Monday, June 12, 2017

Looking in the Rearview Mirror

Principal ponderings...
We have made it to the last full week of school!  There was a lot of work, a lot of struggle, a lot of new ideas, a lot of successes.  It's important to take some time to think back over the year and reflect.  As the image above says, right now, if we take time to look back, this year is fresh in our minds.  It's "closer" to us right now.  If we wait until August to think back on the year, we will most likely forget parts.  Here are a few questions and reflection prompts to get you thinking about the year, to help you look in the rearview mirror.

Reflecting on the 2016-2017 school year, I am proud of...

2 ideas/new learning/experiences I will take with me into next year are...

Something I wish I had done differently...

Ways that I have grown professionally this year...

Now see if you can picture a particular student for each of these prompts, and think of what you learned or how you will grow as an educator as a result of your interactions:
Think of a student that challenged you...

Think of a student that made you proud...

Think of a student that you felt lucky to teach...

Think of a student that made you better...

Think of a student that you will miss...

This year our theme was #bringthejoy.  So as you look through the rearview mirror, do you see moments of joy that happened throughout the school year?  What brought you joy this year?  How will you continue to bring the joy next year? 

I really do enjoy these last few days, thinking back over all that has been accomplished.  Thinking about where we all were on the first day and how we have gotten to this point right now.  I also think about what did not work and what are ways to make changes for next year.  I like to think about all the new innovative experiences that our students had and how we will have even more new and innovative experiences next year.  And I am looking forward to growing myself professionally even more this summer, taking time to read, write, connect and reflect.

Once you are done reflecting on the year, be sure and think ahead to this summer.  How do you plan to be mindful over the summer break and rejuvenate yourself?

Currently reading:
I am so close to having more time for more week and I will be tackling my piles!  In the meantime, I have read a few blog posts, like this one from Donalyn Miller:
And here is a document containing the 2017 choices for reading lists in case you are looking for some suggestions:

Events this week:
Monday - Meet the Teacher night for new K students, 3:30-4:00
Tuesday - 3rd grade library trip, ELL Dinner at MSS Cafeteria 5:30-7:00
Wednesday - GDEA Social and Retiree Recognition 4:00-5:00 at The Tavern
Thursday - 4th grade Moving Up Ceremony @ 9:30 in the PAC
Friday - Field Day! End of the Year Party at Maureen's house

Monday - Last day of school!  9:30 Assembly in the PAC, 10:30 Step Up to new classrooms, 12:15 dismissal
Happy Summer!!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Kindness Ninjas are leaving notes all over the school! 

  • Mr. Wiesner had students and staff dancing in the aisles at the 3rd grade concert!

  • Mr. Rider's class and Mrs. Wenz's class put on a fabulous performance of The Three Little Pigs.
  • Our first SU/FR 4th grade mixer was a huge success!!  Thanks to the PTA and the SU APT for organizing this fun event.  The 4th graders were able to mix and meet friends that they will in class with next year at the middle school!

  • The 3rd grade concert was hopping on Thursday night! 
  • Students had the chance to check out lots of creative projects completed by some of our 3rd graders. 

Check it out:
A teacher's plan to keep writing over the summer:
Questions to help you reflect on writer's workshop:
And this might put a smile on your face...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Beaches, BBQs, and Books!

Principal ponderings...
Summer vacation is so close.  Only a few more weeks and everyone will be off enjoying time with their families, relaxing, having backyard BBQs, maybe traveling to a nearby beach.  And there will be lots of time to read!  I don't know about you, but for me, summer means I actually have time to sit and read a book while dipping my toes in the pool or sitting in a lawn chair next to a campfire.  In preparation for my favorite summer activity, I have been gathering quite a to be read pile.  Some of the books are professional development books.  Some of them are children's lit or young adult books.  And some are simply for pleasure reading.  I thought I would share some of the books I plan to read this summer...

Start. Right. Now. : Teach and Lead for Excellence by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul, and Jimmy Casas
I just love how this book is broken down into 4 key focus points...excellent leaders and teachers know the way, show the way, go the way and grow each day.  I wish I could start this book right now but it will have to wait a few more weeks.

Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing by Ralph Fletcher
Considering the fact that our theme this year was #bringthejoy, I love that the back cover of this book says "Want to help writers grow?  Then bring the joy!"  Yes, so looking forward to getting lots of ideas from this quick read.

The Enemies of Excellence: 7 Reasons Why We Sabotage Success by Greg Salciccioli
This book was one I heard about on an educational podcast I listened too and I of course ordered it right away.  It's a quick read, but one that offers advice for leaders to not fall into the traps that many in leadership roles fall into.

The Coach Approach to School Leadership by Jessica Johnson, Shira Leibowitz, and Kathy Perret
I am very excited that this book should be arriving in my mailbox any day now.  Looking forward to reading this over the summer and chatting with one of the authors, Jessica Johnson, since she is someone I am connected to through Voxer!

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
I have heard great reviews about this book.  Although I also know that this is a book that I might need to read with a box of tissues.

wishtree by Katherine Applegate
So this book is not available until September, but I figure I will put it out into the universe that I want to read it and maybe somehow it will come to me this summer! You clearly can't go wrong with a book from the author of The One and Only Ivan.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book is a must read for me this summer.  It addresses current issues such as racism and police violence.

Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Since Amy recently passed away, I have been buying up all of the books she has written.  I am looking forward to finishing this book which is a quirky take on a memoir.  It's full of all different observations of life and shares ordinary and extraordinary ways we are all connected.

What's on your summer reading list?

Currently reading:
Since I just spent time sharing some of my summer reading list above, I am not going to add anymore in this section.  But I will share a link for the MCBA books for next year because you know I will be adding some of those to my list as well!  Fortunately, some of them I have already read.  If you have not read Fish in a Tree yet...get busy!
I also plan to re-read Wonder this summer with the movie coming out in November.

Events for the rest of the year:
**I am probably missing some events, let me know and I will add them!  Also, just a reminder that we have Dianna Fulreader, Laura Taylor, and Kristen Kinneen chaperoning the DC trip so we will have Ivy Mitchell subbing in K and Sue Hilbrenner subbing in gym from Tuesday to Friday.

Monday - Grade 3 rehearsal in the PAC @ 9:30-11:00, Crowley/Green field trip to Williams Barn in the afternoon
Tuesday - 3rd grade school show @ 9:30 in the PAC, 4th grade mixer with SU on the back field from 10:30-1:00, Liz @ Crisis Team Meeting 1:00-3:00, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Liz @ DESE Meeting from 9:30-12:00, K chorus practice @ 9:30, 8th graders reading to 1st graders at 9:10, 4th grade library trip @ 10:30, 3rd grade Williams Barn trip, Final staff meeting of the year from 3:30-4:30, Retirement Party 4:30-7:30 @ Salt and Light
Thursday - Middle School principal visiting 4th grade during lunch, 3rd grade concert @ 7:00
Friday - Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, 1 hour will be reflection on multi-part and 2 hours will be math discussion

Monday - Meet the Teacher night for new K students, 4:00-4:30
Tuesday - 3rd grade library trip
Thursday - 4th grade Moving Up Ceremony @ 9:30 in the PAC
Friday - Field Day! End of the Year Party at Maureen's house

Monday - Last day of school!  9:30 Assembly in the PAC, 10:30 Step Up to new classrooms, 12:15 dismissal
Happy Summer!!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Always love when I have visitors to my office!  This 1st grader was super proud of the work he had done. 

  • Kindergartners were having way too much fun finding all sorts of bugs and other things in the river water.  They enjoyed the enrichment program from the Nashua River Watershed Association!
  • The FloRo Movie Night was a great success!  Families came prepared with chairs, blankets and snacks, and everyone seemed to enjoy watching Sing! 
  • And of course I love this shirt that this 4th grader was wearing during extra recess!  I need it in my size! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Letter to Grown Ups

Principal ponderings...

Dear Grown-ups,

I know that usually you are telling us kids about being kind to each other.  You are always trying to remind us about how our words can hurt.  Grown ups are always telling us kids about how we need to think about what we say before we say it.

Sometimes, I think the grown ups need to hear the same reminders that they give us kids.

Grown ups use words that hurt.  Grown ups sometimes are not kind to each other.  And we are watching you.  We are learning from you all the time.  Even when you are not teaching us.  Maybe you should take your own advice and remember that whether you are speaking to someone face-to-face or posting to Facebook or tweeting or writing an email...your words impact others.  Your words can bring someone down or they can lift someone up.  Choose wisely.

You probably grew up hearing that phrase "stick and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."  That's not true.  Words can hurt.  Words have hurt me before.

Hey grown ups...have you ever read the book Wonder?  It's coming out as a movie in November so you still have time to read it.  Go read it if you have not yet.  And reread it if you have already read it.  In the book, one of the characters says, "Jack, sometimes you don't have to be mean to hurt someone."  That makes me think of that phrase about sticks and stones.  You don't have to use sticks and stones to hurt someone.  Grown ups need to remember that their words can hurt.

One of the best quotes from Wonder says that we need to be "kinder than is necessary.  Because it's not enough to be kind.  One should be kinder than needed."

So what do you say grown ups?  You can go back to teaching me about how to be a better kid so that eventually I will grow up to be a better grown up.  But first, maybe stop and think about how you can be kinder than is necessary with your words.  Go lift someone else up with your words.  Use your words to inspire.  Me and all the other kids are watching and learning from you.


A Kid (who is really a grown up who is really just a kid at heart!)

Currently reading:
I have not had much time to read lately, but I still try to sneak in some reading minutes here and there.  I am almost done with Word of Mouse by James Patterson.  The chapters are short and really quick reads.  Love the vocabulary he mixes into the story! 
I am also enjoying laughing out loud while reading I Heart My Little A-Holes.  This book was written by a woman who originally just started blogging and sharing funny stories about being a parent.  She put all the posts together and made it into this book.  A principal friend of mine from Illinois surprised me by sending me this book.  It has definitely helped put a smile on my face when I needed it!

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Memorial Day!  No school
Tuesday - Kindergarten Screening all day at Prescott gym
Wednesday - Kindergarten screening all day at Prescott gym, Bubbleology Enrichment program for 1st grade in the afternoon, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:25, 4th graders reciting pledge at School Committee meeting 7:00 @ the HS
Thursday - 4th grade library trip
Friday -  Liz and Dianna at SLT in the am, 4th grade library trip, new superintendent visits FloRo 12:30-1:30, FloRo Family Movie Night @ 6:30!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Avery, one of our 4th graders, was the lucky winner of the All are Welcome contest.  She won a pizza party for her class and they all got to watch a movie while munching on pizza! 
  • I am still smiling about the awesome assembly last Thursday!  I love how excited students and teachers were during and after the assembly!  I can't wait to see how we crush the challenge of completing 5,000 acts of kindness over the last 15 days of school.  

Check it out:

A kindness video for teachers:
I shared this video in Mrs. Roundtree's class last week when we had a discussion about how words can hurt.  It was created by a 4th grader which makes it even cooler to share with kids!
This awesome principal and author of Kids Deserve It happened to post a similar post to mine so I wanted to share it with all of you: 

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: