Millbrook Elementary Staff Notes

Week of Dec. 14-18, 2015

Thought For the Week

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

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We've (Almost) Made It...And A Personal Note

Four and 1/2 days until a long break. It is richly deserved and I hope each and every one of you enjoy it to the fullest!

I mainly wanted to share a personal note this week. Many of you may have heard this story, as I shared it last year when I came to MEMS. So thank you for indulging me as I share it again. The holidays can be joyful, festive, and full of love. They can also be depressing for people who have lost loved ones, face financial challenges, or struggle to meet expectations of what holidays may bring.

Almost exactly one year ago today, my world was turned upside down. I was into my second year leading KIPP Destiny Elementary in Dallas. Things were going well at school, although the very long hours and intense needs of our students were a daily challenge. I was starting to acutely feel the distance between me and my family back here in NC. I began to have thoughts that it was time to get back home - even though that was not my plan. I am sure it will not be a surprise to any of you that I am a planner who thinks things through, meticulously weighing the pros and cons, and mapping out all contingencies. :)

Just past 6:30 AM on a Thursday morning, I got a phone call from my brother. My then-77 year old mother had fallen through the floor of their attic. 17 feet straight down into the garage.

In a flash, everything changed.

There is no logical explanation how she survived. The fact that she fell onto a concrete floor, hitting her face on the side of the car, and only suffered shattered feet and a broken nose was nothing short of miraculous. Although she had surgeries, a long dose of rehab, and still suffers some after effects, she is fully mobile, living a productive and happy life.

There are a couple key points to my story. First, and most importantly, is that we have to keep a sense of perspective about what truly matters. My grandparents lived well into their 90s, so I took it for granted that my healthy, active parents would be around at least that long. Our lives can change in an instant; relationships are the heart of what gives meaning to our lives.

Second, we have the power to choose how we feel. Every day. No matter what we are facing. This was a tough one for me. I literally could not get through a single day for about a month after her accident without bursting into tears. It didn't make sense to me. She was going to be OK. I already had plans in motion to return home to NC and to be closer to family again. It could have been so much worse - why was I so stressed and sad? I realized I had to change my thoughts. My thoughts were replaying and visualizing what that must have felt like for her. Unproductive thinking. I had to intentionally push myself to focus on what I was grateful for instead of what was hard for me. It was a powerful lesson.

Fast forward to December 2015. This school year has definitely been one of challenge and change. Many changes were unexpected. Some changes were for the best. Some changes are ones that make sense logically, but don't feel good. We have children whose lives are turbulent, unpredictable, and scary. They act out to try to gain a sense of control at school, often in ways that are destructive to them, to other kids, and to us. It is exhausting and frustrating sometimes.

But we chose to be the light. We chose to be educators and work with children to change lives. We chose to work in a school where the work is harder and the needs greater. We may not see the change this month or this year. We may never see it. But we ARE the change. There is no more noble calling. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for believing. For committing. For being the change you wish to see in the world. Keep shining your light. Seek the light in every dark day, and find opportunities to help others find the light.

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January Brings....Winter Weather (Hopefully Not!)...and Tests, Tests, and More Tests

A repeat from last week...but I want to be sure these dates are on your calendars as you plan ahead!

mCLASS Testing Window Dates: Jan 6th-29th

ALL grades K-5 will participate on January 4th in a fidelity training for inter-reliability that will occur at 2:45 in the media center. At that time a school-wide schedule will be distributed.

2-5 Reading & Math Benchmark Testing Window Dates: Jan.25th-29th

ONLY grades 2-5 will participate in a brief overview training with IRT during a grade level common planning time in January prior to testing. SSA students will need to take the benchmark assessment for enrolled accelerated class. All students 2-5 takes this mid-year assessment as there are no exemptions.

K-1 DPI Math Benchmark Assessment Dates: Jan. 25th-Feb. 4th

A webinar training will occur for ONLY grades K and 1 with IRT during a grade level common planning time in January prior to the assessments. All assessment data will be entered into eData platform. Kinder will be administered one-on-one via the computer.

NKT Testing Window Dates: Feb.8th-19th

ONLY kindergarten grade level this year. All assessment data will be entered into eData platform. Classroom teacher administers NKT using laptop. ONLY progress monitoring will occur for students who have score or 8 or below using Assessing Math Concepts platform. More information to follow.

ACCESS Testing Window Dates: Feb.7th-Mar.13th

Estok will provide a schedule for specific students 3-5 and Delaney will provide a schedule for K-2 who will need ACCESS testing. All testing will be done in the computer lab except kindergarten. ESL classes will be cancelled until all testing is completed; however Estok/Delaney will notify teachers when classes resume.

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Schedule of Events

Monday, 12/14: F Day; 5th PLT 1:30 - 3:00; Intervention Team Meeting, 7:15, Room 1409; SIP Team Meeting, 3-4:15, Media Center. PTA Board Meeting, 4:30-5:30, Media Center

Tuesday, 12/15: A Day; Arts in Action (4th Grade); K PLT 1:30 - 3:30

Wednesday, 12/16: B Day; 4th PLT 1:30 - 3:30; BT/Mentor Meeting, 3:30-4:30

Thursday, 12/17: C Day; 2nd PLT 1:30 - 3:30

Friday, 12/18: No Specials; Specialist Collaborative Planning (AM); Reading buddies meet today. Lunch in classrooms (Be sure to reference early release lunch and duty schedule). Early Release @ 11:45. PTA provides lunch for all staff from 12:00 - 1:00!!
Early Release Agenda: IB-linked PD session provided by team from World View ( on resources for global education, 1:00 - 3:00. 3:00 - 4:00 - Individual work time (deliverable outcome shared below!)
Monday, 12/21: Unprotected Work Day; Building open 7:30 am - 3:30 pm. Please be sure you sign in if you work that day (sign in sheet will be in the office). If you are taking leave, your leave form is due to Sheri before the end of the day on 12/18.

Logistical Updates

  • Lesson Planning Update: I want to thank many of you for some great dialogue about our focus on weekly planning. I especially appreciate the opportunity to talk about what it IS and what it ISN'T. Please continue this conversation with your grade chair and MIST teammates as we strive to internalize our plans, develop clear shared grade level formative assessments and CFUs, and ensure our focus is one three key PLT questions: Did my students learn it? What evidence of learning do I have? What do I do if they haven't learned it or already know it?
    DEADLINE: The weekly planning agenda should be implemented beginning the week of Jan. 4. As a reminder: You all have a blank template in a folder on the MEMS Google site. You should have have a copy visible in your classroom, and we strongly recommend keeping a copy uploaded into your Google site folder. You should have plans completed for a week at a time; having a soft copy allows it to be a living document, edited and revised as needed throughout the week.
  • PD/Work Day Deliverable! We will be hitting the ground running when we return on January 4th. In order to begin a new year feeling rejuvenated, organized, and on our A games, it's time for a clean up. We expect our new head custodian to start in January, and we are all missing Jamie Holman for sure :(. So let's all do our best to make our learning environments neat, organized, and functional! NOTE: You have all week in addition to your individual work time on Friday or Monday to complete this deliverable. Please do the following:
    1. DECLUTTER. Get rid of piles of paper, junk, random things you don't need. Purge!
    2. Ensure that recycle bins are ONLY used for paper. Large wheeled bins are put out into the hallways each Wednesday. Please assign students to dump the recycle bins into the carts. PAPER ONLY. No plastic bottles, tissue, food trash.
    3. Have students clean out cubbies, take things home, and get rid of trash. Make sure no food items are left in your classroom over the break.
    4. Clean sink areas and counter tops.
    5. Make sure teacher tables and desks are cleaned and organized. Get rid of unnecessary papers; make it an organized spot. Organized = less stress!
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Learning Corner

When we return in January, we'll begin the process of our next cycle of school improvement planning. We will start by revisiting our mission, vision, and values. This site has some thought-provoking ideas about characteristics of a good school.
What is your vision of the kind of people we are working to develop? What kind of school experiences will they need to have to become those people?

This Week's Inspiration

A choice from 10 inspiring talks, including the wonderful "Every Child Deserves a Champion" classic from Rita Pierson. Enjoy!