Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Local - National - Global

Each year our students have a Celebration of Giving rather than the traditional holiday party that is typical on the day before winter break. When we opened the school three years ago we decided that we wanted our students to understand the notion of giving instead of focusing on a holiday wish list or thinking about what gifts they were going to receive.

Each December our students do chores for family and friends to earn money to donate to a charity. We ask parents to help out by taking pictures of their children doing the chores. They send the pictures in so we can make a slide show for our Celebration of Giving Assembly held on the last day before winter break. The assembly reminds us all that together we can do great things and that there are many reasons we help others who are less fortunate.

Our Student Leadership Team is in charge of choosing the charity each year. This year I am so impressed with their thinking. They have decided that instead of giving to one charity they want to choose a local, a national, and a global charity that needs our help. They are doing some research and will soon make a decision about the three organizations that we will support.

I am first impressed each year by the many ways our students open their hearts to give to others. This year I am so proud to be working with a group of children who understand the small as well as the big picture. They understand the importance of helping our local charity. But I am even more proud that they have chosen to consider a global charity.

These are the things that cannot be measured on any test. These are the things that make us hopeful that our students can impact their world - close to home and far away.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Twitter Treasure

Portwiture is an interesting program that grabs photography from Flickr that matches the content of your most recent Twitter updates. You can view the photographs on a grid or in a slideshow.

Here is my Portwiture.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Talking Him Off the Ledge

The beginning of the school year can be daunting for our youngest students in Kindergarten. Today I was called down to a kindergarten class because a child was not cooperating and being pretty disagreeable. I could tell that he was highly frustrated and impulsive. My goal was to calm him down and figure out just what led to his state of mind. His class was on their way outdoors to observe a tree. I asked him if he would stay inside to calm down a little and talk with me. He parked himself under a table and seemed to prepare for a battle.

In the first few minutes of our conversation, we just weren't connecting. He was still too frustrated to be logical or cooperative, but slowly he began to talk with me. I made it apparent that I was very interested in what he had to say. In a few minutes, he got the idea that I wasn't there to make his day more miserable but that I was genuinely trying to understand him. We spent the next 15 minutes talking - he stayed under the table as I sat near trying to make eye contact.

Some moments in education are magical. In just a few minutes, I found out what was making him so unhappy and learned about what he liked. But more importantly, we connected. The class returned from observing a tree outside and went out for a bit of recess. I watched him and two other boys play soccer. When the children came inside, they spread out with books for a few moments of independent reading. He chose a book about bugs that we both found pretty interesting. We looked through it together, and I invited him to come to my office to read with me sometime.

In those last few minutes together, I could have imagined it, but I think he nearly reached for my hand. In our time together, I learned some things about him and he learned some things about me. We can build on the friendship we began today. I am looking forward to more opportunities to spend time with this child. He has some challenges but he is a most interesting child. In small ways I hope I can help him find his place in our school.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

So Much Potential

Our school's vision ends with the phrase "encourage the unlimited potential of the whole child."

It's a lofty goal in these times of grades, competition, testing, accountability, and an outdated school structure that impedes authentic learning rather than encourages inquiry, collaboration, discovery and a meaningful and thoughtful pursuit of new learning.

I continue to have a steadfast belief in our school's vision. But there are days when it is tough to sustain the vision and to rely on my beliefs about learning and teaching. I believe in the possibilities. I believe in the unlimited potential of every child. I believe in a caring and nurturing learning environment. I support the work of teachers who bring out the best in our children. I appreciate their dedication and commitment. I believe in the power of relationships.

Today I watched again the presentation by Benjamin Zander titled "The Art of Possibility" because it renews my belief in the possible.

Watch the video when your belief in the potential of every child is shaken by the rumblings from the conditions that seem out of your control. I intend to encourage my staff to watch the video and reflect on its connection to their own learning and teaching.

And I am wondering what it would be like to share the video with children and listen to their responses. I hope to do that this coming week and will post my reflections.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

3 Days Into the School Year

We finished our third day of school today. It's amazing how quickly we settle into our routines. How do we re-establish those routines but guard against the complacency of doing things the way we have always done them? How can we start the year with a new set of lenses through which to view our learning community? Can we get in the habit of asking "Why?" so we know our decisions are
meaningful and purposeful?

Today I was strolling around the cafeteria helping students open the juice boxes, milk cartons, and string cheese wrappers when a second grader stopped me as I walked by. He said, "My name is Jaden. I'm new here and who are you?" I love the way he felt comfortable enough to strike up this conversation. I told him my name and that I was the principal. I knew he had transfered from another school in our district and told him that his principal had told me he was coming to our school. We had a brief conversation, and I moved on. I won't forget Jaden's name tomorrow or the next. We have made a connection. My challenge is to make those connections with all the children at our school.

Tomorrow will be the end of our first week of school. We are settling in and making our new friends feel welcome. The hope of the new school year is ahead of us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

Today, June 12, Scott McLeod from Dangerously Irrelevant is holding a blogging Leadership Day. I am really anxious to read what others post.

My thoughts on this Leadership Day ...

For me, it is the power of conversations about learning and teaching and the potential of technology that will move people toward new ways of thinking.

It's having clear expectations that we will enable our students to pursue learning in new ways and that we will give them the privilege and the responsibility to enrich their learning with new technologies.

It's encouraging teachers to discover what new technologies have to offer and to begin a conversation about thoughtful and purposeful technology integration in the classroom.

As a leader, it is about knowing what you stand for. It's about holding onto what you believe about learning and teaching. It certainly isn't simply about technology. For me, it is about the unlimited potential of our children and their future.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Zeke Knows Where to Find Books

My grandson, Zeke, is just learning to pull him self up to stand.
He is a sponge for all the new things he is discovering.
I love the fact that he found some books on his journeys today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Collaboration on Stixyboard

I am exploring ways to collaborate online. There are better ways to collect the thoughts of 50 or so staff members besides gathering them in a room to talk. I am also wondering how we can use collaborative online methods in the classroom.

Our teaching staff has tried Stixyboard as a way to collect people's thoughts on a topic. The Literacy Team has been sending a weekly question out to the staff on email. But the process was somewhat cumbersome. A person had to send the email, collect the responses, and paste all the responses together to share them with the staff. There had to be a better way.

So we introduced Stixyboard to the staff. We sent out invitations to respond to a discussion topic. In this case, we wanted to collect people's thoughts on what CHOICE means in an elementary classroom. So we asked, "What does it mean to give kids CHOICE in your classroom as it relates to literacy?"

We asked staff members to respond individually and then continue to revisit the site to watch the number of comments grown and to read what others are thinking about choice in the classroom. Here's what our online collaboration looks like now.

We are excited about using this tool for continued conversations about learning and teaching. It is a format that is easy to use and a very effective way to collect thoughts from a large group of people.

If anyone is using Stixyboard, let me know. It would be good to gather all the creative ways people are finding to use it. And if you use it in the classroom with students, please also share your applications.

Have fun with Stixyboard!

Monday, March 30, 2009

I am working with a group of six kindergarten students who were identified as falling a bit behind in expected development of emergent reading skills. It is a great opportunity for me as a principal to exercise my teaching skills. We meet everyday for an hour.

When we first began to meet, I set out to get to know each one of the children. There were blaring deficiencies and a few strengths to build on. But when I asked one of the children to read something, he too quickly said, "I can't read." It was in that moment that I decided to prove him wrong. So as I work with these six children I will not accept low expectations. I began that day to convince them that they CAN read. It is often in the conversations that we build the confidence in reluctant learners.

It has been a great experience with these children. Yes, they are reading and continue to build their confidence and their skills. I have not heard, "I can't read" in a very long time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

School is for asking questions...

I read a lot of blog posts today and spent some time (way too much) on Twitter. I always take away some new thought or reflection. In a post on Teaching with Technology Steve Kirkpatrick made a statement that made me think. He said,

"At which point did children stop going to school to ask questions and go to school to be given answers to remember?"

What have our schools become? How can we make our schools places where children come to ask questions? In another recent post, Angela Maiers shared a wonderful video of her lesson with first graders about how learners constantly ask questions. Take a moment to watch it.

I am wondering if we ever slow down enough so kids can ask the questions. If we don't take the time to stop and listen, their questions just might stop. That's a very scary thought. I can imagine a school where children walk through the door each day with a "Good morning", a smile to start the day, and a brain filled with questions and inquiries.

"Do you know..."
"I am wondering..."
"What might happen if..."
"How ..."

School would, once again, be a place where children came to ask questions. How would our classroom conversations be different? Would students feel differently about school? How would learning look and sound? I would like to find out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Do What You Can - Share What You Can

I have been spending so much time on the internet lately that I feel like I have lost some balance in my life. Don't get me wrong. I am learning so much and growing my Professional Learning Network (PLN). It is difficult to even explain how my learning has changed. But I admit that I am somewhat addicted to time online.

So when I read the recent blog post by The Cool Cat Teacher I was reminded that while our lives continue to move forward "like a speeding bullet" we should "Do What We Can" and "Share What We Can." My blog posts are few and far between. Yet each day I am learning, doing and sharing in many ways. Unfortunately, I am spending less time on writing blog posts and more time on teacher evaluations, school newsletters, writing grants, learning, school wikis, twitter and such. Some of this I truly enjoy and some of it just needs to get finished and off my plate. So I am doing and sharing in many ways. In the quiet moments of my days, I slow down to connect with my new grandson, Zeke, who is truly a joy.

Sometime soon, I hope, there will be time to reflect, post on my blog, write a book and the endless other things on my "to do" list. For now, I am doing and sharing what I can.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What I Heard Today

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more I was in a first grade classroom today during writing workshop. The teacher has supported these young writers in many ways, and they have grown so much since the fall. As the teacher asked what each student was working on today, students shared a variety of writing projects in process. Since this teacher offers so much choice to her students, there was a wide variety of responses. One student with a tiny voice but a determined stature replied, "I'm using the book, 31 Uses for a Mom, as a mentor text to write my own book just like it."

This child has recognized that books can be a scaffold for her own writing. The word "mentor" is part of the shared language of this classroom. This young writer was engaged, motivated, creative, determined, and focused on her work. She created the text and began to illustrate. We talked briefly about how much her own mother would enjoy the book, so she has learned about audience. She never doubted that she could do it. In fact, she said that she had so many ideas in her head that she couldn't get them all down.

In writing workshop, even our youngest students can become writers with the support of a caring teacher, a classroom full of books, and the confidence to simply go at it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What I Heard Today

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In my role as a principal of an elementary school, it is an absolute joy to wander the school and listen in on the learning conversations.

Today I passed a second grader sitting comfortably in our open learning space just beyond her classroom door. She was concentrating on the laptop computer screen in front of her. As I walked by, she seemed intensely engaged in a task. I asked her what she was doing and with spontaneity and ease she said "I'm recording a voice over."

Gotta love it! Learning that counts!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I need to get my hands on Sir Ken Robinson's new book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. I am fascinated by his thoughts on creativity and eager to consider ways to build a school where learning is centered on our passions. Until the book arrives in the mail, I will listen and listen again to Sir Ken Robinson speak on this video.

It's a 40 minute video, so take some time to sit back with a cup (or glass) of your favorite beverage and enjoy. Don't be tempted to skip the question and answer session at the end because his final words are powerful.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just poking around the blogs out there and came across this great video that's a 21st Century Literacy version of the Letter from Camp. It's posted at Higher Edison. Take a look. I promise you will smile.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reading a Book with Zeke

We babysat our three-month-old grandson, Zeke, tonight. My daughter tells me that he has a favorite book - imagine that! It's called I Love Colors by Margaret Miller. Each two page spread has a picture on the right (a red bow on a child's head) and on the left is a small bit of text ("red bow") on top of a brighlty colored matching background (red).

So when I shared the book with Zeke tonight I watched his eyes catch the page of color. The bright colors seemed to fascinate him. As I turned the pages, each new color caught his attention.

I am looking forward to watching our beautiful grandson learn to read!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Clean Desk

I spent a few days of the winter break cleaning my office at school. The piles had overtaken any available workspace! I was determined to begin 2009 with a clean desk. As I moved through the piles, it was scary to realize that so much of it went straight to the recycle pile! Someone told me once that I should handle every piece of paper just once. Good advice but I am not very good at following it. The piles grow no matter how hard I try. I am anxious to begin 2009 with a desk that sparkles.