Thursday, April 20, 2017

Everyone Needs Feedback!

I don't know if you celebrated that your end of year T-TESS was complete, but as I met with my last teacher, I did a little celebration dance! It wasn't pretty figuring out T-TESS and I am already thinking of ways to improve, but it wasn't awful either. In some ways I will miss how it provided the opportunity for us to sit and talk uninterrupted for forty to fifty minutes. I will miss getting to hear you brag on all the little things you all do to make Sendera Ranch the best place on earth to "do school."...aww #warmfuzzies. That is, until the next T-TESS cycle.

Seriously, it was a good experience and process for many reasons for me. I believe it was a good experience and process for you as well. However I am not completely naive to think John and I don't have places to improve. Some we are completely aware; others, we are not. This is where we need your help. In the next few days, while the end of year conferences are still fresh on your mind, we would like you to fill out a feedback survey for us.
We have made it virtually anonymous (we did ask for you to tell us who your evaluator was so we could continue to calibrate and align our approach).

Here is the link:

We would love to hear what you think, how you believe the process went according to your perspective, and ways we can improve.

Thanks so much for taking the time to help us grow, be better and make this a process that is beneficial for us all!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How Will You Finish Strong?

The spring brings all kinds of life and liveliness into every part of our personal lives and our classrooms. Benefits of spring are warmer weather, longer days, and the beauty of everything in bloom. It is also the last leg of the race in a school year. The time when we are seeing the fruits of the work we have invested in our students and the realities that our hard work may not have yielded the growth in some of our students we had worked for, hoped for and lost sleep over.

It is hard not to focus in our reflections on our professional practice where things haven't quite turned out how we had pictured. We can mourn for the hope of where we thought we would be, but we can't camp out there. This is where we must focus on the growth, what we have accomplished, the progress. It is in this that we put into practice the growth mindset. It is where we remember last August when we came together as a staff and started our 2016-17 year talking about how having a growth mindset and how that allows us to move forward... even in our moments of disappointment or mistakes... we "fail forward."

As we contemplate and reflect, how can we finish this year confidently and positively? How can we finish strong?

As this week's blog post topic was swirling around in my head, I realized this belief that "finishing strong" is critical had everything to do with maintaining a healthy campus culture. So I called on our resident health expert, Nurse Amanda Wiggans. With calendar in hand, we took the idea of the from the 21 Day Challenge in January (, and turned to our best resources... Google and Pinterest. What Amanda determined is that there were exactly 30 days left with students starting April 17th. What she also discovered is that there are a lot of resources to support a 30 Day Positivity Challenge. Wheels began turning... Positive Thinking + Positive Talk= Healthy Culture/Staff....

AND... drum roll please, when we have a Healthy Culture/Staff WE ARE GUARANTEED to FINISH STRONG!

The great thing is no one has to go and come up with ideas to participate in the 30 Day Positivity Challenge. We are providing the ideas for you (thanks to Nurse Amanda Wiggans!).

Here are 30 Suggestions for each of the next 30 School Days:

Some alternates in case you might want a substitute for one of the days:
  • Write a list of reasons why you love someone (and give it to them)
  • Leave a funny note in a library book to make someone smile.
  • Compliment a stranger.
  • Tell 3 people you admire something about them.
Additionally, if you love memes, why not share via social media a quote from a fictional teacher or mentor? Fun and Funny... How can you beat that for positivity???

Here is a list of fun fictional quotes:

Feel free to share via Social Media what you are doing each day or a meme you have created from the quotes as your part in participating in the positivity challenge. Tag your posts with #SREisAwesome #FinishStrong #30DayChallenge

If you have more ideas that you would like to share or simply want to leave your thoughts regarding the 30 Day Positivity Challenge... please comment below!

(Special thanks to Beverly and Amanda W. for providing the idea and resources for this week's post!)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Are Our Digital Natives Digitally Literate?

This week our Technology Leadership Team met to develop a vision for technology integration at Sendera Ranch Elementary. We discussed that we have digital natives who interact constantly with technology but yet lack the skills to find, filter and create digital products... they lack digital literacy.

Knowing the need to foster and facilitate digital literacy in our students the Technology Literacy team, through a collaborative process developed our vision that took into account the future skills our students will need, the vertical alignment of skills so that students can progress with technology for academic use/learning. The committee also took into account where we presently are as a campus and what our next steps should be with our technology integration.
We can all agree that students must have strong literacy and math skills to be successful in life. What we are finding is that in order for students to function successfully in life they must also become digitally literate. It is in their life. They were born surrounded by it. How they use technology as learners... that is where our job lies.

Beyond the vision the technology leadership team came up with goals for the campus. These goals may seem big if one was attempting to do it all at one time. However, just like when we teach students to read or develop number sense, we do it in small steps, bit by bit.

Knowing these are the goals for our campus for next year, what are the ways you can look ahead and backwards plan. How can opportunities for students to learn some of the "soft skills" with technology early on, so that students can enter into larger more involved projects with confidence and skills to create work that reflects not just their technology skills but their depth of understanding?

In an eSchool News  article it discusses the ten skills every student should learn. They were:
1. Read
2. Type
3. Write
4. Communicate effectively and with respect
5. Question
6. Be resourceful
7. Be accountable
8. Know how to learn
9. Think critically
10. Be happy

Technology can be the antithesis of these or it can be the vehicle that gets them there. We have the power to make that happen. The most important thing we can do is provide exposure through experiences and modeling. A quick article that may help to brainstorm ways to reach that is mentioned in the blog post: Finding Time for Tech by Katie Currens.

Another great resource is the US Digital Literacy website: This has great resources to utilize and shares digital skills that students need to be successful citizens.

Finally, the district created a check list of technology skills for K-2 and 3-5 that is directly taken form the Technology TEKS. This is a great tool to use as a guideline as we move forward and vertically support one another as we develop our students' digital literacy.

What are ways you and/or your team are intentionally planning to meet the goals developed from our technology vision? Share your ideas!

Friday, March 31, 2017

We are all Scientists

Did you know that you are a Scientist?  Everyday you are using the steps of the Scientific Method and you may not even realize it! I know that until this week I had not made the connection that what I am doing everyday can be correlated to the Scientific Method.  I was asked to read the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. If you have a "to read" list, I would recommend this book for you. There is a wealth of information and insight that I have learned from reading this book, and making the connection to Science is what I took away from my reading this week. Let me show you how it relates!

Ask a Question:  Why are my benchmark scores ______ (so low, not what I expected, different from the other teacher...You choose what you think)

Background Research:  Looking at Data, researching the data, connecting the TEKS, lessons and content.

Hypothesis: I think my scores are low because I need to teach _____ and students need to know more about ____.

Experiment:  This is our reteaching, the changes we are making for instruction, small groups, interventions, and all those other awesome ideas you have for helping your students!  Are the "experiments" I have in place working? Do I need to try something different or are the students on the right track?

Record Data:  We know about data collection! How are your students responding to your instruction, the interventions and how can we keep track of that? How did they perform on the reassessment?

Analyzing Data and Drawing Conclusions:  What are we going to do with the information we collected? Nothing, the student is more successful, SST/RTI because the student is still struggling, or do we need to communicate with parents? How can we use this data to improve instruction and facilitate conversations during planning?

Communicate Results:  How can we share with others?  Can we call on our peers to help us in areas that our students are struggling?  Sometimes I need help with content knowledge or instructional strategies. Our campus is amazing at helping one another and I sometimes ask 3rd grade or 5th grade teachers for help.  Megan and Amy help me understand what they teach in 3rd grade that my students have been exposed to and Tracie and Courtney help me understand where students are headed and what is very important for students to know when they leave 4th grade. We have adjusted the amount of time we spend in some standards based on feedback from these other grade levels. I encourage you to talk the the grade levels you are next to and have those conversations about your "Data Results". Anytime we can collaborate with others we have an opportunity to learn something new.

Our job is so important and each day we are helping students build Cognitive Strategies that help them learn.  According to Ruby Payne, Ph.D., there are three stages to the learning process. Those are input, elaboration, and output. I have listed a few cognitive strategies that students need to build in each category below, but if you would like to see them all you can find that information on page 93 in her book.

  • Input: Explore Data, Organize Data and be able to consider two sources of information at once.
  • Elaboration: Build inferences, make a plan using the data, and use appropriate labels.
  • Output: Communicate clearly the labels and process and visually transport data correctly.

If we can help build these strategies in students, then it helps them become better learners. We are already doing this when we ask students to make connections to prior knowledge, when we ask higher level questions, and when we ask students to compare and contrast information. Another way we are helping students build cognitive strategies is when we ask them to use the Scientific Method. If we can tie this method to our teaching practices, can we tie this method into all content areas? Can we change the way we look at instruction to facilitate cognitive growth within ourselves and our students?  Deep down we are all scientist and each one of you are doing amazing things in each part of this Scientific Process.

Share some ways you are using the Scientific Method for instruction in other content areas beyond Science.

-Blog post written by guest blogger Nicole Young

Friday, March 24, 2017

How do you know you are growing as an educator?

I think I heard someone say as I walked in Monday morning... "Only ten more weeks."

Part of me was like, "Yes, I didn't die!" and part of me was like "No, I thought I would be better at this at this point in the year. I need more time to reach the goals I have set for myself!"

I could have let that defeat me. Instead, I decided I would not let the fact that I am not as far along as I would like to be in this new role as assistant principal be the determining factor of whether or not I am progressing toward success. Instead I am moving into a time where I am reflecting, reviewing and revising my goals. I am evaluating for myself what I have learned, how I have changed- for the better- and what I need to continue to work towards or abandon.

I think that is one of the beauties of the process with T-TESS. It creates a space for us to set goals, work toward those goals, monitor our progress (collect evidence), and reflect. It helps us measure and identify how we are growing as an educator. In this way, I believe it reminds us of how far we have come and shows us where we can journey next in our professional growth.

I came across the article "How to set smart goals that motivate you to action"  this week as I was thinking about where you all are in preparing for the end of year T-TESS conference. I love being challenged to grow, to set goals that may be almost unattainable but make me want to strive to try. We (John and I) look forward to meeting with you and learning more about the goals you have set for yourself for the upcoming year. Goals that grow you, excite you and most of all empower you as an educator.

We would love for you to share the process for how you are determining your goals for the upcoming year in the comments.

Friday, March 3, 2017

How will you "taper"...

As runners, training for long races like a half marathon, we are very strategic. We build our stamina slowly, over several weeks. The one thing many don't know is that we purposefully slow down before the big race... we give our bodies some margin to rest and store up for the long run. It is called a taper run. The distance of that last training run, about a week out from the event, is half the distance of the competitive run. For example, if you are running a half marathon, the weekend before you run six to seven miles. Your spring break is your opportunity to "taper" before you hit the ground running to complete the last couple months of the school year.

We have been training for this last leg of the year. As we move into the last week before Spring Break there is a lot of pressure that is felt by everyone. When we return we are within days of our first round of STAAR testing. Many of you may be taking vacation over the break... some of us will be staying close to home. For those of you staying close to home, don't let your vacation become your project week. Take some time to truly relax. Break away from the cleaning out of closets, deep cleans, food preparation and home projects, and HAVE SOME FUN!!! Give yourself room for margin. Rest, Relax and Rejuvenate your soul. Give yourself the chance to "taper" so you can run the distance when you return.

If you are like me, I like to plan things that are not only fun, but FREE or inexpensive.

Here are a few things my family may be taking advantage of during this week of "taper" to Rest, Relax and Rejuvenate:

Free Spring Break Monday at the Modern

Moviehouse 10 am Showings...

Lego Americana Roadshow at Stonebriar Mall

I am also looking for a good calzone recipe. Kristopher is determined that we are going to learn how to make homemade calzones!

Here is a link to Mari's Moments from the Star Telegram with other ideas that are free.

These are just a few ideas. I would love to hear your ideas/plans or if you have a good calzone recipe please share! We all need ways to plan our "taper" so we can run the race set before us as we return from Spring Break.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fostering Classroom Management Success Through Forgiveness

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am grateful that I work in a place and with people that afford me grace.

Our students have been given our patience, our time, and our energy. While patience, time and energy can have limits... what is unconditional is our love.

Our students are not perfect. They make mistakes. We afford them grace.

Forgiveness gives way to freedom. Each day is the opportunity for a day of redemption.

I am thankful for the teachers, mentors, friends, family and colleagues that have let me learn and given me the forgiveness that allows me to learn and become better.

Our students need our forgiveness. The chance to begin anew, to learn and become better.

True forgiveness is freeing. It is a classroom management strategy that never fails.

The article "Why Forgiveness is a Powerful Classroom Management Strategy" refreshes my resolve and my approach as we take on the next two marking periods.

How do you plan to practice the art of forgiveness? Where do you find your freedom in this approach?