Giving CARE and Thanks

I feel the capacity to CARE is the thing which gives life its deepest significance. ~Pablo Casals

I’m always so grateful for this time of year.  Every Thanksgiving holiday break reminds me strongly to be cognizant of the multitude of blessings in my life.  I was reminded this morning in church how good it makes everyone feel to take stock in all that we have to be thankful for each day.  For the life of me, I don’t know why we don’t reflect on that more often.

I am so thankful for how much all the people I work with CARE about what they do and how they do it.  The outpouring of support and loyalty I received and heard last week after our staff meeting made my heart soar.  Your determination and dedication to CARdinal Excellence humbled me.

We live in a new age of education.  It is tough to navigate our newly found waters with seemingly insurmountable expectations and changes at every turn.  I realized more than ever this week how much we rely on each other.  I find myself humming, “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” That is what makes a difference in our school and with our kids. Day by day, we are there to make a difference.  We are making a difference.  We found out great news about several of our students scoring in the 30s on this last ACT.  We also heard that a record number of our students were selected as Cotillion finalists.  Your excellence is showing up as our students’ excellence.  It’s CARdinal Excellence.  Thank you for giving every day.

Week 14 – A Look Ahead

Our administrative look fors are going to be more focused.  We will start meeting with data teams to note areas to improve and determine how we can pinpoint exactly what we need to look for to get better and get the results we know can be achieved.  

Tuesday – Pep Assembly schedule; UMKC Data Teams JEPD in library each block; Basketball Jamboree @ Civic Arena starting at 3:30.

Wednesday – 2 Hour early out schedule (turn in your lunch menus to Ms. Anita)

Thursday/Friday – Happy Thanksgiving!

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC on Flickr:  “Belated Turkey hand” by bschmove; “Join our team” by CraigTaylor1974.

Measuring CARE Fully

True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own. ~Nikos Kazantzakis

This is one of the weeks our school is measured by others.  Oh, there are many of those times in Benton’s near future, but this week our school will go through our bi-annual District Data Consult and Walkthrough.  The process is simple.  District officials, usually our Associate Superintendent and Assistant Director of Secondary Education, visit Benton for four hours to discuss areas of celebration and improvement for our school.  The conversation, which in the fall takes upward of three hours, is followed by a walkthrough our building where the officials will talk to you and to our students to verify topics discussed in the consult.  Most often, your administrative team selects the topics of conversation.  If we select incorrectly, our district officials set the conversation.  We prefer to choose wisely. 

This fall, our topics of conversation will center on our celebrations and hard work realized in our data teams focus.  We have collected the data from Power Standard 1 along with assessments from almost every team.  It was stupefying how much we all learned, from team members to administrators, in our conversations this first round.  The magnitude of having data teams in every department is a celebration of its own.  To have them all operational is amazing. Other topics we will discuss include our focus on assessments and grades, ACT Academy, EOC scores, attendance and alternative referrals.  We feel it’s just smart to be open and honest about our work and talk through our plans.  The most rewarding part of a data consult is to have our plan affirmed and get ideas for solutions.

Following the consult, your admin team will debrief and create a letter to inform everyone of the results of our consult and walkthrough.  The information in this letter is our self-report to our staff of where we shine and what we need to work on together.  It’s a great letter.  The reflection always makes me realize how fortunate I am to work at Benton.

Data Teams – Power Standard #2

As you move into the next round, please remember the high points of our learning from the first Power Standard.



  1. A Power Standard cycle is from pretest to posttest.
  2. Start with your posttest (you know what you want to measure) and create your pretest to measure similarly but by scaffolding (breaking down the process and/or content needed prior to learning what you are asking them to learn) the questions.
  3. Your power standard MUST be grounded in curriculum objectives.  Know what those are – especially the operative verbs and the content expectations.
  4. Bundle (taking several part of different objectives) or chunk (breaking down a large objective into small manageable chunks) your power standard and create your instructional time frame by topics of instruction and amount of time needed for mastery (or almost mastery).  Those points of instruction become your CHECK POINTS (which may or may not be a graded check for mastery).  Your checkpoints are a required part of the Power Standard #2 cycle.  Make sure you identify the topic(s) you are measuring.
  5. Measure your Power Standard success through your formative and summative data.
  6. Look for trends and concerns.  If your students are less successful after you instruct, ask why.  If your students are all successful on your pretest, question your approach.

Week 13 – A Look Ahead

This week our administrative walkthrough will focus on instructional objectives.  We will look and ask to see if students know what they are learning and how that applies to them as a learner.  Do you post your objective each day?  Do the students write it down so they can refer to it when you remind them?  Do they know what and why they are working on in your classroom?  We will ask them to tell us. 

Monday – 2 Hour Early Out for Veteran’s Day.  Thanks to MAJ Stackhouse and MSG Rivera for their service.

Tuesday – 7:00 a.m. Benton Leadership Team Meeting with Dr. Dial in Room 106.  8:00 – 12:30 District Data Consult & Walkthrough

Wednesday – 2:50 p.m.  Staff Meeting in Auditorium (30 minutes); Regular BLT Meeting canceled due to Tuesday meeting.

Thursday – Intruder Drill @ 9:15 a.m.

Friday – Wizard of Oz – 7:30 p.m

Saturday – Wizard of Oz – 7:30; JROTC Ball – 6:00 p.m.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC from Flickr: “Measuring Time” by aussiegall; “Measuring up 3” by chris runoff; “Vertical Speed Indicator” by Barnaby Kerr Photography; “Balance Scale” by Sepehr Ehsani

CARE to Change

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. ~Thomas Jefferson

This is indeed the season of change.  The time changes. The weather changes.  The season changes. We change our sports seasons from football, volleyball, cross-country, soccer, golf, tennis, and softball for basketball and wrestling. The leaves change color and then leave altogether.  We live in an era of change.  I guess I don’t have to tell you that.  But what I do feel compelled have you reflect upon is how prepared you are to embrace change.

At Benton, despite the anxiety caused by the process of change in education, our staff has engaged in the change process often enough to understand not only the need to change but to have embraced a process that allows you personally and us as a staff to navigate the differences and come out stronger and smarter.

The process is this:  research the change needed, create a plan for change, collaborate and learn about how to facilitate the plan, and measure the results in order to start the cycle over again.  In our courses, we use data teams.  In our departments, we used data teams. In our school, we use our School Improvement Plan (SIP).  In our district, we use our Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP).  In our state, we use Missouri School Improvement Plan – MSIP 5.  In a few months, our school’s summative assessment will  be shared with everyone  to see how Benton measures up in our ability adapt to change in educational expectations.  I look forward to those results; I know our work is solid.

Another exciting change I see in our school is happening internally. Not only can you see the positive climate growth, you can feel it.  Last week, I was able to spend significant time talking to our students.  First of all, it made me very happy.  We have amazing kids at Benton!  Oh sure, they certainly come with all the elements attributed to teenagers, but their words of affirmation of things happening at Benton speak volumes.  Children get their cues from the adults in their lives.  Despite the difficulties at home, in their classes, and with their friends, our students believe we are helping them be successful.  “Empowering Success,” they say. So simple and so smart.  I’m glad to be a small part of this change.  The students want the adults in their lives to believe in them.  They say you do.  They want to know they have a voice, have someone listen, and have what they say matter.  They tell me you do that.  I know you do.

They believe at Benton, we are a family – or perhaps better stated – a team.  We don’t have all the plays down perfectly, but we are willing to research and try better ones.  We are not afraid to look ahead and plan a course to make learning more valuable.  We are trying hard to make what they learn more meaningful and efficient.  We listen to what they need to be successful, and we make changes in order to get them on that path.  You know I like to call that path our journey to excellence.  Never a flat path. Never ever downhill. We have to CARE to change in order to maintain an upward journey.  Like anything worthwhile, that journey is rarely easy.  Change is never easy.  But when you CARE, it makes change much more navigable.

Week 12 – A Look Ahead

After our great work in JEPD last Wednesday, I think we need to continue our administrative walkthroughs looking for and providing feedback on use of technology.  Is your lesson today something a student would want to archive digitally?  If not, why not?  If yes, why?  Are your students using their laptops for appropriate educational activities?  What would change in their behavior if the instructional time with the laptop open/being used was specific, limited, guided and measured quickly? 

Monday – STUCO Blood Drive (passes only, not from Core classes); Data Team meetings/Red days (see schedule) preparing for District Data Consult (DDC); BLT Meeting @ 3:00 in room 108

Tuesday — Data Team meetings/White days (see schedule) preparing for DDC; Election Day

Wednesday – New Staff Meeting at 7:00 a.m. in Room 108

Friday – Opening Night for the Wizard of Oz

Reminder: Monday, November 12th is a two hour early out staff and students for Veteran’s Day.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are all available CC on Flickr: “SAF#2” by Roby Ferrari ; “Your Finest Moment” by Thomas Hawk; “Sign” by hlkljgk.




One must care about a world one will not see. ~Bertrand Russell

When considering the differences in teaching today compared to as few as only five years ago, I know many of the “old timers” are singing…“times, they are a changin’.”  The continual improvement process of education has brought MSIP to our doorstep in Missouri.  At the local level, we see its impact through the implementation of data teams and teaching and learning 21st Century skills.  By nature, all these mandates for improvement cause us to evaluate our past practices.  It’s more than a little sCAREy to consider all  the changes being imposed upon us.  It’s left up to us to determine what “comes off our plate” from the past in order to add something new for the future.  What if we’re wrong?  What if the new isn’t as good as the old?  What if the new is better than the old, but we are not as good at implementing the new?   I ask myself these questions everyday as I walk through classrooms to see what is working well and what we can improve.

According to Saavedra and Opfer in their article, “Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching,” schools today operate primarily in “the outdated, transmission model of education, through which teachers transmit factual knowledge to students…” which in turn limits students’ ability to apply the knowledge to new contexts, communicate in complex ways, be creative, or problem solve.  The authors share information from learning scientists who taught nine lessons relative to teaching 21st-century skills that I feel would be helpful to pass on considering the upcoming digital presentations we are sharing this Wednesday.  The lessons are:

  1. Make it relevant.
  2. Teach through the disciplines.
  3. Develop thinking skills.
  4. Encourage learning transfer.
  5. Teach students HOW to learn.
  6. Address misunderstandings directly.
  7. Treat teamwork like an outcome.
  8. Exploit technology to support learning.
  9. Foster creativity.

The most interesting part of the lessons is when they claim, “Technology allows students to transfer skills to different contexts, reflect on their thinking and that of their peers, practice addressing their misunderstandings, and collaborate with peers.”  As we enter this week of sCAREy things, I want to ask you to consider how comfortable you are as a 21st century teacher?  Don’t mask your feelings.  Take hold of the lessons like you would hold onto a bag of your favorite candy, and challenge yourself to overcome your fear and embrace the change.  Move your transmission model off your plate and face your creative fear.  Exploit that technology – don’t let the students exploit your patience.  Teach the students how to learn.  That will lead to you a world of thanksgiving.

Week 11 – A Look Ahead

This week on our administrative walkthroughs we will look for and provide feedback on use of technology.  How many classrooms are accessing our Project Connect devices?  What are students using the devices for?  How are teachings working with and monitoring student use.  Are lessons being taught able to work digitally?  How will a student be able to archive a lesson if this is something chosen to save in the digital warehouse?

Tuesday – Winter Pep Assembly planning meeting.  7:00 a.m. in room 106.  All staff interested in winter assemblies should attend.

Wednesday – Digital Exhibition presentations.  Schedule to be emailed.

Sunday – Daylight Savings time change (fall back)

FYI – a look farther ahead:  Nov 5 & 6 will be departmental data teams reviews with each department.  Have your data teams cycle 1 & start of 2 ready to share.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available through CC on Flickr: “Eye of a Vampire” by Caitlin House; “10.25.10 298/365” by nineminutes.

  Saavedra, A.R. & Opfer, V.D.  “Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching.” Phi Delta Kappan. Oct. 2012.

Copious amounts of CARE

In caring, I experience the other as having potentialities and the need to grow.  In helping the other grow, I do not impose my own direction; rather, I allow the direction of the other’s growth to guide what I do, to help determine how I am to respond. ~Milton Maveroff

co-pi-ous  |ˈkōpēəs|   adjective   abundant in supply or quantity: she took copious notes.

A teacher stopped by my office last week to tell me, “It worked, Ma’am.”  “What worked?”  I asked, puzzled for lack of context.  “The ‘sidle up.’ It worked with one of my toughest students.”  I smiled.  I was so happy to hear that news. And I was ever so grateful this teacher took the time to stop in and share that story with me.  I knew what student this teacher was working with; this is one tough kid to reach.  Seven others of you have this child in your classes too.  He presses every one of our buttons, and he is good at it.  Todd Whittaker, author and educational researcher, has some very good advice and strategies that he said GREAT teachers follow in order to function in schools.  The sidle up was one of those tips.  According to Whittaker, I need to be sharing those tips with you; that’s what good leaders do.  I promise I will do better at researching and sharing those strategies and tips.

This week is parent conference week.  I learned that good principals help guide teachers in their interactions with parents.  I hope the script we offered Wednesday helped you some.  Here are three more quick tips about interacting with parents that I have read in Whittaker’s works:

  1. Always remember that our parents send us their best children.  I laughed out loud when I heard TW claim, “You know, parents don’t keep the best kids at home for themselves and send us the rest to deal with.”  I hadn’t really thought of it that way.  They do send us their best children, and often their most precious cargo.  I know my own sons are that to me.
  2. Parents want us to hear them.  Funny what you hear when you  really listen to people’s stories.  It doesn’t even matter if the child is honor roll or ISS.  And it’s so incredible what we learn when we take a minute to really listen to WHAT the parents are talking about.  Try this during parent teacher conference talks this week…ask your parents, “How can I help you?”  And then just listen.
  3. Great teachers stay positive.  TW explains that there are copious numbers of situations in our profession that pull us under and make us feel low.  Sharing those feelings with our parents (or even each other) rarely move one forward or upward.  He reiterates that the best way to reach parents (and students) is to understand the power of praise.  Find a way to praise your CAMPer when you talk with his parent.  Have you ever thought, “Gosh, I am praised too much?”  Probably not.  I am fairly certain our parents feel the same way about raising their teenaged children.

Praise and celebrations:  I don’t want to forget to thank you all ahead of time for your GREAT work on parent contacts.  I also don’t want to forget to ask you to praise and celebrate our students this week for their participation and success in their extra-curricular events.  Our successes are often far beyond a scoreboard or placement in a competition.  We have so many events where we measure students outside of school.  The work is rigorous even when it is fun.  Our students perform their best or at least as much as we are willing to train them to do or expect them to achieve.   We are in a time of district, regional, and state competitions.  From band to speech and debate to all our fall athletics – the pressure is on us to achieve.  I am proud of all our coaches, staff supervisors and students for giving their best.  I hope you will join me in sharing that appreciation.

Week 10 – A Look Ahead

Let’s continue to focus our administrative walkthroughs to look for and provide feedback on teacher behavior, especially after our JEPD last Wednesday.  What are you doing when we see you teaching?  Where are in the classroom? How are you interacting with your students?  Remember, do not allow our students to passively opt out of learning.  And consider the three tips above when you work with our students as well.

PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES – all week.  Make sure you complete your contact log and document your interactions with our parents.

Thursday – Pep Assembly schedule. This is the final fall pep assembly.  Let’s make it great!

Friday – three-hour early out for all students and faculty.

Saturday is the ACT test.  Please encourage all our testing students and especially those in ACT Academy.  Their best is our success as well. 

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images found in CC on Flickr: “Crayola Display #”1 by Bugsy Sailor; “Photonic Lattice” by Jervetson.



There’s No Place Like Home CARE

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. ~Theodor Seuss Geisel

The world is a better place today because of Benton High School.  If only I could share all the stories I heard or know of in this week alone about teachers helping students, students taking care of teachers, teachers being there for each other, and students standing up for what is right.  The stories are touching, humorous and providential. And the acts of caring and kindness made such a big difference in the lives of others.                      They are empowering.

Our students tell me that the Benton teachers and staff empower them to be successful.  I was touched when I heard that.  I am humbled when I see it in action.  As we continue along our journey to improve, I can see our CARdinal Excellence growing. Our passion is growing. Our results are gaining ground.  Your investment in our students is paying off in a big way.

I loved hearing a teacher defend a student because of how he connected with her in life as a child. I love seeing a student give up her personal time day after day to help teachers come together. I love walking into play practice and see students and teachers support each other when things get tough.  I loved hearing an Assistant Principal and Counselor share how they will commitment to making a student on the cusp of dropping out of school decide to stay because they CARE to make sure she does. I love seeing entire departments follow through on their CARE promise and join together at Homecoming for dinner and the game.  I love seeing teachers pull together to take CARE of each other when our lives at home are difficult.  Oh, I understand our world is not perfect.  October is the time in the school year when tempers begin to flare, pressure builds exponentially, and the students and staff alike start to think success is impossible, but it is possible because we CARE about each other and with that we will press through the tougher times and grow closer together. We will be successful. Yes, the world is a better place today because of Benton High School.

Week 9 – A Look Ahead

This week we will continue in our administrative walkthroughs to look for and provide feedback on teacher behavior.  What are you doing when we see you teaching?  Where are in the classroom? How are you interacting with your students?  This will be exciting feedback to share with you.

This is a big week for data teams.  On Tuesday, our UMKC Consultants will work with us each class period in the library to analyze our work and listen to your feedback.  I am excited for you to share all your work with them.  I anticipate a great session for each of you where you will leave feeling strong in your work and ready to tackle the next round of data collection.

Wednesday, we will have JEPD each hour.  I realize this seems like a quick turn about, but we will review your text complexity work and discuss parent/teacher conference protocols.  The sophomores will be out of the building for a large part of the day at My Success Event.  Also, a few students will be testing the PSAT.  Look for that list to be emailed.  Wednesday also marks the end of the first quarter.  Make sure you enter all your grades as quickly as possible.

Friday we will be on pep assembly schedule for our last home football game.  The students are excited to have everyone’s support in school spirit.  I am very proud of how well our Student Council has been leading the way.  I hope you will share your support with them as well.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Photos of “Spirit Stick,” PowderPuff Coin Flip,”  by JetWestfall and “Counseling and Math Departments” by Jenny Moore.


CARE Ought (pronounced car-rot)

We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think.  Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far. ~Swami Vivekananda

I find myself wondering sometimes what makes students WANT to do something.  What’s the “carrot” that entices them?  I think about what motivates a high school student. What makes them want to succeed?  What makes them CARE?  What makes them smile when they see us? I ponder about their relationships, activities, classes, teachers and grades.  What really incentivizes a student to be the best he can be?  What is it that makes a student feel good about herself?

I know that we always feel good when we invest in others.  I also know I feel strong when I “get something right” after struggling with it.  I know I always feel relieved when I get things done.  As teachers, we have the opportunity day after day to break down our classroom agendas to give even the most difficult child a chance to think better of himself.   We absolutely control the most variables in our classroom each hour.  Do you create opportunities for “CARE Oughts” to the students who need them (the most)?  A student rarely gets “off track” when a teacher really sees inside them and takes the time to find out what makes them tick (vs get ticked off).  Try it this week.  What CARE Ought can you use to make a difference with one of your students?

Week 8 – A Look Ahead

This week in our administrative walkthroughs for the next few weeks, we will look for and provide feedback on teacher behavior.  What are you doing when we see you teaching?  Where are in the classroom? How are you interacting with your students?  This will be exciting feedback to share with you.

It’s HOMECOMING!  And with that we have several students and teams headed to Sectionals! We play our Softball Sectionals on Wednesday afternoon, so I will move our Staff Meeting after school to JEPD during the day Wednesday.  Thanks for understanding.  Feel free to share in the festivities with the students…they LOVE IT when teachers share in their dress up days.  It shows you CARE, and they notice!  I want to give a shout out to StuCo for the great planning and preparation to make this week successful.  Go #CardNation!

Monday – Josten’s SR Meeting during CAMP

Tuesday – Data Leadership Team (DLT) meeting at 0700

Wednesday – JEPD (schedule and locations will be emailed); LUNCH in the cafeteria – let’s show our support for our kids and Nutrition Staff and eat together!

Thursday – Fire Drill @ 1:15

Friday – Homecoming Assembly (50 minutes long, schedule will be emailed); Staff rally at FB game vs Cameron, Homecoming Royalty presentation before the game, Homecoming dance (9-11) – all FRESHMAN SPONSORS are required for supervision.

It’s going to be a great week!  Go Cardinals!

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available by CC on Flickr: “Farmer’s market, Jul 2009-11” by Ed Yourdon;  “Its Just Carbon” by Vermin Inc.






Remember that children, marriages and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr. 

I love the sight of a pristine lawn.  It crazily reminds me of a school.  The students would be the blades of grass — all about the same but all so different.  Those of us who love the look of well-manicured lawns learn that lawn CARE is something required.  There are no short cuts, and there are some very specific needs that must happen in order to keep the lawn healthy and ready for action.

I know in our CARE for students, we have the similar parallels when it comes to behaviors that show us how to CARE for the lawn.  Todd Whitaker, author of several very insightful books shares two tips I want to share.  Please take some time to watch and reflect on this powerful information.  There are two very short clips.  It will make taking CARE of your lawn much easier and more enjoyable.

What Great Teachers Do Differently – Part One

What Great Teachers Do Differently – Part Two

Week 7 – A Look Ahead

This week in our administrative walkthroughs, we will look for and provide feedback on safety preparations.  Do you have your safety chart posted by your door?  Are you class rosters there?  Do you have your evacuation poster hanging near your classroom exit?

Wednesday – Super Assessment Day (see additional information in email)

Thursday – Students to MWSU for Convocation (see emailed listing)

Friday – Drug Free Superstar Interviews (see emailed listing/times)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are found in CC on Flickr:  “Weston Park” by hartlandmartin.

CARE Givers

Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible. ~Ronnie Oldham

As educators, we often find ourselves in the position of having to make tough decisions about children.  Those tough decisions are rarely black and white, so it’s often difficult to know what to do in response or reaction to the situations in which we find ourselves.  There are some who would default to, “we do what’s best for kids,” but honestly, you should not be in education if that is not your absolute fundamental tenet.  What causes each of us so much stress and concern or what drives the need for us to “take our work home with us” is trying to figure out exactly what is best for a child in each situation.  There are as many opinions for what is best as there are sands in an hourglass.  Options for solutions are a bit more limited.

As we focus on data teams, one area of decision-making that becomes clearer is how to improve the results of our work.  They key is to become smarter and more practiced in the data teams process.  In the book, Leaders Make it Happen: An Administrator’s Guide to Data Teams, authors McNulty and Besser state that many researchers found that, “the difference between the most effective classrooms and the least effective classrooms was attributable to the teacher.”  They also go on to share that, “the difference between the most effective teachers and the least effective teachers is not what they know, but rather what they do” (p. 17). The authors share research that explains it is tough for teachers to unlearn practices they have utilized for years or have been taught by college professors who practiced a decade ago.  There are so many reasons why.

One reason we find changing to be so tough is due to a system that seems resistant to change.  However, the ability to change – called second order change – is in the hands and mind of each teacher.  We have to limit our priorities and accept that premise.  We need to accept and expect a higher level of accountability.  Teaching is highly personal, so we must embrace collaboration then take that responsibility seriously and with dedication to our colleagues.  We have to believe in, rely on, and support each other, even more so when one of us is struggling.    We must CARE about each other and believe even when we can’t see.

Students then provide the canvas for us to express ourselves as professionals with our pedagogical paint.  We get nervous when we hold them accountable, when rigor pushes their thinking and when relevance is not obvious. This is where the juxtaposition comes in what is “best for kids” and what we believe in education about our practice.  Here’s where opinions are many and options seem limited.

The options do not have to be one or the other.  Often times the best solution is a combo of extremes. We need to be there for our kids – to listen and CARE.  We do not need to be their excuse. We should provide them supports to allow them to solve their problems.  We should not should not encourage them to “escape” from the tough academic situation they have worked themselves into. Data teams work is built on differentiation for learning needs.  How are you differentiating for students who struggle?   That struggle may not just be with your content.  More often it will be because they don’t come to school, forget to do or turn in their homework, or have troubles at home that block their focus on learning.  These are REAL blocks to learning for our kids.  Very real.  No matter the reason, the fact is they didn’t learn.  How can you help them problem solve and learn?  Is what you believe is “best for kids” that “failure is not an option?”  What would Benton look like if we believed that was best for our kids?  Think about that when you look at which of your students are failing.  I know you do your best.  I also know that excellence is a journey.  Reread the quote at the start of this blog.  Let’s make sure our excellence is grounded in caring more, risking more, dreaming more, and expecting more from us.  If we show our kids we are willing, they will follow our lead!

Week 6 – A Look Ahead

This week in our administrative walkthroughs, we will CONTINUE looking for and providing feedback on instructional questioning.  We will look for what questions you are asking your students – do they require higher order thinking or are they mostly operational for giving directions?

Monday – Data Teams departmental meetings

Wednesday – JEPD Red Day Schedule (Info on Super Assessment Day, Text Complexity JEPD & AdvancEd email from Dr. Smith)

Thursday – Bus Evacuation @ 9:15 a.m. (directions TBA)

Reminder:  Super Assessment Day will be Oct 3rd

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available in CC from Flickr:  “Decisions, decisions” by Garrettc ; “Maze Puzzle (Blender) by FutUndBendl “customer-loyalty_retention.jpg by enriqueburgosgarcia. 




Taking CARE of Business

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. ~Margaret Mead

It’s about this time of year that we start feeling pressure from all the expectations put on you in your classroom and beyond.  The pressure is legitimate.  When you CARE about the work you do in order to be the best you can be, you don’t take this pressure lightly.  It’s the nature of educators; we want to make a difference.  We want to help change our world because we care about those around us.  Everyone expects us to change the world.  We often know we can. And so we try…day after day. The pressure is legit.

The best analogy for this somewhat overwhelming time of year is best understood by comparing it to the feeling of eating at an appetizing dinner when you are super hungry and everything looks yummy. First of all, there’s the main course of the curriculum served up through the data teams process.  Then we load you up with side dishes where we expect you to take at least one serving of each.  Start with one large helping of transform and differentiate your instruction with digital tools and students’ digital exhibition artifacts on top.  Another dish, although not overwhelming, you must serve yourself is a good helping of our literacy plan implementation.  And you can’t skip the healthy, needed sides of grading and PowerTeacher, Schoolwires, your departmental best practices, text complexity PD implementation, upcoming Acuity training, and the upcoming new and improved taste of CAMP.  Yes, you have a LOT on your dinner plate.  Add to that the condiments for the meal to enhance the taste of your plateful of pressure.  Include a shake or two of the schedule with bell changes and a dollop of discipline, to name the favorites. And for those of you who enjoy and can’t get enough dessert, we have all those extra-duties –with sprinkles on top — whether paid or otherwise.  Yes, we realize you are full, and you are feeling it.  It takes strong dedication on your part to learn the processes thoroughly and to implement it with fidelity.  We want you to know we know, and we are here to help you digest it all.  The key for success is to take one bite at a time.  Strong and steady.  Manage your intake, and don’t overdo it.  Take a breath, laugh a lot (it helps make room for more), and share your dishes.  It’s amazing how much better a meal tastes when you sup with friends.

Week 4 in Review

Nice work on going over the student handbook and in your class meetings.  Hats off to all of you who took the time to talk through the rules with the students, answer their questions, and get clarification when you were not certain. Also great job on the class meetings.  I think our CAMP time was a highlight of the week.  I also appreciate everyone’s participation and attendance at our first faculty meeting of the year.  It was a heavy thirty minutes of work; there’s no doubt.  I loved the feedback that we should take that time to share celebrations as well.  Great idea! Consider that a new part of our meeting.  With that added, don’t forget to send me celebrations!  I have one to share next month that has to do with a staff member and socks. It will touch your heart! Bet you are wondering…what, what?  I also want to celebrate our teachers who continue to show they care by showing up at student activities after school and on weekends.  The students love it, and it’s very exciting to see such a supportive staff! Thank you so much for doing that for our kids!

Week 5: A Look Ahead

This week in our administrative walkthroughs, we will be looking for and providing feedback on instructional questioning.  We will look for what questions you are asking your students – do they require higher order thinking or are they mostly operational for giving directions?

Monday – sign handbook permission slips in CAMP and turn in right away.  If a student is absent, please fill in his/her name and note ABSENT at the top.

Wednesday – Job Embedded PD to start learning about the digital exhibition.  I will send out the white day locations to attend.  Benton Leadership Team (BLT) meets at 7:00 a.m.  in room 106.  Donuts anyone?

Thursday – we will have a modified schedule, which I will send out on Wednesday again.  We follow regular schedule except we will release early from 2R (10:15 bell) to go to CAMP.  Directions for viewing will come from Kelly.  Look for that and make sure you are ready to go.

Friday – Department PD for each dept in collab that day.  Each department should be prepared to share their Data Team work so far with admin, IC and any DLT team members who are able to attend. Pep Assembly schedule.

FYI on Monday – Complete department PD for each dept in collab that day.  Each department should be prepared to share their Data Team work so far with admin, IC and any DLT team members who are able to attend.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available in Creative Commons from Flickr: “sphygmomanometer” by jasleen_kaur; “Dinner is served.” by jonesing1; “Red balloons” by Jakob E.