Week of April 24th

Dear Staff,

I hope you all had a wonderful first week back after spring break.  It was a busy one for sure! 🙂 One of the many things that happened to me this week was that I got a lesson on the importance of relationships.  We had a parent who was upset about something, and on the outside this parent looked like a terror.  She was angry, frustrated and upon digging a little deeper I figured out the root of the problem…she was scared.  She was scared about how we view her as a parent, she was scared that her daughter might not want her as a parent because of the things she can and can not provide that other kids in her child’s classroom have, she was scared that her daughter is being influenced by a society and culture that she herself is afraid of.  This fear caused her mommy lion to come out in a major way.  However, after she calmed down and we took the time to talk with her and get to know her a little bit better her story started to come out.  Her story is deep and rich and she has had experiences in her life that I don’t pretend to understand.  Although she and I are very different and we parent differently I realized we have a lot in common.  We both love our children to the core of our souls and would move mountains to give them the best life possible.  Are she and I best friends now?  No, and I have a lot of work to do to get her to trust me and see that I am on her team.  This week was a start for that, and a big part of that is because I know her story a little bit better.  I guarantee there is a LOT more to her story, and I would love to know it because I believe that she is worth it and most importantly her daughter is worth it.  I am hopeful that she will learn from all of us as we partner together to help her daughter.  I am also hopeful that we will all learn from her.  I know she taught me a powerful lesson this week and I hope that I continue to learn from her because I believe even though she doesn’t realize it she has a lot to teach me.  Her story and her family’s story added great value to my life as an educator and a mommy this week.  I am hopeful that even when she and I are both at our worst I can be open enough to let her lessons come through.  Have a wonderful week!


Dog Days and Watermelon
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
  Albert Einstein

It was mid-July, and we were in the heat of summer. I was puttering in the kitchen while my kids ran roughshod—some neighborhood kids had wandered over, as they do in the summer, and suddenly there were bicycles, hula hoops, soccer balls, and various unidentifiable toys hurled about the driveway.  I heard distant whoops and shouts coming from the open windows. I reveled in the perfectness of the summer afternoon — the friendships my children were making, and the pure freedom of being a person of single-digit years in summertime.

That bubble was bound to burst.

My daughter, all of five years old, cheeks flushed and sweat dotting her hairline, whirled in the door with a slam.  “Mommy!  Can we have some watermelon?” The picture seemed complete. There was my lovely daughter, kindly bringing a summer treat to her thirsty, hot-with-summer friends. I sent her out with a platter of little chunks of watermelon.

But when I looked out the window, I was startled. The watermelon had been placed prominently on the patio table, and my daughter was standing guard—arms crossed, expression sour and haughty. The other kids surrounded her, looking wistfully at the watermelon as if it were a long, cold drink of water they couldn’t access.  “You can’t have any,” I heard her hiss.  “It’s all for me.”

A quick investigation confirmed my suspicion:  my daughter had not wanted to treat her friends as I’d assumed. On the contrary, some ridiculous slight had occurred—I think they’d left her out of a part of the game—and she’d known just how to get her revenge. I intervened, which led to a handful of children eating watermelon and one screaming, sobbing, angry little girl taking some time out in her room.

I told the story to some colleagues the next morning. We were gathered around a large round table, waiting for a day of professional development to begin. Scattered about were pads of sticky notes, pens, and highlights, as well as the obligatory bowl of mini-chocolates and hard candy. “I know this is all typical with kids learning to navigate the world, how to stick up for themselves, how to be an alpha dog when needed,” I said. “What bothers me is how she didn’t care at all how hungry or thirsty her friends were feeling. She chose to get back at them with the very thing that would bother them the most.”  I paused. “I sure don’t want to raise a kid who doesn’t care about others,” I said. “How in the world can I teach kindness and empathy?”
My colleagues looked at me as if I’d forgotten my own name.  “With books,” someone said slowly.

Of course.  With books.

Later that day, my friend Franki Sibberson, who’d been part of our conversation, sent me the link to her blog where she often highlights books that are useful teaching tools.  The link included a whole list of titles I could use to teach about kindness and sharing.

After reading the blog, I took a quick trip to the library, where I gathered a nice stack of books to read with my daughter. All of them related to understanding the feelings of others.  She especially enjoyed Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown, Loren Long’s Otis and the Scarecrow, and Bob Graham’s How to Heal a Broken Wing. While we read through them, we didn’t talk explicitly about empathy—we just read and talked. I let the conversation drift naturally.  Over the next few days, the books gave us the avenue to discuss how it feels when we are left out, why revenge isn’t an appropriate response and how sometimes it’s best to just let things go.

Books can be our best teachers. Not only about empathy, but also concern, compassion, celebration, anger, frustration, joy, and companionship. Relationships and feelings are complicated and can bring confusion to young learners.  With the right combination of books, we can launch conversations to help guide them through—and make better choices along the way.
Jennifer Schwanke

Contributor, Choice Literacy

Jennifer Schwanke taught middle school language arts for six years before moving into administration at both the middle school and elementary level. She enjoys thinking of more effective ways to present literacy to students at these vulnerable ages. You can follow her latest thinking on literacy and leadership on her blog.


Monday, April 24th
6th/7th Dance Dress Rehearsals
Renaud to The Pines
Tuesday, April 25th
Kids Are Worth It Parent Book Talk – 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. in Media Center
Robinson to Huntersville Oaks
Wednesday, April 26th 
K7 Teacher Appreciation Grab and Go Luncheon
6/7 Dance Sharings
RHSE 5th grade parent meeting – 9:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Baby Shower Kristin Jones – 3:00 in Mary Coppola’s Room
6/7 “May” Meeting – 3:30 in Beth Knight’s Room
MS/HS Band Concert – 7:00 at Pine Lake Prep
Thursday, April 27th
Earth Day – Kindergarten
Walker to Huntersville Oaks
Godwin to William’s Place
Friday, April 28th
3rd Charlotte Walking Tour (Sharp/Godwin)

Upcoming Dates
May 6 – Spartan 5K and Half Marathon
May 10 – K-7 Mandatory Staff Meeting – EOG Training w/ Angela
May 12 – CSD Retreat; Teacher Workday
May 16th – Last Day of 6/7 Branch Electives
May 15th – Last Day of 6/7 Arts Electives
May 16 – 5th Grade Science EOG
May 18 – ELA EOG – Grades 3-7
May 19 – Math EOG – Grade 3-7
May 18-19 – 2nd Grade to Rescue Ranch
May 23 – 3rd Grade Poetry Slam
May 24-25 – 7th Grade Ropes Course
May 24-25 – Holocaust Museum
May 26th – Kindergarten Screening; Required Teacher Workday
May 29 – Memorial Day Holiday – NO SCHOOL
May 30 – State of the School
May 30 – 7th Grade Change Project
May 31 – Last Day of School (5th Grade Moving Up) (6/7 Dance)
June 1-2 – Teacher Workdays
June 1 – CSD Graduation at Belk Theater

Gaga Pit

We are very excited about our new outdoor feature. A huge thanks to Jim Dumser and our HS students who made this for us during HS Intersession. We have loved watching the students out there! The rules for how to play our posted and here is a picture.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 7.56.03 AM.png

Just a few things:
We want to remind our students that we encourage healthy competition but need to be careful of bullying mentality.

Please have conversations with your students on the difference between cheering and chanting for classmates/classes. We would not want anyone to feel left out if one students name is being chanted over another or encourage competition among classes.

In addition, we were aware the Gaga pit was going to get muddy at times. Please be mindful of this on rainy days.

Teaching Tip:

I found this interesting from Robyn Jackson on the difference between motivation versus discipline problems.  Click on the link below:


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