Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cupcakes and Collaboration

Principal Ponderings...

Everyone needs an activity that relaxes them and makes them happy.  For me, that activity is baking. Actually baking cupcakes to be exact.  After a packed weekend up in Maine at a wedding, I decided to pull out my mixer and bake.  As I was measuring and mixing the ingredients, I started to get some inspiration for my blog post.  I was thinking about how it always amazes me that when you combine just the right ingredients, you end up with something that is not only completely transformed, but delicious!

And this led me to think about collaboration.  Collaborating is a lot like baking cupcakes.  As educators, we are the ingredients.  Whether you are flour or sugar or eggs, when you work in isolation, you can't be more than just who you are.  And so your students get one level of teaching.  But when we collaborate, when we mix together, a little bit of flour, sugar and eggs...then we can transform our teaching and take it to another level.  After spending some time with many of our grade level teams this week, I enjoyed watching teachers observe each other and then listened to them share ideas with each other and plan on how they would implement what they had learned from peers into their classrooms.

Of course, baking cupcakes is not always easy, and neither is collaboration.  You have to get the right combination of ingredients.  And you have to have the correct ingredients to start!  I had made my cupcakes and was about to start making the frosting when I realized I did not have enough of one ingredient for my frosting.  So I had to trek out to the grocery store...the last thing I wanted to do on a Sunday night.  Collaboration, like baking, takes work.  Sometimes, you have to figure out how to work with each other.  Sometimes you figure out how you want to work together, and then the end result is not what you expected or wanted.  Sometimes you have to try different ways to collaborate and that takes time.  We just need to remember that the process may be difficult, but the end result, student learning that is a product of teacher collaboration, is well worth it.

Speaking of collaboration...I have been meeting with Scott Middlemiss from Tyngsborough and David Hill from Dracut.  We have been planning for a year of literacy collaboration.  We are three districts that are working with TLA and focusing on our reading and writing instruction.  Since we are geographically fairly close, we thought it would be great to start up a collaboration between our three districts.  We would like to create and develop an inter-district network to continue and enhance the learning and professional development taking place in our separate schools.  We have discussed ways to allow teachers to network and collaborate on what they have learned as a result of working with TLA.  We would like to meet as a group at least once month after school, alternating between locations, discussing literacy instruction and best practices.  Ideally, teacher partnerships will develop as a result of these informal meetings.

Our first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 16 at 3:30.  The first literacy collaboration meeting will take place at Tyngsborough Elementary School.  Mark it on your calendar and let's get excited about collaboration!  If anyone wants to carpool with me, let me know.

Currently reading:
I finished reading Little Book, Lost this weekend.  This is such a great book!  It's one of the MCBA books, but it would make for a good read aloud for our younger students as well.  Sticking with the dog theme, I immediately picked up When Life Gives You OJ.  This is another book on the MCBA list, and it is about a child that wants a dog.
I also read a cute picture book called Dear Tabby.  In the book, all sorts of critters write letters to Tabby and she gives them advice.  The whole book is written as a serious of letters that the animals write to each other.  
Events this week:
Monday - The Scholastic Book Fair will be taking place all week next door at the middle school.  Be sure and check it out! After school Latin class from 3:30 to 4:30
Tuesday - After school Latin class from 3:30 to 4:30
Wednesday - 4th grade extra chorus practice @2:25 in the gym, Staff meeting @ 3:30 in the library
Thursday - PTA Evening Book Fair Event

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 1st-4th grade level teams had a chance to observe Reader's Workshop in lab teachers' classrooms and then debrief with Joia.
  • We had our first bus open circle meeting!  Teachers, bus drivers and students talked about what was going well on the buses and reviewed expectations.

  • Mrs. Cragg was doing a nonverbal imitation game to keep her students calm and quiet while waiting for everyone to finish at the bathroom.
  • Our 'One School, One Book' books arrived!  Get ready to talk at our staff meeting about all the activities we will do with Each Kindness.
  • Mrs. Fulreader led a training for our parent volunteers who will be helping out on the playground and in the cafeteria.  We had parents playing switch and four square and enjoying some hot chocolate and baked goods!

Check it out:
Interesting blog post about leveling your classroom library:

Love this twitter post I came across...Reading is...

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