Monday, November 11, 2013

Nourishing the seeds

Principal ponderings...
In the foreword to the book Reading in the Wild, I came across a quote from an old Buddhist proverb that I want to share with all of you and discuss.

"If a seed of lettuce will not grow, we do not blame the lettuce.  
Instead, the fault lies with us for not having nourished the seed properly."

Our students are our seeds.  Are we always nourishing them properly?  This proverb made me stop and think about some of our recent SST meetings that we have had where we have been discussing many different struggling learners.  I think we need to remind ourselves that many students will struggle.  We need to figure out how to reach them.  We also need to remember that just because a student is struggling, that does not necessarily mean that student needs special education.  Here is an interesting piece of information that I came across as I was preparing to write this blog post: Did you know that Massachusetts ranked 5th nationally in terms of its share of students with disabilities in 2000-01; by 2009-10, the state counted 167,000 students with disabilities among 940,000 pupils and took 2nd place?(
Of course, part of the reason for this is because as a state we have become one of the leaders in special education services.  Plus, as a wealthier state, we have more parents who have the resources and funds to get as much support for their children as possible.  But I do think that the 'struggling learner' is not always recognized anymore.  There are times when a student is not learning the new material as quick as her classmates, and we immediately think...something must be wrong, she must have some sort of specific learning disability.  And the unfortunate truth is...if we evaluate a student enough and give them enough assessments, eventually we can probably find something that changes their label from 'struggling learner' to 'special needs student'.
So we need to keep making sure that we are providing the proper nourishment for our struggling learners.  As I am learning in Getting to Got It: Helping Struggling Students Learn How to Learn, "it is never too late to develop cognitive structures...struggling students already have the capability to learn: what they need to do is learn how to use their 'mental tools'."  I hope we can have some conversations with each other about what we need to do to help students learn how to learn.  If our students are not learning and growing, maybe we just haven't given them enough water and sunlight yet?

Currently reading:
This weekend I finished reading Summer of the Gypsy Moths.  This was another book about kids having to grow up pretty quickly because their parents were either not in the picture or weren't mentally able to handle raising children.  It definitely reminded me of Small as an Elephant.  I was very excited to get my copy of Reading in the Wild in the mail last week.  I had pre-ordered the book over the summer and completely forgot that it would be arriving in November!  This book is written by Donalyn Miller, the woman who wrote The Book Whisperer.  It is all about how to cultivate lifelong reading habits.  The beginning chapter of the book talks about making sure that we find time for students to read.  So glad that already this year I have seen a huge improvement in the amount of independent reading time that we are giving our kids.  Here's an interesting fact from the book: A student in the 98th percentile on standardized tests reads for 65.0 minutes per day.  This adds up to 4,358,000 words per year.  Giving kids time to read makes a difference!

Events this week:
Grades are now open in iPass and teachers can begin entering information.
Monday - No school, Veterans' Day, Thank you to all who have served or are currently serving our country
Tuesday - ELA half day sessions with Grace and Sharon, 1st in am, K in pm
Wednesday - Picture retake day, ELA half day sessions with Grace and Sharon, 3rd in am, 2 in pm, School Council meeting @ 3:30 in the library
Thursday - ELA half day sessions with Grace and Sharon, 4th in pm, Genius bar @ FR, PTA meeting in the cafeteria @ 3:30
Friday - Para meeting at 9:00 in the library, please stay off the playground beginning at 2:00, PTA will be painting, trimester 1 ends today

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Grace shared with me a story about one of our struggling 2nd grade readers.  The student had told Grace that she found a just right book that she had been looking for in the library.  Grace offered the student an Amelia Bedelia book, and the child said "No thanks, I think that one is a little too difficult for me.  But someday I will be able to read that book because I am getting better at reading."  How awesome that this student knows what kind of book is just right for her AND she knows that she is going to become a great reader with practice!
  • Mr. Wiesner took a group of 2nd graders into the hallway to discuss the life of Bach.  And he even had them do some mental math to figure out how many children Bach had!
  • Multi-age students in Mrs. Goddard's art class were studying the veins in leaves and tracing the outline of leaves to make their own branch pictures.
  • 1st graders were so excited to participate in the enrichment program from the Eric Carle Museum.  Did you know you can bind a book with just a popsicle stick and a rubber band?
Check it out:
I am definitely more of an ELA person, but over the years, I have grown to appreciate math more and more.  Here's a great TED talk that discusses how math is not just about calculation, but application and inspiration as well.  Take 6 minutes to watch this clip...make sure you watch it to the end because the most important message comes during the last minute of the clip.
Thanks Lynn for sharing this funny cartoon with me!

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