Monthly Archives: February 2014

MS Weekly Staff Memo – February 22, 2014

Recap of Staff Meeting

This week we took an in-depth look at classroom management.  First, we brainstormed the following:



After reviewing some CSD non-negotiables, we listed the three types of classroom management:  proactive, interactive, and reactive, and  some strategies that fall under each category.

This led to a great conversation about the most successful (and therefore the most important) type of classroom management  – proactive strategies.  We all agreed that the most effective teachers experience success due to the relationships they have built with their students.  Hence, we brainstormed a few ways to build and strengthen relationships.

At that point, I stated that with only two and a half years under my belt as a principal, I still consider myself very much a novice.  Therefore, feedback is essential for my growth and effectiveness.  When you give me feedback, it really helps me to better serve you.  You’ll either give me a great idea I haven’t thought about before OR you’ll let me know where I need to do a better job of communicating.  Either way, I consider it a win-win.  So if you have something to share, you can do by clicking on link below.  And as always, I welcome (and encourage) face-to-face conversations.  You all make me better, so thank you for your involvement and support! 

After determining that most of our time and energy should be put into proactive and interactive measures, we recognized that sometimes reactive management is necessary.  Because “consequences” is such a big topic, we decided to table that discussion for a future meeting and put most of our time and energy into focusing on proactive and interactive management for now.

As I told you earlier in the week, you all are a WEALTH of information for each other (and me!).  There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t learn something new from you.  The internet is also a wealth of information, so I encourage you to dig in and think deeply about what you are doing in your classrooms to prevent and redirect undesirable behaviors.  Please know you can always come to me with your concerns.  I cannot promise that I will have all of the answers, but together, we will figure it out.  Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can make a world of difference.  At the end of the day, I truly think it all boils down to two things:

1) building healthy, positive relationships
2) creating meaningful, purposeful tasks that are developmentally appropriate

If we really commit to putting the majority of our time and energy into focusing on these two aspects of our teaching, I sincerely believe that we are on the road to preventing most of the discipline situations that arise in our classrooms.  As Jen Chaffman so beautifully reminded us on Wednesday, these kids are nothing more than “adults in training,” so let’s be sure to treat them as such, and remember to take a moment to sit where they sit.  🙂

Upcoming Events
Monday, February 24th
11:15-12:15 – Juli is covering Ketch Up if you need her.

Wednesday, February 19th
Admin off campus for planning day – Beth Knight Teacher Leader (?)
3:30 – NWHTYS Book Study (no Juli)

Thursday, February 20th
Kathleen McMillan – Teacher Leader

Other Upcoming Dates:
February 24 – CSD Lottery
February 26 – Admin Team Planning Day
February 26 – NWHTYS Book Study (last one)
Feb 28-March 2 – MS Musical – Dear Edwina
March 3 – Parent Advisory – 7:30 at High School
March 7 – MS Show Choir Competition
March 21 – Teacher Workday; 7th Grade SLC’s
March 28 – 8th Grade Dance
April 3 & 4 – 8th Grade Finance Park
April 11 – 1/2 Day; Early Dismissal – Spring Break begins
April 11-20 – SPRING BREAK; Classes resume on 4/21/14
April 25 – CSD Golf Tournament – Are any Advisories going to sponsor the tournament?
April 28 – BK Writing Class 3:30-5:30
May 3 – Davidson Town Day and Spartan 5K
May 9 – Early Dismissal
May 15 – Early Dismissal
May 16-17 – Staff Retreat
May 19 – BK Writing Class 3:30-5:30
May 21 – Reading EOG 3-8
May 22 – Math EOG 3-8
May 23 – Math 1 EOC for 8th Graders
May 23 – 8th Grade Practicum Sharing (afternoon)
May 26 – Memorial Day Holiday
May 27 – 8th Grade Science EOG
May 27-28 – 7th Ropes Course
May 29 – 6th Grade Holocaust Museum
May 28-30 – 8th Grade Kanuga Trip

Professional Development
This brief article goes right along with our classroom management theme.  Be the CEO of your classroom and begin to unleash the power of positive relationships in your classroom!


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MS Weekly Staff Memo – February 14, 2014

What’s on My Mind….

Recently, I had a really insightful conversation with a staff member, and I was so moved by something that was said, I thought it was important enough to communicate with all staff.  We were talking about addressing challenging behaviors in the classroom, and this person said, “We just need to clone you!  We need more of you!”  This comment was followed by a very honest, legitimate question: “Are there any plans to add another administrator to the middle school?”  Okay, first off, I want to say that I was extremely flattered by this person’s statement about “cloning” me.  I know the intent here was to say – “Hey, you are doing all you can and what you are doing is really good, but we just need more.”  So naturally, I took this as one of the biggest compliments that anyone could give me, although I constantly strive to be better as I worry I fall short all of the time.  But with this question, I saw an awesome “opportunity” (as Joy recently referred to in the swts blog) – an opportunity to address mindset.

I’ve thought about this A LOT over the past few weeks, and the truth is, it’s not about more of me, but much more about the power of we.  If I am viewed as the solution to all of our problems, student behavior and otherwise, then we have a much bigger problem at hand as no one person could possibly ever be enough.  Sometimes, we can become so engrossed in our own realities that we lose touch with other important perspectives.  For example, I can become very bitter and resentful about the hours I put into this job and can become very focused on my particular set of circumstances.  But then all it takes is a few brief moments contemplating the realities of others.
What about the mom who is in the military and is currently deployed to Afghanistan and hasn’t been able to tuck her baby into bed for the past 12 months?  Now that’s sacrifice.
What about the parent who has been out of work for months on end and is watching him/herself fall further and further into financial ruin?  Now that’s despair.
Or what about the single mom who literally works four jobs just to keep food on the table and heat running in the apartment and depends on her oldest children to take care of her youngest?  Now that’s exhaustion.
So my point is this:  It’s all how we view things.  And the great thing is – the way we view things is a matter of choice.

So back to my original point.  There are no plans to increase the number of administrators at CSD.  If anything, we are looking to head in the opposite direction.  With our new Teacher Leader program, we are looking at ways we can increase willing teachers’ administrative duties incorporating even more of a shared leadership approach – not the other way around.  So when I hear teachers or teams are struggling with student behavior, my job is not to whisk in and remove the problem.  My job is to coach you – the teachers on the frontline – on how to effectively handle the problem from my detached viewpoint.  And that is key – detached viewpoint.  Hence the word, “opportunity.”  This is not to say there are not times that warrant a student to be removed from a classroom to speak with admin.  That is certainly part of the reason I am here, and I expect to deal with these situations as they arise.  But if placing the student with me (on a repeated basis) is viewed as the solution, then we do have a problem as these cases will more than likely outnumber my availability on a recurring basis.  So as I see it, the answer is not about more of “me.”  The answer lies in me helping teachers to acquire the skill sets necessary to effectively deal with these episodes from within – the power of “we.”  Speaking of which…  I am no better at discipline than any of you.  The truth is that if I were in the classroom, these exact same students would be pushing my buttons as well.  And as Joy said at one of our first Teacher Leader meetings, there is no divine sense of “knowing” that descends upon you once you are an administrator.  It just doesn’t work that way.  You acquire wisdom through experience.  And if you’re really lucky, you get to watch some masters in action and learn from them.  That’s it.  So the power does not lie in any one person, whether it be an administrator, an awesome teacher, or that super-supportive parent.  The power lies in all of us working together, and more importantly, in the mindset with which we view the problem/opportunity.

So when we get down or are feeling overwhelmed, it’s important for us to take that “time out” and to remove ourselves from our current reality.  I think it’s super important to the culture of our school to remember how good we have it and to live in that place of gratitude.  I do not in any way mean to insinuate that I am immune to negativity, myself.  It’s part of being human.  But another part of being human is having the ability to recognize when we are in that place and do something about it.  Our kids can certainly challenge us and can stress us to the max.  After all, they are typically developing middle schoolers!  But when I weigh our stresses to those of some other public school teachers I know (and read about in the news), we are extremely blessed.  On the whole, we’ve got it pretty good, you know?

In closing, I just want to acknowledge that what you are doing is hard.  Teaching middle school is not easy!  But we must resist the urge to ride the emotional rollercoaster with them.  We have to remember that we are the adults.  It’s very easy to lose sight of the scientific rationale behind pre-adolescence (and there are lots of scientific reasons they are acting the way they are!)  At times, I find myself being sucked into the rollercoaster ride as well!  That’s why I have my go-to mentors who reside on my bookshelves and in the folders on my computer that pull out on days when I feel I’m at my wit’s end.  I read their words, and then I’m reminded that it’s supposed to be this way.  Anybody who knows me well knows that Rick Wormeli is one of my favorites.  In my opinion, he just “gets” it and has a gift for putting it in a way that others will “get” it, too.  So I want to close with a few of his incredibly powerful words.

“Young adolescents can be absurd, on purpose and by accident.  They can get their braces stuck in classroom pillows or glue their armpits so they can’t raise their arms without ripping hair – both of which actually happened in my classroom.  Sophisticated students will laugh when someone passes gas during a test, and they will ask questions that I answered four seconds earlier.  As middle level educators, we must learn to be patient with their quirky growth patterns.  Our classes are full of human beings in the making, and we play important roles as their coaches, mentors, and referees.  I have lost track of the students who gave me nothing but frustration and terrible work during their time in my classroom but performed well in high school and college.  Either they weren’t ready to receive what I had to offer or I wasn’t offering what they needed.  But somewhere inside, they were germinating the seeds of what they could become.  With each of them, I had to look past those frustrating years and not hold their development against them.  What would I have become if I had been held to the labels placed on me as a young adolescent?  I don’t want to think about it.”  (Pg. 191 Meet Me in the Middle, Rick Wormeli)

Please ponder these words in the upcoming days.  On Wednesday at staff meeting we will come together to review CSD’s approach to student behavior, discipline, and classroom management/leadership.  As always, I look forward to learning and growing with you.

Many thanks and much love,

Professional Development

Here are a couple of excellent resources on Pre-Adolescent Development.  These would be great documents to review prior to Wednesday’s Staff Meeting:
Understanding the Young Adolescent:  (Chapter 2 from What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know by Trudy Knowles and Dave F. Brown)

Characteristics of Middle School Students:

Also, in response to the last Staff Meeting, I asked for staff feedback on ways I can better support you in your classrooms when it comes to student behavior.  If you have a specific situation that you would like to brainstorm, please add it to the list by clicking here.  Thanks!

Upcoming Dates

Monday, February 17th
*Snow make up day – Regular School Day
11:15-12:15 – Juli will Pop into all team meetings.  Dana is out today.

Wednesday, February 19th
11:15-12:15 – Vertical Math Team Meeting to discuss EOG’s – Science meeting postponed due to weather.
3:30 – MS Staff Meeting – CSD Approach to Student Behavior, Discipline, and Classroom Management/Leadership

Thursday, February 20th
Beth Knight – Teacher Leader
Juli – Sacred Classroom Time – To sign up to use Juli in your classroom, click here.

Other Upcoming Dates/Events:
February 20-23 – Les Miserables Performance at HS
February 24 – CSD Lottery
February 26 – Admin Team Planning Day
February 26 – NWHTYS Book Study (last one)
Feb 28-March 2 – MS Musical – Dear Edwina
March 3 – Parent Advisory – 7:30 at High School
March 7 – MS Show Choir Competition
March 21 – *School Make Up Day
March 28 – 8th Grade Dance
April 3 & 4 – 8th Grade Finance Park
April 11 – Early Dismissal… Spring Break begins
April 11-20 – SPRING BREAK; April 21 is Snow Make Up Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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MS Weekly Staff Memo – February 9, 2014

Great Things I Noticed This Week

Dear MS Staff,
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize our Front Office Folks for the many things they do for us on a daily basis to keep our “CSD Ship” afloat. Below are just a few things, but please know the list could go on and on….

Holding down the front desk.  Man, this is no easy job!  The trick is that our front desk ladies make it look easy.  The reality is that it is a fast-paced, multi-dimensional job that requires numerous skill sets.  Thank you, ladies, for your constant display of patience, kindness, and competence.  We would be lost without you!
Ordering and distributing instructional supplies
Keeping track of staff absences and securing substitutes
Organizing hot lunch, field trips,and the master calendar
Reconciling student absences in PowerSchool
Keeping the website up to date
Coordinating lottery efforts – and trust me, there are hours upon hours that go into this!
Making sure we get paid each month! 🙂
Keeping track of facility usage and negotiating corporate contracts
All of that fun fiscal stuff – budgeting, balancing, auditing, and more….

Our school is very blessed to have each of you working on behalf of the school in this manner.  Thank you for the countless hours you invest so that we can remain true to our mission and vision of putting kids first!  We love you!

Upcoming Events

Monday, February 10
Jupiter Report Cards emailed home today
11:15-12:15 – Team Meetings – Juli and Dana will do “pop ins”
3:30-5:30 – Writing Workshop Session 2 w/ Dr. Kissel in Collander/Pagan’s room

Wednesday, February 12
11:15-12:15 – Math Vertical Team Meeting – Discussing EOG Prep.  Click here for more info.
3:30-4:30 – Ed. Leadership Seminar  Meeting at MS
6:30-8:00 – Cyber Safety Parent Workshop

Thursday, February 13
Dorothy Pagan – Teacher Leader

Friday, February 14
3rd Practicum Session begins
Other school to visit MS 9:30-11:00

February 17 – No School – President’s Day Holiday – *Snow make-up day 
February 19 – Staff Meeting on Classroom Leadership (Student Behavior Strategies)
February 20-23 – Les Miserables Performance at HS
February 24 – CSD Lottery
February 26 – Admin Team Planning Day
February 26 – NWHTYS Book Study (last one)
Feb 28-March 2 – MS Musical – Dear Edwina
March 3 – Parent Advisory – 7:30 at High School
March 7 – MS Show Choir Competition
March 21 – Teacher Workday (7th Grade SLC’s scheduled for some time this week)
March 28 – 8th Grade Dance
April 3 & 4 – 8th Grade Finance Park
April 11 – 1/2 Day; Early Dismissal – Spring Break begins
April 11-22 – SPRING BREAK


When using Jupiter Grades for the third and final trimester, make sure you are entering data into the 3rd Trimester Gradebook.  Many thanks!

Valentines Day… Be aware that this day can be the source of extreme anxiety for some middle schoolers.  Be on high alert and keep your ears close to the ground.  Do your best to diffuse situations as necessary…

Professional Development:

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Shane and Beth in leading last week’s staff meeting.  In my mind, this is exactly what shared leadership is all about, so if you ever have an idea that you think would make for a great staff meeting, please don’t hesitate to let me know.  Dr. Boyer refers to teachers as the heartbeat of the school, so it stands to reason that effective leaders keep their finger on the pulse of that heartbeat.  I appreciate your candor in helping me serve you better.  I received three responses to the survey I sent out earlier in the week and have listed them below:

It would be helpful to come together as a school and review some classroom management strategies we can use (10 for 2, positive/negative reinforcement, etc). Also I think it would empower teachers if we had a brainstorming/case study session where we all came to the conclusion of how we would handle a certain situation. I think this could help people by hearing how we all deal with a situation and also bring clarity to the consistency in approaching a situation.  I think it’s important that we’re reminded that it’s not the discipline piece that’s important, it’s the behavior change that’s important.

I’m sorry I couldn’t make the meeting. I think what you are currently doing, getting the parents involved, is helping so much. I can’t tell you how many parents have expressed their gratitude to me for the email you sent to all parents about dance.  Also most parents don’t want their children getting away with that behavior. Thank you for all of your help!!!!

I can always use reminders on classroom management techniques.

In an attempt to respond to your needs and better support you in your classrooms, I have juggled the staff meeting schedule and will be focusing on this topic during our next staff meeting on February 19th.  As for “certain situations,” I’m going to need your help once again.  Please keep in mind that there are no hard and fast answers here…Situations vary greatly, as do kids.  But I do think it’s a great idea to discuss and perhaps role play common scenarios at the middle school level.  So if there is something you would like addressed specifically, please take a moment and list it here:


In closing, I want to share some important ideas from an article I recently read.  I would share the entire article, but I worry about copyright infringement…however please feel free to stop by my office, and I’ll gladly let you read it.  In her article, When Students Are Our Teacher, Alexis Wiggins asks the following question:  “What if we thought of our most difficult students as opportunities to learn?”  She goes on to recount a rocky relationship with one of her former students, Jack, and then tells about the shift that occurred when she stopped viewing him as a “nightmare student” and started viewing him a “button-pushing Buddha” instead.  I know I have certainly had these encounters in my career; in fact, I still do.  But it got me to thinking.  What if we embraced these difficulties as teachable encounters rather than frustrating setbacks?  So I encourage each of you to do the same this week.  Think about the most challenging situation you are currently facing professionally, whether that be a student, a colleague, a parent, or something else.  And then take some time to seriously ponder what this situation has to offer you as a learner – as an evolving human.  Wiggins states,” It takes humility and patience to approach challenging kids in this way.  But if you do, you may find that your least favorite student (or parent or colleague) becomes your greatest teacher yet.”  (Educational Leadership, Vol. 71, February 2014).


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