Sipley School Weekly Howl
Week of Monday, December 14, 2015.
If you can name it, you can tame it. If you have language to describe feelings, you can work within or around the feelings.
On Friday, our staff will be given PARCC student reports and I will work with staff to develop an understanding of the report in case that parents approach teachers with questions. Classroom teachers are given access to PARCC student reports.
The PARCC tests are only one of several measures, including report card grades and in-class performance, that are used to determine a student's academic achievement.
The first year's scores are a new baseline from which to progress from and measure against moving forward.
The path to improving student growth and student progress toward college and career readiness is by implementing F.O.C.U.S. in each and every lesson taught.
PARCC student reports will go home on Tuesday, December 15. Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth grade teachers will be given 2 reports (ELA and MATH), which will go home with students along with a letter from Dr. Skinner. It is very important that these go home on Tuesday.
Please read the Parent Newsletter that will go out Friday for information that they will see related to PARCC.
Stress in the Work Place
I worry that our staff is carrying too much stress. Some staff have suggested that stress is at a high level in our building. I asked myself and others if I, as principal, am placing stress on staff this year and the answer was no. In fact, many have shared that I am as stress free, calm, and supportive as I have been in my time here at Sipley. I asked others where stress is coming from and some suggest that we are creating our own stress and we are placing stress on ourselves. So I looked into this a bit.
Stress is so bad for our health. It leads to so many physical and mental ailments and it halts progress. What might teachers be stressed over? Can you name it? What is the cause of the stress? Are you placing unneeded stress on yourself? Are you aware of your feelings and your stress level at work? If so, are you doing anything to alter those feelings? I found an article with some suggestions on ways to release pressure and I want to attempt to place the suggestions into our educational work:
1. Don't listen too much to others.
In education, we work so closely with the most prized possessions of parents, yet we do not get the recognition that should come with that work. Thinking of which, have you given educators of your children the recognition or appreciation they deserve? Back to the point - We typically hear from frustrated parents. Don't place too much weight on the one or two parents who complain and share their frustration. Placing too much emphasis on a couple voices may hinder your outlook on the totality of your work. Placing too much emphasis on what the media says about education can also be damaging. The media makes money on giving people what they want in the way of news and what we see and read is mostly negative. They will no doubt share how low test scores are when they release PARCC results when in fact, students are the same as they were when taking the old tests, but are being assessed on heightened standards that will examine their future growth. The majority of information the media shares related to education is vastly negative. An important part of this is to not see yourself through the eyes of others. Doing that can build a self-image and expectations that become very hard to live up to. It can make you end up filled up with negative feelings and that won’t help anyone.
2. Forget about perfectionism.
This may be important as we have switched our evaluation systems to one that has heightened standards. If you're placing pressure on yourself to perform at the highest level, that can be debilitating, especially without an understanding of where your performance truly is now and without a plan on how to improve specific areas of performance. Take a look at your current work and think about the next steps to alter your work instead of the performance described at the highest level. Then think about what you need to learn in order to reach your goals. Develop a plan for yourself. Then talk to me about your needs to achieve your goals so that I can partner with you and perhaps provide resources to assist in your growth. Focus on the process, not the outcome! Over time, we can all reach the highest levels of expectation.
3. Be okay with mistakes and failures.
I am seeing an over reliance on teaching scripted lessons. We will discuss this in our meeting on Friday. Think carefully about what our students need to know and be able to do. I encourage staff to work backwards from classroom assessments while considering other summative work that is asked of our students that fall within a unit of study. Give consideration to the scope and sequence that we have and plan backwards. I believe so much in teachers. I believe in their experience, their ability, and their intuition about learning. I do not believe in programs, but see programs as a resource that can help teachers after they have given consideration to items shared here. When doing this work, will there be mistakes and failures? Probably - and we will learn from that. I would argue that the likelihood of making mistakes and failures in education when using a scripted program are always greater than doing the work of a teacher.
4. Declutter your work.
Feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time is stressful. If you teach curriculum, you are likely not teaching kids to the point that you are meeting their academic and emotional needs and tapping into their interests. You yourself are likely facing burnout. Go back to what students need to know and be able to do within the approximate time frames that we have to keep the pace such that we will deliver the important instruction that we need by year's end. I believe that as we work from this perspective, we can declutter our work and deliver what our students need to increase student growth and student progress toward college and career readiness. I believe this perspective will bring joy to our work as we educate students in a safe, caring environment, preparing them to be productive, responsible, and successful members of society.
5. Don't take things too seriously.
This isn't to suggest that nothing is important. Our work is very important and must be taken seriously. Having the attitude that the sky will fall if something goes wrong, as the author shares in the article, is most often inaccurate outside your own head. Think about a more positive way to look at and reflect on mishaps. Replace an old ingrained habit with a new one. The most important thing in my opinion is the joy that students have in the learning process and their overall joy in school. If we are stressed, our kids will likely be stressed. Enjoy your time teaching and watching our kids learn. Enjoy your time being a part of a group of educators who can make a positive difference in the lives of children, many of whom desperately need us.
6. If you need support or if you have needs, ask.
If there is something that is bothering you or if you feel that you need extra support to do your job to the best of your ability talk to me about this. Talking can help in a variety of ways. Do not let an avoidance of discussion contribute to stress. That isn't fair to you and it may not be fair to students if there is a need for support that you feel is lacking.
Think about where your stress is coming from and have strategies that reduce stress. Please think of this section as you work on Friday.
A Glance at the Week Ahead
Monday - School Board Meeting - Our Student Council will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Tuesday - Admin Meeting in the morning.
Tuesday - Spelling Bee - 1:00
Wednesday - STP Meeting at 6:45
Wednesday - Vision and hearing rescreening
Friday - All school sing along 1:15 & Class parties at 1:30