Uncategorized

Building School – Community Connections

I believe that thriving schools and thriving communities go hand in hand. Developing a shared vision for the school and community, a shared story of high expectations, big achievement, and mutual inspiration, are pathways for us to make an impact within and even beyond our schools. By building these relationships we can forge partnerships that foster student learning, strengthen families and help our communities thrive.

This year my principal and I are creating ways to generate that excitement and create those opportunities for more engagement with our community. We started this year with our first ever “Mix & Mingle” with local community businesses during our Meet the Teacher night. We set up tables in the cafeteria so that local businesses could bring their items and set up a display for our families–sort of a “getting to know our community”. We arranged for the space to be open for parents to informally browse through for about half an hour before we opened up the main doors for meeting the teacher. They also stayed set up throughout Meet the Teacher night. Many parents enjoyed visiting with our local vendors before heading to the classroom, while others hit the cafeteria after visiting their child’s class.

We had about ten vendors set up and ready to interact with our families and help us kick off the new school year! The bakery brought cake samples. The local math tutoring organization brought in games. Watching families make connections with local businesses in our community was great. Below are some pictures from the event and a flyer we created:

 

Meet & Minglewith the Stars (1)

The students asked lots of great questions about the businesses and what types of things they did. What a great opportunity for them! This turned out to be a really fantastic time! Several parents stopped us in the hallways and told us how much they enjoyed this time. They also liked having something to do while waiting (many of them arrive a little early). We did have some logistical issues, such as some “bottle-necked” traffic in one particular high-traffic area that we didn’t anticipate and will need to re-route next year, but other than that it was a fantastic first time event!

We have already planned some other great opportunities to build more connections with our local community this year and I am looking forward to a fun and successful year building relationships, forging partnerships and supporting our thriving community!

 

Uncategorized

Making Your Mark

 

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Our theme for this year, as designed by a student, is “Make Your Mark”. I think this is such a great theme for a new year—so full of possibility and opportunity! Isn’t that something we all want to do? Our students want to do that, as well. To make a difference. Change the world. Inspire others. Making our mark to me means to keep discovering who we are and why we are here, and keep making sure that what we do means something.

Maybe you are a brand new teacher. And maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to make your mark because you aren’t quite sure you know what you are doing. And you, first year teacher, will have days when you start to question if you are making a difference. You’ll wonder if you should even be teaching at all. And yes, you’ll probably have days when you cry!  But you will also have days when you laugh out loud. And days when you see those light bulbs go on! When that one student who you thought you would never reach, thanks you for not giving up and you realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be—doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. And you’ll realize that even though you are a brand new teacher, you are indeed making your mark.

Or maybe you are a veteran teacher given a new program to learn and you are feeling the uncomfortable feeling we sometimes feel when we take risks like that. And maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to make your mark because you aren’t quite sure you know what you are doing. And you, veteran teacher, will have days when you start to question if you are making a difference. You’ll wonder if you should even be teaching at all. You might even have days when you cry.  But then, you will have days when you laugh out loud. And days when you see those light bulbs go on! When that one student who you thought you would never reach, thanks you for not giving up and you realize you are exactly where you are supposed to be—doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. And you’ll realize that even though you are a veteran teacher, you are indeed making your mark.

I have a list of goals for myself going into the year and one of the goals I am really going to focus on is giving teachers more meaningful feedback. This is an area in which I need to grow. So when I think about making my mark this year I think in terms of instructional coaching and my role in the area of teacher growth.  Developing deeper, richer relationships with our families is another area that I would like to put focus on this year. These are just a couple of examples of how I am thinking about our school theme and how I might apply it in my role as an AP. And if those are the marks I make, I think they will be fine ones, indeed.

The thing is, nobody’s mark will look the same. We are not on the same journey. We might dream similar dreams or share common visions. But our journeys, our “marks”, will look different simply because of where we are and with whom we are interacting. But we can each make our mark and in doing so, have a tremendous impact on our students, our communities, and each other. We end up giving what we are meant to give; at least, that is how I see it. What a difference we can make in our world if we all commit to making our marks this year…whatever those may be.

I don’t know if you are a new teacher, a veteran teacher, or somewhere in between. Maybe you are a new administrator or a veteran administrator. But my wish for you is that, no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing,  you will make your mark this year.

And that it will be a fine one, indeed.

 

Classroom Practices, Education, Uncategorized

So You’re Starting Reading Workshop!

books in stairwellThis year our curriculum team has revamped the curriculum with a reading workshop framework. I am thrilled to see this! I truly believe in the power of a reading workshop classroom and have seen so many kids thrive in this type of environment. While there is no one program or method that is the “end all, be all” of reading instruction, I think it is an awesome move on the part of the district literacy team to spread the workshop model throughout the district.

When I first starting teaching reading workshop, it was a big change and I will admit I did not like it. I really felt like I was not truly teaching because I wasn’t up in front of the room instructing. It took me quite a while to realize that letting students read was the most important reading instruction I could give! Small group and individual conferencing took a while to get the hang of, as well. But once I did, I saw the powerful results of students having ownership of their goals and taking charge of their own progress as readers. Ten minute mini-lessons replaced whole class lessons…another big change that was a bit scary at first! I learned how to use read aloud picture books to kick off my openings and wrap up my closings. They soon became my most favorite times of the day! But the most important things I noticed with this change in teaching style were that my students became lovers of reading, and I became much more knowledgable of them as readers. By the end of that first year, I fell in love with Reading Workshop.

Below are some resources I used which helped me start building my own Reading Workshop classroom.

Using Ipads in Guided Reading

Beth Newingham Videos

Complex Texts: Guiding Readers

Level Your Classroom Books

Units of Study / Mini Lesson Videos

If you are moving to a Reading Workshop format or have been engaged with this style of reading instruction for a while, please share your ideas, thoughts, questions and suggestions so that we can all continue to grow together!