Sunday, May 21, 2017

Need a recharge?

Principal ponderings...
I know it's May.  We are all trying to multi-task our multiple lists and things to do.  The school year is quickly coming to an end and with the summer weather already might be running low on fuel?  I know my energy level for writing is running dangerously low.  So this week's post is simply going to be some videos and images to recharge you, fill up your tank, and keep you running strong over the next few weeks!
This kid in this video just makes me smile!  Absolutely amazing.

I think I have shared this one before, but it's such a moving video, I just had to share it again.  Love the message: change your words, change your world. 

This spoken word poem speech from Harvard last year is definitely one of my favorites.

A short inspirational video for teachers:

David Letterman's Top 10 Reasons Why I Became a Teacher:

Currently reading:
I may or may not have started stockpiling for my summer reading!  Here are two new (actually 'used' on Amazon) books that came in the mail this week:

Events this week:
**Aid for Epilepsy toy drive sponsored by the student council continues this week
Wednesday - Para luncheon in the staff room 1:30-2:30, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25, 4th graders reciting the pledge at School Committee Meeting 7:00pm
Thursday - Think Kindness Assembly @ 9:30 in the PAC (4th graders will stay an extra

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I enjoyed watching Mrs. Wilkins' class perform the reader's theater performance where they re-wrote the story using their own ideas! 
  • Thanks to the PTA for funding the Eyes on Owls program that came to 2nd grade last week.  I loved listening in and learning next owl facts.  It's always amazing to see these amazing creatures up close! 
  • Friday afternoon, I went around hanging up signs throughout the school...get ready for our Think Kindness assembly this Thursday!  Be sure and talk it up with your students.  Get excited about one massive kindness challenge for our school!  

Check it out:
**Have a great environment or set up for writer's workshop?  Check out this link, they are looking for teachers to submit photos of their classrooms.  Your space could be included in a new book about writing workshop!

**Check out this summer conference:
It's the 2017 Conference on School Culture, Climate and Positive Behavior Support and this year the theme is Classroom Success with MTSS

Monday, May 15, 2017

We Have to Play!

Principal ponderings...

We may be allegedly inching closer to summer (although the recent temperatures definitely don't seem like it), but in our house we are still living in the cold and ice.  No, it's not because we ran out of propane and have no heat.  It's because Frozen has taken over our house.  You can't really go anywhere without stepping on an Elsa doll, seeing snowflake covered pillows or hearing Olaf singing about wanting to be in summer.  To say that Emerson loves Frozen is an understatement.  She is obsessed.

Not sure how many of you have seen Frozen, but one of the beginning scenes, the one where Anna is trying to wake her sister Elsa up, well many mornings Emerson acts out that scene when she wakes up.  Here's the scene:
Emerson has definitely been perfecting her Anna impersonation, complete with hand motions and dramatic tone.  So why am I telling you this story?  It's that line where Anna, and my Emerson, say, "we have to play."  That's what I want to talk about.  The fact that my daughter repeats this line over and over and over makes me think that maybe it's a statement we should be thinking about.

Our kids have to play.

When do our students get to run around and play?  Recess.  I know that we have recess scheduled every day before lunch.  I also know that many classes also take kids out for extra recess.  I think most teachers would agree with me that our students need to get outside and play on a daily basis.  Which makes me wonder why do I still hear from students that they missed part of recess?  Why do teachers talk about keeping kids in "for just five minutes" to finish up classwork?  Why do some staff expect me to use the consequence of taking away recess?

Here's my response to all of those questions: I don't know, and I don't agree with them at all.

Our kids have to play.

Here's a little interesting infographic about recess:

I could write a long post about why we should not be taking away recess, no matter whether it is a form of punishment or it's being used as time to "get work done."  But I don't really think I need to write a long post about this topic.  It's pretty simple.  

Our kids have to play.

No one should be missing recess.  Are you worried that there won't be a consequence for kids who misbehavior during recess?  Guess what?  There are lots and lots of alternatives that have been thought of in schools all across the country.  Some are ones that we have used at Florence Roche, including having the student do some sort of community service on the playground or having the student try out a specific social interaction or game.  I often tell kids when I assign this consequence: I want to see how you do at making better choices when you play X with this group of friends.  And then I check in with them after recess to see how it went.  

Trust me, I know when I was a teacher I used the tactic...if you don't finish this now, then you will need to finish it at recess.  I'm not proud that I used to say that.  There are other times in the day when we can have students finish work.  It should not be during recess time.

Did you know that after 20 minutes of sitting in class our brains basically start to fall asleep?  The CDC recommends that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity a day.  During recess time, our kids are having tons of positive experiences and they are learning how to solve conflicts on a daily basis.  What is learned on the playground will definitely have a positive effect on the classroom learning and interactions.

Ok, I said I wasn't going to write a long post so I will stop now and include some links at the bottom for you to check out if you want to read more about this topic.

Just remember, our kids have to play.  

(By the way, it's going to be a high of 86 on Wednesday.  Maybe I should think about keeping people 15 minutes after the staff meeting if they don't finish their budget work or placement work?  It might help me get my point across.  Nah, I will "let it go."  I know that after sitting in meetings, adults have to play, too.)

Currently reading:
As usual, my to be read piles keep growing.  I need to stop buying books, but I just can't.  I know, I have a problem.  Apparently there is even a Japanese word to describe people like me.  You can learn about the word and my book hoarding problems in this recent Huffington Post article:
I was very excited to get an Amy Krouse Rosenthal book in the mail before the weekend.  It was fitting for this weekend since it's titled Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life: What Being a Mom Has Taught Me About Resiliency, Guilt, Acceptance and Love.  It's a funny, quick read that I dove into, and I am already halfway done with it.
I might have also given myself a Mother's Day gift of signing up for a book of the month club.  If my husband asks...I definitely did not do this.  But for everyone else...I was super excited to get my first book in the mail last week, along with a bonus free book!  The book I chose to start with is called The Leavers.  I figure I should probably try to mix up my reading habits instead of always reading kids books, young adult chapter books or professional development books.  It's a novel that addresses the issue of social justice and is told through the eyes of a Chinese boy and his mother who had to abandon him.  
I am also listening to Tina Fey's book, Bossypants, during my commute.  Definitely find myself laughing out loud in my car!  
Events this week:
Monday - Liz at Leadership Summit, 3rd grade math MCAS
Tuesday - Elementary curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15
Wednesday - 3rd grade math MCAS, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:25, Staff meeting @ 3:30, PTA Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - 4th grade math MCAS, Grade 1 Discovery Museum Enrichment program
Friday - 4th grade math MCAS, Liz and Dianna at SLT in the am, Email supply orders to Carol by Friday, Spirit Day - wear purple for our Aid for Epilepsy Drive!
Saturday - Color Fun Run at the high school, registration at 2:00, race at 3:00, proceeds to benefit The Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Check out these great posted post it notes to help kindergartners with writing! 
  • I enjoyed attending School Committee meeting on Wednesday.  One of our 1st graders, Anya, and one of our 4th graders, Avery, were the winners of the All are Welcome contest.  They shared what they created and were recognized by the superintendent.  Way to go FloRo! 

  • Did you get a chance to stop by the Fine Arts Festival on Thursday?  Every single student had artwork on display.  Thank you to the fine arts staff for putting in so much work and showing off the amazing talent of our students! 

  • A special visitor came to school last week...a giant penguin!  Mrs. McEvoy's class was surprised at their penguin party.  Inside that costume is an awesome mom who willingly sweat it out in that costume! 

Check it out:
Just a few articles and posts that support the idea of not taking away recess:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Is Our School Better?

Principal ponderings...
I was very excited to get this month's copy of Educational Leadership in my mailbox this week because the focus was "Lifting School Leaders."  I was even more excited when I actually found time (translation: I left my house and went to Panera for a few hours of uninterrupted work time) to read through the whole magazine.  Here is what the cover of the magazine looks like:
This magazine could not have come at a better time.  I have to be honest, the last few weeks starting before vacation week until now, have been rather tough.  I have felt beat down.  Some of you have even seen me breaking down, mentally and emotionally.  I definitely don't want that to be how anyone sees me.  But I am human.  And this job is not easy.  So when I saw the cover of this magazine, I was eager to read it.  I needed to be lifted up.  I needed help getting back on my feet.  Warning: this post is about me being open and honest with all who are reading it.

The first article I read immediately got my wheels spinning and helped me to reflect on not only the last few weeks, but this school year, and actually all six of my years at Florence Roche.  The title of the article was "Is Your School Better Because You Lead It?"  Wow.  Reading that title, my immediate response was...I think so? I hope it is?  But I wanted to spend some time and dig deeper about this question and others that were asked in the article.  In the article, the author Baruti Kafele, encourages principals to explore their leadership identity, mission, purpose and vision.  These are all things that I realize now I have been unconsciously exploring this year, especially during the recent search process that I participated in with another school district.  During my exploring, I have learned that I am definitely a different leader than when I became an administrator nine years ago.  I feel like I have grown quite a bit since I have been at our school.  I'd like to think that has been a combination of my own learning and professional development, but I also feel like you, my staff, has had quite a bit to do with that growth.  Through good times and bad times, rewarding situations and difficult situations, you have all helped me grow as a leader.  And you continue to help me grow every day!

When I think about my leadership identity and my mission, I am drawn to something that Simon Sinek, the author of Leaders Eat Last, said: "Leadership is not about being in charge.  It's about taking care of the people in your charge."  I think my leadership identity can be found in that quote.  I do not show up to school each day with the goal of being the boss.  I show up to school each day seeking ways to take care of our staff, our teachers, our parents, and most importantly, I show up each morning with the goal of taking care of all of our students.  My leadership mission is tied into that quote as well.  I have been asked before, what keeps me up at night and what am I doing about it.  Well, what keeps me up, what drives me, is wondering if we are connecting with every single student in our school.  Are we doing what is best for them?  Are we reaching them and do they know that we truly care about them? This is my leadership mission.

Why do I want to make a connection with every student?  The article I read stated the why is my leadership purpose.  My purpose is to have a positive, lasting impact on all of our students.  I want to be part of creating successful members of society.  That is my leadership purpose, that is why I am the principal of Florence Roche.  I have said it before, but we are in the business of molding future minds.  That is a lofty task and an incredible responsibility.  By connecting with our students, by helping them grow into good citizens, we are helping to be change agents.  We are making our world a better place.

The article also discussed the idea of having a vision for my leadership and my school.  I liked that the author asked the question, "How will you improve and become more effective as a leader one year from today?"  Hmm, good question...what will I be like in another year?  I love growing, learning, changing.  I feel like I have improved each year.  It's exciting for me to think about how much better I will be a year from now.  I want to keep getting better at making connections with students.  I want to be able to model that for our staff as well.  I want to be a better instructional leader.  I want to be able to have honest conversations with each staff member, talking about what we need to do for our students, how we need to change and grow in order to help them.  The better I become in that area, the greater the benefit to our students.  Where will Florence Roche be in another year?  Where will we be in another five years?  I need to think more about those questions.  I'm thinking that will need to be a whole new blog post!

The past few weeks, I definitely let doubt creep in.  I let the voices of a few become louder than the voices of the many.  Reading that article and writing this post have helped me find my confidence again.  Is our school better because I lead it?  Yes, Florence Roche School is a better school because I lead it.  I think I need to keep asking myself that question, and continually thinking about my leadership identity, mission, purpose and vision.  And then I will continue to see how my leadership is helping our school, helping our staff and parents, and most importantly, helping our students.

How about if you try it now?  Stop and think: is our school better because you work here?

Currently reading:
I finished reading the Nikki Grimes book about a child in foster care, The Road to Paris.  I just started reading a book I got at the book fair.  I saw the title on the shelf and couldn't resist buying it!  It's called Word of Mouse by James Patterson.
I am still working on Lead Like a Pirate and have been participating in a Voxer book club to discuss the book.  The cool thing is the authors in the book club with us!  And I am excited to participate in a twitter chat about the book this Wednesday night.  Check out #MESPAchat at 8:00 Wednesday, May 10.  Of course I also need to be at the school committee meeting so I will figure out how to do some multi-tasking!

Events this week:
Tuesday - 4th grade math PD in the am, 1st grade math PD in the pm, Groton Fire Dept visiting 3rd grade classrooms
Wednesday - Author Mary DePalma visits 2nd grade, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25, School Committee meeting @ 7:00 - 2 of our students are being recognized for winning the All are Welcome contest
Thursday - Liz giving a tour for the Coordinated Program Review (SPED, ELL and 504) 8:30-9:00, Fine Arts Festival @ MSS from 4:00-8:30 - All of our students have artwork on display at the festival

Great things I noticed last week:

  • While wearing my sight word sticker, I was able to participate in a sight word hunt in kindergarten! 
  • I popped into Mr. Smith's class to see them working on their special American Revolution projects! 

  • This lovely lady came to show me what she made when the Eric Carle Museum program came to visit her classroom! 
  • Can't to learn more about what the Student Council is planning this month!  Excited that we are doing a project to support the Tyler Foundation! 

Check it out:
A post about helping parents understand writer's workshop and suggestions to help parents keep learning going through the summer:
Loved this post about teachers appreciating each other!
My brother recently shared this short film with me.  Watch it!  What an important message for us.  Thinking my reaction to this will be another blog post in the future:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Favorite Day of the Year!

Principal ponderings...

There are many different days during the school year that stand out from the rest of the days, but there is only one day that is my all time favorite day of the year.  My favorite day of the year is Special Olympics Day!  Seeing the faces of our athletes as they come off of the bus is the best feeling in the world.  Watching our entire school cheer and high five their peers as they come off the bus and make their way through the's priceless.

I feel like every year, this event and how the school responds and gets involved with the preparation and celebration gets better and better each year.  This year we had classes making books for their friends.  We had classes participating in the practices with their classmates.  We even had a class watching videos of the events on the day they were happening...the closest thing to live streaming!  And the students in the class were saying how they had coached their friend and look at how awesome he was doing.

The feeling in the building when the whole school gets ready to welcome the athletes's amazing.  I wish I could bottle that feeling up and share it throughout the year.  Maybe it's actually there all year already.  It just happens to come out in full force on Special Olympics day.  I know that it was hard for me to fight back the tears in my eyes as I watched all of our students.  I was so proud of our athletes.  I was proud of our students for showing their friends how much they cared about them.  I was proud of our staff for encouraging all of our students to be good people.  When it comes down to it...that's what we are trying to do isn't it?  We are trying to mold future minds and create amazing human beings.  Human beings who are kind, who care about each other, who celebrate each other and appreciate each other's uniqueness.  I saw a building full of amazing human beings on Friday.  Thank you.

Here are some video clips from my favorite day of the year...

Let's keep the amazingness going for the next 35 days!

Currently reading:
I got some more new picture books!  Let me know if you want to borrow either of these:
A great book about a car ride; reminded me of how often we used to ask my parents...are we there yet?!

One bear follows his dream to play music and learns about the value of friendship
I am also still reading the book Lead Like a Pirate.  This book is packed with ideas for how to make our school amazing!  Have you read the book Teach Like a Pirate?  I have a copy if you want to borrow it.  I also just finished listening to Go Set a Watchman, great audio book to listen to on my drive!

Events this week:
Tuesday - Math PD session in the am for 2nd grade, Math PD session in the pm for 3rd grade, 4th grade canoe trip
Wednesday - 4th grade canoe trip, K chorus practice @ 9:30
Thursday - 4th grade canoe trip, Eric Carle enrichment program for K and 1st, some staff at CPI Refresher
Friday - Eric Carle enrichment program for K and 1st, Dianna and Liz at SLT meeting in the am, Elementary Curriculum Committee meeting 12-3:00
Saturday - Annual Trivia Night at 7:00 at Groton Country Club, sponsored by GDEF

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I just love seeing all these great t-shirts that focus on kindness messages! 
  • 2nd graders were out in the hall working on their forces and motion lab reports. 

  • Kindergarteners earned a zoo day, so this group was building a zoo in the block area! 

Check it out:
Just a short little post to get your wheels spinning about how we can approach discipline in a different way:
A great reminder, 10 Habits of Positive Educators, check out this blog post:

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Different Kind of Countdown

Principal ponderings...

We are in the home stretch.  It always seems like the time after spring break is a fast-paced race to the finish.  We have 40 school days left before summer vacation.  What?!  Only 40 days?!  How did that happen?  I feel like we were all just sitting in the cafeteria before the first day of school, and now suddenly, we are winding down.  I know that around this time everyone starts counting down.  People are making plans for what they will do over summer vacation.  The weather is finally getting nice, and kids and adults begin to stare longingly out the window, daydreaming about summer fun.

But we have 40 days left.  And I am proposing a very different countdown during these 40 days.  I want us to think of all of the amazing things that we get to do with kids over the next 40 days.  Do you have some students who you don't have the best connection with?  Well you have 40 days to work on that connection.  Do you have some students who love math and are eager for new math challenges?  Well you have 40 days to keep that math enthusiasm going and challenge them in new ways.  Do you have students who still need reminders about making the right choices and showing SPARK behavior?  Good news, you have 40 days to help them work on making smarter choices.  Do you have students who are not truly engaged in learning in your classroom.  You have 40 days to make sure that everyone is engaged in the learning going on in your room.

Yes, we are counting down the days.  But we need to make sure we making every single one of these last few days count.  Be sure and check out the staff room each day because I will have a special countdown chart in there with a new message each day for all of us.  Time definitely goes by too fast.  Let's make sure we are capitalizing on every moment that we have with our students.  Amazing learning, amazing experiences have been happening for them in classrooms, on the playground, in the cafeteria.  Let's keep adding to those experiences and interactions all the way until the last bus pulls away on the last day of school.

40 days left to be awesome for kids....starting today!

Currently reading:
I definitely used the break to catch up on some reading!  I was very excited to get some new books in the mail and from the book fair.  Here's a few great picture books that I read and hope to read in some classrooms...
This is the picture book that goes along with the book Wonder!
Love this book, great for growth mindset, positive thinking, etc! It's called Penguin Problems.

I finished reading Snicker of Magic - such a great book!  I loved the language in this book and the characters.  Let me know if you want to borrow a copy.  I am currently reading another Nikki Grimes book.  This one is a short novel called The Road to Paris.  This is a story about a young girl who is in foster care.  The author certainly wrote from experience for this book since she herself was bounced around to many different foster care homes when she was little.

Events this week:
Monday - Welcome back!!
Tuesday - Grade 4 ELA MCAS, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Grade 4 ELA MCAS, several staff attending CPI refresher training at Prescott from 12-3:00, 1st grade Curious Creatures enrichment program in the afternoon
Thursday - Grade 4 ELA MCAS, K math PD session in the AM
Friday - Special Olympics!, Liz and Dianna at SLT in the AM

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had the chance to check out some amazing simple machines in a few of the 4th grade classrooms. 
  • A big thank you to Mrs. Fulreader's middle school son for coming over to help some 4th graders build their simple machines. 
  • I had fun eating lunch with these 2nd graders; we discussed our favorite and not so favorite vegetables! 
  • Loved catching these two 3rd graders in the hall.  One friend was helping another one back from the nurse's office.  Kind kids at FloRo! 
  • Did you see our new office help?  When you are hurt and can't go out for recess...time to fill in as an assistant! 
  • Crafty, creative Kate in the nurse's office definitely put some smiles on faces with these signs! 
  • What do you do when it's Good Friday the day before vacation and we have lots of staff out and not enough subs?!  You bring in the assistant superintendent to be a sub!  Thanks Dr. Novak! (And Karen Gartland and Luke Callahan!) 

Check it out:
A good reminder about the benefits of having a growth mindset in math:
And a great tweet I saw last night...

Also, on Tuesday night I am helping to moderate the #edchatMA twitter chat, all about inclusion.  We are combining with the #coteachat...a whole chat devoted to coteaching.  Even if you are nervous about chiming in...find the #edchatMA hashtag and follow along with the discussion at 8:00 Tuesday night!