A Sock Hop, some sodas, and those classic cars…

We celebrated the end of this week with our annual PTO Sock Hop, Classic Car Show, and the first Family Night Event of our school year.  We certainly hopped into it tonight with our best moves, some sweet treats, cute photos, and lots of laughing conversations.  Every type of music from those 50’s classics to present-day group dances were cleverly spun for fun in the gym with laser lights and twinkling brights.  Students shared new dance moves, taught the adults some interesting steps, and shared some laughs (sometimes at our expense).  I was specifically told, “you’ve got some interesting moves there, but you might want to adjust them at your age…or at least take an Advil tonight!”  Good advice . . .   🙂

We also enjoyed touring outside and talking with owners of several classic vehicles.  Several of our dads tested each other’s knowledge of each one (and that of the owners as well).  One little friend asked, “Will you show us how to burn rubber again?!”  🙂

Of course, none of this is possible without the many PTO volunteers and parents who spent countless hours organizing, planning, decorating, checking everyone in, serving soda floats and other treats, dancing, laughing, and welcoming new friends to our LME Family.  Our highly active PTO Board members this year are:  Angela Shaver, Gayle Turner, Nicole Blackmon, Kirsten Wilson, Wendy Hein, Khristi Hullett, Amy Byers, Tracy Brown, Keisha Buchanan, Stacy Moore-Helms, Lori Walk, Christie Clenney, Julie Bates, Cara Roberson, and Heather Cooper.  Please watch the PTO website @ http://www.millerpto.com and “like” them on Facebook (LaRue Miller PTO) for the latest updates and information throughout the school year.  PTO is the lifeline of our campus everyday and we can’t imagine having school without them!  Ladies, you always ROCK IT here at Miller and tonight was no exception!

Family events such as tonight bring our entire learning community together to relax, enjoy, and celebrate.  Our thanks to everyone involved–those who assisted, who attended, and who chose to spend a glorious autumn evening here with us at LME!

Learning is FUNdamental!

Our grade levels and departments spent time in conversation with me during team conferences throughout the day.  While our learners were enJOYing specials time in art, music, and PE, each small group gave their planning time to a round table discussion of agenda items.  From lesson planning to budgets to data digs to instructional strategies, we covered our bases in unique and profound ways within each group meeting.

Three key touchstones surfaced during each visit today:

  1. Knowledge:  Each team is focused on goals and clearly KNOWS our campus story and direction.
  2. Wisdom:  The wealth of wisdom among each team is a powerful; knowledge, after all, is power.
  3. Understanding:  Knowing themselves and each other as we build relationships with learners and families brings greater understanding and overall success.

I must say each group is planning their work, working their plans, and autographing their work with personal excellence each day!

At the conclusion of these nine group meetings, I walked out into the main hallway during dismissal (ready for some sunlight and change of scenery).  A third grade friend smiled at me and commented, “I missed you at lunch today, Mrs. Van, but my teacher told us you were in learning meetings…I hope your learning today was as FUNdamental as mine!”  🙂

Campus Culture versus Strategy

In an enlightening conversation today, the question was asked of me, “What do you do to build campus culture so it beats strategy?”  WOW…I had to pause a moment and think of my response!  My initial reaction was, “Of course, strategies are important to be successful (we have to have a plan after all), but ultimately it is campus culture that will determine if our strategies are successful.”  The explanation went deeper into:

  • what our campus design team does to determine our school theme each year,
  • how our staff commits their summer break time to study a book together (this year is Training Camp),
  • why we do Miller Team Huddles on Friday mornings in the gym with everyone,
  • how we share our message with everyone each day,
  • why we have the Miller Essential 5,
  • why certain initiatives like R-Time are crucial, and (most important of all),
  • why our learners and their families don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care!

Whether or not I answered the question appropriately, I most definitely walked away pondering what other ways we build both for student success at LME.  This is similar to growing a special plant each year…various elements work together to make it all happen in a positive way.  What thoughts or ideas would you share?

It is hoped that when you walk through our front door, you are greeted warmly, with a smile and welcome, and you’re helped with our best customer service.  You should be able to feel positive energy in our classrooms and during family events on campus.  You should feel professionalism with a team spirit and approach to everything we do because great campus culture shares great energy together.  We realize we only have 177 instructional days this school year, thus Every Day Is Game Day at LME!  We appreciate your feedback and continue to welcome your participation as our learning partners throughout the journey…and thanks for sharing your most valuable resource with us everyday!

Study Skills and Homework…really?!

Like any important life skill, studying must be taught and practiced.  There was much discussion in one classroom I visited today on this very topic in fact!  Students had much advice to offer, so here are some reminders to help all of us with our study habits and homework (taken from some experts, our learners!):

  1. Work on the harder stuff first, like math or writing.  You have more brain power then.  🙂
  2. Use the planner and write it all down.  Who can remember everything at once?  🙂
  3. Mom has an special area we use for studying and homework now–it has paper, pencils, index cards, and other supplies we might need to finish our work–we have six kids, you know.  🙂
  4. Stay organized and know what you need to finish your work.  🙂
  5. A really good snack helps me study more.  🙂
  6. I have to “teach” the lesson to dad when he gets home.  I better be ready so he learns it!  🙂
  7. Cooking, reading, playing bingo or other games with my weekly words keeps me sharp.  🙂
  8. I’m given some play time first and then it’s time to settle down to work.  🙂
  9. Mom and dad read when we read; it’s a rule at home.  🙂
  10. No texting or TVs on when I study; grammy means it!  🙂

Here are some ideas our teachers share with parents:

  • Set a good example; allow your child to see you reading, writing, figuring problems, etc.
  • Look over homework assignments and make yourself available to help if needed.
  • Communicate how important school and education are in life.
  • Have high expectations and expect your child’s personal best always.
  • Invite your child to teach you a concept or new information being studied in class; we learn best when we teach someone else the idea.
  • Keep informed about grades and school progress; attend school conferences and participate in school activities teaching you how to work with your child.  Communicate and collaborate regularly with your child’s teacher(s).

Remember, you are your child’s first and most important teacher.  You are our partners and participating members of our learning community!  We always invite your suggestions, your triumphs, and your concerns, so let us know how we can best serve your child and you during this educational journey.  Study skills and homework are ongoing during the academic year…it’s a blessing to know we have some REALLY great ideas to help us!

Fifth Grade Fabulousness!

Fifth grade…top of the elementary pyramid…strong student leaders embarking on new pathways…never a dull moment!  With the excitement of middle school building all year, this team of classroom leaders takes our oldest learners on campus through an educational journey of excellence while doing everything possible to prepare them for the high expectations of their upcoming secondary education.  We run a “school within the school” where fifth graders change classes every 65 minutes, show responsibility and accountability to five instructors teaching five core subject areas, and build strong teams of collaborative, productive, service-oriented citizens.  Pictured left to right are the leaders of our Fab Fifth:  Jennifer Campbell (social studies), Laurie Garippa (science), Jennifer Lassetter (math), Susan Bly (language arts), and Sherrie Gunter (reading).

Our fifth graders lead the charge with unique campus opportunities:  Student Honor Council, Yearbook Staff, Safety Patrol, WattWatchers, HotSteppers, Ringers/Singers, Art Club, Signing Club, Peer Helpers/Study Buddies, Rowdy Runners, Miller Bell, and so much more!  One fifth grade friend new to Miller this year noted:  “WOW—we even get the chance to eat with all our friends during lunch, as long as we stay responsible.”  Another shared:  “Having a locker for my things is important–I never lose my stuff now.”  A returning friend mentioned, “We have lots of homework but they do mix it up every night so it’s not too much at once.”  The general consensus from all the fifth graders who shared with me (and the results of their recent survey in Mrs. Bly’s room)…”Fifth Grade ROCKS!”

There are rewards for enduring the structure of the early years in elementary school–those times when we learn the rules, learn to read, learn to write, problem solve in math, and move through the mountains of subject matter needed for the next grade.  By fifth grade, we really begin to experience the fruits of previous labor in an effort to create leaders of learners before they leave our campus.  Our fifth grade team has the distinct honor of bringing the previous 5 – 7 years of school experiences together into a promise of fabulous possibilities.  I am told by middle school staff they can easily pick out our Miller learners (in a good way, of course), so I can hardly wait to see what this team of 5th grade learners and their classroom leaders accomplish this year!  🙂

Welcome to new Miller friends!

Our new Student Honor Council hosted their first campus event this morning when they welcomed all new Miller friends in first through fifth grades to the Library Media Center.  They introduced themselves, shared cards and treats, and visited with students about things they like and questions they may have about LaRue Miller Elementary.  I had the honor of sharing a special story (Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon) and talking about my experiences of changing schools three times during my elementary years.  Several clever ideas were shared among our new friends and a great time was had by all!

I especially appreciate the welcoming posters and smart work of our Student Honor Council members, Mrs. Stanley (our caring counselor), Mrs. Bass, and Mrs. Worley who prepared, collected, and created a memorable experience for all!  Welcome, our new LME friends; we’re so pleased to have you join our growing family!  🙂

We’re SUPER all-stars at Miller!

Today was our annual Fun Run sponsored by APEX.  Under the direction of team athlete leaders, Krazy Katie, Wild Wes, and Amazing Andrew, all learners and their classroom leaders (coaches) along with parents, volunteers, community sponsors, and staff participated in making this event another huge Miller success!  We promoted the SUPER leadership skills this year to be Selfless, Uplifting, Patient, Extra Mile, and Reliable leaders.  Regardless of financial giving, every student and adult participated, received an APEX Fun Run shirt, were a part of daily team character huddles, and enJOYed the fun during the event today.  We certainly appreciate the smart work of everyone–from the enthusiastic crowd of cheerleaders to the water station folks to the lap markers and so much more.  Thank you, Miller Family, for embracing our many projects and helping us reach our financial goals for more field trips, technology, special programs, and more.  We will have final results in the next two weeks regarding our total for this year.  In the meantime, enJOY some wonderful pictures from the day!  🙂

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Getting it STARTed!

I often affectionately remark about our “buffet of services” available to all learners here at LME.  One of our unique and most endearing programs is the Head Start (PK) Program.  The Head Start Program is over 47 years old and has served an estimated 30 million children and families in its long US history.  While today’s classes look and sound very different from those of decades past, the concepts remain much the same.  It is abundantly clear the single most important factor in this primary educational setting is the quality of instruction and daily practices.  We are grateful to Danielle Schrodt, Rebekah Johnson, Laura Flores, Adrienne Mitchell, and Jurae Greiten…whew…what these extraordinary ladies accomplish in a day is nothing short of a miracle!  The patience required to keep up with 3/4 year-olds deserves its own accolades; we could not be more blessed to have the HS team we have here at Miller!

Head Start is a Pre-Kindergarten Program with additional services wrapped around it.  Family and community involvement, health services, disability services, parent involvement and ongoing education, nutrition, and early childhood best practices are all part of the support systems involved in this comprehensive program.  Our HS classes at Miller work collaboratively with our Region 10 Educational Service Center to provide a comprehensive early childhood program for income-eligible families with children ages 3 and 4.  Our team follows performance standards established by the federal government and our staff members are highly qualified to work with our learners.

Our beautiful learners though…they bring great smiles, sparkling eyes, and amazement to the halls of our campus every day!  From a family-style breakfast and lunch to Tricycle Town time to learning how to be an important part of a school family…they work smart and with great JOY each day.  As one little friend shared with me on her first day this year, “Let’s get this school started!”  🙂

Breaking Ground!

It’s not often we break ground on a new facility, but yesterday was certainly exciting in Midlothian ISD!  The formal groundbreaking, also known as cutting, sod-cutting, or a sod-turning event, is a traditional ceremony celebrating the formal construction of a building project.  The ceremony is often attended by dignitaries such as politicians, community members, building executives, and local business owners.  Our Midlothian mayor, our MISD Board of Trustees, local and state politicians, architects, construction company staff, members of various community committees involved in the design, MEF members, school officials and administrators, the MHS Wind Ensemble, and students representing all nine MISD campuses were just some of the dignitaries in attendance at the ceremony.  Please take a moment to read through all the materials about the new school online @ http://www.midlothian-isd.net/bond

I am especially grateful to Brooke, a fifth grader at LaRue Miller Elementary, who gave her time and talent to the ceremony yesterday.  She smiled, shook hands, recited the pledges, and even shoveled dirt:  “All in a day’s work, Mrs. Van!”  🙂  Thanks, Brooke, for representing our campus so well!  Thanks also goes out to our Boy Scout Troop who presented the colors before the pledges!

As we break ground on this new MISD campus, let us look ahead to the future.  While we don’t know final decisions regarding who will attend the school, it is possible some of our current Miller students may one day attend the new campus.  May the foundations we do our best to maximize at LME everyday (Every Day IS Game Day at LME) assist these future leaders in Midlothian ISD!

Do you hear what we hear?

If there’s a song, a sound, or a hand signal in the air at LME on any given day, most likely these talented educators have something to do with it.  Pictured left to right are Judy Williams, Erika Allen, Delaina Wimpee, and Shanna Horton.  Not pictured are Rachel McKee and Leisa Bradley.  These experts are who I affectionately call our “speechies” because they specifically work with our PK – 5th grade learners who qualify for speech services.

Our LEAD (Language Enrichment Articulation Development) Program provides services to learners (ages 3 and 4) in a structured PK setting two days per week.  Classroom activities are specifically designed to build expressive and receptive language while working on articulation goals with each child.  These young students play games, work in centers, sing songs, and work on goals to meet their personalized plans with Mrs. Wimpee and Mrs. Horton.  As one young friend shared, “We tell LOTS of stories!” 🙂  When asked about the kinds of stories, “Well…I like to share jokes and tell scary stuff.”  🙂

Four years ago, our new campus embraced the power of sign language in a really big way.  We are fortunate to have sign interpreters, Rachel McKee and Leisa Bradley, who work directly with our learners with auditory impairments.  In fact, our students and staff work at various levels using SEE (Signed Exact English).  Through a best practices model, everyone benefits from learning basic sign language.

Emphasis in all our speech and language programs (PK-5th grades) is placed on individual learner goals worked on through highly engaging, meaningful activities.  Learners “work smart” with Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Williams to reach successful communication outcomes through various strategies and techniques implemented in each lesson.  Through specific therapy where each child is expected to reach personal best, the work is then transferred into the general educational setting and real life through regular conversation.  The process takes time, but results are noted daily.

Whether it’s songs, games, questions, or challenges, these lessons of speaking and listening provide powerful tools for students to raise their own voices.  Our therapists don’t just focus on the final destination of speech goals; they make the learning journey fun.  Here’s hoping you hear (and see) what they do!