Sunday, April 26, 2015

Visible Growth

"I'm not telling you it's going to be easy,
I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."
-Art Williams

Last July our family went on vacation through the Midwest.  One of our stops took us to Bettendorf, Iowa to visit good friend Jimmy Casas.  Jimmy got us tickets to the John Deere Classic and enjoyed tons of delicious food!  But this story is more about the journey.  We were preparing to embark on our road trip, I was packing different odds and ends for the car ride.  Just before it was time to go I decided to throw in a baseball and mitt. My two boys at the time had zero interest in baseball and truth be told, couldn't name one major league player.  

Troy (9 years old at the time), noticed the baseball and glove.  We stopped a couple times on the way and each time he wanted to play catch.  You can probably imagine how this went, he threw the ball fine, but catching it was a different story.  I chuckle reflecting on this, he tried putting the glove on his right hand.  He even had to ask for help in how to put the glove on.  He simply didn't know any better.  

We finally arrived in Iowa and when you are a young man the first thing you want to do is release your energy!  My two decided to climb the pillars outside the hotel and then we made our way to the grass field on the side of the hotel. We played for 10-15 minutes and I still saw a very raw young man that didn't have an understanding of the fundamentals. 

Later in the evening we went to dinner and then grabbed dessert with Jimmy Casas, Tom Whitford, Leah Whitford and family.  As we all enjoyed our Whitey's Ice Cream (side note...delicious!!!!) Troy just wanted to play. The area was surrounded by blacktop and I motioned for him to walk out about 50 yards.  At this point we kicked a soccer ball and played catch for nearly an hour.  But at one point Jimmy went out and gave Troy some tips.  Within a couple throws he was showing improvement.  He was still raw...but you could see a potential just under the surface.

When we go out and play catch we still talk about the tips Jimmy gave Troy.

Fast forward 9+ months.  Troy is now 10 years old and this is his first year playing baseball on a team.  I have a chance to watch him and help him almost every day and what I saw as a very raw 9 year old is now a quickly improving 10 year old.  Just last night his coach put him on the mound to be the first pitcher. He and I had worked on a few things and I knew he could do it, but I was still pretty proud to see how far he has come.

How does this relate to education?

Nine months ago you welcomed students into your room.  Some were probably shy, timid or even unsure of what to expect.  But what many of you saw was opportunity and potential.  We're now entering the final stretch of school and if you think back to what students looked like in September and what they have become I bet you are very proud.  Think about what was difficult in the beginning, maybe your kindergarten students couldn't write their name.  Maybe your third graders could only add & subtract.  Maybe your students had never read a chapter book.  When we step back and look at the growth that takes place over the whole year it is substantial.

When I reflect on my days in the classroom the one thing that I'll never forget is seeing the visible growth of my students.  Those moments that made me proud to be an educator.

If you are noticing Spring Fever in your room,  I encourage you to look back and reflect on what your kids looked like and accomplished in September.  I bet you'll feel a strong sense of pride seeing how far they've come.


Monday, April 27th:  3:45pm String Team
Monday, April 27th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Monday, April 27th:  KDG Round-up
Monday, April 27th:  4th begins M-Step testing
Tuesday, April 28th:  9am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, April 28th:  KDG Round-Up
Wednesday, April 29th:  Grades K-2 Assembly
Wednesday, April 29th:  KDG Round-Up
Wednesday, April 29th:  3:45 String Team
Thursday, April 30th:  CP Federal Credit Union at 2pm
Thursday, April 30th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest 
Thursday, April 30th:  KDG Round-Up
Friday, May 1st:  Library Closed for StoryFest Visit
Friday, May 1st:  StoryFest grades K-2
Friday, May 1st:  4pm-7pm Warner Fun Night

*  Teachers please be aware that our Intervention Specialists will be assisting with M-Step on Monday and Tuesday morning.  Please plan accordingly.

Articles Worth Reading:

Colorado Teacher Shares Heartbreaking Notes from 3rd graders @kylemschwartz

What I wish I could tell them about teaching in a Title I school @loveteachblog

Professional Development at a Crossroads @curriculumblog

Let's Celebrate Great Things In Education @thomascmurray

Understand Your Impact @danpbutler

Many residents unaware of changes in education... @Larryferlazzo

Research says: We Think Better on Our Feet! shared by @mikeparent

What Having Twins Taught Me About Teaching @pernilleripp

60 Tiny Love Stories To Make You Smile @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Ellen surprises Walk of Fame tourists! (5 min)

Daily Show with John Stewart - FRAUD CITY (7 min)

Liam the Fist Bump Kid Trailer! (1 min)

Fist Bump Kid...full video (12 min)

Life is your talents discovered by Sir Ken Robinson (10 min)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Taking the Opportunity

"Take advantage of every opportunity to 
practice your communication skills
so that when important occasions arise,
you will have the gift,
the style,
the sharpness, 
the clarity, 
and the emotions 
to affect other people."
- Jim Rohn

Can you feel it?  The excitement is in the air.  So many of our families are preparing for the next school year.  Yes, we still have approximately forty days of school, but we also have kindergarten round-up and the window has opened for families to request for the 2015-2016 school year.

Just last week at our Parent Information Meeting I was stopped by a few parents.  The couple was very pleasant and inquisitive.  They introduced themselves and then asked me which elementary building in the Western District was the best.  I chuckled, told them that was a loaded question and then proceeded to explain that all three elementary schools are truly fantastic.  I shared our district top teacher numbers, our common programs and the tremendous partnership that we have between buildings and in the community.  

And then they asked it...

The couple then asked the question that opened a Pandora's box!  They asked where they could go online and compare the schools' test data.

(Here was my opportunity, and I was going to take it!)

I respectfully began with a bit of information and shared our district website.  I then spoke to them as a parent and an educator.  I let them know that standardized test data is an extremely small piece of information.  Testing typically lasts just a few days.  Then I shared a handful of points that parents could/should look at when looking at schools.  

1)  Location.  Is the school in a safe area?  Will transportation be manageable for your family?  Schools and Real Estate are different, but in both Location does matter.  The hope is that you are close enough to be involved in activities that take place at your child's school.  Ultimately, you want the school to be safe and secure.

2)  Focus on your child.  Does your child have specific needs?  Does your child need extra support?  I often get asked about accelerated programs and about programs designed for the individual.  The best advice I can give is for families to take a tour and check out the school with their own eyes.  Talk to teachers and administrators about learning programs and philosophies.  

3)  Communication.  Parents should look at the schools website.  Has the site been updated?  Is it easy to navigate?  Parents should also inquire about a School Facebook page, School Twitter account, Professional Blogs for parents to read, frequency of parent/teacher conferences and ways that teachers communicate with parents.  

4)  Approach to Learning.  In the year 2015 it is time for schools to not only tell, but also show parents ways students are learning.  Are schools using technology?  Is the curriculum a canned product?  Do teachers provide choice in daily learning?  Do students learn by play, by doing and through experiences?  Learning looks different than it did ten or twenty years ago.  Has the school moved forward over time?  These are important questions for parents to ask.

5)  Facilities.  In this day and age is wireless access provided?  Do you consider the school to be clean?  Upon entering, what is the procedure for entering the school?  Over the years I have discovered that some parents care a great deal about facilities and to others it is secondary.  I have had parents comment on the playground and gym and others focus more on the library.  It's always an eye opener to hear the multitude of questions parents may ask.

6)  Culture.  Have you talked to other parents that have children attending the school?  What do they have to say about the school?  The staff?  The intangibles?  Does the school have extracurricular activities?  Clubs?  Sports?  Student-Led programs?  How does the school "feel" when you enter? Does the school feel student-centered?  When talking to the teachers or principal, can they share student-centered projects or activities?  

To be fair, I shared these points quickly with the parents.  I didn't monopolize their time, but I did want to make sure they understood that a school is much more than a test score.  As we began to finish up, the same parents asked for a packet of homework to work on with their incoming kindergarten student.  I smiled and told them to focus on three things:  1)  Does your child know their phone number and address?  2)  Read to your child and practice the ABC's.  3)  Be Present!  Give your child experiences.  Take them fishing.  Go for a bike ride. Plan a zoo trip.  Your child will benefit greatly by participating in as many experiences as possible.

I share this story for a specific reason.  

Be Ready!

Be ready to have conversations with parents.  Be ready to share what makes your school special.  

Never miss the opportunity to share something great about your school.  You never know what the impact may be.

This Week's Big Question:  What would you add or subtract from my above list?


Monday, April 20th:  3:45pm String Team
Monday, April 20th:  4pm  Boy/Girl Quest
Tuesday, April 21st:  TEAM Meeting 9am
Wednesday, April 22nd:  Caleb (Principal for the Day)
Wednesday, April 22nd:  Grades 3-5 Assembly at 8:45am (Young American Visit)
Wednesday, April 22nd:  Middle School Transition Meetings
Wednesday, April 22nd:  Fire Drill PM
Wednesday, April 22nd:  3:45pm String Team
Thursday, April 23rd:  2nd Grade to Air Zoo
Thursday, April 23rd:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Thursday, April 23rd:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Friday, April 23rd:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Kline's classroom

Articles Worth Reading:

From "I Don't Know" to... @Joesanfelippofc

Fix? @Jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

Goosebumps... (2 min)

Teacher gets a BIG surprise... (4 min)

Forget What You Know (18 min)

Hillary spoof on SNL (5 min)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How much do I understand?

Last week I listened to the new podcast, #BACKCHANNELedu that focused on Native American life on the reservation.  This was the 6th episode and while listening I couldn't help but think, this is a world I simply cannot fathom.  

I dug deeper and read an article that was in the New York Times, Indian Reservation Reeling....  

After reading the article and listening to the podcast I felt extremely naive.  In some weird way I could relate it to reading an article in Runner's World.  The magazine occasionally talks about races that take place on a mountain.  In my mind I often say, I could do that!  But really, who am I kidding. A mountain!  The reality is that a mountain race would kick my butt.  I'd probably be reduced to walking at some point.  

The comparison for me is in the belief that we are all equal.  Don't get me wrong, it's the right thing to say...We Are All Equal.  But the truth is, we aren't.  I listen to the podcast and read the article and I realize life on a reservation is something beyond my comprehension.  I choose to be kind, I choose to listen and I sympathize.  But frankly, this isn't easy for me to empathize.  This is a world I simply don't fully understand.

And so, I relate this to our own students.  Just last week I talked with a young man that seems to be on the precipice of spiraling out of control.  I listened to his story and I could hear his anger.  I spoke with the young man's parent and we will be meeting this week.  It's tough to completely understand some of the home dynamics our kids go home to.  

I think many of our kids realize, We Aren't All Equal.  Our kids see it and hear it each day.  They see their friends going on elaborate trips, they hear their peers talk about experiences they've never done. They notice the clothes and the stuff classmates have.

This all makes me believe that the real issues are poverty and cultural diversity.

As educators it is so easy to be frustrated with our students behaviors, it's easy to simply discipline. We all lose patience from time to time.  

This week I had my perspective challenged.  Once again, I discovered I have a lot to learn.  

Most of the time we feel very comfortable in our safe and secure surroundings.  

When was the last time you expanded your perspective?  


Monday, April 13th:  PM Lockdown
Monday, April 13th:  3:45 String Team
Monday, April 13th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Monday, April 13th:  5th grade M-Step begins
Monday, April 13th:  Author Visit (Leisl Shirtliff)
Tuesday, April 14th:  Admin Meeting 9am
Tuesday, April 14th:  5th grade M-Step
Tuesday, April 14th:  3rd grade trip to Ella Sharp Park
Tuesday, April 14th:  PTO Meeting 7pm
Wednesday, April 15th:  8:45am grades K-2 assembly
Wednesday, April 15th:  Grades 3/4 Standard Based Grading meeting
Wednesday, April 15th:  3:45 String Team
Thursday, April 16th:  5th grade M-Step
Thursday, April 16th:  3rd grade to Ella Sharp Park
Thursday, April 16th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Thursday, April 16th:  Statewide Tornado Drill Day 
Friday, April 17th:  3rd grade trip to Ella Sharp Park

Articles Worth Reading:

Cover to Cover @Vroom6

Videos Worth Watching:

Floating Ellen? (7 min)

Kevin James explains how to put kids to bed. (2 min)

Jaydin Goldstein's Remarkable Day (10 min)

One More Reason To Get A Good Night's Sleep (11 min)

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Advice We Give

About two months ago this young lady (see above) came up to me, gave me a hug and told me she wanted to be a principal when she grows up.

I smiled, patted her on the back and told her, Go For It!  I told her she would be a fantastic principal.

As I walked away I had a grin on my face.  My sense of pride was pretty high.  I take being a role model very serious, and for good reason, many of our students will only have a few principals in their lifetime.  I, for one, hope that they look back and remember the positives.

Then a little later I thought of my advice.  "Go For It!"  Hmmm...would I tell my own boys the same thing?  Would I encourage our youth to become educators?  Is it a satisfying career?

My mind pondered these questions as I lay in bed one night.  Years ago I didn't plan to become a teacher.  Shoot, I went to college and changed majors twice before I finally discovered my passion.  I still remember sitting in classrooms and I filling out interest surveys.  Each time it had me doing something outdoors and traveling.  The point is, some people find their passion at a young age and others continually search for it.  The trick is, whether you discover it at age 10 or at age 40, it's about doing what you love.

"Success is not the key to happiness.
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing,
you will be successful." - Sheri Staak

So back to the question at hand.  Would you encourage your child to become an educator?  Would you encourage anyone to become an educator?

My simple answer is, yes.  But the bigger question is; Is education your passion?

At some point I'll sit down and talk to my boys about their passions.  Right now they think about being a zookeeper and a sports star.  Who knows, maybe those dreams will stick, but then again, their dad changed his mind a few times along the way.

It comes down to this for me.  Some days being principal is really challenging.  Some days I just want to walk out the door and go for a 5 mile run.  Some days I want to put my hand up and simply say, STOP.  But...some days I feel a ton of gratification when I see our kids create something new or have the look of amazement after a science project.  I love sitting and listening to kids tell me about a book they're reading.  Most of all, the little things are what I love.  I love it when teachers share a cool experience with me.  I love it when teachers try something new and they have the "little kid" excitement in their eyes.  I love it when parents tell me how much their children have grown this year.  Most of all I love it when I see our kids smiling!

I'm one of the lucky ones, I've found my passion, I will always encourage our kids to dream high.  

What would you tell your children if they wanted to be an educator?  


Monday, April 6th:  No School
Tuesday, April 7th:  Welcome Back!  Tornado Drill in the PM.
Wednesday, April 8th:  Grades 3-5 in gym for PLC Tennis Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, April 8th:  String Team 3:45pm
Wednesday, April 8th:  Admin Calendar Meeting at 3pm
Thursday, April 9th:  Spring Picture Day
Thursday, April 9th:  Report Card Printing Day
Thursday, April 9th:  Mrs. Gibbs class gets Oliver Garden lunch at 11:30am
Thursday, April 9th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Friday, April 10th:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Dault's room
Friday, April 10th:  Report Cards go home

*  Staff Meeting
- Remind 
- Writer's Workshop

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Evolution of Mom Dancing! (2 min)

An Incredible Rescue Story (4 min)

Dear Nicole (11 min)

Brian Regan phones & codes (5 min)