Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#Veteransday14: Some Gave All, All Gave Some...

The stars in the corner, the white and red in the field and the single star all mean something to this school.
Around and Back Again?
On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, From Kandahar, Afghanistan, the 687th Horizontal Engineer Company flew two flags in honor and anticipation of folks back home.  Staff Sergeant Kyser pulled the flags and gathered her belongings and everything dear to her there and traveled around the world for a surprise visit to her friends and family, especially her children and mother. She planned to surprise her children at school!  Sure enough the authentic emotion and release is recorded in this Facebook post: The Re-Union  It worked and the voice the daughter thought was around the world walked into her life and immediately brought a rush of memories, sweet communion and a peace that only a mother's voice can bring! Ironically, over 17,000 viewings were recorded in the five days following its release.  It is easy to imagine the flag traveling around the world to get here, and the memory of the flag returning dividends as thoughts returned to Afghanistan through technology.

The Stars
The flag is folded in proper formation and placed in the corner of this memorial.  The 13 folds and corresponding stanzas align with the this poem:  My Name is Old Glory

In Honor of...
The plaque in the lower right reads:

So that all shall know, this flag was flown in the face of the enemy over the headquarters of the 687th Horizontal Engineer Company, Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan and bears witness to the fight against terrorist forces which threaten the freedom of the United States of America and the world.

On 05 November 2014, Staff Sargent Kristie Kyser, of the 687th horizontal engineer company flew this American flag in honor of WINFIELD MIDDLE SCHOOL

Retired, Laid to Rest, From the Battle Field and back...
In the lower left corner, below the sea and to the left of the plaque, a single star lays from a flag just retired.  The history and background of this flag carries its special honor as well. This retired flag faced the enemy in battles in Baghdad, Iraq.  After intense service, it was retired November 8, 2014.  Each of the 50 stars was salvaged by the AMVETS Chapter 180, of Lincoln County and is now in the care of Sergeant Rick Myers.  After our Tribute Assembly to our local veterans, this special gift was pulled from an inner pocket and bequeathed, bestowed or otherwise handed to me! I felt honored and privileged and at the same time, unworthy.  Yet, I knew there was a great location for us to display this trophy. 

We accept...
With honor and as much reverence as possible by a group of school children and their teachers, this was read in front of hundreds as we graciously accepted this token: 

“On behalf of the Winfield Middle School, of the Winfield School District, in Lincoln County, State of Missouri in these United States, I will receive this flag and we will hold it in the highest regard, with honor, pride and reverence as we display it in our trophy case.  Thank you very much. “

Special thanks and recognition go the the planners and organizers of this annual event, the Veterans Day Assembly of Winfield School District.  Every year the Assembly seems to mature and develop as these events regularly bring over 75 veterans to the event. Students received an authentic lesson in gratitude and thanksgiving and veterans got to enjoy their little voices, excitement and enthusiasm, reminding them that all made their sacrifices all worthwhile.

History of History
In the past few years, our school, Winfield Middle School has retired a flag, complete with the burning.  We have buried the ashes appropriately the following year and now this year we received a new flag from Afghanistan.  We hope our history, although short, has made memories on our students and an impact on or veterans and an influence on our community as we strive to give back just a miniscule representation of gratitude.


Winfield Middle School

Friday, October 24, 2014

A moving Anti-Bully Assembly? Really?

 Personal Narrative Style

Our principal, from elementary school.  A true #TBT photo. imagine the stress this young man got with a last name like "McCracken." 

October is Anit-Bully Month
We opened our assembly with a class to class contest.  The classes all came in and sat in class circles, all around the gym floor. Mr D’s class did a victory lap with the trophy and got home field advantage for the upcoming event.  Our librarian, Ms H did a great job of playing a Trivia game that eliminated groups throughout the process.  Eliminated teams sat down on the bleachers till there was only one team remaining. Mr R’s class prevailed, stood for a picture and joined in with the rest of the group.

A song, from 1969...
We opened with a talk about, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash.  He claims in the song that it is the challenging name that made him strong, because his father knew he would not be there to help his son along.  “It’s that name that helped to make you strong!”  One student knew the song and the author!

Sue or McCracken?
Then we talked about our principal Mr. McCracken being called “Cracker” as a little boy. It wasn’t till he connected with other students did anyone ever say things like that about his name.  In kindergarten, lessons are difficult but we talked how the challenges often really do make us stronger.  Kids taunting, teasing and saying things like, “Polly want a cracker?” demonstrated their stress.

Whisper, Whisper, Whisper!
Then, we wrote “Ms Mix, you R…” on a blank sheet of paper!  (Ms Mix is our building counselor who does an amazing job adding a calming influence to the building.  She is one NOBODY EVER says anything bad about! She is also the only one who knew about the demonstration ahead of time.)

I’m not playing your silly game!” 
Ms L

The "Shut Down!"
Everyone got to see it before it was completed.  We completed it with a SCRIBBLE! (See photo) All the male coaches in the front rows got a chance to “read” the description, chuckled appropriately and indicated the remark was accurate, at her expense! The private part was just scribbles (*&^%$#$%^) but all the men played along and smirked when they saw it, even though it really said nothing.  I asked a female coach, Ms L, and she gave the perfect response to shut things down. “NO, I’m not playing your silly game!”  She had the confidence, moxie and emotional security to just say NO to the bullying.  
 Note: The little white corner sheet and what we said about Ms Mix! 

But the Damage was done
After laughing, teasing and joking about it, we gave the slip of paper with the insult to Ms Mix. She crinkled it up.  The paper was ruined!  We tried to apologize. We tried to make it all better but the damage had been done.  There was nothing we could do to undo the action.  Even though we asked for it back and tried to smooth things over, it was TOO LATE.    

Let's ALL Commit
A poster from The Bully Project was produced and summarized how I, the principal, was going to commit to doing everything possible to address bullying issues and keep students safe.  I signed it and asked Ms Mix to sign it as well.  (See photo)
 Here, everyone in the building was invited to commit to addressing bullying, asked to display empathy and sign the poster.

Let everyone in on the secret... 
 Then all the teachers were asked to sign it on their way back to class.  Students were dismissed by sections and sent back to class.  After the students returned to class, the principal went to every room and revealed to each class the piece of wrinkled up paper and what was written about Ms Mix.  We shared a brief summary about Cracker, a boy named Sue, the show stopping response of Ms L, and how we wanted our students to act!  The students were let in on the secret.  The only person that knew about what was happening was Ms Mix.  None of the coaches, male or female had any foreknowledge of the situation but within one hour, everyone knew.

Pass or Fail?
An unplanned and unexpected expression of gratitude followed. A spontaneous act of compassion erupted. Classes full of students demonstrated true empathy and created hand written cards, thanking and appreciating Ms Mix’s contributions to our school for the rest of the day!

Will this stop bullying?  Will this make it go away?  Will everybody be nice to each other from here on out?  Or will this allow us to have a common language to address bullying, empathy and healthy responses?  Behavior and belief are often interconnected.  We must address both in the school setting.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Connect Golf and RIGOR!

 Along the West Coast in California, golf is the norm and with the Pacific Ocean in the background, its golf at its finest.  These Blue Tees in the center help us connect golf to RIGOR in education:
the easy Red Tees, the tough Blue Tees and the middle White Tees; all searching for par.
Define Rigor
From our perspective, as a middle school that has fallen into the lower half of performing schools in the state, results from self-reflection began isolating interesting concerns.

Student Perspective
A student came to interview our principal about the schools’ struggling state scores.  The questions were insightful and an open exchange led to a fluid discussion.  The principal asked the student, in her terms, “What does RIGOR mean?” The answer, “Up to par,” borrowed from the golf industry to reveal insights and wisdom.  The implication leads us to consider the dynamic nature of raising the bar, playing on harder courses, maturing, strengthening and driving longer, playing from the white, blue or pink tees and the expectations surrounding each hole.  Translating these concepts into applications for academia describes our major concern as professional educators, parents and students.

Playing golf on one course verses another can make all the difference.  A simple “par 3” course verses a complete “18 hole” course filled with beaches and bunkers demonstrates the diversity and emphasis necessary for every standard, component or objective and the resiliency to adapt every shot.  Do we teach to par?

Turning from the picture above, we see these boulders protecting the shore-front from the intense waves. Yet over time, erosion takes its toll.  Similarly, we protect and nurture children as they grow but eventually, they must find their own path.  Too much protection makes them weaker.  
Ask a baby giraffe. Do we teach our students to get up?
As youth work to eliminate the slice and then the hook from the drive, the form, grip and technique all play into the results. Similarly, the habits, behaviors and support all influence the likelihood of educational success.  Do students know the basics?

As a golfer tees off from the closer tees, does the advantage influence the final outcome or does it handicap and keep him from reaching his fullest potential?  Robyn R. Jackson writes from the perspective that teachers should never work harder than their students.  She advocates never doing ANYTHING for the students that they might be able to do for themselves.  Getting better requires failure.  We must push to the point of failure, regroup, rethink and try again.  A par 4 is always a par 4 but sometimes playing from the easier tees us an unfair advantage, especially when traveling to another par 4 and having to play along others that held themselves up to the higher standard.

Professional Definition

Is this something we can work with or do we need more?  Is this too much?  What does this mean?  Let's keep talking and find out! Can we use this?

Our next Blog…
What if a teacher teaches and EVERYBODY gets an A?  
What if one student works hard for the A but another plays around and still get an A?  How does that feel?
What if a teacher teaches and EVERYBODY gets an F?
How does that adjust our view of RIGOR?