Monday, May 22, 2017

Summa-time....

I hope you all have a great summer of relaxation and rest. I know many of you will be catching up on your "extra-curricular" reading as well as making plans to travel.

I have started a "summa-time" pile at the office for "professional" reading and a pile at home for "enjoyment." Some of my professional readings include: Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess, Data Wise by Boudett, City and Mournane, and Visible Learning for Literacy by Fisher, Frey and Hattie. My enjoyment reading include Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, finishing Legend by Mari Lu, and re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee before reading her only other novel Go Set a Watchman.

In the midst of all that I know you are already making plans for next year's class set up and ways to keep it all organized. I even overheard a conversation today about a trip to "Five and Below!" Which reminded me of the YouTube from Gerry Brooks about the Dollar Store:
Have a great summer and if you are missing your SRE family, "Go getchu sum 'Grade Level Groupies!'"

If you have any great reads you want to share or relaxation ideas please post in the comments!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Knowing when to let go...

I recently read a brief article from my ASCD Update about "The Art of the 'Mic Drop'."
It was a reflection from an assistant principal that was looking back on how he had coached/led his teachers this past year. It talked about his observations on how highly effective teams interact and what was his perceived role of administrative leadership in regards to those team interactions.

The over-arching idea was knowing when to step away and let teams "do their thing" and not interrupt ideas/actions for solving pressing issues. Through "dropping the mic" and walking away with the hope that it builds a culture where educators listen to understand rather than respond.

This summer you will be attending trainings, possibly reading books/blogs and reflecting on how you may change your approach for the upcoming year that will inspire you to try new things both as a team and as an individual educator. My hope is that John and I will provide you the supports to take the risks to step beyond "what we have always done."

John an I have many goals for ourselves moving forward into our second year as your instructional leaders. With those goals in mind we know we will:

  • Work to be clear with teams about expectations and next steps.
  • Be more available to support the work and purposeful in following up with teams on the progress.
  • Provide tools for efficient collaboration, including agendas and data analysis platforms via digital systems that allow for virtual and/or face to face collaboration.
Putting some structures in place and at the same time stepping back and letting go provides that level of trust in you all, our team, to get it done without micromanagement. 

We are attempting to master the art of knowing when we need to be front and center with the mic and when we need to let go, get up and get out of the way... essentially 'drop the mic.'

What are some ways you would like to see us support you this upcoming year? How can we encourage you to take risks, find solutions and at the same time stay out of your way? 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How does change affect you?

As I read through John's email this week that listed all the changes that are happening within our walls, it made me reflect on how I address change.

This time of the school year is exciting. We are excited about finishing out another year, excited that that we can see the finish line, and we are already talking about next year and the new possibilities that another year brings. The excitement I feel within the building is contagious and it gives me the stamina I need to finish out the school year strong. However, with that excitement and the talk about "where everyone will be next year" I realize that my need to stop and think about the changes ahead is important. I truly believe that every event in our lives shapes the person we become. The decisions we make every day affect the lives of those around us. I always stop and wonder if the choices that I make each day leave a positive, lasting affect on the students whom I teach and the teachers with whom I work.

Every part of campus will be impacted by the changes that are coming. I am both excited and sad. Having worked on the same grade level, with the same coworkers for multiple years, I am sad to be leaving a team that works so well together. We have formed bonds, friendships, and understanding that enable us to strive for excellence with our students. I have been so blessed by the support from each of the teachers that I work with so closely each day; they are an amazing group of women.

Looking ahead, I am excited to be working with a new group of ladies that I have so much respect for. The work ethic, the care, the dedication I see from those ladies is something I admire. They show us all how hard work pays off and the ones who benefit most, are the students. It is exciting to think of the possibilities that lie ahead next year.

When I thought about change and how it would affect my work life and my personal life, it took me a while to digest how my reaction to those changes would affect those around me.  Change can be a bad thing, or change can be a great thing. How you react to that change propels you in the direction that you choose for it to go. How do you address change? For me, I address it full speed ahead, ready to change the world one day at a time!

-blog post by Nicole Young
http://blog.365give.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/new-beginnings-for-365give.png 

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: https://goo.gl/forms/4NOeLixjIdZio3Y33

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 (http://srelonghornlearning.blogspot.com/2017/02/happiness-mindfulness-and-classroom.html), 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: http://digitalliteracy.us/. 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