Thursday, August 28, 2014

Working on the Work

Strategic and embedded professional development focused on instructional observation, debriefing, and reflection is a significant part of our learning community. WOW (Working on the Work) Days happen on designated Wednesdays by grade level. A group of grade level teachers spend a whole day focused on their own professional learning and reflection while students circulate through our resources (Art, Media, Music, Character Ed, and Physical Education.) This frees the teacher for learning without having to develop sub plans and the young learners eagerly anticipate this special day of enrichment in the fine arts or planned theme-based unit.   It’s a tradition entrenched in our work that gets a huge bang for the buck; one I would recommend for all schools.  

Today was 4th grade WOW Day. In the intermediate school we are departmentalized so the ELA teachers spent the day together while their math/science counterparts did the same.  The ELA lead, Mrs. Chascin kept her students for the first WOW rotation and hosted a Readers’ Workshop demonstration lesson in her classroom. Mrs. Phillips, the Math lead, did the same and hosted a Math Workshop lesson. As their colleagues observed, they took notes, read student work, listened to students articulate their thinking, and reflected on how their instructional practice aligns with the observed lesson. They then participated in a debrief session to share ideas, ask questions, and clarify learning.

After lunch, the ELA learning leaders focused on Achieves 3000 training, a new online resource our district has purchased this year, and the Math/Science learning leaders focused on Interactive Science Journals. The M/S folks did an article study on the topic, synthesized the information, reflected on their current implementation level, shared examples, asked each other relevant questions, and selected their next steps for implementation. In the truest sense of the word, they participated in a PLC to fine tune their classroom instruction.  

I spent my day with the Math/Science team and to say that I was impressed with their collegiality is an understatement. This is the work that ultimately counts; Work that changes classroom practice with real kids in real classrooms with real teachers. There is No Place Like Chets…

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Up Up and Away... It's the Students' First Day!

Monday was the students' first day of school.  Like most first days, I'm sure dinner time conversation centered on their new teacher's name,  friends that were in class with them, exciting things they would be learning this year. But, you know what's really cool?  Chets' munchkins were talking about a hot air balloon ride and their (mostly) brave principal, Mrs. Phillips!

Mrs. KK, our Media Specialist & Mrs. Phillips always conspire to plan a first day WOW for our kids based on our theme. They aim to capture our young learners attention and create a memory maker. They want to WOW them!  Watching the kids' faces and hearing their stories for days, lets me know, that their mission was, again, accomplished!

Mrs. Phillips as her ride is prepared!
I won't lie, I was nervous for her!
This basket tipped back and forth, back and forth.
You can see people pushing, just trying to stablize the basket.
Up Up and Away!
Mrs. Phillips smiles... It's almost over!

Welcome Back "Home" to Meet Your Teachers

I stood on the landing of the second floor overlooking our school's lobby for a few precious minutes during our Orientation. It's a great place to experience the energy of our learning community and see the enthusiasm on the children's faces as they first walk through the doors and absorb the the magical place that has been created for them.  

Ordinarily, I miss this special opportunity to stop and pay close attention. I'm too busy greeting families at the door, pointing students to their new classrooms, and looking up homerooms for students who didn't receive their postcard in the mail. However, on this day, I simply stopped to take the time.

This quick reflection reaffirmed the reason we do this. The reason we go the extra mile. The reason we sometimes work on weekends and stay up late on weeknights. The reason we plan for every detail. We create the learning community we want for our own children and in turn everyone benefits- the students, their families, our faculty. I can already tell that the yellow brick road leads to great heart, courage, and wisdom this school year. There's No Place Like Home...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Welcome Back!

It's the eve of the first day of school and while most folks are home running final errands and making the last preparations, our principal is making her rounds at school. She visits every classroom to experience what the children will feel when they walk through the door and leaves each teacher a hand written welcome back note. She's taught me, through example, that it's the small details of appreciation that mean the most. There's No Place Like Chets... 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cart Girl is Making Her Rounds!

Today, I opened my email to a message from a master teacher who is one of my mentors...

Maybe you’d rather I didn’t remind you about this or maybe you’ve already remembered or maybe you’ve remembered and there's no money, so no response necessary!  But just in case it’s not on your radar- don’t forget the snacks on a wagon.  That is truly one of those “OMG! This place is so different” kind of moments for people who have worked in other places.   I know how busy you both are but the impact of having one of you deliver is HUGE – maybe a chance to make sure everybody has everything they need.  I know it’s crazy down there, and you don’t have time…

I had three immediate thoughts when I opened this message. 1) You're right! I love this tradition and its impact speaks volumes. 2) Holy cow. I forgot to be Cart Girl!! 3) What in the world will we do when our colleague and mentor retires? It's coming too soon. 

She was right when she said, "I know it's crazy down there and you don't have time..." but you know what, she's helped teach me that relationships come first. Taking care of teachers is particularly important especially when they are exhausted from their long days of preparation.  Opening school isn't easy. They deserve to be spoiled, to be told that their hard work is admired and appreciated, and to hear that their rooms are looking great. They deserved my time.
Within the hour the treats and drinks were purchased, the cart was loaded, and Cart Girl had hit the halls. It was so nice to visit the classrooms, be greeted with smiles, and get to chat to the coolest colleagues ever!  It's a tradition that should never be forgotten!  There's No Place Like Home...

We Hit the Pot of Gold with Our PTA!

PTA hosted breakfast this morning for our faculty. We enjoyed delicious food and fellowship, and were introduced to this year's PTA board. PTA does so much for our school. They host monthly parent nights, throw an awesome Fall Carnival, and hold BUDS Club movie nights.  They purchase all student awards, support our Readers to Leaders programs, and buy classroom and school items that we desperately need. Last year, they bought us a new laminater and purchased many new document cameras. What they do best is share their incredible talent and time with us. Their volunteer hours help us create the one of a kind experience our children deserve.We are so grateful!

You know what else is so special and unique?  They gift every student and teacher a theme based t-shirt which we wear on Fridays to show our school spirit!  That's over 1,400 t-shirts! We get our shirts at our yearly breakfast and gift them to our students on their first day of school.  Our whole school community wears their CCE t-shirts on the second day of school. I just love this unique tradition. This year our faculty shirts are ruby red and the students' shirts are emerald green. Don't you just love them?  There's No Place Like Home...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sometimes It's the Little Things That Make All The Difference

I accepted the role of Assistant Principal last summer and spent a few weekends painting and decorating my office. Not only did I want an office that I liked but I also wanted teachers to feel welcome. When I finished I was totally satisfied that I had accomplished my goal.

Fast forward a month and I knew something had gone drastically wrong. The walls were closing in on me. There were tables, boxes, test books, and scantrons that monopolized most of my office space. I inherited the Testing Coordinator position with the Assistant Principal role in our school of nearly 1,300 students and to say that our assessment calendar was full is an understatement. In fact of the 180 school days about 160 of mine including some form of managing testing.   To accommodate it, my office turned in to this...

Believe it or not, I took a total of 40+ boxes out of my office when I packed up testing the last week of school.

I swore that I would have a different plan this year and TODAY the plan came to fruition. I am so happy! There is a closet next to my office that has now been outfitted with shelves by the district carpenter. I will keep the same organized testing sign in and out, but I no longer have it all in my office. Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In the Land of Oz

Our school's yearly theme is selected by our principal to represent where we are at an given point in time. What's remarkable to me is that it's not only a stated theme rather it's fully integrated into all aspects of our school life and introduces itself the moment you walk through the front doors, or this year, under the front porch! You'd have a hard time deciding if it's more awe inspiring for our students or for our building's learning leaders. For me, it's a daily reminder that I am part of something special, something unique. It's one of the reasons that kids and adults, alike, LOVE being at the Creek.

This first introduction when you step into the lobby is so powerful because of the creativity, dedication, and masterful team of three- KK, Karen, and Nikki. They pour their soul into this learning community and they do all theme preparation for free. The fact that they give up weeks of their summer break to make sure teachers, students, and parents are greeted by our theme when they walk back into our learning community, leaves me speechless. Each year I think, it can't possible get better, yet each year, it does.

The remarkably magnificant team...

And their latest masterpiece... 
Special shout out to Nancy Dance for allowing us to borrow some of their Oz backdrops!

Stay tuned...  This will bound to be a year full of heart, courage, and wisdom!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

There's No Place Like Home.

Our school's theme for the 2014-2015 school year, There's No Place Like Home, is so fitting for our learning community. We have the HEART to embrace Relationships, the COURAGE to take calculated Risks, and the WISDOM to produce unprecedented Results.

We are excited to follow the yellow brick road through Emerald City this year and can't wait to share our opening video with our new munchkins!

Chets Creek Elementary - No Place Like Home 14-15 from Once Upon a Teacher on Vimeo.