Restorative Circles

Earlier this year, I wrote about the circle practice many of our classrooms are experiencing this year. I also talked about how the adults in our school use circle practice to build stronger adult relationships as well. In the last week, I have found myself sharing more about our restorative circle work with parents and others. I want to share again what this practice is about.

When you consider the idea of restoration, many times one might think of antiques receiving restoration to look new again. It is an idea of putting things together or rebuilding. I also think of the concept of doing something with care.

Circle practice at school begins with building relationships. Circle practice takes time and takes care. Our students and teachers sit together and learn about each other. Students share ideas and share about themselves. And students also listen. Through guiding questions, a teacher can begin to build a class community. Students begin to see their classmates as the individuals they are. And during this time, teachers can support conversations to problem solve issues or challenges that crop up in a classroom community.

As we prepared for our Student Led Conferences last week, I listened to students reflect on the circle time in their class. Students provided intuitive reflections on their ability to listen growing. Students enjoy hearing about each other. And students feel safe to also share. Students are learning to communicate with each other. The words and responses students have given can be powerful. Students feel a greater desire to be at school because of these stronger feelings of community.

When I navigate students who might be in conflict, I also have found myself working through the process of restorative practice. Our students learn to speak up for themselves and share their voice. We sit together to problem solve issues. I leave these conversations more hopeful that we have some strategies to put into place for everyone.

This work is not the only solution, but I see our culture of community that is so important to the fabric of Joyner continue to grow and deepen through the work of circle. The connections that students make with their peers and their teacher become even more valuable. When discussions arise at different points of the day of learning, the language they are learning in circle to listen and respond come out. When a student is in trouble, other students support with offering words to encourage or just breathe.

It is my hope that our students find an eagerness to come to school to learn because they are in a safe place where they can be heard and can be noticed. Using our skills in restorative practice, builds that sense for us all. It takes time and work and care. But I believe it is the direction that we need to take.




Invitation to the JYJ 5K

This past weekend while at my daughter’s middle school, I ran into several JYJ alum. (Side note: I LOVE watching our children continue to grow. I enjoy celebrating who they are continuing to become. I am grateful to meet these students wherever I go and hear their continued stories.) While we chatted, they quickly told me that they would see me this next weekend for the JYJ 5K. With that came my inspiration to write to everyone tonight with an invitation in mind.

Our Joyner 5K is an annual event that celebrates being healthy as a community. If you wonder could your young kinder really make it 3.2 miles? I will tell you absolutely yes. And that brings me to the reason to join us. The motivation to step forward comes from the community that comes out. We have JYJ alum of all ages that stand along the race course who cheer and celebrate all students. There are tons of parents who encourage along the way. The positive spirit along the race course compares to no other.

Then the inspiring bigger kids who truly can race that course wiz by, and it is exciting to see their heart as they work together to accomplish that top prize. It is fun to see the parents who also get into the spirit and take the tempo to the next level.

The JYJ 5K has a place for everyone. Strollers of little ones munching on their crackers, watch the big kids. Parents begin to connect and meet and talk along the way. Professional runners join the fun because of such a positive atmosphere. And then there are teachers that enjoy the afternoon in a relaxed setting with their students and perhaps their own children.

I know I am excited to once again dress as a book character to celebrate accomplishing our book drive goal. Thank you to kindergarten for selecting the book character. Ms. Burton also looks forward to hearing what fourth grade chooses as her book character.

The Joyner 5K is a family event. All are welcome. If the idea of the length worries you, please join us along the route cheering on our JYJ family. I know you will feel lifted and walk away with a lighter step after being at this special event. I look forward to seeing everyone on the course!

Welcome to the JYJ Family

This morning we held our Magnet Welcome event. This is an opportunity to welcome those families that selected Joyner during the magnet application time and were accepted. It is an exciting moment to sit with folks that have taken that journey of visiting and making a magnet choice for the school they want their children to attend. After a visit to the kindergarten classrooms, our newest Jaguars visited the cafeteria. We asked several fifth graders to reflect and share memories from different grade levels at Joyner. They also shared what they like best about being a Joyner kid. Throughout the sharing, the stories of family came up from our students. They talked about finding friendships, being recognized for being themselves and the relationships they have built at Joyner. As the principal, it was moving. And most staff sitting in the event also found sweet tears.

After leaving this gathering, I happened on the playground. One of our young first graders spoke with his teacher sharing a story of another classmate who was struggling. He immediately stated that he needed a friend and he was ready to be one. This young one quickly shared that being a friend could be like having more family. How amazing I thought that even our first graders see the power of connection that we can build at Joyner.

By midday I walked into our Spanish team classroom during their planning. There was literally a hum from sewing machines, sizzle of irons and swirl of movement. Our Spanish team was in the midst of preparing costumes for Pieces of Gold and for our visit from guest dance artists through the United Arts Council. They were laughing and working hard. It was magnetic and I couldn’t help but join in for a bit pitching in where I could. The respect and collegiality were overwhelming. Even as an adult team, this family “feel” spread throughout the room.

I know it takes more than words to build a school family. And as I shared with our newest members this morning, it begins with each of us taking that time to connect and build relationships. I look forward to our newest members and I continue to treasure our building work that we do every day at Joyner.

100 Days! What?

In the very filled moments of life, I was surprised when our students walked in today with celebration in mind as they recognized 100 days of learning for this school year. How did we get here so quickly? I have always talked about how living life in an elementary school is fast. Our ten months with children really fly. I start to notice when they return in January that their legs seem a bit longer, the heads seem to be held up more, the faces mature. I sometimes have to stop and think about what grade a student is in because time just flies.

Our students are the focus of our work at school. And to consider our days, we might have taught for 100 days but now we only have 80 left. Our teachers gear up for some great teaching and learning in the next months. We feel every moment seems to slip away and don’t want it to not be tied to something that gave greater learning or connection for our students.

Sitting with the first semester done, we want to emphasize the support of the parents in helping our children grow at least a year. Reading at home, completing homework, strong attendance are just a few things. We also think about what we are doing in the classrooms. We are excited to meet all together one last time this year on an early release day this Friday. We will look deep into our mid-year data and lay out the plans for this second part of the year.

I am excited to see how minds will grow. I am grateful for the relationships that we have built. And proud of the growth we are making. Well done students. Let’s enjoy these next few moments in the 80 days ahead.

Stop, Take a breath And Relax

I listened to someone today talk about breath. She shared that when there is tension, taking a breath helps us replace that tension because there is no room for both. That made me think about breath. I find when a student is having a rough moment, my first response begins with breathing. I take those moments to just inhale and exhale.

We do a lot of “breathing” at Joyner. Many of our teachers take the time to teach the idea of breath. We help students see that just in our breathing, we can help to begin to regulate how we are feeling and pause before we respond. Teachers use the tools of STAR (Stop, Take a breath And Relax) breathing as a reminder to take a breath, take a pause. We teach the balloon breathing, my favorite. Filling our balloon arms and then making a wonderfully loud blowing out sound to empty our balloons. We pretzel and drain. All of these ways help our students build tools to calm and focus.

I think of many times as adults we need to stop and take the breath. When our little one has a hard moment and yet need to find the courage to step forward, we breathe for them. When we are in the midst of tough conversations, we take a pause and a breath. I listened so often when our spellers took that moment before attacking those words in the recent Spelling Bee. I appreciate the work that our staff takes in teaching our students and providing them tools. We cannot always remove the stresses in life, but we can offer some strategies to help navigate it. When we face those moments of tests or making up with a friend, drawing on a breathing strategy helps us through.

Bringing the Learning Together

This past Friday our second grade students participated in an Economics Fair. For the last couple of weeks the students earned money and learned about the elements of what economics meant. Students then created items to sell. They had to determine the cost of labor and materials. They marketed their products with advertisements in the hallways. When Friday came, they were ready with money in hand to purchase their classmate’s unique creations.

Students were given the opportunity to shop and purchase items. The experience was not just about buying up handmade bookmarks and crafts. They quickly began to see if their item was priced at the appropriate price point. They started to adjust as other items were being sold. Some students realized that their item was the hot commodity and sold out immediately. They wondered if they should have placed a higher price point.

These conversations were happening during this culminating activity. After all goods were sold, students were given the opportunity to reflect on their learning and what they would do differently.

Fifth graders have been studying the human body. They also have collected reusable items. The classrooms have started to fill with the most creative random items from students. Today was the culminating activity where students worked in groups to design the human body. They built entire body systems using the reusable materials. They had to work with their classmates. There was debate about what item should be used for what system and part of the system. The creativity and calculations combined.

In both of these stories, our students were given the opportunity to share their learning of units in unique settings. They express themselves through multiple communication avenues. They have to connect all the different days and lessons to create this final product of learning.

It is masterful to see the teachers drop in and out of conversations during these events. I watched as teachers carried their rubrics around and made notes of what they noticed. And I will share that this learning is what makes students connect learning and build the meaning for their own minds and growth.

Every day is amazing to see learning at Joyner. And when it is culminating assessment time, I am truly impressed by the creativity of the teachers and the growth of the students.

Our Special Specials

Four times a week our students visit their Specials class. These classes are PE, Music, Art & Media/Technology. These classes allow our students to explore their world through different instruction and experience.

Ms. Moore’s music class provides students a chance to learn and love music. I am amazed when I walk into the fourth grade class right now and see students strumming guitars or playing the keyboards. Every student is touching and holding these instruments and experiencing the joy of making music beyond their voices.

Mr. Fotta’s art class is currently up to their elbows in clay. The students learn different pottery techniques and experience holding the moist mud in their hands and see how the kiln fires. They learn about artists and different views on this thing called art.

Mr. Poyer’s PE classes currently are learning the finer points of bowling. Multiple sets of pins are placed turning our gym into fun bowling alley. Students share goals of sportsmanship. They cheer for each other and learn to work cooperatively to play the different games.

Ms. Hale and Ms. Bell take our students on a journey through the media center learning about books and seeing how technology is a tool to share with others learning  from the classroom. The incredible abilities that our students have to design and create content with a tech tool is fantastic.

I consider the specialist staff courageous to not take the simple route to providing learning experiences for our students at Joyner. The different approaches and willingness to try new things amaze me. The teachers look for new opportunities to engage our students. Thank you to our specialists who make these Specials truly special!