Sunday, February 28, 2016

STEM in Action

On Saturday, I attended the Girls in STEM conference at Schoolcraft organized in conjunction with LPS and Ben Hillard.  Ben had hoped to have 60 girls and was blown away when over 150 girls signed up.  Cooper was well represented!  I came with Carys and, therefore, had both my parent and educator hats on.  It was AWESOME!  I was beyond inspired and it left me hungry to help my daughters, all girls, and all students live a life of passion.

When listening to the presenters, I wanted to stand up and cheer.  I was so moved by what they had to say and I want to share with you some of their key messages.  

  1. We need to connect the purpose for girls.  Why should they care about math and science?  How can they use math and science to solve the problems of the world?  Remember, we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist.  
  2. Watch the unsaid.  Girls, especially, need multiple voices in their head telling them that they belong at the table.  They often need implicit permission to do something.  Don’t assume that they know what they can do with math or science.  Don’t assume that they know that their critical thinking skills or questioning ability is an asset.  Watch who you call on in the classroom.  Choose your words carefully.
  3. Acknowledge progress.  Growth mindset is so important.  Integrate opportunities for students to reflect on their growth.  Create an environment where it’s not only ok to fail but expected and valued.
  4. Do not put the entire burden of education on the classroom.  We need an “educational ecosystem” where parents and teachers work together to advocate and create opportunities for girls in STEM (and all students.)
  5. Let teachers teach!  Teachers need to create an environment where 1) students know they are cared for and 2) students are involved in rigorous, challenging, lessons where they don’t have to be perfect.  We should prioritize soft skills.  We need less testing and more project based learning.

I believe 110% in all of this.  Karl Klimek, the executive director of Square One Education Network, spoke passionately about the state of education today.  He advocated for the end of so much testing and stated that when we don’t allow teachers to teach, teachers burn out.  That is what we are seeing.  Brene Brown stated that “If we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.”  Yet, that is what we have resorted to in education.  Klimek argued that we need to disturb the status quo. How do we create high quality STEM opportunities?  How do we prepare students for jobs that don’t exist?  

Klimek stated that dream+action=reality.  We all have big dreams for our students.  There are many constraints right now that are impeding our action.  How can we make this a reality for our students and ourselves?  This is the important work.  We can increase engagement and joy and that will increase academic scores and behavior.  We have to think outside the box. Makerspace, Genius Hour, Passion Projects. These are all avenues for this work. Isaac Newton said, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”  Who’s ready to build a bridge?


Watch this video on Computer Science and Coding: What Schools Don't Teach

"Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organizing our curiosity."
-Tim Minchin

"We have the opportunity to create the future and decide what that's like."
-Mae Jemison

"It was like walking through the wardrope and into Narnia when I was at your school.  It is exciting to go into a different world and see what else is out there." 
-Susan Maurus, Principal of Jefferson Elementary, after visiting our Makerspace and Genius Hour.
Big Rocks:
A very big thank you to our Parent Lighthouse Team for organizing the first 7 Habits Family Movie Night.  Lynn was instrumental in leading this team and popping all of the popcorn!  Thanks to Mary Ann for stuffing the popcorn boxes and Bill for helping the PTA leaders to sell concessions and anti-bullying bracelets!  It was a big success!

It's time for Teacher and Student Perception Surveys!  Kristi and I will be sending out the Teacher Perception Surveys for you to do on us.  The deadline for completing the survey is March 18. Also, the Student Perception Survey window is March 3 through March 23.  Kristi and I are still finalizing the schedule so we will let you know when we will pull classes to take the survey.

This week starts March is Reading Month.  Every Wednesday is "Trick Your Friends Into Reading."  Wear a shirt that has words on it.  Mondays are "Books should be Read" and we will be wearing red shirts.  Our goal is to read 5,000 hours.  For every 1,250 hours, I will run for 15 minutes.  The goal is to get me to run for an hour.  Students will have an opportunity to run with me.  Any staff can join!  Let's promote reading and fitness!

Calendar for the Week of February 29:
Monday: 8:00 Leadership Day Planning
               11:45 Student Lighthouse
Tuesday: Tornado Drill
               Yearbook Orders Due
               All School Read In
               7:00 Vocal Triad Concert
               5:30-7:30 DSIT (Sarah)
                Music Information Night
Wednesday: 8:00-11:00 QAR Visit-Niji Iro (Sarah)
                    11:15 PTA Leaders Meeting
                    Ski Trip (Daraskavich, McGlinch, Kimball, Webster)
Thursday: 8:00 Staff Meeting in LMC-Superintendent Visit with Andrea
                 1:00-4:30 Elementary Principals' Meeting
                 Ski Trip (Lietz and Erickson)
                 PTA Dine 2 Donate-Granite City
Friday: 8:45 Teacher Swap
             PJ Day
Begin with the End in Mind...
Monday: Anti-Bullying Assembly with Rodney Page
Tuesday: 6:30-7:30 Family Game Night


Sunday, February 21, 2016

What Are Your Standards?

Last weekend, I was called out by a 7 year old.  Tamsin came up to me and dropped a letter in my lap.  It read, "Dear Mom, I don't know how to control myself when I'm mad.  I love you but when you yell at me you're not following our family mission statement; "Listen More, Yell Less."  P.S This is something I've wanted to tell you for a long time."

Oops!  Terry spoke last week about The Mind of a Leader from Charles Fonbuena's book, Leadership is a Way of Life.  The Mind of a Leader means you've identified your standards to live by.  The Integrity of a Leader means that you integrate your standards into your life and hold yourself accountable for them.  These two parts are about leading yourself.  I know my standards and Tamsin knows them too.  She knew I wasn't living by them. 

The Heart of a Leader is about how your standards influence and lead others.  Do you help love and lift others?  We are the external voice for many people.  Being the external voice, a mentor, to a child is our most important job.  Apparently, I was failing at it.  

Charles Fonbuena defines leadership as "lifting others to the standards you are inspired to earnestly live."  Our mission statements are important because they define the standards by which we want to live.  We can demonstrate the Heart of a Leader by listening and practicing kindness.  Remember, that we need to listen to words and actions.  Life is busy but it shouldn't be too busy for the people that matter most.  

As I finished reading the letter, I gathered Tamsin onto my lap and said, "You're right.  I'm sorry.  How can I help?"  I didn't think she was reading the mission statement that is hung in our kitchen.  You many not think your students are reading the class mission statements that are hung in your classrooms and in the hall.  They are more perceptive than you think.  Remember, we are their external voices.  I am trying to walk the walk.  Are you with me?


"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change." Dr. Brene Brown

Big Rocks:
Thank you to all of you for your feedback from the PD day last week.  We were grateful that Franklin Covey allowed us to have Terry free of charge for the day.  As asked for by staff, we will be spending an upcoming staff meeting on integrating the 7 Habits with the 8 elements.

Thank you to the Lighthouse Team for their hard work last Wednesday.  The LEAD time calendar and bus meetings will be helpful for the rest of the year.  Please complete the google form that Judy sent out regarding Leadership Day on May 26.

The first ever Leader in Me 7 Habits Movie Night will be this Friday at 7:00.  The Parent Lighthouse Team is putting on this event.  Please publicize it this week.  We welcome any volunteers.  The movie is Inside Out.  

The Livonia Symphony Orchestra is holding several assemblies on Friday.  It will be similar to an instrument "petting zoo."  The LSO has taken Cooper under it's wing this year and has been trying to gather gently used instruments for Cooper students.  Thank you to Karen and Sandy for helping coordinate.  

Good news!  Sue will be returning in March.  She is very grateful for all of your thoughts, prayers, texts, and cards during a difficult time.

Congratulations to Nicole and Brendan on beautiful Miss Vivian Anne!  The family of 3 are now at home!

We have had several staff members who have either lost a loved one recently or have received sad news about a family member's health.  This is the time to Seek First to Understand and to Sharpen the Saw.  Please take care of yourselves and each other.  Our careers are important but our health and the health of our loved ones are of the utmost importance.  We are here for you.

Calendar for the Week of February 22:
Tuesday: 3:45-5:00 Lighthouse Team
Wednesday: Spring Picture Day
                    9:30-11:00 QAR (Sarah)
                    7:00 Band-a-rama
                    PTA Founder's Day
Thursday: 8:00 Staff meeting Reading Month
                 8:15-11:15 IReady Coaches Training @ Johnson  (Sarah and Kristi)
Friday: Livonia Symphony Orchestra Assemblies
             8:45-9:15, 9:25-9:55, 10:05-10:35
             7:00 Parent Lighthouse Movie Night in Cafe-Inside Out


Friday, February 12, 2016

Precious Time

On Thursday, I was in the lunch room when Colleen came in to tell me a fellow principal wanted to speak to me.  I walked back to my office but no light was flashing on my phone.  I peeked into the office and was surprised when Colleen told me she was waiting for me in the foyer.  Susan was dressed in her pajamas and repeatedly apologized for her appearance.  (It was pajama day of course!)  With a smile from ear to ear and a familiar face, we proceeded to my office.

Susan, principal of Jefferson Elementary in South Redford, had stopped by to check in on two of our new students.  She spoke passionately about the boys and their success with academic and behavior interventions at her school.  Susan was genuine and sincere.  In the thirty minutes I spent with her, I learned more about the boys then any C.A would ever tell me and felt as if I was chatting with an old friend.

As I grabbed the two boys out of the lunch line, they looked at me with worry and concern.  I reassured them that they were not in trouble but that there was a surprise for them in my office.  When I opened the door and their eyes met Susan's, they barreled into her with bear hugs.  As they enveloped her, I smiled and was reminded of my "why."

Isn't that our "why"? Susan had come from Cleveland, where she had brought lunch to the younger brother.  Armed with valentines, she had stopped by Cooper to make sure the boys were off to a good start.  She spoke of relationships and mentors and designated them as one of her school's greatest "success stories."  Time is precious but so are our students.  Susan's visit was a positive reminder that time spent on relationships is the most precious time of all.

Quotes from our students:
"Mrs. Aherne, I like your new glasses.  They bring out the fun in you."  :)
"The teachers are the best thing about Cooper.  They make us feel good about ourselves."

Big Rocks:
Tuesday is a half building/half district professional development day.  We will begin the day at St. Mary's Cultural Center for the District to role out the new Culture and Climate goals.  We have already discussed them this year at Cooper but you will hear more about the focus areas and plan for implementation.  There will be K-12 staff members present and they plan to mix the tables up with a variety of staff members.  I was "asked" to present and so I do have to discuss a few slides. EEK!  Please carpool as there are only 250 spots but around 500 staff.  We will end the morning with drawings for gift cards which Kristi was in charge of gathering.  Thanks Kristi!  Let's hope Cooper is represented!
In the afternoon, Terry is returning to refocus us on our why and connect the Leader in Me to the LEAD program.  We are hoping to spend some time focusing on ourselves and how we can lift our students and the teaching of the 7 Habits to the next level.

Best of luck to Nicole as she prepares to have her baby!  We can't wait to meet Baby Girl McGlinch!

Thanks to Enthusiasm Team for the fabulous pizza and salad luncheon.  It was delicious and so nice to not have to pack a lunch on a Friday!

Thanks to Judy for connecting us once again with the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative.  It's such powerful information for our students.

Kristi and I are really trying to be present and available for you.  I feel badly because I will not be in the building a lot next week.  Thursday I was asked to go to a conference on the new reading initiatives the Michigan Senate and House are trying to pass.  On Friday, I will be out with my girls.  They have all of next week off so I will get to spend a day with them on their "break."  As administrators, we have several Flex days in our contract for work we may have to do in the summer.  Since I was involved in several days of interviews, I was able to use a Flex day for next week.  I had to "book" the days at the beginning of the year and now it seems like such a busy time!  So sorry!

Calendar for February 15, 2016:
Monday: No School
Tuesday: Professional Development Day.
               8:00-11:00 St Mary's Cultural Center, 11:00-12:30 lunch, 12:30-3:30 Cooper
Wednesday: 8:00 IST
Thursday: 8:00 Staff Meeting on Reading Month
                 9:00-3:00 Closing the Literacy Gap Conference-Lansing (Sarah)
                 6:30 PTA
Friday: Sarah Off

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Where is the Joy?

Educators are known for their storytelling.  If we wrote down everything that happens in a school year, we could easily write a book.  I'm not sure about all of you but for me, my most vivid memories rarely have anything to do with curriculum and everything to do with relationships.

Damian arrived in my 3/4 split in late October.  My students were already comfortable in the classroom with routines and procedures firmly in place.  Damian disrupted them.  He was reading far below grade level and his body, too large for his age, could be wrapping you in a hug one minute and "accidentally" bumping into a child in the next.  I soon learned that Damian didn't have any books at home. So one day before dismissal, we filled his broken backpack with books to take home to keep.  I still can purely picture in my mind Damian skipping out the door with pure joy as the overflowing books fell out of his backpack.  He was gone again before the end of the year.

At Career Day, my dad was impressed with one of Michelle Stackpoole's students who was highly engaged and joyfully asked relevant questions.  Ironically, he was brought to my office crying hysterically the following day after an issue with four square.  He told me how he often would not remember a situation clearly after going into a "blind rage."  Then, he explained to me how he would feel a "burdensome sadness."  I soon learned he has been living with a kind guardian who took him in after finding him and his mentally ill mother living in a dilapidated house in Detroit.

Another one of our very unique students was noticed by many of our Career Day speakers for singing her little heart out during Leadership Choir.  She sings with her eyes closed, smile wide, and the joy oozes out of her.  Everyone there could see it and yet on most days we tend to squash that joy with the need to get on with our day or have her conform to some set standards.

The article "Joy: A Subject Schools Lack" by Susan Engel is one of the most powerful articles about education I have read in a while.  "What if Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?" is a close second.  We desperately need joy in our schools for ourselves and most importantly for our students.


Quotes from the articles:
"Becoming educated should not require giving up pleasure."
"The more dire the school circumstances, the more important pleasure is to achieving educational success."
"They should ...tolerate boredom so that they can become good at being bored later on."
"Teachers and administrators still rely on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions."
"Does it make sense to impose the harshest treatments on the most challenging kids?  And are we treating chronically misbehaving children as though they don't want to behave, when in many cases they simply can't?"
"Focusing on problem solving instead of punishment is now seen as the key to successful discipline."
"The prefrontal cortexes of aggressive children actually hadn't developed, or were developing more slowly, so that they simply did not yet have brains capable of helping them regulate their behavior."
Quotes from our students:
"What's different between the K-4s and here is that here the teachers don't interact with you.  They are just here to do their jobs and go home."
"I don't know why teachers tell you they care.  I don't trust them.  If they cared, they wouldn't kick you out."
"I go home to an empty house every night.  I'm there for hours before my dad comes home.  It's just me and my phone."
"When I get mad, it's like a blind rage and then a burdensome sadness.  I don't remember what happened and then it slowly comes back to me in pieces."

We have the most important job.  We change lives everyday.  Let's be the change.

Big Rocks
Thank you to our Career Day team (Judy, Julie, Mary Ann, Diane, Ron, Robin) for pulling off another very successful day.  Additionally, thank you to Karen for preparing our Leadership Choir and Fatino for preparing our Cheer team.  A few years ago, the dance teacher asked if everyone would go around and state their occupation and connection to Cooper during lunch.  This year, besides the fun comments about cops love for donuts and U of M versus MSU, many people once again gave us compliments regarding the Leader In Me and the 7 Habits.  They said that our students were polite and asked great questions.  One person even commented on how nice the building is looking!

Robin's name was pulled for the Successory prize (a Starbuck's gift card) for helping a Cooper student with reading.  We have placed many of the forms in mailboxes but will read a few throughout the week.  Students thanked a variety of people from Jeff and Paul to Club leaders and classroom teachers.  Thank you for all being successories to our students!

WIDA testing begins this week so please be courteous to our ELL teachers who will be using a lab and pulling students to test.  Once again, WIDA holds the same weight as the MSTEP with the State and they must follow similar protocols.

We hate to do this but Learning Walks has been rescheduled again.  It was supposed to be held this Monday but with so many subs lately, a stressful couple of weeks, and low moral we felt that we would try for another date.  Hopefully, we can use that time to collaborate and reenergize ourselves with the positive things that are happening in the building in regards to teaching and learning.

The Human Growth Meeting is Tuesday, February 9 from 7:00-8:00.  Thank you to Lynn and Bill for leading this meeting.  We can make accommodations for parents who are unable to attend to view the materials.

Calendar for the Week of February 8, 2016:
Monday: WIDA testing begins
                11:15 Student Lighthouse
Tuesday: 1:10 CPS Meeting (Sarah, Kristi, Linda, Julie)
                1:55-3:30 Cyber Safety Presentations
                4:00 Parent Meeting (Sarah, Kristi, Colleen, Shawn)
                5:30-7:30 DSIT (Sarah)
                7:00-8:00 Human Growth Meeting (Bill, Lynn, Kristi)
Wednesday: 8:00-11:00 LEAD Principals' PD (Sarah)
                     11:15 PTA Leaders
                     12:30-3:30 LEAD Principals' PD (Kristi)
Thursday: 1:00-4:30 Elementary Principals' Meeting
                  3:45-4:45 Extended Staff Meeting (Ben Hillard on the CCSS Math Shifts and        
Friday: School Improvement Interim Self Assessment Due
            8:45-9:45 LEAD time with Accountability Partners
            Pizza Salad Luncheon