Week of August 31, 20

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The Week Ahead:

Do you ever open up your inbox, or click on a link and there it is in all its glory…that perfect article or message that you needed to hear or wanted to share with someone?  That is what happened to me as I sat down to write this post!  This week we will have our first staff meeting and the topic is on setting team norms.  Luckily, this week’s Choice Literacy article was on the exact same topic.  Kismet!  When I say setting team norms  I not only mean between team members on a grade level, I also mean the people that you work closest with: teachers, assistants, and co-teachers.  Back in the spring we spent time at the retreat talking about the character traits we possessed that were similar to those of the characters in the Hundred Acre Woods.  Hopefully this began to open up a dialogue between you and your colleagues about what makes you tick…the good, the bad and the ugly! 🙂  We plan to continue this conversation on Wednesday when we will ask you to sit down with your team members (grade level and daily co-workers) and begin to set some team norms.  I think the article below gives an excellent explanation as to why this is so important.  I know these are not always comfortable conversations to have, however they are some of the most important work you will do in building a solid foundation for your team.  Just like setting up routines and procedures in your classroom during the first weeks of school sets the tone for your year, setting norms for you and your colleagues helps start you all off on the right foot.  I think it is important to write these norms down and keep them in a place where they are revisited frequently.  Pull the list out and make sure you are holding one another accountable.  As the author states below, ” Norms are what allow groups to gang up on the problem, and not on each other.”  Have a fabulous week and I look forward to listening and learning from all of you!

Leslie

Norms

The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.

Thomas Stallkamp

Recently I met with Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, coauthors of the brilliant Think Tank for 21st Century blog. I was complimenting them on their work, and was stunned to hear how they were virtual strangers when they began collaborating.

“Kim had responded to a tweet about a book I was writing,” Jan explained. “A couple weeks after that initial tweet, we chatted about how to get our ideas out more immediately and decided to do a blog together. We made the decision on Friday, Kim’s husband had tech experience and helped us over the weekend, and on Monday the blog was launched.”

Over three years later, the blog is stronger than ever, with a large national audience.  Kim and Jan have written hundreds and hundreds of blog entries together. It’s been the catalyst for articles, books, presentations, and an enduring partnership. I marveled at how they could write in one voice in such a public way, even as they were just getting to know each other.

Kim said, “It all comes back to the norms we established at the start.  When something is off, it can be awkward but it’s so important that one of us says, ‘I hate to bring this up, but look at our norms. This is the one we need to work on.” I asked to look at the norms, and they were a bit sheepish about their simplicity. But I thought they were wonderful:

1. Don’t ignore a nudge.
2. Be upfront and honest.
3. Don’t get too far into something without letting the other one know.
4. Talk through before if possible; if not, the one doing the work alone takes the risk.
5. We have to make it as safe as possible for the other person to disagree.

Jan added, “It’s a document that’s outside of us – it makes it less personal or threatening to have something not within us, but a touchstone beyond our personalities or the work. The norms remind us of what our collaboration is supposed to look like.”

I thought of the many meetings I’ve sat in at schools, groups that usually started with establishing norms. Sometimes these are even read at the start of every meeting, usually in a cursory way. “We promise to start and end on time, to give everyone an equal voice. . .”  It’s no wonder when things fall apart that it feels personal.  You can’t blame a lack of attention to norms if you followed them, starting and ending every meeting on time. Or they were so vague (“we will respectfully include everyone”) that they are of no use when deep conflicts arise.

Jan and Kim’s norms are all about communicating. Big breakdowns are avoided when little ones are acknowledged (“Hey – I’m nudging you with this idea, but you are ignoring me”). When is the last time you put some time into establishing detailed, specific norms about communication with any team or group? It’s important, time-consuming work, but the truth is even someone you’ve known a long time on staff might be a virtual stranger when it comes to collaboration. As committees are formed for the year and meetings get under way, revisiting and revising the norms of collaboration may be some of the most important work you do in the early days of the school year. Norms are what allow groups to gang up on the problem, and not on each other.
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

The Week at a Glance:
Monday, August 31st:
Tuesday, September 1st:
-3rd Grade BOG
-Parent Advisory Meeting at HS from 8:30a.m.-9:30a.m.
Wednesday, September 2nd:
-K-7 Staff Meeting in MS Gym – Setting Team Norms
Thursday, September 3rd:
Friday, September 4th:
-Elementary Spirit Friday!

Looking Ahead….
September 7 – Labor Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
September 9 & 10 – K-7 Yearbook Pictures (more info to come….)
September 11 – 6th Grade Ropes Course (Angell, Harrison, Aichele, Birch); Ident-a-Kid Photos 1:00p.m.-2:00p.m.
September 14 – Holiday – NO SCHOOL
September 15 – Fundraising Discount Cards & $ due
September 16 – K-7 Curriculum Night (6:00p.m.-8:00p.m.) NO STAFF MEETING
September 16-18 – 5th Grade Barrier Island Field Trip
September 18 – 6th Grade Ropes Course (McCoy, Godkin, Merithew, Pagan)
September 23 – Holiday – NO SCHOOL
October 1 – 1st Grade Field Trip to Children’s Theater
October 2 – Elem Spirit Friday
October 5 – Parent Advisory Meeting at HS – 7:30p.m.-8:30p.m.
October 7 – Staff Meeting – Baby Shower for baby D’Esterre
October 8 & 9 – 1st Grade Fairy Tale Ball
October 16 – CSD Homecoming!
October 28 – K-5 Parade of Fiction
October 29 & 30 – Teacher Workdays – Optional Parent/Teacher Conferences
November 2 – Parent Advisory at HS at 7:30 – Cybersafety Guest Speaker
November 4 – K-7 Staff Meeting
November 11 – Veteran’s Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
November 13 – 6th Grade Greek Day
November 19 – 2nd Grade Performances
November 20 – Africa Day
November 25-29 – Thanksgiving Holidays – NO SCHOOL

Reminders:
-Make sure you have updated the Medical Emergency Documents on the drive and have turned in copies of all Medical Emergency paperwork and to the front desk. Grades K-5 will keep original copies of the “Yellow Cards” in their classroom. Grads 6-7 will turn in original copies of the “Yellow Cards” to the front desk (and may make copies for their own records if you prefer). This is super important, so we appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

-Heads up…We will be conducting a Fire Drill in the near future. You may want to go ahead and prepare your class(es) with the exit Plan for your classroom.

-This week’s Staff Meeting will focus on setting team norms.  The following google doc contains some ideas to ponder prior to this week’s staff meeting.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kB3e1rEM1376GjfU1MBEYt6rBk1ufwNPCP6b-CrUTAY/edit?usp=sharing

In addition, we felt the following article form Time magazine also had some important points about dealing with conflict in the workplace.  Remember, conflict is not necessarily bad!  In fact, in our particular line of work, conflict is probably inevitable. However, it’s how we handle conflict that matters.  Healthy conflict resolution skills are an essential element to maintaining functional work relationships that foster a sense of community.  So as hard as it seems, there are times when “difficult” conversations are necessary.  Hopefully this article will help guide our steps as we strive to create (and maintain) an optimum working environment for all!
“How to Have Difficult Conversations at Work” (Time Magazine)
http://time.com/4006297/how-to-difficult-conversations-work/

Teaching Tips:

Three 3’s in a Row

Three 3’s in a Row (Himmele & Himmele, 2009) is an activity like Bingo, in which students interact with peers and get peer’s feedback on what they should write in the boxes of their template (see below figure). This is a terrific engagement strategy because:

  • Students choose to answer what they feel most comfortable with, allowing other students to get their opinions from “peer experts.”
  • All students, whether expert or not, are required to process the concepts in each of the nine boxes.
  • It provides teachers with a quick assessment of what students have learned well, and what students need help with.  Teachers simply walk around looking for a trend in which boxes are still empty.
  • It leads to great conversations that make use of critical thinking.

How it Works:

  1. Prepare nine questions based on the content being learned.
  2. Students walk around the room asking peers to explain one answer (only one answer) to them
  3. Students summarize their peers’ responses in their box. (Do not let students write in each other’s template).
  4. Students then find another peer to answer another question and repeat the process.  Students can use any particular peer only once.
  5. Go over the answers as a class, by asking for volunteers to share their responses.

Three in A Row Chart

Adaptation: Two Threes in a Row

threesinaRow

For Fun:

This came through my Facebook feed this week (thank you, Debbie Shutt), and it was just too much fun not to share.  Enjoy!

Week of August 24, 2015

To Ponder:
CSD Mission

The Parent-Teacher Partnership

As we start this new school year, now is the perfect time to be reminded of our mission.   When Dr. Boyer spoke of The School as Community, he referred to three essential elements:   1)  A Shared Vision  2) Teachers as Leaders  and 3) Parents as Partners.  Today, I would like to take some time reflecting upon the parent-teacher partnership.

In the Basic School, parents are viewed as the child’s first and most important teachers.  Dr. Boyer states, “The greatest milestones in learning occur not in the classroom, but in the home.  The home is, without question, the child’s first classroom.”  So what does this mean for us as educators?   In my mind, it means that we must capitalize on every opportunity possible to build relationships with the parents of our students.  The quality of this partnership truly dictates how successful we are in helping each student reach his/her fullest potential.

I’ve recently had the great pleasure of discovering a new educational gem by the name of Hal Urban.  Dr. Urban has had a very distinguished teaching career and is the author of several inspirational books.  I was very intrigued and inspired recently as I read about his view on the importance of parental involvement in the education of their children.  He states, “No one comes to the party unless they’re invited.”  How very true is this statement!  It got me to thinking about my own career and whether or not I had done a good job of inviting parents to participate.  While I think I’ve done “okay” with this, I’m sure there are ways I could have been more welcoming.  So I charge you with this:  Think of ways you are deliberately “inviting” parents to the party.  These do not have to be in-person events.  You can invite them to join the party by keeping them informed of what’s going on in the classroom.  This act can take a multitude of different forms.  Maybe it’s a simple email to parents each week from your team stating what is going on in class.  Maybe it’s hosting a parent education workshop on certain topics with which they are unfamiliar (Edmodo or Word Study for example).  Maybe it’s reaching out to a parent with a special observation or story about their child.  So in closing, I ask you to think about the following questions:

What am I currently doing to make sure all parents feel invited to the “party?”

How am I ensuring that parents are kept abreast of what is going on in the classroom in a general sense?

What am I doing to make sure that parents have a sense of how their individual child is progressing?

Do I reach out when things are going well or do I only reach out once there is a problem?

As we all know, Dr. Boyer was a man who was way ahead of him time.  He once said in reference to failing schools that he felt it wasn’t the school that had failed, but rather the partnership that’s failed.  I think he nailed it.  So as we go into this school year, let us recommit to our partners, the parents, and let us continuously seek ways to keep the “invitation” alive.
Love,
Juli
PS – And just in case you ever wondered if you are making a difference, you are.  Here are a few things parents have shared about you….

Each day I’m am overwhelmed by the amount of smiling teachers and/or assistants greeting the kids with giant hugs and GENUINE smiles. Fills my heart with joy. Love, love, love out teachers!!!

My son’s teacher noticed right away he had lost his tooth! 😉

A comment on the way out of car line: “mommy guess what really cool thing happened at school today. All the kids REALLY loved our homework today. The way my teacher did it even the kids who don’t like homework really had fun, isn’t that cool mommy?”

My 2nd grader stood in his baseball team huddle and answered his coaches question: Whose gonna do great in school tomorrow, because you know you should keep your grades up while you play baseball. Simultaneously all the kids groaned accept my son whose voice surpassed all others yelling YES I will, I LOVE MY SCHOOL. I LOVE LEARNING!

I appreciate the warm & loving morning carpool staff and their expertise in getting my reluctant MSer out of my car:-)

At the beginning of each year, I am reminded again of what a unique environment we have. There is an energy and awareness that we are all in this together that just rarely exists elsewhere. To have my fifth grade boy hop in the car at carpool and say, “Another great day” is something that I never take for granted. To see the admin leaders at both schools working carpool and knowing each kid’s name never gets old. We are all so fortunate to have each other.

Wow!…That teacher really has me figured out…that’s not EASY!!!!!

Even in high school, the teachers rally around a student who is feeling insecure, providing extra guidance and support. My daughter rallied through a stressful 1st week of school thanks to staff and teachers! We are grateful!

It’s beautiful to see a teacher truly get your child, and deeply love them for his good qualities. Even when he can be annoying and easily distracted he is treated as her own. That’s a special teacher who is doing the job that she should be doing. Thankful for you!!!!

A BIG thing I see everywhere at CSD that I’m amazed by is how the children are ALL seen as individuals and taught in this way. My daughter sees and feels it as well and said, “I thought that at my old school they cared, but here they really care and love me and I love this school so much better.” Thanks CSD for giving my children this, you have changed all our lives by giving us an opportunity to be apart of this wonderful family!

Boyer

The Week Ahead:
Monday, August 24th –
Tuesday, August 25th –
Wednesday, August 26th –
-Davidson College Cake Race
-Mentor/Mentee Meeting after school in admin offices (This will be our NCEES orientation, so make every effort to be there if you are a BT or mentor.)
Thursday, August 27th –
Friday, August 28th-
-Explore Electives Round 1 begin!

Upcoming Events….
September 1 – 3rd Grade BOG
September 1 – Parent Advisory Meeting at HS from 8:30a.m.-9:30a.m.
September 2 – K-7 Staff Meeting
September 7 – Labor Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
September 9 & 10 – K-7 Yearbook Pictures (more info to come….)
September 11 – 6th Grade Ropes Course (4 Advisories)
September 14 – Holiday – NO SCHOOL
September 15 – Fundraising Discount Cards $ due
September 16 – K-7 Curriculum Night (6:00p.m.-8:00p.m.)
September 16-18 – 5th Grade Barrier Island Field Trip
September 18 – 6th Grade Ropes Course (4 Advisories)
September 23 – Holiday – NO SCHOOL
October 1 – 1st Grade Field Trip to Children’s Theater
October 5 – Parent Advisory Meeting at HS – 7:30p.m.-8:30p.m.
October 7 – Staff Meeting (Elem and MS split)
October 8 & 9 – 1st Grade Fairy Tale Ball
October 16 – CSD Homecoming!
October 28 – K-5 Parade of Fiction
October 29 & 30 – Teacher Workdays – Optional Parent/Teacher Conferences

Reminders:
-Make sure you have updated the Medical Emergency Documents on the drive and have turned in copies of all Medical Emergency paperwork to the front desk, as well as yellow cards. This is super important, so we appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Teaching Tips:
Quick Draws are opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of abstract terms or concepts by representing it in a drawing.  Quick draws can be used at any age, in any content area, not only for vocabulary concepts like renewable resource, but also for abstract concepts like sustainability. Think of the concepts/terms your students have a hard time grasping.

How it Works:

  1. Select a “big” idea or major concept in your lesson.
  2. Ask students to reflect on the meaning of the concept and create a visual image that represents the concept (allow approximately three to five minutes).
  3. Have students share and explain their image with a partner, in a small group, or in a Chalkboard Splash.   (Himmele, P. and Himmel, W., Total Participation Techniques)

Images from the Week:

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