In interviews I always ask teaching candidates what children in poverty need. For years and years, I asked that question and anxiously awaited the answers that potential teachers would provide. I never quite knew what answer I was hoping for and then one day, 3 years ago, Tasha Allen gave me the answer that I didn't even know I was waiting for. She said, "Hope!" In that moment I knew that she was right and from that moment on my mindset about children in poverty changed.
Over the past few years, our district has tried to find a tool to help us learn more about our students' social emotional wellness. This year we landed on Panorama, a tool that seems to have the potential to provide us with valuable information about our students' mindsets. After spring break we will embark on our very first Mental Health and Wellness Data Teams in which we will begin to analyze our students Grit, Mindset, Sense of Belonging, Compassion, and Hope!
Please take moment to watch this TED Talk by Rick Miller as he discusses HOPE! (At least watch the first 10 minutes!)
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for March 16th.
We have so much to do right now. This week started out with fail to fills in classrooms, an assembly and continued with sick teachers, OELPA testing, gifted testing, and all of the other typical hubbub of our days at J.W. I have done a lot of BCDing this week. I've caught myself complaining about lots of things:
OELPA tests that are developmentally inappropriate
Lack of subs
Too many tests
...and much more.
In those moments of BCD, I lost sight of the good that was happening; the reasons to smile!
As I think back on the week I am overcome with pride as I reflect on the teamwork that you all displayed to help each other through the muck and mess that this week was.
We gave OELPA tests to 22 kindergarten babies on Monday and Tuesday. Testing kindergartners makes me crazy. But, even though it was painful, the beauty was in the teamwork that was displayed to make it possible. SEVEN, yes SEVEN staff members pitched in and helped Amy get her little friends logged in and help keep them focused for the HOUR LONG testing sessions.
We had several fail to fills and EVERYONE of them was covered by a staff member with a smile on his/her face. Jeff, Amanda and I had a great time in Whitney's room on Monday. (You should ask her to show you the slide show she made for her sub! It was amazing and made it so easy to teach in her room.) And on Thursday, in the midst of me throwing what could be considered a "hissy fit," Mrs. Watson stepped up and taught kindergarten on Thursday morning. Then, poor Colleen who spent half a day at the allergist came into school on Thursday afternoon and happily covered kindergarten for the rest of the day. Through all of this, no one complained...except for me!
As for too many tests, I haven't seen much of Eric this week, but I am so thankful that he takes such pride in the work he does. He does not hand teachers tests and leave them to muddle through on their own. He stays, he helps, he's all in.
Even with all of this craziness we continued to do amazing things for kids!
Our first, second and fourth grade teachers planned field trips for their students. This is the first time since I've been the principal at JW that everyone of our grade levels will have gone on a field trip!
Jim and friends created a Coding Gallery that was so inspirational!
March Book Madness is in full swing and Scott is quite the superstar because of it! Just ask the Prati twins!
And, One Word along with #jwreasonstosmile are keeping us focused on becoming the best versions of ourselves. Thank you to Tasha and Whitney for making our ONE WORD hallway display!
So, THANK YOU! Thank you for being and amazing team!
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for March 9th.
It's easy for me to lose sight of why we do what we do. My days are crazy and sometimes I get so caught up in putting out fires that I don't take the time to find the JOY in the little things. (I'm still working on my word!)
Today I was visited by some 2nd grade friends who were beyond excited to share their words with me. (Well, actually they came looking for Eric and since he wasn't in the office they settled for me.) Anyway, the excitement in their voices instantly drew me in as they proudly shared their ONE WORDs with me! Each child could explain exactly how they chose their word, why they chose it and how they would live it out! As they were talking to me, I couldn't help but slow down and enJOY the moment. As I spoke to these 2nd graders I could feel that we had made a difference. Think about it! We are responsible for 500 children. We have spent a month teaching them how to be the best versions of themselves. It took me until I was in my 30s to develop a growth mindset and realize that I could become a better person! The skills that we are helping our students build by spending time working on R Factor and Mindset will truly become life changing for them.
The thing about teaching is that our impact is measured by generations. It is often years after students have passed through our halls that our impact is felt. But, today, I felt it. So, thank you! Thank you for believing in what we are doing. Thank you for taking the time to slow down and invest in your own mindset and the mindsets of your students. You are making a difference and that difference will be felt for years to come.
Here is your staff update for March 2.
My word for this year is JOY. I’ve been working hard to practice living my word. I've worked to find the JOY in things and to bring JOY to others. I've been practicing my word but I definitely have more practicing to do before I get good at my word.
This weekend I noticed that I kept getting a notification on the dashboard of my car that said I needed to add air to my back tire. After doing so and then getting the notification again, I knew that I probably had a slow leak. So, after school on Wednesday I stopped at Tire Discounters. They told me they would fix my tire but it would be about and hour and fifteen minutes before they could have it finished.
I called my husband who was busy driving kids here and there so I decided to sit and wait. Soon I got impatient. I started to feel annoyed and my mind was filled with all of the things I had planned on doing when I got home from school
-help kids with homework
-and the list went on and on…
Then my thoughts shifted to “poor me”. I thought, “Why do I have to be sitting here in this tire store. I’m busy.” In that moment I was practicing a skill that I’d gotten very good at over the years-COMPLAINING. I was doing the opposite of my word. So, I quickly paused my negative self-talk and decided to take a deep breath and find JOY in my situation.
Here is the JOY is chose to find:
-I was sitting down! I never get to sit and do nothing!
-Discount tire was playing country music throughout the store! My favorite!
-I had a snack in my bag! Woohoo-protein bar
-I had caught the hole in the tire BEFORE ending up with a flat on the side of the road.
-The people at Discount Tire are SO nice.
-I had put dinner in the crock pot before I left home that morning so Justin could easily scoop food onto plates for everyone!
-I was only five minutes from home, so as soon as my tire was fixed, I’d be home in no time.
Instantly my stress decreased, I felt calm and I didn’t mind my current situation at all. Was my situation ideal? No, of course not! But, was I able to find some good in it? Absolutely!
And that one our and fifteen minutes soon turned into an hour and a half. Many times throughout that ninety minutes my thoughts drifted back to the negative. I had to intentionally control my thoughts. I had a TOUGH practice session on Wednesday, but I'm glad it happened.
What do you practice? Take a minute to listen to the words of this wise little boy as he challenges us to consider what we practice.
Here is your staff update for February 24th.
Parent teacher conference week is exhausting. It is SO much work. It is hard to spend all day teaching and then spend before school, after school and planning time meeting with parents. Even though we love sharing our students' learning with their parents, conferences add a lot of work to our days.
I have an amazing opportunity as the principal of our school to participate in conferences with many of you. I spent time in conferences that were celebrations, problem solving sessions, counseling sessions, hard conversations, and even conferences that were simply a time for parents to hear how much their children are loved. In every one of these conferences, I was blown away by how well you know your kids. You all started your meetings by sharing how much you love the child, you shared cute stories and brought smiles to parents faces! Even in the tough conferences the parents knew you cared about their children. You built trust this week.
Thank you for doing the work this week. On the journey to ELITE we showed that we are disciplined. We built skill. We didn't give up when things were difficult and we were tired.
Thank you for the time you spent away from your own families so that you could support your students' families. Thank you for supporting each others and for giving me so many more reasons to love you all so very much.
Here is your staff update for February 15th.
“Love is an intervention.” –Kate Miller
My friend Kate Miller often says these words, “Love is an intervention.” I’d never thought of it that way before. But, after I heard those words, I started thinking differently. I realized that Kate was so very right. Before our students can learn; before they can play nicely with one another; before they can walk in a single file line or participate in a book club they have to know they are loved.
As we embark on our conference week we all need to remember Kate’s words. Love IS an intervention. As we meet with parents for a short 15 or 20 minutes conference we are tempted to jump right in and talk about the things the child needs to work on, maybe even share our frustrations. I challenge you to remember how much our students are loved by their parents. Take some time to slow down and share the things that you love about their children. Let the parents know how much fun it is to spend your days with their little one. Even our trickiest kids can bring us so much joy! Take time to share that with parents. It might not be easy but it will mean the world to the parents. I know you love your students. Share that love with their parents.
Have a great conference week my friends. Take time to rest this weekend and stay healthy!
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for February 9th.
Jon Gordon says, “Remove the things in your life that don’t matter.”
That’s a big statement! Have you ever taken the time to step back and think about what is essential to your life? Have you ever stopped to think about what really adds value to your life and what doesn’t?
Thursday night, I participated in the Twitter chat for Jim’s Positivity Summit. During the chat, Jim shared that he has started leaving his phone at home when he walks his dog. I couldn’t help but think about how the small act of leaving your phone in your house could add so much value to a simple task like walking your dog. Think about how simply eliminating a tiny distraction like having your phone with you could actually bring such value to a moment.
How many times do we miss our moments because we are distracted by things that don’t matter?
As we strive to be ELITE, let’s focus on what matters! Let’s eliminate what doesn’t. Remember micro changes bring about macro results.
Here is your staff update for February 2nd.
I recently finished reading a great book called Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. (Thank you, Mr. Smalley, for the book!) I’ve found that certain books stick with me. They cause me to think long after I’ve put them back on the shelf. In this case, Triggers is one of those books that has changed the way I think.
In the book, Goldsmith explains that simple changes in the way we talk to ourselves can trigger us to change our behavior. Have you ever set a goal for yourself only to find that soon after setting it you simply stop trying to reach it? Have you ever said, I’ll start again tomorrow. Have you ever told yourself, I’m too busy right now, but next week things will be better. Or, have you made an excuse as to why you didn’t work towards your goal?
I think it’s safe to say that all of us can think of at least one example of a time we’ve avoided our goals or abandoned them completely. However, asking ourselves a simple question can keep us on track to achieving our goals and more importantly help us change our behavior.
First, I challenge you to think of something you want to accomplish. Maybe it’s a skill you want to build like being a better listener or being more grateful. Maybe it’s a life style change you want to make like being more frugal with your money or eating healthier. When you come up with your goal you need to frame it in the form of a question like this, “Did I do my best to ___________________, today?” That’s it! It’s that simple.
Did I do my best to spend my money wisely today?
Did I do my best to be a good listener today?
Did I do my best to make healthy food choices today?
That’s it! The way we question ourselves about our goals can trigger us to be more focused on what we want to accomplish.
Try it! If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed by how these simple questions can trigger big changes in your behavior.
Here is your staff update for January 26th.
Better Today Than Yesterday And Better Tomorrow Than Today is a motto that we live by. As we continue along our journey to ELITE, we know it's important to strive to be better each and every day. I know for a fact that I am better today than I was yesterday and in the conversations that I've been blessed to have with many of you this week, I know that you too are better today than yesterday.
I'm sure you all know what brought about this growth! This week we were lucky enough to embark on our first every JW GROWS day. As I spent the day with you, observing the amazing teaching and learning that occurs in our school, I was humbled by your professionalism and vulnerability. You were willing to share what you want to try in your classrooms, your ideas for the future, your successes and your failures. You were willing to allow your colleagues in your room to watch your teaching and happily answered questions about why you made the choices you did with your students. This place is so special. You are all so special!
Here are some of my biggest take-aways from JW GROWS:
1. Teaching language-Explicit, clear teaching language and prompting is crucial.
2. Feedback is key-Sharing throughout the reading, writing and math workshop holds children accountable, reinforces your teaching points and provides valuable feedback to all students.
3. Redefinition is occuring-Ipads have truly changed education-from book clubs to writers' workshop to title reading we are reading the REDEFINITION phase of technology use. Students are engaging in book clubs via technology and even taking their learning with them digitally as they travel from reading group back to their classrooms.
4. Our students are engaged-The expectations across this building are extremely clear and extremely consistent. Our students are highly engaged in their learning and very little misbehavior occurs.
5. No matter where Scott goes, he finds a unicorn.
As we continue to strive to be Better Today, I encourage you to reach out to your colleagues and visit classrooms again. We will do JW GROWS again? Absolutely! But, you don't have to wait for us to organize it for you. Email your colleagues. Ask each other questions. We are one another's greatest resource.
Here is your staff update for January 19th.
It’s amazing how much power one single word can have. Like me, many of you choose ONE WORD to guide you throughout the year. However, for the first time, we have a word that is guiding our staff. I feel like there is even greater power in collectively working on something with a team. And, in my opinion there is NOTHING better than working with THIS team from JW!
As you know, we have been focusing on the word GROWTH during the 2017-2018 school year. As I planned this blog post I was able to reflect on all of the growing we’ve done this year; check it out (in no particular order):
-Monthly mini data teams have helped us continuously reflect on our practice and refine our teaching
-Title teachers meeting directly with classroom teachers to align practice
-Gifted clustering-teachers working on 30 hours of PD and collaborating with one another to provide new learning experiences for kids
-ELL coteachers recreating what instruction looks like in the general education classroom
-Title teachers incorporating technology into small group instruction
-Twenty-four JW YOUniversity courses offered to our students
-R Factor becoming part of our daily language with a direct focus weekly in every classroom
-Observe Me Challenge-with HUGE participation-this was voluntary and you chose to participate
-At least 10 groups have come through our school to learn about everything from best practice to culture to blended learning
-We started a World Language program and are offering Arabic
-Donors choose projects
-A garden grant
-A change from Safety Patrol to Kindness Krew
-Power Hour offerings for students
-And boy did we grow today as we dismissed 500 kids 2 hours early with very short notice!
And…something that I am BEYOND excited about…we will finally do our JW Grows Challenge on January 17th!
As you embark on the JW Grows Challenge, next week, I hope that you all really take the time to enjoy the opportunity to learn and GROW from your colleagues. Lisa and I will be accompanying you on your visits and helping facilitate your debrief time. This day is a chance for us to dig in to the practices that occur in our school. We will all have a unique opportunity to learn the BEST educators in the district. What a gift that is.
I am so excited to continue to GROW with all of you this year. As I work to grow as your leader I ask that you fill out this form and share your expectations of me as a leader. I will analyze your answers and create a list of expectations that I will ask you to rate me on. Ten of you filled it out already but I’d love to have more of you participate.
Here is your STAFF UPDATE for January 12.