Monday, September 18, 2017

Ex-SEL-ing in Social Emotional Learning

Principal ponderings...

Last year and over the summer, I spent some time reading and attending conferences focusing on social emotional learning since that is a district focus this year.  And as we discussed during our beginning of the year staff meeting, connecting with kids and teaching them with the social emotional competencies in mind is just as important, if not more, than teaching them academics.

One resource that I kept and was rereading came from The Educator Effectiveness Guidebook for Inclusive Practice that DESE put out.  They have a section that discusses the 10 teaching practices that promote SEL.  I wanted to share that list with you and get us thinking about what we are doing and what we need to incorporate and improve in our daily interactions with students.

1. Student-centered discipline - Love that this is the first one on the list.  This is going to be a topic of discussion at our staff meeting this week along with some activities.  We need to make sure our disciplinary strategies are developmentally appropriate.

2. Teacher language - Are we making sure that we are talking to the students not at the students?  And are we encouraging students with the language we use?  Are we encouraging them to have a voice?

3. Responsibility and choice - Do we give students the chance to make responsible decisions.  This is one of the 5 core competencies for SEL.

4. Warmth and support - We discussed this during our opening day quote off activity.  Do our kids know that we care about them?  How do we show every kid this every day?  Is each classroom environment and other environments in the school set up so that students know we care?

5. Cooperative learning - We need to be providing numerous opportunities for students to work cooperatively and collaborate in the learning process.  We also need to remember to teach them how to work together; we don't want to assume that if we put them in a group, they will be able to cooperate.

6. Classroom discussions - I have already seen great dialogue about content happening in many classrooms.  We want to encourage lots of dialogue between teachers and students, staff and students, and also between students and other students.

7. Self-assessment and self-reflection - Hmmm...sound like a UDL guideline?!  We need to be making sure that we are having students actively think about their own work.  Self-reflection is such an important skill that we all need to keep working on.

8. Balanced instruction - We have certainly been improving every year in this area.  Are we using multiple and appropriate instructional strategies?

9. Academic press and expectations - We need to be providing challenging work for all of our students.  We also need to make sure that it is meaningful work.  And we all need to believe that every single one of our students can achieve by setting high expectations and figuring out how to help everyone reach those expectations.

10. Competence building - Throughout the school day, are we helping our students' develop social emotional skills?  Are we helping them with self-management, social awareness, self-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making?  Crucial skills that require us to keep talking about how we weave these through all of our instruction.

Currently reading:
One of the keynote speakers at The National Principal Conference was a man named Kevin Carroll.  I actually missed him speak, but followed lots of people tweeting about it and then ordered his books.  One is called The Red Rubber Ball at Work and the other one is called Rules of the Red Rubber Ball.  He was the former 76ers athletic trainer who writes about how to bring a sense of play into work in order to stimulate creativity, encourage risk-taking and achieve your goals.  I just started reading The Red Rubber Ball at Work.
I am working on writing an article about mindfulness in education and one of the books I am reading for writing inspiration is called Dancing in the Rain: Leading with Compassion, Vitality, and Mindfulness in Education.  This book was written and published close to home at Harvard School of Education.

Events this week:
Monday - Dr. Chesson visits FloRo from 9:30-11:00, PTA General Meeting @ 7:00
Tuesday - Liz out of district all day for MSAA Board Meeting, PTA Room Parent Meeting @ 7:00
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday - anyone who wants to meet on the track at 8:00, come walk and chat!  Liz and Melissa at Elem Curriculum Leadership Mtg @ Prescott 8:00-9:30, Staff meeting @ 3:30 in the cafeteria
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT 8:30-11:00
Saturday - Joseph Middlemiss Super Hero/RocknRoll Road Race (or walk), GrotonFest

Great things I noticed last week:

  • A big thank you to Nancy Caporello for finding an empty bulletin board and filling it with awesomeness! 
  • Some amazing collaboration and creation has been taking place in our new MakerSpace. 
  • I had a great time teaching the Wellness class all week.  We read the book My Brave Year of Firsts and discussed it.  And then in preparation for Dot Day and to practice collaboration and cooperation we played Twister! 
  • Laura Taylor invited her K teaching peers into her classroom to observe a math lesson that she worked hard to universally design. 
  • Even though the weather made us move the party inside...the Welcome Back Party on Friday night was tons of fun! 

Check it out:
Have to admit that I have considered acting out the beginning of this article in a staff meeting.  Since I am putting this link in here, I will spare anyone from public shaming during our staff meeting, but please read this post...great thoughts on why we should be rethinking public behavior charts:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

How Will YOU Make Your Mark?

Principal ponderings...

Did you know that this Friday is International Dot Day?!  What does that mean?  Several years ago, one teacher decided to share Peter Reynolds' book The Dot and celebrate the themes of bravery, creativity and self expression.  And now people all over the world celebrate International Dot Day in many different ways!

So how should we celebrate Dot Day?  Well, if you ask Peter himself, he says, "“Spread the word… On International Dot Day, read The Dot, wear dots, eat dots, draw dots, frame dots, connect the dots, splurge on art supplies, try a new medium — a new instrument, write a poem, rearrange your furniture, reconnect the dots with an old friend, make something, or make something with a friend. Share your creativity with the world.”

Check out this website:  This site has authors, illustrators, and other celebrities who have shared their dot creations.  Students may find some inspiration from seeing what the different celebrities have done.

There are endless possibilities for what you could do with your students to celebrate International Dot Day, either on Friday or during the week leading up to the day.  I am already thinking I need to find some extra games of Twister to have out on the playground!  Be sure and share what you do!  Check out this link for all kinds of ideas:

How will you make your mark this week and how will you encourage our students to make their mark?!
Currently reading:
Since this is the week of International Dot is a read aloud of Peter Reynolds' book The Dot.  If you don't have a copy to read to your class, feel free to show them this read aloud!

Along the same line as the book The Dot, I reread a great picture book called Scribble and Author.  This is a book about writing your own story.  Scribble has a conversation with the author and goes through the beginning, middle and end of the story.  Just like The Dot is about making your own mark, this book is about finding your own path.  Let me know if you want to borrow it!

This summer, our co-teaching teams had some great PD days with Wendy Murawski, a co-teaching guru!  We will be working with her in different ways this year, and I was excited to get some books to read, including this one:

Events this week: 
Monday - Optional staff meeting at 8:30 in the library
Wednesday - 9:30 4th grade band demonstration in the PAC
Friday - Elementary half day, dismissal at 12:15, Welcome Back Party from 4:00-6:00 on the back track

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Kindergartners were exploring, creating meals and getting to know new friends in Mrs. Taylor's class. 
  • I walked into independent reading time in Mrs. Mills and Mrs. Smith's all of the flexible seating and option for headphones. 
  • I popped into the library to listen to a read aloud with Mrs. West.  Love the new table signs! 
  • 3rd graders in Mrs. Pierantozzi's class were working on skip counting to help with their multiplication skills. 
  • 1st graders were working on learning everyone's names during their wellness block with Mrs. Cahill. 
  • Considering the tragic events of this past weekend, this bulletin board seems even more important...

Check it out:
Even though this is a letter written from teachers to administrators...just wanted you to know I read it and certainly thought of how I can strive to follow through with many of the action steps listed in the letter:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Every Kid, Every Day

Principal ponderings...

Every kid, every day.  Seems like a pretty simple statement.  Four words that are going to help guide us all this year.  The statement "every kid, every day" is a simple one, but the meaning behind it is powerful and the work that it will require from all of us is great.  Are you ready to help us achieve this goal this year?  Our theme that we will continue to revisit all year is "Every Kid, Every Day."

I can tell you that I think we are off to a great start after listening to all of you debate about the Kids Deserve It quotes during our "quote off" at the first staff meeting.  There were so many good quotes, words that made us stop and think about why we do what we do every day.  Words that inspired us and motivated us to have an amazing start to the year.  I loved listening to you passionately fight for the quote that you felt was the best.  And so we had a three way tie...even better.  Let's see how these 3 quotes tie into our theme of Every Kid, Every Day:

1. "Our most important job is to love kids and convince them they are absolutely incredible and unique -- to remind them they matter.  Academics are a bonus!"  I know I heard many people mention that they liked the line added on about academics being a bonus.  Here's the best part...if you have kids who know you love them, who feel special, and who are encouraged to celebrate their differences and uniqueness...they are going to want to learn with you.  They are going to want to be share their learning with you and their peers.  So yes, academics will be an automatic bonus.

2. "Kids want to know they matter to you.  They want to know you see them, hear them, and believe in them -- unconditionally."  This is so important at the beginning of the year and throughout the whole year.  Sometimes we are rushed to get through everything we have planned for the day.  Sometimes we are tired and we don't always feel like giving kids our full attention.  Sometimes we all have bad days, kids and adults, and we might for a second forget about that last word in the above quote...unconditionally.  We can't forget about that word.  Last week, I surprised a bus stop and showed to ride the bus with them.  This made a big impact on some of our extra nervous kindergarten friends whose tears changed to smiles (or more surprised looks!) when they saw me on the bus.  But what I remember most about that bus ride was sitting with a 3rd grader.  She was a new student last year so I did not know her that well.  In that ten minute bus ride, I listened to this 3rd grader tell me about her plans for Halloween which turned into a discussion about her love for Paris, France and wanting to visit there and how she knows some words in French but is trying to learn more.  I taught her how to pronounce je t'aime which means I love you (benefit of having a best friend who lives in Paris!) and she was saying it over and over as we were getting off the bus.  I hope that our conversation, really mostly me listening to her, helped her to feel like I was really hearing her.  And now imagine if we took that time for all of our kiddos and based our teaching off of their passions?!

3.  "You never know the power of a simple word or action.  The smallest stone dropped into the largest lake will leave ripple felt miles away.  We can't undervalue our impact, our reach, and our potential." Many of you have students who come back year after year to visit you.  Those of you that are brand new, this is the time to start dropping those small stones and starting those ripples.  Your actions everyday have a lasting impact.  Everything you say, everything you never know what kind of difference that will make for any one of our students.  Remember this thought.  Think about the potential that is always there, every single day.

Thank you all for an amazing start to the school year!  Kids and staff were excited, eager to get the year started.  Let's keep that enthusiasm going.  We want all of our students begging to come back for more each day.  And the way we are going to do that?  Remember this: Every Kid, Every Day!

How are you going to accomplish this mantra this year?

Currently reading:
I am finishing up reading Start.Right.Now.  I was lucky enough to attend a session given by two of the authors this summer at The National Principals Conference in Philadelphia.  This is an inspirational book for teachers, leaders and teacher leaders!  The mantra spelled out through the book is that excellent leaders and teachers: know the way, show the way, go the way, and grow each day.
This summer, one of the MCBA books I read is called Roller Girl.  It's a graphic novel and a great read about friendships, bravery and perseverance.  I gave my niece a copy on Saturday for her 10th birthday.  When I stopped by on Monday morning, she had already finished it! 
Over the summer, I started trying out the Audible app.  I was always going to the library to check out books on CD but not always able to get the ones I want.  Now with Audible I can buy a book and listen to it on different devices.  I can get some free books through my Amazon Prime membership or I can return the book I downloaded and get credits to use on other books.  Right now, I am listening to The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines.  If you like to watch the show "Fixer Upper", then this is a story that you might want to listen to. 

Events this week:
Monday - Happy Labor Day! No School
Wednesday - Wellness Wednesday! Staff Meeting 3:30-4:30
Friday - Melissa and Liz at SLT from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • We added another class to kindergarten lunch time!  That made for some excitement during our first 2 days of K.  But the best part?... Reading notes from home! 

  • Congrats to everyone for the awesome Breakout Edu adventure!  Way to go 3rd grade for breaking out first!  And way to go K team for persevering with a malfunctioning lock! 
  • I loved all of the buzz and enthusiasm and passion at our first staff meeting!  
  • My new favorite thing is confetti cannons!  Loved our countdown to start the year! 
  • Melissa and I rode the bus on Thursday and Friday.  The kids were very excited to see us on the bus! 

Check it out:
Who is interested in doing the Superhero/RockNRoll 5K?!

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!