IMG_1665It was the annual school-wide SOS Event…Super Outrageous Science!  From learners and leaders dressed as scientists (some rather mad-looking in fact) to the Science of Juggling, we experimented, hypothesized, synthesized, and IMG_6717created loads of science adventure throughout the day.  Special thanks to parents, community members, presenters, and others who enhanced the day’s events and classroom presentations with everything from IMG_6718juggling to large dry-ice bubbles (with 1st grade friends inside).  Bravos as well to our campus science committee for the wonderful Science Fair all week exhibits, creepy crawlies, and more cool items (and the volunteers who ran it).  As one little friend noted, “Science IS really super outrageous, Mrs. Van!  🙂


IMG_6700The first semester Principal’s Luncheon was today and what a great experience we enJOYed together!  From Mr. David (and Curious George) driving our bus to the warm hospitality at Red Robin (YUMMM), we feasted in great fellowship and fun.  These are extraordinary students who must meet a strict criteria:  All A’s in academics, All E’s in conduct, and absolute Perfect Attendance (no tardies, leave earlies, or absences).  With the recent flu and stomach bugs going around, this was a challenge for everyone (suffice it to say, I did not make the criteria cut and only got to go because I was paying the bill!).  🙂IMG_6697

We are so proud of these outstanding students and certainly hope more can join us this next semester for the big event.  Special thanks to Red Robin for hosting us and making our adventure especially YUMMM!

IMG_6683On another note, special thanks to my special PrinciPAL-For-The-Day today, Mr. L, who certainly made his mark on our campus.  From classroom observations to chaperoning  during the luncheon field trip, he earned his keep and more.  Thanks, Mr. L, for being a real PAL!

Be the BEST!

I noted a card today during walkabout:  “You owe it to yourself to be theth BEST you can personally be today!  Why?”  When I stopped by the small group of assembled to inquire about their thoughts, here was the general consensus among the group:

  • The BEST make everyone around them better.
  • It’s important to inspire excellence in each other to the BEST.
  • Doing my personal BEST means I’m at my greatest.
  • Being the BEST is a life goal, one day at a time.
  • The BEST know what they want and show no fear in getting there.

The other part, though, is not about being better than anyone else; it’s about striving to the BEST each of us can be while we help others be their BEST.  WOW…these thinkers know a powerful life lesson at such a young age!  Here’s hoping we are all doing our BEST daily to be our BEST selves!  🙂

Eye on the ball…

Coach corrected, “Keep your eye on the ball and your follow-through will be better next time.  Remember, you’re not competing with others; you’re simply doing your personal best!”  We are blessed with a PE Coach who understands learners and shares life lessons with just a few simple words. His words appeared today in a writer’s notebook; I had the opportunity to elaborate with the child:

  • Me:  What do these words mean to you?
  • Child:  Well, it means I was thinking about everything else I needed to do and not doing the one most important thing…keeping my eye on the ball!
  • Me:  This happens in life everyday to me.
  • Child:  Well, being the principal means you have to do everybody else’s stuff so no wonder you can’t watch the ball!  Just do your personal best, Mrs. Van.  🙂

We’re not alone–in the gym or in life.  Distractions cause us to lose our focus.  We allow the trivial or all the details to get in the way of the most important or meaningful point.  Busyness and stress keep us from developing the 3943677relationships we need to move forward.  We fret about the past, worry about the future, and take focus off the present.  Bombarded by information (especially social media) and other daily distractions, we forget what is truly important.  We often focus on the outcomes instead of the process and wonder why we miss the target.  We focus on everything else except THE BALL.

As we roll into this second semester full force, I challenge all of us to keep our eye on the ball.  Get back to basics, routines, and fundamentals.  Identify the simple actions crucial to your daily success (as Mr. Van says, “those items most critical to your continued existence on the planet”).  Reflect on what really matters.  Here’s hoping we all keep our eye on the ball and take our game to a new, higher level!

Matt Sanders’ Day!

StuCoSBMEach January, we pause to express our appreciation for a very special group of volunteers: the Midlothian ISD School Board of Trustees. The 2014-2015 Board members are Todd Hemphill (president), Keith Hitt (vice-president), Matt Sanders (secretary), Duke Burge, Jim Mentzel, Tom Moore, and Carl Smith (trustees).  We were especially proud to honor Matt Sanders this morning during our weekly Miller Rally to recognize and celebrate his work!

Usually, we don’t think of school board members as school volunteers, but they do, in fact, volunteer to serve.  School board members give their time, energy, and counsel to the school district without pay.  They take on the job of governing the district – making the best decisions they can for our children – with the full understanding they will receive only the satisfaction of their contribution.

Their contributions, however, should not be understated.  The volunteer efforts of the school board members have the potential for tremendous benefit to the community as a whole and to the lives of the students individually.  By serving the district in this important governance role, school board members lay the foundation for the future.

The men and women who make the time to generously provide this important public service do so because they care.  One StuCo member noted, “They care about their our education, they care about the schools being the best they can be, and they care about the next generation–ME– and my future in this community!”  Yes, it is the selfless act of accepting SBRM-2015responsibility for the educational process that helps our children grow into successful, productive citizens.  Board service is truly “a work of heart.”

Thank you, MISD Board Members!  Here’s hoping you join us in celebrating School Board Recognition Month in January, and take a moment to express your appreciation for the volunteer efforts of our MISD School Board Members!

The Power of Self-Talk!

self-talkWhile visiting classrooms today I noticed a friend working alone and talking quietly into a whisper phone.  I asked, “How are things going today?”  The response, “Well, it’s taking a lot of self-talk to get this day started.”  🙂

I remember some powerful advice my saintly husband, Michael, gave me years ago when I questioned him about why he loved running marathons and how he did it so successfully:  “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of just listening to myself.”  WHAT?  “If I listen to myself, all I hear are excuses and reasons why I should give up and not keep moving forward.  When I talk to myself, I give encouragement and words I need to keep running in order to cross that finish line.”

This is life, especially in teaching and learning in our self-talk2classrooms!  Too often we listen to ourselves (and others) and hear complaints, self-doubt, fear, or negativity; we allow the energy vampires (thank you, Jon Gordon) to suck us dry!  What we need to choose to do is feed ourselves with our positive voice so we fuel our words, thoughts, beliefs, and actions into motion!  Just like my little friend on the whisper phone this morning, the positive talk gives strength and power to overcome the challenges of the day in order to experience personal greatness.

As we start second semester at LME, may we all keep running forward, staying positive, and learning to talk to ourselves.  Here’s hoping we all follow the power of self-talk…and don’t forget to raise your hands into the air in JOYful celebration when you cross the beautiful finish line of this school year!  🙂

STAAR light; STAAR bright; STAAR Parent Night!

Have you wondered…staar

  • What STAAR tests will my child take this year?
  • What is the correlation between the STAAR Test and the State Curriculum (TEKS)?
  • When will I see scores?
  • What is SSI and which students are involved?
  • What can I do to help my child be prepared for testing days?

These are ALL great questions and we’d love to have the opportunity to share the answers with you in person!  Please join the MISD Elementary School administrators for a Parent Informational Meeting about STAAR on Tuesday, January 27th at 6:30 p.m. at the MISD Boardroom at LA Mills Administration Building for this informational meeting.  Bring your questions and your smiles. We hope to see you there!

Karena Blackwell, Longbranch Elementary Principal

Kyle Chambers, JA Vitovsky Elementary Principal

Shannon Thompson, JR Irvin Elementary Principal

Beth Van Amburgh, Larue Miller Elementary Principal

Karen Childers, Mt. Peak Elementary Principal

Courtney Carpenter, TE Baxter Elementary Principal


The DIY child…

DIY-KIDS1A young little friend informed me, “I do it myself!”  As the adult just trying to assist with the zippering of the coat before braving the strong north wind, I was immediately struck by this child’s need to overcome this particular obstacle on her own.  What I needed to remember in this vivid moment was to not overrule but to support her desire to complete the task alone.  She wasn’t willing to give up on doing it herself, so why was I trying to make her?

I started PONDERing (my one word goal this school year) about children and self-sufficiency.  All parents want their children to be self-sufficient, right?  It’s hard to grasp the reality how one of our main jobs as parents (and educators) raising children is to give them the tools to help them not need us eventually.  As a dear friend reminded me years ago, “You are raising these precious babes to leave you.”  What?!?

As an empty-nester with children in the “real world” now, I can completely vouch for the need for self-sufficiency.  From learning to walk and talk to tying shoes or packing lunches to driving a vehicle (oh my stars!) to paying tuition and bills on time, these outward expressions of important independence compound through the years.  It takes confidence to master new tasks; the more you succeed, the more capable you feel to move forward.  Yes, it’s tricky to know when to back off (especially when “saving” feels nurturing and may even save time), but consider the alternative . . .

A 2012 study published in Family Relations Journal found that young adults who have been “overparented” in childhood were more likely to have depression, anxiety, and a strong sense of entitlement.  “Behavior problems will show up at school, in friendships, and later down the line at work and with life partners,” notes Dr. Marti Erickson, of the series Mom Enough“There’s often an inability to handle tasks without a great deal of direction and support, which wears other people out.”  This is strong observation for those who only have the best intentions behind their constant coddling.  The reality is our children are wired to wriggle out of our grasp and are truly made to be self-sufficient as they grow.  Basically what we need to remember is not to overcome all the obstacles for them; if we don’t allow them to “do it myself,” they will eventually give up.

In reading Sheri Noga’s book Have The Guts To Do It Right:  Raising Grateful and Responsible Children In An Era Of Indulgence, she points out that, at our core, we simply don’t want to see our children suffer for even a second!  “Most parents know what their children are capable of, but step in too soon to save them or to make things easier for them immediately; long term benefits, though, should always trump momentary discomfort every time.”

So ask yourself these questions before you rush right in with help on task:

  1. Is my child in any real danger?
  2. Can I live with the outcome?
  3. What’s the best-and-worst-case scenario?
  4. Does my child have the necessary skills to do this?

If there is no real danger and the child has the skills, then back away and be the secure base so your child can venture out; she knows you are there in case of serious trouble.  🙂

We will continue to PONDER this idea of our DIY children.  When raising children the days are really long sometimes, but the years are far too short…especially when you hear the words, “I do it myself!”  🙂

Note:  We enJOYed 2015 seconds of uninterrupted reading today as we “Warmed Up To Reading in 2015!”  Thanks for sending so many books!

Parent Lesson Plan…

organizeDuring a phone conversation today with a parent, the mom asked, “Mrs. Van, my One Word this year is ‘organize.’  I’m not all that organized and remain a work in progress, but I really want to start 2015 by helping my seven-year-old son stay organized and on track each day with school work and more.  Do you have any tips I could implement at home?”  Here’s a Baker’s Half-Dozen as a parent lesson plan:

1.  Children are truly creatures of habit.  They like consistency, routine, procedures, and expectations.  Even if you’re not organized, most likely the classroom teacher is and each classroom follows a system each day at school.  Talk with your child’s teacher about the current classroom routines for ideas to mimic at home.

2.  At school, each child has a place for a backpack; give him or her the same at home–by the door you enter/leave each day (maybe on a hook or bench) for quick referral and retrieval.  Spend a minute every day cleaning out the backpack, checking for homework or notes, signing folders or assignment books, and organizing for the next day.  This will help you greatly in the morning.

3.  Choose one uncluttered place to designate as the “homework spot,” just like your child’s assigned seat in the classroom.  Viewing this space as “where I do my work” makes it easier to concentrate.  Just like the teacher has a place for supplies, it’s also helpful to stock this homework area neatly with supplies like crayons, pencils, other writing tools, a ruler, notebook paper, etc.–everything is at the ready.  You can find fun storage containers at the dollar store and other places.

4.  Study the family schedule and build in a consistent homework time as part of the daily routine each week–no exceptions.

5.  Use the assignment book and cross off or check off each task when completed (this is empowering for everyone!).

6.  If homework is online (in a program like Edmodo or Google Drive), set up a folder on the computer and a system for access.  This is also a great time to talk about cyber expectations and safety with your child.

7.  For graded work sent back home from the teacher (and to prevent additional clutter), use a banker’s box and toss in anything the child wants to save as he empties the backpack, then recycle the rest (our bins out back take recycled papers).  Celebrate successes!

You can add much to this basic list and please consider yourself invited to do so!  Little ideas like these go a long way in the daily hustle and bustle of school-to-home-to-school.   As always, thanks for being our partners and participating members in our learning community.  Welcome back, LME; Happy 2015!

Note:  School starts again on Tuesday, January 6th @ 7:45 a.m.  Wear your jeans and favorite college shirts tomorrow!