Parent Teacher Conferences

One of my goals this year as most of you know is to increase family and community engagement or better known as F.A.C.E.  As you know, I am communicating with our East Side community through a blog called 40 Weeks of Learning at East Side School.  The goal is to highlight the positives of our school and tell our story.  It is what we call “branding” our school and telling our story because there is so much negative about public education, connected educators want to push out the positives.  It is also showcasing our school, our teachers and our kids.  The feedback is very positive and parents look for it weekly as well as various Facebook and Twitter pictures of positives throughout the day.

In the last post, I highlighted parent/teacher conferences and expectations for our parents and staff.  In reflection, it really goes to the four core beliefs of F.A.C.E and if we are open as a school to family partnerships.  Here are the four core beliefs highlighted from the book Beyond the Bake Sale:

  1. Core Belief 1:  All Parents Have Dreams for Their Children and Want the Best For Them:  Believe it or not, all parents do care.  It really depends on our personal beliefs and assumptions and that we need to address difference with issues of race, class and culture.
  2. Core Belief 2:  All Parents Have the Capacity to Support Their Children’s Learning.  Yes, tapping into the potential and knowledge of our parents is so important and bringing them on for positive things is so much better than negative.
  3. Core Belief 3:  Parents and School Staff Should be Equal Partners.  This is understanding lopsided relationships vs mutual relationships.  The relationships cannot be the lopsided “power” relationship and needs to be an open, mutual respected relationship.  It needs to be our role as adults to have mutual relationships with a common goal – what is best for our kids.  Our parents have a wealth of knowledge and talent and we need to invite them in.  They want to be involved.  Attend a PTO meeting and see what is happening!
  4. Core Belief 4:  The Responsibility for Building Partnerships Between School and Home Rests Primarily with School Staff, Especially School Leaders.  What the book reference is that strong leadership has to be not only from the principal, but also from the staff.  Many of our families see school as a powerful and forbidding institution.  They may have had a bad experience or feel uncomfortable coming in or calling.  It is our job to bridge the connections of home to school and school to home and break this feeling, starting from the top as well as from the bottom.

So, what is my point?  Don’t forget to see from a parents point of view, which I know you do, when you meet with parents and caregivers in talking about their child.  Listen, form relationships and understand where parents are coming from.  My friend and colleague Lisa Meade put it simple in her blog here:

I believe in you.

We need each other.

You matter.

Check out the 40 Weeks of Learning Post here.  Have a great week!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Nov 17- Dec 5:  Team 7:  Kathy Buell, Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldon  Upcoming bus duty: Dec. 8 – Dec. 19 Team 8:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Gina Caldwell
  • The East Side PTO Harvest Festival was a great success.  Thank you all for helping out.
  • Mrs. French has asked to meet with elementary staff on November 20th at 7:35a.m.  She will be going over the capital project.  You will want to be present for this presentation.  (This will take the place of our scheduled staff meeting.)
  • Bridget is running Angel Tree and needs your help.  Please check out her emails and help with requests for Angel Tree.  If you are free this Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, please help in the lobby with our students.  Thanks so much!
  • I am finishing up walk through evaluations next week.  In January, I will start up walk through#2.  This will be Domain 1 entries for tenure staff and scheduled walk through’s on my calendar.  I will email those involved with directions to help you.  My plan to work downward from 5th grade down and those who will be giving test accommodations for NYS tests.  Thank you all for working with me and making this happen!  Much appreciated!
  • Due to me being out next week, I will not be producing a Monday Focus for November 23rd.  I’ll try and get one out for Nov. 30th.
  • Dismissal for Half Day conferences will start at 12;05 with K, then we will announce for grades 1-5 as normally.  We are planning for buses to roll at 12:15p.m.
  • The NYS Police department will be here on Nov. 18th for Operation Safe Child.  Students will be picked up from your classroom to take an i.d. picture per permission from their parents.  This will be occurring in the activity room.
  • MUST blog post to read by my colleague annd friend, Tony Sinanis, The Three!
  • 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 (Read at your leisure!)

  • Don’t forget the “why”behind every plan you make and initiative you undertake.It’s important that the why is understood – it’s what makes change possible. Of course, many of us have seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about this.
  • Physical activity can decrease the symptoms of ADHD, according to this study. Inattentiveness, moodiness and peer interactions can be positively impacted.
  • This post from someone working on the Social Studies Toolkit provides an interesting perspective about the changes to social studies.
  • This cheat sheet will help you stay straight with all the technology and technology education jargon.
  • Having an authentic audience is one of the essential ingredients of a good project. This column can help you with those partnerships.
  • In a very frank manner, Eric Sheninger contrasts the way kids learn with the way our schools continue to be organized. He also describes the steps his school took to change.
  • This video explains why math instruction has changed. You can use this with parents at a math night.Ed Week has gathered their recent articles about Common Core math into a single collection.
  • If you are taking a good, hard look at the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, think about the Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch program. You can learn from the list of middle-level schools that have been recognized in New York (great schools to visit). If you are thinking about applying, the 2015-16 materials have just been posted.
  • Pre-kindergarten is an important part of the birth through 3rd grade continuum. This article offers suggestions for vertical alignment within the primary years.
  • This infographic contrasts the way we schedule teachers and time with the way we should organize time in schools. The only thing that is stopping us is the status quo.
  • Although not specifically identified in the Common Core, social-emotional skills contribute to student achievement.
  • When working on presentation skills with your students (or your own), these simple tips can help.
  • These videos explain one of the 4 Cs: critical thinking. They do it in a common sense way, with common sense examples, while expressing its importance.
  • This young high school teacher gives a TEDx talk that is pretty frank about school and its relevance to students. He questions the format of school and it’s orientation to the past rather than the future. He also describes a different path.
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We continue our Observation series by taking a closer look at the instructional moves that help teachers release the responsibility of learning to students. Join us!
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Teachers at this school improve their practice by collaboratively observing their colleagues. See how they rotate around the school in groups of three, focusing their observations, and then discussing what they learn.
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Don’t miss the insightful questions and answers from Coaching Q&A Week. And a special shout out to guest experts Elena Aguilar and Jim Knight for their valuable advice!

A Touch of Humor

Ha Ha!  True!

7 Reasons How Poverty Affects Classroom Engagement

Eric Jensen and Ruby Payne are two well known researchers regarding poverty and schools.  Ruby lived it.  I had the opportunity to hear her keynote at the NAESP convention about 12 years ago in Baltimore, MD.  I also had the opportunity to hear Rita Pierson keynote at a conference in Lake Placid about 15 years ago.  All about students and how to overcome poverty.  (Rita worked for Ruby Payne’s company and went around the country to talk about kids in poverty.  She was the speaker that I shared last year about Being a Champion for Kids during her TED Talk.)

In a May 2013 Educational Leadership article, Eric Jensen identifies 7 reasons how poverty affects classroom engagement.  The question in the article is this:  “Are students in poverty more likely to struggle with engagement in school?”  The answer is yes.  His suggestion?  To understand the 7 differences or reasons between middle-class and low-income students, know how to address them, and get to know your students.  He states; “But first, my most important suggestion is to get to know your students well. Without respect—and without taking time to connect with your students—these seven factors will mean little.”

Here are the 7 differences or reasons:

  1. Health and Nutrition
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Effort
  4. Hope and the Growth Mindset
  5. Cognition
  6. Relationships
  7. Distress

The article also gives suggestions what we can do to help our students. Read what he has to say!  I will print this one because I feel it’s important not just for kids who are in the low socioeconomic category, but for all kids.  One thing that came to mind while reading this is how we have the philosophy of Responsive Classroom as well as creating our Hopes and Dreams.  Good stuff to think about.  Another link to the article is here.  Enjoy!

Other News

  • Bus Duty for Nov 3- Nov 14:  Team 5:  Mindy Backus, Pam Mahay, Barb Gauthier, Jennifer Nichols.  Upcoming bus duty: Nov 17 – Dec 5:  Team 6: Kathy Buell, Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldon.
  • Thank you all for such a successful Halloween day as well as a wonderful spirit week.  Everything went so well on Friday – the best EVER!  Thank you again to all!
  • Our nest staff meeting is this week, Thursday, November 6th at 7:30a.m. in room 57
  • APPR Declarations are due to me by Friday, November 7th.  I will also be finishing up the first walk through’s this week and next week.  Thanks for working with me on this!
  • Please make sure you sign up on MLP for November 10th Staff Day
  • I am not going to produce a Monday Focus this coming weekend so please make sure you are checking your email.
  • Report cards are due soon.  The SchoolTool portal should be open for 3-5 and Lisa will email staff for K-2 report card on Google Docs.  Our goal is to get the K-2 report card on SchoolTool for the 2nd quarter.  We are still working on this for you.
  • Make sure your clocks have been adjusted.
  • Our next PTO meeting is November 12th at 6:00p.m.  Our PTO is becoming very active and they are a great group of folks who are working together to bridge home to school and school to home.  They are working to plan an AWESOME Harvest Festival on Friday, November 14th.  Please consider helping our PTO and working together to bridge our links with our parents.  Come to a meeting and see what is happening.
  • MUST blog post to read by my friend, Tony Sinanis, Dear Teacher!
  • 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 (Read at your leisure!)

  • With not too much time before the election, the “Smart Schools” Commission report has been released. It describes how the money could be spent if the Smart Schools proposition passes.
  • During its October meeting, the Board of Regents directed Department staff to post the Statewide Strategic Plan for Science for public review and comment. A survey to collect feedback regarding the Statewide Strategic Plan for Science is available until December 3rd.
  • Here are some more ways to see the relationship between poverty and academic achievement and high school graduation.
  • This article, although written before the Common Core, examines changing math standards from the math teachers’ perspective.
  • Dylan Wiliam’s explains formative assessment in this video. Wiliam is the leading researcher of formative assessment.
  • Here are some suggestions for taking a PBL project to the next level.
  • Here are some tips for maximizing deeper learning.
  • These resources do a good job helping students to understand the scope of time and the universe… and our place in it. The Big History Project is pretty cool.
  • This video is shown to incoming students at the beginning of the school year to communicate the school’s approach to the use of mobile devices at school. It’s NOT like the approach many schools take. This school’s message: We Trust You!
  • The National Core Arts Standards have been revised and published. The very short New York comment period about how these standards compare to existing State standards in the arts has already closed.
  • We’re approaching the time of the “slump” that many new teachers face. This archived Mentoring in the 21st Century column from Paula Rutherford explains the slump and makes suggestions for mentors of new teachers to help the new teachers get through it. Edutopia has a list of resources for new teachers that they can look through for ideas. Mentors, remember these messages from new teachers.
  • This classic article by Rick DuFour explains what it means to be a Professional Learning Community. This blog post elaborates.
  • This TED Talk considers creativity – how we lose it and how to get it back.
  • It should not come as a surprise (according to research) that a later sunset translates to an increased level of physical activity in children. Yet, we’ll be turning our clocks back this weekend.
  • You can go on virtual field trips with this collection of apps. Each one is a way to “travel” from the classroom.
  • There’s no lack of advice about homework, but this list includes some good ideas and common sense.
  • There are three basic ideas about teaching writing that are supported by the research: 1) write more, 2) write on the computer, and 3) don’t teach grammar separately. Are these three part of your writing strategy?
  • John Hattie explains some of his findings in this video. Hattie’s work is based on a meta-analysis of many meta-analyses.
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See how you can assess student progress, provide feedback, celebrate student successes and assess, refine, and celebrate your own work.
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Sometimes we’re just too close to our lessons. In this video, Mr. Olio works with a trusted colleague to review student work and inform his instruction.
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Watch how New Tech Network teachers use their collective observations to analyze student work and improve how they respond to students.


A Touch of Humor


The Power of Responsive Classroom

This is a short Monday Focus because I am at the SAANYS conference presenting today. I just want to re-blog this post from Responsive Classroom.  This is our school too.

The Power of Responsive Classroom

by Lora Hodges on

Sometimes a few little numbers can tell a great big story. That’s the case with the changing numbers of disciplinary referrals at Palmyra-Macedon Primary School in Palmyra, NY.

When the Responsive Classroom approach really began to take hold in this school, disciplinary referrals (overall numbers of referrals as well as numbers of students referred) dropped dramatically. And the pattern held even in the year when the school’s enrollment shot up (2013–2014).

Even though I’m a strong believer in the power of the Responsive Classroom approach to help every child, in every school, succeed academically and socially every day, it’s still a thrill to see numbers like these. I know this particular school community feels uplifted by their success and glad that they stayed the course, even when they experienced some bumpy patches in their schoolwide implementation. And I hope the story their numbers tell will help all of you stay the Responsive Classroom course as well.File 2550


Now look at our school!  To see the full post click here.

 Referrals School Year
192 2008-2009
161 2009-2010
142 2010-2011
64 2011-2012
52 2012-2013
21 2013-2014

Here it is in graph form:

Discipline Data


The data shows what we are doing.  It even shows in our ELA and Math NYS growth scores.  In 2013, East Side was a total score of 3 for combined ELA and Math grades 4 and 5.  In 2014, the total combined score —-  17.  This is out of 20 points.  With the combination of explicit teaching and firm beliefs of student engagement, the academic curriculum does go hand in hand with the social and emotional curriculum.  It works!  Keep it going!




Other News

  • Bus Duty for Oct 20- Oct 217 Team 4:  Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson.  Upcoming bus duty: Nov 3 – Nov 14:  Team 5:  Mindy Backus, Pam Mahay, Barb Gauthier, Jennifer Nichols
  • DWIS is Monday, October 20th at West Side School 7:30a.m.
  • Please look at the calendar of events.  We do have a kick-off for spirit week tomorrow.  Check your email please.  Thanks.
  • 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 (Read at your leisure!)

  • Although it is just a small step, the recent Regents action about Pathways is an encouraging sign that recognition is growing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work. You can read the Regents item.
  • STEM + PBL + Zombies = lessons for all of us about engagement.
  • Yes, CK-12 has provided free, flexible online textbooks. Now they also have videos, online lab demonstrations, and more.
  • Yet another study has confirmed the relationship between higher expectations and student achievement. In this case, high expectations have been shown to have an enduring effect, reaching all the way to college completion.
  • Students from across the country are using Student Voice, #StuVoice, to organize a positive and productive student voice in their schools.
  • Check out the introduction to the Buck Institute’s guide to PBL at the elementary level. 
  • In good Project Based Learning, students learn to have a “Growth Mindset” while learning in more engaging and meaningful ways (says Carol Dweck in this video).
  • This recorded Hangout from the Buck Institute is about helping teachers with Project Based Learning.
  • The reluctance to consider Project Based Learning is sometimes due to a reluctance to change. It can also be due to some misconceptions. This column can clarify those misconceptions about PBL. By the way, the author, Suzie Boss, will be returning for PBLNY 2015!
  • How should we teach grammar? Although we actually know the answer, we don’t necessarily follow the research. Here’s more. By the way, the answer isn’t separate, rule-focused instruction.
  • This collection of tips for elementary classrooms is an eclectic collection. Chances are, though, you’ll find some ideas that will work for you. 
  • When a group of professionals are learning together, that doesn’t mean they are a Professional Learning Community (PLC). They are professionals and they are learning, however, and here are the keys to their successful [professional] learning.
  • Instead of perpetuating the educational lottery in which kids can “win” the good teacher, all teachers can be the good teacher when a school operates as a Professional Learning Community.
  • This Rick Stiggins article about assessment does a good job explaining the differences between formative, classroom assessment and assessment for accountability (state tests, etc.).

A Touch of Humor

Poverty In Our Schools


Did you know that 60% of our children in our school district are considered to be in poverty?  That’s out of about a 1,600 students in our district, 1,001 students meet the qualifications of poverty in our school.  Let’s get a grip on the reality – that is over half of the population.  Here we work to try and get our students to do homework, and they may be going home and their parents are not home, working two maybe three jobs to try and get food on the table.  Or, they are in the welfare system and getting by.  Some may be generational, other families trying their best, but it is a reality in our area.  St. Lawrence County ranks 55 out 62 in overall health in all counties of NY State.

We may speculate why this is, but it is here and it is present in our schools in Gouverneur.  We need to realize that some of our students come to school, and this is a safe place for them.  Some of our students see school as their safe haven, getting a hot breakfast and lunch, not having and then going home to deal whatever they need to deal with at home.

To be honest with you, I was one of those kids.  My family was depended on SSI believe it our not!  We were a blue collared family in the suburbs, and when my father was placed on disability, to make ends meet, I collected SSI to help with payments because my dad became ill and was put on disability.  My mom worked two jobs, one during the day, one during the weekend.  It wasn’t easy, and thanks to such a strong family support system, we three girls all went to college because as my mother and father said, “You have NO CHOICE!”  In reflection, when my I get together with my sisters, we are grateful for our upbringing and nurturing of a strong work ethic.  But what about kids today?

In a few weeks, a cadre of us will be venturing to Union College to go to the Poverty Symposium that NYSASCD will be hosting.  NYSASCD brings great workshops to the state and this one resonated strongly with me because we have been targeted as LAP school, both East and West Side due to our scores with Economically Disadvantage Students.  NYSASCD has guest bloggers that write about the subject of poverty in our schools.  One of the articles written about poverty and  brain research can be found here.

We know the “have not’s” in our school when we try online web access with our students and ask if there is internet access at home.  We know the “have not’s” in our school when we try online web access and learning at home.  Check out this article here about inequity in the digital divide.

I have also cited in a blog last year about poverty in the US and how we are being compared with Finland.  How our students are trying to grasp the CCSS and the focus has been on testing rather than focusing on fixing poverty in the US.  Also, how Maria Shriver did her research on how poverty effects single mothers and that 22% of our children are in poverty in the US.  Check my post here.

So, we have some work to do and understanding about how to work with our students and families.  Through the efforts of our parent group as well with our staff, we need to work as partners to help our students be successful, no matter what.  Let’s fight this for our children and our community!  Have a great week!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Oct 20- Oct 217 Team 4:  Steph Plaisted, Brooke Crump, Kim Johnson.  Upcoming bus duty: Nov 3 – Nov 14:  Team 5:  Mindy Backus, Pam Mahay, Barb Gauthier, Jennifer Nichols
  • Please do your best to answer the questions posed in the survey from our LAP Review committee.  We are trying to put a plan in place and tried to make it as easy as possible for you.  I know it is confusing, but please do your best, and add any comments so we can proceed.  This is due Monday, October 20th!
  • I am still working on walk through evaluations.  It’s been busy so please be patient with me.  We will be sending something out to all to clear up what will happen for this process as well as for SLO’s.
  • Please continue to check emails for communication and check the announcement page for the calendar of events.  Mrs. Sheen keeps this updated for you as noted below.  Make it a habit to check!
  • 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 (Read at your leisure!)

  • This collection of classroom anecdotes from Alfie Kohn can help us to dig deeper into our classrooms and lessons in order to improve them. Sometimes classrooms that seem engaging, active, and collaborative aren’t. Good food for thought, here.
  • Teachers can search for Common Core-Aligned ELA lessons at this lesson bank.
  • It’s not any surprise, but this recent report explains the impact that being absent from school has on learning.
  • It might not seem like it makes a big difference, but when a teacher calls a classroom “my classroom” it sends a big message.Make it “our classroom.”
  • The Tripod Project is now offering teachers a free survey to use with their students.
  • Read about a multi-age interdisciplinary team that has been using standards-based PBL for years.
  • This video demonstrates the impact that project based learning can have on AP courses, resulting in higher achievement than traditionally taught AP courses.
  • This article summarizes some of the findings from a review of the research about teaching for understanding and project based learning. The book is Powerful Learning: What We Know about Teaching for Understanding.
  • This collection of maps displays the population of the United States in different ways – dividing the populations in different ways provides different perspectives.
  • You can’t motivate someone; motivation comes from within. Here’s an article that describes this and offers some research to prove it. This means we shouldn’t talk about motivating and engaging students. Rather, we create conditions in which the motivation and meaning can be found.
  • There is a lot of good advice about time management and managing distractions in this column. The importance of having a plan is illustrated, too.
  • The SAT is changing – in March of 2016. This memo from SED explains it a little bit, as does this page.
  • Here are some ideas for making the necessary time for necessary teacher collaboration.
  • Read about this teacher who followed her own students’ schedule. She was exhausted, lethargic, passive, quiet, and treated as a nuisance! There are many lessons to learn about how we structure school.
  • Here is a video that explains blogs in simple terms.
  • The New York Times is holding another 15-second vocabulary video contest. Whether or not your students enter, it’s a great way to teach academic vocabulary.
  • Whether you co-teach inclusion classes or integrated PBL, the relationship and mechanics between the teachers makes all the difference. Here’s some good advice.

A Touch of Humor

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



Building Professional Capital

Yay, the East Side Monday Focus is back in print.  Yes, we all have been busy with the opening of school, change in schedule, and challenges of getting our rooms and environments in place, but I have to reflect on an area that I am most proud of, and that is building the professional capital of our East Side staff.

One of my favorite authors and researcher that I am “living with” is Michael Fullan.  He authored many books about leadership, about change processes, about technology as well as the principalship.  Dr. Fullan is based in Toronto, Canada and is professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and is one of the leading experts in whole system reform.  He and his cohort of researchers, alongside with some distinguished researchers such as John Hattie and Andy Hargreaves, travel the world to help schools, districts, cities, provinces, states, and nations place “right” drivers in whole-system-reform.  You can say I am a big fan of his because what he is researching on topics that make sense, one being to build the people in the system.  (Right now I am quoting from Professional Capital:  Transforming Teaching in Every School co-authored with Andy Hargreaves.  It is the basis for this post.)

Here it is in a nutshell.  Building professional capital is about building the professionalism and being a professional in any profession, including teaching.  It is about building the teaching core, not only being a professional, but teaching like a pro.  It’s building your craft – your practice.

Professional capital is about developing teachers to “teach like a pro”.   This means, we work together to be the best.  We gear professional development around the common themes and areas that need to be tweaked and we work in professional learning communities.  It is that adage, “The smartest person in the room IS the room.”    Sharing will only build us as professionals in all capacities.

Whole system change does not work unless you build the professionals.  You cannot shove or “push” mandates down to people and say “do this or else.”  It doesn’t work.  What does work is to have a system of “push, pull, nudge”.   I find we are more in a system of pushing and hence, why we get results the way we do statewide.  Like the carrot and the stick type of thing.  It still too early to tell.  With any change, there will always will be implementation dips,  and we really need to be careful with comparisons meaning who’s better, who’s not.  That isn’t what the Regents Reform Agenda is about, believe it or not, but it sure feels it, doesn’t it?

Building the teacher core and professional capital  is part of  my job.   I try to work with you to  create conditions to make this happen and if I don’t, you always tell me.  As we move forward, what I ask is for you to continue to be the best of the best.  Be reflective with what works and what doesn’t.  Work together and share your knowledge.  I’ll leave you with this from the book as it will help make sense of what I am trying to emulate:

“In sum, professional capital is a cornerstone concept that brings together and defines the critical elements of what it takes to create high quality and high performance in all professional practice – including teaching.  It is about what you know and can do individually, with whom you know it and do it collectively, and how long you have known it and done it and deliberately gotten better at doing it over time.  Professional capital is vital for the future of the teaching profession and of society.

You can read this short synopsis of the book here.  Continue to be the best of the best.  See you soon!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Sept 22- Oct 3  Team 2: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon  Upcoming bus duty:  Oct 6-Oct 17  Team 3: Erin Gates, Beth Siebels, Gina Taylor, Pat Williams
  • Please respond to my email regarding arrival/dismissal procedures, especially if you are working the system in the office, outside and have been on bus duty.  Thank you for your feedback.
  • My friend Carol Burris was on CBS Sunday Morning in a segment called The Debate over Common Core.
  • Make sure to schedule a time with Lisa Sheen to meet with me on your goals, then upload them into the iObservation program.
  • Thank you Paula and Todd Bates for hosting us yet again for our East Side get together.  That was fun!!
  • I will be out Friday to travel and attend the Bammy awards Saturday in Washington D.C.  It will be streamed live here   My friends Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfellipo are doing the red carpet thing.  Oh boy.  I’m a little nervous!  I know Tony, he’ll target me oh geez….
  • 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

  • The Board of Regents was briefed about the Social Studies Framework at their September meeting. Soon we’ll have the Field Guide which will be followed by a Toolkit in the spring. Included in the Field Guide will be a first glimpse of an “Inquiry” which will be an example of a unit guide/resource collection. Many more “inquiries” will follow.
  • PBISworld is a site where you can match observed student behaviors with strategies.
  • Procedures for when there is a substitute teacher are very important. Time is too precious to waste a single day. If you teach your students what to do when there is a substitute teacher then it is much more likely that things will go well. Here’s an editable “cheat sheet” to get you started, and here’s an example of one filled out.
  • In this post, a high school principal talks about the changes that PBL brought to his high school.
  • This Scientific American article considers the potential impact of video games on education.
  • Before the school year progresses too much, consider the effectiveness of the positive (and sometimes preemptive) phone call home.
  • Here are some ideas for providing time for teachers to collaborate. Some are more innovative than others, but we have to find more time, somehow, for teachers to collaborate on the right work.
  • Teacher teams need the support of their principal. These suggestions can help support your teams and help them collaborate on the right work.
  • This blog post (and the subsequent discussion thread) can help you understand how the Daily Five can help you effectively structure your class while ensuring a focus on student outcomes.
  • At the beginning of the year, lab safety is often a part of science class. This silly little video can be used to illustrate the “what not to do” of lab safety.
  • These two posters compare the growth mindset with the fixed mindset using Star Wars and “The Force” compared to “The Dark Side.” Yes… Yoda vs. Darth…
  • Physical activity translates to higher academic achievement… especially for boys.

A Touch of Humor

Back to school

What Type Of Partnership School Are We?


I have been in an intensive 6 week book chat using the book, Beyond the Bake Sale, The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships, by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies.  These authors are the nations researchers for FACE (Family and Community Engagement) and have joined our discussions.  This intensive study is the brain child of my friend, Dr. Joe Mazza, of the University of Pennsylvania.  He is experimenting and researching how educators, leaders, parents and teachers are connecting using a common theme and utilizing various technology outlets such as AppreNnet, Voxer blogging, emails, and Google Doc.  You can see the overview of the program here.  This has been the best professional development I have had this summer and will continue throughout the school year.

As we read and reflected on each chapter, the 2nd chapter highlights what family and school partnerships look like.  I will highlight the four versions of partnerships.  What I would like you to do is look at the rubric, then rate our school.  At the end is the scoring of what it means and where our school falls. 


All families and communities have something great to offer –we do whatever it takes to work closely together to make sure every single student succeeds.


  • Family center is always open, full of interesting learning materials to borrow
  • Home visits are made to every new family
  • Activities honor the families’ contributions
  • Building is open to community use and social services are available to families


  • All family activities connect to what students are learning
  • Parents and teachers look at student work and test results together
  • Community groups offer tutoring and homework programs at the school
  • Students’ work goes home every week, with a scoring guide


  • Translators are readily available
  • Teachers use books and materials about families’ cultures
  • PTO includes all families
  • Local groups help staff reach parents


  • There is a clear, open process for resolving problems
  • Teachers contact families each month to discuss student progress
  • Student-lead parent-teacher conferences are held three times a year for thirty minutes


  • Parents and teachers research issues such as prejudice and tracking
  • Parent group is focused on improving student achievement
  • Families are involved in all major decisions
  • Parents can use the school’s phone, copier, fax, and computers
  • Staff work with local organizers to improve the school and neighborhood



Parents can be involved at our school in many ways – we’re working hard to get an even bigger turnout for our activities.  When we ask the community to help, people respond.


  • Teachers contact families once a year
  • Parent coordinator is available if families have questions or need help
  • Office staff are friendly
  • Staff contact community agencies and organizations when help is needed


  • Teachers explain test scores if asked
  • Folders of student work go home occasionally
  • School holds curriculum nights three or four times a year
  • Staff let families know about out-of-school classes in their community


  • Office staff will find a translator if parents ask in advance
  • Multicultural nights are held once a year
  • Minority” parents have their own group


  • Principal will meet with parents to discuss a problem
  • Regular progress reports go to parents, but test data can be hard to understand
  • Parent-teacher conferences are held twice a year


  • Parents can raise issues at PTO meetings or see the principal
  • Parent group sets its own agenda and raises money for the school
  • Resource center for low-income families is housed in a portable classroom next to the school
  • PTO officers can use the school office
  • A community representative sits on the school council


Come-if-We-Call School

Parents are welcome when we ask them, but there’s only so much they can offer.  The most important thing they can do is help their kids at home.  We know where to get help in the community if we need it.


  • Better -educated parents are more involved
  • “Many immigrant or low-income parents don’t have time to come or contribute”
  • Staff is very selective about who comes into the school


  • Parents are told what students will be learning at the fall open house
  • Parents can call the office to get teacher-recorded messages about homework
  • Workshops are offered on parenting


  • “We can’t deal with the poverty”
  • Parents can deal with their issues or bring a translator”
  • “This school just isn’t the same as it used to be”


  • School calls families when children have problems
  • Families visit school on report card pickup day and can see a teacher if they call first


  • Principal sets agenda for parent meetings
  • PTO gets the school’s message out
  • “Parents are not experts in education”
  • Community groups can address the school board if they have concerns

Fortress School

Parents belong at home, not at school.  If students don’t do well, it’s because their families don’t give them enough support.  We’re already doing all we can.  Our school is an oasis in a troubled community.  We want to keep it that way


  • Families do not “bother” school staff
  • “Low income and minority families don’t value education:
  • Parents need security clearance to come in
  • It is important to keep community influences out of the school


  • Curriculum and standards are considered too complex for parent to understand
  • “If parents want more information, they can ask for it”
  • “We’re teachers, not social workers


  • “Those parents need to learn English”
  • “We teach about our country and culture – that’s what those parents need to know”
  • “This town is going downhill”


  • Parents don’t come to conferences
  • Problems are dealt with by the professional Staff
  • Teachers don’t feel safe with parents


  • Principal picks a small group of “cooperative parents” to help out
  • Families are afraid to complain: “They might take it out on my kid”
  • “Community groups should mind their own business; they don’t know about education”

Where does our school fall?

  • If three or more of your checked boxes fall in the Fortress School section and none under Open-Door or Partnership, our school is trying to keep parents away rather than work with them.  In standards-based terms, it is below basic!
  • If three or more of your checked boxes fall under Come-fi-We Call and none under Partnership, your school may want parents to be involved only on its terms.  In standards-based terms, it is at the basic level.
  • If at least four of your checked boxes fall under Open-Door or Partnership and none are under Fortress School, your school welcomes families and supports them to be involved in a number of ways.  In standards-based terms, it is proficient.
  • If at least three of your checked boxes are under Partnership and the rest are under Open-Door, your school is willing and able to work with all families.  In standards-based terms, it is advanced.  Students achievement may also be reflected in the school and goes up every year.

So, where are we?  Where did you put East Side Elementary School?  I have my thoughts.  Why not join me on book study and chat to work together and have thoughtful conversations, push our thinking,  and be better at building our relationships with our families.  Enjoy the cool summer!