can search for lessons/activities that have been designed with UDL principles in mind? Check it out:

Monday, January 13, 2020

Please Don't Shun the 'TIONs'

Principal ponderings...
When people think about school, probably the first words that come to mind are educaTION and instrucTION.  While those are certainly two very important 'TIONs', there are several others that we need to make sure we are not forgetting about.  One is collaboraTION.  Here are two of my favorite quotes about teacher collaboraTION...
I have been reading Innovate Inside the Box and in the chapter about relaTIONships, George Couros talks about how important it is to collaborate and have positive interacTIONs with your peers:

"Students notice the interactions we have with each other as adults and mirror them with peers. The environment we create for one another as adults is emulated by students, so the environment we want our students to create for one another should be the norm in what we are modeling as adults.  Students are always watching: what do you want them to see?"

And another great thought about collaboraTION from the book...

Another big 'TION' is relaTIONships.  I loved that one group from our staff meeting stated that "Learning starts with a good relaTIONship!"  What a wonderful statement.  And one that I think has evolved in schools today.  I don't always remember my teachers focused on building a relaTIONship with me.  Another little nugget from Innovate Inside the Box is this interesting fact:

"A recent study found that when teachers greeted their students positively at the door, academic engagement increased by as much as 20 percentage points, while they saw a decrease of 9 percentage points in disruptive behavior."

Remember, while instrucTION and educaTION are important, it's many other 'TIONs' that we need to pay attention to and focus our energy on.  Starting with collaboraTION and relaTIONship building.

What 'TION' will you focus on this week?  And what are some other 'TIONs' that are important to you as an educator?

Currently reading:
Friday night I sat on my couch and cried as I finished the last part of Salt in My Soul.  Definitely a sad story, but also one of hope for people living with cystic fibrosis.  I downloaded a new book to listen to: War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.  It was recommended by some teacher writer friends of mine.  I got a new batch of books in the mail from Scholastic...many of the books that will be coming out in the spring book fair in March.  I quickly read the graphic novel Stargazing.  This is a great book about friendship and remaining true to who you are.
I also read some great new picture books including The Good Egg.  This is by the same author who wrote The Bad Seed.  Kids of every age will love this book and the message that nobody is perfect and that's ok.
I also enjoyed reading The Return of Thelma the Unicorn.  This is the sequel to the amazing book Thelma the Unicorn.  It's just as good as the first one, and can we all agree "the world needs unicorns!?"
Events this week:
Monday - Motoko to visit 5th grade all day, CST Meeting @ 8:30, School Council Meeting @ 4:00
Tuesday - Fit Club Gr 3-5 @ 8:00, UDL Book Club Mtg @ 8:00, Liz @ Literacy Meeting in Marlboro from 3:00-5:00, PTA Meeting @ 7:00 in the library
Wednesday - Motoko to visit 5th grade all day, PTA chat in the cafeteria @ 9:30, Patty @ Team Chair Meeting 8:00-10:00, Gr 5 Parent Committee Meeting in the library from 6:00-7:00
Thursday - Fit Club Gr 3-5 @ 8:00, Liz @ Curriculum Meeting from 7:30-10:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had a great planning meeting with these 3rd graders.  They really want to help specialist teachers get updated supplies!

  • Students in KP were excited to explore and learn about capacity using sand and containers. 
  • Loved our 20/20 vision work during staff meeting, looking back at our learning definitions and looking forward to create a vivid vision! 
  • Sorry for the blurry picture, but students in 4G enjoyed different seating options - on the floor, in a desk, at a table or standing at a standing desk - while discussing and responding in their notebooks to a read aloud. 

Check it out:
Check out this post that encourages us to put our striving readers in the position of being helpers:
Love this quote I stumbled across...

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Temporary Stop

Principal ponderings...

Some of the definitions of the word 'pause' are "a temporary stop" or "to linger for a time."  It's that time of year when I choose my One Word for 2020, or when my One Word chooses me.  I was doing lots of word searching over the break, but the one word that kept popping into my head was 'pause.'  When I start telling people about the different things I do both at work and outside of work, I think...that's a lot Liz.  And usually that's what the person listening to me says!  I need to build in more pauses in my life.  Emerson's recent 5th birthday followed by me signing her up for the kindergarten lottery definitely hit me hard.  Time is going by way too fast.  I need to build in more pauses in my life. 

My One Word for 2020 is PAUSE.

The day I decided on my word was after a fun day of family time and then Emerson fell asleep on me, similar to what she used to do all the time as a baby...
My favorite pause moments

For someone who tends to live life with the fast forward button continually pressed (at least that's what it often feels like), this word will be a challenge for me.  But I know pausing will make me a better leader, a better mom, a better friend, a better daughter, a better wife.  Pausing will be good for me.

**I started this post during break.  Today, I am adding to it because apparently when I put the word pause out into the Universe, the Universe responded in a big way, forcing me to physically pause.  Sunday morning I was up early to do my daily walk.  I was excited that it was not snowing.  I bundled up, started listening to a book on Audible and walked out the door ready to have some quiet walking time.  The sidewalks in the neighborhood next to mine have not been plowed, so I have been walking on the street the past few days.  I was listening to the book when all of a sudden my feet flew out beneath me and I landed, hard, on the road.  I must have put my right arm down first to try to stop my fall.  When I realized what had happened, I was sitting up on a sheet of black ice, in a lot of pain.  I managed to get myself up, but could tell I was about to faint so I put my head between my knees and breathed.   When I thought about pause for a word, this was not the temporary stop I was imagining.  I knew I needed to get myself home and wake up my husband.  I don't really remember how I dragged myself home in so much pain, tears streaming down my face.  I thought for sure something inside me was broken.  After a long trip to Urgent Care and x-rays, I was sent home with thankfully no broken bones, a bandaged arm, pain meds, a donut to sit on (oh yes, that is fun...can't wait for all the pain in the bleep jokes!) and a bruised ego. 

So now, I am home on the couch with a lot of time to pause.  Touché Universe.

Hoping to be back in tomorrow, albeit a little slow moving.  For now, I have the best nurse in the world, my husband, taking care of me.  And he is managing to fit in some jokes along the way.  Hurts to laugh, but I need to laugh.

For those of you who weren't here last year or don't remember about the One Word concept, here is my post from last year. My One Word that I tried to live by was heart.

I love that I found this song called "Pause" that goes perfectly with my 2020 One Word:
As he sings in the song, I don't know where the 2020 road will take me but I know I need to take it slow, I don't want to miss the moments, and I am okay with hitting the pause button every now and then.

What will your One Word be for 2020?

Currently reading:
I always love having more time to read over the break.  I was asked to read two advanced copies of books, one that is not published yet and one that is coming out tomorrow.  I read a middle grade book called Hallow's School for the Dead, Book 1.  This reminds me a little bit of a Harry Potter type book and the action and adventure with the kids in the story definitely kept me turning the pages.  Not sure when it will be published, but the author is hoping to write several books in this series.  The other book that I am reading is called Lead with Faith, written by a friend of mine named Sarah Johnson. 
Over the break, I picked up a book that I could not put down and practically read it in one sitting.  It's called Chasing King's Killer.  It tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and then the manhunt to find James Earl Ray.  I think that some of our 5th graders who are into history would be interested in reading this book.  I once visited the Lorraine Motel which is now the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.  It was an emotional experience to see the balcony where King was shot.
And I am listening to an emotional memoir, Salt in my Soul: An Unfinished Life.  This is about Mallory Smith, a young woman who died from cystic fibrosis.  She kept a journal that she started writing when she was in middle school and kept adding to into college.  Her mother published her journal after her death. 

Events this week:
Monday - Motoko visits with 5th grade
Tuesday - Patty out of the building at a training, Fit Club Gr 3-5 @ 8:00
Wednesday - Staff meeting @ 8:00, Motoko visits with 5th grade, Bus 50 meeting in the cafeteria @ 9:00
Thursday - Fit Club Gr 3-5 @ 8:00, Liz @ PLT Meeting at central office, Liz @ meeting w/Commissioner
Friday - Bus 56 meeting in the cafeteria @ 9:00

Great things I noticed last week:
It was a short two day week, but it was great to jump back into the routine!

  • Over the break, I created a new front lobby display.  I can't wait to see students make book recommendations and then maybe get their book added to our fireplace mantel! 

  • 3rd grade came back and enjoyed a weather enrichment program from The Discovery Museum on Thursday. 
  • I popped into chat with some 5th graders while they were playing decimal BINGO! 
  • Loved seeing Mrs. McSweeney's students playing and learning.  These boys told me they were "filling containers to capacity!" 
Check it out:
To go along with my one word, pause, I am trying to do this 100 days of notebooking challenge.  Check it out and join in if you want:

If you have 10 minutes, check out this speech about othering and belonging and equitable inclusion:

And to make you laugh...