Friday, October 26, 2012

What's your label?

As I travel back in my time machine to the late 1990's, I vividly remember going to various schools in upper Indiana.  I taught lessons, observed, and met with many educators.  Essentially I was learning how to become a teacher.  During my observations, practicums, and classes we discussed best practices, assessments, lesson planning and classroom management.  I felt very fortunate to be in several rural and urban schools.  My time spent in inner city Fort Wayne and small city Fremont was very different, but very beneficial.

I'm not sure any of that training could have prepared me for IEP's that discussed ADHD, ADD, OHI, ODD, ECDD, ASD, LD, CP, DD, EI, ESL, LEP, MS, OCD, and SLI.  Over the last few years student labels have increased bringing me to do a bit of digging.  As I researched special education, I found that in 1977 the number of special education students in the United States was 3,694. As of 2009 that number was 6,483.  The largest jump in Special Education referrals came between 1991 and 1999. 

The reason I bring this to you is this:  Labels are here to stay. I for one think labels are abundant and excessive, but I have to work with all students no matter what the label.  We have all had conversations with parents who eagerly pursue help and diagnoses, yet other parents often say, "I do not want my child to have a label!"  As an educator this is really challenging. I'm not a doctor and I'm not a med pusher, what I am is someone that wants to help students be successful.  I'm someone that wants to help teachers create the best classroom atmosphere for learning. 

My approach with parents is based on being a fellow parent and  also an educator.  On one hand, I try to relate to parents and let them know some struggles I've had with my own children.  On the other hand, as an educator, I want to help all students succeed.  I feel it is my responsibility to inform parents that this is what I see and this is the concern.  I will never give a prescription, but I will inform parents of my observations and findings.  These conversations will not be easy, but we are the professionals and we must be willing to have the difficult conversations with them.

I will continue to create AIP's, 504's, and IDP's.  I will continue to participate in IEP's and at some point I won't be surprised if most students have an individualized plan.  Remember, labels are here to stay, and some people embrace them and others despise them.  It is our job to educate, inform, and service all kids.  No matter what the label or the acronym, all students need us.

On a funny note, could you create your own acronym for this year's class?

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  Wonderful use of Salsa words in Mrs. Gibbs classroom, no more Itsy Bitsy Spider, it is now the Diminutive Arachnid!  Love the use of the thesaurus!
*  Student Prezi's in 4th grade are blowing me away!  I told Joey he needs to teach me and he then said, "I could but Josh B. is really good.  You might want to ask him."
*  Mrs. Kline is loving her new Smart Board! 
*  2nd and 3rd grade lunch are big fans of the music group One Direction!  Nice to hear the students in unison.
*  1st grade loved gym!  They played Trick, Trick, Treat instead of Duck, Duck, Goose.  Nice way to change things up Mr. Holton!
*  Learned many new Spanish words this week, and enjoyed the brief history of Dia de los Muertos.
*  Young Fivers are very cute while trying hard to keep a secret...but they really want to tell me.
*  I received a birthday cupcake on Thursday, and the little helper said to me, "Mr. Gilpin, if you keep eating birthday cupcakes you might get fat!" 
*  Enjoyed reading student blogs in 4th grade!  Also enjoyed reading Mrs. Gibbs blog.  You are setting a wonderful example to your students...keep it up!
*  The temperature dropped thirty degrees over night, and Matt V. made sure to tell me that summer is over. 
*  I enjoyed watching Mrs. Soper's class create Monster Pizzas.
*  Trinity told me I was a good brainstormer.
*  Lucas I. asked me to give every student a nickname.  I called him Disney and he said no, I'm the Flash.  I told him people don't get to create their own nicknames : )
*  Thank you to Mrs. Walz for the new flowers; the little things are very much appreciated.
*  Perfect timing on my new salsa. Thank you Merrie Jo!

Things to take note of:

*  We must get in 3 more fire drills before Winter break.
*  We must get in a Lockdown before Thanksgiving.
*  Next week is a four day week.
*  Next week is the end of the first quarter.
*  Third grade goes to Jiffy next week.
*  Music rotation begins at Warner!

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, October 29th:  3rd grade to Jiffy
Monday, October 29th:  Happy Birthday Mrs. Walz
Tuesday, October 30th:  4pm - 5pm Warner String Team
Wednesday, October 31st:  Grades 3-5 morning assembly
Wednesday, October 31st:  Halloween, Parade begins at 2pm.
Thursday, November 1st: 3:45pm first after school Art class
Friday, November 2nd:  PD for teachers.  More information will be sent to you.

Articles worth your time:

Videos Worth Watching:

This is fantastic!  Synchronized, current, and well done. (3 min)

Amy Cuddy on the significance of body language (21 min)  (Very insightful)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Star Wars (in a way...)

I promise this will have a point...I think : )

True Story:  As many of you know I have two boys Drew age 10, and Troy age 7.  My boys are polar opposites, Troy is very outgoing, and "in your face". Drew is quieter, introverted, and techy.  This blog involves Drew.  Drew has always been, "a tough nut to crack" so to speak.  He can be, shy, rude, peculiar, bright, unmotivated, and sensitive.  Yes, all over the board.  Recently Drew has taken an interest in Star Wars.  We have watched Episode I, II, and III together.  Drew has had many questions and lots of insightful comments.  A few days ago we watched Episode III.  (Spoiler Alert) In this Episode Anakin chooses the Dark Side and turns into Darth Vader.  We all know Darth Vader.  Well, Drew cried at this part, and it wasn't a little cry it was very emotional.

Before I continue with the Star Wars piece it is important to note that Drew has had many struggles in school.  He is bright, but EXTREMELY difficult to motivate.  This has made for many long, stressful nights at home.  This year has been different, Amy and I have decided to give Drew some independence and see how he does.  Through the first 30+ days he brought home homework 5 times.  I knew he was in trouble, but I continued to back off and hope he would become inspired or possibly become responsible.

Two days after watching Episode III, Drew was in his normal mode of being difficult.  He wouldn't listen to Amy and I and he didn't believe his teachers or doctors (eye doctor and sleep doctor) knew anything.  I decided enough was enough.  I sat down with Drew and explained my concerns and fears.  The conversation was lengthy, he yelled, he cried, and then he made a startling argument.  He said that he knows best and that everyone else is wrong, he said no one understands me.  I felt like I was hitting a brick wall, I had to try to relate to him some how.  After his comment I looked him in the eye and said, "You've crushed me Drew, you have chosen the Dark Side."  His eyes widened and he paused, he said "what?" I then clarified the similarities between his selfish ways and Anakin's selfish ways.  The next ten minutes went remarkably well.  I do not think Drew is going to be perfect, but I broke through, and I now have New Hope (Star Wars reference)!

I took this lesson with my own son to heart.  I have had difficult conversations with parents, parent groups, students, and even some staff members.  What I find is that relating to each person or group helps me understand how best to deal with the situation.  Clearly I deal with students different then I do parents, but the overall key is relating.  

We are nearing the end of the first quarter, you definitely know which students will cause you the most heartburn this year.  My advice is find an interest, a hobby, an angle that will help you relate and understand the student.  By doing this the student will know how much you care and if nothing else it will help in communicating with parents. 

Tomorrow or Sunday Drew and I will watch Episode IV.  I plan to revisit our conversation and help him in any way I can.  My two boys are polar opposites, no two students are alike, every situation is different.  Try to break through barriers with love and caring.  Try to relate to your difficult student and see if that makes any difference.  I know all of you care for kids, keep the faith, understand the challenges we all face, encourage each other and may the force be with you : )

Important things to note:

*  TAT on Wednesday for grades 1 & 2
*  Halloween parade has been moved to 2pm on Wednesday
*   Two weeks left in the first quarter
*  If you are struggling with entering goals please contact me, I can help.
*  K-2 assembly on Wednesday
*  All MEAP materials must be completed by Friday, if you have any materials locked in your room please turn them in Monday.

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  First graders tell it how it is, Aurora saw me in a sweater on Wednesday and said, " Why are you wearing that?"  I said, "I didn't have any power at home."  Aurora then stated, "You look terrible!"  I chuckled : )
*  Nearly every day students bring me something, cupcakes, birthday treats, cards or pictures, but last week a few Young Five students asked me to make them a I did : )
*  Delicious Birthday Lunch on Friday!
*  Thank You to Mr. Lenhart and Mr. Baum for being so flexible on Friday.
*  It was really cool to hear all the students singing at the assembly.  #WarnerPride
*  3rd grade had a breakfast feast on Friday!  Big thanks to all parents that helped out.
*  Mrs. Soper's students cut open pumpkins and cooked the seeds!  Great memories.
*  Sat down with Matt, Adi, Michael, and Bailey.  They all shared thoughts on their books.  Walking in to a class that is engaged in reading was wonderful.  I didn't want to leave.
*  Very impressed with the maturity in Mrs. Dault's room.  The class out behaved some of our older students.
*  Heard nice comments at recess about Mrs. Oliver's science experiment outside.  Students talking academics at recess...nice to hear!
*  Mrs. Smith's class really enjoyed Safetyville.  I was told no one got a ticket!
*  Tyson and his Kids Hope mentor made a really cool Pine Wood Derby car!
*  All eleven students in the Warner String team could play Hot Cross Buns!
*  Big thank you to Mrs. Walz for all of her cleanup support.  Always going the extra mile...thank you!

Next Week at a Glance:

Tuesday, October 23rd:  4th grade to IndianBrook Farms
Tuesday, October 23rd:  Warner String Team at 4pm
Wednesday, October 24th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45
Wednesday, October 24th:  TAT grades 1 & 2 beginning at 2:45
Thursday, October 25th:  Opening Day of CD Federal Credit Union
Saturday, October 27th:  Happy Birthday to Mary Lou Miller

Articles Worth Your Time:

Videos Worth Your Time:

Seth Godin (2 minutes)

Creative, Risk Taking, Fun (4 min)

Sir Ken Robinson discusses collaboration (6 min)


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Scary Direction

Goodness it must have been twenty plus years ago.  I remembering sitting in class and listening to Mrs. White inform our class that we were going to take the CAT test (this stood for California Achievement Test).  I still remember thinking, we live in Michigan, why are we taking the California test?  To this day I have no clue how I did.  That is important to note, I now have a high school degree, a bachelors degree, a masters degree, and I'm on my way to my Specialist degree.  How I did on the CAT test did not make a "lick" of difference.  

Thirteen years ago I began teaching in my own classroom.  At this time the MEAP test was given in late Winter/Spring.  I remember downplaying the test and simply trying to motivate my students to "try their best".  Then in mid-May my principal would call all the 5th grade teachers into a room and we would "debrief" every single question on every section of the MEAP.  We would be told where our students succeeded and where they failed.  It was mid-May, and we had three weeks to fix them before middle school (ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  THIS IS WHAT WE DID!)

Three years ago I became principal, I did not want "High Stakes Testing", I do not believe 4-6 days of testing proves the worth of a student, teacher, or school.  I am a firm believer the system is broken.  Standardized Tests were never designed to be, "the end all say all", but somewhere along the line they did become this.  I will always ask my teachers to encourage and help motivate, but I will not place a ton of weight on MEAP scores.  It must be stated that these are my views, and I fully understand the funding implications of Standardized Tests, as well as the way the community views these scores.  Scores have become a way to "grade" schools.  It saddens me that Standardized Tests are now High Stakes, they were never designed to be this.

I have faith that our students will do well.  I know for a fact that teachers will be completely professional.  I will even venture that our kids will do extremely well. I believe this because I know we have fantastic teachers.  That being said, I still do not believe in High Stakes testing.

As we move into the last part of MEAP I encourage all of you to do your best, encourage, motivate and inspire.  Understand we have 180 days to make an impact in student lives each year, 4-6 days of testing should not outweigh everything else that happens in the classroom.  I believe in all of you, and I truly believe we are doing a great job educating our students.

Things To Take Note of:

*  Halloween Parties will take place on Halloween.  This is an early release Wednesday.  The parade weather permitting) will be outdoors at 1:30.  5th grade will have a slightly tweaked schedule.
*  PTO meeting is Tuesday, October 16th at 7pm.  I really hope we have a couple teachers willing to attend.  Grade level reps would be great, but I'd be thrilled to have two teachers join us.
*  Next Week's Assembly will take place Friday morning at 8:45am rather than Wednesday.  It is scheduled to be grades 3-5, but that is a wonderful MEAP day and I believe it is best to have this be a "routine" day rather than an assembly day.
*  If you have not entered IDP goals into Stages Software please get in touch with me.  It really is not complicated or difficult and I will assist you any way I can.
*  Nice work on the Tornado Drill, 1 minute and 36 seconds.
* We do need two more Fire Drills this Fall and a Lockdown.  Just giving everyone a "heads-up".

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, October 15th:  Carla Koontz from SAU is bringing over a Chinese Delegation.  They will be touring the building and meeting with me.  We may stop in two rooms (I've already talked with teachers).
Tuesday, October 16th:  MEAP testing
Tuesday, October 16th:  Warner String Team at 4pm
Wednesday, October 17th:  CP Federal Credit Union Kick-off assembly at 1:45 (location TBD)
Thursday, October 18th:  1st Grade to Safetyville
Friday, October 19th:  Happy Birthday to Darren Taylor
Friday, October 19th:  8:45 Grades 3-5 assembly in cafeteria

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  Picture Day seemed to go very well.  Lots of smiling faces, headbands were allowed, and I believe everyone got in before recess/lunch!
*  Really impressed with Hayden K. in 1st grade, he was able to retell all events from his story he read me.  Great Comprehension!
*  Got a kick out of the pink teeth on Friday in Mrs. Archer's room...I'm sure she was glad it was Friday!  Do you ever notice some parents really overdue birthday treats?
*  Met with the 4th grades last week and introduced them to our new student Jesse.  Very pleased with the mature questions and polite attitudes.  Great group of kids!
*  A big thank you to Meg, Chelsea, and Breanna G. for helping me out on Friday afternoon.  
*  Visited a couple bus stops last week and made an appearance at Woodville.  Students were well behaved on these days, then I was reminded that they were good because I was there : )
*  Enjoyed my Mileage Club walks with kindergarten students.  So that is what it feels like to be Santa Claus : )
*  Spent some time with Allison and Luke in Mrs. Dault's class.  Luke was working very hard on retelling.  Allison did a nice job counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's.
*  Amazed by the facts that Mrs. Moffitt's students shared with me about Columbus Day!  
*  Sat down with Gavin in Mrs. Kline's room, he was able to take my order and also inform me that I needed to have a fruit or vegetable with my dinner : )
*  Followed to third graders in the hall last week and listened to them speak Spanish to each other!  Just wish I knew what they were saying : )

Articles Worth Your Time:

Videos Worth Your Time:

Team work makes the Dream Work...inspiring (3 minutes)

How far can kindness spread... (I will be showing this to students at the next assembly) (5 minutes)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Educating the WHOLE child

I just returned from our Annual 5th Grade Camp Trip.  For those of you that don't know we visit Mystic Lake YMCA Campground in Clare, Michigan.  I've been fortunate enough to enjoy three great years.  This week the focus is on educating the Whole Child.  Each year grade levels design field trips that will educate, inspire, and improve students.  Some of the field trips that students experience are Potter Park Zoo, Binder Park Zoo, Safetyville, Impression 5 Museum, GreenField Village, Waterloo campground, and 5th Grade Camp.  I realize there are more, but the point is students are giving several opportunities to learn and grow.  

This brings me to the point of this week's blog:  "Educating the Whole Child". I was asked a few weeks ago if 5th grade would survive without the camp experience.  I paused and thought of my response carefully.  I finally said, "Survive, yes, but the goal is not simply to educate academically, we're invested in educating the whole child."  I received a nod, the meeting was positive, but I clearly could tell that in challenging financial times we have to fight for what we believe in.  

I believe in educating the whole child. I often talk to kids about Respect and Responsibility.  I frequently will talk with 4th and 5th graders about setting a strong example and being leaders.  I tell them they can lead in many ways, and they must find the way that suits them best.  When our 5th graders go off to camp I sit and talk with all groups at various points of the trip.  I ask them about the experience and what has been challenging.  For three years I have heard similar responses; the biggest challenge is working as a team and communicating with classmates.  

By the time 5th graders leave they are more aware of their own feelings, they feel more self confident, they've learned that communication and teamwork are vital traits, and they learn how to square dance!  The point is this:  For three days we leave behind MEAP prep, Math and Reading books, and learning at our desks.  We learn by doing, we learn by experiencing it first hand, and our 5th graders return with a new understanding of each other and themselves.  This is teaching the Whole Child, and this is the difference I want to make!

I hope field trips never go away.  When we look back on our own education we typically remember the most impactful events.  I, for one, remember a few major events such as our middle school trip to Toronto, the elementary trips to Sauder Village, GreenField Village, and Kellogg in Battle Creek.  Field trips are memorable and education shouldn't be limited to paper, pencil, and book.

Things to be on the lookout for:

*  MEAP begins Tuesday.  Please pick up your #2 pencils and Test Administrator books.
*  On the MEAP note, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers should email me students for small groups.
*  Monday is Columbus Day!
*  SAU tutors begin this week.  If you need to contact your tutor by email please let me know.
*  1st grade to Safetyville
*  Friday is Picture Day
*  Tornado drill this week, I've fallen a bit behind. (My bad.)

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, October 8th:  Columbus Day
Monday, October 8th:  1st grade Safetyville
Monday, October 8th:  Tornado Drill in the PM
Tuesday, October 9th:  Warner String Team from 4-5pm
Tuesday, October 9th:  MEAP begins for grades 3-5
Tuesday, October 9th:  Happy Birthday to Carmen Hinkle
Wednesday, October 10th:  Assembly for grades K-2 8:45 (makeup from last week )
Friday, October 12th:  Picture Day
Friday, October 12th:  Happy Birthday to Deb Trudell

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  Loved the "book" that was created for me, "While the Cat's away...the Mice will play"
*  Very pleased with our High School Counselors, in my three years at Camp this was the best group by far!
*  No complaints from students about weather, kids can be very resilient.
*  Loved my hugs from Young Fivers on Tuesday, so many said they would miss me
*  Jessica and Rebekah amazed me on the Giant Swing, both went to the top!
*  Proud of how our fifth graders treated each other.  
*  Can't wait to see Mr. Baum playing the BANJO!
*  Big thanks to Mrs. Shearer, Mrs. Struck, Mrs. Soper, and Mr. Baum, they picked up the slack with our group being one man down.  Great job group.

Articles Worth Your Time:

Videos Worth Your Time:

Where good ideas come from... (4 min)

Are you past oriented or future oriented? (10 min)

Why work doesn't happen at work. (17 min)

Fun at Camp!