Friday, May 25, 2012

From atop the Soapbox

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, May 28th:  No School Memorial Day!
Tuesday, May 29th:  Volunteer Luncheon, stop in and say thank you if you have time
Tuesday, May 29th:  Wendy Grant will be delivering AR prizes in the AM
Wednesday, May 30th:  FULL DAY, no more early releases
Wednesday, May 30th:  Last PLC assembly grades 3-5 in gym (CP awards to follow)
Wednesday, May 30th:  Grades PK-2 CP Federal Credit Union Awards assembly at 8:45 in cafeteria
Thursday, May 31st:  KDG to Potter Park Zoo
Friday, June 1st:  4th and 5th grade Field Day at SAU

Being Philosophical...

I must share with everyone that the month of May has been crazy.  I've been trying to analyze why.  A few thoughts creep into my head, class lists, teacher requests, building of choice, retentions, evaluations, being evaluated, student growth data, field trips, graduate classes, reading resumes, writing recommendations, parent meetings, end of the year parties, 5th grade graduation, ...okay, okay, I'm stressing myself out!  Needless to say May is crazy for me because I want to wrap this year up, be ready for next year, and be involved in as much as possible.  I'm finding it is too much.  If I lived at work, I might be able to accomplish all of it...but I must keep life in balance, and with that being said, I must prioritize my lists and let people know I will do it, but it may not be done immediately.  

All of this May craziness made me think it probably isn't just me.  I thought back to my days in the classroom.  Here were my top priorities as a teacher finishing the year:
1.  End of the Year letters to my fifth graders, personalized to every student and with words of encouragement and also a sprinkling of complete honesty to help them grow.
2.  My report cards (some may say I have those two in the wrong order, I disagree, my words meant more to my kids)
3.  Preparing the perfect field trip (I know it doesn't exist, but I tried!  I wanted everything to be smooth and I stressed to do it right)
4.  Having year end talks with parents, letting them know that I will miss their child, and that I've valued their support (these talks were important to both me and my parents)
5.  Making sure my checklist was complete for my principal so that I could be with my own family as soon as school was complete.

Thinking back on those memories is good, it helps me realize that we all have craziness, but it's our own craziness.  My wife has Real Estate two boys talk about their own craziness...if you think you are the only one with a hectic life, I'm sure reading this has helped you realize you're not.  It's in these days of crazy, hectic schedules, late nights, and fast food dinners that we need to step back and live in the moment.  

When I say live in the moment I mean:
1.  Be patient (be patient with friends, colleagues, kids, etc...)
2.  Prioritize (don't forget to tell your family you love them)
3.  Listen (when life gets crazy I listen less, I know this, and I need to slow down and about you?)
4.  Remember to rest (crazy schedules typically mean less sleep, this will create bigger problems)

To conclude, May is coming to an end, you've had a terrific year!  Enjoy these last days and be grateful for the memories that have been made.

Great Things Noticed or Heard:
-Listened to a nice discussion in Miss Hinkley's room.  Students were comparing and contrasting Stone Fox, the book and movie.  Details were terrific and the analyzing of fourth graders was impressive.
-Friday is Ritvik and Neha's last day at Warner.  Ritvik summoned it up with these words, "It's sad and exciting at the same time."  He has shared his nervousness with me these last few weeks, I don't think any of us will ever forget those two.
-Enjoyed spreading my ecosystem knowledge with Mrs. Hurt's fourth graders this week.  Loved watching the collaborative groups!
-Our Wednesday Fire Drill went extremely well.  Kids were quiet, respectful, and quick!
-Another great week of announcements and a new COLT!  Congrats Mrs. Trudell!!
-3rd grade at Greenfield Village!  
*  I've never been on the train...I'm so excited!
*  I didn't die on the Titanic, my girl lived!
*  Whoa that movie screen is huge!
*  I don't like this food, but I'll still eat it.
*  Michael Herrington was the rock, paper, scissor champion!
*  Only had to walk boys to the bathroom four times between 1-4:30am!  (Is that great?)
*  Very supportive parents on the trip!  Great comments, great chaperons, great helpers!
*  Everyone raved about the weather...both days 83 degrees and sunshine.
*  Watched Joey Ellis dance...just so you know, he was good!
*  Caleb is a junior SpiderMan.  He maneuvered through the lasers with amazing control.
*  Had a Greenfield Village employee approach me and comment on how polite the students were in the museum.  Made me feel proud.
*  Watching parents with kids that weren't their own.  Two Thumbs Up to the third grade parent group, patient and caring are the first words in my head!
*  Thank you to all teachers that assisted substitute teachers on Friday.  We had a few and they were very thankful for the help that was provided.

Articles Worth Your Time:

7 Keys to a Positive Learning Environment
Culture and Climate are not the same thing
Can TED talks really work in the classroom?
One minute is a loooooong time!
A great way to Thrive in the end of the year!

Videos worth your time:

If this is the future I'm ALL in!

Creative ways to make you smile!  I think even I could have danced in this video.

Love this video!  The longer I watch the more I smile.

Don't Forget Monday is ...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

From atop the Soapbox

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, May 21:  Fire Drill in the PM
Tuesday, May 22:  4th grade CPFCU
Wednesday, May 23:  3rd grade to Greenfield Village
Wednesday, May 23:  4th grade CPFCU
Wednesday, May 23:  PLC Wednesday, Mr. Smajda would like to briefly talk with all staff in the Warner Library at 2:50pm
Thursday, May 24:  Greenfield Village returning in the evening
Friday, May 25:  Last Day to Check out books
Friday, May 25:  Lockdown practice

The Power of Getting Away...

Does anyone else have occasional difficulties of letting things go?  You may not know it but we might have something in common, I sometimes really struggle with letting go.  As a college golfer I would let a single hole sometimes ruin my round, as a teacher I would struggle on several occasions on how to best reach a student and I couldn't sleep, and as a husband and father I beat myself up for not being home more.  As I've previously stated I'm very analytical, but that brings me to my focus; the power of getting away (and letting go).  Take my mom for example, she would be the first to admit she holds on to the past and cannot let go.  I truly believe letting go and getting away is a mindset.

So let's first start with letting go.  This can be easier said than done, but holding onto past grudges or feelings that you've been wronged will do one major thing...they will spread through you and create more negativity.  Negativity breeds negativity.  There are days we all need to vent, but my advice is this: First, vent...vent to the person you are upset with or to a trusted friend.  Second, let go...let go through prayer or let go through your own ways (exercise, kids, etc...).

Next, the power of getting away.  I find it absolutely essential in any profession to get away.  Now let me clarify, getting away is not hard, but getting away and letting go is hard.  Take Wednesday for me, I have my evening golf league and I'm running a bit behind.  I get to the course and my mind is very cluttered, simply put I was a waste.  I played poorly, I couldn't relax...I should have just went for a long run.  Here is my advice or I guess my soapbox...everyone needs to get away.  Weekends are for getting away, Summer is for getting away, Personal days are for getting away...getting away can be both helpful, powerful, and needed.  We are down to just a handful of weeks to go, some people have lost some patience, some students have full blown summer-itis.  These are the moments we need to get away, let go and remind ourselves that we only live once.  Smile, forgive, think positive thoughts : )

The Top 3 Ways I let go:

1.  Pray...go to church - I'm a internal thinker, one of my favorite things about church is my chance for internal reflection, and those silent prayers for help, guidance, and wisdom.
2.  Run or exercise - For me getting out and running clears my mind, it also helps me to get out and exercise.  It seems so simple, but when your mind is heavy sometimes exercise is the farthest activity away...take time to exercise.
3.  Play with my boys - there is nothing in the world better at distracting me than my boys!  It could be a bike ride, a treasure hunt, a movie, pitching, playing catch, ice skating, you name it, they help me let go.  

Top 3 Suggestions to Get Away:

1.  Mini-Vacations - Take a road trip to a destination you are sure to enjoy (don't over plan it, just enjoy and be flexible).  
2.  Surround yourself with positive friends...have a cookout, barbecue, bonfire, golf outing, or even take in a ballgame.
3.  Do something you've been putting off - go watch the movie that's been on the top of your list, plant a garden you've been meaning to do, landscape, walk the dog in the park, or find a festival to attend (once the warm weather hits, festivals occur most weekends).

(This is a picture from one of my favorite places, Jackson Hole, Wyoming)


- Warner String Team had a fantastic finale to their season.  The string team performed at the Jackson Symphony Orchestra.  All the students were raving about the experience!
- Watched Kindergarten students try and beat Mrs. Kline at Tic-Tac-Toe!  
- Sat down with Meadow as she successfully rhymed 12 words in less than 1 minute, great job kindergarten.
- Loved the purple elephant Aurora showed me, kindergarten has come a long ways this year.
- Received a beautiful water color painting from Taylor.
- Had two of Mrs. Dault's students explain a chrysalis. Then I got to actually see one in the room!
- Watched Noah breeze through his adding coin worksheet, very impressive for 1st grade.
- Listened to Haley tell me about her favorite food being Strawberry CUPCAKES!  Then she wrote about it with Mrs. Reed!
- Had a really nice talk with Mrs. King's class, several students had me sign cards for Caleb...they are missing him!
- Read a cute story by Brooke in Mrs. Valentine's room, she shared with me how she became friends with Erin.  
- 5th graders seemed to really enjoy the Zoo.  Karly Jones said she liked seeing all the animals that don't actually live in Michigan.
- Was really pleased with Breanna G. in Mrs. Hurt's room, she had 10 words in Boggle, as she went through them she took 4 off because she said they weren't real words.  Nice to see honesty in all situations.
- 4th graders returned from Waterloo talking about Geologist Dougie...made me smile!
- Kindergarten students beaming at their recess nature walks.  Glad I can show them the difference in plants and insects.  No more misconceptions of poison ivy.
- Big thanks to Mike MacGuinness for taking the time to take technology on Wednesday!

Articles worth your time:

Power of Prayer
15 Secrets of Successful Self Learners
19 Things we should say to children

Videos Worth Watching:

If you've never heard of TED-ED this is a must.  This video really excited me and made me think of ways to change my educational approach over the summer.

Watched Avengers Friday Night!  Really enjoyed myself.

This week I had the 3-5 assembly and we focused on Random Acts of Kindness.  I showed them this brief video to try and spark inner goodness.

Easily one of my all-time favorites.  Robin Williams inspiring young minds.  Will you seize the day?

Friday, May 11, 2012

From atop the soapbox

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, May 14th: Ben is out of building at New Science Common Core meeting at the ISD
Wednesday, May 16th:  Grades 3-5 morning assembly @8:45
Wednesday, May 16th:  PLC time 2:50-3:35 with Mike MaGuinness (location TBD)
Friday, May 18th: 5th grade Zoo trip
Friday, May 18th:  4th grade field trip to Waterloo

Thrive or Survive?

I happened to be participating this week in an #educoach chat.  I read a tweet that asked the question, "How do we thrive at years end, compared to simply surviving?"  I loved this tweet.  It made me think of how we view situations.  Take my week for example, it surely had high ups and low downs, but don't most of us experience ups and downs?  I once read this quote:  

“Make a game of finding something positive in every situation. Ninety-five percent of your emotions are determined by how you interpret events to yourself."  

I believe this!  Every person has the power to choose how they will react.  I try very hard to not overreact to any situation.  I grew up with a simple approach and have tried to keep the approach in all situations, that is: cooler heads prevail...and their is a reason for everything.  The second one I heard as a teenager.  One of my close friends told me God has a reason.  I thought about this, it was deep for me.  It was at this time I put faith in a higher power, I "let go".  I tried to look at the positive in all situations.  Some may say it's annoying (my wife gets bothered by my positiveness, she says it would be nice if I could just be pessimistic once in a while).  The longer you are around me the more you are bound to see that I look for a positive spin in most if not all situations.  It's as I mentioned last week, I try to avoid people that bring me down or zap the positiveness from me.  So that brings me to THRIVE or SURVIVE?  The end of the school year is four weeks away.  Some dread summer-itis in students, some get very impatient with the general lack of focus, some count down the days and can't wait for summer.  All of these modes are SURVIVAL.

I'd like to see a shift to THRIVE.
*  Use the weather to your advantage - write a story on cloud patterns while students lay on their backs and stare at the sky
*  Create a walking field trip around your school
*  Have students teach mini-lessons and brainstorm ways to assess and engage all students
*  Create projects that students have a say in choosing (find an area of interest for them)
*  Read a story that students can connect with...and try finding one that has been made into a movie (compare and contrast the two with a Venn diagram)
*  Involve parents, have students write about a parent and then read the story in front of them at school
*  Use technology for student centered projects (Comic Book app, iMovie, Garage Band) let students tinker with technology to excite them!
*  Have students create and sing a song about something they learned in class.  I used to have Revolutionary Raps quite frequently in May. (seems so long ago)

If we stop dreading the days, fighting with class management, and groaning to co-workers we can thrive.  I say try something new!  If you are in survival mode stop now.  Shift your thinking, collaborate with others and find a way to motivate, inspire and engage while you still can.  That is the KEY phrase..."while you still can".  In less than a month your fingerprint on this group of students will be over.  Sure you can still play a minor part, but not like you can now.

How will you THRIVE in the final month?

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

-Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!  Our wonderful Warner parents supplied five days of delicious lunches!  I must say, shame on you parents...those desserts were irresistible : )
-A big thank you to Mr. Kinney, your assistance Friday was much appreciated.
- Terrific Mother's Day Celebration on Thursday morning with Mrs. Archer's classroom and Mom's!  I loved hearing all the wonderful things kids say about mom's.  The portraits they drew are keepers.
-Kudos to Mrs. Dault.  I really enjoyed my time in her classroom, the kids wrote nice poems and learned good restaurant manners.  Great approach!
-Really enjoyed my morning in Mrs. Moffitt's room.  Students were working on the letter Q...Kenneth was trying so hard to rhyme different Q words.  Not sure if this qualifies...quarter and quamer?  Sounded cute though.
-Chief Ratkiewicz had someone turn in a cell phone, it had my number in it.  He called me and then walked over to Warner.  As I walked off the soccer field the kids couldn't stop talking about me and the chief chatting!
-Best news about his visit, the phone was Mr. Delor's!  Glad that worked out for the best!
-Started a new class this week.  Finance and School Economics...I can hear you all groaning, but I was pleasantly surprised after week one.
-Walk to School Day was a hit!  Kids love just the right amount of exercise.
-A dad came in this week.  He asked if he could go give a hug to his kindergarten daughter...he said he wasn't real nice this morning and wanted her to know he's sorry (#goodparenting)
-Got a chance to share information about myself in Mrs. Holton's class.  Kids loved the pictures, wearing the color yellow, seeing me hold a stuffed animal and devouring fruit roll-ups!
-Saw a very disgusting (but also fascinating) picture of gum thanks to Mrs. Oliver and Sid!
-2nd graders raved about the trip to Impression 5!  Heard great stories about bubbles, teeth, and shadows. Hands-on learning is the best!
-Congrats to Makaila M. for being first to correctly solve the Friday riddle.
-So grateful for the flexibility from Mrs. Holton and Mrs. King with the Band Fitting.  Very thankful!
-Happened to notice Mr. Lenhart and Mrs. Shearer returned both Thursday and Friday to enjoy delicious lunches.
-Livingston surprised me again.  This time he wrote personal letters to all of Mrs. Valentine's students.  It's easy to spell quality, just like this...L...I...V...I...N...G...S...T...O...N!  You're a class act young man.
-Observed Lyle Torrant this week.  Always good for me to see other schools, gives me great perspective on how wonderful we have it at Warner!

Articles worth your time:

10 collaborative projects for school
Recapturing the last days of school
10 videos every educator should watch
Website for creating classroom certificates

Videos worth your time:

Most Teens Don't video shot in Downtown Jackson.
Can you guess who Dorothy is?  Look close, I bet you recognize her.

Wouldn't this be a pleasant surprise?  I think yes!

MUST SEE VIDEO, thank you Dan Spencer.  Only 4 minutes and very powerful personal testimony. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

From atop the Soapbox

Next Week At a Glance:

Monday, May 7th:  2nd Grade Common Core @ TIC
Monday, May 7th:  Crisis Response Meeting (Ben only)
Tuesday, May 8th:  Employee Appreciation Breakfast 6:30-8:30am
Tuesday, May 8th:  5th Grade Music 10:05am in cafeteria
Tuesday, May 8th:  Panther Pride Lunch
Wednesday, May 9th:  Walk to School Day (bus drop at Fire Station)
Wednesday, May 9th:  2nd grade to Impression 5
Wednesday, May 9th:  K-2 PLC assembly
Thursday, May 10th:  KDG common core in TIC
Thursday, May 10th:  5th grade common core @ Parma
Friday, May 11th:  5th grade Instrument Fitting

This week I had several thoughts dancing through my head.  I had a very difficult time thinking of one topic to focus on.  I started last night and put in my Shelfari and the Blog Calendar.  My hope is that people can now see upcoming events and check out what I'm currently reading.  

As for my focus...if you didn't know I've been assisting Boy Quest for a few weeks.  Each week I come in I try to have a meaningful conversation that helps motivate or inspire.  Then we play games to increase fitness.  My goal is to be a positive role model, and try to make a difference in the boys lives.  My first talk with the boys centered around changing the perception people have of them.  I shared a story about my 6th grade year and how the teacher continually thought of me as a trouble maker.  The longer my teacher thought this, the harder I felt it would be to change her opinion.  Lucky for me 7th grade was great.  I shared my frustrations with the boys and I found that many of them have felt similar.  It made me think, how many kids are just craving a fresh start?  It's the end of the school year, many kids will get a much needed break and then they have a small opportunity to make next year start great.  

I followed up my week one talk with a talk about role models and heroes.  I shared with the boys that growing up I did not have one specific hero.  I took characteristics from several people and tried to blend them into me.  Still to this day I cannot pick just one person I look up to.  Simply put I learn and get inspiration from many.  I found that the boys themselves did have heroes, but their heroes were weak (they talked about money, fame, and possessional things).  I thought to myself part of the problem with kids of today is a lack of "good, realistic, role models".  For instance, growing up I watched Little House on the Prairie, Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, Mash, and Night Rider.  These shows weren't great, but the characters were real, they could be hurt, they had realistic problems, they seemed to have ups and downs to every episode.  Today's shows don't contain the same plot and problem solving.  The shows of today for many kids are flash, bang, boom!  It's not just shows, sports stars of today are very different from those from previous years.  I think it's important kids look up to role models.  

Which brings me to my next point.  Saturday morning hit and the Boy and Girl Quest students went downtown to run a 1.2 mile fun run.  I was delighted that all our Western girls participated and I was pleasantly surprised that we had many boys.  This was terrific!  My agenda was two fold, I wanted to run hard for myself, but I wanted to cheer on our kids as well.  In the end, the kids did great!  Parents participated, cheered, hugged, and gave high fives!  I saw smiles on so many kids faces, I felt we were really making an impact.  Later I went to breakfast with a good friend of mine.  As we sat and talked about everything from the run to religion, he stopped me and he said, "It was really amazing to hear so many cheers for those kids, the positive energy is so contagious!"  I thought about this, and that is a big reason why I love what I do.  In every facet of my life I try to surround myself with positive people.  MOST kids are positive, even if home isn't the best they'll smile at school.  If school is frustrating them, they'll smile at recess.  In some way or shape kids seek out happiness.  I guess that makes me a big kid.  I want to be happy and be around upbeat, positive people.  So when you see me wearing a bright color, or greeting kids at the door, or running around at recess, just remember I'm trying to spread my positive energy to everyone!  I view life as a gift, I love what I do, I have a great family, and sure some days aren't the best, but it's okay to remind myself that life is good.  

As the year starts to come to an end (5 weeks, but who's counting), I urge you to be the positive role model so many of your kids need, greet them with a smile in the morning, praise them for the little things, and be the person others want to be around!

- Ritvik was supposably on the office phone with his grandmother in India...I told him that would cost him!  I then asked him what time it was in India...he responded 2am.  (Thankfully he wasn't talking to grandma in India)
- Kindergarten students returned Friday and told me about the "cool" stories they heard.  The excitement in their eyes told me all I needed to know.
- Shaina Jaster beemed Friday for two reasons; 1- she really rocked at College for a Day in the Jeopardy Game 2 - Her week of announcements was terrific and I praised her in front of mom.  She was glowing!
- The 5th grade boys defeated the girls in Jeopardy, but you wouldn't have thought that if you looked at the body language and heard the remarks.  The girls were very positive and walking proud back to Warner.
- The 3-5 assembly on Wednesday was a true hit!  Kids loved being outdoors and participating in so many Track and Field events.  Great work bringing them to Warner Mr. Holton!
- It was a pretty warm week, but as Carter Inosencio stated, "We can't really complain about being hot, look at Mr. Gilpin in his long sleeve shirt, tie, and pants...he's not complaining."  I glanced over and winked at him.
- I really noticed our hallways last week, great job keeping everything so clean John and Merrie Jo!

Articles worth Reading:
Printing from an iPad
100 Best Youtube Videos for Teachers
Bloom's Apps
Top 12 End of the Year activities for Teachers to Use in the Classroom
Crabs in a Barrel?

Videos worth Checking Out:

Humor me...this is my son Drew and his attempt at soccer insanity.  It is a bit odd, but he's hoping for more hits.  It's only 36 seconds.

Probably the video that makes me think the most about education and the future.