Hopes and Dreams

Hope and Dreams

2014-09-21 14.55.14

Friday night, Scott and I walked the hallways at East Side.  It is a tradition he likes to do because he wants to see the work kids are doing in our schools.  You have to realize, my husband is a business owner in our community.  He treats patients, talks with parents about education, as well as hires GCSD graduates.  He is curious with what we do in our schools and wants to know how we educate our kids.

As we walked the halls, he was fascinated with the Hope and Dreams posted throughout the school.  Not only did he read the Hopes and Dreams of our kids, but also of their parents.  It was evident that the majority of our parents Hopes and Dreams where for their child to have a great and successful education.  What he noticed at the 1st and 2nd grade level is that there was a common thread from parents that they wanted their child to be able to read.  We always have heady discussions, why are our kids falling and failing, why kids are dropping out, why can’t our kids take advantage of what our country offers, you know, talk about the world and try to fix it.  It’s a moral purpose we both have in common and he likes to debate.  I get frustrated.  Ah, Sunday’s.  But, he makes me think …….  why???

So this brings me to where we sit as a district in our reading scores and why we need to look at what we have been doing.  There is a problem.  Last year, our district ranked 14th out of 18th in the county in 3rd grade ELA scores.  Not impressive in any of our eyes and below the hopes and dreams of the expectation of our parents.  So we are addressing this problem.  Sometimes, when a house settles, you have to build down to strengthen the foundation to prevent further settling.

In our school, we assessed our incoming 3rd graders using the Scholastic Phonics Inventory and we still have weaknesses in foundational skills.  It’s time to think about building down.  This is why we have implemented programs such as SuperKids, provided LLI kit training, working on a prescriptive RTI model, changed schedules, among other strategies.  It’s part of building down to provide a stronger foundation.

We’ve all heard, “I’m a good teacher, I get results.”  Yet the results we got in years past may not be relevant in these times.  And to remind all of you, this is in no way criticizing how hard everyone is working and what you are trying to do.  It is not pointing fingers at our PreK-2 teachers! Not at all!!  It is questioning the philosophy of teaching reading and writing in the era that we are in.

Maybe Tim Shanahan is on to something when he questions Common Core vs Guided Reading here,  here, here and here.  Maybe Dick Allington is on to something here with reading moves in the misuse of oral reading and questioning techniques.  I don’t know, but what I do know is that we have to have those hard conversations, be critical in what we do and do what is right for our kids.  Change is hard.  As a staff, let’s work together to have those hard dialogues and discussions. Let’s work together to move forward, as well as monitor and adjust and build the foundation.  Let’s work as grade level teams both horizontally and vertically to have those conversations with knowing where kids are, to where they need to go.  We need to be smarter and work in Professional Learning Communities and Networks to share strategies and build our professional capital and capacity.  We are educators, we can do this.  It WILL get messy, but that is what it’s about – hard conversations, using the tools that we have to assess and monitor and adjust as well as sharing good, reflective practices.  It takes all of us to do this!

So the question is – “Is what we did in the past working for us now in the present?”   Can we meet the hopes and dreams of our parents?  I think we can!  Have a great week!



Other News

  • Just a reminder that there is an East Side Staff Meeting on Monday, October 6th at 7:30a.m.  We will meet for some announcements, and then split out.
  • Bus Duty for Oct 6- Oct 17 Team 3:  Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor Pat Williams.  Upcoming bus duty: Oct 20 – Oct 31:  Team 4:  Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson.
  • Thank you Brenda for setting up and bringing in Kalli Dakos.  Great engagement in our kids.
  • Wow where did September go?
  • I will not be creating a Monday Focus for next week.  Please make sure you are checking the announcements as well as your emails!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!


Other Items of Interest

These are the qualities of effective mentor teachers, from the perspective of a mentee.This article is a short and sweet, no-nonsense explanation of the Common Core math standards. It is something that you could share with parents.If you know anyone who requires reading logs from students, this description of one teacher’s experience might prompt a rethinking of making reading an assignment that earns credit.Watch Howard Gardner [briefly] explain the work he’s been doing about the brain and learning. The multiple intelligences are here, but he incorporates the idea of “grit,” too. These things are mutually dependent.In this talk by Tony Wagner, he explains how our system of education needs re-invention rather than reforming. What you know is no longer a competitive advantage – it is what you can do. Schools have to organize around this reality.Research about students in schools/networks that are part of the “Deeper Learning Community,” which includes the New Tech Network, points to the effectiveness of a comprehensive, future-focused approach to schooling.Our educational system is designed for the average student – yet there is no such thing as the average student. This video makes the point that averages are inappropriate for use in schools.This graphic demonstrates the overlap between the Common Core (ELA and math) and the Next Generation Science Standards.

Which kind of meetings do you prefer? How about the “let’s get things accomplished” kind of meeting?

Quick tip: Type “timer” into a Google search and you get a timer instantly? Very handy!

You can learn about the mindsets of your students in just ten minutes with this survey tool. Not only will it tell you about your students, it will also tell you about the culture of your class.

This collection of research about the Common Core is organized thematically.

This website has all sorts of free resources about Central America — a typically neglected part of the study of the western hemisphere in our 5th grade classrooms.

One way to engage students in the study of the US Constitution is the writing of a school constitution. This article describes one such undertaking and its benefits.

As you’d expect, @larryferlazzo has a resource page for learning about Ebola.

A Touch of Humor



Welcoming in 2014

Well, 2014 is here and like 2013, it will go by fast and furious.  We have been in a flux of change, no doubt, with Common Core, APPR, you name it, but we have to realize, change is not always a bad thing, and what we always have to remember is, is it good for kids.  We are the models for our children and it can’t always be about what is best for “us” but for them.  Yes, there are many changes coming our way, but as great educators, we have to remember it’s about people, not programs.  So, in the spirit of resolutions and hopes and dreams, here are my hopes and dreams for 2014:

My hopes and dreams:

  • for you as a staff to be open-minded to the changes that are coming and look how to embrace these changes and make it the best for kids.
  • for our school and staff is to embrace our parents as partners in the change that we are encountering.  We can always do a better job at this in all aspects, me included!
  • for us as adults to always remember that it’s people not the programs that make a great school, no matter what.
  •  for our school community to remember that the social and emotional curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum, hence Responsive Classroom philosophy.
  • to remember that our greatest resources are the people in the school and that teamwork is the key to success.
  • to remember that our number one priority is our kids, our students.  They come first and that is why we do what we do.
  • to remember that our kids and teachers are not a score or a number.
  • to be The Best of the Best!

I know I have lots more, but to focus on these hopes and dreams for 2014 would be a wonderful start.  What are your hopes and dreams for 2014?  Why don’t you revisit your students’ hopes and dreams?  That would be a great activity to do with your kids.  Have a great week.


Other News:
  • We do have a staff meeting on Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:45p.m.  Kim Hayes will join us in the discussion about special education and the direction for the district.
  • Bus Duty for Jan 6 – Jan 17 Team 8:  Erin Gate, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor Upcoming bus duty:  Jan 21 – Jan 31 Team 9:  Kathy Palmer, Jennifer Nichols, Mackenzie Ritz
  • I am approaching the third walk through mini-observations for tenured staff.  For the next walk through’s, they will need to be scheduled as you will be required to complete Domain 1 of the Danielson rubric.  This will not be a formal observation, but will be classified as a walk through.  I am asking to observe a math lesson for those teaching math.  I will be sending the Domain 1 pre conference protocol from iObservation to those teachers who need to complete it and an email for you to sign-up for a time for me to come observe a 15 minute portion of your lesson.  Please look for the email.
  • Budgets are due to the office January 7, 2014.
Things in the Blogsphere
Things in the Twittersphere

Peter DeWitt @PeterMDeWitt
@Tim_Dawks @LisaMeade23 @ChristinaMLuce @beckitharp @TonySinanis @VictoriaL_Day Read and weep. blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding…

Ryan Scala @rscalateach
@VictoriaL_Day @DaisyDyerDuerr A6: Some say that a goal not written down is a wish – articulate small steps – celebrate, keep on #arkedchat

Vicki Day @VictoriaL_Day

MUST READ> Classroom Shock: What I Am Learning as a Teacher in Finland #satchat #edchat #edreform #nyedchat zite.to/1kzkABI

Diane Ravitch @DianeRavitch

NY Comm. King on Common Core and testing: We Won’t Back Down No Matter What Parents Think, Say or Do: usny.nysed.gov/docs/reflectio

Pasi Sahlberg @pasi_sahlberg
NYC new mayor De Blasio to reduce the emphasis on standardized testing in city’s classrooms nytimes.com/2013/12/31/nyr… @HargreavesBC

  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
App of the Week  IFTTT

Wondering what IFTT is?  As you know, I tweet A LOT and use Twitter as a PD tool.  There are some great conversations and links that I would like to keep.  Twitter doesn’t allow you to catalog these, so in comes IFTTT.  IFTTT is a program that links other apps or programs to each other.  They run on “recipes” that incorporate the philosophy, “If this than that” hence IFTTT.  The “this” part is a Trigger such as being Tagged in Facebook or a check in on Foursquare.  The, “that” is an Action.  For instance, I used a recipe where the tweet I highlight or “favorite” saves into a file as “IFTTT” in Evernote.  I also used a recipe where I can “star” my gmail emails and they go to  a IFTTT Gmail file in Evernote.  You can use a recipe that will send out a scheduled tweet for you.  There are so many recipes, I can’t get into all of it, but for me, it has been a lifesaver for saving the tweets I favorite and now I am able to go back, check out the dialogue or the link and me being the geek, catalogue it such as I did here for EdcampNJ tweets.  IFTTT is free in the iTunes app store or you can use the web-base version.  Sorry, but an app hasn’t been developed yet for the Android tablets nor phones, but I am sure it will be soonTry it out and enjoy!


Other Items of Interest
The testing schedules for 2014-2015 have been posted:


The Commissioner issued a message on December 30, 2013. In it he comments on the Common Core, assessments, and the fora conducted around the state during the last year.


With regard to the scoring of 3-8 assessments, the read times of ELAand mathematics have been posted. This information will be helpful when planning your 3-8 scoring.


The technical report for the 2012-2013 Growth Scores has been released. This thorough analysis of value-added measures (from ETS, even) for teacher evaluation concludes that it is a fatally-flawed approach. Surprise, surprise!
This column suggests that we abandon the label “substitute teacher” and use a term with a different connotation, such as “guest teacher.” Such a simple change might have an impact in several positive ways.

Image source:


This post (and the linked video clips) will help you understand what a growth mindset is and know that it is important to promote it in school.


Implementation of the Common Core is being threatened[and confounded] by the assessments that are being hurried by many of the adopting states, according to this NPR story.


What do the CCLS Literacy Standards mean for Social Studies teachers in grades 6-12? Join other colleagues to on January 17th to explore the CCLS anchor standards and standards for Literacy in Social Studies and History for grades 6-12 and focus on what the CCLS looks like in the social studies classroom. Participants will learn strategies for including literacy instruction to support their students in learning Social Studies content and critical thinking skills.
In order for learning to occur, a positive, productive classroom climate must first exist. Here’s an introduction to the topic.

C Image

Here are some tips about copyright law and how to stay in compliance.
Video ImageVideo ImageWatch Grant Wiggins explainUnderstanding by Design (part 1 is 10 minutes, part 2 is 14 minutes). One of the examples he uses is planning for creativity if you want it to happen. Here’s a quick explanation from Jay McTighe.

one-day overview of Differentiated Instruction happens February 4th. It’s a review of the basics; participants leave with tools they have created.
3 Most Discussed Videos in 2013


Grade 7 | ELA | Writing (Downloads)
Let’s kick off 2014 with Ms. Macauley who will certainly give you a lot to talk about when you try her clever strategy for learning and applying vocabulary.
All Grades | ELA | Analysis (Downloads)
Ms. Francisco focuses on key verbs to get her students to write their own higher-order questions.
All Grades | All Subjects | Participation (Downloads)
You just can’t stop talking about this video! Mr. Paris gives us an easily transferrable strategy to engage the most reluctant learners.
A Touch of Humor
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