February 26, 2012 – Welcome Back!

Hopefully, everyone enjoyed a great week of fun and lots of great, healthy activities. Judging from the many Facebook posts I saw over the past week, we have some very adventurous and active staff members. We have a very active week ahead with lots going on!

  • Feb 29 – Mangiamo arrives! Those with reservation to the EICAL offering of Martha LaViolet and Lona Tassey’s kids will enjoy the tastes of Italy beginning at first lunch of the day and running through the last lunch. Enjoy!
  • Mar 2 – Students will enjoy a day of listening to our many presenters talking about what they do for a living. Lona, Kelly and Susie have been extremely busy gathering a tremendous number of professionals with as varied a background as we have ever had for the annual career day activities. The actual schedule for the day will be coming out at the beginning of the week, when we return from vacation. One caveat that I hope we all can be mindful of is that sometimes people have emergencies that will keep them from fulfilling their obligation with us. Please try to be flexible as we can be. This is not an easy task to put this together and, as they say, the best laid plans….
  • Mar 2 –Progress Reports will be going home with students at the close of the day. They should be prepared to be distributed at advisory period.
  • Mar 2– This is a very busy day! The annual celebration of Theodore Geisel’s birthday with Read Across America Day, I think we have so much going on that this would best be celebrated on Monday, March 5th.
  • Mar 7 Team Leaders meeting in Melanie’s room beginning at 2:30 pm.
  • Mar 2 – Ban the “R” word day. This is our third celebration of trying to end the use of this very painful and hurtful word in our vocabularies.
  • Mar 9 – School Dance sponsored by the Civil Rights Team, Odyssey of the Mind and Lego Robotics. The dance begins at 6:00 and runs til 8:00. As always, these groups would welcome any and all volunteers who would like (OK maybe not Like, but willing) to chaperone the dance. Please contact Sarah Rubin or Diane Knott to let them know.
  • Mar 14 – For all of our math teachers, this is the day set aside for all things math Pi Day, enjoy. Let us know if your holding any special Pi Day activities.
  • Mar 14 – Faculty meeting in the GMS Library beginning at 2:30. This will be a whole group meeting and we’ll get the exact agenda out next week. You can probably count on part of the meeting working on formative assessment practices, as well as other important items.
  • Mar 15 –For social studies and ELA teachers, the Ides of March is day celebrated to commemorated our Roman roots and our love of Shakespeare, if you plan any activities to mark this day, let us know!
  • Mar 15 -Our monthly PIE meeting in the GMS Library beginning at 6:30 pm, all are invited to attend.
  • Mar 22 & 24 – Our annual presentation of the School Musical, this year our students are presenting Into the Woods, a funny and musical look at some of our favorite fairy tales. The presentation will begin at 7:00 pm each evening in the GMS Auditorium, please save the date.
  • Mar 26 -There will be a district-wide Team Leaders meeting, the location has not been determined, probably Great Falls School beginning at 3:30. As soon as we get the agenda, we’ll forward it on to you. Please mark the date on your calendar.
  • Mar 29 & 30 – Early release day and teacher workshop day, respectively. These days are Parent/Teacher Conference Days for the entire district.
  • Mar 30 – 3rd Quarter ends, please have your grades into your grade book by Tuesday so that we can have report cards ready to go home on Friday April 6.

Other Stuff

This is the time of year that is the prime “learning season” for our students. For the next 7 weeks we have our most sustained period of students in school, barring those dreaded snow days, since September. One very happy reminder of positive change is that in past years this was the month that was consumed, hardly an appropriate word given the time they took, by the Maine Educational Assessment. It really is nice to have those “off the plate” and that time back for the month of March!

Faculty meeting preview

At our next faculty meeting on March 14th, we will begin the work of developing Learning Teams to tackle some of the topics discussed at our last meeting. Some of the topics that have been suggested are:

Formative Assessment
Homework/grading practices
Culture and Climate
Literacy and Numeracy
Motivating the unmotivated students
Flexible groups
Parent Communication and Outreach

This is important work that will consume much of our time during the rest of this year and most of next year. We will be seeking resources such as Journal Articles, Professional Development opportunities or books that we can read to expand our knowledge base on each of these subjects.

Read Across America Day

March 2nd is the official Read Across America Day to honor the memory of Dr. Suess and his very engaging and entertaining stories. On this day Americans across the country are encouraged to read with their students and the children. Since we have so much going on on Friday, March 2nd, I would suggest that we hold off our celebration of the day until Monday, March 5th. I am including some terrific links to resources to help give ideas of some activities to do with our students:

Suessville
Teachers Net Projects and Chatroom
abcteach Resources

These are just a few sites, I am confident that many of you have some great site that you could share with all of us, please feel free to do so either by email or through a comment to this entry.

Some interesting Posts, Comments & Blogs

A couple of Memo’s ago I mentioned how impressed I am at the content and amount of information available to the world from Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Truth be told, Pinterest is new to me and I haven’t fully grasped the context of the platform, but I have seen some of what it can do, and I’m impressed! I came across a tweet from Will Richardson, who describes himself as a “…parent, author, speaker, blogger about social web tools and their effect on schools, education and learning…”. He does have a Ted Talk (you know, the ones I subject you to frequently at our faculty meetings) that I have heard that is quite good. In his tweet he included a url for an interesting entry from his latest blog that I am including here, I hope you find it as interesting as I did: Will Richardson‘ s blog.

Spread the Word to End the Word

March 2nd is also the day that we ask all of us to pledge to end the use of the R-Word in our community. Our students in the Functional Life Skill Program ask all of us to take the pledge at r-word.org. This would be a great activity for all of our students to do during the advisory period on Wednesday. Taking the pledge takes just a few minutes and it would send a great message to our students in the Functional Life Skills Program that we really do care.

Formative Assessment

In searching for some interesting videos to share with the faculty on the subject of Formative Assessment (which is quite a task in an of itself!), I came across this humorous video. I hope it makes you chuckle! The Funny Teacher!

On several occasions I have mentioned the work of Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black and their findings of the power of good classroom level formative assessment. Perhaps the most influential piece of work they produced appeared in Phi Delta Kappan in 1998, an article called Inside the Black Box. It is a lengthy piece and it is written in a way that requires several readings (at least for me) before the true power of the words come into view. I definitely recommend it when you have some time to dissect it and have it make meaning.

Last week, Susie and I attended a webinar in the DEC that was presented by NWEA featuring Dylan Wiliam (yep, he only has one “L” in his name!). While we expected that the good folks at NWEA would try to sell us something, we were quite pleased not to have to endure some kind of sales pitch. Dylan Wiliam gave a presentation on why formative assessment is important in successful schools. He ran through a whole set of different scenarios that have been employed by school districts across the globe to improve student scores.

One fact that really struck home was the idea that if the USA could improve all student scores by just 25 points on the PISA Assessment (Programme for International Student Assessment, an international assessment that measures progress of students at selected grade levels), we could improve the Gross Domestic Product of the USA by present value of more than 40 trillion dollars. I am including a few slides from the presentation and I can share the entire presentation with anyone who is interested.

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