Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Success begins with mindset... one piece of the puzzle #SAVMP

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In this months #SAVMP prompt, Paul McGuire asks “How can you as a leader can help promote and grow the “mindset” on your campus?” In his post he shares:

“It is essential for educators to communicate that they hold a growth mind-set. Recently, we studied college sports teams. At the beginning of the year, we asked athletes to tell us how much they thought their coaches believed success came from natural talent and how much they thought their coaches believed success came from practice and hard work. The more that athletes thought their coaches believed in hard work over natural talent, the better the athletes did that year. Students know what educators value—they pick up their messages and act on them.”

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of growth mindset, where kids, parents, teachers and leaders feel comfortable taking risks, learning, failing, and growing.

How do we promote it? Where do we start?

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it’s just one piece of a larger puzzle. How can we develop a growth mindset and a climate of risk taking? I think we have to incorporate two other things into our work as leaders-- building relationships and trust, and also inspiring curiosity and creativity with our students, staff, and families.

It’s hard work.

Students don’t always come to us with confidence, and they often hide insecurity and struggle behind a tough facade. How well do we really know our students? I love images like this one, but it’s not enough to just put up signs or posters, or even to just say these things to students.

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Some of our students come to school to be safe and to be loved. Do we really know their stories? This video tells the story of just one student, but it could be the story of many. How do we build relationships with students who may be afraid to trust and afraid to fail? How do we make them feel safe?

The work of building a growth mindset begins with creating a safe classroom and school community. This year at our school we’ve focused on empathy school-wide and started a Kind Kids Club after being inspired by a Central Valley School.

The image below is the wall in the lobby of our school, built by our school counselor. But we didn’t just post it. We’ve talked about empathy and kindness all year- with students, staff, and families, beginning at Back-to-School Night.


Currently, we’re working on building relationships with students by learning from the work of others- blog posts like this one written by Katherine Sokolowski: Classroom Management… or Should it be Mismanagement? and this one by Pernille Ripp: 5 RULES WE IMPOSE ON STUDENTS THAT WOULD MAKE ADULTS REVOLT as well as looking at work done with Restorative Practices & Love and Logic , and we will continue this work all year. Sam LeDeaux also wrote a great post about building relationships with kids and the connection to classroom discipline.

Building a growth mindset also requires inspired and curious minds. We recently watched this video shared by Adam Welcome. How can we create this sense of magic and wonder for teachers and students? What does instruction look like in classrooms to make kids feel this way? How can professional development and parent education inspire teachers and parents to try new things, to learn, and to grow? How can we as administrators say "yes" more often when teachers want to try new things and embrace the mess that is learning?

I’m still searching for tools and resources to help us on this journey to a growth mindset. I'd also like to engage our families in a conversation about the idea of mindset. I'm inspired by Eric Saibel who shared Hall Middle School's (Larkspur, California) first school blog post, written about growth mindset by guest blogger Deb Blum, a parent and Parent Ed Coordinator. How awesome is that? I'm excited about incorporating the ideas she shares here.

There are some great resources out there! Here are a few images and videos I’ve found on this topic.

We're excited to continue this journey! 

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The perfect #edugetaway! February 13-15, 2015

5 reasons you'll love #CUErockstar Petaluma

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1. Location, location, location.
Valentine’s weekend? In the wine country? Amazing! Spend the day being inspired with learning and collaboration. Enjoy the local scene that is Petaluma in the evenings. It’s the perfect destination for fun and learning!

Petaluma. The home of Lagunitas Brewing Co.

2. Low cost, hands-on learning and a Pecha Kucha!
Petaluma is the ONLY Rockstar Camp this year with a Pecha Kucha Friday night! What's a Pecha Kucha?
As Jon Corippo defines it... 20 slides x 20 seconds = 6 minutes of awesome! Friday night will feature a fun and fast-paced way for attendees to meet all of the presenters in a slide deck showdown. You won't want to miss it! And we have an INCREDIBLE team!

Then, Saturday and Sunday consist of two, two-hour sessions allowing attendees to "dig in deep" and really get to know their topic, play, and build resources to use immediately.  Morning sessions are repeated in the afternoon so that attendees have two different opportunities to attend a workshop. All for $159! You can already check out the Saturday and Sunday sessions! Petaluma features Minecraft, Spheros, Google, STEAM, and more!

3. Small Presenter to Attendee Ratios
CUE Rock Star events are built so that there is one presenter for every ten attendees and the events sell out at 60-70 attendees.  This allows participants to get hands-on support and learn directly from knowledgeable educators. And, if you think administrators are out of touch, think again! Many of Petaluma's team of leaders are administrators, and all are true lead learners!

4. Time for Collaboration and Networking
We purposely start late, end early, and take extended lunches so that all attendees have tons of opportunities to collaborate and network as part of learning community. A continental breakfast and a delicious lunch are also provided each day! And ice cream!

5. It’s not your grandma’s PD
Professional learning for educators often consists of being “talked at” for hours on end with little or no interaction. At CUE Rockstar Petaluma, you’ll find no stand and deliver presentations. Be prepared for a brief instructional session and then plenty of time to work with support! You’ll be able to explore the tools and strategies you’re learning about and leave with something you’ve created! Also, everyone learns from each other at Rockstar. The smartest person in the room is the room!

So join us. It's going to be a beautiful weekend!

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CUE Rock Star Petaluma

February 13-15, 2015 (13th is evening only)
Penngrove Elementary School, 365 Adobe Road, Penngrove, CA 94951

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2015 Book Club: Bring on the books!

Every December I look forward to our book club meeting-- it's where we choose all of the books for the upcoming year. Everyone brings a list of book suggestions and it goes a little like a draft night, round and round we go, discussing, sorting, trying to group books by location, theme, or idea. Rarely do we only have one book in a month to read, giving us choice within a common topic or genre. Here is our book list for 2015. There is a little bit of everything... young adult selections, prose poetry, and even a Donalyn Miller inspired gap challenge where we'll all choose a book from a genre that we usually avoid like the plague. 

What are your reading plans for 2015?











Book Gap Challenge - What books do you avoid? Genres you almost never choose?
Inspired by Donalyn Miller's Nerdy Book Club post about her book gap

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

2015 Book Club Picks

Every December our book club meets to select the new books for the upcoming year and we all bring a list of possible reads. Here are my recommendations for this year. I predict Brown Girl Dreaming to be the Newbery winner for 2014! The reviews below (and images) are from Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award Winner
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
by Daniel James Brown (Goodreads Author)

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

A Free Life
By Ha Jin

A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Best Books of the Year: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Entertainment Weekly, Slate

In A Free Life, Ha Jin follows the Wu family — father Nan, mother Pingping, and son Taotao — as they sever their ties with China in the aftermath of the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square and begin a new life in the United States. As Nan takes on a number of menial jobs, eventually operating a restaurant with Pingping, he struggles to adapt to the American way of life and to hold his family together, even as he pines for a woman he loved and lost in his youth. Ha Jin's prodigious talents are in full force as he brilliantly brings to life the struggles and successes of the contemporary immigrant experience.

In the Time of the Butterflies

By Julia Alvarez
It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo s dictatorship. It doesn t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas The Butterflies.
In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters Minerva, Patria, Maria Teresa, and the survivor, Dede speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession
By Charlie Lovett

Staff Reviews from http://www.sunriverbooks.com

Peter Byerly is a solitary kind of man; his twin passions are his wife and his career as an antiquarian bookseller.  Marrying his college sweetheart gave him great joy until she died and ripped the heart right out of him.  She was his avenue into the wider world, the woman who walked by his side and helped him navigate interacting with others.  On her death, he left North Carolina and holed up in the their English cottage, avoiding all contact until the day he got up the nerve to go into a bookstore, picked up a book from the age of Shakespeare and discovered a painting of his dead wife.  How did his wife’s image come to be on this ancient painting?  Why is it in a book relating to Shakespeare?  The Holy Grail of antiquarian bookselling it finding anything written in Shakespeare’s hand relating to his plays or sonnets, proving he was the author of the works bearing his name.   Peter’s quest to discover the origins of the painting lead him onto the trail of the coveted work of William Shakespeare.  Are they fake or are they real? As the story unfolds ancient feuds are uncovered and the danger mounts.  If you love books, this is fun to read!

Goodreads review:
A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.
Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.
As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.
Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries, with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr (Goodreads Author)

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

I'll post the final list once we meet tomorrow. I'm excited to see what others bring!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Instructional Leadership: It's a thing #SAVMP

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This month's #SAVMP question focuses on Admin Credibility. George Couros asks several important questions of school leaders in his blog post 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Principal. One of these questions focuses on instructional leadership:

What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in the school? 

From George's original post:

Covey talks about two important areas for leaders; character and credibility. Many principals are great with people, yet really do not understand the art and science of teaching, or have lost touch with what it is like to be in the classroom. Although a leaders does not need to be the master of all, they should be able to still be able to walk into a classroom and teach kids. They should also definitely be able to lead the staff in workshops that focus directly on teaching and learning. If teachers understand that a principal understands teaching and learning, any initiatives are more likely to be seen as credible in their eyes.

I am a teacher. I am a teacher.

Yes, I am the principal, the school leader, a role I take to heart and love. It is such a gift to be able to be the lead learner in a school-- to take the needs of the students, the teachers, the staff, and the families and dream up a vision and goals to move our school forward. Every day feels like Christmas to me and I can not wait to get to school. 

I am the principal. I am a teacher.

Instructional leadership is my passion. Whether I'm leading inside or outside our school, I'm  a teacher. At school, I'm the lead learner and I love to learn right alongside our teachers--in weekly tech PD meetings with a collaborative Google doc as an agenda where everyone learns and everyone leads and the agenda is based on what people want to share, celebrate, and learn. I've also been working hard to make our once a month staff meetings more interactive and meaningful and have been trying different strategies to maximize all of our meetings with more collaboration and conversation. Some recent additions include success slams and speed dating! Outside of school, I also lead professional development for teachers and administrators around technology and literacy in the Common Core as an Area 3 Writing Project Teacher Consultant. I am a CUE Rockstar faculty member and CUE Lead Learner. I teach administrators and teachers how to be more Googly using Google Apps for Education. I love it. I'm always teaching and always learning. 

Teaching teachers about classroom blogging at Fall CUE in Napa, CA

I am the principal. I am the Minecraft Maker Club Leader. 

iPad Minecrafters

A 5th grade Minecraft Mentor with her K-1 kids

Cardboard challenge badge!

Like other teachers and administrators, I'm trying to incorporate more STEAM into my school. But I'm determined to learn on a small scale before rolling anything out school-wide. So, along with a  parent and Joe Wood, our Instructional Technology Coordinator, we're leading an after school Minecraft Maker Club. Seriously, it's scary. The kids are leading me in a lot of ways. But I am determined to try and to learn. During the first six week session, we led 25 second through fifth grade students using Minecraft EDU and DIY.org where we made Cardboard games as part of our Cardboard Challenge badge. This time, we have 25 second through fifth graders and 15 Kinder and first graders Minecrafting with iPads and learning about coding. During our next session, we're trying out coding using Bee-Bots, Spheros, code.org and Tynker as we prepare for the Hour of Code. I'm embracing the mess and loving it.

I am the principal. Sometimes, I'm the teacher. All day. And I love it.

Kindergarten choice time. Paint.

Teaching TK. Love four year olds!
What can I teach? 
In 18 years in education, I've taught every grade from kindergarten to fifth grade, combo classes, full day and half day kinder in everything from affluent to Title I schools. I sometimes tell people I'm the jack of all grades, a master of none. But in some ways I think it's a good thing. My wide range of grade level experiences have provided me with a big picture of where kids start and where they are going. I also feel it has prepared me well to be an instructional leader in my school. Although I've never taught any grade level longer than five years, I do feel I am familiar with the standards and expectations at each grade level and can hold my own in conversations related to instruction for any grade at my school. And some days, I even get to teach ALL day. We have a sub shortage and once in awhile I need to cover a class. Last year, I taught first grade all day when after 70 calls a sub job failed to fill. I had so much fun, I wrote a blog post about it! This year, I've taught kindergarten, TK, and fourth grade so that teachers could attend a training. I love teaching and being with the kids. At my school, every single Monday is also No Office Day, and I am in classrooms all day working with students and co-teaching lessons. I think my teachers would tell you I am an instructional leader. 

It's so important.

For most of my career, I worked for principals who were not instructional leaders. Did they have many strengths? Of course! But my previous administrators include a PE teacher, a Speech Pathologist, a college professor with a PhD in Psychology, and a middle school Math and Science teacher. As a teacher in a K-8 district and at a K-5 school, it was often frustrating when conversations about curriculum and instruction were led by admin with no elementary experience. I found myself wishing they could be in my classrooms more often so they could just understand what it was like to teach 4-year olds to read. If my sub job had failed to fill, would any have them taught for the day in my room? 

There are exceptions.

Is it possible for someone without instructional background in a particular grade level to be the instructional leader in a school? I do think this is possible. One of my favorite principals was the former PE teacher and he was determined to learn as much as possible about the instruction happening in our K-5 classrooms. He gave me incredible feedback during observations because he had that amazing kinesthetic lens and he saw things I'd never considered. He also had incredible expectations for teachers and students in our school. There are many things about his leadership that ended up in my admin toolbox and I feel fortunate to have worked with him for three years. 

What are some areas of teaching and learning can I lead in my school? 

I'm no expert, but I feel confident that if you asked my teachers what my biggest strength is as a school leader that they would say that first and foremost, I am a teacher.

Awesome Author Skype with Kate Messner!

Kate Messner
We love authors at our school, and we love to Skype with authors! Last year, we did an all school Skype with Ame Dyckman to celebrate World Read Aloud Day-- 230 kids all in the gym at the same time and it was awesome! You can read Kobe's blog post about it here ,written in first grade. 

This year... Kate Messner! Kate Messner is amazing! Not only does she write picture books and novels, she also hosts Teachers Write, a virtual summer writing camp for teachers. Last summer, over 1,700 teachers participated, including me! We were so excited to Skype with Kate and she is also our featured author for our November/December Family book club

Here are just a few of Kate's books!
On Friday, she actually did two Skypes with our school: a Q & A session with our kindergarten students, and a 30 minute session with 255 first through fifth graders. During the 30 minute session, she talked about the writing process, where she gets her ideas, books she has written, and more. 

One of our kinders asking about animals hibernating in winter
Kate's view of Lake Champlain from her house near the
Adirondack Mountains in New York--
where she gets many ideas!
Over and Under the Snow in another language
What is moss? (A very popular question!)
Kicking off the 1st-5th Skype talking about her notebooks
Post-it story planning
One of our 5th graders asking about her books
"Have you ever wrote a hedgehog book?" asked this first grader
Kate zooms in on the cover of Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets...
a hedgehog, of course!
We love Kate Messner! Thanks, Kate for inspiring our students!