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Hello, Colts.

It is always my honor to serve as the principal of KME. We truly are family, and I cannot tell you enough about the importance of home and schools working together. Again, thank you for partnering with us to create the type of environment where our Colts are glad to be and have the opportunity for unique learning experiences. 

A common question from you is about ways to help your child succeed and we want to help answer that question for you. This communication is the first in a series designed to provide specific information over a broad range of topics in supporting your child. We will also include a link where you can submit your questions and/or suggestions for upcoming topics. 

When focusing on providing support at home with reading, there is not a lack of suggestions and resources that are out there. Our intent is to provide ways you can reinforce reading skills at home in both a timely and readily applicable manner. For example, you may hear things like your child is on a “Level G and needs to be on “Level J” based on the Fountas & Pinnell (F&P) leveling system that we use. The question that we at KME are asking is “Does this type of explanation –Level G to Level J- really provide useful information to the learner and to you, the parents?” 

We realize that we need to communicate the specific reading characteristics that are aligned to a particular level. Linked is a resource based on the F&P leveling system which provides easily understood and helpful ways that you can support your child.

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Have you ever stopped to think or have been told that ‘there is more?’ In the educational setting, we usually hear a second part of that phrase which goes something like “…to do.” More mandates, more tests, more requirements, etc. Although this is often the case, I challenge us to complete the phrase with “..to be.” There is more to be for our students, colleagues, and parents. This state of being is a constant ebb and flow of how our conscious actions can enable each group to reach greater depths of personal and professional fulfillment.

I share with the staff at Kelly Mill Elementary, that we certainly want academically successful students, but an equally important goal, is in helping our students, colleagues and parents be the best people they can be. In order to reach this goal, “There is More…”

As I think about my childhood, I well remember many interactions with my parents that ended with the same response from them…”Not yet.” I usually heard that when I asked things like, “May I have a snack? May I have a pet? May I go to my friend’s house? May I have ice cream? May I have some money?”  Well, you get the point. (Disclaimer- I really did have a great childhood). 

These were all met with the same response from my parents, “Not yet.”  In my young mind I heard this to mean “Not Ever” because the gratification of getting the desired outcome was not immediate; therefore, I treated the delay of “not yet” as if it was a “not ever.” 

As I have become an adult and have had various experiences in my personal and professional life, I have come to appreciate the upside of “not yet.” In retrospect, it is often the best answer I could have gotten. Does it mean it’s what I want to hear? No!!

I have realized that getting the “Not Yet” is often in my best interest so that I can be positioned for the highest levels of success when the answer becomes a “yes, now.” The difficult part of hearing “not yet” is in feeling like I did as a child and misunderstood “not yet” to mean “not ever.” 

As an adult, “not yet” gives me time to continue to grow and develop my knowledge, skills and mindset so than when I hear a “yes, now,” I am able to succeed at a more effective level. 

So, even when it is not what you want to hear, look for the upside of “Not Yet” it doesn’t mean “not ever.”

This is a question that we are constantly trying to answer. It seems that we are currently in a time frame in education when things appear to be off-balance. Balance doesn’t mean that all things are equal all the time. It is defined as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” How much technology integration should there be? How much writing should there be? Does this assessment reflect the learning that has occurred? Did I teach this standard? The list goes on and on with a common underlying element of balance. How do we determine these ‘correct proportions’?

Have we found it? My answer is, not entirely, but that doesn’t mean we will give up on trying to get there. How are you achieving balance?

EIP, IEP, SST, RtI, EBD, BEH, AIMS, SIP, 504, EL, GT, SE, SWD, LD, OHI, TAPS, TKES, LKES, RT3. If you are an educator, you probably know many of these acronyms. We do have a “language” all our own in the school setting. Truth be told, it seems that we add more of these each year. But, there is one that I think needs to be used and heard the most. The word? J-O-Y.

I was fortunate to hear @shareski this past summer at @DiscoveryEd Principal Institute. His topic, “Whatever Happened to Joy?,” was a great reminder of the power of finding joy in every aspect of life. It was a powerful reminder as I thought about how having joy translates to being a better person and thus, a better educator.

It directed my own thoughts toward the lyrics of a song that I had recently heard. The song, Wonder.

May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child…

The lyrics remind me that finding joy can come from anywhere, everywhere, and at any time. Finding joy often starts with a sense of wonder. In our schools, our children find joy in most everything and on most every day. THAT brings me joy! I hope not to forget that.

I posed the question, “What Brings You Joy?” to my staff upon returning to school this year. With all of the other acronyms and words that exist, let’s not forget the importance and power of this one as well. So, “What Brings YOU Joy?”

It could have been accomplished by telling the staff that we were low on funds to purchase cases of paper. It was true that each school had been allocated a specific number of copies that could be used before the local school would have to pay for the copies. For any amount of copies that exceeded the yearly allotment an incurred cost of $.04 each copy would be billed to each school. This may not sound like much, but left unchecked, this could eat away at the instructional dollars that could be invested in non-fiction books for the leveled library, technology to support technology integration, hands-on resources for STEM-based learning activities and other resources which are better for today’s learner.

What we did do was to frame the conversation around this essential question:

How could we more effectively engage our leaners without running this through a machine?

This simply worded question had profound impact across the teachers who all truly wanted highly engaged learners in their classrooms each day. Teachers gladly talked about and collaboratively planned a day, ‘No Paper Day,’ around this. What leaders have tried to get teachers to do in sometimes unproductive ways, resulted in teachers gladly embracing and willingly collaborating around this concept as their entire grade level worked to design lessons for ‘No Paper Day’ on their hallway. This level of engagement on the part of adults along with the excitement and energy that were created spilled over to our students at Kelly Mill ES.

On the day that teachers decided for their No Paper Day, students and adults eagerly participated and authentically engaged in their learning. For some teachers, this intentional ‘push’ allowed them to realize the effectiveness of the integration of technology as a normal mode of delivery for their students, They saw, first-handedly, that technology did not have to be nor should be considered an ‘add-on.’ Once teachers saw the level of excitement from their students and heard the depth of conversations that students were having regarding their learning of the content, they were hooked.

Teachers extended this ‘one day’ of purposeful and intentional focus on engaging without worksheets to be their normal way of collaborating and instructional delivery in their classroom,

This is the ultimate in professional development to take a concept from hearing to doing. Teachers translated what they learned into classroom practice that changed the learning activities and experiences for their students.

So, what about your ‘No Paper Day?’

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One of my passions is photography. I absolutely love the ‘click of the shutter.’ I am an avid iPhoneographer, Instagram user, Photoshop editor, Canon, Nikon, and even Olympus 35 mm fanatic. Yes, I say I am an amateur. When people ask me about photography I simply reply, ‘It keeps me sane.‘ It is an outlet for me.

As a continual learner, I am also currently enrolled in a digital photography class. I am operating in my own sense of ‘flow‘. In our first class, the instructor said that basically a photographer’s job is to…

‘create art out of a cluttered and unphotogenic world.’ (via Phil Winter).

This statement has rolled around in my thinking since last Tuesday’s class. As I have thought about it, I see a parallel to the work we do in schools and as leaders. No, I am not implying that our students and staff are ‘unphotogenic’ on any level,  but I am suggesting that our role is to help the learners in our organization make ‘art’ out of the vast amount of information that is readily available to 21st Century learners at an alarming rate.

How do we do this? Well, I will be the first to admit this is not easy and has many factors, but one critical and nonnegotiable piece is enabling the learner-student or staff member-to take ownership of their own learning. We must become facilitators and not the traditional ‘sage-on-the-stage.’ We must help them create ‘art.’

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