Monday, October 16, 2017

Time to "be-lax"

Principal ponderings...
Ever have one of those days where you will I ever get through this to do list?  Or there's so much to do where do I start?  Or I know I need to do this difficult task, but I would much rather relax and do something that doesn't strain my brain?  That was me this weekend.  So for today's post I have decided to take my daughter's advice and just "be-lax."  Instead of something for you to read, I am just going to post some visual and auditory inspiration.

Take some deep breaths.  Maybe even close your eyes.  Give yourself a few minutes to get ready for the week.  And remember to "be-lax."

Here is a podcast to listen to, called "Unstoppable Learning."  Click the link and listen while driving or while cleaning the house (yep, I opt for driving over cleaning)

Here's a 3 minute inspirational video clip where a teacher shares what he believes...

And here's a 1 minute video clip that reminds us of how important we are for each child that we connect with...

And some visual inspiration for you...

Currently reading:
I got another great picture book from the book fair.  Written by Chelsea Clinton, it's called She Persisted: 13 American Woman Who Changed the World.  Definitely a great book that I will be reading to my daughter. 
I am also excited to start reading A Boy Called Bat.  This is a story of a boy on the autism spectrum who loves animals and is trying to prove to his mom that a skunk would make a good pet. 

Events this week:
Monday - School Council Meeting from 3:30-4:30
Wednesday - Bus Evacuation practices in the am, SST meeting 8:55-9:55, Staff Meeting 3:30-4:30
Thursday - First student council meeting 8:15, Andrew Green poetry presentation in 4th grade, Eyes on Owls presentation in 2nd grade

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I was glad that I was able to attend a Women in Leadership event Wednesday evening.  The woman who spoke was the former principal of the Worcester Voc School, first female to be in that role.  She shared lots of amazing inspiration, but I loved this slide that she shared: 
  • I popped into Mrs. Cragg's class and got to watch some 1st grade scientists measuring pumpkins, making predictions and testing whether they would float or sink. 
  • Thank you to everyone who has already donated school supplies or money.  We are still collecting for the school in Houston.  Love that I found this in the 3rd grade hallway! 
  • Mrs. Wallace and I had fun playing during extra recess on Friday.  Congrats to the students who earned SPARK tickets and were the lucky names that we drew! 
  • Thank you Luke Smith for a great afternoon of science activities and discussion!  Teachers were certainly engaged in lots of different challenges and explorations. 

Check it out:
I loved this blog post written by a high school principal, but many parts can be applied to elementary interactions.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Did You Get Rid of Computer Lab?

Principal ponderings...

Have you had a chance to pop in our new Maker Space?  Or have you at least been able to peek in through the window and see what's been going on?  Mrs. West and Mrs. Simeone have been helping the students with some pretty awesome creative projects.  Many teachers and parents have asked me, "Why did you get rid of the computer lab?"  Good question.  We certainly redesigned the space this summer.  We wanted a space where kids could have opportunities to create, collaborate, tinker, build, design, and so much more.  It is a place where kids can make things.  That could mean using technology or it could mean simply using tape and paper.  It's also a place where they can deconstruct things too!

We need to be helping our students develop critical thinking skills.  What does that mean?  Kids need to be able to be independent thinkers.  They need to be reflective.  They need to be able to generate ideas, solve problems, be inquisitive, fail and learn, argue a point, think rationally, collaborate with peers...the list could go on and on.  All of these skills are definitely not "taught" by sitting in front of a screen, going onto a website or making a presentation.  We will still be working on ways to have kids experience keyboarding and using devices, but that won't be done once a week for forty minutes anymore. Students need all of us to help them integrate proper technology use into the classroom environment on a daily basis.  When we had technology learning happening mainly in a separate room, a computer lab, we were sending the message that technology learning was separate from what students were learning in the classroom. And that is a message that we definitely do not want to send to any of our students.  Technology is a huge part of their world, so we need to make sure it's fully integrated into each child's school day.

I am so excited that our students are going to have the chance to learn critical thinking skills through the projects and activities that they do in MakerSpace this year.  Check out some of these video clips from a show called "Think, Make, Innovate."  Lots of great ideas for ways we can challenge our students!  I can't wait to see all of the new learning that will be happening this year.  Maybe soon we will be able to submit our own videos of what we are doing at FloRo!

Watch these kids figure out how to make a durable beanstalk out of newspaper.

Watch this challenge where the students had to use cardboard to make something wearable.

Watch the kids in this challenge create a zip line car that would transport an army man figurine from one place to another.

Currently reading:
Did you get some good new books from the book fair?  I did!  I was excited to get Katherine Applegate's new book, Wishtree.  I pretty much read it in one sitting.  Told through the perspective of a tree, this story tackles anti-Muslim bigotry.  It's a wonderful and important book to read to kids or let them read and discuss it with them.
I also purchased a picture book written by a favorite author of many, Nancy Tillman.  The book is called You're All Kinds of Wonderful and just like her popular On the Night You Were Born, this beautiful book has a wonderful message.  This time the message is that we are all unique and we each have our own "bells and whistles." 
Another book that I have been reading this past 2nd called I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness.  It is a great book for kids and adults to read and remember to take time to be in the here and now and not worry about yesterday or tomorrow.  As I have been reading it to 2nd graders, we have been taking some time to close our eyes, sense our surroundings, feel our breathing, and clear our minds.  It is should try it!  And read the book!

Events this week:
Monday - Columbus Day, No School
Tuesday - Curriculum Day, 8:30-9:45 @ PAC for speaker, 10:00-2:30 multi-part or committee work
Thursday - 3rd grade trip to Sturbridge Village
Friday - Elementary half day, 12:15 dismissal, Liz and Melissa @ SLT 8:30-11:00, Science work w/SU @ FR 1:00-3:15, Flu clinic at the Groton Public Library 3:00-6:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • When I popped into Mrs. Pierantozzi's class, I saw writers making plans and trying out some different strategies that they had been talking about, such as showing instead of telling. 
  • I had fun randomly selecting names from the list of students who wrote to me this summer or at the beginning of the school year.  Lots of smiling faces when they were able to pick out a book and put it on my tab! 
  • Congrats to the 4th graders who were selected to serve as reps for student council!  It was a difficult choice with all of the well-planned applications.  Looking forward to seeing what great projects the students plan this year. 
  • When I walked into Mrs. McEvoy's class, I caught the beginning of a discussion about experimenting with beams and fulcrums. 
  • I heard Ms. McElroy's class doing some math and movement and I couldn't resist stopping in for a visit! 
  • One week of SPARK tickets and we had just over 200 students visit the office and sign our Wall of Fame!  

Check it out:
Check out this Ted Talk titled "Every child deserves a makerspace":

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Which One Are You? A Teacher or an Educator?

Principal ponderings...
Take 12 minutes to watch this Ted Talk given by a high school senior from Burlington, MA:

After I watched this, I thought back on different teachers that I have had when I was in school.  I certainly had many who were simply what their job title said they were...teachers.  But I definitely was fortunate to have several educators throughout my career.  My 1st grade teacher who let me call him when my mom gave birth to my baby brother and then he let me share the poem I wrote about my new baby brother with the whole class.  My 6th grade teacher who knew that I was new to the school and wasn't always willing to speak up initially, but as soon as she found out that I loved to write, she encouraged me to write letters to the editor and enter writing contests. My middle school art teacher who let me design my own project and encouraged me to color outside of the lines.  My AP History teacher who knew that I wasn't exactly one to conform to the essay structure that she was supposed to teach us so she let me do my own thing. 

There were certainly some amazing educators that I had over the years.  They got to know the real me.  They told me that they cared about me.  They knew my interests, my fears, my favorites.  They remembered me when I went back years later to visit them.  And in between those educators I also had many teachers.  They did their job.  They taught me things, some of which I remember, others I can't really recall.  They gave me assignments.  They might have remembered me...I don't really know because I didn't remember them enough to ever go back and visit them.

You have a classroom full of kids in front of you.  You have the opportunity to be a teacher to them or you can be an educator for them.  What will you do today to let your students know your choice?

What will you be?  A teacher or an educator?

Currently reading:
After our visit from the author Jeff Kinney, I started reading one of his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever.  He autographed a copy for us, and it will be added to our library collection.

Events this week:
***Scholastic Book Fair will be in the library all week!
Monday - DMG Focus groups at the middle school
Tuesday - DMG Focus groups at the middle school
Wednesday - Picture Day! DMG touring the schools, Staff Meeting @ 3:30-4:30
Thursday - Grade 3 Groton Light Presentation, PTA Family Book Fair Event, 6:00-8:00

Don't forget...3 day weekend and then PD day on Tuesday and a half day next Friday.

Great things I noticed last week:

  • A big thank you to Karen Dunham and the Groton Public Library for bringing Jeff Kinney to speak to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders!  Jeff Kinney gave a great talk about how he persevered and became the writer and an illustrator.  
  • These two 4th graders were nervous about doing the announcements, but they did a great job! 
  • I joined these K students who were working on hidden partners.  
  • Wednesday was a loonngg, hot day!  I managed to squeeze in a ride home on one of our buses to help one of our drivers reteach students about bus behavior.  And then I was able to pop into most of your classrooms.  Way to represent FloRo and share with parents the amazing things you are doing in your classes! 

  • Loved getting an invite to this impromptu math lesson that involved paying for a movie theater ticket and finding my numbered seat! 
  • I was able to spend a lot of time on the playground this week.  Loved seeing this 3rd graders shirt.  Seems like the best motto! 
Check it out:
Since I have been spending time each day in the cafeteria...this definitely had me laughing out loud!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Unexpected

Principal ponderings...

"Even days that are well-planned are filled with unexpected happenings."

I was reading the book Kids Deserve It...for probably the 3rd time...and wanted to think about and write about some of the chapters.  Today I want to start with chapter 1; I love how Adam and Todd jumped right in and challenged educators to break out of their comfort zones right from the start.  The title of the first chapter is "Go Big, Be Creative!"  And in that short first chapter, Todd shares a story of how he totally transformed his classroom and created an "emotional experience" for his students.  He taught the standards but he did it in a way that students would never forget, and he created an environment that they would want to keep running back to.

He tapped into his creative side and transformed his classroom into an operating room.  Did this take a lot of planning and preparation?  I'm sure it did.  Could things have gone wrong and not been how he planned it?  Absolutely.  But he chose to take a chance and capitalize on the idea of the unexpected.  His students never would have expected that experience to happen that day.   But he went for it.  He went big.  He creatively planned an experience that was unlike any other lesson.  He didn't let the voice in his head which sometimes tells us it's not possible or there's not enough time or it won't work...he didn't let that voice take over.  He ignored the voice and went for it.

Since becoming a principal, I have certainly learned that my job is full of the unexpected.  I have learned to try to live by my calendar, but every day, no matter how I planned and scheduled and mapped out my day, there's always something unexpected that happens.  Personally, that's why I love my job so much.  I don't know what to expect.  I do know to expect the unexpected.  Sometimes the unexpected makes me have to use my brain and struggle.  Sometimes the unexpected makes me stop, laugh and live in the moment.  Sometimes the unexpected challenges me.  Sometimes the unexpected wears me out.  And sometimes the unexpected lifts me up.

All of those emotions, all of those experiences, make me a better educator and a better person.  Isn't that what we want to do for all of our students?  Don't we want to transform all of those little humans in our care into better learners, better future leaders?  Don't we want to give them these emotional experiences that will cause them to leave us each day as changed individuals?  At the end of each chapter in the Kids Deserve It book, they ask us to consider some things.  So now I will ask you:

How can you "go big" in your classroom?  How can you embrace the unexpected and create some emotional experiences for our students?  Have a crazy idea that you have been thinking of but you have been afraid to try?

What's stopping you?

Currently reading:
I just added the book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed to my Audible download list.  I'm looking forward to listening to this book and discussing with other educators in our school who are also reading it.  I also spent some time checking out Jessica Lahey's website.  She has some good blog posts and you can see a sample of her speaking about The Gift of Failure on some video clips. If you get a chance, check out her site:
I just got a recommendation for a picture book that I need to order, don't have it yet but will be adding it to my cart!  Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners looks like a good one for me to read to classes.  Anyone have this in their library? 

Events this week:
Monday - Author Jeff Kinney visiting with 3rd and 4th graders in the PAC, 11:00-11:45
Tuesday - 4th grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30
Wednesday - 3rd grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30, School Committee Member Brian LeBlanc visits FloRo @ 10:45, Grade 4 chorus in the music room 2:20-3:00, Curriculum Night K-2 parents from 6:00-7:00, 3rd-4th parents from 7:00-8:00
Thursday - 2nd grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30
Friday - District half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, SST Planning Meeting @ 8:30, 1st grade cafeteria/hallway lesson @ 9:30, Student Council applications due, Book Fair set up/Teacher preview, Multi-part series meetings and committee meetings in the afternoon

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had fun playing with these 3rd graders during recess time! 
  • I was very sorry that I missed this event in the library this week, but I am hoping to catch it with one of the 2nd grade classes during the upcoming week!  A book tasting, how awesome!  Students got to rotate around a table and "sample" each book and then rate them on how interesting they looked.  And a bonus...Ann Simeone, our awesome library para, tweeted about the event!  Thanks for helping tell our school story Ann.

  • I happened to pop into half day K one afternoon and was able to practice the Lively Letters with them...we were working on the 'P' and 'B' sounds. 
  • Unfortunately, I did not get a photo but I did enjoy going into the 4th grade classrooms and talking to them about Student Council.  The students had great questions about the application process and about serving on the council.  I'm looking forward to all of the ways that Student Council will help make FloRo even better this year!
  • I saw staff and students out and about on Saturday at the Joseph Middlemiss Superhero/RocknRoll run and walk and then also at Grotonfest.  It was a hot but beautiful day to be outside!

Check it out:
In preparation for Curriculum Night, this post will most certainly make you laugh out loud:
Now that you have had a good laugh, here are some resources to read over and consider flipping curriculum night.  Since it is already happening on Wednesday, maybe consider recording videos or using Flipgrid to send info home after the night of information.  A lot is covered that night and parents might appreciate having something that they can go back and watch on their own time.  I am going to be sending out some sort of video after the evening because I know parents will forget what I share during the 1st 15 minutes of Curriculum Night.  Let me know if you are thinking of trying a new way to share info with parents.

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: