Friday, June 14, 2013

End of Year Celebrations

Montpelier High School Commencement just ended - and we have celebrated the Class of 2013 in a ceremony fitting to their talents.  There was juggling, singing, and dancing; there were eloquent speeches, hugs, and even a few tears.  The Class of 2013 goes off into the next chapter of their lives, as our gift to the world.  

While I have not been as faithful to this blog as I had hoped this year, I end the school year on a high note with the celebrations that have taken place recently in MPS.  Here is a snapshot of the amazing things happening in Montpelier Public Schools!

Rhonda Brace, Anne Giroux, and Jason Miles (MSMS) - Crafter's Edge students have had a very successful year.  Total sales for the year $10,625.20, with a total profit for this year $6,639.79.  These students are giving $500 to the Central Vermont Humane Society, $500 to the Make a Wish Foundation of Vermont, and $500 to the American Cancer Society on behalf of their teacher Ludo Buret.  

Spooky Buzzi (CO) - I was down in the gym where the seniors were practicing for graduation.  The new ramp is set up and looks like it's been a part of our graduation ceremonies for years.  Mary O'Neill, Thom Wood, Dennis Maranville, and Carrie Cook's hard work and diligence are making a student's participation in graduation possible.  This ramp will enable many students in years to come to participate in their school community events.  I have another one.  After Neil Rosenblad left, Nancy Chase continued a long time tradition with Unified Sports.  With fewer athletes and partners, she has maintained a wonderful spirit of involvement and partnership among a group of high school students.  She has a big heart and a generous soul that she uses to model her passion for all students to be active participants in their high school community.
Stephanie DiLena (MSMS) - I am writing to say that I can share something "new" I did last week that I thought was powerful.  About a month ago, I met with employee and advocate Stephen McArthur from Circle (formerly Battered Women's Shelter) to plan a week-long co-teaching mini-unit on understanding healthy and unhealthy relationships, bullying, teen dating violence, and domestic violence, gender "boxes," and stereotypes.  We did the mini-unit recently.  Steve was our guest in language arts for four days, and it was neat because he mostly goes into P.E. or Health classes but has never been invited into a language arts class.  So much of the work we have to do with students around these issues has to do with language and the many messages that swirl around them (and us!) telling them what to think, who and how to be.  It was a very powerful experience for students and adults.  

Sylvia Fagin (MSMS) - This year, a group of faculty and staff at MSMS have been meeting to discuss diversity – ethnicity, race, and economic class, and the myriad intersections thereof. We met six times from November through May, with seven people participating.  We took an appreciative inquiry approach, beginning with the questions, “What's good about having a diverse student body?” and “What skills and information do we need to be effective in building on these assets?”  We then constructed a mission statement for our time together: "We are a group of educators learning to talk about diversity [including race, ethnicity, and economics] [from our position of power] and our own backgrounds, while walking on the eggshells of public school."  The agreements under which we interacted included the Four Agreements of Courageous Conversation (Singleton & Linton, 2006): Stay engaged; speak your truth; experience discomfort; expect and accept non-closure.  For each meeting, participants read one or two articles which we then discussed as a group. We also wrote and shared our own “opportunity narratives,” autobiographical stories about the individual-, community-, and institution-level influences that shaped us.  "The group offers thought-provoking discussion and material that offers new perspective on children, society, and the people who teach them,” said participant Don Taylor.  Participant Lisa Moody noted, “Aside from enjoying the great conversations with my peers in such a safe atmosphere, I would say that the way the topics and discussions tied in with my social studies curriculum was great. We are all about culture in sixth grade, and the articles we read in the group gave me some good supplementary information for my classes.”  The desire to continue the group next year was unanimous, so we will! In September, we'll pick back up and welcome new folks who wish to join another year of interesting, challenging, timely discussion.  The readings and information about the group process we used can be found here.  Identity, race, ethnicity, and class are deeply personal issues. Talking about them takes courage and trust. I am grateful to my colleagues who went on this risky and rewarding journey with me this year.

Brian Gallagher & Liz Bailey (MHS) - Liz Bailey and I applied for this and we hope to raise some more funds in the fall to add to this amount to purchase as second AED for the school.  Montpelier High School scored very well in this year’s Health Department School Wellness Award application and was awarded the Bronze award of $1,000.  

Hilary Goldblatt (MSMS/MHS) - Music students at MSMS and MHS used Noteflight, a web-based music notation program, to create original musical compositions.  They then shared and commented on each other's scores (think facebook for musicians). Some students worked with professional composers as online mentors through the state-wide Music-COMP program.  A total of 11 students represented Montpelier at the New England Music Festival, and 17 students represented Montpelier at the All-State music festival this year.  (Hilary buried the lead on the celebrations as she and her husband Noah became the proud parents of a baby boy this semester.  Congratulations to them both!)

Amy Herrick (UES) - Our daughter is going to graduate tonight from MHS. She has been in the Montpelier schools since the first day of kindergarten and has received an excellent academic and social education. My husband and I feel immeasurably grateful to the excellent teachers, staff, and administration of all three Montpelier schools. Thank you for giving Montpelier kids such a solid and happy foundation in life.

Todd Keller (UES) - UES saved money on the electric bill again this year and our custodial staff has done a great job.  The "Facelift to our heating system" and the many positive projects that will happen this summer to make UES an even safer, cleaner, and healthier school for both students, staff, and families.  

Morgan Lloyd (UES) - Thank you to Marie Jennings and Emmanuel Riby-Williams for this biking unit to our students!  It was so amazing to watch my entire class ride off in to town! They were so happy (even the ones who like to complain).  They rode all the way to the pool and the rec fields.  On the way back, one student was overheard exclaiming, "I never knew it was so close!"  You can be sure that student will be returning to the pool on his own, now that he knows the way.  Another student, who is often seen trailing behind the group on walks, was right out in front as the class returned to UES, with a big smile on his face.  Later, two students were discussing their ride, and they expressed their appreciation that "Mr. Williams and M.J. really listen to us."  I think the students felt both honored and grateful that their proposal to ride to the pool was accepted.  I am certain that this unit will have a lasting positive impact on many of my students.  Of course, it's not only the bike riding-- My students reflected this afternoon that they have really enjoyed PE with you this year. "We do units," they said and "We learned stuff."  I reflected that although not every kid loved every unit, I thought that there was great balance, and that the PE units had offered something for everyone, and had really been engaging to all students.  I have appreciated your monthly letters to families and your focus on fitness, cooperation, and self-reflection.  Thank you both for all you had done for UES!  We are lucky to have you.

Marianne McNamara (MHS) - One of my students has been accepted at Rice and he has been given a substantial scholarship.  I'm pleased to say this story has a happy ending - he couldn't stay at MHS but now has a great opportunity at Rice.  One of my other students has applied to Castelton State College for the fall.  Three years ago this student didn't speak English.  It often takes more than five years for ELL students to become proficient with academic language.  

Melissa Pierce (UES) - Ari Markowitz, Luke Burton and Nathan Burton put on an amazing break dancing show for us at UES. I had Nathan in fourth and fifth grade and have kept in touch with him, showing support at his dance performances whenever possible. When I saw them perform this winter, I asked Nathan if they would consider coming to their alma mater to give a show. I got the parents group to donate some money and the boys readily agreed to come.  They put on two separate energetic, age appropriate shows with demos, dancing, music, Q and A, getting kids on stage, etc. Everyone LOVED it, and the hallways were filled with kids dancing all afternoon, they were so inspired. Ari, Nathan and Luke were gracious, polite, and sweet with the students. They said "Thank you for the opportunity to do this."Best quotes I heard - "Now THAT was the least boring thing that has EVER happened in the auditorium!"  "I always thought dancing was girly, but man, those guys were SICK!"

Colleen Purcell & Dan Miller-Arsenault - This quarter Dan Miller-Arsenault and I collaborated on an interdisciplinary unit based around the novel The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  All of my Spanish 4 students are in Dan's Interpretations of Literature class where they read this book as part of the final unit of the year on magical realism.  The book takes place over the course of the 20th century in Chile ending in the early years of Pinochet's dictatorship.  Our goal was to increase the students' appreciation of the book and deepen their learning by having them explore the historical realities behind the story.  Together we worked on KUD's for our connected units and created a website with resources and assignments for both of our classes to use.  Check out the website at:  Students in my Spanish class researched different historical figures/moments from the book, posted their findings and analysis on the shared website, and gave a brief presentation in each of the English classes to introduce their webpage.  All the students in the English class then visited the student webpages and commented (on the pages) about how the information deepened their understanding of the events of the story.  In looking through their comments and talking with my Spanish students, it is clear to me that this cross-disciplinary approach successfully engaged students in their learning in both classes!  It was also wonderful to work collaboratively with a colleague outside of my department!  I hope that in the future teachers at MHS are provided with more opportunities to do such collaborative work as it pays off not only in professional growth, but also (and more importantly) in student learning!

I truly appreciate anyone who has taken the time to read my blog this year, even with the limited entries.  I will do better next year.  

Have a wonderful summer!