Sunday, May 18, 2014

Looking back and looking forward

Principal ponderings...

In the past, when I have worked with new hires and mentor programs in different school districts, I always do an end of the year reflection activity.  I'm not sure why I have only done this with new hires; I think it's a good activity for any teacher or specialist to do at the end of the year.  It's important to look back over the year and celebrate successes.  It's also important to look back and think about what did not go well, what you might do differently next year.  Here's a list of questions to help you start the reflection process.  I recommend you either sit with a colleague or maybe do this by yourself.  Read over the questions, think about them, you might even decide to write your answers down so that you have them handy when you start next year.  You definitely want to do this sort of reflection now while the school year is still fresh in your head.  Even if you jot a few notes now, you can always continue to think about your answers and revisit them often over the summer.

What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?

What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?

What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?

Which student in your class do you think showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well?

What is something you would change about this year if you could?

What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

What has caused you the most stress this year?

When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?

What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?

In what ways were you helpful to your colleagues this year?

What was the most valuable thing you learned this year?

What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?

What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?

What part of the school day is your favorite? Why?

What were your biggest organizational challenges this year?

In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?

Looking ahead, Grace and I have been talking about summer reading for our students.  Since we have worked on a new and improved look at reader's workshop, it only makes sense that we look at a new and improved process for summer reading.  Students have become invested this year in choosing what they will read during independent reading time.  If we simply give a list of book titles to parents, then we are basically going against what we have worked to create this year: students making their own choices about what they want to read.  Be on the lookout for more information about this, but the thought is that we would have student be involved in the process of generating a summer reading list that they have been able to create.  We are also looking at some ways for our students to use technology to rate, review and discuss books with other students as they read this summer.  We want to keep the good book discussions going all summer long!

Something else to think about for next year...
I would like for us to participate in the One School, One Book program.  That means we will select one book that every grade level will use as a read aloud.  The whole school will share in a common text that we will read, discuss, and enjoy together.  Here is the website that explains a little more about this program:  We will generate a list of choices and have all of the staff vote for one choice.  I will order the books this summer so that every classroom will have a copy.

Currently reading:
Been reading and discussing one of my favorite professional books for the moment: Comprehension From the Ground Up.  Thanks to Laura Taylor for leading some great discussions with kindergarten and 1st grade in her book study.  If you have not taken a look at this book, I have several copies that will be available for teachers to borrow and read.
I shared this beautiful book with the kindergarten team...All the World by Liz Garten Scanlon. (I did not buy the book because I liked the author's name!)  It is a wonderful book, with very few words, yet powerful message and beautiful illustrations.  It would be a great read aloud that I think would spark lots of discussion.  Let me know if anyone wants to borrow a copy.

Another book up for grabs in my office...Seeds of the Milkweed.  This is a Scholastic book that was written by 2nd graders from Arkansas.  Learn about how the milkweed fits into the monarch butterfly's life cycle.

Events this week:
Monday - Kindergarten field trip to Beaver Brook
Tuesday - Grade level literacy meetings: Grade 4 in the am, Grade 3 in the pm
Wednesday - Grade level literacy meetings: Grade 2 in the am, Kindergarten in the pm, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - Grade level literacy meetings: Grade 1 in the am, Blood Farm Fund Walk-a-thon, K-2 at 1:30, 3-4 at 2:00
Friday - Grade 2 field trip to Drumlin Farm, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25 in the gym

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Mrs. Nissi was helping her students revise and edit some writing pieces as they published them in the computer lab.

  • Mrs. Wilkins's 1st graders were getting into the minds the characters in their books, thinking about how they would feel if they were the character.  First they did this activity with the book Noisy Nora, then they were able to go off and try it with their independent books.  I listened in on some of them reading, and it was great to hear a student say "Pay attention to how I read this part of the text."  She wanted me to see that she was reading with expression and she knew how to do it and why it was important to help her understand what she was reading.  Awesome!
  • Mrs. Hoke's 2nd graders were using their inquiry skills to determine how many marbles in a container as they weighed and compared their answers using a balance.
  • Mrs. Guernsey's 3rd graders were doing a special art project to go along with some artist research they were doing.  I saw some very talented artists and their masterpieces!

Check it out:
If you have not checked out this website..., then you should ASAP!  This is a site created specifically for teachers.  You can create a page that explains any sort of project you have in your classroom.  You ask for donations and then...people send things to you!  It is basically an online charity site for teachers.  People donate money and the site orders the materials and ships them directly to you.  It could be anything from books to iPads to indoor recess games.  Don't believe how easy this is?  Just ask Laura Taylor.  I told her about this site and I think in a few days she already had $275 in donations for her classroom library!

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