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Back With a New Look!

It took a while, and now Mustang Monday is back.  I wanted to make it more visually appealing and easier to read-let me know what you think.

I’ll continue to share interesting and relevant articles and excerpts, along with important dates of note.

This past week’s Marshall Memo had two very substantial items of interest.  I thought the below excerpt from an article from the November issue of Educational Leadership entitled “Code Red: The Danger of Data-Driven Instruction” by Susan Neuman was particularly thought provoking:

Broaden the definition of data. Defining it as “recorded information on student learning” is too narrow, Neuman came to believe. Teachers should be looking for “the looks on students’ faces, the tenor of a rich discussion, or the smiles and signs of joy when students are learning something new,” she says. “For the highly capable teacher, these observations are data. In fact, these observations may be the most valuable data for helping us understand what students – especially struggling readers – are telling us.”

The article below on the importance of using correct mathematical language makes a very important point- take the time to look at the suggestions in relation to the language you find yourself using with the students to see if there are areas where more clarity and precision would be helpful. A faculty conversation about where we are in this area would be very worthwhile for vertical K-4 consistency and common language across grade levels.

Using Correct Mathematical Language Through the Grades

In this article in Teaching Exceptional Children, Elizabeth Hughes (Duquesne University) and Sarah Powell and Elizabeth Stevens (University of Texas/Austin) give an example of how even a well-meaning teacher can further handicap a student with a mathematics disability. During a fractions unit, Jack’s teacher refers to the numerator as the “top number” and the denominator as the “bottom number.” When Jack takes the end-of-chapter test, one item asks, What is the least common denominator of 1/2 and 2/5? Jack answers, “1.” When questioned about his incorrect answer, he says, “I know how to find the least common bottom number!”

Despite hundreds of hours of multi-tiered support each year, students like Jack continue to score in the bottom quartile on standardized tests. Hughes, Powell, and Stevens believe using imprecise or oversimplified mathematics language may be part of the explanation. By the end of first grade, there are over 105 novel math vocabulary terms that children are expected to know. By fifth grade, there are more than 325. “Mathematics vocabulary is often difficult for children because many terms have meanings in general English and meanings specific to mathematics,” say the authors – for example, factor and product. “Children should learn mathematics skills in accurate contexts that provide a solid foundation on which to build more complex skills in later grades… Because clear and concise mathematical language sets children up for success, educators in subsequent grade levels may not have to reteach so many misconceptions related to language and rules.”

Hughes, Powell, and Stevens provide specific suggestions for precise language in five areas of the mathematics curriculum. For their detailed explanations, please see the full article linked below.

Counting and cardinality:

  • – Instead of 1 is the first number, say Let’s start counting with 1 or 0.
  • – Instead of And the last one is 10, say, …8, 9, 10. We’ll stop counting there, but we could count more.
  • – Instead of …7, 8, 9, and 10, say …7, 8, 9, 10…

Numbers and operations in base 10:

  • – Instead of What number is in the tens place? say What digit is in the tens place? What is the value of the digit 4 in the tens place?
  • – Instead of Five hundred and twenty-nine, say Five hundred twenty-nine.
  • – Instead of Make up or Break apart, say Compose or Decompose.
  • – Instead of The alligator eats the bigger number, say Less than or greater than.
  • – Instead of Bigger number or Smaller number, say Number that is greater and Number that is less.
  • – Instead of Equals, say, The same as.
  • – Instead of When adding, your answer is always bigger, when subtracting, your answer is always smaller, ask children to predict and reason.
  • – Instead of Carry or Borrow, say Regroup or Trade or Exchange.

Numbers and operations with rational numbers:

  • – Instead of Numbers in the fraction, say This fraction is a number.
  • – Instead of Top number and Bottom number, say Numerator and Denominator.
  • – Instead of 2 over 3, say Two-thirds.
  • – Instead of Line, say Fraction bar or Slash.
  • – Instead of Reduce, say Rename or Find an equivalent fraction.
  • – Instead of Three point four, say Three and four tenths.
  • – Instead of Move the decimal point over, demonstrate the process within Base 10.
  • – Instead of Three out of four, say Three to four.

Geometry:

  • – Instead of Box or Ball, say Square/rectangle or Circle.
  • – Instead of Square (for any rectangular shape), say Rectangle.
  • – Instead of Corner, say Angle.
  • – Instead of Side or Angle (to describe 3D shapes), say Edge, Face, or Vertex/Vertices.
  • – Instead of Point, say Vertex.
  • – Instead of These are the same shape, say These shapes are similar.
  • – Instead of These shapes are the same, say These shapes are congruent.
  • – Instead of Flips, Slides, and Turns, say Reflections, Translations, and Rotations.
  • – Instead of Stretch or Shrink, say Dilation.

Measurement:

  • – Instead of Long hand and Short hand, say Minute hand and Hour hand.
  • – Instead of Less versus Fewer, say Less or Fewer.
  • – Instead of Bigger or Larger, say Greater.
  • – Instead of This is 2 centimeters long, say The length of this side is 2 centimeters.
  • – Instead of Weight and mass (used interchangeably), say Weight (for the pull of gravity on an object) or Mass (the amount of matter in an object).
  • – Instead of Capacity and Volume (used interchangeably), say Capacity (liquid measurement) and Volume (the space of an object).
  • – Instead of Chart and Graph (used interchangeably), say Chart (presents data in an interpretable manner) and Graph (presents exact numerical data).
  • – Instead of Picture and pictograph (used interchangeably), say Pictograph (a graph with pictures to represent a single or multiple items).

“Supporting Clear and Concise Mathematics Language” by Elizabeth Hughes, Sarah Powell, and Elizabeth Stevens in Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 2016 (Vol. 49, #1, p. 7-17), http://bit.ly/2dUVkLH; Hughes is at Elizabeth.murphy.hughes@gmail.com.

Notable Noticings

Have you noticed anything notable?  Send it to me and I’ll include it here, as well!

  • The 4th grade book talks at PBIS assembly
  • 1st graders’ uncontained excitement building benches for pumpkins in science-we need to bottle that level of enthusiasm for learning
  • 4th graders working on challenging and novel math problems collaboratively- finding the patterns together and making predictions based on that new learning
  • 3rd graders’ complete engagement and joy in the read aloud work from Because of Winn Dixie
  • 2nd graders’ use of “hide zero” cards in building numbers and understanding expanded notation
  • Kindergartners joining me in a spontaneous shared reading of a much beloved cumulative Halloween story that they heard many times before
  • Whole school singing of “Our Door is Always Open” at the PBIS assembly- goose bumps!
  • The always-evolving,  creative activities that take place during PE class
  • The commitment to safety and willingness to go the extra mile from the reading staff at parent pick up dismissal
  • A community joyfully celebrating together!

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, November 8th-ELECTION DAY- NO SCHOOL FOR STUDENTS- PL DAY FOR STAFF

  • Morning session- Individual Choice sign up
  • Afternoon session- Next Generation Standards presentation/School Improvement Plan share
  • There will also be enough time for staff to work on SLOs
Thursday, November 10th- Leadership Team meeting-4:00-5:00 pm

 

Friday, November 11th- Veterans Day Assembly-10:00 am

  • Please remind students to bring in donations for Home for the Brave by November 9
Monday, November 14-Friday, November 18- SLO meetings-  
  •  I will be scheduling 45 min release time sessions to work with you on SLOs and class student reading goals-schedule to be shared this week
Thursday, November 17th-STEAM Night-6:00-7:30 pm
 
Friday, November 18th- Forbes Flyer Jump Rope presentation- 1:30 pm
  • We will be operating with an Early dismissal schedule
  • Recess will take place after the presentation-schedule to be distributed

Tuesday, November 22- Early Dismissal PD Day

Wednesday, December 14th- Winter Concert/Glitter and Gold evening event

 Upcoming Faculty Meetings

Wednesday, November 9th- SLOs and Student Goal Setting planning

Wednesday, November 16th- STEAM Night Preparation/Collab Time

Wednesday, November 23rd- Staff Breakfast- hosted by Special Education staff

 


Never Really Goodbye

winnie

I’m one of those people who holds on to people.  I am still friends with my kindergarten classmates and my bunkmates from sleepaway camp- I’m serious!   So, for better or worse, we are not done with each other.

I found this blog by principal Allyson Apsey that I thought perfectly captured our end of year emotions and found it particularly appropos for the last edition of Mustang Monday:

Embrace the bittersweet tears. They mean we love and are loved.

Last week I walked into an early morning meeting to see a teacher with eyes full of tears. I know we are all tired these last days of school and we have a lot on our plates, so I listened to hear what was wrong and to see what I could do to help.

But…the tears weren’t about what was wrong. They were about what was right. The teacher was talking about the night before, when she was writing comments on students’ report cards. She was brought to tears thinking about how much her students have grown. Because she is so proud of them and loves them so much. Even the students who were challenges. Especially the students who were challenges.

Over and over the past few weeks I have heard our teachers celebrate student growth, in their interpersonal skills and academic skills. As we make plans for the next school year, teachers’ biggest concern is that students are loved by next year’s teacher just as much as they love them.

In this last week, we are going to cherish every hug, enjoy the precious moments we have left as a classroom family, and dream about all the possibilities of next year. Our jobs are not easy, they are not simple, but they are so rewarding.

Embrace the bittersweet tears. They mean we love and are loved.

“Life at best is bittersweet.”-Jack Kirby

Summer Podcasts

Below are highly recommended summer podcasts for educators:

http://chrisnesi.com/15-must-listen-education-podcasts-for-summer-vacation

News/Reminders

  • Kristin Santilli will be here on Wednesday, June 14 to work with me for a few hours and then on Thursday, June 15 from 2:15-2:45 pm to speak to the staff briefly in the Library
  • K-3 teachers will be given letters to include with report cards informing families of their next year’s teacher- you will need to write the teacher name on this letter. 2017-18 class lists will be distributed by Tuesday for this purpose
  • Incoming Kindergartners will not receive their teacher assignment until August
  • Don’t forget to sign up for the End of Year Party- Thursday, June 15 at Lauren Reynolds’ house- sign up sheet is on Google- please do your best to be there-even if you just stop by for a short time

Upcoming Events

  • Monday, June 12- 1:45-3:45 pm- Professional Learning- AIMSWEB Plus Intro- Library Media Center-Laura Mulligan
  • Tuesday, June 13-
    • Character Day- dress as your favorite character
    • 4th Grade Play- 10:00-10:45 am
  • Wednesday, June 14
    • Faculty Meeting- 7:50 am- Collab Time
    • Flag Day Ceremony- 9:30 am -outside along the curved walkway- I will distribute a map for grade level location on the walkway
  • Thursday, June 15-
    • Summer Reading Extravaganza- 10:30-11:30 am
    • Practice the Reader’s Theater parts, everyone!
    • Grade 2 will have their prep before the assembly and Kinder will get their prep after lunch
    • Stop and Shop will be here to take photos for a press event- Mohegan is a top earner of A+ rewards in the state
    • Kristin Santilli will speak to staff from 2:15-2:45 pm
    • End of Year Party-4:30 at Lauren Reynolds’ house-24 Sharon Rd. Trumbull, CT.
  • Friday, June 16-Last Day of School
    • PTO will be sponsoring pizza for everyone for lunch
    • Class Parties- 12:00ish-1:15, including lunch
    • Report Card distribution

Let’s treasure these last hot days with our students and each other- I know you’ll all be joining me tomorrow to #CelebrateMonday.

Ellen

 

 

 

 

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

superhero

 

I think it’s safe to say that this week you will feel happy that you made that fateful career choice however long ago it was that you made it.  Your students, their parents, members of the Shelton community, and I will be showering you with the gratitude and appreciation you all so richly deserve for the amazing “superhero” effort and work you do every day.  I know I’ve said it before, but it can’t be said too many times- you are the most dedicated, positive, and committed faculty I have ever had the privilege to work with.  You give all of your hearts and souls to this community each and every day and you give new meaning to professionalism on so many levels.   Our students are so fortunate to have you to inspire and guide them each day.  So, enjoy the lavish praise and thanks you will all receive this week.  But know that it is felt all year long- and not just one week of the year. Here is your first “gift” from me- but don’t worry, there’s more…

last bell3

As the month of May begins and we move very quickly to the last lap of this school year, it’s easy to begin to drag and count the days until the end.  I’d like to challenge that, however.  There’s still a good amount of time left to make a difference for all of our students, so let’s not rush it away with countdowns and an all consuming focus on the end.  Here are some inspiring thoughts to ponder:

lastbell 1last bell 2last bell 4

Notable Noticings:

  • Literacy Night was a great hit and tons of fun!  Thank you to Laura, Angela and Karen and everyone who volunteered- we had many BOE members here that night and they complimented the event at the BOE meeting last Wednesday
  • 2nd grade had an excellent field trip to Jones Farm.  The students were thrilled with their spruce tree saplings
  • The sounds of recorders fill the air with impressive versions of well known tunes- we can’t wait to hear our incredible musicians at their Spring Concert

Professional Learning on the Web:

http://teacherlearningsessions.com/podcast/reteaching/gravity-goldberg/

Gravity Goldberg talks about her book Mindsets and Moves: strategies that help readers take charge.  It’s a great blend of the work of Carol Dweck’s Mindset and how it can merge with readers workshop- check out this podcast!

http://www.heinemann.com/blog/the-heinemann-podcast-cornelius-minor-on-being-an-advocate-for-your-students/

Cornelius Minor is an outspoken educator who is known for his honest and provocative words.  The interview he did with Heinemann is worth listening to about being an advocate for our struggling students.

http://www.valindakimmel.com/different-kind-advocacy-engaging-texts-readers/

This was a blogpost in response to that interview and specifics to how this teacher will meet her students’ needs

Reminders/News:

  • Thank you to everyone for sending me photos of the great work and activities going on.  Please continue to do so- if you have a Twitter account, feel free to tweet out the photos and use @Moheganshelton in the tweet so anyone following us will see it.
  • Please make sure you are continuing to fill out the Professional Learning Google docs that I shared with you at goal setting time.  The intent was for you to engage in some form of professional learning that came out of the needs that your students presented.  Any small effort to gain new insights into your practice would qualify: a conversation with colleague, observation, article read, webinar, podcast- please just document it on the form.  Any questions, please let me know.Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 10.29.29 PM
  • Grandparents Day is this Friday, May 5th.  If you are able, please park in the back of the building near the 3rd grade classrooms to leave as many spots available for our visitors.
  • Please send home the permission slips for the VITAHLS breakfast focus groups and email me the names of the students you have selected

Upcoming Events:

PBIS Assembly and Incentive- this is currently scheduled for Friday, May 5- the incentive is extra outdoor recess and ice pops- forecast is for rain-we’ll need to reschedule- maybe Wednesday PM?? Stay tuned…

  • Wednesday, May 3- Faculty Meeting- 7:50 am- Class Placement
    • We will begin the process of putting classes together using the student sheets that you have prepared
    • Full faculty will begin together at 7:50 am in the library for the Pass the Peach Candle ceremony- think about acknowledging a colleague for any notable behavior you feel is worthy of the peach “prize”
  • Wednesday, May 3- Spring Concert- 10:00-11:00 am
  • Friday, May 5- Grandparents Day
    • 9:30-9:45 am Welcome in the Gym- video will be shared
    • 9:45-10:40 am -Grade K-2 visits
    • 10:45-11:00 am Coffee Break- 4th grade chorus will sing
    • 11:00-11:45 am – Grade 3 and 4 visits
  • Tuesday, May 9 and Wednesday, May 10- SBAC Testing
    • Some specials times will need to be switched- Laura is sending out email on Monday with info
  • Thursday, May 11- Rita’s Fundraiser
  • Friday, May 12- 4th Grade “Girl Talk” with Nurse Lauren
  • Tuesday, May 17 and Wednesday, May 18- SBAC Testing

A Spring Potpourri

C8VkMtDVoAAdEr4
A “hot” video about homework on Twitter
Homework has become a very “hot” topic in the ed biz lately. There’s lots of controversy about its importance and effectiveness, particularly at the elementary level.  At the very least, there’s compelling evidence to suggest that the traditional worksheet approach really doesn’t do very much to enhance our students’ understanding of the content we’ve taught.  Many educators have re-thought their practices and if they’re giving homework at all, it’s much more creative and engaging than a spelling assignment.  There’s an educator/author I follow named Dave Burgess. His book, entitled “Teach Like a Pirate” is known for making the case that student engagement is enhanced by teacher passion and enthusiasm. He can be very provocative on many topics and homework isn’t an exception.  Click the link below to view his short video on homework.  It’s entitled “Empty Kids Into the Gift Shop” and he uses theme park marketing as his inspiration for what educators need to do with homework assignments.  It’s getting a lot of buzz on Twitter, so I thought
I’d share it.  Let me know what you think about the spirit of what he’s describing.

Other Twitter Highlights:

Todd Whitaker:

Teaching kids to read is a teacher’s job. Teaching kids to love reading is a teacher’s gift.  #StartRightNow

Some teachers are holding out for summer break. The best teachers are taking advantage of every minute to make memories. #JoyfulLeaders

Media preview

Celebrate libraries, librarians & all that support school libraries! 💚 It’s #schoollibrarymonth!

Media preview

  1. Every kid can grow her math understanding by embracing challenges and learning from mistakes.

    “I am giving you this feedback because I believe in you!” Great TED Talk by

News

IMG_8349
Some lovely attendees
  •  The Spring Fling
    • What a great night this was!  Thank you to all of the staff who attended the event as well as those of you who allowed the PTO to offer you up as “prizes”.  They fetched a mighty sum!  We’ll hear about the grand total early this week, I’m sure.
  • PBIS Incentive Celebration Re-schedule
    • Due to a conflict on Friday April 7th in the afternoon, we are going to have to revise the schedule as follows for the Olympic games:
      • Kindergarten- 10:30-10:50 am
      • Grades 1 and Grade 2- 10:50-11:10 am
      • Grades 3 and Grade 4- 11:10-11:30 
  • Staff News sharing- in an effort to have a consistent means of communicating important information to the Mohegan staff community, I will share it via Mustang Monday or my weekly email.  If you have information that you’d like the staff to know, please send it to me and I’ll be sure to share it in a timely manner.  In addition, if anyone experiences a death or illness in the family, I will check with those staff members to learn how or if you want to share it publicly. 
  • Please update your PBIS data on the Google doc by Thursday of this week so we can update our bulletin board by Friday morning

Noteworthy Noticings

  • Grade 3 Team Perimeter/Area Activity-Wow! What a creative and brilliant means to ensure that students are applying and practicing their knowledge of this challenging math topic, while keeping the entire grade engaged! They were having a blast while they were learning the material on a kinesthetic level which helped many of them, I’m sure.
  • Grade 4 Book Talks- It was obvious how much the students enjoyed the unit on historical fiction and book clubs- This activity gave them a means to share their learning in a variety of modes- drama, writing, and cooperation/collaboration.

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, April 4th- Grade 1 ASC Meeting 3:00 pm
  • Wednesday, April 5th- Faculty Meeting- 7:50 am- PBIS Committee
  • Thursday, April 6th- Kindergarten ASC Meeting- 3:00 pm
  • Friday, April 7th- PBIS Assembly- 9:30 am-
    • 10:00 Sam Jones celebration-  Cabbage plant
    • 10:30 Olympics incentive begins for Kindergarten- see schedule above
  • Friday, April 7th- 3:00 pm- Rosa Parks Play- Mrs. Maturo’s class
  • Grade 2 to view
  • Monday April 10-Friday, April 14th – Spring Break
  • Tuesday, April 18th- Kindergarten New Parent Night- 6:00-7:30 pm
  • Tuesday, April 25th- Literacy Night- 6:00-7:30 pm
  • Friday, May 5th- Grandparent’s Day
  • Thursday, May 11th- Rita’s fundraiser
 

Do we need a joy reset?

6363277-reset-button-life-quotesI often kid around with everyone about using “Twittah” for sharing news about what’s happening at school.  But I must say that Twitter has truly been a blessing to me as a means for gaining new ideas, resources, and a community of like-minded educators with whom I can share.  What’s so weird about this is that I’ve never met these people in person, but I’ve come to depend on them as a source for my professional learning.  In any case, I found a blog post from one of those people whose ideas I value named Allison Apsey.   Below is her post that rang true to me and what March can often bring:

Press the Reset Button to Bring Back the Joy

“Are you feeling the joy?
This time of year sometimes patience wears thin, and we feel like students have forgotten expectations even though it is March. For teachers, the creative juices might have dried up a bit. We could all use some of the energy we had in September. You are not alone, this happens across the state, country, world.
So, what to do? Think about how you could press the reset button to refresh and re-energize yourself and your class. Here are some ideas:
  • Do relationship-building activities every day for a few weeks. Fifteen minutes of fun could go a long way.
  • Remind students of expectations in an empowering way. Have them reteach each other with quick presentations on the expectations that need revisiting. Don’t forget to have them explain the ‘why’ behind the rule.
  • Look at your lesson plans for the day and make sure there are things you are looking forward to in there. Students can read us like a book–if we are stressed and not having fun, they will mirror us.
  • Focus on how far students have come rather than the problems that pop up. Share the joys with your colleagues. They could use the lift!
  • When problems do pop up, talk over solutions with your principal or a teammate. You are not alone!

There is so much to celebrate every day. We have to dig through the other stuff to find it sometimes, but it is always there, just waiting for us to rediscover it.

How will you ‘reset’ and find the joy again?”
I particularly like the first idea to make sure you and the students are finding some fun each day.  AND I agree wholeheartedly about focusing on how far the students have come.  They certainly have grown tremendously since September.  Our team is so outstanding- I tell that to anyone who is willing to listen to me!
Don’t forget that I will teach your class so you can take some time with a colleague- give yourself the gift of time and let me know when you’d like me to come in.

twitter_bird_logo_2012Twitter Posts to Share:

Below are some excellent resources/events that I learned about through Twitter.  They are all worthy of a quick look!  You may also want to follow them all!

 NCTE @ncte

 Looking for some good read-aloud books? Jennifer LaGarde invited folks to post their favorites on this padlet. buff.ly/2lCEpwq

TCRWP @TCRWP

Don’t miss out on our Spring Twitter Chat topics! Wednesday’s from 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EST. #TCRWP

Marilyn Burns @mburnsmath

Ever play Oh No!99!? If not, you & your Ss are in for a treat. Read about how it went w/ 2nd & 5th graders. goo.gl/ZSfVVM #MTBoS

http://mashupmath.com/blog/2017/3/4/why-you-need-to-be-using-these-pokmon-math-lessons-today

Other News

Below are excerpts from the Mohegan newsletter that was sent out to families via Grand Shelton Station

Mohegan School is a place where joy and learning co-exist. Enjoy the videos and photos below showing Mohegan Mustangs in action!

Dr. Clouet Raps to Green Eggs and Ham

Dr. Clouet came to our PBIS assembly to help us celebrate with his version of Green Eggs and Ham, done to a rap beat. The students and staff joined him as he read the story.

Grade 1 Students are the “Boss” of their Reading

2nd Grade Bridge Engineers


 Upcoming Events:

Wednesday, March 8th- Faculty Meeting- Book Room Field Trip- 7:50 am

Friday, March 10th- Early Dismissal – PL Day-2:00-3:45 pm

  • 2:00-2:45  K-4 and Special Ed teachers-
    • Math Progressions Overview
  • 2:45-3:45 K-4 and Special Ed teachers- at Booth Hill
    • Booth Hill and Mohegan staff collaboration around math instruction
  • Special Area teachers and Related services staff see email from Lorraine Rossner for assignments

Thursday, March 16th- Parent/Teacher Conferences 6:00-8:00 pm

  • Dinner will be provided

Friday, March 17th- Early Dismissal

Monday, March 20th- Parent Teacher Conferences 6:00-8:00 pm

Tuesday, March 21st- Early Dismissal

Halfway There

livin-on-a-prayer

Ah- BonJovi, the poet.  It’s hard to believe we are halfway through the year!  In fact, the 100th day is just around the corner, as well.  If we could just get past this crazy round of germs, things would be grand.  I have no doubt that the second half will be even more successful than the first.  The students seem so engaged and energized.  Throughout the building, there is so much evidence of a focus on student-centered goals, and growth and improvement as a result.  Thank you for keeping your eyes and heart on the many aspects of our complex work- it is such a joy to collaborate with all of you.  On the subject of gratitude, below I have copied an article/letter from the January 24th edition of Washington Post from a parent who spent time volunteering in her child’s classroom.  She is shocked by the complexity of what she realizes goes into a day in the classroom-if only everyone learns what this mom did. I added the color emphasis:

washington_post_logo

The letter I had to write to my child’s teacher –

by Kim Mower

I was only in the classroom for 45 minutes, but that was long enough to compel me to write a letter to the teacher once I left.

I’ll be honest, I have zero qualifications as it relates to child education. My only qualification and reason for being in a kindergarten class that day is my oldest child is a kindergartner. He attends a public school and I was in his classroom as a parent volunteer.

His teacher had asked parents to sign up to help during the daily Literacy Center portion of the morning. I was excited to go in, see my son in his classroom, and meet his classmates. When I arrived, the class was sitting on the floor, singing, and drawing the alphabet in the air with their fingers. Mrs. G gave me a quick rundown on how I was to help. She introduced me to the class and then quietly asked the children to go to their first center.

They all scattered about. How they knew where to go, I have no idea. Yet each of them bee-lined for specific centers. Mrs. G worked with a small group off to the side while I was charged with making sure the remaining students at three other centers were doing okay. In one area, students chose books from the classroom library and read to themselves, each other, or had me read aloud. The second center was an alphabet game that required turn-taking and letter sounds. I was to mediate the game if they needed help. The third center was a station of computers and tablets that the kids were to log on to and play letter games.

There was a lot going on. There was coughing (so much coughing, so little mouth covering). There was shoe tying. There was making sure Ava, Asher, Jack, Jackson, Luke and Lucy pronounced U, Y, W, Q, K, C correctly (impossible to explain the differences). There was reading a book about butterflies, while helping someone else sound out a word, while tying another shoe. There was figuring out how to get back to the home screen; explaining the greater-than and less-than symbols. Then it was time to switch centers and start all over with different kids playing the game, different kids reading books, different kids needing to log on the computer.

Most everyone knew just what was expected of them and moved between centers with ease when prompted by the teacher. Considering I can’t get my three children to move from the living room to the kitchen for dinner I was impressed how the teacher had managed to get so many children to independently move and start up a different task.

And although I was smiling, I was also spinning on the inside. So many moving parts and so many little moving bodies. So much talking and questions and coughing and laughing. And yet, it wasn’t chaos. This was controlled, but I was overwhelmed. Giving attention to so many kids left me drained. How could a teacher do this every day?

My 45 minutes were up. All the children had rotated through the four centers and were heading back to their seats. There was never an announcement to do this yet they were zigzagging around like ants in the dirt. My son, whom I had asked seven times that morning to go brush his teeth, hadn’t even been told to put his folder away but there he was, like the 16 other kids, putting his folder in a box.

Frazzled, I took this as my cue to leave. I hugged my son and said goodbye to the class and practically sprinted out the door. After I left I had no other choice but to write a letter to the teacher.

Dear Mrs. G,

It’s been more than a few decades since I’ve spent any length of time in an elementary school classroom. After volunteering for Literacy Centers today I left feeling exhausted and impressed. Exhausted because a few dozen 5-6-year-olds are no joke. Impressed because a few dozen 5-6-year-olds knew exactly what was expected of them and moved around appropriately without more than simple prompts. All the kids were enjoying learning; and though I was there to assist, it appeared that for the most part these children functioned independently and lead themselves in the centers. That’s impressive for humans who can’t yet tie their own shoes and still need to be reminded to share.

Thank you for your hard work. It’s work I could never do let alone do so well. I appreciate your gift and feel lucky that my son has you as a teacher.

Many teachers won’t be shocked to hear how this classroom operated; I’m sure lots of classrooms run by great teachers operate similarly. However, I think many parents like myself have no clue what the day is like in their child’s classroom, the moving parts of coordinating children of varying levels of ability with varying levels of opinions and responsiveness. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to participate in their child’s classroom to do so. See and feel what it is like to be in a classroom.

As schools everywhere approach the 100th day of school, I hope parents find the two minutes it takes to jot a quick note to your child’s teacher, an adult who has spent 100 days with your child, teaching, coordinating, coaching. Express appreciation. Report back what your child has learned that has impressed you. Say thank you.

News

  • Kudos to all on the great gains noted throughout the school on the January Reading Inventory (RI)
  • The collaboration and conversations between grade 2-4 teachers and Grace around math data was complex, but such an important beginning to truly understanding our mathematicians.  You will all have time to dig deeper into the data and info throughout the next few months
  • A huge thank you to Jess Marino for hosting our first lab site- I hope everyone felt there was a benefit to observing a peer deliver small group instruction based on targeted student goals.  Breaking down the walls and getting into one another’s rooms will continue to support your learning in all content areas.
  • Mohegan’s special area classes are alive with creativity and excitement- pay attention to the exceptional learning going on in the gym, library, art and music rooms- funky cycles, recorders, makerspaces, modeling clay!  All inspiring.
  • Check with Lindsay Nardone to ask her about how she is now communicating with her parents digitally-the app HOMEROOM!  So easy and awesome.  We’ll make her share with us on Wednesday, I think. She even cleared it with Dan DiVito.

Reminders

  • Please remember to document any professional learning work that you have done on the Google docs that I shared with you earlier this year
  • Our end of the month PBIS data is needed by Tuesday.  Please make certain all of your student behavior info is posted on the Google docs so we know if anyone will not be on the bulletin board this month
  • Do yourselves a really big favor and go to www.teacherlearningsessions.com You can listen to amazing podcasts, including Ask Jen Serravallo, which last only about 7-10 minutes each.  You can sign up to receive the weekly newsletters via email so you are kept informed about any new content.  It’s such a great and easy way to stay current! DO NOT PASS GO- sign up today.
  • Many of you are interested in tackling the framework introduced in the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.  There are many people who have taken her work and added some important practical elements to using the growth mindset in the classroom.  Gravity Goldberg is one such author – she is giving a workshop at West Conn next month.  Here is a link to a podcast where she discusses the ideas in the  book: http://teacherlearningsessions.com/conversation-gravity-goldberg-kicks-season-2-reteaching-podcast/

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, February 1- Faculty Meeting-7:50 am-Dr. Clouet on the budget

  • I will provide breakfast- please arrive in the library by 7:50 am
  • All of the rest of our Wednesday meetings in February will be dedicated to Collab time

Wednesday, February 1- PBIS Assembly/Global Game Day/Sports Clothing Incentive

  • 2:00 pm Assembly- Reader’s Theater- Mrs. Peruzzi’s class
  • 2:30 -3:00 pm Global Game Day celebrations- students will bring in any non “techy” games/toys – play will take place in classrooms.  Teams can mix students among their classes
  • Staff is welcome to participate- Jeans are allowed!

Friday, February 3rd- Super Bowl lunch-mile long sandwich and pizza

Friday, February 10th- Winter Blues Party- 1757 Restaurant- 4:30 pm

  • Please join us for at least a little while- RSVP to Julianne asap!!

Easing on Back

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to 2017!  Spending time this week with loved ones and re-charging has been a real gift for me and I hope you all feel the same.  So, let’s ease back in this week and renew our focus with each day so that by Friday we all feel fully back in the groove and ready to continue the exciting work of learning and growing alongside our students.

To kick us off this week, below is a blog post from a creative educator and author named Dave Burgess who uses the Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy, to provide some inspiration for 2017:

drum

Play Your Drum

Little Drummer Boy has been my favorite Christmas Carol for as long as I can remember.  Of all of the holiday songs, I can honestly say it is the only one that truly moves me.  The idea of a young boy, too poor to afford a fitting gift for the “new born king,” attempting to honor him with what he does is a great lesson for all of us.  We spend too much time stressing out and concerning ourselves with what is absent in our lives, and not enough time focusing on what really matters.

The drummer boy may not be able to afford the expensive and fancy gifts, but he has something better; he can offer the gift of his unique strengths and talents. He has no material gift to offer but what he can do is play his drum like no one else is capable of playing it. And so he does.  The fact that his play is met by approval and acceptance from Mary and the animals is certainly of no surprise. After all, when one is engaged in pursuing one’s passion and offering the very personal gift of doing what he does best, the power is undeniable and clear to all.

Isn’t that what life is really all about?  We all have to find our own personal “drum” and then play it the best we can.  For me, I never feel more truly alive than when I’m standing in front of a class of students or a seminar room full of teachers.  That’s my drum I’m playing up there and I’m going to play the heck out of it.  The line, “I played my best for him,” is a call to arms and a challenge to meet.  Forget about all of things you can’t control and play your drum to the best of your abilities. Play with all of the passion, enthusiasm, and heart you can muster.  Nothing else really matters. You can offer no finer gift or higher honor to the world than to find out what your “drum” is and then play it for all it’s worth.

My best to you in 2017. May you find your drum and play the heck out of it!

2016 Memories

 

Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, January 3- PTO Meeting- 7:00 pm
  • Wednesday, January 4- Faculty Meeting -7:50 am
    • Overview/review of upcoming Professional Learning
    • Dan DiVito may be here to discuss a new Technology policy from the State
  • Thursday, January 5- Leadership Meeting- 4:00-5:00 pm
  • Wednesday, January 18- ALICE Scenario Training- 4:00-5:00 pm
    • PLEASE NOTE AFTERNOON TIME FRAME
    • THERE WILL BE NO MORNING FACULTY MEETING
  • Friday, January 20- Character-Building PTO assembly- Time TBD

Vocabulary “Speed Dating”

african

I’m wondering how many of you had an experience similar to mine on Friday afternoon?  I walked into the library feeling tired and already filled to the brim with the events of the week.  I knew that the plan and new format for our professional learning was going to result in great new learning, yet I still had to push myself to get past that “dragging” feeling.  Here’s where “WE’RE BETTER TOGETHER” resonated for me in spades!  In almost no time, the enthusiasm for the sharing of new ideas permeated the room and I no longer felt a twinge of any of the downward drag I had been aware of.  That collaborative energy was so uplifting and so clearly an example of the community of learners culture that we are building at Mohegan together.  Thank you all for joining me so earnestly in this work.  A special thank you to our presenters:  Laura, Jess, Melissa, Tracey, and Julia for the time and care you took to prepare and share your important strategies to help us teach vocabulary with a clearer intention and focus.

Please let me know your thoughts about the “speed dating” format to see if it’s something we’d like to use again for a different purpose.

Here is a graphic I found that does a great job of summarizing the key ideas we spent time with on Friday.  Go to the link listed at the bottom for other excellent infographics related to vocabulary in particular, and reading, in general.

effective-vocab-instruction1

Upcoming Events

December 7-10 Holiday Boutique

Wednesday, December 7- Faculty Meeting-

  • PBIS Committee- 7:50 am
  • Collab time for others

Monday, December 12- Concert Rehearsal-2:15-3:00

Tuesday, December 13- Concert Rehearsal- 10:00-11:00

Wednesday, December 14-Glitter and Gold/Winter Concert-(snow date December 15)

  • 6:00 pm concert,
  • 7:00-8:00 Glitter and Gold

Tuesday, December 20- Happier Holidays Assembly- 2:00 PM

Wednesday, December 21- Faculty Meeting-

  • Holiday Breakfast- Secret Santa Reveal- 7:50 am

Thursday, December 22- Leadership Team meeting 4:00-5:00 pm

Friday, December 23- Early Dismissal- Winter Break

Monday December 26-Monday, January 2- Winter Break

Stay tuned for info about the Staff Winter Blues Party in January!!