Tis the Season

For some, this is a time of celebration, joy, and giving. For others, the season brings about worry, concern, and unmanageable stress.

tis-the-seasonRegardless of where you find yourself along this spectrum of feelings and emotions, research proves the next 4 weeks to be a time when families and/or individuals are consumed with demands (good, bad, and indifferent) that result in a high degree of stress. Most would agree they experience stress on a daily basis but combined with the holiday season, stress levels soar. It may be stress related to the schedules we will attempt to keep (family events, concerts, parties, etc.), the financial burdens (gift giving), or lack of personal well-being (healthy eating and exercise).

As we approach this magical time of year, I would ask you to be mindful of what our students may be experiencing. We will be challenged with the task of managing a plethora of emotions within our classrooms. Therefore, I wonder, how can we help our students see/view the month of December as an opportunity to be kind, be empathetic, and to practice gratitude?  In my opinion, it begins with the personal model we provide for our students as well as the opportunities for teaching.  Teaching possibilities which may include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • 25 Days of Kindness – recognizing and displaying random acts of kindness in and out of the classroom
  • engage in a volunteer opportunity as a classroom community
  • start your day with ‘Tabletop Twitter’ – #WhatI’mGratefulFor
  • acknowledge and let go of the MOD’s – “Mistakes of the Day”
  • read and explore a piece of literature with a strong message about ‘giving’

In the end, I would ask you to take care of yourselves and be the example you wish to see in our students. Take time each day to reflect upon all you have to be grateful for and know, no matter what happens, you have the love and support of the people around you and ALL WILL BE WELL!

Image result for one thing

KFC has chicken, Apple has computers, Google has search, and Starbucks has coffee.

I am in the midst of reading, The One Thing, by Gary Keller. In this book the author challenges the reader to focus their attention on one thing.

So what does this mean for the work we do every day in the multifaceted system of an elementary school?  When I think about one thing in regards to education, for me, it is student achievement.  However, student achievement can be such a complex idea; relationships, curriculum, standards, testing, data analysis, parent communication, lesson design, and the list goes on and on.

Narrowing the focus of such a complex idea is where we will find extraordinary results.  Therefore, going small; finding the one thing that matters most.  For us, here at EFA+, I believe we have identified our one thing, a solid collaborative model.

One thing, narrow focus, extraordinary results.


“I like it here.”

“I like it here, Mommy!”  These were the words spoken by a potential kindergartner for the 2017-18 school year.

This week, I had the opportunity to tour this little gal and her mom through our school.  The timing wasn’t ideal as it was during the lunch hour. As a result, we weren’t able to see students in classrooms and/or teachers in the act of teaching. Even without a personal conversation with teachers and a glimpse into a living, breathing classroom, this is the impression this eager learner left with.  How does this happen?

I see this as evidence of the culture of our building. It is unspoken, yet, seen and heard by those who stroll through our hallways.  The term school culture generally refers to the philosophies and beliefs held by the school community and impacts the way in which the school functions.  A school culture results from both conscious and unconscious perspectives, actions, and practices held by the learning community (students, parents, and staff).

Positive school cultures are advantageous to staff morale and effectiveness, as well as, to student learning, fulfillment, and well-being. The following list, as identified by Great School Partnerships, is a selection of characteristics commonly associated with positive school cultures:

  • The individual successes of teachers and students are recognized and celebrated.
  • Relationships and interactions are characterized by openness, trust, respect, and appreciation.
  • Staff relationships are collegial, collaborative, and productive, and all staff members are held to high professional standards.
  • School leaders, teachers, and staff members model positive, healthy behaviors for students.
  • Mistakes are not looked upon as failure, but they are seen as opportunities to learn and grow for both students and educators.
  • Students are consistently held to high academic expectations, and a majority of students meet or exceed those expectations.
  • All students have access to the academic support and services they may need to succeed.

A positive school culture is not something that happens by accident; it is planned, well-designed, and implemented with a high degree of intention.  Thank you for being acutely aware of our words and actions in an effort to maintain an environment that promotes learning, fulfillment, and well-being.

Making Moves

The start of the school year has been one of change and moves for my family and I.  During summer break, our daughter moved to a new community and is teaching a new grade level. Our granddaughter made the big move to Kindergarten. And, for me a move from an intern position to principal of an elementary building. For the three of us, the moves were made by choice and based on opportunities to learn and grow. We made these moves with the full support of our family and friends.  The moves were fairly seamless, and yet, with any type of change there can be times of struggle, challenge, and uncertainty. However, because of our support systems, we have all been able to take a risk, persevere, and positively transition into our new environments.

Not only have moves been made by my family, but moves have been made by some of our staff members and many of our students.  These moves have been made for varying reasons. For some, the move was a choice; an opportunity to seek new challenges, explore a unique learning environment, and/or make a fresh start.  For others, the decision to move was made for them; a physical address move and/or a change in family structure.

This week, I would ask you to take a moment to seek out the students and staff members who have made a move to our school for whatever reason.  Take the time to provide them with the guidance and support, similar to what you would do for a family member, in an effort to make their change seamless and positive as they transition to this amazing school!



The building is gleaming with fresh wax and paint. Classrooms have been rearranged and redesigned. We all (hopefully) have had a chance to relax and rejuvenate over the summer and are ready to get back in the groove.  The new year allows us an opportunity for a clean slate, fresh perspective, and new beginnings.  So, what’s your new year’s resolution?  Yes, resolution!

Resolution is defined as; a firm decision to do or not to do something. Generally speaking, my new year’s resolutions have been tied to exercise and overall health.  Today, as I prepare for a new school year and eagerly await the opportunity to greet students on Tuesday morning, I have 3 new school year resolutions on my mind.

My first resolution is to build relationships with staff, students, and the families I serve. It is my goal to know each student by name and at least one personal bit of information about that student by the end of the year. This is a lofty goal with nearly 500 students, but a goal that will pay dividends in so many other ways.

Secondly, I will ensure a balance between my professional and personal life. I love my role as an educator and find myself feeling committed to doing whatever it takes to see students succeed at high levels.  In doing so, I often lose sight of what I need socially, physically, and mentally for my personal welfare.  To perform at my best, professionally and personally, I will maintain balance in my life by prioritizing my schedule in a way that allows me to participate in activities that energize and power my physical and mental well-being.

Finally, I will revitalize my blog.  I will use this platform to communicate positive messages to my followers.  Writing is a way for me to express my thoughts and feelings; which ultimately impacts my well-being and possibly those who are reading.

In the end, a resolution is simply a thought and/or intention until you are brave enough to share it publicly in a blog or with a friend who can help you remain accountable and moving toward the end goal. With that said, what are your new school year resolutions for the 2016-17 school year?  Share them with me below and…together, we will make a new ending!

Summer Reading

In just 5 short days, we will be sending our students off for an extended summer break. For some of our students, summer will be a time of vacations and experiences, but for others, summer can be a time of inconsistent schedules, routines, and limited educational opportunities. The research is clear, students who do not read during the summer months lose up to 3 months of reading progress. This loss is cumulative and has long term effects on our students’ academic success.

Summer Slide

Because it simply isn’t enough for us to remind students to do some reading during the summer as they exit our classroom doors on the final day;  the challenge becomes, how do we provide our students with some simple tasks and/or challenges that will keep them reading during the summer?  Here are a couple of ideas:

Reading Plan:  Create a summer reading plan with your students, complete with a reading calendar, thinking stems for responding to text, and a personalized reading goal(s) established cooperatively between you and the student.

Literacy Journal:  Create a summer literacy journal for students to document their thinking. The journals can be something as simple as paper (folded and stapled) or a spiral notebook. Add a list of prompts to the front cover to provide students with support for responding to their reading.

Reading Lists:  Provide students with a list of books to investigate over the summer. Make the list specific to the student’s reading level as well as interest. Here’s a couple of lists to get you started…

Happy Summer Reading!

Thank You!

teacher_word_cloud-What are the characteristics of a great teacher?  We know that great teachers are knowledgeable individuals who have a strong understanding of the content in which they teach.  However, a great teacher exemplifies a plethora of other characteristics that go beyond knowledge. When we begin to think of adjectives that would describe our vision of a great teacher the list may include words such as compassionate, empathetic, caring, inspirational, nurturing, etc.  More importantly, these characteristics do not begin and end at the classroom door.  Educators who emulate these characteristics are those who are truly committed to the mission, vision, and collective commitments of a building.

As we approach Teacher Appreciation Week, I would ask you to reflect on those individuals who exemplify the characteristics of a great teacher. The challenge – write a personal note to that educator expressing your appreciation for what they have done for our students, building, and/or profession as a whole.

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of the students we serve. Have a great week!