What’s Tight? What’s Loose?

In just a few short weeks, Mike and Stuart will be traveling to Green Bay for a Packer football game.  As they begin to plan their trip, they have been studying maps to determine the best route.  In doing so, they have discovered there are multiple routes with multiple opportunities to explore and see sights along the way. At this point, there is no right way. They have the ability to chart their course and make adjustments as needed along the way. However, they do need to maintain a focus on the end goal – to arrive at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday by 3:00 pm for the football game. 

Planning this trip is very similar to the work in which we are doing to plan our collaborative time together.  We have parameters and boundaries in which we must work, but we also have some flexibility in reaching the end goal. For many of us this can be a difficult journey as we explore, wander, and pave a trail that fits with our school district mission and our A+ philosophy. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t as easy as we perceive and/or would like it to be. There are roadblocks, detours, scenic overlooks, and historical markers along this adventure; which will be opportunities for re-calibration, reflection, and careful navigation. Yet, when we arrive – there will no doubt be a sense of accomplishment!

 

adventure

On Friday, members of our Leadership Team had the opportunity to attend a Solution Tree Workshop. It was a powerful day of learning with validation of our structure and framework. At several points during the day, the presenter used the phrase, “clarity must proceed competence.” Therefore, here are some clarifications to consider as we continue on this journey….

What’s Tight (non-negotiable):

  1. Teaching Staff will work in collaborative groups during their double during the day (DDD) as well as after school on Wednesday afternoons.  Teams will work collectively to impact student learning.
  2. Teams will determine the essential learning for a unit of study and write a SMART goal in which to work towards. Q1:  What do we want our kids to know?
  3. Teams will develop a common formative assessment for the unit of study. Q2: How will we know they have learned it?
  4. Teams will analyze the results of the common assessment to determine enrichment and/or intervention.  In addition, teachers will use this information to improve their practice and build the capacity of the team as a whole. Q3 & Q4:  What will we do for those who aren’t there yet? What will we do for those who have been successful?
  5. Teams will have evidence (agenda/planning template) in drive of the work being accomplished.

What’s Loose (empowered to decide):  

  1. Creation of SMART goal specific to the unit of study and needs of students.
  2. Determine learning and pacing (time spent) for each unit within the realm of our district essential guides.
  3. Determine the assessment to be used and the standard of proficiency for learning.
  4. Determine the instructional strategies to be implemented in the classroom along with what resources to use.

The collaborative sessions, Doubles During the Day and Wednesday Afternoons, are one and the same. We will follow the same model for both time frames working our way through the four critical questions of professional learning communities.  However, you will have the opportunity to work with the Specialist every other week on Wednesday afternoon to tap into their arts perspective and ensure our A+ philosophy continues to be present in classroom instruction.

 

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Afraid But Brave

This weekend, I was lucky enough to spend time with my family at Devils Lake, North Dakota. We had beautiful weather; which allowed us to enjoy all of our favorite outdoor activities.

Saturday, after nap time, we loaded up towels, sunscreen, chairs, and life jackets before heading to the swim beach.  Although both grandkids were excited to go swimming, they immediately became hesitant to venture into the water as we arrived at the beach. I watched as both stood timidly on the shoreline watching other kids; seemingly analyzing the situation. About 25 feet out, there was a platform and slide that seemed to be calling to them and yet neither one was willing to take the risk. I provided encouragement and offered assistance, but couldn’t get either one to muster up the courage to make a move. They simply sat at the edge of the water and watched other kids jump from the platform and go down the slide.

Sunday was another beautiful day and back to the beach we went.  For whatever reason, the platform and slide weren’t quite as scary and the risk didn’t seem quite as high, as Hailey waded out into the water, climbed the ladder, and went barreling down the slide. And from my perspective, nothing had changed from the day before. I believe Hailey simply found the courage, bravery, and trust in her abilities to give it a try.  Although Colin didn’t make it to the slide, he spent much more time in the water and even discovered that his life jacket would indeed roll him over and keep him afloat when he lost his footing.  Again, nothing different from my perspective, except having a partner (his sister) who was willing to be a risk taker and he followed.

As I reflect on these moments, and think about the year ahead, I realize being brave and taking risks are part of our everyday lives. As we venture into the deep water with the new ELA program, our WIN intervention block, and/or a student who may be coming with some unknowns; I would remind you that it’s okay to be cautious, lean on your colleagues, and know you are wearing a life jacket.  For the greatest opportunities in life, come with fear and risk and yet most often, result in gratifying moments and amazing results.

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!

Resolutions

Resolutions

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!