Monthly Archives: September 2013

Weekly Staff Memo – Week of Sept 29th

Great Things I Noticed

albert_einstein_art_202This week I was inundated with loads of positive parent feedback – feedback that their kids love their teacher, love learning, and love coming to school.  As a principal, this is music to my ears.  As a mommy, this is music to my soul.  Knowing what lies ahead for my Jack-Jack in middle school fills my heart with gratitude.  I want you all to know that you ARE making magic each and every day.  Todd Whitaker states, “The teacher’s goal in class should be to make students more excited about learning tomorrow than they were today.”  Based on what I’m seeing and hearing, you all are knocking it out of the ballpark.  Below I am including a few snippets from some lovely emails I received this week.  Go into this week knowing that you are loved and adored by many!  Thank you for the countless hours you put into making learning come to life for your students.  You truly are changing lives on a daily basis.

I want you to let XXXX’s team know that he is home this morning reading a book a bought him this summer about Greek Mythology! I have heard more about school that I have his entire career! Between excitement about the dance production (he comes home dancing and practicing) creating a Greek play in drama where he was proud his story got chosen (from a kid that struggles in written lang, that’s huge), to learning in the core subjects: language arts learning the value of organization and truly the best paper he has ever written and care about in my opinion, he loves geography and history and tells me everything…he loves map skills. I so hated those, but not at CSD!  He is excited about science experiments (I helped him study for his assessment and I was amazed in how much he knew and understood from class…from kid with processing issues…that’s a big deal)
To math and feeling powerful in being successful and being terrified of xtra math and facing his fear and now rocking it out!… to taking a risk playing the flute and finally getting solid sounds, to pe where he is appreciating his body and how to strengthen it and he sings all the songs they workout too! He is excited about Spanish and mentoring younger kids as well; he came home and showed told me all about ‘the acting’ on what not to do in a kindergarten class…he was laughing so hard!!!! To an amazing advisor that takes such good care of him to his ec teacher who goes the extra mile for him and his crazy mama!  I am eternally grateful that XXXX loves school and loves learning and is inspired!  Thank you all…you inspire me!!!
Tonight I listened to my son rave about his teachers.  I listened to stories told by each of you throughout the day.  I listened to stories about you and your younger lives.  I watched him laugh and smile and entertain us with the craziness of middle school and teachers who know how to enjoy what and who they teach.  We listened intently and it was truly as if we were sitting in the classroom  today learning with our son….more importantly, learning from amazing, magical teachers who are making a lasting impression on the lives of all your students.  As I go to bed tonight it is with a heart full of gratitude for what you share with my son and all of your students each day…far more than the content you teach, you share yourselves.  Thank you for giving us, as parents, a gift that I bet few middle school parents get very often.  Thank you!


Please ensure that students return outside PE equipment back to the storage bins.  Remember, it is the kids’ responsibility to pick up after themselves, but it our responsibility to remind them to do it. 🙂  Thank you!

Upcoming Events:

Tuesday, Oct 1

Dani’s workout after school

Wednesday, Oct 2
11:30-12:15 – LASS Vertical Team Meeting in Juli’s office
3:30-5:00 – MS/HS Vertical Staff Meeting at the HS – Joy will do a presentation on the 8 Core Commonalities and then we will branch off by discipline to discuss.  Please head over to the HS as soon as MS carpool concludes so we can get started as close to 3:30 as possible.  Thank you!  Click here for a brush-up on the 8 Core Commonalities.

Thursday, Oct 3
Sara Keys is “Admin on Call.”  Go, Sara!
Sign up for Juli’s Sacred Classroom Time by clicking here.  Please use me!  I would love to be of service to you!  I will do anything that helps you….from running small groups….to one-on-one pull out… grading papers….to copying/pasting/laminating.  Also, if you’ve been dying to get into your colleagues’ classrooms but can’t ever seem to find a time, this is the perfect opportunity!  I will cover your class!  Use me!

October is a busy month!  Lots of important dates coming down the pike….
10/7 – Parent Advisory Monthly Meeting at 7:30p.m. at HS
10/8 – K-8 Lottery Open House
10/9 – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon; Ed Leadership Seminar Meeting at 3:45 in MS Media Center
10/10 – MS Pep Rally at 2:00 – We will run on a modified schedule this day….more to come….
10/18 – Jupiter Grades due for admin editing
10/24 – 1/2 day – Only 8th Graders report to school this day for Explore Test – Parent/Teacher Conferences
10/25 – No School for Students – Parent/Teacher Conferences; Fresh Take Conference (Day 1)
10/26 – Fresh Take Conference (Day 2)

Professional Development Corner

Instructional strategy – Visual Cues

We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  How true this can be in the classroom!  Have you ever had the experience where students were not successful in following your directions because they were getting lost in your words?  Have you ever felt dog-tired from explaining the same thing over and over again?  Then this is a strategy for you!  I am a big fan of Rick Smith and Grace Dearborn.  In their book, Picture This, they show how educators can use the simple power of visuals to help with classroom management.  Here is a sneak peak to give you a few ideas.  I have a copy of this book, so if you would like to borrow it, let me know!


A few years ago, I read a book that changed my life.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I plan on digging into each of these ideas in more detail, but for this week, I leave you with this visual – The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  I hope you find this train of thought as uplifting and transformative as I have.


Have a GREAT week!

Much love,


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Weekly Staff Memo – Sept 22, 2013

Staff Meeting Recap

Since many folks were not able to make staff meeting this week, I thought I would recap the message since I consider it to be a very important one.  Take a moment to ponder this quote.  

“What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The staff meeting was based off of the middle portion of this article, “Strategy 2:  Be the Most Positive Person on the Faculty.” Teachers were asked to mentally identify the most positive person at our school.  Keep in mind no names were used – only anonymous descriptions.  After a brainstorming session, we came up with the following attributes:


After discussing the attributes of positive people, we were asked why we didn’t name ourselves.  From there, we set some goals going into the coming week, the coming month, and the coming year for becoming the most positive person at our school.  Imagine the collective power we hold in our building if all people are working towards this common goal!  Talk about awesome!  As Todd Whitaker states in his book, What Great Teachers Do Differently,

“Effective educators understand that one of a teacher’s most important tasks is to model appropriate behavior.  With all the challenges we face in school, and sometimes at home, being nice to each other may seem trivial; but if our classrooms and schools can have that as a foundation, many of the other challenges become less daunting.  Teachers who consistently (meaning 10 days out of 10!) model their expectations for how people should be treated give their schools a valuable gift – a gift that in time, everyone in the school can give to each other.”

The truth is that all of us are imperfect and we all are allowed to have bad days.  But the reality is that we have been charged with an awesome responsibility, and it is up to us to continually strive to be the very best we can be on any given day.  As Matthew Kelley reminds us in The Rhythm of Life,

“Everything is a choice. This is life’s greatest truth and its hardest lesson. It is a great truth because it reminds us of our power. Not power over others, but the power to be ourselves and to live the life we have imagined. It is a hard lesson because it causes us to realize that we have chosen the life we are living right now….Learn to master the moment of decision and you will live a life uncommon.”

In closing, Laura Collander brought up a great point.  She said that she actually had a hard time just focusing on one person for this activity.  Then several other people chinned in and expressed the same difficulty, including myself!  Isn’t it great to be surrounded by such uplifting sources of support?  In the staff meeting, I brought up the quote about becoming like the five people you spend the most time with.  I can only hope this is true because I truly feel like I am surrounded by the best of the best on any given day.  So in closing, let’s never lose sight of our many blessings here at CSD.  That doesn’t mean the hard days go away, but it certainly makes them more bearable. 🙂

Nuts/Bolts Reminders & Tips:

Please do not pull students from arts classes to make up work in core classes without first clearing this with the arts teacher.  Oftentimes, especially in ensemble settings, a student’s absence significantly hinders the progress of the group.  So it is very important that we not put students in a situation where they are letting their classmates down.  Thank you for your help with this!

I am in desperate need of help in the gym on Friday mornings.  If you are a Practicum Leader who is not preparing for a full day of classroom instruction, I need you to show up in the gym by 8:00 to help with supervision both in the gym and in the hallways.  It takes at least three folks for adequate supervision – one adult supervising gym door on 6/7 hall, one adult supervising gym door on 8th grade hall, and at least one adult (although two or three are preferable) circulating inside the gym.  Thank you for your help with this!

Please make every effort to attend bi-monthly Staff Meetings (1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month).  We understand when folks have to miss on occasion, but since these meetings are an important part of preserving (and building) the morale and community amongst our staff, it takes a toll on our sense of community when folks routinely miss.  Also, if you are taking a planning day on a staff meeting day, please know the expectation is that you will return to school for the staff meeting.  Thank you for understanding!   We love you and miss you when you aren’t there. 🙂

Upcoming Events:

Both Dani Angell and Dan Hurlbut are chaperoning the 5th Grade Barrier Island Trip this week, so please check in on their subs regularly to offer assistance and support.  Your presence makes a difference.  Thank you!  *Have a great time, Dani and Dan. 🙂

11:30-12:15 – Electives Team Meeting in Juli’s office.  Click here to add to the agenda.

Dorothy is “Admin on Call” all day.  Gooooo, Dorothy!

Other half of 6th Grade Ropes Course (4 Advisories out of the building)


Be a fountain not a drain Thank you, Beth Knight, for reminding us of this in staff meeting last week.  Love it!  Let us remember these wise words as we head into the upcoming week.

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Weekly Staff Memo – September 14, 2013

Curriculum Night was WONDERFUL!

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to each of you for the hard work you put into making this evening a huge success.   I know it made for a long night and an even longer week, but trust me when I say – it was worth it!  Some comments I heard from parents as they walked out of your presentations:

“Wow.  All I can say is – WOW!  Our kids are so lucky to have such outstanding teachers.”
“They are a hoot!  It’s so neat to see teachers who enjoy working together so much.  I’m sure their classroom must be a blast!”
“Now I get it!  No wonder my kid loves coming to school so much.  We are so grateful to be a part of CSD.”
“I am truly blown away by how much thought and energy these teachers put into classroom instruction.  And that just barely scrapes the surface.  In addition to creating awesome lessons and units, these teachers really care about my kid as a person – not just as a student.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.”
“How inspiring!  I wish I could have gone to middle school here!”
“Nobody ever wants to relive their middle school years, but I would do it again if I could have these teachers!”

Other Great Things I Noticed This Week:

Students working together in harmony through the use of interactive games to review for an upcoming test

Teachers teaching teachers….and…..teachers learning from other teachers – I LOVE this!

Teachers taking a risk to write a grant in hopes of obtaining more technology for their classroom

Teachers noticing students who are struggling and taking immediate steps to advocate for them

Teachers and students focused on solutions – not problems.

Upcoming Events

11:15-12:15 p.m. – Grade Level Team Meetings; Juli and Dana will join 8th Grade this week.
6:30-8:30 p.m. – CSD Board Meeting

7:15-8:15 a.m. – Beginning Teacher Training/Orientation on TNL (True North Logic Software) in Shane/Mimi’s room

11:30-12:15 p.m. – Science Vertical Team Meeting in Juli’s office
3:30-4:45 p.m. – Staff Meeting in Sarah and Krista’s Room – Childcare provided – Click here for schedule.

Beth Knight is “Admin on Call” all day.  Goooo, Beth!
Juli has DPI meeting beginning at 1:00, so I will be out for the afternoon.

6th Grade Ropes Course (4 Advisories only)


I want to take this opportunity to give a HUGE shout-out to Kirk Bleavins for helping us work through our multiple technology issues in MS.  His workload has been very demanding, so if you see him, be sure to let him know how grateful we are for all that he does.  I sent out an email earlier in the week, but in case you missed it… We are working on moving some wifi access points internally so that the core classrooms will (hopefully) have more reliable internet access.  I apologize for any frustration caused by this situation and appreciate your understanding as we diligently work on a solution.

Professional Development Corner – Revisiting the Positive Discipline Model

At CSD, we do not take a one-size-fits-all approach to discipline (or anything for that matter).  But we have found that the tenets of Positive Discipline tend to align closely with our philosophical beliefs.  From time to time, I like to revisit these big ideas and think about ways I can do a better a job of making my disciplinary interactions with kids more positive.  When I first studied this approach early in my teaching career, I remember having a HUGE aha moment.  All my life, whenever someone was in trouble, in my mind the “person” was synonymous with the “behavior.”  So if the behavior was “bad,” then the person must be “bad,” right?  The Positive Discipline approach allowed me to free myself from this false way of thinking.  Let’s face it – whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we all do “bad” things.  If we’re not willing to admit it, chances are we, too, have been trained from early on that bad choices are synonymous with bad people because nobody sets out to be bad!  Nobody gets out of bed in the morning saying, “Today I’m going to see how just how awful I can be to those people and things around me!” The truth of the matter is that good people sometimes make bad choices.  This is especially true of inexperienced, smaller people – otherwise known as children.  They make mistakes.  Simple as that.  That’s how they learn.  Mistakes are opportunities for them to develop into the people they were born to be.  So where on earth did we ever get the crazy idea that in order for people to do better we must first make them feel worse?  That’s nuts!  But as I said, when I reflect back on my youth, this was pretty much the mindset of everyone I knew.  In the moment a student misbehaves, our goal should not just be to stop the behavior.  Our bigger goal should be to prevent the behavior from happening again.  And the only way to get to that point is to get at the heart of why the behavior is occurring in the first place.  This shifts the focus from blame and shame to problem-solving and solutions.  The other beautiful thing about this approach is that students can be empowered to help with the solutions which ultimately puts them back in control.  Isn’t this what we want?

So here’s the deal.  It’s really pretty simple.  I’ve decided that we can’t have too much nice in our world.  One of our most important tasks as teachers is to model appropriate behavior.  Middle school kids can certainly push us to our limits – they are wired to do it!  Hopefully our goal is not to just do lip service to what is right, but to show them what is right by leading through example.  Treat people like they are good.  Inspire them to do better by helping them to feel better.  I remember working with a teacher once who used to become very frustrated with our principal because when she sent students to the office, “nothing happened.”  After talking with her a bit further, it became obvious to me that the problem didn’t lie in the principal’s effectiveness, but rather in the teacher’s expectations of what should happen once the kid arrived at the office.  You see, even though she never really admitted it, she was looking more for revenge than for a solution to the problem.

So to end this post, I wanted to give you access to some Positive Discipline Guidelines.  Some of these are written with the younger child in mind, but they can certainly be adapted to older children as well.  You can view these guidelines by clicking here.

Thought to Ponder:


In closing, I want to share one of my all-time favorite quotes:

May we all go into this week treating people as if they were good!

Much love,


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Weekly Staff Memo – Sept 7, 2013

Great Things I Noticed This Week:

Teachers getting into each others’ classrooms!

Games to reinforce math concepts.

Small groups galore!

Kid-created blogs where they are responding to their classmates’ writing.

Incredible guest speakers who really bring learning to life outside of the classroom walls.

Lots and lots of good writing lessons!  Exciting!

I loved having the opportunity to spend time with you at this week’s staff meeting!  Thanks for being so open to trying new things.

Technology, technology, and more technology.

Brilliant co-teaching!  Wildly successful inclusion in action – so much so that it brought tears to a teacher’s eyes.

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Nuts/Bolts/Observations/Tips To Remember:

Try to get kids into classrooms as quickly as possible during class changes.  Our hallways are narrow which results in congestion.  Having kids line up outside of your rooms further complicates the situation.  So rather than having students line up outside your doorway, let’s try to have teachers at the door to greet students and then have them enter immediately as you see them.  A great practice is to always have something posted on the board for them to do as they enter.  This strategy also tends to cut down on that “in-between classes craziness.”  Give it a try see if it makes a difference. 🙂

Now that all electives classes and 8th grade core are running on the same 50 minute schedule, it is imperative that teachers remain mindful of the clock and release students on time.  Please know that if your class runs over, you are impacting the start time of several other classes.  Thank you for your help with this.

Upcoming Events:

Monday, September 9th:
7th Grade Team Meeting – 11:15-12:15 – Dana will go over RHSE curriculum scope and sequence. 
Parent Advisory Meeting at 7:30 at the High School – I had a staff member ask if they were required to attend.  The answer is no – everyone is welcome, but no one is required to attend.  I just like to make all staff aware of various meetings that are happening around the school.
Wednesday, September 11th:
Math Vertical Team Meeting – 11:30-12:15  in Juli’s office – Juli will send out an agenda soon.
Promethean Workshop with Shannon Davis – not sure of exact time….email Shannon Davis for details
Ed Leadership Seminar – Teacher Discussion – 3:30-4:30 in Media Center – *for those who are participating in the Ed Leadership Seminar for the 2013-2014 School Year
MS Curriculum Night – 5:30-8:45ish….
Thursday, September 12th:
First Ed Leadership “Teacher Leader” day.  Kathleen will be on call as admin.  Juli will be in classrooms.  Yippee!

Professional Development Corner:

How do you beat those “end-of-day-these-kids-are-crazy-blues?”  Most classroom teachers note that as the day progresses, it becomes harder and harder to keep kids on task and manage disruptive behaviors.  Along the same lines, most teachers note that as the week progresses, each day becomes a little more challenging.  Well….of course it does!  Think about it – not only are the kids fatiguing, so are the grown-ups.  Here are a few strategies that not only calm the kids, but work amazingly well for adults alike.

One of the most challenging times of the day may be refocusing students right after lunch.  Typically they are coming in from activities that have stimulated them in a variety of different ways:  sunlight, fresh air, physical movement, emotional stimulation from friends, etc…  So what can we do to refocus their energy and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon?  Maybe the following calming techniques will be helpful not only your students, but to you as well.  I highly encourage you to do this with your students…don’t just walk them through it; do it, too.  Chances are you are just as riled up as they are – whether we realize it or not.

hookupHook Up’s – Yes, I use that term cautiously when making middle school references. 🙂  Hook-up’s are actually a Brain Gym Exercise that relax and calm the central nervous system.  These can be done either sitting or standing, but I find that sitting hook-ups are typically more effective. Integrate deep breathing exercises with hook-ups and watch gleefully as a magical calmness ensues.  *Note – Encouraging kids to close their eyes is great, but never force a student to do this.  You can get more specific information on hook-up’s by clicking here.  
The Science and Beauty of Baroque Music – There is extensive scientific research behind the impact music plays on our emotional states.  Music from the Baroque era has a rhythm of about 60 beats per minute – similar to a resting heartrate.  Studies show that music from this era (Bach, Handel, Monteverdi, and Pachabel to name a few) has a calming effect on people and enables students to concentrate far better.  For more info on this fascinating brain research, click here.  To further enhance the relaxation and concentration benefits of the hook-up, consider complementing this exercise with Baroque music in the background.  To take all of this a step further, dim the lights and incorporate deep belly breathing.  A quick google search of “baroque music” will result in many youtube videos from which to choose.  There is also a Baroque station on Pandora and I Heart Radio.  So all of this can be done without having to purchase a thing.
I know some of you may be thinking, really, Juli?  Do this with middle schoolers?  I say yes!  Especially do this with Middle Schoolers.  Of course some of them are going to snicker and make fun.  Others will half-heartedly participate or may even dismiss the idea altogether.  As the adults who are experts on pre-adolescent development, we have to remember that doesn’t mean that’s how they really feel.  That means they are posturing and trying to be cool in front of their peers.  These strategies worked for me in calming hyper, overly-stimulated kids, and I think it worked mostly because I believed it would.  Heck, even if it didn’t work for them (although I think it really did), it worked for me which made a world of difference.  As teachers, we have to be fully invested.  If we are faking it, middle school kids can sense that a mile away.  Remember – you create the climate in your classroom.  They will follow your lead!  Never underestimate your power.


In closing, I wanted to share one of my most adored video clips.  I watch it occasionally when I just want to feel pure exhilaration.  It is only 1 minute and 49 seconds long.  It reminds me of the innocent kid who lives in all of us.  Watch closely and note how she handles this challenge.  As we go into this week ahead…this new school year ahead…let us be mindful of the opportunities that await us.  What risks are waiting to be taken?  Are we courageous enough to go for it?  I believe we are.  After all, the worst thing that could happen is we fall down, (well, maybe that’s not the worst thing….but we’ll leave it at that for this example…) and we’ll never know if we don’t try.  Dig deep and connect with your inner courage.  It could result in the ride of your life!


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