Sunday, February 23, 2014

“The way we talk to children becomes their inner voice.”
            Peggy O’Mara

Kenny had white blonde hair he styled in the shape of a Mohawk.  He was skinny and stylish and had a smile that could light up a room.  Kenny loved to draw and would leave kind notes and origami creatures on my desk.  Yet, when he got angry, it was as if a tornado would hit the room.  He tore anchor charts and posters off my wall.  His desk would go toppling over and papers would heave onto the floor.  One time he got mad at recess, started running for the main road, and jumped the fence.  He ignored my screams and pleads as my parapro gathered the rest of the children safely inside.  Kenny returned almost as quickly as he left.  Yet, after assembling all of my students back inside our classroom and calling the principal, I stepped into the hallway.  As my principal rushed toward me, I started to sob uncontrollably as she embraced me. 

I remember his dad picking him up, looking at his younger brother, and saying, “Don’t you ever turn out like Kenny.  He’s a bad boy.”  When Kenny would have a good day and he would tell his parents, they wouldn’t believe him until I started going out at the end of each day to tell them.  I encouraged them to let him take on more responsibilities at home.  “Could he help you cook dinner so you could spend time together?”  “No, we fry a lot of food and it’s easier to have him out of my way.”  Other teachers didn’t like Kenny either.  Once, the fourth grade teacher (who was a true bully herself) pulled him out of an assembly and berated him in the hallway.  As she told me, “This young man is so disrespectful,” I felt like telling her, “Have you heard yourself lately?  What child wouldn’t be disrespectful with your cruel words dripping off your scornful lips inches from his face?”

Kenny was suspended that day but even with all of his crazy behaviors, I don’t recall him being suspended many days that year.  I had this crazy notion that the best place for Kenny was with me.  I kept him close and smothered him with love and kindness.  I set boundaries, had clear rules and high expectations, and constantly thought, “I WILL NOT LET YOU FAIL.”  Kenny was not certified.  I look back and think that he could easily have qualified for EI but the thought honestly never crossed my mind.  Kenny moved to Kentucky the next year so I’ll never know what happened to him.  It may sound egotistical but I sometimes think that perhaps just that one year in my class helped to give Kenny some hope.  Perhaps, it helped him believe that he could be loved, that he was worth it, that the people in his life were not just managing an inconvenience. 

Why do I tell this story?  This week I put an article in everyone’s mailbox about the effect of zero tolerance policies in schools.  I have done a lot of reading on this topic lately.  I can say that Terry and I both feel strongly that inflexible zero-tolerance policies harm children.  It is important to look closely at the whole child, weigh family opinion when warranted, and try to keep students in school as much as possible.  What are your thoughts?  We’d be happy to hear them!

“Remember you are not managing an inconvenience.  You are raising a human being.”
            Kittie Franz

For the week of February 17, 2014

Monday: LEADS meeting (Terry) 8:00
               5th Grade Variety Show practice 3:45-4:45

Tuesday: IST 8:00
               ASSET 9:00
              Clubs 3:45-4:45
   6th Grade Variety Show practice 3:45-4:45
   Optional PD 5th/6th Grade Narrative Reading Units @ Riley 4:15-5:45

Wednesday: EPT 8:00
                    Planning Team 3:45
                     Band-O-Rama 7:00

Thursday: 6th Grade Whalers field trip
                 DAC (Terry) 11:00
                 Extended Staff Meeting 3:45-4:45
                 Tennis Club 3:45-4:45

Friday: Twin Day
            Megan Daniel PD “How to Use Google Docs with Students”
            5th Grade Teachers 11:15-12:00
            6th Grade Teachers 12:15-1:00

Monday, February 17, 2014

What, Me Worry?

"Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." Henry David Thoreau

Worry is the way of the western world it seems. When I was a kid, we worried about nuclear bombs as we sat under our desks during drills at school. Then we worried about fuel shortages, wars (of course), domestic and then foreign terrorism, and crazy public shootings. It seems we are built to worry.

We worry a lot in our business, too. There seem to be endless things to worry about, especially since we're dealing with children.The ski trip is a good example of magnified worry. There were so many situations to anticipate and prepare for from money to buses to rental equipment to lunches to injuries to accounting for every student on the ride back and the ride home.

The office worried its way through most of these and tried to prepare for those events most likely to happen. It's just what we do. We had two staff meetings pretty much devoted to the field trip. Sarah and I blamed ourselves for not being prepared for all the things we felt we weren't prepared for. At Mt. Brighton, we worried about each injured student and the care they were receiving. We worried that students were bored with all the waiting they had to do. We worried that some students ended up not liking skiing and found other ways to spend their time there. And we especially worried about calling parents to tell them we were taking their child to the hospital, not to mention the worry about the seriousness of the issues with the two we took there.

Sometimes worry is not really necessary, yet we continue to worry. Of the 395 students who went to Mt. Brighton, six came to the first aid station. There was another injury that was handled in the cafeteria. None of the injuries ended up being life threatening: one possible broken ankle, one laceration of the mouth. The others were sprains at worse and nothing more. The staff at Mt. Brighton said we contributed about the average number of issues for the size of our group.

But, oh, how we worried! Sarah and I sat in the hospital waiting room worrying about how things were going at school with dismissal issues, while people at school were worried about how we were doing at the hospital. Lots of worry, and that's just a one-day field trip.

We worry other times at school and about school. Sarah and I worry a lot about staff: how people feel, how they are coping with all that's required, how to get the data put where the data need to be put. We even fret over the snow days, canceling subs, getting the Title I data completed. Fortunately, nearly everyone completed the work, got the data in, and communicated the progress to parents. I know most people say that it's just their jobs, but we worry anyhow.

There will be more worry coming in March and throughout the rest of the year. Reading month, BOTB, Symposium/Leadership Day (however that comes to be), spring break, bond renovations, incoming fourth grade preparations, scheduling for next year,  two more report card entries, Camp Emerson, Variety Show, Sixth Grade Camp, and staff evaluations.

We also worry about each of you. Are we supporting you as you need? Are we thanking you enough for all you do? What are we forgetting that would make a difference for you and your students? Are we communicating changes and upcoming events well enough?

Yet, as we worry and prepare, we have something unique at Cooper: We have each other. So many people helped make the ski trip a wonderful experience. And you will all help with the rest of year, as you always do. We are so grateful and so fortunate to have a staff that helps each other, makes sure we are all prepared and safe from the natural worry we experience. The staff is the foundation for the castles we put in the air.

In my listing of things still to do, I missed some, didn't I? Now I will worry about that. And then we can worry about what next year will bring...So glad we're all in this together!

Let us know what you think, what you worry about, and how we can help.

The week ahead:

Monday:           Presidents Day

Tuesday:           PD all day; AM at Cooper for everyone starting at 8:00
                         Various locations in the PM, including Cooper for 6th grade and Media Specialists

Wednesday:      Vision testing day
                          Center IEP, 8:00
                          Session 3 of Sports Club, 3:45
                          Planning Team, 3:45

Thursday:          Staff Meeting, 8:00
                          Bond Mtg. (Terry), 9:00 at CO
                          EPM, 1:00 at CO
                          PTA 6:30 in LMC

Friday:              Vision testing day
                          Staff TGIF at One Under, 4:00

Sunday, February 9, 2014

In the January 27, 2014 Marshall Memo 521, Kim Marshall reviewed Bob Darnell’s article, “Listening to the Data,” in which Darnell argued that today’s generation actually thrives on assessment and improvement. After reading the summary by Kim Marshall, take a moment to reflect on what’s working well in your classroom and what you could do to improve student learning.

Effective Curriculum, Assessments, and Follow-Up

“This generation is motivated by achievable challenges,” says author/speaker Bobb Darnell in this thoughtful article in AMLE Magazine. “They actually thrive on assessment and improvement. They play video games or participate in sports or other organized activities for hundreds of hours to ‘get good’ at them.” Here’s what Darnell believes today’s students are saying to their teachers:

Please show us the essential concepts, vocabulary, and skills in each unit and clearly communicate the learning goals. Kids need to see the big picture – the structure and organization of what they are supposed to learn. “The big picture gives them a sense of safety, which allows them to take learning risks,” says Darnell. “Without the structures, learning seems random, chaotic, and overwhelming to some students – like trying to put together a 1,000-piece puzzle without the picture on the box.”

Please use a variety of assessments that have real-life connections and show and tell us the characteristics of a great product or performance. Clones of state tests don’t do this, says Darnell. “Assessment-literate teachers vary their assessments, using product and performance assessments and authentic tasks to give students opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and apply what they’ve learned... These assessments can spark students’ intrinsic motivation when they involve relevant issues and intriguing situations, encourage problem solving and decision making, and promote creativity.” Students also want exemplars of high-quality work and guidelines for what makes it good.

Please assess us often, covering smaller amounts of information at a time and giving us feedback on our progress. Continuous feedback is part of students’ video-game culture, and it’s expected in sports. “We can help them feel this way about classroom learning and assessment,” says Darnell, “but not if we make them wait days before we give them feedback on their progress.” Students shouldn’t go more than five days without an assessment and quick feedback on their progress – exit slips, summaries, graphic organizers, mini-quizzes, self- assessments, and checklists.

Please analyze the assessment results to determine my strengths and weaknesses, teach me strategies to improve, and let me redo or retake assessments. What were the reasons for those disappointing results? “Was it questionable assessment items, mismatches between instruction and assessment, or a lack of students’ prerequisite knowledge or skills?” asks Darnell. “Students especially want us to recognize that they lack the learning-to-learn strategies and skills they need to succeed.” Students need immediate correctives, different approaches to learning, small-group study sessions, individual tutoring, and computer-assisted instruction as a follow-up.

“Listening to the Data” by Bobb Darnell in AMLE Magazine, January 2014 (Vol. 1, #5, p. 10- 13),; Darnell can be reached at

Schedule for the week of February 10th:

Monday: Terry meeting with Dr. Liepa 7:30
Title I meeting 10:00
Board Meeting (Terry) 7:00
Students will begin taking the District School Improvement Team (DSIT) survey in IT and LMC.

Tuesday: IST 8:00
Clubs 3:45

Wednesday: EPT 8:00
Second Count Day
Bus Meetings 10:25-11:15
Founder’s Day Dinner 6:00
Sport’s Club 3:45

Thursday: Ski Trip to Mt. Brighton

Friday: Title I meeting 8:00

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weekly Update for February 3, 2014

Our blog this week follows Superbowl Sunday, which saw the Seattle Seahawks pretty much dismantle the Denver Broncos. My apologies to Broncos fans, but I really enjoyed the Superbowl experience this year. I don’t usually watch much football, and certainly not a game as lopsided as this one. But on this occasion, I sat with my oldest daughter, Jennifer, and we laughed through both the commercials and the game. We also texted with others in our family and shared the culmination of what was a very fun, exciting weekend. We had a baby shower for one of our twins, Amy, who is due in April. Jennifer is also pregnant and due in July. I spent time this weekend with daughters Amy, Megan, and Jennifer, as well as my son, Adam. It was so much fun just to be with some of my children. Maybe it was too much fun, as I am only now, sitting at FHS this morning, writing our Weekly Update. IN trying to keep priorities straight, family came first this weekend!
Career Day was such an explosion of positive energy last Friday! Every one of our speakers seemed impressed with our students. They felt students asked good questions, managed through the hallways quickly, and attended to the presentations. Parents are reporting that students went home with excited stories about the presentations they saw. The students we talked to on Friday were a-buzz with how fun they had and how much they learned from their speakers. The experience was the best we’ve done at Cooper for a Career Day. The students were outstanding and the presenters were great. Many thanks to all who worked with their kids to help ready them for the experience. Additionally, many thanks to Robin, Sally, Angie, Mary Ann, Mary Beth, Sandy W., Karen, Lauren, Annette, Nicole, Georgia, and Leona for helping set up and preparing the event. If I forgot someone, I certainly apologize. This was quite a team effort!
We also owe a big debt of gratitude to Judy and her family for all the preparation work completed at their home during the snow days. They put together all the kid cards and lanyards that we couldn’t do while at our separate homes. Judy’s children are very helpful!
Career Day, like Leadership Day, proves to us how well we’re doing. Students gave great speeches, the cup song was terrific, and our leaders provided our guests with everything from maps and directions to room to food and comfort in the LMC. Cooper kids really shine when given these opportunities. The leadership shows are far we are progressing toward our mission: Learning and Leading!

Our schedules this week include:

Monday: LEADS Board mtg 8:00 FHS (Terry)
Camp Mtgs in PM
Parent Camp Mtgs, 6:30-8:00

Tuesday: 7:45-10:45 Principal PD, Sarah
8:00 IST Conference Room
12:30-3:30 Principal PD, Terry

Wednesday: 8:00 EPT in Conference Room
12:10 Rainbow Loom Lunch Mtg (Terry and Sarah)
3:30 Madonna Curriculum mtg (Terry)
3:45 Planning Team Mtg
3:45 Sports Club

Thursday: 8:00 Staff Mtg.
8:45 CA Parent Mtg
1:00 EPM (Terry and Sarah)
3:45 Lighthouse Mtg
3:45 Four-Square Club

Friday: ?????