Personal Best Staff Bulletin

Volume IV Number 4 December 8, 2015


In New York State we are guided by the Essential Elements of Standards Based Middle Level Schools and Programs. A quote from Element I:

Essential Elements schools ensure for each student a safe, inviting, trusting, and mutually-respectful learning environment that offers both physical and psychological safety.

A 6th grade boy came to see me in my office recently. He wouldn't talk to anybody else about what he wanted to discuss, he only wanted to see me.

Turns out he wanted to talk to me about the fact that the following day he was getting a vaccine. He said he had one once before and it hurt and he was really nervous about it. He said he felt like he was going to cry but he didn't want to cry in front of anybody. He said that the next day he was afraid that he was going to miss his bus because he was so anxious about the shot that he was afraid he would forget to get on the early bus which he needed to get home on time to get to the doctor in Flushing in time for his shot.

I told him it's okay to be afraid. Shots hurt a little, not much, but a little. It would be over really fast and it wouldn't hurt for long. I told him I'd check in on him the next day to make sure he was OK. He seemed to feel a little better.

These are truly precious moments for a middle school educator. They remind me why I love this job so much. I'm not a guidance counselor, a therapist, or a school psychologist... I was just somebody who this kid trusted. I am a dad and stepdad to five wonderful kids. But, as a middle school principal, I get to be "Dad" to 678 also-amazing kids. It is a privilege when a kid trusts you and feels comfortable talking to you about something. Really, it's humbling.

This illustrates the essence of our work at the middle level. Yes, there is so much to learn at this level... but children MUST have adults in the building they can talk to when they are upset, or confused, or happy... or anything! Because unlike an adult who can compartmentalize stressful events in their lives and "get their work done", most of our kids cannot. Being in classrooms with kids, you likely have many moments like the EVERY day. I am proud to be surrounded by a staff of caring adults who embrace this responsibility; who are there for kids when they’re needed most.


Best Practice

Elisa Waters played a game with students to review Spanish vocabulary for numbers. Students went into teams and they each had a digit. She would call out the number in Spanish and students needed to formulate themselves to represent the numbers. Students were excited to compete against each other, to move around the room, and to cooperate with each other to create represent the correct answer.

Following the assembly by the great folks from Dare2Tri, Maureen Clemente and Jeanne O'Brien worked with students on reflecting upon what they are thankful for. This was a fabulous activity to precede the Thanksgiving holiday and a great follow-up to the assembly. They begin the class by looking at a video by the Renegades. This song and video is relevant because one of the members of the band is blind. The video showed various disabled individuals overcoming their limitations to wrestle, mountain climb, bicycle and skateboard. It's also a great song. We can simply never go wrong when we inject a fantastic tune into our classes.

Following a spate of bias remarks that have concerned administrators and guidance counselors, Kerri Schmitt and Michelle Vevante have been doing focus groups with seventh and eighth-grade classes. She has “back-channeled” the discussion using Today's Meet. It is especially insightful of Kerri to activate student voice in order to study a problem that is essentially -- a student problem. She has gained valuable insight into students’ views about bullying and diversity.

Danielle Schwirzbin and Joanne Fernandes hosted a “Choose your own Learning Day” in math the day before the Thanksgiving recess. There were four different lessons going on in one room simultaneously. So much constructive noise and fun. Students were engaged because they chose what they were going to learn.

You have likely heard of using “Clock Buddies” to have students work collaboratively with partners, Araceli Vidal uses “Country Buddies”. Students are assigned to different countries and they work together with different partners during the period to review and use their Spanish conversation skills.

Links and resources

Brain Yoga (Thanks to Will Martinez for this link)...
Super Brain Yoga
Love Vicki Davis's blog... these are some great reminders at this hectic time of year...

Cause that's helpful...

What do you mean?

An eighth grader and a seventh grade student came in to my office to speak to Teresa.

7th Grader: I was in Spanish.. and Ms. Waters told us to put our binders on the bookcases. Then we did an activity with numbers and you chose your partners and my partner was Steven. Steven has a red trapper keeper. We did the activity for about the last 15 minutes of the period. Steve kept asking me what we have next because we're in the same class period 9...

8th grader interrupts: What he means is - do you have the key to 102 - he left his binder in there.


Principal's Staff Bulletin

Periodic communication with staff. The Personal Best Staff Bulletin is used to share information and thoughts relevant to our important work. It includes examples of Best Practice from classrooms and beyond (YOUR SUBMISSIONS ARE WELCOME!!!), some useful resources and also something to hopefully make us laugh, "Cause that's helpful"!