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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