Saturday, December 27, 2008

My WORDLE! A Sign of the Times!

Several weeks ago my friend and colleague, Melanie Holtsman, tagged me by means of a meme to try creating a Wordle. Yeah, I didn't know what a meme was either - still not real sure I understand it - but it's kinda like a chain letter with questions. A Wordle is like a collection of important words from a blog or piece of text - what seems to be most prevalent in your writing - and it's cool! Here is how to create your own:

Wordle Meme:
1. Create a Wordle from your blog's RSS feed.
2. Blog it and describe your reaction. Any surprises?
3. Tag others to do the same.
4. Be sure to link back here and to where you were first tagged.
5. Create different Wordle clouds of your blog's RSS over a period of time. Do it once a month for the next year to capture the spiritof the times.

Here is the Wordle cloud for the RSS feed from Dreams Really Do Begin Here! on December 27, 2008.

My first reaction was - whoa - Google is awfully big. But, I did just write a whole blog post about how much Google has changed our professional lives this year. The rest seemed to fit perfectly with where my focus has been recently, on school, the year and traditions!

And as a meme mandates I am tagging the following to try it out!

1. Terri Stahlman
2. Yvonne Ferguson
3. Debby Cothern and Michelle Ellis
4. KK Cherney
5. Jen Snead


Friday, December 19, 2008

Auntie Claus Comes To Town!

Today is one of my favorite days - and not just because it is the last school day before Winter Break begins - but because it is another important day of tradition here at the Creek. Each year I turn over the school for an entire day to my dear friend Auntie Claus. I've never actually met her but hear from the kids each year that she bears a striking resemblance to me! Throughout the day each grade level of students (200 strong) gathers in the Media Center with anticipation of a special visit by her. She makes a grand entrance (what a drama queen) and shares a special holiday story with the group and shares her wish for them in the coming year. Our resource teacher "elves" then proceed to serve milk and cookies to the children and everyone sings and rejoices in just being with each other. It is a really special time - and it is just another event that makes this such a special place.
I'm almost jealous that Auntie Claus gets to have all this fun! :)

Please know that year around and especially during the holiday season I am truly grateful for the incredible people I work with and am so proud of the wonderful job they do each day for children. I wish each of them a magical and joyous time with friends and family this season and a peaceful and restful break. Don't forget who loves you, darlings! :)

And on the lighter side...... We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards


Friday, December 12, 2008

Reflection: Not Just What You See In The Mirror

At the end of each and every school year I ask my faculty to reflect on all that has happened along our leaarning journey. This Principal's Survey was started here by our founding principal and is designed to help us celebrate the wonderful things that have occured, express professional development needs and to get that one thing that really bugged us off our chests. I take the responses from my teachers very seriously and use them to institute changes and plan for our growth and development in the coming year.

These surveys are not anonymous - everyone here is free to have an opinion and share it! As tradition has it, the comments are then organized into a feedback sheet that is published and presented on our first day back to school each year. We celebrate the things that need to be celebrated and talk about the things that need to be addressed. The only problem with this process is that typically most of the responses only pertain to things that happened during the last half of the school year, so the suggestion was made that we take the time to gather Principal's Survey feedback mid year as well. GREAT IDEA!!!

To make getting the feedback a little easier and a little greener we decided to make a Google Form in Google Docs and send the survey out for completion. Teachers don't have to keep up with the paper and can complete the survey from anywhere the internet can be accessed. It will also make the feedback easier for me to sort. In fact the process is sooooo easy that I'll be able to share the information at our State of the School address following Winter Break. Here are the questions from our mid year survey:

1 - I think the best thing that happened so far at Chets Creek Elementary School this year was:

2 - The best thing I have done up to this point in my class/position this year was:

3 - In 2009, my number one objective will be:

4 - An idea I would like to see developed in 2009 is:

5 - Professional Development training and/or experiences I would like to have in 2009 are:

6 - The best Professional Development topic so far this year was:

7 - If I could throw one dart (criticism) within the school for this year it would be:

8 - If I could give one laurel (praise) within the school for this year it would be:

9 - Principal, Standards Coach, Technology Coach, Behavior Interventionist, I need you to:

10 - Additional Comments:
Feedback and reflection are essential elements of what transforms a school into a REAL learning community. The responses from this survey will absolutely be used to map out the next leg of our journey together this year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Love Google!!!!

I can remember the first time I ever saw and used Google. I called out to KK Cherney, our Media Specialist, for help in researching a new book for our Book of the Month program. She responded with, "Why don't you Google it?". After I looked at her like she was crazy she laughed and sat down to show me how to use Google as a search engine. WOW - my life online has never been the same! I've searched thousands of random ideas and topics over the years and peeked in on my childhood home from a satellite view on Google maps. I thought the possibilities were endless - now I know they are!

Last year I signed up for a Google account, developed this blog and began to really unlock the opportunities Google had to share. Google Reader has proved to be the perfect way for me to keep track of the more than 50 blogs being generated and updated by my faculty. I have also added professional blogs to the reader - some of which I found because they were recommended by Google. I absolutely flipped out the day it recommended my own blog as a Top Recommendation. :)

My leadership team has also started using Google Docs as a way to collaborate without all the back and forth email and paper for our weekly agendas. I even taught my faculty how to use Docs today in our Book of the Month faculty meeting so that all classrooms could contribute and benefit from each other's ideas for "going green". My latest discovery is iGoogle! It allows you to set up your own, very personal Google homepage with gadgets added that provide great ease in accessing many sites and web tools. There are so many ways to customize this page - down to picking a theme. My family is obsessed with seeing what the racoon family at the top of mine is doing!

I can hardly wait to discover the next new application in Google, I know I haven't even scratched the surface with all the possibilities. There's Google Earth, Google Chrome and sooooo much more. I encourage you to sign up for a free account and try it out - you'll be amazed at all the possibilites!


Friday, November 21, 2008

Tis the Season for TRADITIONS!

One of the things that makes our school so unique are the many traditions we have established and continue to embrace each year. Some are academic in nature and others are just to promote a feeling of fun and family. There is always something happening here - and yes, it is work - but each and every one are so worth it. They help shape a culture, define expectations and draw together a large and diverse faculty and student body into a high performing and highly successful learning community.

The really great thing about the folks here is that they also tend to help these traditions evolve over the years into some of the coolest things I have experienced as an educator. The memories that are created for each other and for our children will last long past that report card grade or FCAT score.

Today our Kindergarten team celebrated their annual Pow Wow which is the final celebration of a really in depth study of our native ancestors. They have learned about how many different groups of these native americans lived, what they ate, wore and how they celebrated their beliefs. This was our eleventh Pow Wow and I must say it has really become one of the most powerful and meaningful learning traditions we celebrate each year. It is amazing for me to look back at how we did it that first year and compare it to what happens today - WOW! Today's event is just one of many great traditions that are right around the corner for us. Check out dayle timmons' blog post for our new learning leaders to see what fun lies ahead for us. You can also click here to see a list of all the wonderful traditions we enjoy throughout the year.
Sorry, I'll have to wrap up my post now - the next tradition calls. Each year before the massive teepee is taken down I am summoned out by the Media team. Each year I lay inside it, stare up at the stories told on it's walls and reflect on the thankful children who have shared their gratefulness inside it today and give thanks for this beautiful school and for the rich and rewarding traditions that make it feel like a home.


Friday, November 14, 2008

A Brand New Kind of Welcome

Many years ago we began to orient our new teachers each year with a two to three day seminar with one whole day devoted to an Introduction to CCE. This includes our history, traditions, expectations, etc. It was a perfect way to get our newest community members up to speed about what makes our learning community so unique. Until now it had never even occurred to us to do this with students! Aside from about 200 new Kindergartners each year we usually get between 100-150 new first - fifth grade Creekers a year. Liz Duncan, our behavior specialist, began to see that a lot of the "disruptions" we were seeing were coming from those they may not have a full understanding of what our expectations are or were struggling trying to fit in at a new school. She quickly enlisted the help of our Book Fairy, KK Cherney, our Character Ed teacher, Nikki Hall, and our Guidance Counselor, Betsy McCall and they created an awesome "welcome party" for all our new students. They were oriented to all the faces and places they need to navigate our big school, they talked about academic and behavior expectations, they were encouraged to get to know each other and most importantly they were made to feel like they belonged and were cared about very, very much. This dynamic group turned it into the perfect "pep rally" to get kids excited about being part of their special new community. Without a doubt this has turned in to the next NEW tradition for the NEW to CCE!

New to CCE


Friday, November 7, 2008

What in the World is a Wiki?

One of our goals at Chets Creek is to make our work more visable and accessible. I decided to create a Book of the Month wiki to showcase the great work that goes on here at the Creek with our common piece of literature each month. What is a wiki? Watch this video for a quick and easy explanation:

For those risk takers that might be ready to play with a wiki of your own. Check out the tutorials here and stay tuned for the reveal of our very own Book of the Month wiki.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Make Your Voice Heard!

Next Tuesday, our country will participate in a very special process, one that is not necessarily repeated in every country around the globe. We get to exercise our right to choose - a right guaranteed by our Constitution. Voting is one of the most sacred gifts we get as Americans. During past elections it has certainly been proven that every vote does indeed count. This year's race is significant and the results, no matter what they are, will make history. Don't miss your opportunity to participate in the democratic process - make your voice heard. You have a choice and you really can vote however you like!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Literary Pumpkin Festival

Each year during a week in October our front lobby turns into the best pumpkin patch I've ever seen. To celebrate our love of literacy each classroom chooses their favorite book and then transforms pumpkins into characters from the story. You can't imagine the creativity of our teachers and students - these pumpkins are truly AMAZING!


Friday, October 17, 2008

Mathletes Are Going For The Gold

At Chets Creek we have been departmentalized from second through fifth grades for years. We realized a long time ago that to do things really well you had to specialize. Almost immediately after dividing to conquer it became a joke about which side you were on, English Language Arts (ELA) or Math and Science. Even at Leadership Meetings we began to notice that the Math folks sat on the left side of the table and the ELA folks claimed the right. It was a huge deal when our Standards Coach, Suzanne Shall, was swayed from Math side to the "dark side" of ELA coaching several years ago - I think she still gets teased to this day. The competition is real but all in good fun.

This past year the ELA teachers embraced and kicked off a new tradition at Chets Creek that ignited the intermediate school about reading - Battle of the Books! It was a huge hit with students and teachers alike and is sure to take on a life of its own again this year. And of course, not to be outdone, the Math teachers have decided to breathe new life into the old Sunshne Math program for students. The results of their collaboration on revamping the program are outstanding. The kickoff this past week was AWESOME and the program is sure to be just as popular as the Battle of the Books. They even got the ELA "dark side" involved as cheerleaders and "rappers" for the Mathletes. Check out these videos:

All this effort wasn't so much about the competition over which side of the table is better, ELA or Math? It was all about getting kids pumped about learning and school, no matter what the subject. And as usual here at the Creek - EVERYBODY came together to pull it off.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Ready, Set, OBSERVE!

Hard to believe it's that time of year again! Beginning Monday I start a hectic, jam packed two month long schedule of pre-conferencing on Mondays, observing in hour long increments on Tuesdays through Thursdays and then post conferencing on Fridays. My schedule will certainly be a little crazy up until Winter Break but honestly, I am soooo excited! I love the 5 minute walk throughs of classrooms all during the year but these annual observations are where I really get to savor the masterful teaching that goes on in each lesson. I get to be part of the planning, watch the whole delivery (from opening to closing and everything in between), and then reflect on the lesson with my teachers. I really enjoy watching teachers craft and deliver instruction to students who are eager and excited about learning.

At this point in our journey I should see all of the components to the Workshop model and so I am really focusing on the Guided Reading and/or Strategy Groups that teachers are holding during the work period. I am also looking to see how technology is being used to deepen learning experiences for students. There are also so many things about the work that I don't get to see in an hour so I ask teachers to leave out the following things for me to review:
  • the lesson plan (we don't have a specific form for this - it is whatever the teacher needs to teach from - the plan has to work for them)

  • data/safety net notebook (this looks different in everybody's room but houses any diagnostic screening and/or FCAT data as well as some evidence of assistance being provided to at risk students - sometimes a copy of the PMP, etc...)

  • parent communication tool (newsletter, blog site, website, etc...)

  • 3 sample assessments (could be formative or summative work for one student or several)

  • grades (record of student progress)

  • a list of professional growth activities (in a school this size it is hard to keep track of all the things teachers are doing - this really helps)

  • an example of how instruction is being differentiated (this looks different based on teacher preference - sometimes it is a conference log, anecdotal notes, record of group work, etc...)

  • 3-5 student planners (i love being able to write to parents about what their kids are learning in class, it also helps me see if there is someway I could support the teacher with a student or parent)
I get so excited I fill up the official form with compliments, comments, ideas and suggestions. Half the time I am not sure I can read it when I'm done, so this year I am bringing my laptop with me and I am going to try and type my feedback. Hopefully the technology will make this easier on all of us.

So starting Monday, if you can't find me, I'm in a classroom. I'm watching the finest teachers in the world implement their craft at superior levels to the most wonderful students a principal could ask for. I can't wait!!!

Risk... Care... Dream... Expect...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Another Look Back At The Past

I have thought a lot about the past this week. There have been lots of people who have impacted who I am today - family, friends, colleagues - and teachers. I've especially thought a lot about the teachers who had the most influence on the person and educator I am today. Mrs. Stilley, Mrs. Proctor, Ms. Lack, Mrs. Rogers, Mrs. Jacobs, Mrs. Hedgepath and Mrs. Gobbel stand out among all the rest. Why?

I wasn't the best student, I did well, but I spent an awful lot of time daydreaming, procrastinating and probably not living up to my fullest potential. I wasn't always giving my "best effort". The group of exceptional people above seemed to see something special about this daydreamer, something I certainly didn't see in myself. They encouraged me, nudged me, stretched me, gave me second chances, and even fussed at me if I needed it. Most importantly, though, they never held my shortcomings as a student against me, they never gave up on me. No matter what, they always believed in me, and I KNEW it!

I am very grateful for each and every one of them and I think that they would all be proud of who I've become. My life's work is a part of their legacy. Is there a teacher who helped shape your destiny? What will your legacy say about you?

These are my class pictures from Mrs. Stilley's 3rd Grade and Mrs. Proctor's 5th Grade .
Can you pick out the daydreamer?


Friday, September 26, 2008

When Your Past Meets The Present

I knew this day would come. The day when a student from my past would come walking into my present. Would I recognize them all grown up? I've taught one class of third grade and years of Kindergarten - a lot changes between 8 and 22. The answer is yes. I did recognize her and remember her name. I was instantly transported to the very special place she and her classmates have always had in my heart.

They were my first. As a young teacher I excitedly (and nervously) walked into Room 80 on November 22, 1993 and my life was changed forever. I learned more about life and teaching during that year than I ever did during college. Looking back I didn't have a clue - but I was passionate and eager to do the right things. I was so happy to have a job and they were so happy to finally have a permanent teacher. It was a special class, and a very special year.

On Tuesday a young teacher excitedly (and nervously) walked in to my conference room and interviewed for a job. She was smart and thoughtful, posed and eloquent, gracious and gifted - just the way I remember her from the third grade. I was also reminded that as educators everything we do, say and teach walks out and into a future that eventually turns into our past. Make the most of every moment knowing that one day that past will intersect with the present.

By the way, she's standing right beside me on the second row! And yes, that REALLY is me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to Shop for Public Education

When we grew up, going to a public school was pretty much a given. It was in the neighborhood, it was what our parents did and they turned out ok, there weren't a lot of alternatives, and most importantly it was free. Boy have the times changed! There are many choices for parents. In our city alone there are over 130 private schools - almost as many as there are public. Even in the public schools you have choice, like the magnets we have in Duval. The times may have changed - but largely and unfortunately - public schools have not. Given the number of students lost each year to private or to magnets, regular old public schools had better figure out how to meet the needs of a ever changing, ever growing and ever more demanding community.

Information abounds. Beyond what you can find on the state or local webpage there are whole companies like Great Schools and School Matters devoted to comparing schools and providing potential consumers with more than enough info, including testimonials, to help them make up their minds. Parents are smarter about what they want, or more importantly don't want, for their kids. Just this past week I was emailed by a prospective parent who basically interviewed me to see if our school was right, and good enough, for her child. Bravo to her for advocating for something different and special for her child - after all aren't our children the most important asset we have as parents, and as educators dedicated to making the world a better place. How would YOU answer the following questions?

1. What are the school policies on music, art, recess and pe (how much are they alloted each week? is exclusion from these programs used as a discipline method?)

2. In regards to classroom discipline, is there a schoolwide policy, or do teachers select their own classroom discipline method. For example: Great Expectations, Canter Method, Pulling Cards...etc.)

3. What curriculum has the school adopted in math, reading/phonics?

4. What amount of emphasis is placed in the areas of science and social studies?

5. For your school, what is the predominant theory of education that is being used, progressivist, social reconstructivist...etc.

6. Classroom instruction...(would you consider it to be more constructivist or traditional)

7. How heavily do the teachers rely on textbooks?

8. What is the policy in regards to the use of worksheets?

9. What is the school's policy in regards to assigning homework?

10. In your opinion, outside of test scores, why is Chet's Creek an A+ school?

I love our school and I believe in public education with all my heart. It has been critical throughout my entire career to educate them all - even the toughest ones. If public education is to survive we all need to be prepared to answer questions like those above and more. Our answers shouldn't look like they would have 100 years, 50 years, 25 years, 10 years or even a year ago. I proudly answered each question about our school - there were no yes or no answers either. This parent wanted to know, really know, what we were about and she deserved more than the standard answer. By the way, we're hired! This family will be moving to the area in a month and buying a house in our attendance area. Her precious, valuable and deserving 5 year old will become a Creeker because WE offer more than the standard answer inside our classrooms each and every day.


Friday, September 12, 2008

When The Principal's Away...

I remember when I was teaching how stressful it could be to miss a day of school. The planning and then worrying about what was happening while you were out almost made missing the day more trouble than it was worth. It really is no different when you're the principal except than the span of control is a lot bigger. You have to be confident that those left behind in charge can handle anything. The really great thing about Chets is that there is always someone ready and willing to step up and help out when a team member is missing. Experience has shown me over the years that our school operates no differently when I'm not there. At least I know that's true for the teaching and learning in classrooms. Our teachers feel slighted to only get 180 days out of a school year! I always wondered though, what happened in the front office with the people running the place. This past Friday I was out and deployed a spy to collect some snapshots of the day.

Something tells me they discovered the spy and hijacked the camera! I sure do love and appreciate the people I work with. I never worry for a second when I am gone - even when the bookkeeper is asleep on my desk.

Risk...Care...Dream...Expect...and LAUGH!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Affirmation Leads to Performance

The Leadership Team is currently involved in a book study of School Leadership that Works by Robert Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian McNulty. This book delves into the mountains of research that has been done to link leadership to student performance. There are 21 behaviors or responsibilities that are defined as being those of a successful school leadership. Affirmation is #1. It has long been tradition at Chets to recognize or affirm those who have done outstanding work in the classroom and this year is no different.

Last year two of our teachers had the idea to start a program called Pixie Pointers whereby two teachers would be chosen each week to answer a question asked from the previous recipient about any topic. The questions and answers were passed among the faculty in two journals and the honored teachers wore a Tinkerbell necklace to signify their status for the week. About midway through the year one of our coaches, dayle timmons, decided to catalog these tips and strategies in a blog so that everyone could have access to this extremely valuable resource.

This year we have turned the spotlight on recognition of the cool technology initiatives that teachers are embracing and have transformed the affirmation into a two week period for teachers to blog about the way they incorporated the use of technology into their classrooms. Geeks from the Creek is born! In addition to the blogging experience these techies wil give a brief demonstration of their initiative at our next early release professional development training.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Student Jobs in a 21st Century Classroom

During NECC this summer in San Antonio, Texas I attended a session held by Dr. Alan November. During his presentation he shared the new roles designed to engage students in the 21st century classroom. In days past a typical classroom job would be line leader, chair stacker, table cleaner, pencil sharpener and messenger. While these jobs are necessary managerial roles, November urges teachers to consider roles that will be useful in the 21st century. Consider these possiblilities as you transform your classroom for digital learning.

The Jobs of a 21st Century Learner
Tutorial Designers - select a team of students to create short audio or video available to students that reteaches or clarifies concepts introduced in class.
Official Scribes - select a group of students to serve as the collaborative word processors for class notes. This could be accomplished using a tool like Google Docs.
Researchers - assign a student or team of students to research topics or questions generated in class.
Collaboration Coordinators - select a team to interact with another class regularly from across the world and share what is happening class to class.
Contibutors to Society - select a team who works to contribute back to the world via the web like on Wikipedia about topics the class has studied or learned each week.
Curriculum Reviewers - select a team to present a review of the major topics covered from the week prior via an audio or video cast.

Learn more about how other educators are embracing these roles for students by reading Students as Contributors by Dr. Alan November.

Leave a comment and let me know what possibilities you see for the use of these jobs in your classroom?

Risk... Care... Dream... Expect...

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Principal's First Day of School

I don't usually blog between the posts I do each week for my faculty - time is somewhat of a problem. But... I could not allow my head to hit the pillow tonight without telling the world about the most incredible group of people on the planet. I have long known how supremely lucky I am - I am blessed, quite honestly, to work with the best students, parents, teachers and support personnel on the planet. Today was spectacular - the kids were awesome, the teachers and assistants were outstanding and the classrooms were positively amazing. A musician was playing Carribean music for families as they entered and we enjoyed an incredible guest who told stories and showed photos of his trips to over 22 countries - we were all mesmerized!

The day for this principal was perfect - even despite the one hiccup at bus dismissal! It was my sixth first day as a principal - a feat I could only ever accomplish because of the help that seems to come out of the woodwork whenever there is need. I simply call and the support team is there and they need to be thanked by name. They herded cats (my own little analogy of what the first day with Kindergartners is like :), helped open lunches, soothed tearful faces, spoke toher languages, cleaned and moved the dining room furniture for our assemblies, loaded cars, loaded buses... they were everywhere and anywhere there was a need and I am beyond grateful. Thank you could never be enough to Melanie Holtsman, Suzanne Shall, dayle timmons, Liz Duncan, Moe Dygan, Betsy McCall, Jennifer Snead, KK Cherney, JB Boyd, Estrella Bailey, Deb Stevens, Michelle Leclair, Lori Linkous, Julie Middleton, DeAnna Morgan, Stanley Brooks, Tracy Carlin, Christine Valnoha, Karen Willett, Ralph and Pat Thomas. Every time I turned around you were there today - for me - asking what you could do. You were heroic.

For any principal out there who thinks this job is all about power - you are dead wrong. Real success comes when you empower others. I know without a doubt that I am only as good as the people I am surrounded with. Never, ever has their been a better example of that for me than today. I could not have done my job today without you. Thank you for creating the perfect first day experience for our family.

Risk... Care...Dream...Expect...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

From The Lead Adventurers' Desk:

What a grand opening we enjoyed as we greeted each other in the CCE Departure Center on Monday. I am no doubt the luckiest principal on earth and there is no place I’d rather be than traveling around the world and back this year than with you. Your excitement about coming back to school was contagious as we celebrated each other with creative skits and videos and comedic songs. Your dedication and commitment to promoting Adventurers was clear by the way you paid meticulous attention to details in preparing your classrooms for Orientation. You are the best group of Tour Guides in the world!

“Around the World in 180 Days – The Virtual Learning Journey” will be more than just a theme for us; it will be a way for us to showcase the philosophies we have practiced since the inception of our school. We will spend our time this year RISKING more than others think is safe, CARING more than others think is wise, DREAMING more than others think is practical, and EXPECTING more than others think is possible. By embracing technology as a way to broaden our horizons, retune our skills and take our students beyond the borders of a classroom we will be taking the necessary next steps towards preparing our students for the global workplace of the future. It is sure to be wild trip, with perilous times – but one thing remains certain – we’ll make it happen TOGETHER!! Pack your bags for possibilities, take your Dramamine :) and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime. The journey begins…

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Journey Begins...

Risk more than others think is safe.
Care more than others think is wise.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Expect more than others think is possible.

This is not necessarily a new quote but I can promise you it will be our mantra as we enter this next decade of leading and learning together at Chets Creek. More than ever it will be important to remember that those four verbs are what started this all to begin with and they are the catalysts for what has made our incredible work with children a reality. We are so very close to leaving no child behind ladies and gentlemen - it is time to stretch ourselves and find out how to save those last few. It is time to take all we know about quality standards based education and infuse it with all the new tools available to us through technology. We are going to go beyond the borders of our classrooms and cross the digital divide into the future - together. We are in for the journey of our lives - the adventure begins...

Where will the journey take you?


Friday, May 30, 2008

American Haiku

I have totally enjoyed reading the six-word memoirs submitted by our colleagues so far. If you haven't had a chance to craft yours yet it is not too late! Here are some samples of this so called "American Haiku"!

Making a difference - leaving a legacy. -dayle

I've experienced learning, modeling, consoling, laughing... -KMorris

I have sung and hauled equipment. -dt

Realized my purpose, found true love. -sherrie anderson

Cherish yesterday, Live today, Dream tomorrow..... - Katie S.

I have grown, inspired, learned, and loved. -Lori M.

I've laughed, cried, sweat, learned, loved. - jenny nash

Paths diverged in a yellow wood... -T-Cubed (Tom Ruark)

Experienced grace, recieved gifts, given myself. -melanie holtsman

I have found my true calling!(And I will be back, promise!) -Elizabeth Conte

Daily rewards come in small packages. :) -brooke brown

Believe in all the young souls -christy constande

growth, learning, hectic, organization, love, and most recently...accidents! -julia

listened,watched,laughed,loved, flexibility, inspired -deb s

Realized I can make a difference. -melissa ross

Prayer, faith, hope, love, passion, joy! -teach to learn (Toni Chant)

I'd love to hear the six-word memoir of your teaching life!

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Six Word Mini Memior

I have laughed, imagined, loved, believed!

If you were writing a six-word mini-memoir of your teaching life, what would your six words be? They might be funny, inspirational, profound, mundane or deeply true. Comment back with your six!

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, May 16, 2008

So Much To BRAG About!!!!

Wow! What a year for having big dreams realized. So far we have had many meet success and be recognized outside our walls for their accomplishments. We should be proud of each and every one of these and use them as points of pride when we talk about our school! Here's just a few headlines to brag about:

CCE PTA Named Large PTA for Duval County - Fourth Year in a Row!!!!!

For an unbelieveable fourth year in a row our PTA was crowned Duval County PTA of the Year for large elementary school (750+ enrollment). I am quite certain this has never been done before and was a fitting tribute to the incredible work for families and children that transpires through the dedication of this extraordinary group. In addition, our history scrapbook won for the second year in a row and we left the luncheon with over 20 awards highlighting their outstanding work, including both of the top awards for membership!

CCE Student Earns Award of Merit in the State's PTA Reflections Contest!

One of our fourth graders was recognized recently for her visual arts entry at the May meeting of the Duval County School Board. Not only was her piece a winner in our county but was chosen to receive the Award of Merit from the Florida PTA. Her piece is on display at the captial!

CCE Student Places Fourth in District's Sunshine Math Competition!

One of our second graders won first place in our school's second grade competition and then placed fourth in the district's Sunshine Math Competition!

CCE Student's Artwork Chosen for Duval County Public School's Best of Elementary Art Exhibition 2008

A record 30 students had their pieces chosen out of 800 entries from the Elementary Library Show for display in the Best of Elementary show this year. These students were representative of every grade level and a variety of mediums. A special congratulations to Jennifer Snead, Kristy Sappington and Hallie Spooner, our art educators extraordinare, for allowing students the opportunities to explore the creative side of life!

CCE Teacher Named Math Educator of the Year by DEMC!

Angela Phillips, a fifth grade teacher and Math Coach, was chosen this week as the Elementary Math Educator of the Year by the Duval Elementary Math Council. Angela won this distinction by standing out amoung over 30 entries and is certainly deserved of this honor. She takes over this title from another CCE teacher and coach, Rick Pinchot, who was awarded the honor last year!

CCE Extended Day Employee Chosen as America's Next Top Model!

Even though this isn't an educational accomplishment it certainly is a testament to how pursuing one's dreams can pay off BIG TIME! Whitney Thompson, who has been working in Extended Day the past few months, was named America's Next Top Model Wednesday evening. Whitney is indeed a beauty, both inside as well as out, and even though we tried to keep her participation in the competition a secret from the kids, they figured it out and were excited and rooting for her.

Believing is just the beginning...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chets Creek Walks for the Cure!!!!!

Congratulations to the scores of Chets Creek family members who came out and supported our Relay for Life effort. We raised approximately $3000.00 to help in the fight to find for the cure for Cancer. Here's a look into this special night full of fun, laughter and fellowship.

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Relay for Life - Chets Creek Walks for the Cure

Stay tuned for blog post and slide show after the big event!!!

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Arts Extravaganza!!!!

“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.” Daniel Pink

At Chets Creek we believe that unfolding the creative imaginations of young children through art is equally as important as the high academic standards we employ in our classroom instruction. Our art education program is designed to masterfully integrate these academic standards along with the creative and critical thinking standards found in the art curriculum. The support of this program is of such importance to our school’s overall performance and to the preparation of students that any and all resources needed to provide the optimal arts education for students are provided without question.

From the very moment you step foot inside our school the fingerprints of our program can be seen. First, there is a mural of children holding hands around a united world that graces our second floor balcony welcoming each visitor to our school. Then there is the hand painted “stone” wall that supports student academic work. This is nicely complimented by the numerous display cases that hold hundreds of artistic creations fashioned by our students in the art lab. Re-creations of artwork originally created by the world’s masters beautify our lobby and are used to spark the imaginations of the next Van Gough or Monet. These share space with one of our most recent creations, a “picture” made up of hundreds of individual glazed and fired tiles that were colorfully personalized by students. Creative expression can be found at every turn and in fact there are many places within our walls that look more like an art gallery than a school.

Focus on relaying the importance of art in our everyday lives has heightened our awareness and helped to define the cultural identity of our school. This connection is even celebrated every year with a weeklong Arts Extravaganza event which is designed to expose students to a number of experiences with professional artists and provides our families with an opportunity to participate in hands on art activities at our culminating night event. Each and every one of our 1210 students has a special piece of artwork on display during this event for all to enjoy.

The arts influence our learning community in every way imaginable. From the beautiful artwork that adorns our hallways to the profound impact it has on strengthening the minds and extending the experiences of our students. Our goal is to help all our students, even the most hesitant ones, create a lifelong relationship with the arts and reap the rewards of life’s greatest joys. The art education program at Chets Creek Elementary truly prepares students for success in the future as Daniel Pink envisions it.

See you at the Extravaganza tonight!!!!

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Making Professional Connections

As a professional development school we have helped to train 1000s of educators from around the globe. This week alone we hosted visitors from Neptune Beach, New Mexico and even China! We do this because we have a responsibility to share the great work that happens inside your classrooms with others - and hopefully impact learning for students that we may never even meet. The next logical step in our collegial learning journey is to share on the web, only this type of sharing can work to our advantage too. The internet provides a simple avenue for us to share information and get ideas in return. Setting the Standard is a website that has been setup to provide this type of networking for educators, willing to share, like us. Check this out from your home computer (as usual we are a little ahead of the curve - it's blocked at school) and consider sharing the great things you are doing with the world and see what your colleagues have already added.

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hurray for Superhero Haley!

What a perfectly fitting tribute each of you provided to our most extraordinary Teacher of the Year, Haley Alvarado, yesterday! I've known for an awfully long time how truly special Haley is, as a teacher and more importantly as a human, and it was perfect that we unmasked her greatness and exposed her powers to the world. It was no different last night when a group of 20 celebrated her achievement at the prestigious EDDY Awards. We were of course the loudest as we cheered for our Superhero Haley and also reveled in the grandeur of this event with all the teachers of the year from aross the county. I was proud yesterday and last night to be an educator and I am honored to know and work with our Haley. Congratulations on this most deserved honor!

It's bird, no a plane,'s Haley Alvarado (Jello Up!)

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, March 28, 2008

dayle says it all!

I WAS born the year dayle started teaching but I learn more from working with her than I could ever put into words. This keynote touched me deeply and reminded me, just as she does every day, that this profession will never grow old for me. Thanks dayle!

Enjoy your Spring Break folks - you deserve it!

Believing is just the beginning...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Time Out!

“People need love, especially when they don’t deserve it.” Harold Hulbert

I have had to remind myself of this repeatedly this week as I have been faced with one challenge after another. Seriously! We are all so tired and our well deserved break is just a few more days away. Next week please help me keep students busy and out of trouble by limiting down time. If they are busy with meaningful work there will be no time for mischief. You will probably need to reiterate rules daily, particularly for the dining room, arrival and dismissal, resource and recess.

Approach your work with colleagues by thinking TEAM. Everybody makes mistakes, gets overloaded or simply needs a helping hand from time to time. Instead of focusing narrowly on your own personal space and plan take a moment to watch what is going on with the rest of the group. Differences can add depth, create strength and even bring balance. It is important that we sideline our own perspectives sometimes and put ourselves in another's place. True sportsmanship is about showing extreme grace. Being gracious means forgiving a teammate who fouled up, sharing the spotlight, and finding your sense of humor in those times of extreme pressure. Next week promote harmony - the team can't come close to reaching its true potential without you!

Only four more days…

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hang On!!!

Only two more weeks before we can celebrate the conclusion of our high stakes accountability testing with a well deserved Spring Break! Reaching this pinnacle in the year is actually exhilarating as a little of the pressure we have felt turns to anticipation of the outstanding results to come. After Wednesday’s testing is complete enjoy the next week and a half wrapping up the third grading period with your students. The focus turns to preparing them for next year.

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Make The Most of The Magic!!

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.

FCAT is one instructional day away. In this last hour, do not doubt the power of the work you’ve done to bring out every child’s fullest potential. Your job now is not to stress over the things you cannot change but rather to hold the wisdom in your heart that something wonderful is about to happen. Pump them up and help them believe in themselves, and they will perform at their fullest potential.

Believing is just the beginning...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Commitment and Passion!

As we quickly approach FCAT week I want to pause for a moment and take a realistic view of how this very important, mandatory state assessment fits into the overall philosophy of our learning community. The FCAT results dictate our school grade and we have performed extremely well, always scoring among the top elementary schools in the state. We are, of course, very proud of this because it is always good to see in your results the hard work that you have invested. But beyond this, it also reflects our sincerest efforts to “Leave No Child Behind.” To maintain such excellence over ten years as we have done, ALL children must make and maintain progress. We are proud of ALL students who work to the best of their abilities either by earning a Level 3 or higher or significantly increasing their efforts over the previous year, regardless of the level.

The FCAT assessment is simply one day out of a child’s life. It in no way reflects all of that child’s talents, skills, abilities or potential. My teachers work very hard to develop and implement the best possible overall teaching practices to educate and nurture their children. This commitment is what brings us great results on the FCAT but more importantly is their passion for equipping students with the skills and knowledge that he or she needs to have success in life that is the true measure of our success as a learning community. When March 20th arrives and this year’s test is behind us, I know without hesitation that each of my teachers will continue to embrace each day and each student with the same commitment and passion that they have shown in the days leading up to our high stakes assessment.
Believing is just the beginning...

P.S. The puppies have arrived - all 8 of them!!! I finished the website, well... its published at least. I am still adding a few finishing touches, including pictures of the newborns. I think it is a pretty good first effort, and I am supremely proud that I taught myself something new. If you are interested check it out HERE.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Posting and PUPPIES!!!!

Do you know that feeling you get when you are teaching yourself something new? It is a mix of excitement, frustration, and then elation. I prefer the elation but to tell you the truth during that frustration part is were the really good stuff takes place. Problem solving, creating, analyzing, applying, synthesizing all happen when you are engaged in an activity that doesn't always feel comfortable but pays off in huge ways when pride in the accomplishment of something longed for is achieved.

My dog is about to have puppies - yeah, that's right, I said puppies. My daughter is positively thrilled, her dad and I are nervous. The dog's gestational timeline does not understand that this is one of the single most hectic times of the school year for me. My life right now is consumed with one word - EVALUATIONS! We had planned for our dog to have puppies one day, just not NOW. When we agreed to start the breeding business I promptly offered up that I would design the website we would use. How hard could it be, right? HAH!

I spent the better part of last weekend consumed with teaching myself how to design, create, and edit our site using a new program called Expression Web. News alert - Melanie does not know the program - yikes! I'll spend sometime this weekend getting the site finished and then posting it to the web (in between checking on the little ones who are due to arrive at any moment). I don't think I did too bad for a first attempt but boy, it sure wasn't the piece of cake I thought it would be. I rationalized, used trial and error, deciphered computer code, wrote and edited content, built the whole thing from a blank white screen. I was excited, frustrated and elated all at the same time!!!!

I was also reminded - reminded of how important it is to teach our students how to be self directed learners. I was driven by a need to know, but where would I be, if along the way I had never been taught to think through problems, not to give up, to search for answers or alternative solutions, to look for help. There will come a time in our students' lives when they will be faced with something challenging, something new and it is absolutely critical that they have the skills to tackle the task and teach themselves how to maneuver through. Self directed learning isn't always easy but it sure is satisfying.

I'll keep you posted on the pups and the website!

Believing is just the beginning...