Monday Message

Staying connected over summer break

Summer Learning Blog

The month is quickly passing by! Don't forget to read your Teach Like a Pirate book and comment on our summer learning blog. This year, I am going to challenge each of us (yes, myself included) to "up our game" and step out of our comfort zones to make real, lasting, and meaningful connections with our kids. This book study is the first step in making that happen.

I promise the chapters are quick reads and are packed full of great ideas and inspirational reminders about what kids deserve. Remember, I've asked that you complete reading and comment on each chapter of part one by June 30th. 12 days!

Find our blog here:

6 Ideas for Reflecting On This Year and Improving On Next Year

Each year, I take time to reflect on the year. What went well? What didn't go well? Am I doing everything I can for these kids? I am being my best and inspiring them to be their best? As an administrator, I find myself adding to those questions. Am I giving my teachers the resources they need? Did I provide good feedback? Have I inspired them to be their best?

It's important to take time at the end of this year to look back, but it's even more important to seek out opportunities for improvement. What can I do to make next year the best year? What can I do to ensure my students walk out of the classroom in May with a genuine love of learning and a heart for St. Patrick School?

If these questions aren't on your mind at the end of the year, I'd wonder why. Don't we push our students to set goals, work to achieve them, and work to be their best selves? If so, we must expect the same of ourselves.

The picture below gives you 6 ideas to reflect and improve. I encourage you to try them out and share with your colleagues. Through sharing, we grow!

Big picture

Why is mindfulness in school important?

Mindfulness can seem like this hokey thing for people who sit and meditate and make funny noises, but did you know that mindfulness is the foundation for all learning and the single most predictor for success?

Think about that. Mindfulness predicts success, yet we don't spend time teaching it?

Our kids have more information thrown at them on a daily basis than has ever been available in the past. They are used to being entertained, used to having 24 news running through their heads, used to having 24/7 contact with their friends through cell phones and social media. Focus has become a challenge for even the calmest of our students. So why then are we attempting to teach the same way we were taught, the same way our parents were taught and their parents, too?

How many times have you said, or heard someone else say, "These kids just can't________ (study, get homework done, sit still, pay attention, show effort, show respect, be kind, work hard, get excited, show motivation, etc.)" As your principal, I've heard many of you say these things many time. I've said them, too. The reality is, these kids CAN do anything, but we have to first teach them how.

It's our job to teach them to push aside everything else and learn to focus on what's important. It's our job to teach them to acknowledge their feelings so that they can choose what those feelings mean and how they wish to react to them.

Now, you might say, "Isn't that their parents job?" I would say, wholeheartedly, "YES!" I would also you notice all of your students' parents teaching these skills?

We must quit focusing on what we think parents should do and start assuming that all parents have the best of intentions and...wait for it....ALL PARENTS ARE DOING THE BEST THEY CAN. Every parent that makes a choice to send their child to a Catholic school has good intentions. They want the best for their child. They want a good education, a strong community, and they want their child to be surrounded by strong faith. How do I know that? Easy. No parent would willingly pay thousands of dollars to send their child to school, when there is a public school down the street, if they didn't have good intentions and want the best for their child.

So, let me say this again....ALL PARENTS ARE DOING THE BEST THEY CAN.

Knowing that, we get the students who show up to our classrooms on any given day with whatever baggage they bring in the door. It happens. I'm a mom and I can tell you there are many days when my kids leave the house with baggage. Maybe they've fought with siblings, maybe they've gotten yelled at for not picking up their rooms, maybe they forgot to eat breakfast, maybe we were up late the night before and they're tired. It happens.

Because these things happen not only to our students, but to us as educators, focusing on mindfulness can become the "calm in the storm" of our minds. Taking time for students (and you) to decompress, focus on prayer, focus on what is good, acknowledge our crummy feelings, take a deep breath and say, "God, I'm giving this to you" over and over is a way of checking that baggage at the door. It's a way of saying, I came here with stress and chaos, but I'm going to leave it outside the classroom so I can have a good day.

Wouldn't that be a great feeling???

Strategies for Building Mindfulness

5 Strategies for Building Mindfulness in our Students

1. Begin with a mindful moment. Before each class period (middle school) or transition time (elementary school), invite students to participate in the mindful moment. Play a short mindful video:

Or, you can use any video on GoNoodle. Allow kids a chance to calm their minds and focus before you start your class period.

2. Practice mindful listening. Have children focus on a sound...or on no sound at all. Play the sound of a bell (you can find this online or even on your phone). By focusing on the sound (or even on the silence) it invites students to be mindful of every noise, every change, every difference. You can find lessons on mindful listening here:

3. Take a mindful break. This is simple. When you notice your class isn't going the way you'd like it to go, when students seem restless or tired or as if they just aren't there, stop class abruptly. Tell students you're going to take a "mindful break". Allow them to stand and stretch. End by sitting down for 1 minute, focusing on breathing exercises. Breathe in deeply, slowly let it out. Do this repeatedly for 1 minute. Then say, "Okay, now we're ready to start again."

4. Check in with your attention. Like above, when you notice your class isn't going the way you'd like it to go, stop abruptly and say, "We're going to have an attention check." Ask your students to think about their attention. Are you focusing on the instruction? Are you paying attention to the speaker? Is your mind wandering? If so, where did it go? Why? Explain to students that mind wandering is perfectly normal. It's what minds do! The important thing is to notice that your mind is wandering and to make a choice of where you want your mind to go.

5. End with a mindful moment. At the end of each day, give students 3-5 minutes of mindful time. Ask students to close their eyes (if they are comfortable) and focus their breath. Ask them to think about what they learned today and what they have accomplished. Ask them to think of something good that happened during the day. Ask them to focus on how it felt when this good thing happened. Then, end the mindful moment with a positive comment from you. "Today, I appreciated how you all made the choice to work hard during our science lesson. " This gives students a positive end to their day!

Look Ahead

August 1: Office opens, Kaci is in meetings

August 2: Kaci is in meetings

August 3: Zach, Devy, and Chelsi to meeting at Chancery

August 6: Teacher contract days begin (Work in classrooms all day)

August 7: Work in classrooms all day

August 8: Breakfast @ 8; Faculty meeting- all day (lunch will be provided)

August 9: PD 8-12; Work in classrooms 12-3

August 10: PD 8-12; Work in classrooms 12-3

August 12: Prayer Walk @ 9:45; Back to School Picnic @ noon

August 13: Come in late! Work in rooms from 12-5; Back to School Night 5-7

August 14: Work in classrooms

August 15: Opening convocation mass (TBD) - take the afternoon off!

August 16: First day of school! Meet outside for student drop off @ 7:30

August 30: PIE Night - K-5 @ 5:30; Middle School @ 6:30