Monthly Archives: September 2014

Good Reader Habits!

While in conversation with a parent the other day regarding reading and our balanced literacy approach in MISD, we visited about the ninebva-7 habits good readers need in their toolbox to be successful lifelong readers.  Perhaps these sound familiar…

Before reading begins:

  1. Check it out!  Preview a selection before reading to anticipate content and plan how to read it.  For example, we do “book walks” during shared reading event where we “walk” through the book looking at clues, illustrations, and concepts in print to spark interest and pique curiosity.  When in the library, you can often see a child pick a book, browse/book walk it, and choose it.
  2. Think about what you know about the subject.  Drawing on personal experience or background knowledge relating to the selection helps to improve comprehension.
  3. Decide what you need to know.  Establishing a purpose for reading helps the reader to focus on the content or message.

While reading:

  1. Stop and ask, “How does this connect to what I know?”  Connecting content being read to prior knowledge or information helps the reader to organize ideas and identify relationships.
  2. Stop and ask, “Does this make sense?”  Using self-checking strategies helps the reader determine personal understanding of what is being read.
  3. Stop and ask, “If it doesn’t make sense, what can I do?”  Clear up confusing parts by re-reading, defining a new word through context clues, or using other learning strategies practiced with the teacher in small groups.  (It always amazes me what I see our learners using when they struggle; their coping skills are truly extraordinary!)

Finally, after reading:

  1. React to what was read.  Decide what has been learned, determine personal feelings, or think about other points of view (author’s intent).
  2. Check to see what is remembered.  Pause, reflect, react, and share what has been learned immediately after reading for better recall at a later time.  This is why you see students in classrooms talking and sharing about their reading; it’s part of the process to overall comprehension.  If you teach something to someone else, you know it better too!
  3. Use what was read!  Assign a value to what was read to better internalize the content so new ideas form.

It’s an exciting process, this learning to read and reading to learn!  The BEST way you can encourage your reader is to model and participate in the process daily–no exceptions and no excuses . . . READ, READ, READ!  🙂

Note:  I owe special thanks and praise to my parents, Sam and Brenda Folsom, who both always modeled good reading for me and with me…even to this day.  🙂


Parent Conference Time…

It’s the annual time of year to huddle up and talk about progress so far this school year…hard to believe it’s time again actually!  keepcalmkindnessWe all know our learners thrive best when they feel all the adults in their lives see them in a consistent way.  Personal conferences are a great way to interact, share, and problem solve together when discussing strengths and challenges while being one of the best ways to support each other in the home-school connection.  Here are some tips on how to build a working relationship to benefit everyone:

Be there:  Research shows children do better academically when both parents attend conferences and meetings together.  If you need to reschedule the appointment, no worries; just let the teacher know.

Remember this word…Focus:  The aim of a parent-teacher conference is for the adults in a the child’s life to build a mutually respectful alliance supporting the child’s journey through school.

Share insider information:  Tell the teacher what you know about your child as a learner.  YOU know what your child likes and dislikes about school, what motivates the child, and what has worked well in the past.  Share your hopes and fears for your child so instruction can be fine-tuned for maximum effectiveness.  You build a stronger relationship with the teacher when you take a moment to share your feelings about your child’s future.

Use the report card as a jumping-off point, but not as the center point of the conversation:  Turn any review of grades into an learning opportunity to get the teacher’s more detailed observations about what’s working and what’s not for your child.  Do not dwell on the grade itself and do not pressure a teacher to change a grade (if you believe a real issue exists, please bring this to Mrs. Bass or myself).  Grades are not always the final reflection of a child’s overall abilities.

Inquire about progress in areas beyond academics:  It’s important we raise loving, respectful, productive citizens in our learning community everyday!  They will, in fact, be the decision-makers of the future.  Ask about friends, socialization at recess, group work times, specials, lunch, and other times throughout the day.  How each child functions with others, in teams, and in small group settings is going to make a huge difference later in life!

Ask what you can do:  Be receptive to advice on how best to support your child without micromanaging or rescuing him/her from mistakes and valuable lessons learned.  This HARD to do as a parent; I know!  🙂

Trust your child’s development:  Relax a little and have faith in your child and your child’s journey through school.

Leave your own school baggage at home, please:  We all have memories and experiences of teachers and classes where we were not happy.  Please set those aside and approach your child’s teacher as a peer and learning partner.  Always assume the teacher WANTS your child to succeed in school and in life—just as you do!

I say it over and over, but it’s so true:  The days of raising a child are long, but the years are far too short.  The work you do today with your child’s teacher (especially during a conference) will finds its way back to your child in the long run.  EnJOY your conference time!  🙂

Ethan’s helping hands…

Nothing is wasted in this life.  Grief, deep sorrow, and unspeakable pain enlarge our capacity for compassion, empathy, and perseverance in extraordinary ways.  We are always a part of each other and life, thus when we choose to give and invest in one another, our own life is touched and changed in inmeasureable steps.

We started off our Friday morning rally with my question:  “Where can you find helping hands?”  Floods of arms went up and clever answers were shared until one stopped the process:  “Just look at the end of Ethan’s arms ’cause he has two helping hands that have changed our world!”  Little did we know just precious hours later he would walk beyond this life into his greater reward…

As a dear friend reminded me today after learning the news:  “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion, but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us, this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on Earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before…”  C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, The Chronicles of Narnia

As a brave cancer warrior these past four years, Ethan’s lessons, along with his open arms of hope and helping hands of love, have wrapped around multiple generations in our learning community and well beyond.  His faith never waned; his shy smile and gentle spirit never faltered.  May we never forget his precious legacy and may we always remember to hold those around us in comfort and unconditional love, just like those helping hands on Ethan’s arms that changed the world…

We’ve got the POWER!

pom9Oh yes…we’ve got the POWER here at LME today and everyday!  It was a grand day for proving our POWERs of strength, endurance, teamwork, and pure JOY during “specials.”  pom7Each learner, classroom leader (including yours truly), and several community volunteers actively participated in ten stations of exercise to earn a point of completion at each station.  Students (and the rest of us) gathered sponsors for our intended success.  Now we collect the money (due by Oct. 3) pom5and celebrate our success (Oct. 2).  We also look forward to sharing our final results in the next few days…stay tuned!

Special thanks to our incredible pom2Specials Team, led by Coach Rogers (with Hans and Franz), our office team (especially Mrs. Worley, Mrs. Boughton, Nurse Sullivan, and Mrs. Thompson), our staff, our parents, and everyone who participated or led the cheers as we raised funds and successfully proved our POWER of Miller!

Lead with your strength! (Part Two)

As shared on yesterday’s post, leading with a strength is a simple, powerful truth for everyday living.  During a highly animated followup conversation with Mr. Van (St. Michael) last evening about the post, he shared this extraordinary moment in his young life demonstrating this very truth…

“It was August 20, 1966. In May of the year, I was struck by a car sustaining severe, life-threatening injuries.  Living within a full-length body cast for several months, my father sought to provide encouragement and motivation for powering through during the long recovery process.  As a member of the Dallas Salesmanship Club, he secured sideline game passes for the Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.  My oldest brother, Tom, wheeled me in my stretcher chair onto the field at the 40-yard-line (what an experience of a lifetime!).  Late in the third quarter, the Packers were driving down the field using their infamous Power Sweep on almost every play.  Green Bay PackersWhen they reached the 35-yard-line, we had a perfect view to watch the each play develop.  Bart Starr handed the football to Paul Hornung who followed a parade of blockers around the right end.  The Cowboys defended the play well, pushing the onrushing team of blockers and runners to the sidelines exactly where we were located.  Sensing an imminent collision, my brother Tom sacrificed his quarterback body (because he was the star quarterback on the high school team) to block the blow by diving in front of the onrushing Packers and Cowboys.  Thankfully, eighteen players ran around my location without injury or incident.  After the game, Bart Starr walked over and presented Tom with an autographed chin strap from his helmet, saying, “Bud, you had the best block of the entire game.” 

Now THAT is knowing your strength…mentally, physically, emotionally…and leading with it, even in the midst of possible defeat!  Thanks, Tom, for sharing the true spirit of brotherhood and demonstrating how to lead with your strength.  Thanks, Michael, for sharing this most personal of stories.  Here’s hoping the learners in our learning community today create Power Sweeps of their own in the coming years!  🙂

Note:  We are definitely leading with strength on Thursday as we challenge ourselves to the POWER of Miller Event!  Thanks to all involved in this campus-wide opportunity and for supporting our many programs at LME!  As Hanz and Franz ask everyday, “Do YOU have the POWER?”  🙂

Lead with your strength!

During morning walkabout today, a child stops me:

  • Child:  Mrs. Van, are walkin’bout now?
  • Me:  Yes!  Please tell me what’s going on in your work today.
  • Child:  Well…I’m leading with strength first!  🙂

What a powerful start to my day!  This simple interaction reminded me of an even more simple truth in learning and in life.  Here’s a little story to better illustrate my point (for all you sports fans):  Strength

Vince Lombardi once hosted a four-day football clinic for coaches and devoted two full days to just one play, the Power Sweep.  If you know football history, Coach Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers won five league championships, including the first two Super Bowl Games because of that one play (see, St. Michael, I DO listen to your football lessons!).  Everyone, including Green Bay’s competitors, knew the Power Sweep was coming, and yet, they still couldn’t stop it.  Coach and his team developed a strength that became an unstoppable force of positive momentum, and they led with this strength every time.

Ask yourself these questions:  What are your strengths?  What do you do best?  Where can you be the strongest?  Teachers must be masters of not only their own strengths but 22+ others as well.  Focusing energy and practice, mastering fundamentals, and developing individual strengths creates a classroom culture of personal excellence.  The more time we spend developing and leading with our strengths, the more each person becomes successful in them.  We tell learners all the time we don’t need an average campus or an average “you;” we need the best you…and when you lead with your strength, you share your best always.  May we never forget the power of one simple, clear truth:  lead with your strength!  🙂

Note:  Speaking of strength, Hanz and Franz are reminding us of the POWER of Miller this week on Thursday.  Lead with your strength as we work together and have great fun sweating for change! 

Are you grateful today?

IMG_0486There was a saying my Granny B would note, “We plant today the harvest of tomorrow.”  So on this first day of fall, it is appropriate I pull out my autumn door sign and gratefully reflect on its message and on an exceptional email in an inbox full of needs…

It is rare, but when it happens, it strikes swiftly and boldly to the heart and soul.  As a principal, I have to admit there are days I dread opening my email inbox.  I just know…  Today was an exception of the best kind as I scrolled down to a line marked “Grateful” (needless to say, this email was opened first).  In the note, a specific teacher was being praised by a parent for being “organized, thoughtful, kind, funny, and loving” to her child.  The parent went on to thank me for choosing this teacher and for showing patience with this family through some challenging days:  “What I need to do from this point forward is trust you and your team to do your loving work with a new attitude of gratitude…thanks for showing me with your actions that my child is first in your heart.”

JOY in life is made up of small things–a smile, a helping hand, a caring heart, great laughter, a word of praise… On this day, I am conscious of the treasured moment when this kind, grateful note of thanks found its way into my inbox and of Granny’s words on WHY we gratefully tend to our garden each day.  🙂