Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Are We Thankful For?

One week ago, I asked the readers of this blog to reflect on what they are thankful for when they think of Montpelier Public Schools.  Thanks to MHS Principal Adam Bunting, I created my first wordle by entering in all the answers I received from the various readers of this blog.

This wordle speaks for itself - I am proud to work in a community of learners that has so many substantive values.  It is a gift and I am tremendously grateful to be a part of this wonderful educational environment!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Being Thankful

What is more "November" than being thankful?  I've seen friends on Facebook posting daily one thing that they're thankful for.  As we approach the last seven student days before the Thanksgiving Break, I've been thinking about what's important to me and what I am thankful for.  Here, in no particular order, is what has crossed my mind. 

  • My Family - the love, encouragement, and support that I receive is the bedrock for the professional work that I do. 
  • The MPS Administrative Team - Pam Arnold, Adam Bunting, Chris Hennessey, Mary Lundeen, Mike Martin, and Cindy Rossi have cultivated a thoughtful, fun, student-centered instructional leadership team that works steadfastly on behalf of the children and adults in Montpelier.  We enjoy each other so much that My Bride calls Tuesday my "Laugh Morning" because of how much humor is present during our weekly Team Meetings.  
  • The Adults of MPS - In the past few weeks, I have been inspired - truly inspired - by stories I have heard and what I have witnessed first hand from the adults in Montpelier Public Schools.  From award winning teachers remarking thoughtfully about the importance of relationships over content to the dedication of instructional assistants tirelessly working with their students; from the preparation of food in our cafeterias to the consistent presence of our administrative support staff; from the visible demonstration of stewardship over our facilities personnel to the commitment to community well being by the Recreation Department to the vision of public education set by our Board of School Commissioners.  
  • The Students of MPS - what can I say about this amazing group of young people?  They are tremendous.  They model sustainability in Vermont - that's why Deborah Markowitz (Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources) came to Main Street Middle School this week to unveil the State of Vermont's new recycling logos.  They inspire - click on The Wise Owl (UES Principal Chris Hennessey's blog) to see how student centered our elementary school is.  They are leaders - regularly I see adults listening to students at MHS.  This week's upcoming Board meeting will begin with a student presentation from MHS students.  I am grateful that in MPS, when students talk, adults listen.  
Reflecting on those people, I am reminded of John F. Kennedy's quote about being thankful: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."  As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to find a way to say thank you to others, which for me are the two most important words in the English language. 

To the readers of this blog, I thank you for sharing some of your free time with me and my thoughts.  I wish you a wonderfully enjoyable holiday season!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's in Your Pizza Box?

A couple of years ago, My Wife came up with a brilliant idea to collect work Our Boys are proud of: every couple of weeks, each of Our Sons chooses something from school he is proud of and My Wife or I make a choice as well.  As you can see, their pizza boxes are full - we have a pizza box for each year they have been in school.  It's a way for us to collect, as a family, the work Our Boys are proud of over a long period of time.  They're only 5 and 7 - we need a few more boxes already!

In MPS, we've been having discussions about electronic portfolios as a way for students to collect work that they're proud of, as well as a way to demonstrate improvement over time.  Part of the challenge in educational leadership is to document student improvement over time, through the lens of one student.  I can tell you anecdotally that our students across the district demonstrate improvement over time.  Our teachers consistently use pre-assessments to inform instructional decisions, use formative assessments to track progress throughout, and review results from summative assessments to establish benchmarks for future work in classrooms.  We have to have documentation of improvement - and we can do more. 

I admit that I like the idea of an electronic portfolio - it truly captures student work from developing to basic to proficient, to distinguished.  Recently, My Wife and I attended our first Parent/Teacher Conference for Our Son in Kindergarten.  During the conference, his teacher showed us two pieces of paper: one was completed in August, one was completed the week of the conference.  The one from August had a list of numbers from one to ten and while all numbers were identifiable, there was plenty of room for growth!  The one from the week of the conference showed dramatic improvement (I am proud to say) and it was fun to put the two pieces of paper side by side to revel in the work Our Youngest has done with his teacher in Kindergarten!

My Wife and I are hoping to have examples from both Boys for the balance of their educational career - work that they and we are proud of.  In MPS, we are hoping to create a way for students to track their work for their educational careers.  If given the opportunity, what would you put in the pizza boxes for your own children?