Monday, March 7, 2016

A Child's Eye View

Principal ponderings...

On Wednesday, I took the #shadowastudent challenge.  I spent the entire day as a student in 3rd grade.  It was quite an experience to see everything from a child's eye view.  Having been a classroom teacher, I feel like I understand the teacher perspective, but it is entirely different to go through the school day as a student.  I started my day by riding the bus with the young girl who I was shadowing.  I was told by several students that normally on the bus kids were much louder and were not always sitting in their seats.  Apparently, the principal sitting on a seat on the bus changes the environment!  I have to say that the conversations that students were having with me on the bus were a pleasant surprise.  One student asked me what my reading goal was this many books was I going to try to read?  Another student chimed in that he was trying to read a certain number, and a different student shared that her class was trying to read a certain number of books.  Then the conversation changed to a student asking me what my favorite book was.  He was sitting on the bus reading one of the MCBA books, and I told him I had read that book.  I also told him I would have a hard time picking a favorite since I love so many books.  And then a little girl sitting in the seat next to us shared that she was writing about a book in her journal that she had and she showed me the page that she was writing on.  Everyone wanted to talk books and reading with me!  I was excited to witness firsthand that the students see me as a reader.  They see me as someone who will always want to talk books with them.  The bus pulled up to the school, and we were off and running (well not running, more like quickly walking through the hallways to get to class!).

When we arrived in the classroom, I was excited to see that I had my own desk set up, complete with a name plate and my own behavior chart to monitor my own behavior throughout the day.  Everyone has one on their desk and moves themselves up or down the color coded chart.  Adriana told me that I needed to get my snack out and bring it to my desk.  When we got settled in our seats, we were able to work on some writing or do some reading.  I realized that the day got started pretty quick, announcements happened, the teacher entered her attendance, and then she called us to the rug to start talking about writing.  The class has been working on writing, revising, editing and now publishing some informational writing pieces.  Our mini-lesson was about how the students had been working hard and now it might be a good time to stop and compliment your writing.  The students talked about what they were proud of in their writing, something they had learned as an informational writer, or just talked about how they had really put a lot of time and dedication into their stories.  And then it was time to get into writing.  The student I was shadowing was working on copying over the final draft of her piece that was several chapters long, all about bunnies.  For students who were already done with their writing or someone like me, we were given some different prompts that we could work on.  I chose to write about which sport I thought was the best and why.  It seemed like we had not been sitting very long when we were called to go to work with the special education teacher in a different room.  So we gathered our work and made the long walk to the other side of the building.  Some of us in the small group were working directly with the special education teacher on writing pieces and others were able to continue to work on re-writing and publishing.  Soon it was time to gather our work again and head back to the class so we could go to art.

The art teacher gave us some quick instructions on how to make 3-D masks.  She also had some students help remind everyone of the difference between 2-D and 3-D.  I love art so I was excited to participate in this special!  We were working at different table groups, and what was most interesting was being a part of the discussions at the table.  A few students were eager to jump right into the project.  What I noticed was many of the girls at my table lacked confidence in completing different steps.  They wanted me or someone else at the table to draw out the different parts for them.  Or they would see someone else's piece and want that person to make theirs for them.  One girl started to try to do it on her own but kept feeling like what she made wasn't good enough.  So for the majority of the art period, she really did not get much accomplished.  I was able to get some of mine completed, but definitely had to leave art with an unfinished project that I will be sure and finish up and share with the art teacher!

After art class, it was back to the classroom for math.  There were rulers out on the desks so I knew we were going to be doing something with measuring.  The teacher led us in a discussion about measuring and finding area, and we talked about why we would need to know about could we use this in the real world?  She helped us measure a few rooms that were displayed in the math journal, reminding about starting at zero and using the centimeters side, displaying the page and ruler on the ELMO for us all to see.  Then we were able to work independently.  After some time working in the classroom with the special education teacher, we again had to pack our work up and head back to the other side of the building to work in a small group with the special educator.  In this small group, even though we were all working on area, some students from one class were working on a slightly different assignment while the students from the class I was in were working on the assignment that had been started in the classroom.  The special educator had the difficult job of going back and forth between the different students, giving them individualized attention.  Pretty soon it was time to pack everything up and go back to class to get ready for recess and lunch.
Recess!  What did I learn during recess?  Well I learned that my hips can just barely squeeze down the slide!  But more importantly, I learned that kids still need help figuring out what and how to play on the playground.  There were a few students engaged in a version of soccer and some were trying to do some kickball.  But the majority were running up and down and all around the play structure, tagging and retagging each other in random games of tag.  And a few kids were walking around carrying hula hoops.  Our mostly blacktop playground, combined with kids not really sure what to do, makes for a recess time that definitely has room for improvement.  We headed into the lunch room and took our place in the long line to get the spaghetti and meatball lunch.  Since I had just had that exact meal for dinner the night before...I brought a delicious peanut butter and fluff sandwich and some fruit!  There was a discussion about how one of the girls at the table had packed her own lunch for the first time.  She was quite proud of herself and her friends let her know that they were impressed!  Once again, it seemed like we had not been sitting there very long when it was already time to quiet down, take our last few bites, clean up and line up to go back to class.  

Finally after favorite time of day...reader's workshop!  The teacher gathered us on the rug and told us that we were starting a brand new unit, biography.  We talked about what biographies were and how there was a difference between biography an autobiography.  We were instructed to go back to our seats and have some independent reading time and that small groups would be called to the back table to pick out some biographies to browse through.  Our group was called first.  I selected a book about Ghandi and a book about Louis Armstrong.  I started to read the Ghandi book and was able to read the whole book.  The teacher was conferring with individual students while we all read.  You could have heard a pin drop in the room.  A few times I popped my head up to survey the classroom...everyone was really into reading.  At the end of reading time, we came back to the rug to talk about what we had learned about the people we had read about.  This was definitely the time of day where I did not feel rushed or had to move from classroom to classroom.  And the teacher told us that we actually showed awesome reading stamina...we read for almost 50 minutes!  

The last part of the day was a little different than normal.  We were all heading over to the PAC to see the play preview.  Some of the students in the class were actually in the play so they were going to participate in the preview and then stay to get ready for the dress rehearsal.  When we returned from the performance, we were missing several students from the class and there was not much time to start anything.  So we packed up our bags and played a quick game of 20 questions and heads up.  And just like that, the day was over and it was time to head to the bus.  
It was a busy day, and I was certainly tired as I headed into a classroom after school to lead our staff meeting.  My mind was busy thinking about my experiences throughout the took a little adjusting to put myself back into the principal role!  I am still thinking about and reflecting on my day as a student.  It is clear that those little minds get quite a bit thrown at them throughout the day, on top of just juggling being a 9-year-old!  And if you add to that being a student who may be a struggling learner and who needs specialized, small group instruction...well, the best word I can use to describe the day of learning is disrupted.  It is hard to focus on tasks, not necessarily because of learning needs, but because of the schedule that we, as adults, have put in place for kids.

I still have a lot to think about.  But I will ask all of you...what do you think it would be like for you to be a student in your classroom for a day?  How might changing your perspective change your teaching and planning?

Currently reading:
While I was spending my day in a 3rd grade classroom, I had the opportunity to read a biography about Ghandi.  It was an interesting read, and I learned some new facts that I did not know.  During independent reading time, I also had time to read more of Crenshaw, by the same author that wrote The One and Only Ivan.
I checked out some picture books from my library to read, including these two: Still My Grandma and Lulu's Piano Lesson.

Events this week:
**Kindergarten registration taking place this week.
**Teachers are able to begin entering report card info.
Monday - Marvelous Monday for a 'soup-er' staff!  Check the staff room for soup, sandwiches and salad! Zumba in the gym with Mary Kaye @ 3:30!
Tuesday - Variety Show practice @ 3:30 in the gym
Wednesday - Curriculum half day, dismissal at 12:15, paras multi-part series sessions, School Committee Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - Variety Show practice @ 8:30 in the gym, Student Council Meeting @ 8:30, Zumba with Mary Kaye @ 5:00 in the gym
Friday - Variety Show practice @ 8:30 in the gym, SLT meeting - hosting admins from the district in the morning at FloRo!, 1st grade chorus @ 2:25 in the gym, Trimester 2 closes

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I was so proud of this 2nd grader who shared his informational writing with me...he knows a lot about parakeets! 
  • I had such a great day shadowing Adriana in 3rd grade all day on Wednesday! #shadowastudent 
  • Thanks Mrs. Pierantozzi for organizing the bulletin board in the lobby for our school-wide book, Red, A Crayon's Story.  Can't wait to see the final product! 
  • I caught Mrs. Taylor's kindergartners filling in some number bonds and writing out addition equations. 
  • The 3rd and 4th graders did an amazing job during the performance of Seussical, The Musical this weekend! 

Check it out:
An article that talks about importance of work life balance for educators:
Love this!...


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  2. Hi Liz,

    My name is Rita J. Hartman, and I and my two colleagues, Elizabeth Johnston and Marty Hall, are members of the Center for Educational Instruction and Technology Research. We would like to invite you to participate in a research study titled, Empathetic Design Approach to School Change: Descriptive Case Study. The purpose of the study is to explore and describe how you as a school leader characterized a day in the life of a student from your personal experiences, observations, and reflections, and how the experience influenced your future actions in the school environment.

    If you are willing to participate in the study, you will be asked to take part in a 20 to 30 minute phone interview. There are no risks associated with the study beyond those encountered in ordinary, daily life and all information will be kept confidential. Your participation is voluntary, and you may choose to withdraw from the study at anytime.

    If you would like to participate in this research study and have any additional questions, you can contact me at

    Thanks in advance for your consideration to be part of the research study!

    Rita J. Hartman, Ed.D.
    Center for Educational Instruction and Technology Research Center