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?