Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Energizing

It's pretty rare that I come away from a professional development session where I can say that I feel energized and fired up, genuinely, to start a new school year.

That is exactly what happened yesterday. On August 1st, the leadership cohort in my school and I met to plan the PD that we gave yesterday. It was all about data and how to look at it from a different perspective in order to help our students grow and truly reach their potential.

We have used NWEA/MAP for about 8 years I think. I know some people aren't a fan of it, but I like it because it gives me immediate results that I can use to help design instruction for my students. I also like it because the learning continuum (used to be called DesCartes) provides me with invaluable information about where they are, where they should be and what I need to do in order to get them from A to B. 

We have always looked at student growth from fall to spring. This makes sense, doesn't it? That's the time that the child is with you. But consider something. How many students in a low-income urban district such as my own have so-called "summer slide"? Truthfully, a lot of them do. In fact, I asked two of my former students (brothers) at registration how many books they read this summer. They said none like it was no big deal. Grrr.

Alas, this is part of the problem. We more or less have let them get away with that summer slide. Not anymore. What we did was look at their SPRING data. When school starts next week, we are going to hold them to those spring scores. We want their growth to be determined from Spring to Spring because if the score is higher from the spring compared to the fall, we know they are capable of getting back to that spring score because they already did it once

As a staff, we ran through some research, did some discussion and then jumped into actually looking at our data. We made data boards and looked at trends across the grades. It's difficult because the higher the grade, the more kiddos are in the "pink zone" (ie not where we want them). So our task is to hold the kiddos to those standards--you did this once, I want to see you do it again. Focus on a growth mindset, perseverance and a can-do attitude and help THEM to push THEMSELVES toward higher achievement.

I'm telling you...when we reflected at the end of the meeting, our new principal had everyone go around and share takeaways. You could have cut that energy with a knife; it was palpable (but in the best possible way). People left feeling fired up, empowered and ready to move forward to better our kids.

That's what it is supposed to be about. No, test scores are not the end all, be all, but they are part of our evaluation and therefore we have to consider them and do what we can to help our kids be better.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer's End

Gosh, this summer FLEW! It was a busy one for sure. Fortunately despite how busy it was, it was also incredibly fun and productive too. Perhaps this is the first summer in a very long while (perhaps my entire career) where I had equal amounts of productivity and fun. I have not really thought about my classroom at all, which is so odd for me! Sure I've done a bit of professional reading here and there but with my travels and my grad class, I did not spend all summer thinking about the upcoming school year. This is not a bad thing...in fact, I think it will be very good. I feel rested and energized and ready to tackle the year (good thing too since I am headed in to set up my room on Monday!).

In July of course, I spent a week at Princeton University courtesy of Gilder Lehrman and it was awesome but highly academic. On August 6, we left Michigan to drive down to Orlando to Disney World. What a fun vacation! The Husband had been there at the end of high school but The Littles and I had never been. I could have done without the drive but we didn't want to spend the extra money on air fare. It all worked out and we managed to not get on each other's nerves so it's all good.


We spent an overnight in Atlanta, Georgia on the way down. Our first stop was Palm Coast, Florida. I had never seen the ocean in person (except when I flew over it which I do not think counts!).  Here is my hunny and me at Palm Coast :)

We pretty much perfected group selfies while on vacation :) Here are the four of us (The Oldest did not come due to the fact that she is now a momma and had other responsibilities of her own). The Youngest is on the far left, Middle Child is on the right. 

We spent Monday, August 8 at Sea World - Orlando. It was incredibly fun and I'm so glad we went. The Littles love animals so it was a good choice. (I wanted to go to Universal Studios but its so pricey!) I got splashed by a dolphin within about 5 minutes of being in the park LOL It was incredibly HOT in Florida the entire time we were there (seriously I will never gripe about 90 degrees and humid in Michigan ever again!) but we made the most of it and had a blast.

We stayed at a Disney Resort (All Star Movies) and on Tuesday, August 9 we headed to the Happiest Place on Earth :) 

You can't go to Disney without riding the Dumbo ride (despite the fact that all of us are 13 and up lol). The Youngest and I are in the front, The Husband and Middle Child managed to get in the picture and wave from the back :)

August 10 is my favorite day of the year? Why? Because it's my birthday :) This year I got to spend it at Hollywood Studios--pretty awesome way to spend your birthday, no? We had so much fun, even if it was H-O-T. We saw Beauty and the Beast live and an Indiana Jones stunt show. We met Kylo Ren and Chewbacca from Star Wars too and just had an awesome day. I got a little sun as you can see :)


On Thursday we went to Epcot and on Friday we went to Animal Kingdom. Both were amazing. We narrowly avoided rain all week (it rained during lunch while we were at Sea World but the other days it kept going around us--yay!). We didn't get as lucky at Animal Kingdom. Just as we finished the safari ride, it started POURING. Thank goodness we packed ponchos "just in case" :)

Saturday, the 13th, was our last day and we slept in and went back to Magic Kingdom to do all of the things we missed the first time! It was so much fun. We stayed for the electrical parade and fireworks. I have never seen anything so amazing in my entire life. It was so awesome. The Youngest snapped a pic of The Husband and I with the castle lit up behind us (not the best picture in the world but a 13 year old took it lol). 

 We made the super long trek home on Sunday, August 14. The trip home was so hard just because there wasn't much to look forward to when we were done! :) We stayed overnight in Chatanooga, Tennesee at an Embassy Suites hotel that was very nice. Then I drove 11.5 hours home on Monday (finally waving the white flag in defeat 30 minutes from home). Yuck! We needed Tuesday to recover from our trip! :)

I developed a slight (read: major) obsession with BB-8 while we were at Disney. So fun and much cuter than R2-D2! I like to think BB-8 is a girl even though its a droid and thus really genderless :D (I also got a case for my iPhone which is not pictured because I ordered it through the mail). 

The last couple of days, The Littles have been visiting my mom, I got to see my super fabulous grandbaby on Thursday and Friday and The Husband is on a weekend bike trip...so I have been ALONE since 6 am today. It's been awesome to just have silence around me! (That is short lived since I have to pick the girls up today.) Being on vacation is loud! :) 

This was a perfect way to end my summer. Monday and Tuesday my student teacher and I are headed in to set up our room and then things get real. Middle Child is starting high school (*what?!*) and we are doing some transition work with her to curb her anxiety. Then I am taking Thursday and Friday to myself because the 29th the real work begins--the first PD days and my research phase for my doctorate all begin on the 29th. So the summer is officially over and its time to get thinking about how to tackle 3rd grade this year.

I am so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel as much as I did this summer because I really do feel relaxed and ready to head back to the full time task of teaching. I hope your summer was as epic as mine :)


Monday, August 1, 2016

Ahh, August

How is it August 1st?? Seriously.

This is the month when I let my mind wander back to thinking about school. I was quite surprised to learn some friends on Voxer are in school today. With kids. August is too hot to be in school! As much as we might sometimes grumble about being in school until mid-June, I do very much love that I have August to do my thing still. 

That said, I was at school today for a leadership meeting. We are doing a supplemental PD day for our staff before the official start date and we had a planning meeting for it. I am so excited about the meeting. It's all about data. I know some people hate data but I love it. And this system that we are going to try is going to help us to not only better track our data but also to hold ourselves, our students and each other accountable for success. What more could you want?

I don't know about you, but this summer has been incredibly busy. I have a ton of books on my To Read list that I know I won't get through before the 29th when I officially start back. I have two weeks left of my current grad class (which is on religion) and it's been quite an eye-opening class actually. My next course starts my research phase so that should be incredibly interesting as we move into the school year. 

I have not done a darn thing for teaching at all since I got out of school in June. I have been too busy working on other things. Now that it is August, I have to start thinking about it. We are heading down to Orlando, Florida on Saturday the 6th and won't be home until the 16th so a lot of my planning/work won't be happening until the 17th or later. I will officially head to work on the 22nd to get my room setup so much of my work will be done that week (when usually I spread it out over the summer). It should be chaotic at best :) 

Alas, I am quite glad I have had such a busy summer with other things because it has forced me to take some time off from my job and I've done some professional learning, taken some awesome trips and will be all the more fired up to go back to school and get some learning done with my new crop of 3rd graders.

My first official school day is August 31st although we have the special PD on the 29th. Students start on Sept 6. When is your first day?