Monday, April 24, 2017

A Different Kind of Countdown

Principal ponderings...

We are in the home stretch.  It always seems like the time after spring break is a fast-paced race to the finish.  We have 40 school days left before summer vacation.  What?!  Only 40 days?!  How did that happen?  I feel like we were all just sitting in the cafeteria before the first day of school, and now suddenly, we are winding down.  I know that around this time everyone starts counting down.  People are making plans for what they will do over summer vacation.  The weather is finally getting nice, and kids and adults begin to stare longingly out the window, daydreaming about summer fun.

But we have 40 days left.  And I am proposing a very different countdown during these 40 days.  I want us to think of all of the amazing things that we get to do with kids over the next 40 days.  Do you have some students who you don't have the best connection with?  Well you have 40 days to work on that connection.  Do you have some students who love math and are eager for new math challenges?  Well you have 40 days to keep that math enthusiasm going and challenge them in new ways.  Do you have students who still need reminders about making the right choices and showing SPARK behavior?  Good news, you have 40 days to help them work on making smarter choices.  Do you have students who are not truly engaged in learning in your classroom.  You have 40 days to make sure that everyone is engaged in the learning going on in your room.

Yes, we are counting down the days.  But we need to make sure we making every single one of these last few days count.  Be sure and check out the staff room each day because I will have a special countdown chart in there with a new message each day for all of us.  Time definitely goes by too fast.  Let's make sure we are capitalizing on every moment that we have with our students.  Amazing learning, amazing experiences have been happening for them in classrooms, on the playground, in the cafeteria.  Let's keep adding to those experiences and interactions all the way until the last bus pulls away on the last day of school.

40 days left to be awesome for kids....starting today!


Currently reading:
I definitely used the break to catch up on some reading!  I was very excited to get some new books in the mail and from the book fair.  Here's a few great picture books that I read and hope to read in some classrooms...
This is the picture book that goes along with the book Wonder!
Love this book, great for growth mindset, positive thinking, etc! It's called Penguin Problems.

I finished reading Snicker of Magic - such a great book!  I loved the language in this book and the characters.  Let me know if you want to borrow a copy.  I am currently reading another Nikki Grimes book.  This one is a short novel called The Road to Paris.  This is a story about a young girl who is in foster care.  The author certainly wrote from experience for this book since she herself was bounced around to many different foster care homes when she was little.

Events this week:
Monday - Welcome back!!
Tuesday - Grade 4 ELA MCAS, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Grade 4 ELA MCAS, several staff attending CPI refresher training at Prescott from 12-3:00, 1st grade Curious Creatures enrichment program in the afternoon
Thursday - Grade 4 ELA MCAS, K math PD session in the AM
Friday - Special Olympics!, Liz and Dianna at SLT in the AM

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I had the chance to check out some amazing simple machines in a few of the 4th grade classrooms. 
  • A big thank you to Mrs. Fulreader's middle school son for coming over to help some 4th graders build their simple machines. 
  • I had fun eating lunch with these 2nd graders; we discussed our favorite and not so favorite vegetables! 
  • Loved catching these two 3rd graders in the hall.  One friend was helping another one back from the nurse's office.  Kind kids at FloRo! 
  • Did you see our new office help?  When you are hurt and can't go out for recess...time to fill in as an assistant! 
  • Crafty, creative Kate in the nurse's office definitely put some smiles on faces with these signs! 
  • What do you do when it's Good Friday the day before vacation and we have lots of staff out and not enough subs?!  You bring in the assistant superintendent to be a sub!  Thanks Dr. Novak! (And Karen Gartland and Luke Callahan!) 

Check it out:
A good reminder about the benefits of having a growth mindset in math: http://www.wbur.org/edify/2017/04/10/math-growth-mindset
And a great tweet I saw last night...

Also, on Tuesday night I am helping to moderate the #edchatMA twitter chat, all about inclusion.  We are combining with the #coteachat...a whole chat devoted to coteaching.  Even if you are nervous about chiming in...find the #edchatMA hashtag and follow along with the discussion at 8:00 Tuesday night!


Monday, April 10, 2017

#LoveMySchoolDay

Principal ponderings...

Guess what?!  Tuesday, April 11 is #LoveMySchoolDay!  What does that mean?  Well it means it's a day when we can tell the world why Florence Roche rocks!  I know it's an amazing school, and you know it's an amazing school, but does the whole world know?  Probably not, so let's tell them about all of reasons why you love our school.

A few years ago, one principal decided to take on the challenge of getting the word out about how awesome his school was.  Now there are schools all over the country who will be participating in this challenge and spreading the positivity about their schools.  Read more about this at the following blog: http://leadlearner2012.blogspot.com/p/lovemyschoolday.html


On Tuesday, let's share all the reasons why we love FloRo!  You can either post on Twitter and be sure to use the hashtag #lovemyschoolday, as well as #gdrsdchat, or you can send pictures or messages to me and I will post them for you on our @FloRoElem Twitter page.  We want people talking about our school, and we want that discussion to be all about the positive things happening in our classrooms and throughout the whole building.  Let's make sure we are telling our story!

What great things will you be sharing on #LoveMySchoolDay?!

Currently reading:
With the MA Reading Conference last week and the Book Fair and just my regular Amazon shopping...I have lots of new books!!  At bedtime tonight, Emerson and I enjoyed the book The Last Stop on Market Street.  This is a picture book that has been getting recommendations all over the place.  In a time where books about diversity and discussions about diversity are crucial, this is an important and necessary book.
I was really excited to get this book in the mail and start reading it.  I am actually in a Voxer book club with educators and principals from around the country.  We just started discussing the book this week.  If you have read the book Teach Like a Pirate, this is another inspirational professional development book.  

Events this week:
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week at FloRo!
Monday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS testing begins in the am
Tuesday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS testing continues, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - 3rd grade ELA MCAS testing continues, 3rd grade chorus practice @ 2:25
Thursday - Elementary curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, PTA luncheon, optional parent conferences in the afternoon

**Enjoy your vacation week!

Great things I noticed last week:

  • On Monday, we had an amazing principal for the day, 2nd grader Micah.  He came dressed for the part and even brought his own name badge!  
  • I loved going shopping with students who have been radiating respect! 
  • As I mentioned in the staff meeting, the 4th grade co-taught room has been rethinking and redesigning their classroom environment.  Check it out and talk to Angela and Ellen about the different possibilities of flexible seating and moving away from traditional classroom furniture. 
  • On Thursday, I was excited to attend the MA Reading Association Conference with several FloRo staff members.  I was even more excited that I had won a chance to sit and have a meet and greet session with Donalyn Miller!  We talked about some of her book recommendations, reading conferences, and a book that she is working on about classroom libraries.  It was also great to listen to Mr. Schu speak; he is the Scholastic Reading Ambassador and also an elementary school librarian.  He talked all about great new books out now, and he also read the first chapter of Kristina Applegate's new book, Wishtree.  Can't wait until it comes out in October! 

Check it out:
Anyone else feel this way?  Anyone else ready to relax and rejuvenate over the vacation week?
And in preparation for vacation week next week...I hope you will do what Kid President says and give your families and yourself your undivided attention next week!  I know I plan on doing exactly that with my family. :)


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Principal ponderings...

This weekend, I wasn't feeling well.  Another bad cold appears to taken control of me.  But I still had things to get done this weekend.  There was a sink full of dishes piled high.  So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  And for now, there are no more dishes in the sink.

My sister-in-law had given us a giant container full of hand-me-down clothes for Emerson.  I have been driving around with that container in the back of my car. I finally brought it inside and knew that I needed to go through her dresser and get rid of clothes that were too small to make room for some "new" clothes.  Lucky for me, Emerson got to her dresser before me, and threw every single piece of clothing on the floor in her room.  So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  And for the moment, she has an organized dresser with just the right size clothes in it.

During the week, there were several days where we were short staffed and did not have enough coverage during recess and lunch and on some days in classrooms.  So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  I was a 1st grade teacher because that was what we needed on a certain day.  I wiped down tables in the cafeteria because that was what we needed on a certain day.  I was a 1:1 paraprofessional in the art room because that was what we needed on a certain day.  I spent time in a kindergarten classroom because a meeting ran longer than expected and that was what we needed on a certain day.

Lots of different scenarios, but always the same step...I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  Yes, there are days when I am tired and there are days when I am sick.  There are days when I have other things planned, but my plans get changed.  There are days when I think maybe someone else will do that for me.  There are days when I am so productive and I love checking things off my list.  But it always comes back to my mantra...I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I challenge all of you to have this attitude no matter what you encounter this week.  Did you give a math assessment and you realize that many students did not get one of the concepts?  Time to roll up your sleeves and reteach that concept.  Did you somehow come across a difficult situation in the hall or on the playground with students who aren't even in your class?  Time to roll up your sleeves and help them solve the problem.  Did your plans last week look one way on paper and something totally different when you taught your lessons?  Time to roll up your sleeves and rethink how you will plan out your instruction this week.  Did have a parent meeting that did not go the way you had hoped?  Time to roll up your sleeves and figure out how to mend that important relationship.  Did your students write some amazing pieces or blow you away with their reading progress this week?  Time to roll up your sleeves and plan for how you will help them continue to grow and learn even more this week.

We are in the business of educating kids, and it is hard work.  No one said it would be an easy job.  No one said you wouldn't be exhausted by the time the end of each day comes around.  Molding future minds takes lots of strength and determination and hard work.  Whether it's one student, your whole class, the kid who you walk by on the way to the staff room, the younger grades that you haven't met yet or the older ones who you almost don't recognize because they have grown so much.  All of them need us to do the tough job we signed up for.  The job that certainly did not have everything we would need to do listed in the job description.  Our students need us to do our job.  That job can take all forms and can require us to do all sorts of things.  We all need to have that can-do attitude.  Our students need us to have that attitude.

So today I am going to roll up my sleeves and get to work.  Who is with me?


Since it's National Poetry Month, I thought I would kick it off with this poem.  I thought it went along well with my message in this post.

It Couldn’t Be Done

Related Poem Content Details

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done 
      But he with a chuckle replied 
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one 
      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried. 
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin 
      On his face. If he worried he hid it. 
He started to sing as he tackled the thing 
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it! 

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that; 
      At least no one ever has done it;” 
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat 
      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it. 
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin, 
      Without any doubting or quiddit, 
He started to sing as he tackled the thing 
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it. 

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done, 
      There are thousands to prophesy failure, 
There are thousands to point out to you one by one, 
      The dangers that wait to assail you. 
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin, 
      Just take off your coat and go to it; 
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing 
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Currently reading:
I was excited to listen to Big Magic during my drive to and from work during the month
of March.  This book was all about not being afraid to be creative which was the message 
I needed to hear as I wrote daily for the slice of life challenge.  Now I have just started 
listening to Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time 
favorite books so I am hoping I will enjoy this book.  Plus, I love that the person
narrating the audiobook is Reese Witherspoon!
Last week, I spent the day at a writing workshop in Boston with Zoann, and we enjoyed listening to authors such as Alma Flor Ada, Lois Lowry and Nikki Grimes.  Of course there were books for sale there, and of course I bought several!  I started reading one of the books by Lois Lowry which she talked about during one of the sessions.  It's called Looking Back and it consists of black and white photos from her life where she writes a little bit about what was going on in the photo and then often relates it to one of her books she has written.  
I bought several of Nikki Grimes' books and since it is National Poetry Month, I am excited to be reading her novel written in verse called Words with Wings

Events this week:
Book Fair will be in the library all week!
Monday - 2nd grader Micah is Principal for the Day!
Wednesday - Liz at DESE in Malden in the am, Laser Science Show assemblies in the PAC in the pm (K,1, and 3 at 1:00, 2 and 4 at 2:00), 2:25 3rd grade chorus, Staff meeting 3:30-5:00
Thursday - Grace, Holly, Jill, Marcia and Liz attending MRA Conference
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT from 8:30-10:30 @ Prescott
*Reminder - 3rd grade ELA MCAS will take place next week

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I happened to catch some very excited 2nd graders as they were headed out the door, ready to board buses and drive to the New England Aquarium! 
  • You probably heard from Mrs. Lanctot's class...big news...Crayola is retiring dandelion yellow and her students were writing opinion pieces about which color should be its replacement! 

  • I loved spending the day with Zoann hearing from authors and talking about writing at the JFK Library in Boston! 
  • I caught Mrs. Benkley and her class doing a little movement break using GoNoodle! 
  • Snow on Saturday meant the Science Fair got moved to Sunday.  I enjoyed seeing all of the awesome experiments and research done by our students.  It's also great to see both elementary schools come together for this event. 
Check it out:
In case you need a smile today...here is a short video about social stories for teachers...the copier one is my favorite! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMhcSWiF5hs

Monday, March 27, 2017

Inspiration from my Edu-Hero!

Principal ponderings...
This past week, I had the chance to see one of my edu-heroes speak at the MESPA Conference.  This was a conference where elementary principals from across the state had a chance to come together and learn from each other.  I am on the Board at MESPA and helped to organize the conference.  I was so excited when we were able to schedule Todd Nesloney to come and give the keynote.  Todd is a principal of an elementary school in Texas, and he is also one of the co-authors of the book Kids Deserve It.  I wish I could share everything he said to us with all of you, but I definitely don't remember everything word for word.  I am pasting in some of the tweets that I wrote and others as he was speaking.  I literally could not type fast enough, and there were moments when I was tearing up because his message is so important - we have to do everything we can for every kid and make sure that we are connecting to each of them.

You can read through some of these tweets or you can go directly to the chat page and read everyone's posts from the conference: #MESPAchat
This video is a must see for educators we must provide authentic experiences for children https://t.co/Y8kue6IaIc #mespachat #kidsdeserveit
— Julie Vincentsen (@jvincentsen) March 23, 2017


I could add so many more, but this is enough for now.  Hopefully some of the comments will make you think and maybe you will want to go to the link and read more!  If you want to borrow a copy of the book Kids Deserve It, I have a few!  It's a quick read, but important read.

Currently reading:
At the conference I just attended, they were having a used book sale.  I might have picked up a few books or maybe actually a whole box of books!  I am excited that I got a copy of Fish! This is a quick read all about bringing energy, passion and joy into the workplace everyday.
And I also picked up the book Fish! Tales which is real life stories about people using the Fish! philosophy. 
Events this week:
Groton FD Safe House all week during gym classes. 
Monday - Make sure all report card info has been inputted into SchoolBrains
Tuesday - Report cards available to parents in the afternoon
Wednesday - NRWA Presentation in Kindergarten, SPED teacher PD with Kelly and Karen - 9:00-12:00, 3rd grade chorus @ 2:25, Liz and Zoann at JFK Library for writing workshop
Thursday - 2nd grade field trip to the New England Aquarium
Friday - Liz and Dianna at SLT from 8:30-10:30

Great things I noticed last week:
  • Ms. Kinneen hosted parents all week in gym class and there was lots of jumping! 
  • On Thursday evening, the 1st graders entertained us with their singing and poetry reciting. 
  • I caught some of Ms. Hoke's and Ms. Johnson's students diving into books during independent reading time. 
  • Thanks to everyone for donating food for our community drive!  Loaves and Fishes was grateful for the donations! 
  • While I never got a chance to pop in and see them in action, Mr. Smith's class had fun doing their math stations this week. 

Check it out:
Check out this blog post by Peter Reynolds about his book about ADHD...correction...book about Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamerhttps://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/you-have-a-gift-not-a-label-by-peter-h-reynolds/

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Little Writing Inspiration

Principal ponderings...

If you remember, back in February, I told all of you about how I was going to challenge myself to participate in the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I wrote about in this post in case you forgot and wanted to read about it again.

So now, it's the middle of March and I am proud to say that I have made it more than halfway through the writing challenge.  I have written a short slice of life story every day so far.  Some days, like today, I don't exactly produce a lot of writing, but I at least sit down and devote some time to writing. And now I can see the finish line, have to keep writing.  Good news is that now, it is part of each day for me.  I can't let a day go by without working on a slice of life story.  If you want to read any of my posts, you can find them here.

Besides getting me to write, the challenge also encourages you to read what others write and comment on their posts.  I know I have loved seeing what people have to say about my writing, and I enjoy getting inspiration from what others write.  There are also some classrooms across the country where students are writing a slice of life story each day.  I thought I would share some individual posts as well as links to some classrooms in case you want some inspiration to do more of your own writing!

Classroom bloggers:
Here are some 3rd grade bloggers in NY! https://kidblog.org/class/mrs-sokolowskis-third-grade-learners/posts
Here are some 5th grade bloggers in Saudi Arabia! http://yis5lblog.blogspot.com/2017/03/classroom-slice-of-life-march-20th.html
Here are some 1st grade bloggers: http://www.behindthescenesinfirstgrade.com/index.html

I am going to paste in a few links to other blogs.  It's hard to choose because there are so many people blogging.  This is going to be a rather random list!
Individual bloggers:
http://sweetwritinglife.blogspot.com/
https://ateachinglifedotcom.wordpress.com/
http://couragedoesnotroar.blogspot.com/
http://livinglifetwice-alwrite.blogspot.com.au/
http://blogs.ksbe.edu/legerboc/2017/03/19/sol-day-20-my-brother-in-law/
http://responsiveliteracy.blogspot.com/
https://jarhartz.com/

If you want to learn more about the slice of life challenge and getting educators and students to write everyday or check out other daily posts, check out the website https://twowritingteachers.org/.

And now maybe you are inspired to do some of your own writing?

Currently reading:
I have had this book for a while and have heard many teachers and students recommend it.  I am finally starting to read it!  A Snicker of Magic is one of the MCBA books this year.  Looking forward to getting into it more.
I have also enjoyed skimming through the book Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White.  I just love Melissa Sweet's artistic talents, and this book not only tells the story of an awesome author, but it is visually appealing to read it.

Events this week:
**Parents are invited into gym classes this week to join in the Jump Rope for Heart activities.
Tuesday - Grade 1 chorus practice 12-1:15 in the PAC, School Council Meeting @ 3:30
Wednesday - Grade 1 school show @ 9:30 in the PAC, 4th graders doing the pledge at School Committee Meeting @ 7:00
Thursday - Liz @ MESPA Conference, District-wide half day, dismissal at 12:15, no lunch served, multi-part series in the afternoon, 1st grade concert @ 7:00
Friday - Staff attending the Blueprint for Educational Excellence National Institute
**Reminder that report cards will go live to parents the following week.

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Thankfully the snow day did not mess up the scheduled Play Preview on Wednesday.  Students got to see just a glimpse of what they would see in the show "Beauty and the Beast."
  • Teachers had fun solving some math problems in our afternoon word problem workshop session with Karen Gartland. 
  • I had fun hanging out in kindergarten one morning - It's amazing what these kiddos will come up with unifix cubes! 
  • A big thank you to the PTA, especially Linda Lee, for organizing Community Reader Days at FloRo!  I had fun going over to Boutwell Friday morning and reading a story to Miss Sheri's class. We even had some furry friends come and listen to stories! 
  • I brought Emerson to the Sunday performance of "Beauty and the Beast."  Our 3rd and 4th graders did an amazing job singing, dancing and having fun on the stage.  Kudos to all of the kids involved in the play! 

Check it out:
Here's a short post I just stumbled across today - all about reminding us to save time for play http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/14560

Monday, March 13, 2017

There are no bad kids

Principal ponderings...

I came across this image this weekend and it made me stop and think.  So now I am sharing it with you in the hope that I will get all of you to stop and think about this statement: 

There are no bad kids.  

Do you share that mindset?  If you think differently, can you stop and think about the impact of that statement?  And when thinking about this idea, how does that change your thought process when working through issues that come up throughout the day?  How does that mindset support or guide your interactions with each child?

The next time a child makes a bad choice, please stop and think about this statement: There are no bad kids.  They are simply trying to communicate their feelings and needs.  

How are we responding to them?



Currently reading:
I spent the weekend with family down on Cape Cod.  We visited a cute little book store in Brewster and of course I had to add to my collection!  Emerson enjoyed reading the picture book A Greyhound, A Groundhog.  We have a greyhound so she was convinced that the book was all about Tom, our greyhound.
The other picture book I purchased is called Antoinette.  This book is written by the same authors who created the book Gaston.   This book is about a dog discovering what her special talent is and how she uses her talent to help a friend. 
I was also excited to purchase a signed copy of Wolf Hollow.  I have heard great things about this book and am looking forward to diving into it. 

Events this week:
Tuesday - Nashua River Kindergarten presentation
Wednesday - Para meeting @ 9:00, Play Preview in the PAC @ 2:15, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - 2nd grade field trip to Peacock Players, Community Reader Day!
Friday - Community Reader Day!
Friday, Saturday and Sunday - FloRo students put on a production of Beauty and the Beast

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I caught some 1st graders working with Audra and doing some recording and creating using the iPads. 
  • Mrs. Clark's class was having fun filming their weather reports and using the green screen. 
  • I enjoyed popping in during some 2nd grade mini concerts in music class - lots of talented musicians! 
  • Family Literacy Night was so much fun!  Lots of families came and played literacy games, read books together in tents, wrote stories, and won books and even a Kindle!  Thanks to the PTA for supporting this event. And thanks to Grace and Holly for all of their hard to prepare for the event.
  • Apparently it was "bring your own sippy cup" to our leadership team meeting on Friday! :)

Check it out:
A short read to go along with my post this week: http://inservice.ascd.org/rethinking-discipline-and-classroom-management/

Don't forget about our community kindness drive that the Student Council is organizing this week...