12.14.15 Staff Update

A Communication Tool for the Seven Hills Staff

Personalized Learning at Seven Hills: Circle of Influence

I want to take a minute to thank everyone again for your contribution to a wonderful Winter Social. From the venue, to the music, to dance team, to the stage crew, to student management....The show was amazing, and we learned so much about how to improve future performances! Thank you again for helping make this a memorable experience for our students! I appreciate your time and energy!


Circle of Influence:

In our meeting last week, we engaged in a discussion focused on shifting from a reactive lens to a proactive lens. We reviewed Covey’s Circle of Influence, and defined the difference between the circle of concern and the circle of influence.


  • Circle of Concern: things that worry, bother or frustrate us
  • Circle of Influence: things that we can do something about



When we focus our efforts on those circumstances/items within our Circle of Influence rather than our Circle of Concern, we are able to shift to a more proactive focus. I don’t know about you, but when I have a reactive focus, I feel more stressed, have a never-ending “to-do” list, and am more easily frustrated. While the workload may not change, when I have a proactive focus, I feel more accomplished, less stressed, and certainly less irritated. What then is within our Circle of Concern and what is within our Circle of Influence? I have taken the list our group brainstormed of campus initiatives currently impacting teachers and identified those initiatives within our circle of concern and circle of influence. We spent a little time brainstorming a list of what is in each category, and I asked each staff member to create their own graphic organizer reflecting shared items and tasks/items that were different.


After brainstorming, we then discussed the need to prioritize those initiatives/tasks/etc. Teachers are, by nature, “rule followers.” We want to do everything, and do it well. While I completely understand this, I also know that it is an impossible undertaking. Part of shifting to a more proactive lens, will require prioritizing initiatives and expectations. It will also take acceptance of the fact that while we are all super teachers, we are not super-human. We cannot accomplish everything on the list, and if we attempt to tackle everything, we risk not doing any of it well. When you can identify those initiatives and/or expectations that will have the greatest impact on student success and your own personal growth, and can give yourself permission to let those be the focus of your circle of influence, your lens will shift.


After stating the obvious and thinking back to the ideas we brainstormed, I am sure you are thinking…”Great Blackburn, but there are too many things on the platter to even begin prioritizing! And, new things keep getting thrown my way! Where do I even begin? How in the world am I supposed to prioritize when EVERYTHING is important?” (I’m not too far off am I?) :)


You begin by accepting that your Circle of Influence begins with student achievement. What expectation or initiative requires the most attention or most teacher learning to ensure student achievement? Once you have identified this, you will see that many of the items on your list are connected, and you will be able to more easily prioritize based on an “if-then” approach (If I can do X, then Y & Z will fall into place). I know those “rule follower” mind styles need someone to just tell them what to focus on first. Unfortunately, I cannot do that. Every teacher is different, and is working from a different point in their learning and with a different group of students. But, what I can do is establish minimum expectations, and communicate/demonstrate that our goal as a campus leadership team is to support each teacher where they are. At a minimum:


  • All decisions should be framed around the question, “What will have the greatest impact on student achievement and teacher growth aligned with district mission and vision?”
  • All instructional decisions align with the Seven Hills Instructional Focus (PoP).
  • Teachers have clarity about campus and district expectations/non-negotiables, and understand which initiatives are expectations and which are goals we are working toward (implementation year).


So....what next? We will be revisiting this topic when we return from break on Monday, January 4th, and I encourage you to do a little reflecting over the break. What do you believe is your greatest leverage point...that is within your Circle of Influence? Please come prepared on January 4th with the following:

  • Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern graphic organizer from last week's staff meeting. If you were unable to complete one, use the description above to help write down a few examples in each category. Tanya, Leslie and/or I will be happy to help you!
  • Mind Styles from August Staff Development
  • Progress Monitoring Binders/Student Data Binders
  • PLT/Shine Time information, materials, etc.



Last Week's S'more:


Reflection and Celebrations:


Reflection and celebration are important components of a healthy learning organization. I know that I have asked you to think deeply and, in some instances, differently about using data to drive a personalized approach to learning. This kind of work is hard. It can be a challenge. It will be frustrating. But, when small wins are celebrated and we engage in reflection about struggle, the work is worth it! It can ensure student growth. And, it will be rewarding!


We have set up a few ways to be intentional in our efforts to engage in reflective practice and celebration. Next time you are in the PLC room, please take a minute to look at and/or engage in the following:


  • Reflective Celebrations: So many grade levels have had successes to celebrate related to their SMART Goals! Woo Hoo! We want everyone to take a minute to reflect on the celebration, and ask yourself:


What does this data mean to you?

What can we do differently to have a greater impact on student achievement?

What evidence do I have that students are growing and learning?

What factors contributed to student success?


After reflecting on the celebrations a little, record your celebration and reflection on one of the handy "Reflective Celebration" cards in the PLC room, and attach to the data you are celebrating.



  • Reflective Design: We have embraced the growth mindset at The Hills. We will not view struggle and low performance as failure. Rather, we will capitalize on the opportunity for greater potential impact on student achievement and teacher learning! When faced with data that "didn't turn out exactly as you had hoped," ask yourself:



Does this data accurately reflect student learning?

How will this impact instruction?

What were the barriers to student achievement? Which of these can we have an impact on?

What can we do differently?


After reflecting, either record the reflection on PLC Minutes. Don't forget to print your PLC minutes each week, and hand in the PLC room.



  • Evidence of Action: The work of the PLC and the work in your classrooms should be aligned with the campus Instructional Focus. The Instructional Focus can be found on the bulletin board in the PLC room. Each Theory of Action has been broken down, and a modified version of a Frayer Model has been created to help provide clarity to each. Additionally, the PLC room is becoming a "hub" of activity, with a variety of displays charting our road to success! That being said, most of the evidence to date is reflective only of the work of the PLC and Data Teams (another PLC, really). The Instructional Focus also highlights classroom instruction! In an effort to capture instructional celebrations and evidence toward accomplishing our goals, an "Evidence of Action" board has been created! We are asking for teachers to post their evidence on these boards connected to achievement of each instructional theory of action! We already have a few pieces of evidence displayed! Go ahead...show off...you and your students have been working so hard!


Remember....celebrate and reflect on everything...no matter how small or insignificant you think it may be...Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results!


Note: All reflective questions have been posted in the PLC room for your reference!

Updates and Information

What's Happening Next Week at The Hills?

  • Monday, December 14th:
2015 - 2016 Exemplar Educator nominations due to Kim, Leslie, or Tanya

Fire Drill

Money due to Wilma for Staff Holiday Party

Fundraiser Delivery


  • Tuesday, December 15th:

Fall Choir Concert, 6:00 pm


  • Wednesday, December 16th:

Spelling Bee, 8:00 am (2-5 grades attend. Please discuss audience etiquette before the Bee. Morning Assembly Schedule - we will call to begin loading the cafeteria at 7:50 am.)


  • Thursday, December 17th:
Campus Battle of the Books Competition, 8:00 am(2-5 grades attend. Please discuss audience etiquette before the competition. Morning Assembly Schedule - we will call to begin loading the cafeteria at 7:50 am.)


  • Friday, December 18th:
Winter Party Day (See schedule below)

Polar Express Day (Students and Staff may wear PJS & view Polar Express)


Save The Date: (please add these dates to your calendars)


  • Monday, January 4th: Student Holiday/Staff Development Day (See information below)
  • Tuesday, January 5th: Students return
  • Thursday, January 7th: Staff Meeting, 3:15 - 4:30
  • Friday, January 8th: Principal's Coffee, 7:45 - 8:45 am




Happy Birthday To:

Information and Reminders:

  • Seven Hills Staff Holiday Party: If you are attending the staff holiday party, please make sure you pay for you and your guest by Monday, December 14.

  • 2015 - 2016 Exemplar Educator Nomination Window Open: It is time to nominate your peers. Nomination criteria and nomination forms were emailed to all staff on Monday, December 7th. Paper copies can be found in the teacher's lounge. All nominations are due to Kim, Tanya, or Leslie by Monday, December 14th.



  • Winter Parties: Please make sure you send these times to your parents and post on your grade-level web page.


    PK PPCD –9:45-10:45 and 1:30-2:30

    3rd Grade – 8:00 – 9:00

    5th Grade – 9:00-10:00

    4th Grade - 10:30-11:30

    1st Grade – 11:40-12:40

    2nd Grade – 12:30-1:30

    Kinder – 1:30-2:30


  • CBA Scantrons: Please make sure you are turning scantrons in to Tanya and/or Leslie in a timely manner so that they can be scanned and data returned to you.


  • January 4th Staff Development Day: We will start the day as a campus in the cafeteria at 8:00 am. Breakfast will be provided by Rhome United Methodist Church, and lunch will be provided by the campus. Our agenda for the morning and afternoon will be full, with lots of great learning and time working as a team to accomplish tasks associated with our campus instructional focus, student data, goal setting, RtI updates, and Shine Time planning. Please refer to the Circle of Influence reflection above for items you will need for PD on Monday morning!


Several staff members have district directed PD in the afternoon. Please see the schedule below for district PD:


District Afternoon PD: (12:30 - 3:30)


  1. Gates: Program Re-Evaluation (PDC-A)
  2. SPED: IEP Training (Board Room)
  3. Counselors: Counselor PLC (PDC - B)
  4. Art: PLC (Granger Art Room)
  5. Music: PLC (Hatfield Art Room)


  • PDAS 45 Minute Observations: I want to provide a little clarification about how PDAS observations are being scheduled this year. I understand that this may be a new scheduling practice for many of you. Please know that the "dog and pony" show isn't what Leslie and I are interested in. We want to see high quality instruction, we want to see what happens every day in your classrooms. Take a deep breath - :). Teachers turned in a form indicating two different one week windows of time that would be their preference for observations to be completed. Our goal is to schedule everyone in their first choice. Teachers also indicated two different 45 minute blocks of time for the observation to be completed. We will notify you of the week we have you scheduled, but in an effort to avoid multiple reschedules (because of unexpected circumstances, etc.) we will not schedule a specific date and time. You know the two times of day that you indicated as your preference. If you indicated you wanted to schedule a pre-conference, your evaluator will work with you to get that date and time set.

Staff Member of The Week!

Staff Member of the Week will return after the break!