Thursday, February 23, 2017

In Their Shoes

Last week, I took the Shadow A Student Challenge again and returned to second grade. This year, I took some lessons I learned from last year and was a little more intentional in my approach. I shortened the length of my shadow to half a day (in elementary it's a little more easy to get the feel of the day as all the instruction is self-contained). I also made sure I had coverage for the office and that people knew where I was and why (not sure I did a good job of that last year). I was also more selective in my choice of a student. Last year I randomly picked a volunteer (who happened to be a third grade girl). You can read about my experience here . This year, I again asked for volunteers, but I chose one who brought some unique experiences. The student was new to our school, received ELL and Title I services. I thought he would give me insight on what many students experience in our school.

Prior to the experience I had met with my new student, whose name is Jack. I also called his parents and made sure he received a school t-shirt to wear for the day and to keep as his gift for being shadowed. After lunch recess, I joined Jack in his second grade classroom. I was delighted to find that I had my own desk (with materials) right next to my partner. The students were excited to have me in the class and many offered to help me during the math lesson. Having seen the students interact with new students in the past, I already knew they were helpful to others, but it sure made me feel welcome. During the math lesson, I participated and even got words of encouragement from the teacher when my work was correct:) She really went out of her way to make sure I was treated like a student and the class members loved it!

Later in the afternoon, we went to art class. I loved art as a student and it was still as fun as an adult. We were drawing a gorilla with various background elements. I appreciated that several times throughout the lesson, we all got up and walked about the room to see what others were doing. This allowed us to check our progress and also give us ideas for things we could add to our own picture. I took a little liberty with coloring my gorilla purple, but the art teacher didn't seem to mind my creative expression.

During recess, we spent part of the time getting to know one another in my office. This was my favorite part. I learned that Jack was born in India and can speak both English and Punjabi fluently. He has a little brother and loves to play soccer and other sports. His favorite thing about school is "learning" and also PE class. He seemed to be very happy in his new school (I found out this is his third school) and likes our weekly "Celebrate Monday" assemblies. After we talked for a while, we went outside and joined the other students for recess.

At the end of the day, I got to say goodbye to Jack in the bus line and thanked him for letting me shadow him and learn what it was like to be a second grade student in our building. I also got to thank his teacher for making me feel so welcome as her new student.  A year ago, I participated in the Shadow a Student challenge, because I saw others doing it and to be honest I just jumped on the bandwagon to try something new. This year, I feel it was more intentional and planned and more "natural". I guess it's like anything we do, we get better at it as we do things again after reflecting on them. It was truly a chance to understand my students by being "in their shoes." Educators are often asked, "Would you want to be a student in your own classroom?". Taking that question to the building level, "Would I want to be a student in my own school?" My answer is a resounding "YES!".
Jack and his "Shadow"! 


"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." - Anthony J. D'Angelo

"Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death." - Albert Einstein

 Hero Teacher Sonya Romero (5 minutes) 



Monday, February 27: Student of the Month & March is Reading Month kick off assembly 9:05 am
                                    Parent Meeting Casucci 3:15 pm
Tuesday, February 28: PBIS Committee 8:05 am
                                   REED Fuller 2:30 pm
                                   District School Improvement Team 5:30-8:00 pm
Wednesday, March 1: IEP Merchant 8:20 am
                                   Students dismissed at 12:10 pm
                                   Building Based PD in Library 1:00-4:00 pm (Standards Based Reporting)
Thursday, March 2: Staff Meeting 8:05 am (iReady Presentation in the Computer Lab)
                               PTA Meeting 6:30 pm
Friday, March 3: Jon to MEMSPA board meeting in Lansing (Sandi Benson covering office)

Monday, March 6: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
                              Jon to Buchanan for meeting 1:30 pm
Tuesday, March 7: REED Boggs 8:20 am
                             Sky Dome in the Gym following Google Schedule
Wednesday, March 8: IEP Boggs 8:20 am
                                   Pizza Kit Delivery at 1:30 pm
                                   REED Benson 3:15 pm
                                   Kindergarten Parent Information Night 6:00-7:00 pm
Thursday, March 9: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                               Jon meeting with Discovery Rep 10:45 am
                               Elementary Principals Meeting 12:30-4:30 pm
Friday, March 10: Students dismissed at 12:10 pm
                             Teacher work day in the afternoon (end of 2nd Trimester)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Taking the Plunge

For the past several years, I have had friends who participated in the Polar Plunge and I kept saying next time. This year, finally became the next time! For those who are not familiar with the Polar Plunge, it's a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Nearly 20 locations across the state have Polar Plunge events in January and February and at all locations, participants dress in crazy costumes and plunge into freezing water for a good cause. For those who have volunteered or participated in Special Olympics, you know what an incredible experience it is.

Years ago, I was approached by the local Rotary Club in Cadillac to join their team of volunteers. I joined because I thought it would be a good way to connect with community leaders, I stayed because it opened my eyes to the many ways I could serve the community and world. Since, Rotary is an international organization, I was able to join the Livonia Club when I relocated here. Once again, I was not only connected to community leaders, but was exposed to numerous opportunities to serve. From water wells in Haiti, to Polio eradication in Africa, to Meals on Wheels and Polar Plunges in Detroit, Rotary has been a vehicle to think global and act local.

As educators, we have chosen a profession to help make the world a better place. We spend our days working with students to help make their dreams come true and spend our evenings planning new ways to engage and empower students. We are not just creating good students, we are creating good people. One of the best ways we can do that is by setting a good example. With every volunteer or service project I've participated in, I have found that I've always gotten back more than I've given. From a full heart to meeting incredible people, I always walk away inspired and filled with hope. Those experiences have helped me grow as an educator and as a person. So the next time someone asks you to volunteer for a good cause, go ahead and take the plunge!



"Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'" - Martin Luther King Jr. 

"When you're in a position to have gotten so much, the gift at this point is giving back." - Paul Stanley

"Kindness is my religion." - Dalai Lama 


Michelle Corbat

Shelley Burgess


Monday, February 20: No School for President's Day
Wednesday, February 22: IEP Nadon 2:30 pm
Thursday, February 23: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                      Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm

Monday, February 27: Student of the Month & March is Reading Month Kick Off Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, February 28: PBIS Committee Meeting 8:05 am
                                     REED Fuller 2:30 pm
                                     District School Improvement Committee 5:30-8:00 pm
Wednesday, March 1: Achievement Team 8:20 am
                                   Students dismissed at 12:10 pm / Professional Development in the afternoon
Friday, March 3: Jon at MEMSPA Board Meeting / Sandi Benson covering office

Friday, March 10: Students dismissed at 12:10 pm / Teacher work day in afternoon

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Just Say No

This month, our Compelled Tribe of bloggers are writing about "Collaboration vs. Competition". I really wrestled with this concept, because I'm a very competitive person, but at the same time, collaboration is always my goal at school for students, staff, and myself. As I was pondering which of these techniques motivated me the most, I received word that a professional proposal I had submitted was denied. I was also told that a personal goal of mine was not realistic. I quickly realized the fastest way to motivate me to do something is to tell me no, or that it can't be done. I immediately went to work on finding another avenue to push my professional goal through and my work toward my personal goal went into overdrive. Ironically, getting "denied" was the fastest way to make sure both of the things that I wanted to do will get done.

Looking at the world of education (and the world in general), I believe collaboration is the best way to get things done. We need to work together, we need to compromise, we need to trust one another to make true progress. Teachers need to work in teams, parents need to partner with the school, and schools need to collaborate with the community. We all have a vested interest in making sure each child is successful.

Competition is a powerful motivator and it also helps us set goals and challenges for ourselves. However, I'm a firm believer in the saying that the only person we should strive to be better than is the person we were yesterday. If we all did this, we could truly bring about substantive change. Are you trying to be better than others or be the best you can be? The latter takes true commitment and courage and yields better results.

This week's topic helped shed some light for me on my own motivation and my own stubborn streak. Competition or Collaboration? Both are important, but we need to focus on who we are competing with and who we are collaborating with. Compete against yourself, collaborate with everyone else. And how do you motivate me? Just tell me no.

"Competition gives me energy. It keeps me focused." - Conor McGregor

"When you need to innovate, you need collaboration." - Marissa Mayer

"Never allow a person to tell you no who doesn't have the power to say yes." - Eleanor Roosevelt

What happens when we stop putting people in "boxes" (4 minutes)


Monday, February 13: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, February 14: Happy Valentine's Day!!
Wednesday, February 15: Achievement Team Merchant 8:00 am
                                          Achievement Team Nadon 8:30 am
                                          Jon shadowing a 2nd grade student 1:00-4:00 pm
                                          PTSA Founder's Day Banquet 5:30 pm at Schoolcraft College
Thursday, February 16: REED Benson 8:20 am
                                      Data Dive Meetings in LMC (K-2 in morning/3&4 in afternoon)
Friday, February 17: MDA Popcorn Sales $1.00 per bag

Monday, February 20: No School for President's Day
Wednesday, February 22: REED Nadon 2:30 pm 
Thursday, February 23: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                      Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm 
Friday, February 24: PTA popcorn sales

Monday, February 27: Student of the Month & March is Reading Month Assembly 9:05 am

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Take all Vendors

Several months ago, I was contacted by a vendor about a program to assist my English Language Learners. Like most administrators, I am inundated with requests and emails from vendors. However, this person wanted to have lunch with me and was being accompanied by Paul Liabenow, the executive director of MEMSPA. Now, I know Paul and more than that I trust him. If he was putting his name behind this program, I was willing to look into it. A week later, I had lunch with the vendor and Paul and his wife. During the conversation, the vendor said something that really struck me. He said that he had formerly been a superintendent and during that time he made it a point to take all the vendors that came to his district. I was astounded! As a principal, I feel I don't have the time to meet with vendors and I couldn't imagine a superintendent being able to fit visits in with an even busier schedule. When I asked him why, his answer was simply, "I don't know what I don't know." He wanted to be knowledgeable about all the programs that could possibly help his students. He wanted to learn.

At the time of this lunch conversation, I was working on a presentation focused on Growth Mindset. I knew in that instant that this conversation would make its way into my presentation. He didn't see learning from vendors as a distraction to his work, he saw the learning that came from it as part of his work. He was modeling a Growth Mindset by being a continual learner. Since that encounter, I have been more open to hearing from and even meeting from vendors. However, I still rely heavily on recommendations from educators that I trust.

As educators, our time is precious. We only have so many hours in a day that we can work with students, meet with teachers, and communicate with parents. Yet, continuous learning is something that needs to be a part of what we do as educators and not something that we don't have time for. It may be reading an article, it might be attending a conference, and it could also be meeting with a vendor to find out about a way to assist student learning. Now I believe in moderation, and I still limit the amount of meetings I have with outside vendors. However, whenever I start thinking I'm too busy to learn something new, I think about that lunch, where a former superintendent reminded me whenever possible to take all vendors.


"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." John F. Kennedy

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." - Anthony J. D'Angelo

Carol Dweck - The Power of Yet



Monday, February 6: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Wednesday, February 8: IEP (Merchant) 8:20 am
Thursday, February 9: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50 am
                                   Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
Friday, February 10: Daddy Daughter Dance 6:00-8:00 pm

Monday, February 13: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, February 14: Happy Valentine's Day!!
Wednesday, February 15: Achievement Team (Merchant) 8:20 am
Thursday, February 16: No Staff Meeting
                                     Data Dives in the LMC (rotating subs)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Frost Revisions

Nearly two years ago, one of my colleagues was sharing how she had been exposed to drafts of Robert Frost's poetry and what a profound impact it had on her. As a lover of Frost's poems, she was used to reading them as a finished product in all their glory. Seeing the poems with words scribbled out, numerous corrections and edits, and frequent searches for the perfect word reminded her that Frost was not simply inspired by a muse as he sat down and composed beautiful poetry. Alas, he was human. A human who needed to scratch, scrape and claw his way through his poetry to find the perfect words. The lesson my friend learned was that Robert Frost had a growth mindset. He didn't do one shot poetry; he worked and struggled to improve, revise, and grow.

The best thing about this realization from my friend and colleague was that she didn't keep it to herself. Like all good educators, she not only learned from her experience, she shared it with others so they could grow too. I happened to be one of the people she shared it with. It made an impact on me and sparked my thinking. I wrote it down in my list of blog ideas and there it waited...until now.

As educators, we know the importance of having a growth mindset and that excellence doesn't happen by chance, but by hard work and endurance. However, I think sometimes we forget that truth when we think of the "giants" in fields like Byron, Dickinson, and even Frost. We may think of them as people who had a natural gift for writing and forget that they put blood, sweat, and tears into their works to make them so great. When we share these examples with our students, we can show them that ALL people need to work for improvement. And when you are feeling frustrated with your own writing skills, perhaps this story of "Frost Revisions" will remind you that nobody is least the first time.

Robert Frost reads "The Road Not Taken"


"Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and thought has found words."

"Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense."

"In three words I can sum up everything I've leaned about life: it goes on."


Jason Gribble

Julie Mytych


Monday, January 30: Student of the Month Assembly 9:05 am
Wednesday, February 1: Achievement Team 8:20 am (Boggs)
                                        ALT Meeting 3:00-4:30 at Central Office
                                       Diane's Retirement Party 5:30 - 8:00 pm
Thursday, February 2: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                  PTA Meeting 6:30 pm

Thursday, February 9: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50 am
                                    Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
Friday, February 10: Daddy Daughter Dance 6:00-8:00 pm

Wednesday, February 15: Achievement Team 8:20 am (Merchant)
                                         Founder's Day Banquet 5:30-7:30 pm
Thursday, February 16: DATA DIVE Meetings in LMC (rotating subs)