Monday, May 21, 2018

Are We Really Listening?

Principal pondering...

I have been reading about the "emotional brain" in a recent National Geographic magazine; and I can't help but think about how the word emotion contains the word motion in it.  Over the past few days we have all experienced a rollercoaster ride of extreme emotions.  On Friday, we learned of yet another school shooting.  And a Washington Post article shared this unsettling statistic: There have been more people killed at schools this year than have been killed while serving in the military.  Across the country, we were all filled with feelings of sadness, anger, uneasiness.

Like most rollercoasters, there are the downs and then very quickly, there are the ups.  On Saturday, tons of people watched as Prince Harry and Princess Meghan got married.  For a little bit, everyone forgot about the sadness, anger, uneasiness of the day before, and people were happy, smiling, and focused on love.  Bishop Michael Curry certainly stirred up some emotional responses from the wedding attendants with his passionate sermon.  It was clear on many of the faces, the British attendees did not quite know what to make of Curry and his emotionally charged sermon on love:

The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way." There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over-sentimentalize it. There's power, power in love.If you don't believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved. Oh there's power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There's a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it - it actually feels right.

I wonder if the people who were present for the ceremony really truly listened to the sermon?  I came across a post from The Washington Post that led me to a man who has spent time focusing on listening to kids across the country.  Here is the post:

He put together a movie based off of interviews that he conducted in schools across the country.  The movie is called "Listen."  I plan on watching it, but in the meantime, I found this Ted talk that Erahm Christopher gave.  It's about half an hour, but it is something that we should all take the time to listen to.  His message is an important one, one that we need to hear.
Mr. Christopher shares in his post and in the Ted talk about where the word "listen" comes from.  The root of the word listen comes from an Old English word, "hylsnan," which means 'to pay attention to.' 

Are we really listening to our children?  Are we really paying attention to them?  Like the bishop said in his sermon, "when someone cares for you and you know actually feels right," Do all of our students feel right because they know that we care about them and are listening to them?  In Mr. Christopher's post, he shares some research about how people communicate.  Our communication relies more on body language than on what we actually say.  Research shows that 55% of the value comes our actions and 38% comes from our sounds, whereas only 7% of the value comes from our actual words.

Will you spend these next few weeks really listening to each of our students?  And will you think about how to teach them the value of listening and how to truly listen to each other?

 Currently reading:
I read some great picture books this weekend.  I love Lester Laminack's new book called The King of Bees.  I bought it at the MRA Conference this year after I heard him do a reading from it.  It is a great story about a boy and his fascination with honeybees.
Another great book that I got at the MRA Conference is called New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer.  This fictional book takes place during the 1950s and paints a picture of the discrimination that African Americans faced.  Love that the author creates two girl characters who don't like that they are not allowed to try on shoes in the store so they create their own store where anyone can try on shoes. I also love that the author inscribed my book with a message to my daughter: "For Emerson, Wishing you new shoes--and justice."
I am also reading a great, quick read.  A principal that I know through social media, Allyson Apsey, wrote a book called The Path to Serendipity.  Here is the blurb on Amazon about the book:

"You get to choose what kind of life you want to live. Every day. But it doesn’t always seem that way. When challenges arise and throw you off course, life can feel frustrating, maddening . . . heartbreaking. Even in those moments, you have the choice to find the gift. Through tragedy and triumph—and even in the many mundane moments in between—life offers love, wisdom, and self-discovery. The best gift of all is the freedom to choose who you want to be and what kind of life you want to live. The Path to Serendipity by education leader Allyson Apsey is a funny, genuine, and clever look at the fortunes we can gain from even our worst experiences. Through her personal, relatable stories, you will learn strategies for living a meaningful life regardless of the craziness happening around you. Don’t miss the gift."

Events this week:
Monday - 4th grade math MCAS
Tuesday - Wendy Lochner will be visiting FloRo to observe co-teaching
Wednesday - Wendy Lochner will be visiting FloRo to observe co-teaching, Elementary Leadership Meeting @ 2:15, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:20
Thursday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo in the afternoon, High School Spring Concert in the PAC @ 7:00 pm
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:
Some sort of bug took over the Garden house so I was out sick and then we had a half day on Friday.  When I looked back over the week...I realized I never took any pictures!  But I can still tell you about some great thingsI noticed.

  • On one of the days, we were short staffed so I was lucky enough to be a substitute in several classrooms.  I was rather impressed with Mrs. Olson's kindergarteners.  They were busy bees working on some math skills that involved addition problems with 10s.
  • On that same day I subbed in Mr. Smith's room for a little bit.  We had an interesting conversation about the Tesla sports car that is orbiting the Earth which we read about in Scholastic News.
  • Mrs. Kavanagh's students invited me into their classroom to share some persuasive letters with me.  They requested everything from a pet alligator for the school to a playground that is twice as big as the one we have.  
  • I was able to help be a 1:1 during a first grade music class and had fun trying out different drums in the music room.  We also followed along with Mr. Wiesner as he led us through the disappearing beats game.
  • I popped into Mrs. Guernsey's class and heard several students reciting some poems that they had practiced reading.  I shared with the class that I studied poetry in college; I promised them that I would come back in and share some of my poems that I have written.
  • Be sure and check out the new furniture in the library!  There is a new couch and some comfy new rocking chairs.  Thanks to the PTA for continuing to support improvements to our library.  
Check it out:

Check out this post by Doreen Rappaport who wrote Martin's Big Words  and Lady Liberty.  Love her discussion about writing biographies and how her goal is to "illuminate the meaning in someone's life."
Love the thought of students talking about and writing their reading memoirs:
A friend of mine who is a principal in Bellingham posted this great reminder about dealing with end of year stress:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Let's Learn From Each Other...Part Two!

Principal pondering...
Can't believe that last day of school is getting closer and closer, but there is still plenty of time to learn something new!  I would still love to highlight some of you in these posts so that everyone can see that we have a lot of built in professional development within our school walls.  If you have been doing something that you want to share, let me know!  Or I may approach you and ask you if I can share your awesomeness with everyone else!

Today, I want to share some more helpful videos/links that Audra, our digital learning coach, has shared with me.  She has created some screencasts and tips for different tech related things.  Many of these videos might come in handy as you are working with your students to wrap up the year and create some final projects.

Here is a screencast video of how to use Google Slides with your own images and png files to tell a story with stop motion:
With end of the year presentations or different final projects, this could be a great way to create some new and different videos with students!  I actually attended a workshop recently at a conference and we learned how to make stop motion videos using iPads and play much fun!

Here is a screencast video that explains the basics of Do Ink to create green screen videos:

Here's a quick video on how to upload pictures or videos on the iPad to Google Drive:

Here's a link to a few screencast videos with iMovie tutorials:

Please be sure and share some of the new skills that you try out!  Or maybe you have something that you are doing and can teach the rest of us!  Let me know so I can highlight you in an upcoming blog post.

Currently reading:
I have started reading a great book that came in the mail recently...Stories From Webb: The Ideas, Passions, and Convictions of a Principal and His School Family.  This book is the next book in the #KidsDeserveIt series.  The author, Todd Nesloney, along with the staff from his school, shares stories of education that we can all relate to.  It is definitely a good book to read during this time of year, certainly a book to reinvigorate educators.

Events this week:
Tuesday - 3rd grade math MCAS
Wednesday - SST Meeting @ 8:00, 3rd grade math MCAS, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20, Staff Meeting @ 3:30 - placement and ordering
Thursday - 4th grade math MCAS
Friday - District half day, 12:15 dismissal, placement work

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 4th graders demonstrated their various art skills while Mrs. Garden subbed as the art teacher. 
  • Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Smith's class had fun mystery Skyping with a national park ranger!  After asking lots of questions, the students figured out that she was from Yosemite National Park! 

  • Mrs. Olson's kindergarteners got to do some collaborative creation activities during Wellness. 

Check it out:
10 Reasons Why We Confer with Readers:
An article from Jo Boaler, how to improve math class:

Monday, May 7, 2018

2-4-6-8-Who Do We Appreciate?!

Principal pondering...

Even though the PTA celebrated staff appreciation week during the week before April vacation, this week is actually officially Teacher Appreciation Week across the country.  It is a little funny to me that we appreciate teachers during a week in May.  First of all, I know how this time of the school year is extremely busy, crazy, stressful.  So maybe it does make sense to show some teacher love.  But I also think...why do we only have a random week in May devoted to teacher appreciation?!  Shouldn't we be appreciating each other all year long? 

Of course, we appreciate our FloRo teachers so much!  Here are some video clips from the hilarious Gerry Brooks.  Hmm, wondering if I should consider some of his gift ideas?

While teacher appreciation is a great time for administration, parents, and students to let you know how much you are appreciated, I think it's also a great time for teachers to let other teachers know how much they appreciate each other.  It's great that we work in a profession where help is just next door or just down the hallway.  I read this post this weekend about teacher mentors:  It is so true that every teacher needs a mentor and every teacher can be a mentor to someone else.  Think about someone who you have mentored or who has mentored you.  Be sure and let that person know how much you appreciate the support and connection.  

In honor of teacher appreciation week, I want to share this short Ted talk with you.  In just six minutes, this chemistry teacher shares what he feels are the 3 rules to spark learning.  Be sure and find a few minutes to watch this clip:  

And just remember...think of all of the students that you have made a difference for and all of the students that you will make a difference in their lives...

Haha, we all know that none of us do just one thing at a time!

Currently reading:
I am still really enjoying listening to Trevor Noah's Born a Crime.  I also read some new picture books that I want to share with you.  Josh Funk has been putting out several new books, and one of his latest is called Albie Newton.  Albie is very smart preschooler who doesn't exactly know the best way to make friends until you see what he creates at the end of the book! 
A perfect read aloud for teacher appreciation week is the one I just read called A Letter to My Teacher.  I student decides to write a letter to her teacher thanking the teacher for understanding who she was and the kind of support she needed.  I love that the character in this book is not an easy kid and it's a girl.  Wait until you see who the character ends up turning into at the end of the book! 

Events this week:
Tuesday - 4th grade canoe trips
Wednesday - 4th grade canoe trips, 3rd grade chorus practice at 2:20
Thursday - 4th grade canoe trips
Friday - 4th grade canoe trips, Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 1st graders in Mrs. Cragg's class were selecting different stations to work on geometry skills. 
  • Mrs. Fournier's class was reviewing their reading behaviors before diving into their independent reading time.  Helpful reminders as we finish the school year strong! 
  • After reviewing reading behaviors, these 3rd graders got right into reading their biographies. 
  • Mrs. Wilkins and her students were talking about using expression and acting out parts of fiction books. 
  • These two 4th graders did an excellent job leading the pledge and presenting to School Committee on Wednesday night!  Way to go Mackenzie and Jack! 
  • Mrs. Pierantozzi's class had fun being reading buddies with Mrs. Kavanagh's class on Friday. 
  • And thanks for a great assembly on Tuesday!  Loved listening to the 4th graders singing that amazing song.  Then I stood in the back of the PAC and cried as I watched the video of our Special Olympics athletes and listened to all of the students cheering for their peers.  And then of course...getting turned into a human ice cream sundae...well that was certainly an unforgettable experience!
Check it out:
An important post for adults to read, all about the behavior we are modeling:
Love this way to get feedback from your students through end of year letters:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Would You Rather, The Education Version

Principal pondering...
I am sure many of you have either heard of or played your own version of the game "Would You Rather?"  I have had a few questions swirling around in my head lately so I thought I would write them out and see what you think of them.  Or maybe it will make you think of your own education related questions as well.

Would you rather spend the next 10 years teaching a class of 45 students knowing that you could have any supplies, tools, technology, resource, basically whatever you needed?
Would you rather know that every class you taught was going to have less than 20 students, but you would not be able to add any supplies, tools, technology, resource to what you currently have?

Not sure which one of these I would pick.  Have a giant class, but all the stuff I could think of?  Sounds tempting.  But then again to always know that I had less than 20 I really need all of the stuff?

Would you rather spend the rest of your time teaching?
Would you rather spend the rest of your time learning?

I think the educator I was several years ago would say that I would rather spend my time teaching.  I did really love teaching.  But I am older, and I would like to think a little wiser now.  And now I would much rather spend the rest of my time learning.  Now, I know that teaching, true teaching, is all about learning.  I want to be constantly learning, and I want to see staff and students constantly learning.  I can teach, but not learn anything.  But when I am learning and modeling learning, then I am also teaching.  (Pretty deep, right?!)

Would you rather have a salary similar to Tom Brady, but never be allowed to collaborate with any other educators ever again?
Would you rather keep your current salary, but have unlimited access to any educator in the world and be able to collaborate with as many different people as you want every single day?

We all know that we certainly never got into education for the money.  And while a salary with that many zeros in it is definitely tempting, I would argue that being able to collaborate with superstar educators from all over the world would be even better compensation.  Call me crazy, but there is just something awesome about being able to benefit from working with like-minded colleagues.

So those are just a few "would you rather" questions that had popped into my head.  I shared my thoughts, but how would you answer the above questions?  Can you come up with your own for this education round of "would you rather?"  I'd love to ponder some of your questions.  Share some in the comments or simply strike up a conversation with another educator.

Currently reading:
I started listening to a new book on Audible.  I am enjoying Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.  He tells the story of his childhood and growing up in South Africa.   Trevor Noah is the one reading the book on listening to his accent!  And so far, it's a sad but interesting story.

Events this week:
Groton Fire Dept Safe House at school all week
Monday - 4th grade ELA MCAS
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 8:00, All School Assembly in the PAC @ 2:30
Wednesday - K and 1st grade have Eric Carle enrichment program, Dr. Chesson attending staff meeting @ 3:30, 4th graders recite the pledge @ School Committee Mtg @ 7:00
Thursday - K and 1st grade have Eric Carle enrichment program, Liz out of the building for MSAA board meeting
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00, Elementary half day, 12:15 dismissal, all teachers meeting at FR for math focus

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Gribi's class became construction workers and the classroom became a work zone the other day while they were building and deconstructing compound words! 
  • I had tons of fun with all of the 1st graders at their field trip to the Ecotarium in Worcester!  We learned about different animals, took a trip through the solar system in the planetarium, and even felt what hurricane force winds feel like! 
  • Be sure and check out the bulletin board leading to the 4th grade wing.  Mrs. Potter and Ms. Schumaker had their students write some great poems about growing up and some of the changes that have happened over the years. 
  • Saturday was a fun day where FloRo took over Fenway Park!  The Red Sox may have lost, but we all had so much fun at the game with our families!  Thank you PTA for organizing this event! 
Check it out:
Check out this post about starting each day with student-centered choices:

Have you heard this new song by Jason Mraz?  Definitely an inspirational song that I have a feeling will be used in many end of the year videos and graduations!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

One Day or Day One?

Principal pondering...
Over the break, I was out driving and I passed a sign outside a business that caught my attention.  It said, "One day or day one?"  It was one of those moments where I read it, tucked it in my brain, and continued driving, not really thinking about it.  Then, after I had finished my errands, and I was driving home, that phrase popped back into my head.  And I started to really think about the message behind it.

We have 42 days of school left.  It's easy to get stuck in the mindset of counting down until the last day of school, and talking about things you will do differently next year or things that you have not been able to get to this year.  That would be taking the "one day" approach.  Let's not get ourselves into the mindset of thinking that one day I will try out that new idea or one day I will plan my lesson differently.

We have 42 days of school left.  Let's go with the mindset that this is "day one."  Instead of thinking about what you will do differently next year or try out one day in the future, let's say that it's day one. Start now.  Don't wait.  Don't put off making a change for your students.  Don't put off trying out new technology because you want to learn more about it one day.  Today is day one.  What if we treat every one of the last 42 days as day one?  Think of the difference you can make for your students.  Start each of these 42 days with the enthusiasm and excitement of day one.  Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today.  Don't put off for next year what you can do this year.

And this mindset is not just for your teaching and your work with all of our students.  What's something personally that you have put off for later or have said "one day" I will do that.  I know for me, I kept telling myself that one day I would get back into my morning routine of going to workout. It was vacation week and I certainly would have liked to have slept in.   But instead of saying "one day," I decided to make it "day one" of getting back into my morning routine.  What is something that  you want to do and need to shift your mindset to "day one" thinking?  What are you waiting for?  Stop waiting for one day and make today day one!

One day or day one, which will you choose?

Currently reading:
During vacation week, I enjoyed reading and listening to several books.  How about you?  Did you get to spend some time reading?  During my morning sessions at the gym, I listened to the book Refugee on Audible.  This book is certainly interesting as it tells three different stories of three different children who are refugees during different times in history and from different countries.
I read a book that a principal friend of mine wrote called Be The One For Kids.  It's a quick read and gives some great reminders of how we can continue to always put kids first.  The author, Ryan Sheehy, is a principal in California who I have connected with through social media; we co-moderate a Twitter chat once a month for NAESP, #NAESPchat. 
I am in a Voxer book study and we just started reading the book Visible Learning for Literacy.  It's a pretty dense read, but I know the weekly discussions will keep me going.  And when John Hattie is one of the authors then you know it's going to be a worthwhile read. 

Events this week:
Monday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo in the am, Elem Leadership Meeting @ 2:15, Staff yoga @ 3:30
Tuesday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS
Wednesday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS, Grade 2 Life Cycle Enrichment program, kindergarten chorus @ 2:20
Thursday - 4th grade ELA MCAS, 1st grade field trip to the Ecotarium
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT from 8:30-11:00, District half day, 12:15 dismissal, K-2 Math, 3-4 ELA, Special Olympics!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I enjoyed presenting at the MRA Conference and attending some great sessions.  Several FloRo staff attended as well and I know they are looking forward to sharing their learning with the rest of us! 

  • These K friends wrote a how to book about winning the golden tray.  Hmmm...I am thinking we might need to share this story with some of our older grades! 
  • Thanks to the PTA for showering the staff with appreciation all week!  So many great treats.  And I loved getting this special cookie from a student...
  • I popped into Mrs. Devereaux's class and listened to students sharing "tag" words that they found in their reading and could then go add into their writing. 
  • Mrs. Wenz's 2nd graders shared some amazing beginning paragraphs for their writing...they really hooked me in and had me wanting to read more! 

  • Mrs. Cragg's class was having some fun collaborating on some STEM kits when I popped into their room! 

  • On Friday night, I was excited to start vacation week by picking up Adam Welcome, the co-author of Kids Deserve It, from the airport and take him to dinner in the North End with some fellow MA principals.  Adam was in town to run the marathon on the horrible, cold, wet Monday.  It was great to talk all things education with him and some of my principal friends! 

Check it out:
Some info about Earth Day for you:

Since I started this post with a saying from a billboard, here are a few more inspirational billboards for you...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Let's Learn From Each Other!

Principal ponderings...
I know that the end of the year race is starting to kick into high gear, but there is still plenty of time to learn something new!  I would love to highlight some of you in these posts so that everyone can see that we have a lot of built in professional development within our school walls.  If you have been doing something that you want to share, let me know!  Or I may approach you and ask you if I can share your awesomeness with everyone else!

Today, I want to share some helpful videos/links that Audra, our digital learning coach, has shared with me.  She has created some screencasts and tips for different tech related things.

Here is a screencast video of how to use the arrange tools to align text boxes and create columns:

Here is a screencast video of how to use the find feature to search for keywords on a website:

Here is a screencast video of how to use the advanced image search to filter your results.  Exclude copyrighted works or include specific images only, e.g. clipart, transparent backgrounds, etc.:

And one more for now!  Here is a screencast video of how to create hyperlinks within an existing Google Slide for table of contents or as you wish:

Have fun learning something new and let me know what you want to share with your colleagues!

Currently reading:
As usual, I have quite a few books going at once.  Looking forward to the vacation week where I hope to spend a chunk of time reading.  I know several of you took books from our book tasting event.  Are you enjoying the book that you selected?  A great new picture book that I read was called It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk.  Josh Funk, a local author, put out another great book!  In the book Jack and the other characters end up having a dialogue with the narrator where they argue about why certain parts of the book are happening.  I think kids will be laughing out loud with this book!
A friend of mine just released a book called Hacking Early Learning.  Jessica Cabeen is a principal of an all K building in Minnesota, but we have connected through social media and met up at conferences.  She sent me her manuscript online and asked me to read and review it on Amazon.  I started to dive into it this weekend; it's good common sense about our youngest learners.  I'm glad someone finally wrote this book! b
I am so excited that this book arrived in my Amazon box Saturday morning!  You know my love of books and I couldn't wait to get my hands on It's All About the Books: How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries that Inspire Readers.  Tons of great pictures, ideas, book lists, and resources in this book! 
Events this week:
The PTA will be celebrating all of you this week for Teacher Appreciation Week!  Enjoy the goodies in the staff room throughout the week!
Monday - Liz and staff at MRA Conference, PTA Meeting in the cafeteria to discuss principal search with Dr. Chesson @ 6:00
Tuesday- Liz and staff at MRA Conference
Wednesday- 3rd grade chorus @ 2:20, Grade 4 presentation about canoe trip in the PAC from 1:30-3:00, Elementary Curriculum Committee Meeting from 3:30-5:00
Friday- Enjoy your Spring Break!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Caught this reader really into his book! 
  • I received some amazing persuasive letters from Mts. Potter's class including this gem: 
  • You might have seen me walking around with this lady.  Her name is Courtney Jones and she is a principal of an elementary school in VA.  We have been connected through Voxer and the Moms As Principals group.  Small world...her father lives in Groton and they were up visiting so she surprised me and came to see FloRo! 
  • When I took Courtney around, we happened to walk into this K lesson about how to make a pizza!  Complete with Mrs. Taylor's awesome pizza hat! 
  • These young ladies were so proud of their writing.  I had them come in and interrupt a meeting to share.  They had collaborated and written a book on how to make a fairy house. 
  • Caught these 3rd graders all diving into their reading...if you squint you can imagine them all at the beach reading in their chairs! 
  • I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Leading the Nation event at the State House on Thursday.  I witnessed the swearing in of the new Commissioner of Education for MA, Jeff Riley. 

Check it out:
Here is a quick video from Saturday's Science Showcase!