Sunday, August 13, 2017

Learning Together is Fun!

Last week our Curtis staff got together for our annual Curtis Retreat.  We had a fun-filled afternoon learning together because our differences.  Developing a positive culture is important in creating a team!  This is something that our Curtis team does best!  We had a great time together.

This year's theme is, "Making the Difference."  We want to encourage our classrooms to include challenges that cultivate problem solving, collaboration, collaboration, and creativity.  Maker's Spaces provide this opportunity.  Teachers can create these spaces for students in the their classrooms as well as accessing our Innovation Lab for class challenges throughout the year.  Our challenge in meeting the  needs of students is to individualize learning and embrace their differences.  At the retreat, our teachers worked in teams to complete a challenge.  Little did they know, some were more equipped than others.  The members of each team all have different experiences, talents, and passions.  Working together collaboratively, they were all able to contribute in their own unique way to complete the challenge together.

Each team had many of the same items to complete the challenge, but some of their items were a little different.  Some teams' directions were in another language while others may not have been able to talk while planning to execute their challenge. 

Like teaching and learning, not every student starts on the same playing field.  Some may be more equipped with certain talents and skills than others, but ALL students have talents.  Allowing students to collaborate to solve problems is important to learning.  Student-centered learning helps to break barriers allowing students to think differently to achieve a common goal.

Learning needs to be fun!
Our learning space on Thursday night was not quiet.  It was teeming with familiar sites and sounds of learning.  Staff members were communicating ideas, laughing, and working with their hands to complete the challenge to make something float!    Learning is messy!  There were materials flying all over the place.  Student-centered learning helps to engage all learners and encourages collaboration, a skill most important to success in life.

Curtis Elementary teachers had fun last Thursday night!  A Team that plays together, stays together!  We are committed to embracing differences in students' learning styles and differentiating learning for every child. 
We will know our students, individualize learning for each of them, and ensure that every child makes progress.  We accept the challenge to make learning fun leading our students to success.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Because Kids!

It is that time of year again!  The start of a new year is always exciting! I try to wrap things up around the house before the start of school so that I can focus on teachers and students. In the last days of summer, I have been working to take care of some things around my house.  I love doing yard work, but sometimes things don't go as smoothly as planned.  Last weekend I was tasked with eradicating some tough black algae in my pool.  It just came out of nowhere!  Or did it?  A week before I awoke to scattered spots on the pool plaster, I had to take my water to get tested.  Distracted by other things, I did not treat my pool as expected and just did not get around to it.  At the end of the week, I was about to begin the treatment and to my surprise, I had a bigger issue - the black algae.  This issue cost me a couple of days of hard work scrubbing and vacuuming the pool. And the really fun part -  cleaning the filter.  All of this could have been avoided if only I had not allowed myself to be distracted.

In between the scrubbing, we decided to test all of our sprinklers to see if the system was working well.  This task took most of the day.  We found a few sprinkler heads that needed replacing and some were watering the sidewalks and not the grass.  The thing that took most of the day was finding a station not working.  There were some sprinklers that were not coming on at all!  My husband and I worked several hours trouble shooting a station which included a couple of trips to Home Depot for parts.  After several hours, we concluded that we were not even working on the right station!  Since we did not have a blueprint for our system, we were just shooting in the dark to determine which station watered different parts of the yard.  Finally, after all day in the hot sun (the hottest day of the summer) we found the right station to repair so that we could fix the valve.

I tell this story about my Saturday because it reminds me of the job we do in education.  My Saturday caused me to reflect on some key duties that I have as the principal of Curtis Elementary.  It is my key responsibility to make sure that everyone in the building is focused on the right things.  The work we do at Curtis Elementary is important.  We are all about meeting the needs of students no matter how diverse those needs may be at any given time.  Here are a couple of the key lessons that I learned from working in the yard.

 1.  Don't Get Distracted!

Sometimes in education the same thing can happen.  We will all have the best intentions to keep everything running smoothly and things distract us.  The next thing you know, there is an unforeseen problem.  It is like spinning plates.  While busy spinning one plate, another one falls.  IT is difficult to keep them all spinning at the same time.  Going back to the pool issue, I am reminded that we have to be focused on the right things all of the time!  As a principal, it is my responsibility to ensure that staff members and teachers are focused on the right things, and I do not take this responsibility lightly.  Not only do I need to focus on the culture of our school, but I also must keep quality instruction at the forefront of everything that we do.  It is all about the students!    As with the pool, if we are not focused on the right things at the right time, we will have to spend precious time treating a problem or it will come back twice as big.
Algae can run rampant just like perceptions can blow up!  We always want to have a positive perception with our parents and community.  We do not want our community to perceive that we do not care.  Developing positive relationships with our parents is crucial.  Having a positive relationship with parents and students goes a long way.  If we nurture our relationships with parents, it is easier to find solutions together to help their child when academic or behavioral issue arise.  The most important relationship we must cultivate is with the student.  Students know when a teacher believes in them and cares.  It is important that there is a relationship with the student in order for him/her is ready to learn.   We also must stay focused on the learning standards that need to be taught to students.  If we teach TEKS to the appropriate depth and rigor that our state standards outline, we do not need to teach to a test.  Our students will be ready! We will not have to sweat it when state testing season begins.   We are about quality learning - not testing.  Not getting distracted and staying focused on the "right" work is good for students.

2.  Focus on the Students' and Teachers' Needs!

We are all different!  Teachers are different from one another and have different talents, learning and teaching styles.  As the principal, I must take these unique differences into account during professional development.  One size does not fit all!  I must take on a coaching role to work with teachers to do all I can to help them to be their best.  It is the same with students.   Kids are different too!  As educators, we must tap into students' passions and talents in order to increase academic achievement.  We must DIFFERENTIATE!  This is such an easy term that rolls out of our mouths, but it is really difficult.  We must provide an individualized education for all students.  Not every student needs the same thing.  It is like those sprinklers that were spraying the sidewalk.

It does not matter how much water you are spraying, if it isn't hitting the grass nothing grows.  The same thing goes with learning.  If teachers are cranking out awesome lessons, but they are not pointing the right stuff to the right kids, it is wasted energy and effort.  We need to point our
sprinklers in the right directions - using the right instructional strategies for each student instead of just spraying it all over the room and hoping some of it lands on a student helping him/her to learn and grow.  We need to make sure we are working on the right station or valve when there is an issue instead of wasting time working on the wrong problem.

I am committed to ensuring that Curtis Elementary provides quality instruction for every student.
It is my job to learn, to lead, and to encourage.  The work we do at our campus begins with me.  I am excited about the year ahead of us and more determined than ever to make sure we are laser focused on building relationships and improving  instruction every single day Why?    ...Because Kids!