ARMS Legend

Excellence Without Boundaries

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January 11, 2016 4th Six Weeks, Week 2


Principal Message

Greetings Rangers!

It was a fantastic feeling to see how much our students grew and seeing how individual and collective efforts facilitated many successes for our Rangers on Fall ACPs. Thank you all for celebrating teams and individual success during ARMS Institute on Monday. It is wonderful to lift each other up and celebrate the tremendous hard work of all. Your work in content teams in the afternoon ensured that we started off 2nd semester with tremendous momentum.

This week I would like to highlight the power of "The Start." Starts occur so many moments, whether it is the start to our day, the start of each class, the start of lunch, or even the start of every transition. How we start, impacts how we finish. Let's be more intentional about our starts this week.

We have a 5 Hello goal in the morning in which we ensure each student hears "hello's" five times before they enter their 1st period. We focus on the start of class, Ten with a Pen, ensuring students have a sense of calm in knowing there is a respect for learning and a routine that occurs in every class they enter. How we start the end of every class period (D.O.L.s) reiterates the importance of connecting the start to the close of every lesson. This connects to the start of every transition period (H.A.L.L.) . We encourage movement with purpose as enter our colleagues room to begin another "start" along their daily learning journey.

Think of all the mini starts we have throughout the day and our students have those too. How we start, impacts their start. A start may be a small portion of time but it is powerful in the message and the tone that it sets for our peers and students alike. Embrace the Start! and see how it influence the strength of the "finish".

Ranger Pride,

F. Taylor
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TG2 Spotlight

TG2 Spotlight is an opportunity for staff members to highlight another staff member who has demonstrated Team, Grit, or Growth. Please provide the characteristic you are spotlighting them for (Team, Grit, or Growth), a brief explanation, and a picture (if you can). In your email to me, Subject line should read: RED: SPOTLIGHT: (Teacher Name).

TG2 Evident in FALL ACP Student Results

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ARMS Grows and Surpasses District and Feeder in many ACP Assessments!

Spotlight on ALL ARMS Staff for keeping the main thing the main thing, TEACHING AND LEARNING! Working "smart", perseverance, and collaboration continue to be the foundation of excellence and ARMS students are demonstrating the depth of their capacity as scholars!!

Hats off to everyone for your individual contributions and commitment to the collective. Our students are benefiting from the passion, high expectations, expertise, and compassion each staff members shows to our students daily.

To the best Middle School Staff in the DISD!!


Everyone did a fantastic job this week and our tardy numbers showed it!

Ranger News


Mid Year Meeting with Ms. Casas

The Leadership team will be meeting with Ms. Casas on Monday to review our progress on several areas (Campus Action Plan, Student Achievement, Climate Survey, Instruction, Feedback and Support, etc). We are excited to have this opportunity and look forward to the guidance and next steps Ms. Casas will provide to strengthen our focus and work during Spring Semester. This information will be shared with the staff to enhance our upcoming work.

ARMS Updates

ACP Make Ups

ACP Make Ups will be held for approximately 30 Rangers on Saturday, January 16th from 8:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Students have been notified and we look forward to providing this opportunity for our Rangers!

ARMS January Weekend Openings

For those Rangers that are interested in working at school on a Saturday, the following days the building will be open.
Saturday, January 16th 9 - 12
Saturday, January 30th 9 - 12

Please ensure that the building is empty no later than 12:30 pm.

ARMS Reminders

Spring Semester requires us to maintain our diligence and commitment to maintaining the incredible culture and student behavior gains we have seen this year. A few things to highlight for this week:
  • Active Monitoring during Hallway Transition
  • Students are not allowed out during instructional time. Emergencies ONLY.
  • Gum Free ARMS
  • Binders and badges are required parts of student uniforms.
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Pertinent campus wide WAIP information will be posted in the weekly ARMS Legend. Please ensure that you stay informed of district updates and general information. WAIP information that is specific to a team, grade, content, will be emailed directly.

Express Yourself Youth Poetry Competition

Click here for more information about the student contest opportunity.

DISD STEM Day @ Skyline HS

DISD STEM Day is quickly approaching. This is a fantastic opportunity for our students to gain exposure via the information that is shared and the hands on experiences available throughout the day!
Click here for more information.
We will be promoting the event on campus and with parents. A treat will be provided to the POD that has the most students attend. More information to come!

DISD Professional Development - Spring 2016

Click here for more information about the upcoming PD sessions provided/coordinated through Teaching and Learning Department.
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Marshall Memo

What is the Marshall Memo?

Kim Marshall was a teacher, principal, and central office administrator in Boston for 32 years. He currently advises and coaches new principals through the New Leaders for New Schools program. He is also the author of the Marshall Memo. He subscribes to 64 top-quality publications, and every week he sifts through them to select the most significant articles with the most potential to improve teaching and learning.

In the spirit of our second "G" GROWTH, every week I will share 1 or 2 of the article summaries with ARMS staff. In hopes of sparking interest, sharing another perspective, or strategies as we all collectively work to improve teaching and learning @ ARMS. Take what works for you, leave what doesn't.

Overcoming Cognitive Biases That Hamper Innovative Thinking

In this Harvard Business Review article, Tony McCaffrey and Jim Pearson (Innovation Accelerator) say that one of the biggest barriers to innovation (and, potentially, more-successful outcomes) is “functional fixedness” – the tendency to fixate on the most common use of an object (or conventional assumptions about an activity) rather than thinking of them in novel ways. For example, when the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic in April of 1912 and began to sink, nobody thought of using lifeboats to ferry passengers to flat places on the iceberg so they could stay out of the frigid water until a rescue ship arrived. “In a nautical context, an iceberg is a hazard to be avoided,” say McCaffrey and Pearson; “it’s very hard to see it any other way.” The Titanic took almost three hours to sink, but no alternatives to putting people in lifeboats were implemented, and only 705 of the 2,200 souls on board survived.

Here’s McCaffrey’s and Pearson’s analysis of three cognitive biases that impede creative thinking – and how organizations can overcome them.

Functional fixedness – German psychologist Karl Duncker once devised a brainteaser to demonstrate how hard it is to escape conventional thinking: Using only a box of thumbtacks, a book of matches, and a candle, affix the candle to a wall so that when it’s lit, wax doesn’t drip onto the floor. The solution: empty the box of tacks, light the candle, drip some wax onto the inside of the box, place the candle on the wax and let it harden so the candle will stand upright, then tack the box to the wall so it acts as a shelf that will catch melting wax. The reason most people don’t figure this out is that they can’t get away from seeing the box as something that holds tacks. “What causes functional fixedness?” ask McCaffrey and Pearson. “When we see a common object, we automatically screen out awareness of features that are not important for its use. This is an efficient neurological tactic for everyday life, but it’s the enemy of innovation.”

The best way to overcome functional fixedness is the “generic parts technique” – thinking of each of the components of an object or practice and asking, Can it be broken down further? and Does our description imply a particular use? For example, when we think of a candle as wax with a fibrous wick running through the core, it’s easier to get past the conventional function of the wick (it burns when the candle is lit) and realize that it could potentially be used as a string. Similarly, if we think of an iceberg as a floating surface 200-400 feet long, it’s easier to think of its potential as a life-saving platform.

Design fixation – McCaffrey and Pearson handed people a broom and other everyday objects and asked them to list as many features and associations for each as they could. On average, participants overlooked 21 of the 32 possibilities the researchers had generated. Why? Because people had a fixed idea of what each object was designed for. To overcome this, the authors recommend using a checklist to think more generically about each object’s basic features – for example, the materials it’s composed of, its aesthetic properties, how it engages the senses and emotions, and so on.

Goal fixedness – The language we use tends to limit or broaden our thinking. If we’re asked to think of ways to adhere something to a garbage can, we might think of using glue or tape. But if we’re asked to fasten something to the can, we might think of using a nail, string, Velcro, binder clips, a large paper clip, and so on (the WordNet online thesaurus lists 61 ways to fasten things, whereas adhere has only four). When searching for new ways to tackle difficult problems – for example, reducing concussions in football – it’s a good idea to rephrase the goal in as many different ways as possible: lessen trauma, weaken crashes, soften jolts, reduce energy, absorb energy, minimize force, exchange forces, substitute energy, oppose energy, repel energy, lessen momentum, and so on.

Pearson generated these and other possibilities and followed up by doing a Google search to see which approaches hadn’t been explored as much as others. He found that “repel energy” had relatively few search results, and dreamed up the idea of making a league’s football helmets magnetic with the same polarity so that two helmets would repel each other when they came closer – and, because of their circular shape, would glance off rather than colliding. Pearson submitted a patent for the idea, only to find out that someone else had beaten him to it by a few weeks. “We tip our hat to that person,” say the authors.

“At its most basic level, problem solving consists of two connected activities,” say McCaffrey and Pearson: “framing a goal and combining resources to accomplish it. Each variation of the goal, and every discovery of a ‘hidden’ feature of an available resource, can suggest a different course to take.” They suggest a graphic approach, writing the goal at the top – in the case of the Titanic, Save passengers – and writing resources at the bottom – Lifeboats (following conventional thinking). In 1912, this approach produced only one way to solve the problem: Put people in lifeboats. Broadening the thinking at the top of the page, the goal of saving passengers could be elaborated as Keep people warm and breathing and Keep people out of the water. Starting at the bottom of the page, the list of resources could be expanded to include wooden tables, planks, car tires and inner tubes, steamer trunks, and the iceberg itself. Joining the goals and possible resources, a number of overlooked solutions emerge that could have been used in the hours before the liner sank, under the general heading of Put people on floating things: Building platforms between lifeboats, building platforms on top of tires, tying together steamer trunks, and finding accessible places on the iceberg and using lifeboats to ferry people to them.

“On that April night in 1912,” say McCaffrey and Pearson, “none of these ideas might have worked, particularly since it took so long for people to understand the peril they were in. But the point of such an exercise is not to discover the ‘right solution’; it is to uncover as many connections between the goal and the widest view of the features of available resources as possible so that people look beyond the obvious… This systematic approach takes some of the mystery out of innovation.”

The authors recommend solving problems by putting the goal(s) at the top of a wall and the resources at the bottom and engaging in silent “brainswarming.” People write their ideas on sticky notes and put them on the appropriate place on the wall. This approach has a number of advantages over conventional brainstorming:

- The talkative few can’t dominate.

- The facilitator doesn’t have to keep people from hijacking the discussion or judging others.

- People can work in parallel, so ideas are generated more quickly.

- Big-picture thinkers can work side by side with detail-oriented colleagues.

- No one needs to summarize the session – a photo of the wall will do the trick.

- Ideas are naturally grouped at the appropriate spot by the logic of the wall.

- Ideas are concise since they need to fit on a sticky note.

- Silence lets people move between writing down ideas, putting them on the wall, and building on others’ ideas.

- There’s less fear of judgment by the boss or others.

- The wall can be added to over time, even by people who aren’t physically present.

“Find Innovation Where You Least Expect It” by Tony McCaffrey and Jim Pearson in Harvard Business Review, December 2015 (Vol. 93, #12, p. 82-89),

ARMS Athletic Events - Week of 1/11

Girls - ARMS vs. Hill @ Forester, Monday, January 11th, 6pm & 7pm
Boys - ARMs vs. Hill @ Forester, Thursday, January 14th, 6pm & 7pm

Weekly Events 1/11-15

Tuesday, Jan. 12th
POD Action Mtg. (PL)
8th Grade "On Track" Celebration, 6pm (Auditorium)
Spring Parent Conference Night 4:30 - 8:00pm
Wednesday, Jan.13th
Exec. Ed. Teaching Trust - 8:00AM - 5:00 PM
Coffee with the Principal (8:45) & Parent Workshop (9:20) -
Thursday, Jan. 14th,
Empowerment Mtg., 7:30 AM, Parent Center
Math Blitz
ARMS University (During POD Time) - Guest Speaker
Magnet Boot Camp, 4:30 - 5:30 PM, Library
Friday, Jan.15th
Trailblazer Meeting
Saturday, Jan. 16th
ACP Make Ups, 8:45 am - 12:00 pm

On the Horizon...

Monday, Jan. 18th
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - School Closed
Tuesday, Jan. 19th
POD Action (AP)
Wednesday, Jan. 20th,
ARMS Staff Meeting, 4:30 PM - 5:15 PM
Thursday, Jan. 21st
Math Blitz
SBDM Meeting, 5:00 pm.
Friday, Jan. 22nd
Student $1 Jean Day,
Saturday, Jan. 23rd,
Teaching Trust Summit (Exec. Ed Team)- 8:00AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday, Jan. 27th
ARMS Career Day
ARMS PD Session/ Maximizing Reteaching- 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Thursday, Jan. 28th
Empowerment Meeting, 7:30 AM, Parent Center
Math Blitz
Grade Level Earned Free Dress Day
ARMS University (during POD time)- Effective Grading Practices
ARMS Ignite Academy Session, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Friday, Jan. 29th
Student $1 Jean Day
Saturday, Jan. 30th
ARMS Saturday School - Science, RLA, & Math
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Feedback for Redirect with Respect PD

Mr. Folkenroth provided a session during ARMS Institute. Several teachers have reported that they are trying the strategies and seeing major benefit. I wanted to take an opportunity to share feedback from Mr. Stephens, 7th Grade Texas Studies.

"As you know I have been using the MVP method of positive narration and I know that it is the first week back, which is a "Honeymoon" stage but so far my classroom has been better behaved than the first few weeks of school. Positive narration has created a mind blowing kind of competition for being on task and announced. Announcing difficult students who have simply put their names on a paper or have started an assignment has fueled their ambitions like nothing I have tried before. My stress levels are nonexistent when dealing with classroom management and I absolutely enjoy every aspect of class-time especially when you can actually follow through on the entire lesson and and do so with the entire class competing to answer/be on-task."
~Mr. Stephens

Thank you Mr. Folkenroth for your passion and commitment to teamwork and to cultivating a culture of high expectations for our students.

ARMS Mentor & Mentee 2016 Kick Off

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The Most Important Work of our Time! Always remember YOUR IMPACT!

Ann Richards Middle School

At Ann Richards MS, our vision is to be a flagship middle school at the hub of the community, nurturing diverse leaders, and empowering intelligent trailblazers.