Monday, November 20, 2017

A Little Note of Thanks

Principal ponderings...

Saturday morning, I was excited to be one of the lucky ticket holders to see the movie "Wonder" thanks to Scott and Kate Middlemiss and their organization, The Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation.  Emerson and I had fun having mommy/daughter time even though she was mainly there for the popcorn.  She was excited to see some Star Wars characters in the movie, and she did keep asking me why she heard people crying.  Yep, bring the tissues when you go to see it.

With the movie "Wonder" and Thanksgiving break this week, it is certainly the time when we are all thinking even more about being grateful and being kind.  Many of you have expressed your gratitude to me either through spoken words or through written words.  And I try to let you know how grateful I am for all of you and everything you do for our students.  Many of you have done random acts of kindness for me, and I have tried to do the same for you.

This week, since it's a short week, I am writing a short and simple post.  But I am hoping my short post will have a big impact.  For this post to work, I will need your help.  I am going to be placing a whole bunch of note cards in the staff room and in the office.  I am asking you to take a few minutes to write out a note to a friend, a family member, a student's parent, or one of your awesome colleagues.  A simple little note of thanks and appreciation can mean so much to the people in our lives.  Your act of kindness can have a ripple affect.  Maybe if you write a note to someone, they will pay it forward and do the same for someone else.

You get what you give.  If you give out kindness and appreciation, I guarantee it will come back to you tenfold.

Who will be the lucky person to get a note of appreciation from you today?

Currently reading:
In preparation for our December author visit, I read a few of Melissa Stewart's non fiction picture books.  I will be giving different titles to grade level teams to read to their classes before Melissa's visit on Dec. 7 and 8.  Here are some of the titles that I read this weekend:

Events this week:
Tuesday - Dr. Chesson visits in the afternoon
Wednesday - Half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served
Thursday - Happy Thanksgiving! No School
Friday - Thanksgiving break, no school

Great things I noticed last week:

  • This 3rd grader found just the right spot to dive into his book. 
  • Kindergartners were working on reading their sight words while moving around and finding their match. 
  • Thank you Nurse Natalie for your wonderful poem and information about nurse visits! 
  • These 3rd graders were discussing and showing their math thinking in order to solve some tricky problems. 
  • MakerSpace is quite an exciting place to be when you get to deconstruct all sorts of things.  I can't wait to see what the students create when they use all the materials they have discovered! 
Check it out:
I follow lots of blogs and get daily email updates from many sites, but one of my long time favorites is Two Writing Teachers.  Recently, they did a series of posts about homework.  Here is one post from the series to check out or you can go to their site and read all four posts that they did:

I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving break and spend quality time with family, relaxing and recharging, ready to come back on Monday and do great things for kids!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Is there a hole in the bucket?!

Principal ponderings...

Do you know that song about the hole in the bucket...dear Liza, dear Liza?  And now you probably have it stuck in your head.  You're welcome and I'm sorry.  For some reason that popped into my head when I was trying to decide what to write about this week.  Last week, kindergarteners were talking about being bucket fillers.  You know what a bucket filler is right?  When we do kind things to each other, we are filling buckets. But these days, considering what is going on with people all over the world, it seems as if there are holes in our buckets.  We need more and more bucket filling to happen to keep our buckets from draining out.

Today, November 13, is World Kindness Day.  What better day than today to make sure that we are trying to plug up the holes in everyone's buckets.  What can we be doing to fill our students' buckets?  What can we be doing to fill each other's buckets?  What can we be doing to fill our students' family buckets?  What can we do to fill our own buckets?  There is a lot of bucket filling that needs to be happening.  Here and all over the world. 

But let's start here first.  If we start with filling buckets for our school and community...just maybe we can spread out to the rest of the world.  Check out this video that shows the ripple effect that one act of kindness can start:

Did you know that there are several organizations that are all about bucket filling and acts of kindness?  Here is one site that has several blog posts about kindness:
And locally, many of you know Scott and Kate Middlemiss and their organization and message of "All You Need is Love":

This week, we start off with World Kindness Day and then end the week with the opening of the movie "Wonder," based off of the amazing book by RJ Palacio.  And then next week we have time to spend with our families where we will stop and think about what we are thankful for.  So these next two weeks are certainly optimal bucket filling weeks. 

How will you fill someone's bucket?
How will you feel when you fill someone's bucket?
How will you will your own bucket?
How will you let other's fill your bucket?

That song that is still stuck in my head...the one about the hole in the bucket...I can't help but think of it and feel this sense of urgency.  We need to fill buckets.  We need to plug the holes that keep forming in our buckets.  And yes, we need to do this especially on World Kindness Day.  But we need to also remember to fill buckets on every other day of the year too.

I know all of you will do acts of kindness today for World Kindness Day.  

But the question is...will you promise to do them when it's not World Kindness Day?

Currently reading:
I am still really enjoying listening to The Gift of Failure on Audible during my commute.  But I just added two new books to my audio book collection and plan on mixing it up during my drive.  The first book has been recommended by a few of my principal friends.  It's called The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact
The other book that I downloaded and have started listening to is called When Breath Becomes Air.  I picked this book up in a bookstore recently but then put it back down because I have too many books in my house that I need to read first.  But that doesn't mean I can't listen to it on my commute!  I know this is going to be tear jerker because it's a memoir about a doctor who battles stage IV lung cancer.

Events this week:
Monday - Elementary Curriculum Leadership Mtg @ 2:45
Tuesday - 4th grade Around Town Geology Field Trip
Wednesday - SST meeting at 8:45, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Grade 2 Peacock Players field trip
Friday - Half day, 12:15 dismissal, parent conferences

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I listened in to a quick video and conversation with Ms. Kinneen about what it means to show good sportsmanship.  The 3rd graders shared many examples of how to demonstrate these important social skills. 
  • I was lucky enough to be the one helping cover part of a kindergarten wellness class.  The students were talking about what it meant to be a bucket filler and then we all practiced giving each other specific compliments.  When there was a little time at the end, they got to color in a bucket filler page, announcing that they were all bucket fillers! 
  • I was excited to get an invite into Mrs. Wilkins' 1st grade classroom where the students were sharing their published stories with each other.  They were complimenting each other about how they were unfreezing characters, writing great blurbs, using pop out words, and adding in speech bubbles in their illustrations. 
  • Have you had a chance to peek into MakerSpace?  The students are starting a unit all about deconstruction.  Looks like some intense work about to happen.  Can't wait to see how they repurpose the materials into something totally new. 
  • After school one day, I got to watch Mrs. Wallace do her teaching thing, working with 4th grade teachers to practice organizing their Google drive folders. 
  • Thursday afternoon and evening was filled with lots of parent conferences.  I brought along my "assistant" and she found a coloring friend who was waiting patiently for her parents.  Thanks to the PTA for feeding everyone during the evening!

Check it out:
I know I have shared some posts before and written my own, but here is another recent post about rethinking things like clip charts, marble jars and stickers for behavior:
And who is excited about the movie "Wonder" coming out at the end of the week?!

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Picture Book is Worth a Thousand Words!

Principal ponderings...
You know how the saying goes?  A picture book is worth a thousand words!  Ok, maybe it's supposed to be a picture is worth a thousand words, but November is Picture Book Month so I figured the saying needed an update!  

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative.  It's a month to celebrate print picture books.  I feel like there is nothing quite like being able to turn the pages of a beautiful picture book, reading aloud to a classroom of students, and sharing an awesome story with kids and adults.

In honor of Picture Book Month, here are some great picture books from 2017.  Have you read these?  Do you own any of these books?  I'm thinking I need to add some to my Amazon cart!

This is the sequel to Josh Funk's awesome book, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast.  The characters in the fridge need to solve a smelly mystery.

This is a book about overcoming your fears where a little boy prepares to jump off of the diving board.  Luckily, he has his patient daddy there to support him.

I have this book in my office.  The title certainly reminds me of lots of family trips! This is quite an inventive book that you even have to turn upside down to read a few pages.  

Here's a great poetry picture book all about the different seasons.

This non fiction picture book makes me hungry!  It's the story of Hanson Gregory, the guy who basically invented the donut.

Hopefully you will use Picture Book Month to share some new picture books with your students, whether they are kindergarteners or 4th graders. Everyone loves a good picture book!

Currently reading:
I am still enjoying reading The War I Finally Won.  I need to finish it since I know many 4th graders are reading the MCBA books The War That Saved My Life and will want to read the sequel.  I also want to reread the book Wonder.  Such an amazing book, and I can't wait to see the movie when it comes out!  If you have not read it yet...what are you waiting for?
I am also reading a new professional development book and writing a review for Principal magazine.  Looking forward to this book: When Writers Drive the Workshop: Honoring Young Voices and Bold Choices. 

Events this week:
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 8:00 am, 4th grade Lowell Mills field trip
Wednesday - 4th grade Lowell Mills field trip
Thursday - Half day of school, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, evening parent conferences
Friday - Veterans Day, No School

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had fun subbing for Mrs. Nissi while she was in a meeting.  The 4th graders were choosing different ways to read and write about the Industrial Revolution.  Can't wait to hear how their trip to Lowell Mills goes this week! 
  • I enjoyed taking a walk with everyone for our staff meeting.  Thanks to Officer Mead for reviewing safety evacuation plans.  I also enjoyed walking through classrooms to notice and wonder about the different environments. 
  • We filled another SPARK Wall of Fame last week!  Do you know we have had over 800 positive office visits?!  We got some new spirit sticks in for backpacks.  Can't wait to see more students demonstrating SPARK behavior. 
  • On Thursday, I took 5 teachers to visit Ruggles Lane School in Barre and meet with their teachers to talk about WINN - What I Need Now - Block.  They were also able to ask us about Eureka since they are piloting that program.  Can't wait to visit other schools and continue to bring back new learning for teachers!  Ruggles Lane will be visiting us the week after Thanksgiving to observe our math instruction. 

Check it out:
Here is a site dedicated to picture book month:
And here is a teacher resource download for picture book month:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Parent Teacher Conference Tips from Disney Princesses

Principal ponderings...
It's almost parent teacher conference time.  I know that some of you have already had some conferences with your parents, but next week, we have our first official parent teacher conference time, and I wanted to offer some suggestions as you get ready for those meetings.  I am by no means an expert, but I have been part of many conferences, and I have some tips for us all to think about.  Maybe because we went to Disney on Ice on Sunday or maybe because my house has been taken over by Disney princesses or maybe because my daughter wears a different Disney princess outfit each day...whatever the reason, I decided to pull my parent teacher conference tips from Disney movies.  Enjoy!

Tip #1: A strong family bond makes life that much sweeter.  In our case...a strong home school connection is key!
Of course, coming from a larger family, I know that sometimes we did not all see eye to eye.  But I don't know what I would do without each of my family members.  We need each other...through all of the ups and downs in life.  It's the same when you think about the home school bond that we have to work to develop with each family.  There are times when you as the teacher might not agree with the parent.  And there are times when the parents might not agree with you.  But our students need us to always work at working together.  When you are conducting parent conferences, always try to remember that a strong home school connection is the foundation that will help move students forward.

Tip #2: Don't judge a book by its cover and if you do, have the courage to change your mind.
Sometimes we are quick to judge people.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  Sometimes a parent sends you an email or makes a comment about something you have done as a teacher.  And you begin to formulate an opinion about that parent.  Or maybe the teacher the year before had a tough relationship with the parents, and you assume that you will have the same problems.  Or maybe you have a working parent who shows up late to the conference or not at all.  As hard as it might be, try to set aside your assumptions, your judgments, your already formed ideas about how the conference will go.  No matter what interactions you have already had or not had, these are parents who are trusting you with their most prized possessions, their children.  If you wrongly judged them or if they wrongly judged you, it's never too late to start fresh.  We can all learn from Belle to look beyond what we can see on the surface.  During conferences, we need to give parents a chance to show us what they are thinking and feeling about their child's education, and we need to be able to show them more than just what they see or hear about us as educators.

Tip #3: Never stop learning.
Of course we are in the business of education so this seems like a no-brainer.  We never stop learning and talking about learning.  But I think it's important to remember this tip during parent conferences.  Just like Ariel, we need to always be willing to "ask 'em my questions and get some answers."  When you are meeting with parents, this is a chance to learn more about your students.  You will grow as an educator by asking questions.  You will help your students grow even more by asking questions and getting the parents to think about the types of questions they should be asking about their child as a learner.  You could show them some of their child's work, and then ask, "I wonder why she chose to solve the problem this way, do you know why?"  Or ask a parent about what his child likes to read and what he thinks the child is thinking about while reading.  I certainly don't mean that you want to grill the parents with questions.  I think you can use questioning and wondering to guide the conversation with parents.  They might have some good questions for you.  Write their questions down and see if you can use those questions to look at your student in a different light.

Tip #4: Comfort zones were meant to be stepped out of...don't let your fear guide you or trap you.
I remember that nervous feeling before I met with parents.  I thought if I just stick to the script, tell them a few facts, show them some work, and hope they don't ask me something I can't answer...then I will be able to get through these conferences quickly.  I challenge you to not do what I did; I challenge you to break from the script.  Each of your students are different, and each of their parents are different as well.  Don't be afraid to have very different conferences based on the student that you are discussing.  If you are in the mode of sticking to a script, chances are, the conference won't be effective for you or the parents.  And then when the parent throws you a curveball question or comment, you won't be prepared because it wasn't in your notes.  Plus, don't we say that in order for your brain to truly be learning new information, we need to be presented with struggles and challenges?  Approach conference time as a time when you are going to stretch that brain of yours!  

Tip #5: Try to imagine walking in someone else's footsteps.
Pocahontas had to learn a lot about John Smith and the strangers that sailed to her land.  John Smith had to learn a lot about Pocahontas and her people.  You have the perspective of the classroom and your students through your eyes.  Parents have the perspective of your classroom and their child through their eyes.  We need to try to imagine walking in each other's shoes.  If you can think about what the parent's perspective is going to be, it might help you get whatever message you want to get across.  Plus, seeing things from the parent's view can be a learning opportunity and can help you connect with parents and students.

Bonus tip: Don't let time get away from you!  
There never seems to be enough time for each parent conference.  Try to be strategic about planning out what you discuss and what you share with parents.  Don't be like Cinderella and forget what time it is!  You don't want to end your parent conference in a rush and then realize you forgot to share important information.  Plus, you don't want your car to turn into a pumpkin or your conference outfit to turn back into rags. 

Clearly I need to stop watching Disney movies and find a room in my house that doesn't have a princess in it.  But hopefully you can take something away from these tips, and get ready to have some efficient, thought-provoking, productive parent conferences.  When we connect with parents, the results for our students is magical!

Currently reading:
I started reading the sequel to The War That Saved My Life.  It's called The War I Finally Won.  This historical fiction book is the conclusion of Kimberley Brubaker Bradley's story of Ada and Jamie, two children experiencing World War II.  I loved the first book so much; hoping her second one is just as good!
I bought a new book that I love!  It's called Life Without Blinders is Beautiful.  Here's what the jacket cover says: "an inspiring, thought-provoking invitation to step out of the darkness and discover the abundant beauty hidden in this crazy, messy, wonderful world."  It is a simple, yet beautiful book to read, and I think it could be provide some inspiration for writing.  Here are some examples of the layout of the book:
Would life's darkest days be an invitation to dance in the rain?
Could what ties us down
Could what ties us down be what keeps us up?
Events this week:
Tuesday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo from 9:30-12
Wednesday -  Kindergarten chorus time @ 2:20, Staff Meeting from 3:30-4:30
Thursday - Teacher Field Trip to Ruggles Lane to observe WIN block in action
Friday - Kindergarten Nashua River Fall Enrichment program, Gift of Failure book club meeting @ 8:20 in Laurie and Angela's room

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I love this sign that Mrs. Kinneen posted on the door to the gym!
  • On Monday and Tuesday, I attended and presented at the Literacy for All conference in Rhode Island.  I heard some great speakers, including Stephanie Harvey, who talked about the best intervention being a good book...yes! 
  • Mr. Wiesner got 1st graders to do some acting while singing during music class.  The little old lady was very convincing! 

  • I did not get to make it around to see all of the costumes, but I caught some great book character costumes being worn by students and staff! 
  • Did you see Mrs. Fournier's display of her students' hopes and dreams?  They read the book Happy Dreamer and talked about what their hopes and dreams were.  Head down to the end of the 3rd grade hallway and check the rest out! 

Check it out:
Some other posts about parent teacher conferences:
And of course this video clip might put a smile on your face...