Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year means we...

...examine components of our lives; mentally, personally, habitually, professionally, physically, socially and even spiritually.
As we count down till the ball dropping, what considerations might we ponder at this new beginning?  How do we self-assess? Or do we?  Do we make resolutions to change, or do we try and manage our vices?  Do we recommit to maintaining good habits? Do we promise to exercise and eat right, only to notice it seems like tourist season at the local gym?
These landmarks are best viewed when looked at from a distance.  Step back and examine three events of the prior year.  Try the Ben Franklin method and list the pros and cons in two separate columns on a sheet of paper.  Review any life changes and reflect on those implications.
But it may be best to look individually and not in relationship with other people.  Comparing our own talents, gift, abilities and experiences with anyone else either sets us up for failure or over-inflates our perspective.  Of we pick too high a bar, discouragement and paralysis from analysis stifles further goal setting.  On the other hand, viewing progress through outdated or under-articulated benchmarks inflates or exaggerates our true growth.
Finally, remember to write these things down.  Once written, the thought becomes a goal.  As a goal, attainment shifts from possible to probable!  Written goals are easier to monitor, report on and celebrate.
The answers to those earlier questions are indeed personal, yet the dilemmas are universal.  What will this year look like?  Will we wait for life too happen to us, or will we face obstacles head-on with confidence?
Regardless, remember to keep a big picture, individualize goals and write them down!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where did you go to High School?

While reading Malcom Gladwells latest on underdogs and battling giants a few highlights jumped out implying Winfield Middle School was on the way to its rightful location #onthemap.
Big Fish in Small Pond or Small Fish in Big Pond

Not to steal any thunder from the book but the author poses the idea that a better bet may be a person familiar with success, regardless of the venue.  For instance, the scores at one school may all be better than all the scores of a different school, yet a top student at the mediocre school is often more effective and better suited for success.  To apply this to Winfield Middle School we know our district is not the biggest, yet that is exactly what makes it likely we might produce champions!  We study success, building champions and reaching goals.  Other schools may have more students try out for a sports team than we have in the entire class, yet was are competing on a level playing field?  Yes, the Big Fish from our small pond have likely success relative to the Small Fish in more successful pond.  Again, even though China has more honors students then we have students, where would we go to find ready and willing potential.

For example, the standard question floating many gatherings in St Louis starts with, “Where did you go to high school?” In St Louis, this question opens many introductions and social, professional and business meeting.  Of course, it supplies social clues leading to common connections, yet the hidden undertone often carries other connotations about the potential for success, growth or opportunity.  Almost like, “Are you from a Big Pond or Small Pond?”

What advantage is a disadvantage?

Gladwell continues his examination of underdogs considering the inordinate amount of CEOs and other business leaders with deficiencies like dyslexia.  His hypothesis addresses their overcoming the original obstacle by tuning other characteristics.  Similar to a blind person that tunes their hearing.  For instance, a successful trial lawyer overcame poor reading by hyper-sensitive hearing listening to the nuance with testimony supplied from the witness stand.  As underdogs, we often are overlooked following the formal and traditional channels.  It seemed the thing that these characters had to overcome, actually made them stronger and better suited to lead, connect with others and build from strength around a weakness.  Johnny Cash anecdotally described it in A Boy Named Sue.  Would you ever wish dyslexia on your children?

Don’t be afraid of being afraid.

Fight or Flight, Fear of Fear and the paralyzing results of some fears keep many of us back but build confidence in others.  The familiar quote:  What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is actually articulated for better understanding and application.  Considering London during the bombing raids of Germany in WWII, we noticed three groups of people:  first, those that did not make it; second, those that suffered a near miss and finally those that made it through a remote miss!  Regretfully, the first group deserves complete respect. Then the near miss is just that, somebody fairly close to the impact.  This may be traumatic and even personally injurious but definitely different than a remote miss.  A victim of a near miss may so suffer a temporary negative setback.  Ironically the remote miss had the opposite effect on the citizens.  It brought them together.  Surviving a horrific bombing actually galvanized their unity.  The more bombings they survived, the more they believed they were invincible.  This made them stronger.  Anecdotally, some claimed they would rather stay in the city then flee to the countryside!

How does this apply to us? 

Are we a big pond struggling to succeed or small pond building fish ready for any pond? 

Do we let our perceived disadvantages give us a disadvantage, or do we just work around them?

Does our fear motivate us to fight, improve and get better or quit, submit and suffer setback?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Four terms for Thanksgiving 2013

A True Thanksgiving Feast?
What does thanksgiving look like at your house? 
Where do we actually begin?  Do we sit around the table and recite what we are thankful for?  Do we reminisce about our favorite thanksgiving?  Do we overdo it on tryptophan and trimmings?  Travel to visit family and friends, increase our stress and try to cope with all the distractions? Following our Presidential advice,  …  
... When 
we join with friends and neighbors to alleviate suffering and 
make our communities whole, we honor the spirit of President 
Abraham Lincoln, who called on his fellow citizens to "fervently 
implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the 
wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be 
consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of 
peace, harmony, tranquility, and union." 
 Or do we focus to find peace in our minds about our current state of affairs maybe considering this plight worse than any other?
Work - Optimism 
What description is suitable, acceptable, and sufficient actually addresses the true state of affairs?  Would terms like good, wonderful, excellent or work?  Would these accurately describe anything, or could they describe everything and nothing at the same time?  At any work place, there are always good and bad issues!  Trite phrases and shallow expletives fail to actually share how things truly remain.  Instead, numbers, data combined with anecdotal evidence often paint an accurate picture.  But like a picture that never fully does the truth justice, our descriptions can never fully capture the conditions!  Often how we perceive things, optimistically or pessimistically fosters growth or progress or slows down any advancements.  Hence, attitudes become personal barometers or indicators of success. 
Family or Friends - Forgiveness 
Much has been written describing the various commonalities and differences between family and friends.  Of course, we can’t pick our family but we can pick our friends. Together, these represent the people around us and in our paths that we either build up or tear down. Regardless of prior experiences, at this season, maybe the remembering and focusing on the positive becomes a priority.  Arguments are easy to begin but can acceptance and kindness overcome the past?  Maybe that is the place for true forgiveness?  Maybe that is what we should practice?  Like a doctors business being labeled a practice, forgiveness is also a practice.  It is not simple.  It is not easy and it is not a single event but a process.  We struggle, ponder and try self-righteous indignation, claiming pure innocence.  Yet as we forgive others, we also learn to forgive ourselves, heal and recover from past pains.  If we can’t forgive ourselves, we won’t be able to forgive others.
Life or Health - Service
Obviously, those spending time reading this are up and going but to piggyback from the last topic, maybe forgiveness is the best gift we can offer to those less fortunate and service is the action that stems from the attitude?  Only as a speculation but, are our efforts to remain healthy possibly physical as well as mental?  Maybe we should reconcile relationships with others as well as ourselves?  Maybe forgiveness becomes a component of mental health, leading to better physical health?  Reduced blood pressure may be an indicator, especially if resulting from natural adjustments, like attitude adjustments, forgiveness and serving others.  But physical health often aligns with psychological well-being.  Serving others may remind us of our own mortality, remind of our own blessings and connect us with them in synergistic and mutual beneficial ways.
More stuff than???  - Contentment
Finally, we look at our things.  We consider what we have.  Our list of wants and needs is often insatiable as we learn more about the offerings available.  A little story about motivating primitive workers by catalogs illustrates this.  A version went like this.  A factory opened up in an area where folks did not yet have a lot of other indicators of commercialism.  After the first week, when the locals received their check on Friday, they failed to come to work on Monday.  Allegedly, they had made so much during the prior week, they could sit idle and have their needs met for some time.  It wasn't till catalogs and commercialism taught them what was available did they return to work, with a renewed vigor.  This simple illustration is not meant to be a slam against capitalism, free market economies or big business but an indicator of human nature.  We won’t know we want something if we don’t know it exists!  Where does this stop?  Can we be happy or content with what we have?  Does our aspiration consume all our energy?  Do we own our stuff, or does our stuff own us?
This thanksgiving, maybe we could consider four things?  Optimism, forgiveness, service, and contentment.

Optimism that things the way things are is better than the way it could be!
Forgiveness for others, and ourselves as well!
Service to others and alongside others.
Contentment with all that we have here in these United States.

Authors Note:  This is actually my 100th post published.  Ironic it would be on such a special occasion.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From Leading leaders to Teaching Teachers!

From “Leaders Leading Leaders” to “Teachers Teaching Teachers:”

Monday, October 28, school officials from Lincoln County, Warren County and St Charles County assembled a team of presenters, facilitators and a keynote speaker for a day of educational professionalism!  We called it the Three County Professional Development Day (#3CoPD for twitter folks).    Three breakout sessions began the day, with presenters as teachers, administrators and professionals right from our own districts.  Lunch and a national speaker supplied entertainment as well as education during the mid-day transition.  After lunch, we organized into teams of common interest, such as math teachers, SPED professionals or counselors to collaborate to exchange positive and effective techniques from their individual areas of emphasis. Finally, an optional discussion ended the day when representatives from our independently funded and managed retirement organization spoke about the benefits, procedures and stability of our teacher retirement program.  PSRS

When nearly 700 local teachers attend, an event like this are they better equipped, motivated and ready to return to class afterwards?  When they hear from a peer, is there additional credibility?  When they hear form a peer, do they weight words differently?  What does it take to make a presenter an authority or credible?

What follows is a list of feedback from attending teachers.  When asked to list three “take-aways” or lessons from the day, here is how they responded!  These responses begin to demonstrate, however anecdotally, the benefit of collaboration.  They show that teachers can, will and do learn from each other.  It shows teachers are conscientious and do want the best for their students.  Can teachers teach teachers?  This implies we can!

The staff is responding to the following prompt:  Would you email me 3 take-aways from the day?  They could be from the morning break-out sessions, the keynote speaker and/or the round table discussions.  They might be personal for you or classroom ideas or building ideas.
1.)    Some useful activities to use in the classroom when I start teaching them how to write arguments
2.)    An interesting way to introduce a new concept. This was shown and demonstrated in my last session. Concept Attainment
3.)    I enjoyed the speaker during lunch. He had a lot of information that was new to me.    He pretty much kept my attention the entire time and I was anxious to hear what he had to say next.

A.       Reading the same article, but from various perspectives.   (this seems so simple, yet I have never tried this!)
B.      Layering Texts-   Reading a short story, a poem and watching a video clip about the same topic.    (I think I do this a little, but it would be or effective to do this more often)
C.      Keynote speaker-  I really liked the positive message he had for teachers.  Sometimes it is too easy to let the negative press take hold.  It was refreshing to hear that our profession is making a difference!

1. I got great emergency sub-plans for days when we are doing projects that cannot be done with a sub.
2. The keynote speaker was very positive.
3. I got more confidence that I am where I need to be in the art room.

1. I found some cool new apps that can be used in the classroom
2. I learned a new way to track physical fitness test.
3. From the round table I learned that our physical education program here at the middle school goes above and beyond what other  middle schools and some high schools in the area do.  Wright City was amazed about the fact we get every kid to "move" with such large class sizes.

I liked the format and information from the Tri County PD Summit.  For me maybe the most useful professional development I've been to.

1.        In the model drawing for algebra, he used it to solve percent problems.  The book used it as a reference, but I understand the connection more, so I will stress that more for the students to understand it.
2.       Quizlet seemed like a good resource to study, and I will work on setting it up for my students.
3.       I am much more confident about the model drawing after yesterday, so I will incorporate it for word problems.  One the students understand it, I think they will be able to solve word problems much better.

A.  I learned about some great apps/website that I can try using in my class...socrative and polleverywhere are just a couple examples.
B.  I was given a great rubric for paragraphs that I can use when I have short answer questions.  It is a quick way to grade them and make sure that all the key components are in the paragraph.
C.  One of the big things I took away from the keynote speaker was that it is the small things that we do for students that can really make a difference.  We never know when there might be something we say or do that might change the life of a student forever.
1. Keynote speaker was really uplifting and informative
2. I was given some good reading strategies for Science.
3. There are many practical apps our students can use in class for free.

A change that I will use in the next 10 days in my classroom is to implement more of the Kagan strategies into my daily classroom.  Having the students work together to come up with answers and sharing with the classroom or with a partner will help those who are struggling and well as those who are not.  It will also make those students who normally are not focused to be held accountable while reading or discussing what we read.  I would also like to bring more technology into the classroom through the use of apps which the students can use from their smartphone or other devices. 

In the future I loved the idea of a 5 subject notebook for the science classroom. Each subject would be set aside for certain things such as notes, vocabulary, bell ringers, labs etc.  I feel that this will hopefully keep the students more organized in my classroom. 

Three take-aways…
a.       Little things can make a huge impact on students.
b.      Don’t believe everything you read.
c.       Radiate the positive and NEVER trash talk in public!!!!

To make our place a better place to work:

1)      Everything I say and do has the potential to have an impact on someone.  The stories from the keynote speaker were a good reminder of the importance of our jobs day to day, hour to hour and all of the interactions we have with students.
2)      There were several useful APPS that I will refer back to whenever needed from the APP ATTACK session.  I believe embracing technology is important to keep up with a changing world and help give the best to our students.
3)      At the roundtable with other MS PE teachers there were some helpful ideas shared on how other schools do the MS PE/Health combination

a. need differentiation up in reading
b. understand icloud
c. we have it together more than we think in the area of spec ed

My favorite breakout session was the third one I attended about using the Concept Attainment method in lessons.  I remember learning about it in college, but it was a nice refresher.  The presenter had numerous entertaining examples and non-examples for us.

I also thought the speaker was both entertaining and uplifting.  Sometimes all we hear from society around us, is how terrible we are as teachers, and it was nice to see someone recognize reality.  Studies are easily skewed. 

I also really enjoyed meeting and talking with other foreign language teachers from other districts.  I got some really great ideas from them!
1. argumentative - pre essay writing, audience exercise
2. vocabulary work - connecting
3. kids need to read more complex text

Some staff even presented about various topics surrounding school issues.

Standards Based Grading (SBG) addresses the understanding a student has over a various topic.  Here is the Power-point link used by our team of presenters:  SBG in the Middle School  & Artifacts to document

Summer Academy -A High School Transition Tool:  Summer Academy Presentation

Details and schools planning the event:
Warrenton R3 School District - http://www.warrencor3.org/
Winfield School District - www.winfield.k12.mo.us
Wright City School District www.wrightcity.k12.mo.us
Orchard Farm School District www.ofsd.k12.mo.us
Guest Speaker www.johndraper.org

Assemblers comment: Identifying authors of the above responses was considered.  Two perspectives were debated.  On one hand, the authors should be proud of their thoughts but, just because they responded, that does not imply they will incorporate every feature into their classes.

On the other hand, the staff are trusted professionals.  The intent is not to force people but work with people to grow from within.  Therefore, names were removed but clues were left.      

Friday, October 18, 2013

Leaders leading leaders

Leadership for Leaders 

 Using a screenshot from Google, we planned a trip!  How to get from one spot to another? How can we all travel the path successfully?  How to garner momentum and support to keep the group together while accomplishing our goals?  What if there are disagreements?  What if there are challenges?  What about mistakes?  What do we do as individuals?  What do we do as a team?

These are questions we were faced with during a leadership experience where leaders were given the task of leading! Do we lead by mandate?  Does dictating work?  Can we force others into submission?  Does a leader just say the word and expect others to follow?  Where does gaining trust and establishing relationships fit into the equation?
     Away from the challenges, we all sit and talk great things about leadership.  We ponder the impact of our actions.  We pose theories that seem to make perfect sense in our minds and even in speech, but then we have to actually lead!  Then what happens?   How do people persuade others and prompt them into action?

Lesson 1
Success is not always the best teacher.  Sometimes, in fact often, it seems we learn more from our mistakes and our failures.  We glean the most effective methods, means or techniques for specific situations. For instance, when we continued doing what was working, we continued with our success.   We tried something else and faced an even greater challenge.  Then, we learned more about how our earlier successes had components of luck or fortune!

Lesson 2
Another “take-away” from the experience came from watching leaders lead leaders.  Every one of the participants was an obvious leader, each with their own characteristics, traits and methods that resulted in vast teams of talents, abilities and experiences.  Noticeable by any casual or outside observer were the strengths and attributes brought by every person.  Like a who’s who, each person’s presence influenced the dynamic of the entire project contributing insights, perspectives and understandings unique and cherished by the remaining team.  This diversity and variety allowed teams to focus on goals, tasks and accomplishments while applying discernment and tolerance while working within the given parameters.  Success became both the work and the togetherness!  Working together!  A true understanding of working with others was a favorite unforeseen outcome.

Lesson 3
Those of us that struggle with something often times seem to have a better grasp of the learning process surrounding the concept.  Someone naturally talented has to exert effort to understand another that needs extra effort to master the same skill.  The ability to teach or share seems to rise out of the intimacy with struggles, battles and mastery.  The trite exclamation “those that can, do and those that can’t, teach” ignores the experiences, motives and desires of the master teacher.  It could proclaim, “those who can’t teach it, can only do it!”

Looking at only these three highlights leaves many other nuances left hidden with the actual participants.  Many lessons, insights and applications to real jobs back home were learned in the crucible of challenge.  These shallow descriptions are only rough bearings pointing in a casual direction.  Remembering the night activities, directions, phantom rules, lake, sunsets, group activities, initiatives, sacrifice, meals, pain, expressions, journals, camp fire stories and even fun are personal, individual and intimate to only a few others laying a foundation for future adventures and deeper influences or wasted opportunity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Progress or growth? What do we measure?

Progress or Growth?
These two characteristics are measured by our state MAP tests.  We look at what each cohort does as it travels through the buildings, meeting each team or group of teachers.  They work their way through the system, growing and maturing.  We also compare this group to last year’s group, looking at how well they did in comparison to last year’s group of students measuring the effectiveness of the instruction, calling it progress.

Now that we are finished with the first quarter of the 2013-14 school year, we begin to wonder with renewed interest about our impending scores for this year.  We have made some adjustments in our schedule.  Now, each math teacher has agreed to teach multiple grade levels and abilities.  This allows us true collaboration since each teacher will have a partner, also teaching the same class.  Hence, the term common assessment, collaboration and a true PLC model becomes more than a few teachers each teaching their own content.  Now, these teachers can collaborate.  These teachers are able to look at this individual group of students, examine their area of needs and strengths.  Thus we see what this cohort does as it grows through the system.

Progress, however, attempts to examine a grade level, comparing this 8th grade with last year’s 8th grade.  Growth would be the students getting better and progress would indicate teachers making better connections with the students.  Together, they indicate the health and vitality of a school building.

Winfield Middle School improved in all our areas last year.  Math, English/Language Arts (ELA) and Science all scored increases.  Knowing the efforts in place last year and comparing them with our efforts this year, we can’t wait for July!  #onthemap will really mean something as each of the staff at WMS play their #partofthepuzzle in our students lives.  #sbg

Friday, September 20, 2013

What would you do with an extra 25 minutes every day?

After the initial shock and surprises surrounding the initial release of Missouri MAP score results in August, we must decide what comes next.  Winfield Middle School had growth in all three tested categories: MATH, ELA and SCIENCE  So where do we go from here?

A great take-away from PD training in Scottsdale Arizona (see picture above) at the effective schools (@effectiveschool) conference was______?

More of the same or follow through with deliberate intentional adjustments based on research applying methods proven to effect students positively?

At Winfield Middle School, we have changed many things; room assignments, courses taught, lunch order.  All of these are designed to allow content teachers the ability to visit, collaborate and compare notes on a frequent and regular basis inside the school day, without extra time added to their schedules.  In fact, its like we found extra time!

What would you do with an extra 25 minutes every day?  With our extra time, we collaborate.

Pick your local Missouri school.  What role does collaboration play in their efforts?  Is there cooperation between the teachers or competition?

A great take-away from Professional Development training in Scottsdale Arizona (see picture above) at the effective schools conference was teacher collaboration.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What does the St Louis landmark The Jewel Box have in common with good communication?

How many ways of communication are readily available today?  What lessons can we learn from glass houses?
In St Louis, our Jewel Box is just a vehicle or environment for growing things, year 'round.  Like a communication tool is only as good as the effort we make to achieve successful communication.  Is our message shared and received, or just shared?  Things won't grow in there without care.  Nothing is automatic!

At school we are easing into additional technological communication.  Not to mandate but lead, model and practice, we began twitter accounts for everyone that wanted last year.  Some were willing.  Some were reluctant.  Others were adamantly opposed.  Regardless, we have found success, learned things and were able to apply some things to our classrooms, schools and districts.

This year, we are again progressing forward.  Winfield Intermediate School and Winfield Middle School are building and publishing facebook sites to better inform our constituents. We are willing to join their preferred mode of communication to try and connect with even more of them.  The facebook page will probably not be the sole provider of school related news but just another way to reach out.

Also new this year is the application called Remind101.  From their website, a teacher establishes an account base of parents and students in their classes and can blast a text msg to the entire group.  Sort of like a one way message.  It works because teachers establish a bulletin board type account.  They get a special phone number and access code.  Then the teacher supplies the access code and phone number to the parents.  The parents text the special code to the given phone number and its done.  From then on, the teacher sends out a message to the entire class group, just like sending a text to a friend. 

Twitter is still active. Our hash tag #onthemap has become # pieceofthepuzzle.  We tried to assemble a puzzle that was missing a piece.  Frustration and blame were the immediate outcomes.  We considered our struggling students may share those feelings when they are asked to accomplish a task, even e when they are lacking a component necessary for success.  Our positions as caring adults often give rise for us to be a piece in their puzzle.
Traditional methods are of course still available.  Email, phone and written correspondence along with old fashion face to face still provide accurate and effective methods of communication.  School is a place where we all work towards common goals, using various methods of communication.  What works for some, may not work for others.  Hence, variety is required.  In all this variety, nothing assures us the message will be sent, received and interpreted correctly. Just like in the Jewel Box, nothing guarantees the plants will grow.  Care and attention is necessary for successful communication and successful growth!
What does all this communication look like?
Remind101, www.remind101.com
Phone, 636/668-8001
Press release, send to http://www.lincolncountyjournal.com/
Twitter, @McCracken63
School Reach calling service
Parent Portal for Grade Access, https://sdm.sisk12.com/WL/
Animoto Links http://animoto.com/
What is your preferred mode?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What does it mean:" I don't like to read?"

What can’t you do?  What is the last thing you learned?  Where was the struggle? 
"Deliberate Practice?" 
What does it take to change? Hope, change, inspire, faith, persistence, and resiliency.

We strive to have things under control.  We strive to do the best we can with what we have.  We strive to do as much as possible with what we have.

From our student’s perspective, we ask them to try something new every day.  We ask them to take risks.  We ask them to try again.  We ask them to persist, even though they may fail, over and over again.  (reminds me of Green Eggs and Ham)
But what if they don't know how?  What if there is no one in their life that models that type of behavior?  What if there are too many obstacles?  How will they be able to persist?  Educational Leadership speaks of Grit this month and what it takes to develop that attribute in others.  What is needed for educators to help kids try?  Here are some thoughts:

A safe environment, free from sarcasm from each other and the teacher is vital to trying new things. Often times, students know each other better than the teacher knows them.  The teacher is the new variable in the equation.  If kids have grown up using sarcasm, biting words and mean comments, the teacher is often the first one to recognize their mistreatment of each other, hold them accountable and raise a higher standard.  This is the beginning of creating a fail-safe environment and natural for good teachers.

An encouraging environment, where risk is embraced, taking chances is encouraged and failing is natural is a crucible for change.  Students will be willing to risk failing if they know the sweet sound of praise from success and the soft encouragement to persist and try again. (sounds like Green Eggs and Ham) If encouragement is too hard to earn or given too freely, risk taking diminishes and students fail to grow.  The question becomes can a teacher be too hard or too nice?  (Econ 101:  The Law of Diminishing Returns)

A loving and accepting environment, where approval is not based on actions but on humanity fosters esteem and self-confidence.  Students know they will be accepted for who they are.  Their behavior may become something that needs adjusting but as individuals, the students will develop and mature.  Attempts for attention through deviant behavior are often cries for help. 

Affirmation Building:
Positive talk to others, each other and to self.  Seldom do positive things happen without good talk to self.  This affirmation stage is foundational to preparing ones mind for success.  It seems obvious that a team should not talk trash to each other.  After a dropped pass, does the team need to remind the receiver to "watch the ball?"  But what about opponents?  Do they deserve trash talk?  Not from a true champion.  A winner does not need to berate others.  The loser wont have anything to say that really matters. Finally, SELF -TALK is the most important.  A dialogue that encourages and not tears down is something that needs to happen internally.  Believing in oneself is truly the beginning of success and accomplishment. 

A Worthy Reward:
The challenge has to align with the abilities.  It cant be too hard, nor too easy.  Either of those cases will reduce the effort.  There must be an authentic value to the goal for an earnest effort to reach the mark.  A great teacher aligns the steps, challenges and goals with the abilities of the pupils. 
Our Response:
So how do we respond when we hear: But I don't like to read!  I can't write!  I am not good at math!    What can we do to overcome these objections to learning?  They sound like things a salesmen may hear.  I don't like the color!  I can't afford it!  It does not fit!  None if these are saying:  I don't want it!  They are saying, I want it but don't know how to make it happen with my current resources! HELP is what they are truly saying.  Help me learn.  Help me want to learn.  Help me learn to learn.  I trust you!

It is a student who remarks about not being able, good at or understanding, NOT SAYING I AM UNWILLING!

He is crying for help to meet his unspoken or un-articulated goal!  That is for a teacher to jump in, get along side and help develop that skill!  That is a heavy goal.

Wow!  What an honor!

 “Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” - Malcolm Gladwell,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Communication about change from the middle school:

How many forms of communication about change are necessary to connect with constituents?

 This teacher has communicated in so many ways, there is no excuse not to know!
What is the best way to communicate?
Connecting, building bridges of influence, helping others grow regardless their position and enjoying progress are a few of the marks of master teachers.  Is this rare or is this the norm.  At Winfield Middle School, there are many solid educators striving to influence the future, one life at a time, all through exemplar communication. 
No longer.
To improve our communication from our teachers we are piloting a program called remind101. www.remind101.com  This allows staff to send a text message to every parent signed up.  Homework reminders, test dates and class announcements would be the primary purpose.  So when you want to know what happened, look at your text messages!

Parents, connect via Remind101:
text @mrmccracke to 573/629-1051

Social Media:  Twitter: @mccracken63
We are also using twitter for PD, personal and professional development and connecting with other professionals, as well as letting parents and followers know about teams, schedules, play by plays and even scores. Like us on Facebook for other timely information about what is happening here.

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This weekly blog www.mrmccrackensblog.blogspot.com shares the Principal's perspective of a variety of leadership topics, from teaching, serving, building champions to Green Eggs and Ham, all surrounding education.  There are over 75 posts devote to the advancement and development of our educational growth.

A daily email from our Office
Everyday, our students hear announcements but seldom do they make it all the way home.  A duplicate written version is published every day and sent out via a group email. Feel free to call or email to sign up to receive these timely posts.

Traditional modes:
Of course the cell phone, text messages and email as well as personal visits and letter writing are also allowed and even encouraged.  Gone are the days when we could say, "I never knew." or "Nobody told me."  If the desire to know is there, the mode is there. 

What is your favorite form of communication?
Tom McCracken
Winfield Middle School Principal

From #onthemap to #pieceofthepuzzle

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Two of our staff back to school activities are...

This year we have opened with a puzzle theme!  Two lessons were stressed.

 Our back to school activities for teachers:

1.       Instead of sharing with a shoulder partner a few pictures of the summer everyone submitted a few pictures via email and a movie was made, set to the Beethoven’s 9th Symphony! Each picture was shown for 10 seconds and we all shared a verbal vine about the scene.  The variety of all the submitted pictures ranged from Spain to Florida, to family and friends, beaches and mountains, with and without people!  To conclude, we pondered how our experiences in this room, over one summer were far more than those of most of our students, maybe even over a life time!  We did more in one summer than they may accomplish in their lifetimes.  This granted us the permission to begin our academic adventure painting a picture of a physical adventure, traveling from a place of sure footing to uncertainty.  We connected the educational risks with those geographical risks surrounding travel, adventures and summer trips!  We thought of the joy these adventures brought to our own children and how their eyes lightened and memories were etched in their minds.  We wondered what it would take to being that same passion and enthusiasm into the classroom.

2.       Additionally, later that same day, we built a puzzle with pieces we received earlier that day.  However, one piece was deliberately withheld.  When asked to assemble the puzzle, things were progressing smoothly.  We got to the end and noticed the missing part.  Many applications to this missing piece were discussed.  We talked about the contributions each of us makes to the students’ lives.  Additionally we wondered if our students were feeling these same feelings of frustration when they almost finished their projects but were not equipped to reach the final conclusion.  Often, they could not reach the mark due to circumstances beyond their control.  This only reinforced the student’s perception that the true locus of control was outside their influence.  According to the students, success is unattainable and extenuating circumstances always prevent them from reaching the finish line. 

Therein lays the issue.  Students often follow this thought process:
With no opportunity for success, why even try? 
If I can’t win, why would I even play? 
If the chances of success are so slim, I won’t even risk it!

Our answer is simple.  We deliberately reach out to students, even if they push us away, especially if they push away.  They need healthy relationships even more!  A student must learn self-affirmation and positive self-talk!  A student must believe in himself or her own value, regardless of the situation.  A student must have a positive example, role model, caring adult or some support team that breaks the negative cycle.  This comes through a concerned adult, caring enough to share their lives with the student’s lives and willing to follow the green eggs and ham example. 

How do we help foster success?  Build a relationship.  Make a connection.  These simple actions begin to act as bridges or pathways or routes out of the negative cycles and allow students to court with success.  This lays out a foundation for a future attempt, and sets up an exit strategy for those attempts that fall short.  A pattern of persistence and determination becomes the norm.  The illusive success becomes attainable and reachable becasue the pupil learns how to win and how to fail!

Friday, August 16, 2013

WSD is "Construct, Renovate and Change"

Q: What does it take to build anything, like New York City?   
A: One brick at a time!
Thank you so much for the support for the students of our middle school.  This is a wonderful time in their lives and we here are honored to be a part of it.  We would like to share a few of the details surrounding some of the adjustments we are making here.

Parent: What did you do at school today?  
Student: Nothin.

No longer!
To improve our communication from our teachers, we are piloting a program called Remind101.  (www.remind101.com) This allows staff to send a text message to every parent signed up.  Homework reminders, test dates and class announcements would be the primary purpose.  So when you want to know what happened, look at your text messages!

Research shows that teachers talking together actually helps students do better, especially when the teachers teach the same classes!  This is called collaboration.  We have grouped teachers geographically together by content this year:  math by math, grammar & reading together and sciences together!  This is designed to allow teachers to have lunch together every day, reducing competition and improving communication.

Therefore lunch will be based on the 4th hour class, and not grade level.  Math and most science classes will eat first.  English second, and everyone else, third.  Some may even be allowed to attend their Jazz Band class early.  Another benefit is the number of students served per lunch is better aligned.  No longer do we have one lunch substantially different than another.  Our kitchen staff truly appreciates this! 

That is why the rooms are arranged differently.  We understand it will be an adjustment but together we can and will work through it.

Last year our theme was #onthemap.  We feel we have done a good job of putting Winfield Middle School on the map, and not just because of our flood assistance!  There were successes in every department, grade level, and class! 

This year, we are focused on a puzzle.  We know there are many types but in each, every part of necessary.  Here at WMS, EVERYONE is necessary, vital and valued, especially our students.  

These are some bricks we are using at the middle school.  What other contributions are available?  

Watch your thoughts; they become beliefs.
Watch your beliefs; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.

Parents:  text @mrmccracke to 5736291051 to get the latest announcements and pertinent information from the Middle School.