Archive for January, 2013

Super Bowl for the Non-Sporty Person

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be at my brother’s house while the play off football games were going on. It was the weekend we would find out who would play at the Super Bowl. My nephews eagerly shared with me stats and who their favorite players were. My daughter, who adores her cousins, just sat in bewilderment at this knowledge. As we watched, she continued to say she just didn’t get what was going on. I remembered last year while watching the Super Bowl she just wanted to understand all of the numbers at the bottom of the screen. She knew then and again when she sat with her cousins, that she should know what is going on but had no clue and really knew deep down… she didn’t really care.
When we got home from the weekend and started talking about the “big game”, she kept asking who she should cheer for. More soccer fans in our house than football fans, we didn’t have much of an opinion. We decided to take a different approach to game day. We decided to make the game more interesting and make it have meaning that connected to her. My husband approached the question of who to go for in this way. M, he said, you have to choose between your two passions, reading and history. He quickly explained that the Baltimore Ravens are named after a literary work from the Baltimore resident, Edgar Allen Poe. While the San Francisco 49ers, honor a time in history and those that rushed west for gold. Our daughter immediately jumped into the discussion and debate. We had to make this game meaningful and now it is. She is actively debating which would be best for her to cheer for.
Yes, I know at this point anyone reading this with any sense of the true nature of the game is rolling their eyes. But the Super Bowl is a cultural part of who we are in America. And I know that perhaps I should be doing a better job in teaching my daughter the ins and outs of the game and the stats like my brother has done so well with his boys. And someday, she will come around. But I had to make it work for her. She is now eager for Sunday and to see how it all plays out.
This makes me consider what I see our teachers doing everyday in the classroom. Not all of us are natural mathematicians or eager readers, but we all have to learn it. I witness everyday teachers bringing these subjects to life in unique ways in order to engage all learners. Knowing how we each learn differently, allows educators to teach with richer direction. Knowing our own learning styles and passions can help us as well.
I encourage you to use this to reflect on how to continue to encourage your child in the areas they struggle in AND the areas they excel in. Consider how we can link these two for our students to help engage them deeper.
So in our house on Sunday evening, we will be watching the battle between literacy and history. Who will win? Oh yeah… we will be watching football!



Cold weather makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. That has ALWAYS been my struggle. All spring, summer and fall I jump up ready, maybe go for a run, get the kids moving and have no problem. BUT this weather this week makes me want to tuck in and keep warm! So I found it appropriate that our professional development yesterday during the workday focused on motivation. We began as a staff talking about our motivations.

Quickly our conversation moved to students. The presenters, Ms. Pelletier and Mr. Fotta, did a fantastic job sharing research as well as real life examples. They created videos of our students speaking to their teachers about what motivates them. The students gave advice to the teachers. What a powerful moment to sit in a room of teachers and have the students share directly what motivates them. Time and again students talked about relationship. When they highlighted a teacher from their past, they talked about how the teacher cared. Teachers were moved, touched and reflective.

Hearing our students speak to us directly is motivating. It makes me want to jump up and respond. It always reminds me how important those relationships we build as a whole family is key. Connecting and communicating with teachers is so important. Be open to share concerns and be open to listen to what teachers see at school. I want for us all to continue to look for ways to build our relationships.

Tomorrow night is Joyner Give Back Night. This is yet another way to build the community that is Joyner. It is a way for us to model to our students what caring can look like. It is a way for us to show why we do the work we do. And hopefully our students will see motivation in this.

I encourage you to talk with your students about what motivates them. I was encouraged to do that last night. To listen and allow my own child to speak directly to the subject is important. You might find out some interesting things. Time with you might mean more than that ice cream treat.  Listen.

Your children and the staff at Joyner motivate me everyday. And I am so thankful to yesterday’s meeting because this morning, I denied that cold and jumped up ready!

Some more on Common Core

I sat in Ms. Pardo’s fourth grade classroom yesterday witnessing the students engaged in an Explorers simulation. This day students were presented with the concept of choosing a royal charter. Students worked with their teams debating to take the Spanish King’s offer. They had to draw on the knowledge they learned about Christopher Columbus’ experience. They debated, they struggled, they had to convince and they had to compromise. After making some decisions, the students then analyzed a primary source of a journal entry written by Columbus in order to record in their own journal.

Through this whole process I considered what the Common Core outcomes in the big picture really are. We want our students to have a skill set to know what to do when they come to new challenges. The knowledge they learn is to strengthen them in being able to solve the problems they confront. And teachers give students strategies on how to attempt to approach challenges.

These skills are what our children will need to face a future that is unknown. The jobs of the future aren’t created yet. We don’t even know what might sit in front of them. So preparation for students look different. We want them to be inquirers. We want them to be reflectors. We want them to be engaged in thinking! All of these also fit so easily into our Learner Profile of a PYP school within the IB Programme.

In watching our students decide to accept the King’s Royal Charter, I enjoyed seeing them use strategies independently. One group decided to make a T chart to weigh the options. Others really worked on convincing others to their thinking. In the end, each group came to a consensus independently.

I feel confident in these moments that the teaching and learning at Joyner is preparing our students. I am proud to consider how our students are learning the strategies to handle challenge. The skills students used in class come from the work of not only Ms. Pardo, but the work of their teachers throughout all of their years at Joyner.

Well done Ms. Pardo’s class! Excellent thinkers. I continue to be proud to watch each of our Joyner students grow!

Hutchinson Huddles

Today I began the Hutchinson Huddles. Ms. Taylor started her Taylor Talks. These are the brainchild from a conversation I had in my administrative professional learning team about finding opportunities to sit down and really talk with students. I find that I have opportunities for teachers to come and talk about ideas for Joyner. Parents have been great at connecting with me as well. But the element I was missing was a firm foundation for student input on Joyner.

So after bringing this up to my team, we decided we would start these weekly meetings. Every Monday after my PLT, Ms. Taylor and I blindly will select two students from each class on a particular grade level. Our plan is to bring the invitation to the student to let them know they are invited to these meetings. On Wednesday morning at 8:20, they show up and participate in Hutchinson’s Huddle or Taylor’s Talk.

We began with the leaders, fifth grade this week. The buzz Monday afternoon was fun. Are we in trouble? the students kept asking. Slowly they caught on that they were getting an audience with the administrators. When I saw down with the excited group this morning, the first thing I did was tell them they were the first and what they had to say was important to me to hear.

I want this chance to meet with students to listen. Listen to what they love about Joyner. Listen to what they would like to see changed. Each grade level will bring a different perspective. Each grade level will have a different influence and want and need. But each child selected will be a randomly selected child to share their insight.

At the end of my 25 minutes this morning, I encouraged the students to continue to share with me their ideas when they have them. My hope is that this can become just another part of the culture of Joyner. I look forward to my conversations this year and learning even more about my students from them!

Happy New Year!

As everyone around me, I too cannot believe we are looking at 2013 on our calendar. Where has time flown?

As I walked through classrooms today, I heard so much talk about resolutions, promises, goals, and dreams for the year. It has been amazing to hear the different ways teachers guide our students to take a moment to reflect on their past and point to their future with focus.

In fifth grade, they are burying excuses. The honest conversation that the students were having in Ms. Bell’s room about what gets in their way of their own success was incredible. She then spoke to the students about setting a goal and writing the steps to achieve it.

In Ms. Pelletier’s room, they have begun to consider what they wished for. Students were at different places in reflecting on what they can do for themselves and how it impacts others.

In Kindergarten, I heard them using the word promises instead of resolutions.

Everywhere I seemed to turn today, our students were looking ahead and the teachers were by their side to guide them.

As educators, we have two “new year” moments… we celebrate with everyone else as a new year comes in, but we also begin in August each year looking at our new students and the promise they have. We spend our year focusing on our work with these individuals and pushing our resolve to see them grow.

This is my favorite time of year with students. At this point, teachers know their learners well. Relationships are built and a safe structure to learn has been created. I am always amazed at the ton that gets done in these next few months.

Hold on tight. We are kicking our learning up!  I look forward to seeing goals met, dreams filled and promises kept!