Christmas CARE

Caring can be learned by all human beings, can be worked into the design of every life, meeting an individual need as well as a pervasive need in society.  ~Mary Catherine Bateson

In light of the tragedy at the Newtown, Connecticut school last Friday, I feel I can not tell you often enough how much I appreciate everything you do for our children at Benton each day.  We spend so much time together that it is hard to imagine something so dark happening to any school children, let alone our own, but it is not without possibility as Friday’s events have shown us.

It is important to share with our students at each appropriate opportunity how safe we are at school, and how our policies and procedures are created to keep us as safe as possible.  One of the strongest elements for our students’ safety is you – their teachers.  Take time, this week especially, to reassure them of that fact.  Be vigilant to stand “guard” at your door and in the hallways to show our resolve to keep the children safe.  This measure will go far in sending a message that we do CARE about them – more than they can ever imagine.

I also appreciate the joy you have continued to share and promote during this holiday season.  I have had numerous students tell me how fun this year has been so far with teachers participating in school activities, taking extra time to talk with them or to their parents, and spending time outside of school attending events.  It’s sort of amazing how a simple gift of time or talk can make such a different in a child’s life, but it does.  It really does.

I hope and pray that each one of you has the most amazing holiday break possible this year.  It is the true joy of the season – to love and be loved.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Week 18 – A Look Ahead

Our walkthroughs this week will continue with our EOC courses, but if you have not done so already, we ask all faculty members to take one day this week during your plan period and walk through classrooms that are not in your department. Observe something positive about the learning in that room and email the teacher.  It’s a gift that we all need – positive feedback from our colleagues. 

Monday5th Day Countdown/Angel Day – act like one; Sandy Hook Elementary School Memoriam (students can wear gold ribbons on their arms); Band Concert @ 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday4th Day Countdown/Ugly Christmas Sweater Day; Choir Concert @ 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday3rd Day Countdown/Santa Hat Day; Benton Leadership Team Meeting at 7:00 a.m. in Room 106; FINAL EXAMS – RED DAY

Thursday2nd Day Countdown/Winter Scarf & Hat Day; FINAL EXAMS – WHITE DAY; 2 Hour Early out/Staff Work Day

FridayFinal Day Countdown/Snowflakes Day; Special Schedule (to be posted)/Make-up final exams and Digital Exhibition Session; 3 Hour Early Out for ALL STUDENTS and STAFF

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are CC on Flickr: “sillyLittleSnowmen” by The Year of Mud; Frosty’s Christmas Greeting (Explored 12/21/11)” by Puzzler4879.

Wrapped with CARE



Every one of us needs to show how much we care for each other and in the process, care for ourselves.  ~Princess Diana


It’s a great time of the year, and if you deeply reflect for a moment – it’s an exciting time at Benton!  I was talking with a teacher this week about how fabulous our school is, and he said to me, “We need to share this with everyone.  People just don’t know. It’s like we need a billboard or something!”  I agree; we need to share the good news with others.  We have come so far and have so much to celebrate.  I think this is certainly the time of year to do so.  We have so much to be proud of at Benton.  After talking about it, I realized we should start by sharing with our own staff.

If you look back from the start of just this school year, our progress is pretty impressive. First of all, just consider all the facilities improvements that have been completed… the nurse’s office, mailroom, staff conference room, main office, and, of course, the beautiful, new field house.  Our student services are stronger and more kid-centered than ever with our new counseling center, college and career office, school store, SRO’s office, and nurse’s office being localized and available for our students.  It wasn’t all that long ago that our facilities use included travelling teachers – several in core subjects — and our special education department had only one dedicated classroom.  And get this…we were inspected this week for the cleanliness of our building, and so far, we are one of the top schools in the district.  Just a few years ago, we were dead last in the district.  That kind of difference doesn’t happen accidently.  We have so much to celebrate!  And if you ask Coach Tabor, our facilities’ improvements have only just begun!

Our progress, however, isn’t just about brick and mortar.  Our progress can be seen in our professional work as well.  We have at least fifteen teachers that I can think of right off the top of my head who are pursuing advanced degrees or National Board Certification at Benton.  We have an entire staff, through thick and thin, who are learning and implementing the process of data teams.  Learning the process has not been easy.  It challenges us every day, but we are making progress.

Progress can often challenge us when it is wrapped up in different concerns that we have yet to master, but we should never forget how much we struggled when we didn’t have the fully available technology that we do today. Our school is a one-to-one school now with amazing capabilities for teaching and learning due to availability of our wireless access and individual devices.  I talked to a principal on Friday who told me not to call him back on his cell phone during the day because his school doesn’t get any reception. I know somehow this sounds like a slice of heaven on some days, but when you think about all the safety and instructional opportunities we do have available with our current level of access, you have to at least wonder what the life differences are for those students compared to ours.

Our professional and academic improvements do not stop with technology.  We have two departments (CA & SS) in the process of moving to a fully integrated team teaching model – something that is mighty difficult in the best of circumstances – who are finding success early and continuing to challenge themselves to improve for our students.  And you have to admit, our instructional coach and library media specialist provide support you have come to take for granted.  Those two individuals have a way to make working harder (and smarter) seem like a gift … a gift wrapped with CARE.

Finally, we are seeing results.  Just last week, we were informed that Benton High School was awarded with nine finalists for the Northwest Missouri Cotillion.  There are only 20 students TOTAL selected for this prestigious honor each year.  In our last ACT testing cycle, we had three seniors score a 30 or above composite score.  And if these awards are not enough, two of our students made All State Choir and two others were selected as the top two winners in the state of Missouri for the Voice of Democracy Contest. These results are not by accident nor just lucky.  They are results of dedication and professionalism of our staff, and the hard work and education of our very own students.

These few celebrations are just a few of the great things happening at our school.  I will make sure I share more and more with you each week.  There is nothing that makes a teacher or administrator more proud than to brag about her teachers or students.  I know you all understand. We are a proud #CARDNATION!

Week 17 – A Look Ahead

Our walkthroughs this week will continue with our EOC courses, but we ask all faculty members to take one day this week during your plan period and walk through classrooms that are not in your department.  Observe something positive about the learning in that room and email the teacher.  It’s a gift that we all need – positive feedback from our colleagues. 

Monday 10th Day Countdown/Crazy Holiday Socks; [FYI:  Westfall and Z will attend the City Council Meeting as a final request to change the street direction in front of our school.  If approved, the city/district will facilitate necessary changes for school bus loading/unloading to begin in the front of Benton.  Look for info on this Tuesday; changes would not begin until next year.]

Tuesday 9th Day Countdown/Holiday Décor (wear some); Data Leadership Team to KC

Wednesday – 8th Day Countdown/Reindeer Antlers (wear some); JEPD in Library each block for 20 minutes; Staff Christmas Party at 6:15 in the Enright Morgan Field House (it will be fun, you should sign up!); Staff Meeting after school is cancelled (due to JEPD).

Thursday 7th Day Countdown/Bah Hum Bug Day (wear black)

Friday 6th Day Countdown/Candy Cane Day (wear red & white/hand out candy canes)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available in CC on Flickr: “Happy Christmas Shopping” by Sherlock77 (James); “tiny bell” by kitsu; “packages” by grabadonut.

A Cardinal in a CARE Tree

Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you. ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

We have two exciting events beginning this week that have taken hours of planning and multiple layers of input to put into action.  The first of the two starts on Monday; our first Benton (in-house) ACT Academy.  We have changed the format from the past years to see if we can improve our results.  This year, our academy will operate on four consecutive half days instead of four consecutive Thursdays.  Sixteen students have requested entrance to the academy and will be studying English/Reading on Monday during 1st and 2nd blocks as well as Wednesday during 3rd an 4th blocks.  Math/Science will study on Tuesday during the first two blocks and Thursday during the afternoon blocks.  Academy participants’ names will be called on the intercom first thing Monday and a list will be emailed following the roll call.  Results from the October SJSD Academy show our Academy students performed almost two full composite points higher than the rest of our students who tested.  It is important to get as many students into our academy as possible to make them all maximize their potential.  We will host an academy in February and April the week before the ACT is given, so any juniors or seniors who have no failing grades and have not missed more than 10 days of school.  Our school’s goal is to improve our ACT composite score by half to one full point. Senior CAMP teachers should continue to encourage those college bound seniors to prepare prior for testing.  This would be a banner for our senior class and sponsors to wear proudly if we are able to accomplish it. 

The second exciting event this week is the start of the “12 Days of Christmas” Countdown.  I will send out the celebration days on Monday straight to your computers, so look for it on your desktops.  In the text, Leverage Leadership, the author states that in turnaround schools, seven levers are utilized to drive and sustain consistent, transformational, and replicable growth.  Of the seven levers, two are crucial – data-driven instruction and student culture.  As you can see, Benton has a laser focus on both.  Our holiday decoration contest and 12 days countdown are two ways we can encourage our students to celebrate with us.  Make sure you encourage and participate so we can model good habits of work and play with our students.

With our narrowed approach to data teams, we have been able to shore up many instructional practices that we know will lead to success.  We no longer have the luxury to live in the world of what the students SHOULD HAVE learned, but we are now ensuring what they HAVE learned – and they can prove it.  The second lever of student culture is just as critical as data driven instruction.  It is exciting to see individual teachers implement practices with the intent to encourage student engagement, participation and devotion to Benton High School.  In addition to our staff sending the continual message that nothing is as important or as engaging as learning, we know that students must see this practice repeated – using every minute of every day to build good habits.  Each staff member is a role model for good habits.  I realized as I was observing this week watching teachers in classrooms and coaches during practices and games that one HUGE example of a habit good teachers and coaches employ is what I am now referring to as “constantly chirping” in students’ ears.  Great teachers – whether in the classroom or coaching — don’t just teach once and stop, they continue to “chirp” at their students and players to reinforce or correct behaviors as well as set expectations and send praises. I often laugh out loud at how similar and paralleled good teaching and good coaching practices really are.  It’s just really important that we practice for the game we will actually play.

Week 16 – A Look Ahead

We are 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. EOC classes – notify your administrator if when you meet.  

Monday – ACT Academy (AM)

Tuesday – ACT Academy (AM)

Wednesday –  BLT Meeting at 0700 in Room 106; ASVAB Test Feedback during CAMP (see list); ACT Academy (PM)

Thursday – Southside Rotary Luncheon at 11:00 in Library (Library closed from 1030-130); ACT Academy (PM)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available in CC on Flickr:  “Cardinal Watching Me” by Mark…L; “Wing and a Prayer” by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton; “Mr Cardinal” by Dawn Huczek.