Week of May 23rd

Happy Sunday!  We hope you all have enjoyed a restful weekend, after a crazy week of rain and EOG testing!  A huge thanks to all of you for making it go so smoothly.  The count down is on to the last few days of school.  Are you ready?  I know I am still in shock as to how we could possibly be in the month of May, much less the end of it.  Take time these last few days of school to enjoy your students and celebrate all that you have accomplished together this year.

Don’t forget that we will have free summer staff child care on Thursdays this summer if you are wanting to work in your room. A sign up will be coming soon with more information about this.

Please make sure you have collected all classroom books and materials from students ASAP.

New Staff Training – If you were new to CSD this year but were unable to attend New Staff Training last year, we ask that you attend this year. We will be meeting the week of June 27 Monday through Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and we do offer free childcare for that week. All longtime CSD staff members are welcome to join if you want to help or just get a reminder of what it is we believe is important as we assimilate new staff members into the culture of CSD. We ask that you email admin f you are attending any or all days so we make sure to have enough food.

Lastly,  please take a few moments to read the article below.  Much of it made me smile thinking about this crazy but exciting month of May!  Also, if you haven’t seen this awesome video of Candace Payne, the woman wearing the Chewbacca mask, take a few moments to watch it.  It is nothing but pure joy, just what we all need in these last few days in our sprint to the finish!


For Teachers, May is the Cruelest Month
By David B. Cohen

Teachers understand the cruelty of springtime. It’s just too much. Especially May.

May is the month of looking back. Year-end projects give our students opportunities to show what they’ve learned, to celebrate growth. Portfolios are assembled. We take stock of our students’ progress, and our own as well, reflecting on the year that’s about to end. As we begin cleaning up, each bulletin board and folder and box reminds us of the work we’ve done this year. Yearbooks arrive. Final assessments and final exams are prepared, if not completed. Graduations too. We celebrate with our retiring colleagues, and recall not just this year but many years gone by.

May is the month of looking ahead. Next year’s class lists and teaching assignments are assembled – always subject to change. Classroom shifts and staffing developments mean it’s already time to pack up some boxes in anticipation of moving. Having noted what worked or didn’t work this year, we’re already modifying lesson and unit plans for next year. Summer plans, personal and professional, need to be finalized. New curriculum must be reviewed and developed. New hires are already identified in some cases, and so we begin orienting them to the school, providing information and resources. Summer school teachers are already receiving communications and instructions about their next assignment.

May is the month of holding on. We’re holding on to students and classes for whom we’ve developed such affection, such appreciation of their efforts and growth. We’re holding on to ambitions (or maybe illusions), that we still might get through this final unit, complete this final project. We’re holding on to whatever rules and routines help maintain order when everyone is feeling anxious. We’re grabbing at the loose ends, hoping to tie up a coherent conclusion for our classes. We’re holding on to our sense of humor, and hopefully, our sanity.

May is the month of letting go. Our students are about to move on, to the next grade level, the next school, the next phase of life. We can look down the rosters, name by name, letting them go with a sense of deep pride and satisfaction in what we’ve accomplished together. Or, in some cases, letting go has a bitter and disappointing feel, recognizing that we haven’t met our goals with every student. “The best laid schemes” of last summer and fall went often awry – and we make our peace.

May is the month of chaos. Days are getting longer, and hotter. Some schools are still taking standardized tests. Stress builds up among students, parents, and teachers, all mindful of how few days remain, few opportunities for students to complete work and raise grades, lack of time for teachers to assess and return student work. Each day seems to bring a final something – final chance to submit make up work, final performance, final game, final publication, final exam. Last day to return library books. Last day to retrieve items in lost-and-found. Then it’s time to select next year’s club leaders, editors-in-chief, class officers. Mustn’t forget A.P. exams and proms, league finals, senior ditch days. Field trips, class picnics, team dinners. Coffees and luncheons to thank teachers and volunteers, acknowledge PTAs and school site councils. Students, clean out your lockers, and teachers, your classrooms.

May is the cruelest month, full of dread and delight, energizing and exhausting.

Chewbacca Video


The Week at a Glance

*EOG make ups this week

Monday, May 23rd:
K-7 Yearbook Distribution

Tuesday, May 24th:
3rd Grade Stardome
Robinson to Huntersville Oaks
Kindergarten Bare Book Tea
7th Grade Ropes Course:  Knight, Keys, Ream, McMillan

Wednesday, May 25th:
7th Grade Ropes Course: Tornberg, Robinson, Hof, Siadak
6th Grade Holocaust Museum – Open to Students and Families
Washam – Teacher Leader

Thursday, May 26th:
4th Economic Fair
1st Hiddenite Mine Field Trip
2nd Grade Book Sharing
Fisher to Olde Knox Commons
6th Holocaust Museum–Open to Public

Friday, May 27th:
Kindergarten Screening
K-7 Report Cards Due to Admin for Editing
Teacher Workday; Optional Parent Conferences

Looking ahead:
May 30 – Memorial Day HOLIDAY – No school
May 31 – 3rd Kool Kats Cafe
May 31 – 7th Change Project
May 31 – Kindergarten Water Day
May 31 – State of the School Address – 9:00a.m. and 7:00p.m. at HS Black Box
June 1 – Last Day of School!!!
June 2 – Graduation
June 2 & 3 – Teacher Workdays


Please review the End-of-Year Checklist closely by clicking here:  https://docs.google.com/a/csdnc.org/document/d/1EYd5v3jlgXyrw8YVCffVmtnLyoUoyDmPWqroknrTx0o/edit?usp=sharing

Don’t forget to add your input for next year’s School Improvement Plan by clicking here:  https://docs.google.com/a/csdspartans.org/forms/d/1t1n0E-HAV3Ys9FCa8QF1P4P5-IAtC3k5HHRDaqFqhhQ/viewform

Math teachers in grades 4-7, please take a few moments to check out a potential new resource and give us your thoughts by clicking here:  http://greatminds.net/maps/math/home


Reminder:  Free childcare on Thursdays all summer for staff members who want to come and work at school.  Email coming in the next few weeks to reserve slots. 🙂

It’s that time of year when unsupervised students get into trouble.  PLEASE be on high alert and be very present in the halls and outside during recess.  Diligent supervision on our part can help our kids avoid big mistakes.  Thank you for all you do!

Teaching Tips with Marianne

Finishing the School Year Strong

Introducing the Idea of a Strong Finish

Students can reflect on these two questions, turning their answers into posters that can be hung around the classroom as reminders and shared with each other:

  • What are three things you can do to help finish the school year strong academically?
  • What is one thing you can do to help your classmates finish the year strong academically?

Students’ own unit plan: Have small groups of students identify a topic in which they have a high-degree of interest, prepare a full-fledged unit instructional plan on the topic, and then teach a portion to the class or to another small group. Allowing students to assume the teacher’s role can be a strong motivator near the end of the school year. Students should use whatever engaging instructional methods have been previously used in the class.

Other cooperative learning projects: If a student-created unit plan does not sound like a good idea for some reason, other cooperative learning lessons and strategies, including problem-based and project-based learning, can be a good alternative. Here’s my list of best sites.

Field trip?real and/or virtual: A local, or not-so-local, field trip can always be an energizer. Learning activities in the days leading-up to the trip that are specifically related to the trip?followed by reflections afterward?can provide a good week’s worth of engagement. Sometimes a “real” field trip can be challenging logistically and financially. But thanks to Web 2.0 technology, you can now have students create their own virtual field trips. There are manyfree websites that will let users easily create virtual field trips. Students can use these applications to visit places online, describe them, and show them to their classmates.

Other technology projects: In general, the end of the school year is a great time to take the leap and try out more technology integration in your classroom. Engage students with learning experiences that are a good fit with digital tools and techniques. Create online projects for “authentic audiences” where people other than the teacher can see and comment on them.

How Can Teachers Stay Energized?

The previous suggestions relate to how we can help our students stay focused. What can teachers do to keep their own teaching energy turned up? Here are a few ideas that are modified versions of what community organizers (I was one for 19 years) are often urged to do when they are feeling “burned-out”:

Work fewer hours: By this time of the year, “throwing time” at school doesn’t pay dividends. Cutting back on outrageous work hours per week can often result in feeling more energized in the classroom.

Read a stimulating book: Finding an intellectually-stimulating book (or article) on teaching and learning might get you excited to try out some new things?even though it’s the end of the year.

Watch an intellectually stimulating video on the Web: Watching one of the numerous short and thought-provoking videos on the Web from sites likeTED Talks, The Big Think, Ignite, Big Ideas Fest or Pop!Tech is another option. These videos are free and showcase presentations by people who are doing some of the most “cutting-edge” thinking and working in the world.

Write something useful for other teachers: Whether it’s a blog post or a lesson plan to be shared (or something else), forcing yourself to craft something public can keep your mind sharp.

Make a point to eat lunch?individually?with teachers you don’t know well, but are impressed with: It can be energizing to meet with another teacher and learn why they chose this profession, what they’ve discovered about teaching and learning, what gives them energy, and to hear their “story.”

Though we generally think of the word “end” as a conclusion, we should keep in mind it comes from the Greek word anti, which means “before.” While we might think we’re concluding the school year, we are really?much more importantly?setting students, and ourselves, up for what comes next.


End of the Year Activities Ideas


Week of May 16-20

Dear Staff,

A huge thank you to all of you who took time away from your family and friends to spend time growing with us as #jedieducators this weekend!  To those of you who could not make it know that you were missed.  On Monday we will have our seniors coming to spend time in classrooms and then they will have a special end to our day.  They are very excited about coming back to visit the place where they spent most of their childhood.  Many thanks to those of you who are hosting one of our seniors.  We are very excited to see how the day goes and are hoping that this will be a new tradition at CSD!

Don’t forget EOG’s are this week.  We will need all hands on deck as we help these special little people make their way through this test.  Taking this test for the first time or for the 5th time can be very scary and cause lots of anxiety for many of our students.  Please don’t hesitate to call on us if you need help, and remember we want to keep this as stress free as possible for our students.  A huge thanks to Angela for training everyone and kicking our testing season off without a hitch!

The Choice Literacy article below was one that I can relate to at this time of year.  I hope you all will take a few minutes to read it and remember to take care of yourselves during this busy month of May.  We hope that you all have a wonderful week and know that if there is anything we can do to help in the coming days don’t hesitate to call on us!  May the force be with you!



Taking a Break

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.

Alan Cohen

It’s late spring, the time of year for teachers when routines are set. Our classroom dynamics are humming along smoothly, our students are progressing well, and parents are feeling comfortable with us. It’s all good.

But us? The teachers and literacy leaders? We are tired.

Because even though this time of year is a time when everything should be settled, there’s still a lot going on. I am certainly feeling it as I slog through required state assessments, oversee the crescendo of writing and reading projects, and deal with student behaviors that started small but have now built into real problems. I’m managing all the stuff happening right now while simultaneously planning for next year. Which is why I am tired. We are all tired.

Inspiration is hard to find. Our typical ways—professional reading, collegial sharing, observing other teachers— have waned a bit. We don’t have the energy to keep up on the reading, thinking, and talking that inspires us and keeps us sharp. Which is why we have begun to build a stack of articles—physical or virtual—that we’ll get to later. We push big projects to the back burner. We collapse on the couch at the end of long days, putting ourselves to sleep watching mindless television. We do not dig into our school bags and enthusiastically read student writing, seeking the next best insightful comment they’ve written.

This is the time of year we halfheartedly consider a career change.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay when a few weeks pass without a stop to visit our favorite blogs. It’s okay that we don’t merrily highlight our way through a new book on literacy instruction this month, or eagerly try a new instructional strategy, or launch a brand-new unit of study with our students. It’s okay to relax a little this time of year and trust that the routines we’ve built will carry us through. We can still push our students with the gentle prodding we know will work, given how well we know each one of them. We can lean on our colleagues as we always have and enjoy the trusting relationships we’ve built with our students’ parents.

The professional reading will still be there this summer, when our energy is restored. Let’s be gentle with ourselves now.
Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy

The Week at a Glance

Monday, May 16:

Senior Take Over Day  11:30-2:30

2:30 Parade for Seniors

Tuesday, May 17:

4th Stone Mountain
5th Grade Science EOG

Thursday, May 19:
May 19 – 3-8 Reading EOG

Friday, May 20:
May 20 – 3-8 Math EOG

Looking ahead:

May 24 – 7th Grade Ropes Course:  Knight, Keys, Ream, McMillan
May 25 – 7th Grade Ropes Course: Tornberg, Robinson, Hof, Siadak
May 25 – 6th Holocaust Museum–Parents & Family
May 26 – 1st Hiddenite Mine Field Trip
May 26 – 4th Economic Fair
May 26 – 6th Holocaust Museum–Open to Public
May 26 – 2nd Grade Bare Book Sharing
May 27 – Kindergarten Screening
May 27 – K-7 Report Cards Due to Admin for Editing
May 27 – Teacher Workday; Optional Parent Conferences
May 30 – Memorial Day HOLIDAY – No school
May 31 – 3rd Kool Kats Cafe
May 31 – 7th Change Project
May 31 – Kindergarten Water Day
May 31 – State of the School Address
June 1 – Last Day of School
June 2 – Graduation
June 2 & 3 – Teacher Workdays

Teaching Tips by Marianne:

Why I Love Our Community

by Robyn Jackson
It is said that you are the sum total of the five people you hang around the most.

If you hang around five really smart people, you’ll probably become incredibly smart yourself.

Hang around generous people, you become more generous. Hang around people who are making a difference? You’ll make a bigger difference yourself.

So, I am very careful about who makes it into my inner circle. After all, your tribe in many ways determines your trajectory through life.

I’ve always said that the members of the Mindsteps Community are some of the smartest, most generous people on the planet.


I loved learning at the retreat!  Here are some simple, great reminders....

If you give students a box of stuff and let them create this happens…



If you remind students to stop and look at the stars (and use the cool app Sky Guide) this happens….


And if you let them play in nature this happens…


May 9, 2016


When I was in the classroom, EOG Prep was always a love/hate time of year for me.  While I adamantly oppose the way some schools/districts/parents/educators misuse standardized testing data, I am not necessarily opposed to the tests themselves.  Those of you who know me know that I’ve always been a huge proponent of backward design (UbD), and that if assessment is of high quality (meaning that it is transparent and aligned with quality learning goals), then a lot of meaningful learning can actually occur in the process of preparing for “a test.” However, I also know firsthand the anxiety some people encounter when faced with assessment, particularly assessment of the high-stakes nature (hence the “hate” part).  So I always found it essential to strike a proper balance between preparing the mind and preparing the heart.  While obviously students must be knowledgeable of the content and be able to demonstrate mastery of the defined learning objectives, it is just as crucial for students to hold the belief that they can actually do so.  In fact, my experience taught me that the latter was actually more essential.  In other words, if the kids didn’t believe they could perform well on the tests, then they didn’t.  Conversely, if the kids struggled with the content but held the belief they could succeed with enough determination and hard work, they did.  The best teachers I’ve observed in action are the ones who held this same philosophy.  As Lynn Erikson so eloquently states, “Teachers are the architects for learning.  They design the environments for developing minds.” (pg. 217 Stirring the Head, Heart, and Soul by Lynn Erikson).  So as we head into the homestretch before EOG’s and report card assessments are administered, I challenge you to view yourself as an architect.  YOU are the one who creates the daily climate in your classroom.  YOU are the teacher to whom the six-year-old above is referring.  So embrace your architectural skills and design accordingly.  You are definitely shaping the heads, hearts, and souls of all those who are lucky enough to occupy seats in your classrooms, and our students deserve the very best we have to offer. 🙂



The Week at a Glance

Monday, May 9th:

Tuesday, May 10th:
1st Grade Rainforest/Endangered Species Science Fair
Wednesday, May 11th: 
MANDATORY EOG Testing Training during staff meeting
Last day of 6/7 Arts Electives
Admin Team leaves for Annual Planning
Thursday, May 12th: 
Kindergarten Oceans Play
Admin off campus
Last Day of 6/7 Branch Electives
Friday, May 13th: 
STAFF LEAVES FOR RETREAT! YAY! Arrive by 10:00 a.m.

Looking Ahead…. 
May 17 – 4th Stone Mountain
May 17 – 5th Grade Science EOG
May 19 – 3-8 Reading EOG
May 20 – 3-8 Math EOG
May 24 – 7th Grade Ropes Course:  Knight, Keys, Ream, McMillan
May 25 – 7th Grade Ropes Course: Tornberg, Robinson, Hof, Siadak
May 25 – 6th Holocaust Museum–Parents & Family
May 26 – 1st Hiddenite Mine Field Trip
May 26 – 4th Economic Fair
May 26 – 6th Holocaust Museum–Open to Public
May 27 – Kindergarten Screening
May 27 – K-7 Report Cards Due to Admin for Editing
May 27 – Teacher Workday; Optional Parent Conferences
May 30 – Memorial Day HOLIDAY – No school
May 31 – 3rd Kool Kats Cafe
May 31 – 7th Change Project
May 31 – Kindergarten Water Day
May 31 – State of the School Address
June 1 – Last Day of School
June 2 – Graduation
June 2 & 3 – Teacher Workdays


The retreat is coming!  The retreat is coming!  Make sure you’ve carefully read the email from Joyce with subject line “Retreat Check-list.”  Also, we have one other favor to ask.  One of our activities involves the Myers Briggs Personality Types.  If you don’t already know your type, please take a few moments (prior to the retreat) to take this brief quiz.  Hold onto your results as we will be asking you to refer to them during one of our sessions at the retreat.   Finally…. a test with no wrong answers. 🙂  Enjoy!  https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test 

All Chromebooks will be collected from 565 on Wednesday, May 11th and Thursday, May 12th for EOG/EOC testing.  Please plan accordingly.  For more information, please click here:  https://slate.adobe.com/cp/7Pv2J/

Below is a sign up for the annual Volunteer Appreciation event.  It will be held concurrently with the “State of the School”  meetings on Tuesday, May 31, (9am and 7pm).  We will be providing a breakfast bar during the morning session and a dessert bar during the evening session.  In order for this to be successful, we need each staff member to sign up for a donation of food, time, money or help.  Thanks in advance for your contribution!  If you have any questions, please email or text Lisa Humphries lhumphries@csdspartans.org or 704-763-1642.  Location:  High School Arts Commons outside the ArtSpace Theater.
Click here to sign up:   Volunteer Appreciation Sign Up

Please start to clean your classrooms and resource rooms to get ready for state testing!

Teaching Tips by Marianne: 

This week teaching tip is to remind you to take care of yourself!  I loved this email I received from the Love and Logic® Institute!  I also love these Love and Logic ® teacher-isms:

The person who makes the problem gets to solve the problem.

The most important problem-solving rule: Feel free to solve your problem in any way that doesn’t make a problem for someone else.

Loving our children and our students requires that we first take care of ourselves in loving, unselfish ways. That’s the First Rule of Love and Logic!

Too frequently, we are led to believe that “good parents” and “good educators” should sacrifice their own needs to serve their children. While this sounds sweet and ever so politically correct, trying to accomplish it leaves our love-reserves depleted:

When our bucket is empty, we have nothing to give.

Love and Logic is not about being narcissistic or selfish, it’s about giving kids the gift of patient, encouraging, relaxed, and enthusiastic role models. Listed below are a few quick reminders:

Focus on what you can control.

A sure recipe for disaster involves trying to make kids happy, attempting to make them be good students, trying to make them get enough sleep, ensuring that they pick the right friends, etc.

What we do have control over is what we model, the types of limits we set, and how we respond when these limits are tested.

Set limits to avoid becoming a doormat.

Effective people set limits by describing how they will take care of themselves…not what others should do. For example:

I do the extra things I do around here when I feel respected.

I listen to students when their voices sound calm like mine.

I _______ when I don’t have to hear complaining or arguing.

Provide discipline when it’s convenient for you…not for the kids.

Avoid falling into the trap of trying to solve problems or provide immediate consequences. Take care of yourself by taking time and handling the problem when you have the time, energy, and support you need.

Refresh your skills at our annual Love and Logic Summer Retreat.

One teacher stated: “Love and Logic really works well when I remember to use it.” Living these skills requires constant repetition and practice. I even find myself slipping when I’ve taken too long a break from learning.

Plan your summer vacation around our annual Love and Logic Summer Retreat. Enjoy three days of inspiring presentations, amazing mountain recreation, and some of the most awesome scenery on earth. We guarantee that you’ll leave refreshed and ready to enjoy your kids!

Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.

Dr. Charles Fay