Archive for January, 2015

A Writing Moment

In a recent Principal’s Meeting, we discussed the art, work and progression of writing from PreK to 12th grade. Our district leaders and teachers have built a continuum of how our students grow as writers through the years. Jan Miller Burkins came to speak to the principals. I had the joy to attend a day workshop with her this summer with several of our JYJ teachers.

She encourages us all to be writers. Realizing the writer in ourselves allows us to teach writing with more confidence and perhaps grace. She speaks of writing as an opportunity to stay in the present on a focused moment rather than constantly looking ahead. She asked the room full of principals to consider how they see themselves as writers. You can imagine the hush.

She then encouraged us to jot down a list of moments in our day that inspire us to do what we do. She challenged us to write. I pushed myself further to consider how in my day my writing gives me the opportunity to see those inspiring moments. The first on my list was obvious as I considered the tweets that I usually share. In those short bursts of words, I share my inspirations. I love those moments of celebration of what I see happening each day at Joyner. These definitely are moments that delight me in my work.

I consider the multitude of emailing that I can do in a day. These communications vary in length and content. The audience varies just as greatly. But pausing to think through these written moments, I focus. I write.

Other writing moments come in notes to myself as reminders. I was given a special journal this past holiday that I like to capture ideas, impressions, challenges and responses that I might want to be reminded of later.

I appreciate this challenge as I consider how I can use writing as a model for our students. I have students who write me letters. These precious papers are a celebration of the work we do with our students.

In saying all of this, of course the obvious writing I make myself do is this blog. I have learned to appreciate writing this communication. I have given myself the expectation to write each week. I try to keep it quick. I want to model that this can be done in a brief moment, sharing and reflecting on my work. But having the weekly Wednesday 10-15 minutes of taking a pause is a great practice that keeps me staying present throughout the rest of my week. I don’t ever see my identity as a writer. But I do appreciate the moments of staying present.

And this week, I encourage you to talk with your own children about the moments they enjoy about school. Think about the moments you enjoy with your children as a family. And take a moment to write these down. Having these treasures captured on a piece of paper could be something useful later. We ALL can be models of writers to our budding writers.

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January Magic

When I first started teaching first grade many years ago, I remember my team talking about the magic after the winter break. At that time, the magic of learning to read really sat as the work of a first grade teacher. I marveled at the fact that I was responsible to bring my little learners from learning letters to reading words, phrases, sentences and books! Such responsibility and worry! I remember learning from my peers, going back to my course work from college and just trying to learn everything I could on how to create these readers.

My coworkers kept telling me that I was going to see magic in January. Just wait. And when January came they were right. Not only did my students look older, stood taller, jumped into learning with such courage, they also were seeing the words jump off the pages. As hard as we both worked, student and teacher, I did believe in a little magic as well.

As the years have gone by and I taught many different grade levels, I noticed that each January there still is magic. The students are taller, fuller, more mature. Students are courageous in their learning. They always showed me something new they could do. The math we focused on started to click. They began to connect science or social studies concepts from earlier in the year to our new learning. They started to remember to put their name on their paper without me reminding them. In all my years, I still believe in that January magic.

As I walk into classrooms and move throughout the building this week, I see the product of January magic and the incredible work of our staff and students. Our children all must have grown those two weeks off in December! Everyone makes me feel a little shorter as they walk through the door. I am hearing words jumping off the pages, I see math making more sense, I enjoy the realization that it all is starting to click in their little learning worlds. I also enjoy watching the teachers celebrating this mid-year assessment data. It is encouraging to hear teachers dig into the data they are gathering and note the growth our students are making. The work we do together in making plans, targeting strategies, and creating interventions is critical at this stage in the school year.

This week closes officially the second quarter. We are now half-way through this school year. Parents will be receiving report cards shortly. Conferences will be set up. Crucial conversations are happening. Our goal at Joyner is to witness growth in all of our students. We want to celebrate their journey as they continue to realize their little worlds even more.

I encourage parents to continue to connect with us at Joyner. Continue to seek ways to support building the strategies your children need for success in their current school year. We are grateful for the partnership we have with you all. We look forward to continuing our work together to create that magic for our students.

School Improvement Process

Each month our School Improvement Team meets to discuss the progress we are making towards our goals built into the three-year School Improvement Plan. This year, our focus really has stayed with our work in building a Conscious Discipline community and building our knowledge of our IB PYP practices. The team is a representation of the whole school. It is an incredible time to come together as a team and reflect and make decisions for the future. Most certainly, our goals focus on student achievement. At Joyner, we recognize our student achievement must include other factors. And our students will achieve when we see our community and relationships strong and our instructional practices meaningful and connected.

We spent a majority of our conversation yesterday on our work with Conscious Discipline. We have worked with experts and this year, our teachers have taken on the role of leaders. We have a book club lead by a variety of teachers and with participants of teachers. Our Professional Learning Teams discuss different elements. Staff talk in the hallways and in workrooms coaching and sharing stories of the language that it takes to continue to build our strong school family.

We made some strong decisions to take steps forward yesterday. I am always amazed and grateful for the staff that lead and encourage. I sit in appreciation in the joint decision-making happening before me in these meetings. I am encouraged by the words the team shares with each other.

At the end of our meeting, one member of the team expressed the following thoughts. With so much happening in the world that truly can bring you down, how motivating it is as well. The work that we do at Joyner in teaching children how to communicate with each other, how to navigate conflict, how to be assertive, how to have international mindedness and so on, these focuses are what helps us heal. These focuses allow us to do something positive in this world. Allowing our children to inspire our work, is a gift.

We are able to teach with the tools of our IB PYP magnet theme and Conscious Discipline and truly make an impact. And it is our goal that our children will achieve both in the academic world and in global society starting in their own community.

Magnet Open House

Today was Wake County’s Magnet Schools Open House. This is an opportunity for our district families to select magnet schools to visit and consider. Although all of our schools offer tours throughout this season, these are opportunities to take a tour with a bit more comprehensive view of the school.

I love any opportunity that I can share the incredible learning and teaching that happens at Joyner everyday. I love talking about what makes us unique. I truly believe the people who make Joyner so special involve not just the Joyner staff and students but the families that come with those students. Sharing that important component is critical as we talk about Joyner to potential new family members.

As a magnet school, we have students that travel to Joyner from all over Wake County. There could be a concern that some of our families would feel disjointed and unconnected if their child attends a school far from their home. But I love how the Joyner community considers this and embraces all of our families in many ways. Of course, we are always open for all to come in and connect with teachers and each other every morning. But when our families cannot make it then, we offer those opportunities to come in other ways. Our Spanish dancers always draw our community together. Our PTA amazing events like the 5K and Jamboree are other moments to come together. Science Go Round, Night of Nonsense, our 5th grade Exhibition Night… so many great opportunities.

Today was a success. I enjoyed sharing the every day life at Joyner. Our children were themselves. Our teachers just directed their day as any day. And the energy in the building was the usual authentic buzz. And all of that real-ness helped us share to our visitors. Thank you to everyone that helped create that normal day today and every day.

And to all of our visiting families, I wish you well on your journey. Until we meet again.