Avoca West Staff Scoop

News You Can Use - 9/19

Principal's Message: Phone Calls Follow Up!

One of the biggest goals I have for myself (and for us all) this year is to push the positive and to build a culture of celebrating all that our students and our staff members do each day. While it's easy to get hung up on the long to-do list of things that need to get taken care of, I can tell you that there has been nothing as recharging for my days as catching a parent off guard with a good news phone call. If you have not yet taken a sip of the good news Kool-Aid, I strongly encourage you...beg you, really. It's worth it!

A friend passed along this link to a post online from Today that capture a parent's reaction to an unexpected phone call home. I have been sitting on it and thought I'd share it with you (now that it's finally at the front of my mind!).

"It was a typical Tuesday afternoon. My calendar, jammed with appointments and obligations, lay open next to my laptop. My phone nearby in proximity hummed and whirred with notifications and texts. In my head, I was picturing what the evening would look like – what we would eat for dinner, what time to get to the school for the parent information night, how to get my oldest daughter to her golf match and make sure my youngest completed her homework, wondering if medical science really had made it possible for me to clone myself yet and why the heck they had’t hurried that process up just a little bit for every other mom like me.

It was then my phone lit up with a phone call.

I rarely talk on the phone. I’m not one of those women who chats for hours on end with their gal pals, sharing the newest dirt and fashion tips. When I recognized the phone number was one of the elementary school’s extensions, my heart skipped a little beat.

There are only three reasons why you get a call from the school in the middle of the day. Your child either has:

  1. An Illness & Injury: someone threw up, contracted head lice, or broke an arm.

  2. Made Unwise Choices: behavior issues – the dreaded call no parent wants to receive.

  3. Been The Victim of Unwise Choices: this is equally awful when your child has been bullied or hurt due to the actions of someone else.

With a bit of panic, I picked up the phone and slid the answer call button to the right.

Me: “Hello?”

“Mrs. Lowe?”

Me: “Yes . . . ”

“I’m Mrs. Mott, the new art teacher at Zoe’s school. I have Mrs. Scott’s class in art today. I have

Zoe here and I’d like to talk to you about some behaviors during class today.”

Me: *gulp* *panic* *What on God’s green earth did she do to merit this call?* “Okaaaaay.”

“Well, we’re learning about patterns right now in art class. We’ve been making our names with


Me: *Oh no. We talked about words we don’t use at school that don’t bother Mommy and Daddy

at home, but aren’t appropriate. Did she write “suck” on her paper? Oh please tell me she didn’t

write “suck” or “butt” or “booty” or any other synonym for butt.* “Okaaaaay.”

“Zoe was doing a really great job. She was paying attention and doing careful work. She was

working really hard.”

Me: *aaaaannnnnndddd then KAPOW* “Okaaaaay.”

“And Zoe’s class has something they want to say to you.”

Muffled 2nd graders in a chorus: “Hip, hip, HOORAY!”

“That was hip, hip, hooray if you couldn’t understand it. We just want to thank you for sending

such a great kid to school.”

Me: *a muddled puddle of emotions* “Well aren’t you awesome?! Thank you.”

I don’t even remember hanging up the phone or saying goodbye. All I know is that one minute I was fuh-reaking out over the fact that my kid may have been out of line and the next I welled with pride, gratitude, and the thought,“What an amazing teacher!”

So if I had composed myself enough to actually make any sense of my word salad, here’s what I would have said Mrs. Mott.

Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to tell me that my kid had done something well.

That her heart matters more than her academics.

That you think she is a great kid.

That you knew it would matter to me to know if she was making wise choices.

Thank you for not allowing a long day of caring for and educating a parade of small children (who need the arts now more than ever) to wear you down, forgetting their humanity.

Thank you for the years of your life you gave up to pursue a field that’s under-thanked and under-paid, filled with long hours of preparation and hundreds of dollars of your own money spent on supplies and curriculum.

Thank you even more for reminding me that you really care. Not just about your job, but about my daughter and about me, too.

Thank you for championing her – for praising her in front of her parents and peers – reminding her that wise choices are worthwhile.

I have a hunch, someday when my daughter is many years older and inches taller, her sweet soul will have an impression in the shape of your face. She will remember standing in front of her class as you called me to share this short conversation. She will beam, recalling what it feels like to be told that she matters.

And even if she forgets, I’ll remind her of the difference-maker who went out of her way to mold her into the type of person I long for her to be. And once again, I’ll clumsily whisper “Thank you” and remember this day."

How are you doing on your challenge to reach out to all of your parents for a positive call home before the end of September? I hope this will serve as a recharge for you to make time for it each day! Each and every kid (and parent!) deserves to feel like a million bucks!

Thank you for all you do :)

Week at a Glance

ALL THIS WEEK - MAP testing (2nd-5th Grades)

Monday, 9/19:

  • Meet with K, 2, 5, 1 & 4th grade teams

Tuesday, 9/20:

  • 9:00am - Different Learners group meeting in the ITC

Wednesday, 9/21:

  • 9:00am - Parent Coffee in the ITC. Pop by and join us if you'd like a cup of joe!
  • 3rd grade team meeting

Thursday, 9/22:

  • Jess starts the day in Wilmette (back by 9:00am)
  • Building Meeting - 3:15pm. AGENDA POSTED HERE (for those of you who want a sneak peek!)
  • Board of Ed Meeting

Friday, 9/23:

  • STAFF SPIRIT DAY? - Whose creative juices are flowing? If you've got an idea for a staff spirit day for this Friday, I know that the kids loved seeing us all in our sports gear this past week!
  • First fire drill of the year - 1:00pm. We will coordinate with the Glenview Fire Department's visit in October to do our other safety drills, but hopefully Friday will give us some nice weather to head out to practice exiting the building and accounting for our kiddos quickly and quietly.

For a longer-range calendar, please check the "AW STAFF ONLY" google calendar.

Announcements, Deadlines, & Important Dates

October Read-Aloud Coming Soon!

I'm in between books for my October classroom read-alouds, but hope you'll open up your classroom to me for another month. Please feel free to hop into my calendar and invite me to read to your class again. My current dilemma is deciding between Gaston, and The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes.

Evaluation & Student Growth Meetings

I've had many conversations with staff members around possible student growth plan ideas for this year. It sounds like many teams are using collaborative time to talk through some ideas and to unify, allowing the meetings with me to trickle down to help inform everyone's plans on your teams. Rest assured that most of our meetings are being spent working through the paperwork together -- no stress needed!

All growth plans HAVE TO be completed (goals determined, percentages nailed down, and signed by you and me) by the end of September. I will formally follow up with anyone who has not gotten to that point by the end of next week...but the month is quickly coming to a close. Don't wait until the last minute if you'd like some time to think and plan after our meeting!

Latte Ladies Are Coming To Avoca West

I'm sad to share that the Latte Ladies are throwing in their barista aprons for good at the end of September. Booooooo!!! Thankfully, however, I was able to book them for their last day in business -- Friday, September 30. They could not be more jazzed to make our school their last gig, so get those bellies ready to gulp next Friday.

PD Update for Staff

I set aside a large chunk of money from our Title I funding this year to commit to professional development. Our grant is written with a specific focus on how we help build reading skills for our struggling learners, but there is a bit of a math mention in there as well. What does it mean for you?

I encourage staff members to look for opportunities to grow in your practice of how to best teach reading and support our struggling readers. I will also pass along any things that might fit this bill -- but know so often that you all find opportunities along the way. I would love to support more staff members in trying to find ways to build literacy mastery within the classroom, where it matters most!

Tech to Try

Voxer Voice Memos

One of the things that is always tricky about visiting classrooms is following up with teachers via email. This year, I've been experimenting with using Voxer to share voice notes with staff members. Teachers do not have to have Voxer in order to receive the memos (I can send them to you via email.

Voxer works similar to the old Nextel push to talk walkie-talkies, but conversations are stored in a feed for you. There is also the ability to text people via Voxer...though pushing and sharing a voice note is so much easier and more personal. I would strongly encourage you to try Voxer out, though, as it has made life extremely easy for me to connect with others. Within the education field, Voxer has made it easier for people to connect for things like:

  • Announcements - Several fellow principals have all of their staff members connect via Voxer so that morning announcements (both for staff and for students) can be played. It also allows for teachers to "get to it when they get to it" - a nice freedom!
  • Book Studies - Rather than making a formal time to meet, many book studies are taking place via Voxer groups. It's a great way to pose questions and have collaborators weigh in and share ideas.
  • Celebrating and connecting with others - This is honestly the best part of Voxer! You can create a closed group (like my "Moms as Principals" group) and use them as a network for sharing ideas, passing along good news, or asking for advice from others. I have a Voxer connection with my little lady, Kyra, so that I can leave her a little voice note from me without waking her up, bugging her in class, or having to go through the hassle of a phone ringing and waiting for voicemail. She simply gets to hear from mom when she has a free moment.

Here are a couple links for articles online that might help you to understand its impact even more.

If you would like to start out just with the ability to hear my voice memos to you, feel free to join Voxer and connect with me: jesshutch I use the app on my phone, but it is also available online at https://web.voxer.com.

Happy Birthday to Our Viking VIPs

9/20 -- Me (which just seems absurd to write down)