The Excellence of the Season

“The noblest search is the search for excellence.”                                              ~Lyndon B. Johnson

Week 14.5 in Review

I am thankful to live in the 21st Century.  As  Kurt and I traveled the highways across four states to reach our boys for the holidays, I can honestly say I was so grateful for the growing ability to navigate technology.  Never again will I have to spend time trying to fold paper maps.  There goes that occupation, eh?  From using digital tools to research the history of a town you pass through to finding the best Mexican food restaurant in Dallas, I am in awe of how different the world is because of the tools we have available to us today to learn. And I am thankful of the quality of life it offers us despite how little we use it to its potential.

Week 15 – A Look Ahead

Looking into our near future, I hope you are all ready to tap into the potential of Benton High School going one to one (one laptop for every student to take home).  In case you didn’t remember, January 3rd is our D-day (Delivery day).  This week, Tuesday (11/29) for RED and Wednesday (11/30) for WHITE, during our department meetings, we will be talking to each department about your roll-out readiness as well as giving an overview of the roll-out plans. We will be meeting in the library for all meetings, so be there as soon as possible after the bell.  Additionally, we will be migrating your data teams work to be fully accessible on-line. If you haven’t already, make sure all your data is available digitally.  We have a full agenda planned.  Our laptop deployment is almost here. It’s going to be an exciting time for all of us.

And with the powerful event of our laptop rollout upcoming, I am reminded of how special time is when it leads up to such a momentous occasion.  Like every day in December before Christmas when you were a child – the anticipation and excitement of the moment was often as precious as the moment itself.  We have so many significant moments in our near future – the adrenaline-racing opening games/matches of our winter sports season, our new and exciting staff Christmas party, the rapidly approaching semester finale, the much-cherished winter vacation, and the ever-anticipated laptop deployment. It is so much to pack into the next five weeks.  Yet even with all that on your minds do not allow even this month to go by without relishing every moment with staff, students and family.  Make every moment matter.  Choose to be happy.  Choose to be friendly.  Choose to get excited about the simple joys we experience daily.

We work in an excellent school with great people all around us.  Our students are really fun, even in the challenging moments, and provide a reason for us to make a difference in the world every day we go to work.  This is the season of sparkly things.  Take a moment to glitter; in so many ways, you offer so many gifts to our students.  Take the time to enjoy the excellence of the season.

~ Excellence is a journey not a destination. ~

All photos are CC from Flikr:  “Into Every Life, A Little Bokeh Must Fall” by Pink Sherbet Photography;“Sparkly” by ladybugbkt; “Colour Mix” by Mrs eNil; “It’s Christmas by Rebecca Gowen.

Thankful for Excellence

Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.  Autograph your work with excellence. ~Author Unknown

Week 14 in Review

Last week was an eye-opener for me.  I know the teachers and staff members I work with are really good at what they do, but last week I had a stark reminder of what the journey for excellence has done for us at Benton.  Recently I was able to participate in a school review with a team of qualified educators “lifts the hood” of the school and really looks at the “engine” that makes a school function.

Review team members are not allowed to share details of any school review, but we are allowed to learn from the review to make our own schools better.  I want each of you to know what I learned.  I learned that although our journey for improvement has been difficult, your work has been rigorous, and your time has been taxed – you are the epitome of a highly functional, leading edge, instructional organization.  From one end of the building to the other, you are working hard to harness data teams.  The process is known by 100% of our staff and implemented by 100% of our departments.  That didn’t happen easily nor by accident.

What I learned reviewing schools is that true friendship and authentic relationships come when we endeavor and triumph together.  We need to celebrate our success.  And we need to be thankful that our learning is genuine and substantial.  If you were able to go to another school and compare what you know about teaching and learning using data and collaboration, you would discover that you are the leading edge.

I am so thankful that I work with a school I can compare to any other and know, without a shadow of a doubt, I work with teachers who autograph their work with excellence.

Week 14.5 – A Look Ahead

It’s a short week.  And I am thankful.  We are four weeks away from finally launching our laptop initiative. Thankfully!  We are successfully implementing data teams, and will soon see the fruits of our labor.  Thank You!

In our short week, we still have a few events that need to be shared:  Tuesday is CAMP Congress (we missed last Friday due to the Apple meeting).  Please ask your students to bring information for the parent newsletter we are sending home in December.  Tuesday is also the ACT Academy.  I want to take this moment to remind everyone how immensely important it is to continue to build students’ vocabulary and reading skills.  Our overall ACT average from the October test yielded positive results for our seniors, but one area we lost ground on was in reading.  Please, please, please include non-fiction reading pieces in your lessons with accountability to students’ comprehending and inferring the text.  Do not spoon feed reading.  It doesn’t challenge the students where they need to be challenged, and their growth is limited during a time when it could be stretched.  And finally, Wednesday is a two-hour early out.

In a week when we are all thankful for so many things, I want you to know how thankful I am for you and all you do for the kids who come to us each day wanting and needing so many different things from us.  Thank you for who you are and the sacrifices you make for them.  And with all my heart, I wish you and your family the best this Thanksgiving.

Excellence is a journey not a destination. 

 Photos are CC on Flikr:  “Twin Toms” by eye of einstein; “Turkey Lurkey” by Sugar Daze (f/k/a LittleMissCupcakeParis); “gobble gobble” by patti haskins; “Turkey Legs” by plushoff.


The Resplendent Taste of Excellence

“I have always struggled to achieve excellence.  One thing that cycling has taught me is that if you can achieve something without a struggle, it’s not going to be satisfying.”              ~Greg LeMond, Cycling Legend

Week 13 in Review

We tasted victory last week in many ways, and it was definitely sweet.  We tasted monumental success in our data teams meetings, and the flavor lingers like succulent chocolate or fine wine.   It’s amazing how great it feels when all the ingredients for an excellent creation come together, and we bask in its resplendent presentation.  Some teams are still refining the ingredients required to complete the recipe, but it is clear every team is close to a master creation.  Bravo!

Our celebration this week was not limited, however, to our professional development focus.  Monday our very own Student Council organized and operated a blood drive.  It was very successful not only in collection amounts, but in the quality and controlled way it was managed.  I don’t know if you have noticed, but this student group has really stepped up to meet the challenge of leadership and excellence in our building.  I hope you will join me in thanking and celebrating their impressive efforts.  Then on Wednesday night, St. Joseph Sports, Inc. presented Benton’s own Coach Dwayne Kimble, Cross Country and Track coach for 25 years, the award for Coach of the Year!  It is a tremendous honor, and we are very proud of the legacy that Coach Kimble has grown.  Finally, on Friday we were able to share in the proud tradition of Veteran’s Day with our JROTC and Marching Band participating in the local parade.  Additionally, we enjoyed the resplendent opening night to our fall musical, “Phantom of the Opera.”

It is very exciting to linger in the feast of excellence I see growing at Benton day by day.  We offer a buffet of options to taste excellence on so many levels – from seeing our students perform in class or after school to seeing our staff come together professionally as well as at social events– it is important that we all see and recognize excellence for what it is.  You are a part of something big that is happening in our school.   Cheers!

Week 14 – A Look Ahead

I’m excited for our future.  This week we have representatives from Apple coming to Benton to examine our readiness for the one to one laptop rollout.  I think we will begin calling the process BLIP: Benton Laptop Initiative Pilot.  I shared the need for an acronym or title with several students and, after a bit of refining, this is what they thought would work.  In considering what PR opportunities our roll out presents, they pondered all the “blip” noises that would go with pictures of our students and their own computers.  I loved the idea!

Friday brings our next CAMP Congress meeting.  Please send your students with information they want to send home in a Parent Newsletter from the student body.  I am so pleased with the leadership, ideas, and honest conversation coming from this group.  It is VITALLY IMPORTANT that you are allowing conversations to occur in your CAMP in readiness for these meetings.  Student voice is essential to excellence in our school.

We also had galvanizing feedback from our staff survey last Wednesday!  I am thrilled to share that an overwhelming majority of the staff is anxious to gather socially.  In the next few days, staff members have offered to be a part of planning staff activities.  If you are interested in joining these planners, please email me.  Look for upcoming details for parties and events you may want to join if it fits into your schedule.

To continue on our journey of excellence, don’t forget the enormously successful STAFF LUNCH. The next date for dining together is this Friday.  Pertinent information about the highly requested lunch event includes:  Theme: Thanksgiving;  and food assignments –

1.  SpEd, IT & FACS:  Salads/Breads,

2.  Sci, Bus & Libr:  Desserts,

3.  CA, FA & FL:  Entree/Main Course , 

4.  SS, PE & Counseling:  Veggies/Fruit,

5.  Math, Admin & Secr/support: Appetizers.

Department chairs should be getting together to organize cooperative dishes if needed.  I’m looking forward to this sumptuous week and our succulent future.  It reminds me of that avocado commercial on tv – what are you bringing to our “party?”   What do you have to offer when Benton answers the door?

Photos are CC from Flikr:  “Silverware” by cookieater2009; “Vintage Sterling Silver Birks Norman Pattern Luncheon Forks” by GranniesKitchen; “lookatyourself” by renedepaula; “Radikale Bibliophilie” by Helico; “Silverware Set” by Roger’s Wife.

Seasons of Excellence

Next to excellence, comes the appreciation of it.                      ~William Makepeace Thackeray

 Week 12 in Review

I love this time of year.  It’s the beginning of the winter season.  The snowflakes are happily on their way.  It’s the beginning of the holiday season.  I enjoy the lights and love that comes with this grace-filled time of year.  This Friday we celebrate our military veterans – a group of Americans who I feel allow us to begin each day with the freedom we so easily enjoy.  I especially enjoy this season of the school year.  It’s a time when we all begin to settle into the path our journey takes us – this year we have claimed the road is toward excellence.

We hit a milestone on our journey to excellence last week.  Our district Data Consult was powerful.  It brought us to a point in our work with data teams to really check where each team had progressed.  It forced us all to grapple with the fact that we have committed to an exceptional level of examining and breaking down our teaching and what students were learning –more so than we have in many years at Benton.  This path has pushed us to reflect on the most basic elements of good teaching, and we are growing as professionals because of it.

This is the beginning of Benton’s season of excellence.  Have you noticed? Perhaps like me, you missed the obvious signs when they are right in front of us.  As it turns out, after visits and conversations in the last two weeks from two district superintendents, two high school principals and a teacher from Liberty North High School, I realized something I had never taken the time to ponder…other schools wish they had what we have.  From wanting to emulate our library (and steal our librarian) to being envious of such an improvement-oriented staff that works diligently on data teams (one of the principals asked me, “How did you get them all to buy in and try this [data teams]?), I began to grasp what has been eluding our staff for years – we are measuring the wrong signs of success!

Our commitment to data teams isn’t about how “right” we are as we work through the process – excellence is about the fact that ALL of Benton is working data teams.  There are no short cuts, and we all understand that.  We have an advisement program in CAMP that is sought out by other schools.  We have a library that is a model for future libraries in the state and beyond.  We have a made great strides with our graduation rate this year; we give CAMP the credit.  Do you give yourself the credit you deserve?  Have you compared the professional you are outside of our school?  You should.  You would realize that our journey to excellence has changed you professionally.  You are stronger, smarter, and more prepared to tackle the challenges of teaching into the next few years.  The future of education is forecast as a season of change.  I hope you are committed to staying prepared to be excellent in it.

Week 13 – A Look Ahead

I hope you are all happy for the upcoming week of wearing jeans.  Thank you so much to everyone who was able to donate to Backpack Buddies.  Monday brings the StuCo Blood Drive.  The altruistic behaviors of our students and staff continually humble me.  Just a reminder, our fire drill is cancelled on Tuesday.  Wednesday we have JEPD in the library each block.  Please bring your computers and power cords.  We will be upgrading our laptops and updating our SchoolWires sites together.  It will be fun.  Friday (11.11.11) is a two-hour early out in observation of Veteran’s Day.  Our own JROTC will participate in the city parade in honor of our local veterans.  Also Friday is the opening night for our musical “Phantom of the Opera.”  Please plan to attend one show if at all possible.  It will make you proud you teach and work these students and colleagues.  This is our season of excellence.

Photos found in CC on Flikr:  “Seasons” by*~Dawn~*,  “Autumn Dew” by SFB579, “Where it lay” by EJP Photo, “lunar eclipse” by Logan Brumm Photography and Designs.