Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014

 I had the pleasure of spending Saturday with colleagues from Crystal, David Weir, Fairfield High, and Green Valley at the No Excuses Event. Presenter Doug Curry, principal from Travis Middle School in Texas, did an unbelievable job reminding us all about hope. Every student is listening even if each student doesn't make it seem like they are. We are here each day to give our students light inside any darkness they may be carrying.  When students make mistakes, human nature says we will make you pay. A No Excuses school works on correcting the behavior and welcoming the student back.Exceptional classroom management works with dignity and hope.  

We need to remind ourselves that the students that walk through our doors each day are in our classrooms and our hallways on loan each day by their parents. The parents send their students with faith that they will be safe and empowered each day with new knowledge.  We must make sure our parents are supported just as much as our students.  We need to unconditionally accept our parents with no judgment. We must validate, affirm, honor, and empower our parents. We must connect with them and offer great customer service.

I left Saturday with many great ideas and new strategies. Your fellow colleagues from Crystal that attended were Katie, Debra, Tara, and Jonathan. We are going to work on bringing Doug Curry to the district in August so that everyone can hear his story.  Talk with Katie, Debra, Tara, and Jonathan, I know they are just as excited as I am.

We have one more week before our site visit!! State Superintendent Tom Torlakson will be here on February 3rd from 10:30-11:30. We have a schedule for the visit developed, and I will share the Google folder with each of you. This is a HUGE moment for our school. I cannot put into words how proud I am of each of you and ALL of our students. The Crystal Family is AMAZING!! Thank you for all of your hardwork and dedication to each an every one of our students. We are providing the foundation for each of our students to be college ready through innovation and 21st Century skills. Our students are finding  
autonomy, mastery, and purpose in their learning. GO COUGARS!

Jim Silverman, librarian from Suisun City Library, has a goal of providing opportunities for your students to register for Solano County Library cards. He’d like to visit your classroom with application forms, quickly demonstrate how to use the catalog and get free online tutoring, then schedule a time to return to your classroom with cards for your students. He’s working with Amy, Lisa and Jonathan so ask them about their experience and value for their students. Email Jim at and cc me to get started.

Hypothesis: Hypothesis is an idea that is suggested as an explanation for something, but that has not yet been proven to be true. 

Have a Great Week!!  Anything is Possible!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014

We have been moving along strong this year on our school-wide initiatives.  We haven't waited until next year for Common Core, we have begun implementation this year.  As a result students are writing in every class every day.  Students are citing text evidence to support their positions.  Students are reading much more rigorous text, and students are reading to learn.  I have a great easy read that will help provide each of you with classroom proven strategies that support the demands of the Common Core. The book is The Core Six Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core.  Copies will be provided to each of you very soon.

The implementation of technology this year has been a steady progression. Last year you received your Ipads and began to become familiar with them. The Ipads have now become an integral part of our everyday communication with each other and for many of you your students as well.  The Chromebook lab is now being used on a steady basis. More and more of you are integrating BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) seamlessly into your lessons. The great thing to see is that technology is not being used just for technology's sake. Your lessons that are integrating technology have a purposeful reason and are taking the students to a deeper level of understanding. I would like to thank our new librarian, Jenn Roush, for collaborating with many of you. She has begun to work in tandem with teachers to deliver both Digital Citizenship lessons and also the basics of the GAFE suite. (Google Apps For Education) If you haven't collaborated with her yet on a lesson, you should really reach out and plan some time with her.

Students working on collaborative note taking in Balthazor's Geometry class.

Collaborative note taking in Balthazor's Geometry class. 

We are in year two of our implementation of No Excuses University. College symbolism is all over campus. The addition this year of monthly Character Counts/NEU lessons continue to reinforce and remind students of the importance of choices in their lives. Several teachers have incorporated elements of college and career readiness into many of their lessons. The message is getting to our students loud and clear that we have high expectations for ALL of them. It is making a difference in their lives. We have designed a NEU bookmark that has steps at each grade level, 6th, 7th, and 8th of what to do on the path towards college. There is also a QR code on the bookmark that links directly to financial aid and scholarship information for the students. These will be in your boxes this week to pass out to your 4th period class!!! Our No Excuses video application is nearing completion. We have a few small tweaks to make before we will submit. The video application was a collaborative process with both staff and students. In fact, the videographer is our very own 8th grade Erina McSweeney. I am looking forward to our No Excuses Professional Development opportunity that we are offering this Saturday, January 25th at the Nelson Center. This PD is being offered in collaboration with David Weir, Fairfield High, and Suisun Valley Elementary. It is not too late to RSVP.

EXPLORE:  Explore is to discuss or think about something carefully.

Continue to stay strong in all that you are doing. We are on the right path and need to stay the course. Talk with each other and bounce ideas off your colleagues. The more you can collaborate and share ideas the better off you will be.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2014

Why am I an administrator? I went into education fifteen years ago because I wanted to make a change and an impact on the world. My parents had a great influence on my life and the path that I chose. I remember clearly the daily dinner conversations where my dad would tell me and my three sisters and one brother, "You can change the world. You can do anything you put your mind to. Have faith and you WILL make it happen." Those words were repeated and became a natural part of my thought process. I have felt compelled ever since a very young age to help people around me. I initially saw myself being able to make a large impact by going into politics, that is why I majored in political science in college. But the turning point for me was when I went and volunteered at my nephew's daycare. I saw that the potential to make a huge positive impact wasn't correcting the wrongs of society, but starting with the youth and providing them the tools that would enable each and every one of them to be successful participants in our society. It was then that I decided my calling was to go into education and do what I could to make things better.

Our community of students, parents, and staff at Crystal is unparalleled. We are not just a brick and mortar building we are a FAMILY.  One of the many definitions found in Merriam-Webster's online dictionary for family is a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation.  At Crystal, we are united by our belief that ALL of our students deserve a high quality rigorous education. It is our pledge to provide ALL of our students with the foundation so that each and every one of them is college ready! 

As the principal of Crystal Middle School it is my unwavering commitment to support each student, each family, and each staff member.  It is my daily goal to provide guidance, insight, and resources that will allow each member of our school community and family to reach his/her ultimate potential.  We are all learning and growing each day. Remember to reflect on moments in your past that have shaped where you are today. All of us in education are in a very unique position. Every day provides us a new  opportunity to provide a student, a parent, or a community member a new piece of knowledge that will make him/her more powerful. You are the facilitators of great learning. Our students are the critical thinkers that seek knowledge to become fulfilled, resourceful, and to be able to provide our society the next level of innovation. Be innovative, be creative, and guide your students to their optimal potential. 

Our next No Excuses Lesson is Monday, January 13th during fourth period. Each teacher will show the short video on RESPONSIBILITY and then have each student fill out his/her Goal Setting Page for 3rd quarter on page 5 on the student agenda. The activity should not take more than 15 minutes of your 4th period class. Here is the YouTube link for the video.

We have had many of you check out our Chromebooks so far this year. If you want to check out the lab please make sure to fill out the Google Form. The link to the form can be found at the end of this paragraph. The calendar that is embedded in this blog also shows the dates that have been booked.              

I would like to highlight Terry Murray and her use of  BYOD in the classroom. Terry ventured into new territory last week when she conducted a BYOD lesson. She also utilized the Chromebooks with students to access websites and YouTube videos for students to engage in "student driven" inquiry.  Terry engaged the students to think and discover  information on ratios and proportions. She encouraged independence for the students. Students accessed You Tube and other websites to develop an initial understanding of ratios and proportions. Terry then facilitated a class discussion where the students shared what they had found out. It was then that she was able to add additional information to their newly formed knowledge base. Terry was very happy with the level of engagement and enthusiasm that the students exhibited during the lesson. There was purpose to the technology. Students had autonomy, purpose, and were moving towards mastery. Here are a few links that students accessed during her class.

EXPLAIN: Explain is to tell someone about something in a way that is clear or easy to understand. 


Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 5, 2014

We have reached the halfway point for the 2013-2014 school year. If you recall, we started out the year with a few "Guiding Questions." I thought it would be a perfect time to revisit those questions. Now that we have completed five months of the year take a look at the Guiding Questions and see where your thoughts are now.

·         Do you consider yourself to be a risk taker?
·         What goals are you setting for the 2013-2014 school year?
·         What is the latest educational book or article you have read?
·         If you could create the ideal school, what would it be like?
·         How do you deal with failure?
·         How will 21st century competencies be developed in your students?
·         Have you built a Personal Learning Network (PLN)?
·         In what ways will you challenge your colleague’s and administration’s thinking?

·         How will you differentiate instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners in your class?

In looking at the America Achieves website I found a few good videos that show teachers implementing Common Core standards. Take a look at the videos and see how what is shown relates to what you are currently doing in your class or ways that you can incorporate some new ideas.

Laura Kretschmar: For the love of math This Oakland, CA, educator teaches her 5th and 6th graders the meaning of division by fractions. But she also lets them make their own discoveries by working with partners to solve a problem. Laura says the new standards have empowered her to focus on helping students master thinking and self-directed learning, as well as skill building. As a result, she says teaching and learning math has become much more engaging. (sourced from 

Steven McKinney: Keeping it real It's easy to see that 9th graders in Steven McKinney's math class in Memphis, TN, are similarly engaged in their work when you observe his classroom. Steven makes the Pythagorean Theorem come to life and helps teens discover real-world applications for the concepts they are learning. He also asks his students for feedback - a smart and commonsense practice that too often gets overlooked. As you can see, young people have a lot to say about the lessons before them. (sourced from

As you have your students write every day in every class, there is a need to assess that writing. Many of you have talked about writing rubrics that are common for all to use. The Smarter Balanced Consortium has several writing rubrics already created. The link here will bring you to the writing rubrics page. Additionally, we are going to talk more at this month's staff meeting about a school wide writing prompt that will be administered in January (in English classes) and will be scored by all staff at our February staff meeting.

Site Visit by Superintendent Tom Torlakson, Feb 3rd:

We have the great honor of having State Superintendent Tom Torlakson coming to FSUSD on February 3rd and visiting Crystal as one of the three sites he visits. He will be here to see how we are implementing technology with our teachers and students and how we are implementing the Common Core. We will talk in depth about this visit at our January staff meeting. This is an unbelievable opportunity for each of you and each of our students to shine! We will have the opportunity to showcase the amazing things that are happening at Crystal Middle School!!!

EVALUATE: Evaluate is to judge how good, useful, or successful something is.


New Year's Day 2014 at Stinson Beach. It was a great way to start the new year!!