Staff Memo

Aug. 30, 2013

New Format for the Staff Memo

Here I go. I'm jumping in and trying Smore to create a flier for my newsletter. My goal is to do more than just get my toes wet. I'm going to dive right in and give it a whirl. If you like how this looks, go to and sign up. If you need help, just ask.
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Meet the Teacher Night

We had a great turn out for Meet the Teacher Night. Thanks for the extra oomph you gave to make this a successful evening for our families.

I realize that changes in how we will teach and assess spelling caused some tension for some families. I spoke with Stephanie Loane about this and a principal focus group (of which I am a part) is going to talk through and plan for how we can district-wide address the changes to our spelling practices. This group meets in a week, so stay tuned.

Here's a summary one teacher sent of Meet the Teacher Night. Thought I had to share:

Just in case you are interested in this type of information, I had 24 of my 25 families represented last night at my meeting. J I even had a single mom who could not make it so she sent her adult son to attend the meeting. He completed a goals sheet on his brother and stayed afterward to ask me questions about how his brother is doing in school and what kinds of things he can do to be helpful – a very sharp, impressive young man!

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Growth Mindset

Kudos to those of you using the Growth Mindset tickets so early in the year. I know many of you are using videos to show examples of a growth mindset. Feel free to show the same one more than once as often the first run through is more surface level comprehension rather than deep comprehension.

(Common Core connection - Close reading is reading through something the first time to get the big picture. . . a surface level understanding. Going back and rereading more closely to dig deeper, gather author's message, and be able to support thinking is what close reading is all about. Same thing happens with the growth mindset videos you are showing your students, watching them more than once, and asking them to look closer/think closer.)

Keep on noticing and celebrating kids going the extra mile, being resilient, making mistakes and learning from them, and persevering.

BEST PRACTICE - An Abstract Concept - Can we demystify it?

Sometimes the words "Best Practice" feel a bit like an abstract concept to me. What is best practice? What isn't best practice? How do I know? Is there some place I can look to find out?

In order to help us have a starting point/reference, I've gone to my trusted source on best practice, Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde's book Best Practice - Today's Standards for Teaching & Learning in America's Schools.

I like comparison charts to help organize my thinking. The authors use an "Increase/Decrease" t-chart to clarify best practice.

For those of you who are saying, "Just tell us what to do and we'll do it," here is a place to start. Open the document I attached in your email. Use it to help you sort, remembering we are all on a journey to implement best practice strategies in our teaching.

When we talked about what is fixed and what is flexible, using best practice instruction is on the fixed side of the chart. We will spend the entire year learning more about best practice instruction. It's a step at a time done with intentionality.


If I have a class of 100 students, approximately 80 of them handle themselves well by making good choices, following the expectations, and contributing positively to the culture of the classroom. About 15 are ones that need clearer expectations and will take some of my time as I find ways to teach them more appropriate ways to respond and learn. Five percent are those tough kiddos who have more serious issues that cause them to sometimes feel like black holes.

We often make classroom rules for the 15% and specific behavior plans and contracts for the 5%.

Within a staff these numbers don't quite ring true, but there might be some value in thinking about how ours would stack up. If I need to make a slew of rules, then I'm thinking our first number isn't big enough. If I trust you, expect you to make good teaching and relationship decisions, and know that all are safe and valued, then I know our first number is large. How would you divide those percentages? Where would you put yourself?

I know that many of you are feeling like there are many changes and new expectations this year. My goal is to follow district initiatives, find ways to help all of our students reach their maximum potential, and help create a culture of positivity and growth mindset for staff and students. The only way I know to do that is through face to face conversations that focus on naming problems and finding solutions, When we take time to walk in each others' shoes and commit to thinking the best of each other, everyone at CRES will feel safe and valued. That is the kind of culture we need to create and all work best in.

More from Mem Fox on reading aloud

I'm not quite finished with Mem Fox’s Reading Magic – Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. At our house, reading aloud takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to "reading" in ASL. Kids who are deaf have to learn two languages simultaneously. They have to learn American Sign Language to communicate visually, and they have to learn English in order to communicate in writing and to be able to read.

The two languages are quite different. Although both are about communicating concepts, English has a lot more words like articles, prepositions, and verb tenses. To read each word in a book to a child who is deaf means using signed English so you are reading word word word rather than concepts (think phrase units.)

Mem has spurred me on to "read" to Mercy using what ASL I have. If part of what happens with literacy development is about talking back, then I can tell Mercy the story using ASL and lots of facial expression. Then she can talk back to me about the story.

Mem tells us that "Dr. Sue Hill, an expert in early childhood at the University of South Australia, says bonding and literacy development happen even when we read—and talk about—ordinary things with our children, such as Christmas catalogs, cereal boxes, and magazines. Of course, simple intriguing books—like Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill, for example—are more fun and interesting for a young child, but any print will do as long as that child has a change to talk back."

How are you giving your students the chance to talk back? Are they talking back to each other in small groups? Partners? Sharing out to the whole class? If you've got a story to tell about an interesting conversation you overheard, something profound that a child shared with you or the class, please send it my way. I think we would all enjoy reading about how are children are talking back about their reading.

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Listen to Mem read a chapter from her book aloud

Listen to Mem read a chapter from her book aloud at in the section entitled, not surprisingly, “Reading Aloud.”

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Myth Busters

Seems like there are several (many?) issues around here that are confusing, unclear, and even stressful. As Central Office administrators and CRES administrators have changed, expectations and philosophies have changed.

I appreciate when you come to me to ask for clarification. "Can the kids have water bottles on their desks?" My first reaction is to wonder why you would have to ask because it seems obvious that if we can have beverages on our desks, kids should be able to have water bottles on their desks--if the teacher is okay with it.

I'd like to start a little parking lot where you can place sticky notes with questions or simply write the question right on the board. Let's use the whiteboard in the office hallway as a place to post your questions. No names are needed.

Here are a few samples of things you might ask: I notice the PD room has curtains. I thought we weren't allowed to have curtains. What is the policy on this? Or--Do I shut my door during a fire drill? Etc.

So have at it, but remember the number one rule of "Be kind." Myth Busters is for questions about policies, expectations, and procedures.

Cumberland Road Principles of Learning

We will make decisions based on the following:

1. All students can learn; therefore we will set high expectations for all students in order for them to reach their maximum potential.

2. Students learn in different timeframes; therefore we will differentiate instruction to move all children forward and be flexible with our time frames so all students can learn at their own pace.

3. Errors are inherent in the learning process; therefore we will foster a safe learning environment that is accepting of errors and allows students to take risks, problem solve, and learn from their mistakes.

4. Learning by doing is more powerful than memorizing; therefore we will create learning environments and experiences that mimic the real world to actively engage students in a variety of ways.

5. Being literate is at the heart of learning in every subject area; therefore we will provide opportunities for reading and writing in every subject area.

6. Learning is a social act; therefore we will teach our students to work collaboratively by modeling this ourselves.

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Data Collaboration

What is data? What is data not? The conversations were rich as we defined the answers to these two questions. Short answer to "What is data?" -- Data is evidence from our learners so that we can make decisions to help them learn.

What is NOT data? Opinions, stereotypes, assumptions, cardiac assessments, gut instincts.

Several driving questions to help us think about planning for instruction are:

  • What is the data telling us?
  • What is the data NOT telling us?
  • What next?

Team collaboration gives you time to begin to answer the "What next?" question. As a reminder, I get five minutes of your time and you get the rest to work as a team. Our Team Collaboration begins with Team K on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

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Shredding toter

If you have a large amount of paper that needs to be shredded, we now have a shredder service. There is a large "toter" (looks more like a garbage can to me) in the teachers' workroom near the poster maker. Please deposit your confidential documents there. If you need to have the toter opened, please ask Beth K for the key.


Quotes to End On

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results. ~Willie Nelson

Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A 'you can do it' when things are tough. ~Richard M. DeVos

People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom? ~Thich Nhat Hanh

But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. ~Elizabeth Edwards

You must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind. ~Emmet Fox

Looking Ahead

Monday, Sept. 2

· No school. Labor Day. Don’t labor.

Tuesday, Sept. 3 Day 2

· NWEA testing for grades 3-4 Sept. 3-16

· Pledge and Moment of Silence – Nussbaum

· 8:00 Interest Group PD - Schedule – How do I fit it all in? What do I Privilege? – led by Katherine – PD room

· 1:00-3:00 El. principals’ mtg. – Lisa gone

· 3:10-4:00 Team Collab –Team K – PD room

· 7:00 PTO Open Forum – art room

Wednesday, Sept. 4 Day 3

· 8:30-11:30 and 1:00-4:00 District Wide PD for 3rd grade and 2nd grade REACH

· 3:10-4:00 Team Collab – Team 1 – SGI Room

Thursday, Sept. 5 Day 4

· 8:00 Office meeting

· 8:30-11:30 and 1:00-4:00 District Wide PD for 4th grade and 3rd/4th grade REACH

· 3:10-4:00 Team Collab – Team 2 –SGI room

·4:00 Optional Words Their Way PD for first grade teachers - with Katherine

Friday, Sept. 6 Day 1

· Red. White & Blue day

· Bus Emergency Evac drill AM

· 3:10-4:00 Team Collab – Team 3 – PD room

· ?? Student Council Movie Night

Monday, Sept. 9 Day 2

· Pledge - Greiwe

· NWEA testing for grades 3-4 Sept. 3-16

· 3:10-4:00 Team Collab - Team 4 - PD room

Tuesday, Sept. 10 Day 3

· NWEA testing for grades 3-4 Sept. 3-16

· Pledge and Moment of Silence – Nussbaum

· 7:30 Learning Leadership Team - PD room

· 9:45 Admin meeting at FJH - Lisa gone

· 3:10-4:00 PD –Team K – PD room

Wednesday, Sept. 11 Day 4

· 3:10-4:00 PD – Team 1 – PD room

Thursday, Sept. 12 Day 1

· Lockdown drill sometime today

· 8:00 Office meeting

· 3:10-4:00 PD – Team 2 - PD room

Friday, Sept. 13 Day 2

· Team Sports Wear Day

· 8:00 Staff Meeting - REvised Teacher Effectiveness Rubric and Handbook - PD room

· 12:01 Students released for the day

· 1:00-4:00 Half day PD - PD room