Sipley School Weekly Howl

Week of January 5, 2015

“It’s time to abandon the idea that we can separate a student’s academic performance from his or her emotional and behavioral performance: Academic and social-emotional learning are mutually reinforcing sides of the same coin.”

John Desrochers in “The Best Mental Health Programs Start with All Students” in Phi

Delta Kappan, December 2014/January 2015 (Vol. 96, #4, p. 34-39),

Thank You!

I am so appreciative of the Sipley Staff. I was impressed with how much everyone has jumped in and helped this week as some staff were out due to illness. The positivity of the staff this year has made for a very nice feel in our building.

Items That Need Your Attention

  • For those who have not completed their GCN, you have to complete it over Break. I e-mailed staff who do not have it completed.
  • Classroom teachers, let me know your grade level's decision on DEB in January, by this Friday.
  • Certified staff - Think about F.O.C.U.S. and send me areas of strength and areas of opportunity.
  • Mid-year goals are due by January 31. Please e-mail me your reflection on the goals you had written (All certified staff). If you are unsure if you completed this task, please check your status in Talent Ed.
  • Our painter will be back next week to finish the conference room, Ana's room, and Claire's room. Please make sure those spaces are free of items on the walls to be painted.
  • Log onto Accelerated Math 2.0 - Watch the quick video to determine if Accelerated Math can be beneficial to your students.

Teaching with F.O.C.U.S.

I appreciate the attention that teachers have placed on implementing the new math and writing curriculum. Particularly the math curriculum. Teachers have put more thought into mathematics via our curriculum design model than they ever would have had the District picked up a textbook and asked teachers to teach from it. Teachers gave thought to the standards and determined which standards were of greatest importance for their students (priority standards and supporting standards were determined). They placed those standards into units of instruction and gave thought to the amount of time each unit would take. Clear targets were written. Pre and post tests were created along with student feedback forms. All of these items are so important to teaching and learning. The value of pre and post test data informs instruction. The student feedback forms, which must be done with students at most elementary grades, are so valuable to students. Our math curriculum asks that teachers consider materials that will best support the standards in each unit. This is liberating in some ways as it places the professional judgment into the hands of teachers. Many teachers want to be in a position such as this. However, life gets busy and not everyone has time to search for materials that meet specific standards and needs of students. I understand this. This has shown to be too time consuming. In many cases, finding materials has become the area where a majority of teacher time is spent. I wish this could change where a majority of time spent is on becoming more F.O.C.U.S.ed. Remember, years from now, your students won't remember your great math lesson, they will remember the person you are and the person who helped them grow into an adult. Think about the teacher who demonstrates areas of F.O.C.U.S. What does that person look like in the classroom? In my opinion, the teacher:

  • Forms strong caring relationships such that every student feels their teacher's care. This happens when the teacher takes a genuine interest in each child's life outside of school and uses that information to develop lessons of interest to her or his students.
  • Operates with an understanding that every student is going to grow. This is quite the challenge, however, when you have a student one to three years below grade level and some who are working above grade level. Teachers have to have a plan on how to help each child grow. The teacher uses their time to provide support and enrichment to students via buffer time in each subject area. The feeling of high expectations is that feeling you have when someone supports you through a journey and is by your side the entire time. Clear targets give direction and purpose for learning so that students aren't guessing what they are doing and why they are doing it.
  • When I think of creating engagement through meaningful experiences, the strategies learned in the Thoughtful Classroom summer workshop come to mind along with Kagan Structures. Both may be used within a gradual release of responsibility structure During a gradual release of responsibility, the teacher shifts roles. If the teacher is talking for a majority of each lesson, students do not have the opportunity to think or synthesize information. This is problematic. Students need time to process and share their thinking, which in turn provides valuable feedback to teachers.
  • When students have time to share their understanding with others, have time to process their thinking, and produce work, data is accumulated that help teachers plan for the next lesson. Exit tickets or meaningful questions posed are helpful. There is a clear difference between the teacher who plans a week's lesson and implements those plans and the teacher who plans a week's lesson and makes adjustments each day based on the learning her or his students have demonstrated. As a hockey coach, I would never plan a year's worth of practice plans. I plan after each game, based on what my players need to grow. The game is where I acquire feedback. Students need time to play in a game - to show their thinking. Teachers need this. What do students do with the information I provided? What areas of learning do they have and what areas need support?
  • Supplying timely feedback helps the child understand where they are in the learning process and what they need to do to improve. Again, teachers need to build in time to provide feedback.

I think the F.O.C.U.S.ed teacher makes strategic teaching moves on an ongoing basis. The teacher is in control of the pacing such that they truly shift their attention on teaching to the needs of their children and not allowing content to pace their instruction - teach kids, not content. Let's do all that we can to become the most F.O.C.U.S.ed teacher we can be.

A Glance at the Week Ahead

Tuesday - After School Session #2 Begins

Tuesday - I have an Admin Meeting in the morning

Wednesday - 6th Grade PLC - 8:25 - 9:15 - PARCC Related

Wednesday - 1st Grade PLC - 9:20 - 10:10 - Standards Based Discussion

Wednesday - Kindergarten PLC - 10:10 - 11:00 - Discussion from kdg. team meeting

Wednesday - 3rd Grade PLC - 1:15 - 2:05 - PARCC Related

Wednesday - 4th Grade PLC - 2:05 - 2:55 - PARCC Related

Thursday - 5th Grade PLC - 8:25 - 9:15 - PARCC Related

Friday - 2nd Grade PLC - 10:15 - 11:05 - PARCC/Standards Related

Friday - Mid-day Collaboration with SPED - 11:20 - 11:50

Happy Holidays

Everyone at Sipley works hard. We have dedicated and caring staff who always want to do the best for students. Everyone on staff does their part to help children learn and grow. I hope everyone has an enjoyable and relaxing time off of work.
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