Godzilla Gazette, 20

Week of January 18, 2016


  • From Grace
  • The Reflective Practitioner
  • Weekly Team Planning Link
  • Weekly Events
  • For Your Information

From Grace

Aloha, everyone! Last week at our 100th Birthday Reception, I was struck by the comments of both Dr. Bode, Mathews alumni, and Mr. Camacho, Metz alumni, who spoke eloquently about their memories of elementary school. For both men, it wasn't the actual learning that stood out, it was the relationships and the experiences. From Mathews classrooms transformed into rain forests or underwater habitats, so real the students had to come up for air, to musical presentations and dancing. These are real and powerful memories that have stuck with both men, years and years after they left their respective institutions.

I am so proud and delighted to know that Mathews continues to be a place of joy and relationships and fun in learning, even with the added element of accountability that wasn't looming quite so large over schools in the 60s, That is something to celebrate. :)

Another speaker, Ms. Huges, director of UTeach and a former Mathews parent, also spoke about the future of schools and referenced Chris Lehmann and the Science Leadership Academy, a school he founded to provide a rich education in a nurturing environment. Hugs and inquiry are part of their guiding philosophy. Intrestingly enough, he and his partner, Zac Chase, are the authors of Building School 2.0 that I shared with you I was reading and has gotten me re-energized for our work. (It's so good!) So as I was searching for an article to highlight the importance of how we make kids feel so they can learn, and came across one written by a teacher at the Science Leadership Academy, it seemed all arrows were pointing in the same direction.

This week's Reflective Practitioner, is that article - one teacher's reflections on the practices he uses to make meaningful connections with his students. We do this on a daily basis, but affirmation of our practice and maybe some new ideas, are ways to keep us going and living those tenets of SEL we know to be so powerful for our students and our school. This is particularly important as we move more deeply into what I call "testing season" where the stress of assessments can cause all of us to be a little more tense and less caring of others. Let's keep the caring, community spirit going and work on connections with our student and each other.

Here's to a meaningful week of teaching and learning, full of little joys. Continue to plan, learn, and grow daily.

The Reflective Pracitioner

Making School About Connection

By: Joshua Block

Humanities teacher at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia


Big image

Traditionally, schools have not promoted human-centered relationships. With the exception of the primary years, students are expected to rush from class to class, searching for meaning in short periods of time allotted with each of their teachers. In this model, each course is meant to pack in as much content as possible while pausing only for exams which are supposed to determine how much a student "knows."

In the real world, meaning comes from relationships, from feelings of belonging, and from work that allows for exploration, self-expression, and self-examination. No one looking back on his or her school experience remembers a particularly poignant test. Instead, people remember the teacher who reached out to them at a vulnerable moment, the unit that changed the way they understand an issue, or the project that seemed impossible at first but then became something far beyond everyone's expectations.

Teaching and learning are incredibly complex and impossible to script. What we can do is commit ourselves to practices and structures that value our students as people with real human needs. By working to meet these needs and working to make schools more people-centered, we help transform potential experiences of alienation and disconnection into joyful examples of supportive community where young people can explore, take risks, and discover themselves.

There are many small and large ways for teachers to build deeper connections with students. Below are a few suggestions of approaches that have worked for me.

1. Check In With Students

The small moments before or after classes, during lunches, in the hallways, and at activity times are all opportunities for small conversations with students. Warm, genuine greetings and attempts to connect can have a large impact. At other times, teachers can take a moment to ask a student about a sick grandmother or find out if someone is still struggling with work that frustrated him or he the day before.

2. Create a Classroom of Respect

Classrooms based on a foundation of respect encourage people to be kind and the best versions of themselves. These behaviors happen because they are the right thing to do in a community that values people, not because an authority figure demands it. Work to establish a tone of shared respect where issues are dealt with through conversation and where the entire group feels invested in maintaining a positive classroom culture.

3. Be Present

Teachers' days are filled with interruptions. It is not always easy to abandon a large pile of work and listen deeply to a student who comes in during an unscheduled time. Yet moments like these are often the times when real connections are made and when people develop deeper, authentic understandings and relationships.

4. Host the Party

In the same way that party hosts should welcome and situate their guests, teachers should maintain an awareness of the experience of everyone in their classroom. Are people being excluded? Are there negative dynamics or interactions between certain students? What can be done to bring more students into the mainstream and alleviate feelings of marginalization?

5. Respond to Student Work With Kindness and Validation

Human-centered environments help people grow. Feedback for student work is an opportunity to validate effort and success while encouraging learners to grow and strengthen their skills. If the first message that students get about their work is what is wrong or how it is deficient, they are less likely to invest themselves in revision, and less likely to work hard in the future. If students hear what is interesting, special, or unique about their work, they will more likely be open to suggestions for improvement.

6. Make It Fun

Being in community is a joyful and challenging experience. Create rituals that help everyone laugh and be willing to pause the action to appreciate each other. Congratulate a class when they complete a large project. If there are two extra minutes at the end of class, let a student tell a joke to the group. Try ending each week by having a different student sing the class a song. Also, laugh at yourself -- it's the best way to break down barriers and share your own humanity.

Teaching is wonderful because it involves people. As much as I plan, I can never foresee the rewarding and challenging moments that will fill each day. By recognizing students as people and working to create schools and classrooms that value the human experience, we can create spaces for possibility and deeper meaning for students, for people, and for ourselves.

The six suggestions I've listed above are by no means the last word in humanizing the school experience. Please add your own ideas in the comments below.


Weekly Team Planning Template Link

Weekly Events - School Board Appreciation Week!

Monday, January 18, 2016

  • MLK School Holiday!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 - B Day

  • MOY CPMS Window Opens - PreK
  • MOY TPRI/DRA Window Opens - K-2nd Grades
  • Meeting with Architect - 1:30 pm - Office - Grace
  • ARD - 2:00 pm - Learning Lab 1 - Janie, Katherine, Elise, Robin, Grace
  • Mentor Meeting - 3:00 pm - Rm. 207 - Lauren, Becky, Nicole, Monica, Angela, Grace

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - C Day

  • Science Fair! :) - Library/Gym - 8:00 am - Stefanie, Diana McG
  • Elementary Principal Meeting - 8:00 am - 3:00 pm - Delco Center - Grace

Thursday, January 21, 1016 - A Day

  • ARD - 10:00 am - Learning Lab 1 - Janie, Kirstie, Grace
  • ARD - 11:00 am - Office - Meghan, Paula, Grace
  • Parent Meeting - 1:15 pm - TBD - Robin, Stefanie
  • Staff Meeting - GT Portfolios - 3:00 pm - Library - All

Friday, January 22, 2016 - B Day

  • Principal for the Day - Bring Your Stuffed Animal to School Day!
  • School-wide Assembly - 7:45 am - Gym - Nicole's Class Leads
  • 8:30 am - Shelter in Place Drill - School-wide - All

Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • Happy Birthday, Ms. Alma Gutierrez!
  • CIC Kickoff Training - 9:00 am-3:00 pm - PAC - Lauren

For Your Information


  • If you need something, ask.
  • Make sure to utilize reading/writing workshop and small group instruction during core.
  • Remember to take attendance daily on TEAMS.
  • Arrive and pick up your class from special areas on time - respect each other's time.
  • Ensure 504, IEP, ELL, and Gifted Accommodations are being followed
  • Actively supervise your students - Spread out at recess to monitor each area.
  • Check our calendar for important events
  • Try something new and have fun!

Kudos: Do you know of something good? Share it with Grace to be included here or write it in the comments below!

  • To Alma for explicitly teaching calming and coping strategies and for coaching one of her students through it during special areas!
  • To Amy for leading our choir students in rousing song at the Mathews/Metz 100th Reception at the Austin History Center!
  • To Suzie, Alma, and Ruthann for supporting our kids and school at the Mathews/Metz 100th Reception at the Austin History Center!
  • To Vivien for working the phone lines and email lines to make arrangements for our African American History Presentation!
  • To Kellie for working the phone lines to arrange for 6th grade Job Shadowing!
  • To Rosemary for working her magic to procure enough tables for Science Fair - she saved the day!

Upcoming Events:

  • TELPAS On-line Basice Training Window Opens - January 27th
  • Barton Hills Teacher Visit for Maker Carts - January 27th
  • CAC - January 28th

Website to Explore:

http://educationcloset.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/integratededucatorstweetandpin.png- I've shared the Education Closet website before - chock full of happy information on how to integrate arts into the curriculum. This link takes you to a super informative poster on how an educator's tweet and pin network can encourage positive, thoughtful growth and banish negativity. :) Happy exploring!