Saturday, February 28, 2015

Synergy is the Result; It Should be the Goal

"Synergy is almost as if a group collectively agrees to subordinate old scripts and to write a new one." - Stephen R. Covey

This past week, it seemed I was thwarted from accomplishing my daily goals by parents demanding (that is the right word) that I solve a problem they perceived their child was having with another student. In almost every case, the parent felt her child was being bullied or abused in some way by another student who was being mean or purposefully doing evil. In almost every case, the child who had complained to the parent had not told anyone at school what had happened. And, in almost every case, the child was as much to blame for the incident as the person they were accusing of being a bully. As Teachers, you also get these emails and phone calls from parents. 

As I reflect on last week, I ask myself,  why are our students telling their parents they are being "bullied" by others? So often it's not really bullying at all. When we investigate these issues, we typically find that the real issue is that the students don't know how to solve problems with other students, and so they want adults to handle it.

Sometimes students get their own needs met with their parents by making complaints about the school (or the bus or the playground or the teacher). Sometimes kids use adults to manipulate the issue so they are protected from some other situation they are avoiding (homework, low test score, or another issue they want their parents to focus on rather than something about themselves).

The bottom line is that children are not able to solve problems on their own. They are so conditioned to having adults supervising in all aspects of their lives that any issue causes them to look for the supervision rather than try to solve even the most fundamental problem between people.

Habit 6 focuses us on using the attitude of "think win-win" with the behavior of "seek first to understand..." to achieve synergy. Feelings of safety in working with others is inherent in synergizing. We can help students to value their differences, as that is the key to synergizing. It's not enough to tolerate or accept differences. We can help students to see that differences are what make new thinking and new solutions possible. Working together is fundamental to everything these young people will do for the rest of their lives and is not determined by relative intelligence or ability levels. 

To help  our students achieve synergy, we  will want  to be intentional about teaching the attitude of win-win and the skill of seeking first to understand. The notion of listening with empathy is lacking in many students. Eric Jensen's seminal work on his "Emotion Keyboard" from  his book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It (Alexandria, VA: ASCD Publications, 2009) makes it clear that children must be taught most emotions, including empathy, sympathy, gratitude, and cooperation.
What do our students need to create effective synergy?
When students work under these guidelines, synergy can be created and new ideas begin to emerge.  Student have to intentionally:
  • Have one common vision – one common goal
  • Be different and value the differences between each other
  • Have a sense of self
  • Stay open to differences and new ideas – stay authentic
  • Embrace trust (this comes from Habits 1-3)
  • Accept the better way will likely not be their way
  • Offer respect to everyone
  • Be able to apologize and forgive
  • Practice mindful listening (listen with empathy)
  • Maintain an open desire to understand (Habit 5)
  • Control negative judgment, suspending judgment in most cases
  • Stay with Win-Win thinking (not negative synergy Win-Lose or Lose-Win)
These guidelines are not innate. They must be taught. As leaders ourselves, we can teach these guidelines and insist that our scholars practice them. Let Sarah and me know how we can help in your class with this learning. All of our students need to learn that they can effectively handle most of their problems. Maybe some of the drama can be lessened and kids can feel safer and more interdependent.

Big Rocks: 
Thank you to Planning Team for helping us stay aligned with our goals. You are such a dedicated group of people to meet every week! Remember, everyone, these are open meetings. Your participation is welcome!

Thanks to Karen and Sandy C. for a great Triad Concert last week! The Cooper kids sounded great! Hearing the leaders sing John Lennon's "Imagine" brings tears to my eyes!

Band-o-Rama is this week! It would be great to see Cooper staff supporting our students!! It's at Franklin HS at 6:00 on Thursday night. Come and hear the progress our students are making in instrumental music!

Schedule for March 2, 2015:
Monday:          ????

        Sarah at Frost for QAR
                        Skate Night at Riverside, 6:00

Wednesday:   8:00 IST
                        11:00 M-Step info meeting 11-4:00 at CO (Terry and Sarah)
                        3:45 Planning Team
                        Family Game Night (5:00 start for staff) 6-8

Thursday:       8:00 Staff meeting
                         DAC (Terry at CO)
                         6:00 Band-o-Rama FHS

Friday:             Cooper QAR Team, 8-11:15 conference room

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"You, My Friend, Have Potential."

The first time I remember seeing my mother cry was not from an injury or from a death but from a book.  A book.  Not just any book but Bridge to Terabithia.  It was summer time and I can still picture the sunlight coming through the window and hear the words of Katherine Paterson.
Jesse and Leslie...the rope swing.  

Every year in my third grade class, I used to read Because of Winn Dixie.  Every year, I would tell my students, "at some point in this book, I am going to cry."  Their little faces would watch patiently just waiting to see their teacher cry.  Then Winn Dixie would go missing in the thunderstorm and Opal and the Preacher would have the argument in the rain and my voice would break.

The August before I started at Cooper, I read Wonder in the car driving back from Traverse City.  I got to the part where the principal is giving his speech at the end of the year.  You know the one.  "Always be kinder than necessary."  I was sobbing.  Big, fat, ugly tears.  I couldn't even hide it from my husband.

The gift of the cold day on Thursday allowed me to finish The One and Only Ivan, our Young Adult Book Club novel for February.  I found it to be both an extremely sad and beautiful book.  Yet, what I appreciated more than Katherine Applegate's Newbery Award winning novel was her Newbery Award acceptance speech.  It's hidden in the back of the book and it's beautiful.

Katherine describes how a parent questioned a bookstore about the sadness of the book.  Katherine states,
"The bookstore, to its credit, reassured her thusly: absolutely, it will make them cry.  And, oh, by the way-that's a good thing.
We live in a world where children are bullied into despair, and even suicide; where armed guards in a school hallway are considered desirable; where libraries are padlocked because of budget cuts; where breakfasts and backpacks, for too many children are unaffordable luxuries.
Children know all about sadness.  We can't hide it from them.  We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitability and to harness their imaginations in the search for joy and wonder.
Nothing, nothing in the word, can do that better than a book."

The power of a book.  That is what Sally and I have hoped to empower everyone with through the Young Adult Book Club.  We've had these discussions.  This book is too sad.  That book is too deep.  Yet, for one child, that book might be just the right book at the right time.  As Katherine Applegate so eloquently concluded her speech, "Every time you book-talk a new title, every time you wander the stacks trying to find that elusive, well-thumbed series paperback, every time you give just the right book to just the right child, you're saying, "You, my friend, have potential."

Keep reading.  Keep sharing.  Keep inspiring because you, my friends, have potential.

Big Rocks: 
Thank you to Robin, Judy, and Victoria for leading the Illuminate training and to Wendy for leading the MAISA training last Tuesday.  Great job ladies!

Thank you to Bill, Tara, Shawn, Wendy, and Michelle K for taking the time to share and brainstorm best practices in Math last Wednesday.  There were some great ideas being shared.

The Triad concert is Monday at 7 pm.  Band-o-rama was set for this Wednesday but is being rescheduled for Thursday, March 5.  Thank you to Karen and Sandy for all of the hard work you do to prepare our Cooper musicians.  

Schedule for February 23, 2015:
Monday: 1:30 Reading in the Content Areas meeting @ Coolidge (Sarah)
                7:00 Triad Concert
Tuesday: 8:00-3:45 Formative Assessment meeting @ CO (Sarah)
                 3:45 Lighthouse
Wednesday: 8:00 Center EPT
                     3:45 Planning
Thursday: 8:00-11:00 Literacy Leader meeting (Sarah, Sally, Wendy)
                   8:00 Staff meeting
Friday: 8:00-11:00 Title I Meeting
              8:00 Rescheduled Young Adult Book Club -READ THE SPEECH! :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sharpening the Saw means doing the work!

Habit #7 is called “Sharpen the Saw.” Covey used the analogy of a woodcutter who is sawing for several days straight and is becoming less and less productive. The process of cutting dulls the blade, and the solution is to periodically sharpen the saw. In practice, however, most people fail to understand what sharpening the saw really means. Our students often think it means taking time to goof off. When they play video games or watch meaningless TV, what they're really doing is just putting the saw down. When they go back to sawing, the saw is just as dull. Students aren't seeing that they need to do an activity to sharpen the saw, something that renews them in one or more of the four dimensions: Body, Heart, Mind, and Spirit (or Soul).

Personal development guru Steve Pavlina wrote about Habit 7 in 2004:
"Sharpening the saw is actually an activity, just as the analogy suggests. Think about what it would mean to sharpen the saw of your life. Here are some saw-sharpening ideas:
  1. Exercise
  2. Improve your diet
  3. Educate yourself (read, listen to audio programs, attend a seminar)
  4. Learn a new skill
  5. Join a club
  6. Meditate
  7. Write in your journal
  8. Have a deep conversation with someone
  9. Set some new goals or review/update your old goals
  10. Organize your home or office
  11. Go out on a date
  12. Clear out a bunch of little tasks that you’ve been putting off
The woodcutter can’t just alternate between cutting wood and sharpening the saw indefinitely. Downtime is needed too, but it isn’t the same as sharpening the saw. The woodcutter can become even more productive by sharpening the blade, studying new woodcutting techniques, working out to become stronger, and learning from other woodcutters." 

Forgetting to intentionally sharpen the saw can lead to burnout. If you merely alternate between productive work and downtime, your production capacity will drop off. You’re still working hard, but you don’t feel as productive as you think you should be. When you sharpen yourself regularly, you’ll find that you can flow along at a steady pace week after week without getting burnt out.

Have you ever noticed how refreshed you feel after an exciting conference or seminar? It isn't the downtime you enjoy as much as the new learning and conversations. Retelling the learning to others doesn't seem to sharpen their saws. The doing part of the conference is what really works to improve your mind, heart, and spirit.

Sarah and Judy are taking an idea from Rosedale principal, Jon Wennstrom, of using Twitter to have a weekly conversation about teaching and learning ideas. I love the possibilities! Having the opportunity to sharpen our minds by considering new ideas, expanding our teaching and learning skills, or just improving our relationships is key to sharpening our professional saws. I'm hoping we get our Twitter conversations going soon!

Habit 7 is often the favorite Habit for Cooper students. They like the idea of thinking about reading or playing as a positive activity. We need to help them focus on being intentional with their saw sharpening so they aren't just having down time, but really sharpening their saws for increased personal and educational growth. 

Isn't that our main job?

"How are your various blades doing? Your skills, your knowledge, your mind, your physical body, your relationships, your motivation, your commitment, your capacity for enjoyment, your emotions — are all of them still sharp? If not, which ones are dull, and what can you do to sharpen them?" ~ Steve Pavlini


  • We want to make sure everyone understands the bus issues we are dealing with for both arrival and dismissal. The bus duty people met and have agreed to the following:
  1. Teachers need to pickup students on time in the morning from their positions in the Cafe or hallways to take them to their lockers or classrooms. The time to get them is 8:30. Instruction should begin at 8:35. When teachers are late getting students, it makes bus duty people late as they wait for the class to be collected by the teacher.
  2. Some students are gathering near the stage or waiting other places for friends to arrive. Please advise students to go directly to the breakfast line or their class line as soon as they enter the school.
  3. Student greeters in the hallways and at the entrance are there to welcome people into the school. They have been bossing children and not taking their jobs seriously as greeters. If you have a greeter, please ask them how it's going. See if there are ideas you can suggest for making the greeting more purposeful.
  4. Dismissal to the bus is no earlier than 3:35! Teachers should not be lining up at the gym doors prior to that time. This is especially problematic with substitute teachers, so please revise sub plans to indicate that students should not leave classrooms until 3:35 to dismiss.
  5. We are using door 12 (by Michelle Kopacko's classroom) as an exit as well as the two doors into the gym. Bus duty teachers are suggesting that all teachers follow their classes to the proper exit to make sure no students are lagging behind. Then teachers walk their students all the way out of the building before making their card change in the gym. When teachers lead students out, some students lag, some wait in various places for friends, etc. making it difficult to know when we're all exited and buses can depart. It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure all students exit the school or go to SACC, rehearsals, etc. at the end of the day.
  6. Once students have exited the school in the back of the building, they are to go to their bus. Some students are delaying at the dumpster or other hallways waiting for friends. Please follow your students to their exit and remind them to go directly to their buses.
  7. We try to get buses moving out at the end of the day by 3:45 as the bus routes need that time to get started. However, bringing students too early for dismissal is not necessary and not allowed. We can get students out through the gym and door 12 if teachers begin dismissal at 3:35, stay with their students all the way out of the building, make sure they have all of their students with them, and remind students to go directly to their buses.
  • Thanks to the bus duty teachers for meeting and helping create the solutions we can use. 
  • Congratulations to our awards recipients at the PTSA Founders Day celebration last week! Michelle Stackpoole was chosen as an honored teacher by former Cooper student Eddy White, Judy was recognized for LPS Teacher of the Year, Bill received the PTA Distinguished Service Award, and Terry was honored with a State of Michigan PTA Life Membership. We can be proud of the Cooper awardees and for all the work Cooper staff do for PTA.
  • Thanks goes out to Judy, Robin, and Victoria for being our trainers and go-to people as we ramp up the new Illuminate DnA to replace the clumsy Mi-Star program. Teachers in secondary schools are already using Illuminate and having an easier time.
  • Congratulations to Pam on the birth of her new granddaughter, Elloise Nora Keeton. Amanda and Elloise are doing well.
Schedule for the week:
Monday:           Presidents Day!

Tuesday:          PD Day
                        8:00 start at Cooper in the LMC for Illuminate training for all
                       10:00 at Cooper for some team building and a look at M-Step testing for
                       April and May
                       12:30-3:30 Most of us at Riley for MAISA Unit training; Principals at LCTC
                        for 7 Habits

Wednesday:      8:00 IST meeting
                        3:45 Planing Team

Thursday:         8:00 Staff meeting (More M-Step!)
                        1:00-4:30 EPM at CO
                        6:30 Cooper PTA Meeting

Friday:              8:00 Book Club (lounge)
                        8:00-3:45 LIM and 7 Habits overview for new staff

Friday, February 6, 2015

"One Person Can Make a Difference and Everyone Should Try." JFK

For years, my brother tried to get me to "like" the Humans of New York site on Facebook and I resisted.  I personally like to keep Facebook "friends" true "friends."  Yet, over the last few weeks, there appeared to be two new "celebrities" on my news feed: Vidal and Ms. Lopez.  If you haven't heard the story, which has now also hit Ellen and Good Morning America, Humans of New York creator and photographer Brandon photographed a young boy named Vidal and asked him,

"Who’s influenced you the most in your life?"
“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”
“How has she influenced you?”
“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

This interaction started a ripple effect.  The photographer then interviewed Ms. Lopez, principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsille, New York (the highest crime rate in New York City), who stated,

“This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple and so do our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”

Humans of New York is now profiling Mott Hall Bridges Academy and has set up a Let's Send Kids to Harvard: Vidal Scholarship Fund.  They have raised over a million dollars.  The money will be used to fund Ms. Lopez's vision to send students on Harvard field trips each year to help them understand that they too can go to Harvard.  I would invite you to go to the Humans of New York site because it is a powerful reminder that what we do matters.

In one of the photographs, Ms. Lopez describes how right before all of this she felt broken.  She didn't think she was making a difference and she was ready to give up.  Then she saw Vidal's face and comments.  We don't always get that moment.  We don't always know the true effect we have on the students we teach, love, and serve everyday.  Yet, NEVER doubt that the work you do matters.  As JFK said, "One person can make a difference and everyone should try."

Big Rocks:

  • PTSA Founders Day is this Wednesday.  A big congratulations to Michelle Stackpoole who will be honored by a former student at this event.  (See!  We leave a legacy too!)
  • We have had several sub issues lately where we have had to cover classes using teachers' prep time.  We try to be cognizant of your time but our hands are tied by the contract.  Thank you very much for helping out when this occurs.  
  • This week there is an extended staff meeting.  We will be meeting in Leadership Day teams to prepare for Leadership Day on April 2nd.  Members of the Lighthouse Team will also be meeting this week to discuss progress on the Lighthouse Milestones.  We will keep you posted.
  • Most importantly, this week is STUPID CUPID!  If you are participating, it's time to have some fun!  Enjoy giving and receiving this week and cupids will be announced on Friday.
Calendar for the Week of February 9:
Monday: 7:30 Terry advisory meeting with Dr. Liepa
                8:00 LIM Meeting in Nicole McGlinch's room
                1:00 Terry Data Dig meeting at Grant
                7:00 Terry BOE Meeting to present for Principal's Week
                Stupid Cupid starts.
Tuesday: 8:00 Center EPT
               3:45 Lighthouse Team meeting
               6:00 Parent Lighthouse Team meeting
Wednesday: Sarah at Apple/TRIG Leadership for Learning PD at Oakland Schools
                    8:00 Reading Month meeting LMC 
                    3:45 Planning Team
                    5:30 PTSA Founders Day
Thursday: 11:15 Youth Making a Difference meeting (Bill and Sarah)
                 3:45-4:45 Extended Staff meeting
Friday:     LEADS Board meeting (8:00, CHS, Terry)
                 Stupid Cupid Announced
                 Soup and Salad Lunch provided by Enthusiasm Team-YUM!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What a great Career Day! Team work does it again!

“We = power” 
― Lorii MyersTargeting Success, Develop the Right Business Attitude to be Successful in the Workplace

There was never more proof of the above quote's truthfulness than Career Day at Cooper last Friday. What a testament to all we are and all we are trying to become. The Cooper "we" has teams of staff, students, parents, and community members. Career Day was the culmination of all of those teams making great happen at Cooper. 

Our teams really put it all together. The decorations were great and got lots of comments from our guests. The special choir sang beautifully. The welcome wagon team did a great job. Our servers stayed focused and worked the room well. The speech writers made us all very proud. And the students were able to see wonderful presentations about careers they can consider and think about as they continue to live the 7 Habits.

The presenters were very impressed with our students and our school We can be more than a little proud of Cooper staff and students. We showed that we = power is a living reality. Another leadership event that proves our students shine.

We did it again...and we did it better than we had before.

“Only by binding together as a single force will we remain strong and unconquerable.” 
― Chris BradfordThe Way of the Dragon
Hosting Breakfast

Matthew Tait talking about graphic design.

Making pasta with the Patriot Inn chefs

Officer and National Guard

Mary Trotter from LCTC

Singing Imagine

Career Day Speakers

  • Another team effort getting Career Day to work so well! In many ways, it was the best we've had. The presenters were happy with our students and their responses, as well as the politeness students used. It was gratifying to see students getting to their presentation locations, and to feel the excitement students experienced at the novelty of changing locations on their own. Thank you to everyone who worked on Career Day.
  • We continue to work on the heat in the building. If you have days when it's too cold or too hot, please email Jeff and me. We are trying to get balance in the school.
  • That goes for PA issues, too. Let the office know and email me with PA concerns.
The schedule for this week:

Monday:          Snow Day! Play and be safe!

Tuesday:          8:00 Center EPT
                         8:45 LEAD Time
                         3:45 Lighthouse Team meeting
                          Leo's Coney Island PTA fundraiser                         
Wednesday:     8:00 IST
                         3:45 Planning Team

Thursday:         8:00 Staff Meeting
                         1:00 EPM (Terry and Sarah)

Friday:             ?????