I often equate the school year to running a marathon….I’ve never run a marathon, but if I did I think it would feel like a whole school year! We’ve reached the part of the year when the finish line is in sight and, we’re sprinting….FAST!
We’ve got a lot to do and it feels like there just isn’t enough time to get it all done. But, here is the thing about going FAST-we stop paying attention the little things, to the fine details and we get sloppy. I know that when I try to do too much too fast, I mess up, I slide into autopilot which means that my actions are below the line. I end up lacking PATIENCE, PRECISION and PERSPECTIVE for the events I encounter.
Take two minutes to watch this message from Tim Kight about disruptive emotion, which can happen easily this time of year. It is up to us to recognize our actions and respond to events skillfully and intentionally with PATIENCE, PRECISION and PERSPECTIVE. And remember, we don't control our outcomes we earn them.
I LOVE the time I spent with grade level teams on Wednesday. We had some amazing discussions around Mental Health and Wellness AND Social Emotional Learning. We were able to take some time to look at PANORAMA data. As all great data does, it left us with more questions than answers. And you KNOW I LOVE QUESTIONS!
We have work to do and we know it. Now it's time to do what we do best which is figure out how to get the results we want! One big take away I had from our meetings on Wednesday was that we actually are doing A LOT of GREAT things! A LOT!!!! In fact, we might do TOO MANY great things! What I mean by that is that sometimes in out attempt to plan lots of great lessons we forget to spend time GETTING OUR REPS IN! We need to give our kids time to practice the behaviors that we want them to begin doing independently....deep breathing, positive self-talk, compassion for others. We don't need to create lots of big elaborate lessons do to this. Less is more and reps help us build skill. Because we don't control our outcomes, we EARN them. And we earn our outcomes by getting our reps in.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
"The most powerful force is the cumulative effect of repeated behavior over time."
Let's help our kids get their reps in!
I love school! I really do. No matter how crazy it gets, it's seems that I just can't get enough. Over the years I've learned that I'll never be fooled into believing that I've seen it all. And, I've said it before but I'll say it again, I LOVE spending my days with all of you.
No matter how long I've been at this, the month of May always surprises me. I forget the intense sense of crazy that is the month of May in elementary school. This week May slapped me in the face and I just had to laugh at how soon I forget about what this time of year brings. The only way I can describe it is kind of like being on a merry-go-round with someone pushing me faster and faster. And as I spin, things are being thrown at me. I try to dodge them but it's nearly impossible.
Then Thursday happened and I realized that school isn't exactly like a merry-go-round but instead like Mark Jensen's family Christmas Special on SNL....you know, the one when Will Ferrell is on a rotating stage that spins him around and around as he sings and then he throws up everyhwere?...yep, that's what this time of year reminds me of.
But, I still love it. Every. Minute. Of. It.
Maybe we're spinning and throwing up but it's just so awesome!
On Thursday morning, Lisa and I had a meeting for all new administrators and their mentors. We have been attending these meetings all school year. Each time we meet we are reminded of the importance of being in the moment, being where our feet are, and what I love best, is that we are usually asked to celebrate our accomplishments.
At J.W. Reason we are so good at reflecting and revising and working to get better every day. We must remember to take time to celebrate. So today, I challenge you to take two minutes to make of list of your accomplishments from this year. CELEBRATE the greatness that has occurred!
On Friday there will be a place in the workroom for you to post some of your celebrations! We all need to share in each others accomplishments.
This time of year can be exciting and stressful; happy and sad; exhilarating and disappointing all wrapped up into one. Wednesday was a mix of emotions for me and many of you. I was so happy to welcome Samantha Denman to our 2nd grade team and Fred Neuhausal as our Spanish teacher. Then, I had to tell Amy and Cheri that they were moving to other buildings.
As I reflect on this day, I realize that often times endings and beginnings happen at the exact same time. For Samantha it's the end of stressing out about getting a full time position and the beginning of her dream of having her own classroom. For Fred, it's the end of being a high school Spanish teacher in a place where he certainly feels comfortable and knows what to do and the beginning of a new program at an elementary school where his son attends! These are exciting endings and beginnings. For Cheri and Amy it seems a little different. They're ending many years at a school they love, in a place where their friends are and where they feel comfortable to embark on new adventures in new buildings.
Endings and beginnings-they can be bitter sweet; they can be so many different things to different people. One thing that is the same about the endings and beginnings that I experienced today is that each person graciously accepted their ending and greeted their beginning with a positive mindset and a desire to serve children.
What a team we have here. I could not be more excited to see what the future holds for us. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes and I encourage you to consider how you look at endings and beginnings. What if this is not the end. What if it is not even the beginning of the end. What if, perhaps it is simply the end of the beginning.
We're on a journey this is not the destination.
After 7 years at JW Reason, I truly feel like I've seen the increase in poverty right before my eyes. We see more and more students struggling with food insecurity, housing insecurity, lacking basic health care needs and more.
Did you know that the fight against poverty began in 1964 but today more than 51 percent of students in United States public schools are eligible for free and reduced lunches?
The question I've been asking myself this year is, are we doing enough? What are we missing? What else is out there to help our kids? Can we make a difference?
Then, I stumbled across the book Disrupting Poverty! This book is giving me hope. This book is affirming. If you are looking for a read that connects directly to our lives, I think this book is it.
I love it when things are organized and in rows! And if you add labels then I love it even more. But, to me, what’s even better than those organized, labeled rows is the mess that has to first be created in order to achieve such a level of pristine neatness. That’s right, I love tearing everything out of closets, cupboards, drawers, basements or anywhere that “stuff” exists. I love picking through the stuff, throwing things away, donating things and then organizing the left over items so they all have a proper place. Oh and of course after everything is sorted, I get to go find new things to fill up the empty space!
My love of messes makes being a principal the perfect career choice for me. Think of all of the messes we get to encounter every day. Now, most of them are not created by our choosing, but some of them are. Right now, our kindergarten, first, second grade teachers and me are voluntarily making a mess. The “closet” we’re cleaning out is our word study practices and boy are we messy! We’ve analyzed data, recognized deficit areas and started digging in to sort through the things that need thrown away or put back into the closet. And, we’re shopping for new things to fill in the empty space.
Think about it like this: What would happen if you never cleaned out your closet? I’m sure there would lots of things that are no longer in style and things that no longer fit (too big, of course). And, eventually, your closet would be so full that you would no longer have room to add anything new and you’d have to stay satisfied with the outdated and ill-fitting things you had in it. It’s the same for our educational practices. We need to continue to take inventory on the work we do. We need to look at current trend data and ensure that the things in our educational “closets” are working for our current needs. When they’re not, then we need to start cleaning out.
I challenge you to think about things that are in your educational “closet”. Do they still fit? Is there a need that you are unable to address because you need to clean out and make room for something new? Take inventory and make a mess! You’ll be happy with the result.
For some reason, in the past few weeks I’ve noticed that many of our kids skip down the hallway. I've seen our littlest kids do this an even our 4th and 5th graders.
My first “teacher instinct” is to say “slow down, no skipping in the halls” but I’ve been stopping myself and instead I’ve been saying:
“Wow! You seem happy today! Look at you skipping down the hall!”
Children have responded with big toothless grins, hugs and giggles. I challenge you to “count the skippers” too. It’s amazing how much joy it brings me each time I see a “skipper” and I think it will do the same for you!
For the past 19 years I have been on a journey as an educator. I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be trained as a Literacy Collaborative coach. This training truly changed the trajectory of my career. I’ve written about this many times and I’m still forever grateful for the leaders who saw something in me and helped me on my journey. After my training it seemed as if a whole new world opened up to me. I understood the reading and writing process; I could listen to a child read or conference with a writer and quickly identify areas of strength and weakness which would lead me to future teaching points. And, for the past 19 years I have continued to learn about reading and writing practice within the context of the literacy collaborative framework. And, while I never believed that I would be finished learning, I must say that there came a point within the last few years that no matter what I read about reading and writing practice it just didn’t surprise me anymore. And, I was getting bored.
Then, the greatest thing happened. The conversation began to change. There was a shift. We began looking more closely at phonemic awareness and phonics. I began digging into our DIBELS data and having conversations about what to do when our students weren’t responding the way our LLI intervention system indicated that they should be. I could no longer be satisfied with the answer that these children were in need of special education services and I could no longer justify keeping children in an intervention that wasn’t working without having an option of something else to try.
That’s where all of you came in. I started engaging you in conversation about our data and you started asking questions and noticing that some of our kids were not responding to our teaching as well. And, YOU were hungry for more! This rejuvenated me! Just when I was getting bored a whole new world of reading instruction and a whole new set of questions opened up to me. Now, for some, this could be overwhelming and stressful; but to me (and I think to you too) this was fuel! I am fueled by the possibility of adding to our instructional practice so we can do even more for our students.
Today, I spent the afternoon speaking to the Director of Literacy Instruction from Marysville and a group of principals. The team shared the assessments they use; the data they collect; the ways they have adapted the Literacy Collaborative framework; their RTI model; and the additions they’ve made to the support that their reading teachers give to students. The information I gathered was so exciting because we are closer than we thought to being ready to shift our instruction to meet the needs of even more kids. What has taken them 4 or 5 years to create, we have figured out in the last few months.
Our kindergarten and first grade teachers are ready to begin using an Phonemic Awareness program called Heggerty during the word study portion of the framework. We are providing multisensory phonics instruction as an option for our Title students. With a few more tweaks we are going to be leading the way in reading growth for our kids. I guarantee it.
What I’ve learned the most from these recent discoveries is that I need to keep asking questions and to make sure that I do not settle by falling into the trap of “the way we’ve always done it”. I am excited for the next phase in our learning journey together.
I love the video from Tim Kight! What does "buy in" mean to you?