Soaring News

February 7, 2016

Principal's Message

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One-Size Does Not Fit All

"There is nothing more


than the equal

treatment of Unequals."

-Thomas Jefferson

When I look back at my first year of teaching in Japan I often laugh at myself. I still can't believe my students chased the train at Kamakura. I still can't believe I had a class party at my house and one student got stuck in my bathroom. I still can't believe those kids turned out so great in spite of my inexperience.

There was a moment in my first year where I felt thrown to the wolves (so to speak). It was Spring conference time and I had a fellow staff members child (talk about awkward). I'll admit, I was a little nervous going into the conference. When we sat down the conference started very positively. We talked about organization and her son’s interests. I still remember sharing his dislike for Math and his passion for Science. But then came the curve ball.

My colleague (the student's mother) asked me how he was doing in Reading. I shared the data and talked about his comprehension. She then asked me how I was pushing him. I talked about our weekly meetings and the conversations we had regarding the stories we were reading. The mom then asked me if I was teaching all the students the same way. I stumbled...

Was she upset?

She then continued and talked about her son’s weaknesses and asked how I would be individualizing strategies to help him improve.

I didn't have an answer. I should have, but I didn't. Oh, I felt a pit in my stomach and a failure as a teacher. After that meeting I sat in my classroom for a long time and thought about how I could improve as a teacher.

My first thought was simple, I had to stop teaching everyone the same way. I felt that I was really strong at getting to know my kids, but I didn't use this information to teach differently. If I was going to be a great teacher I had to create different paths for my kids, because, NOT ALL KIDS LEARN THE SAME WAY!

As I began my journey to personalize more of my classroom, I quickly discovered it took more preparation and I had to release some control.

When I started personalizing instruction it began with a couple subjects. I started with Reading and Writing. My focus was small and expanded as I improved and grew more confident.

As I became more experienced in the classroom I got better at personalizing for my kids. By my final year, rarely did my students all take the same could they, they weren't all learning at the same rate and pace.

So I ask you, do you personalize the learning for your students?

No really, do you?

I've been to Edcamps, I've been to conferences. What I hear over and over is that teachers are doing some Project Based Learning, some Genius Hour, some personalization. But what I also hear is that educators still group kids by ability and put them in small groups. Let me say this, if your centers have every student getting the same worksheet or same instruction, you might as well be doing whole group instruction. Students are all different, they learn differently. We as educators need to embrace this, and change how we facilitate the learning.

Here are my keys to getting started with Personalizing the Learning in your classroom:

1) Pace: Can we all agree that students will not learn at the same pace? Let's accept this and create layers to our lessons. If a student completes work quickly, we should not punish them with more work. Let's adjust assignments and allow students to creatively learn new things.

2) Place: Do students all need to be seated at a desk to learn? Flexible learning spaces allow students to stand if they have the fidgets or simply sit on the floor if they work best this way. Expecting all students to sit with their feet flat on the floor at their desk is not realistic.

3) Voice: Who is doing the talking in the classroom? You or the students? We begin to personalize learning when student voice is valued and encouraged. Too often students are not given the opportunity to share, ask questions and teach others. I learned long ago a student had a skill mastered if they could teach others.

4) Choice: Are students allowed to make choices in your classroom? I hope so. One of the keys to motivating student learning is through incorporating more choice. This gives students a say in the process and adds relevance to their learning.

5) Prioritize: If you are still "covering" every single VBO, I feel the need to ask, how is that working for you? As educators our goal is to have students LEARN the content, not to "cover" the content. Once we prioritize and narrow our focus we are able to see the real learning in our classrooms.

I challenge you to make learning different. Let's stop the One-Size Fits All approach.

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Articles Worth Reading

Videos Worth Watching

The Homework Packet
Kid President - BOYS vs GIRLS! #AwesomeGirls
Prescribing Homework
Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten (US Version) (Official Video)


*Kudos to Heather Messick and her hospitality crew for hosting the Chili cook off. The chili contestants were delightfully yummy.

*Huge thanks to Kevin Rickard for his technical support in assisting the payroll process.

*Many thanks to James Parra for inputting payroll.

*Your quick thinking and care for a colleague showed your inner beauty Lacy Davis.

*Much appreciation to our 2nd and 3rd Grade Language Arts teachers for their willingness to adjust times in order for our PAL's identified students to receive support.


Upcoming Events

Next Week

February 8: Wixie Training

February 8: Report Cards go home

February 9: Shannon to Bettie F. from 12:30-1:30

February 9: Math Night, 5:30-7:30 pm

Coming Soon

February 15: President's Day - No School

February 25: Early Dismissal

February 29: Black History Program

News to Share

Data Informed Conversations: Soon I will be inviting you to have conversations about your students and the progress they are making thus far this year. In an effort to create a data culture, I will work with you to develop a system. that will allow us to examine student data and collaboratively strategize together to improve teaching and learning.

~Check out the info on the new BE Well program VBCPS is offering. You can track your healthy habits and earn up to $500 a year!


Dr. Sedory has created a new blog, My AP Tried It, where she will share out new ideas for using web sites and apps in your classroom. Some may help with classroom management (such as this week's post about while others may have instructional ideas. The blog will hopefully have new ideas each week!



I, Ms. Burns, would like to pass the "I Make a Difference Award" to Mary Garnier. Mrs. Garnier is always helpful and supportive. She always goes above and beyond in her coaching and her work with students. She is a valuable asset at Newtown. Thank you for making a difference, Mrs. Garnier.


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Lacy Davis: 2/28

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