Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 24, 2013

We have completed eight days of the school year. In those eight days I have seen a lot of great things. Students are being asked to critically think and write in all subject areas. Way to go. I have included a few snapshots of just some of the great group work, writing, and rigorous assignments that happened at school this past week.

The first two pictures are taken from Mr. Baptista's 6th grade math class where students are working together to find patterns and then explain how they arrived at their answers.

Next, you see some original charcoal artwork created in Ms. Rockwell's art class.

Ms. Schneider's 6th grade math class comes next. You see similar group work as in Baptista's, that is not by chance. Mr. Baptista, Ms. Schneider, and Ms. Collin are all meeting DAILY to collaborate and plan for their classes. This has enabled them to develop some very rigorous lessons for the students. All of their lessons have a heavy focus on the 8 Standards For Mathematical Practice (CCSS).

Mr. Harris' 8th Grade US History class. Students are being asked to critically think, apply what they know and incorporate new academic vocabulary in their writing and in their conversations.

Ms. Apostolos' 7th grade World History lesson is pictured next. Here she was asking students to apply their knowledge of new vocabulary by sorting different locations and having students explain why it would or wouldn't be a good place to settle. She was requiring students to justify their answers.

Here you see a screenshot from a student's email response to Mrs. Balthazor. This year Shannon has "flipped" her classroom. Students have to watch the videos at home and answer questions. Shannon is using Knomia to make this happen. The picture is just one response of many where both students and parents are singing their praises of her "flipped" classroom.


You all know that I am a big fan of Daniel Pink and his book "Drive."  I am almost done with his newest book, "To Sell is Human." Both are great reads and if you get a chance you should take some time to read them and see the many ways that you can apply what he says to your classroom. One of his main talking points is motivation. He asks the question and helps answer what it is that motivates us. Josh Harris found a great article on motivation and intention. I have included the link here for you to read. At the root of this is to not only make a goal, but actually write down intentionally when you will do the things that you plan. For example if you have a goal to lose weight and part of that goal entails working out, those people that intentionally plan their days for working out actually lost more weight and were more successful in their goal achievement than those that merely had a goal to lose weight. This can easily be applied to our students in the classroom.

Here is my update this week for "Student Voices." I have five students that have signed up. I will begin to shadow the students this week and next. If I am in your class "shadowing," do your best to think of me as another student. I am really looking forward to this experience and sharing with all of you what it is like to go through a day as one of our middle school students.

Lastly, all of you are doing many amazing things in the classroom. I want each of you to have the opportunity if you so desire to share with your colleagues strategies and lessons that are working well for the students. I am setting time aside at each of our staff meetings for this purpose. If you want to sign up, please fill out the form you can find when clicking the link. Josh has signed up for our September staff meeting to go over Google docs and forms and how they can be best utilized in the classroom. SignUpToPresentAtStaffMeeting

Make sure you check the calendar below for upcoming events and important dates to remember.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 18, 2013

I'm looking forward to this second week of school.  Myself and my assistant principal will be able to complete our admin meet and greets. These are ten minute classroom visits where we are able to introduce ourselves and talk about where students can go for help if they need it and encourage them to think outside of the box. Our talks are not the typical "RULES" of the school. I am passionate about the belief that we need to focus on the positive and believe in our students and their abilities to shine. If we only focus on the negative then that is all that we will see. We talk about No Excuses, and raising the academic bar very high for them.  We explain that it it will be challenging, but growth and change is hard at times. When your brain hurts and you are frustrated,  that is when you know that you are being challenged.When you are able to critically think your way through the problem you will have accomplished a lot and feel a great sense of success.

This week also marks the second day of Technology Professional Development with our partnership with SCOE and Geoff Belleau.   We began this partnership last year and offered our first PD in the series where we focused on PLN's  (Professional Learning Networks). This Thursday from 3:45-5:30 in the library  the focus will expand on PLN's and also begin the conversation on how to use mobile devices in the classroom for things like Celly and Twitter. Geoff has been very inspirational for me in my journey this past year and I am very excited for him to be working with Crystal teachers this year. 

On a side note, myself and the Crystal Innovation Team are extremely excited to be presenting with Geoff in October at the CUE conference. We will present on our experiences with Crystal Innovation Day 2012 and hopefully encourage other schools to do the same. 

This week will also be my first steps in "Student Voices." I am going to have students sign up if they would like to have me "shadow" them. I want to first shadow a few students and follow their entire days schedule as a student. I will go with them to each class and participate in each activity. This will help immerse me in the middle school train of thought. I spoke to a few students at lunch on Thursday who were very eager to have me join them. I look forward to seeing Crystal from a student's perspective. More to come.......

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First Day of School August 14, 2013

Today was the first day back for the 2013-2014 school year.  The energy in the morning was electric.  The incoming sixth grade students seemed both apprehensive and excited at the same time. The many returning 7th and 8th grade students greeted me with hellos and hugs. I asked the same question over and over, "How was your summer?" The overwhelming response from the students, "It was okay. I missed school."

That was the answer I wanted to hear. Our students want to be at school. Why? Because they are being challenged on a daily basis, because they are learning new things, and because they are able to express themselves and grow as human beings. We are so fortunate to be in education. We have the opportunity on a daily basis to better hundreds of lives. Actually, we don't just have the opportunity, we have the obligation to make each day at Crystal Middle School an unbelievable experience for each and everyone of our students.

This year I am going to capture the "Student Voices." What do the students see as engaging? What excites them in the classroom? What is it that makes them want more? I want to know from them so we can DELIVER!

I am so proud of the rigor I saw in the classrooms today August 14, 2013. Yes, teachers were reviewing routines and expectations, but a common thread found classroom to classroom was writing. The teachers at Crystal Middle School are making the commitment to have students writing in every class every day. Why? Our students are writing to learn. Our students are college bound. Our students and our staff have No Excuses!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Week of August 12th-16th

Welcome to the 2013-2014 school year!! The Principal's Perspective is now my weekly update to staff. I will post current articles and videos that will support us in our journey this year. 

The Principal's Perspective will also be my personal journal allowing me to chronicle my new endeavor, "Student Voices."  I briefly touched upon "Student Voices" at our staff meeting this morning.  I want to allow students to have an active role in helping us deliver the most engaging, rigorous, and meaningful lessons we can.