CARE to be the Best

The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt

CARE to be the best.  It’s not an interrogative; it’s a statement.  CARdinal Excellence means working to stay at the top of your game.  It’s pretty appropriate considering we just finished our winter season of Wrestling State Championships (great job, Cardinals!  So proud of you!) and are entering a full week of girls and boys basketball districts.  To be at the top of your game takes work.  Our coaching staff knows this as well as anyone on staff.

To be at the top of your game, you must have the initial drive and motivation to want to be the best.  Do you have that or have you given in to the winter woes and have you decided that what you are doing is “good enough?”  Coach Musser doesn’t draw top baseball players because they are half-hearted about wanting to play Cardinal Baseball.  They come to win, and they know what that means.

Being at the top of your game means you must have a plan for winning.  Do you have a plan?  Is it just in your head or do you have it mapped out?  I know for a fact that Coach Goodwin or Coach Ross don’t just have the plan “in their heads,” they map out their game plan.  They have to share that plan with their assistant coaches and players.  If everyone doesn’t own the plan, then it’s just one person’s dream.  What is your plan for winning for the rest of our school season?  Is it measureable?  Is it achievable?  A good plan must be both.

Being at the top of your game means practice – and lots of it.  The practice comes over time.  Time is a factor in preparedness as much as it is in rigor.  Put time into your plan.

Being at the top of your game means setting goals.  Coach Hubbard set his goals one step at a time.  In the world of wrestling, the outlying factors – from injury to illness – can mess with the best of plans and timelines.  But with a overarching GOAL – achieving that goal is always a focus.  Set your goal.  Start with small goals that add up to a greater achievement.  With only 11 weeks of school left, your goals are easier to map out and achieve. You need to CARE to be the best at Benton.  Success doesn’t come by accident.

And your own personal best isn’t accidental either.  After learning about text complexity, vocabulary instruction, and comprehension strategies, are you implementing your learning to be the best you can be in the classroom?  Where are you as a reader yourself?  I challenge each one of you to read ONE educational journal article per month for the rest of the year.  That’s only three total articles.  You read to be metacognitive about the comprehension strategies AND to learn more about your profession.  It’s a win-win.  It’s what it takes to be at the top of your game.  It’s what it takes to CARE to be the best.

Week 26 – A Look Ahead

Monday – Book Fair (Library)

Tuesday – Book Fair (Library); JEPD on Registration (look for schedule to be emailed)

Wednesday — Book Fair (Library)

Thursday – Book Fair (Library)

Friday — Book Fair (Library)

Thank you for your CARE

The simple act of caring is heroic. ~ Edward Albert

With a short week in front of us, it’s exciting to spend time working on our comprehension strategies.  It will be a good idea to implement as soon as possible in order to set your own learning and new teaching strategies.  Comprehension strategies are foundational tools for all teachers, so I know you are going to love having the information.

Again, thanks to everyone for our fabulous walkthrough last week.  I was extremely proud to show off your efforts.  Our hard work continues to pay off, and it is always great to have that reinforced by educators outside of our building and by people who really know what they are looking for.

Kudos to both Wrestling and Speech/Debate this weekend.  I know Coaches Hubbard and Henson at State Wrestling and Coaches Lafasciano and Michaud have spent countless hours preparing our students for this high level of competition.  Great job everyone!

Week 25 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – District Professional Development at your designated locations

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC on Flickr: “thank you note for every language” by Woodleywonderworks.

Walk with CARE

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts; therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.  ~Marcus Aurelius

It’s RED week!  This is the month of the Red School and the week when we paint the town RED.  It’s also the week of our bi-annual District Walkthrough.  In order to ensure readiness, I have a quick checklist for everyone to help remind everyone of our best practices that we will be able to model this week:

  1. Leading students through a reading passage with scaffolded questioning – text complexity was our fall district PD.
  2. Sharing vocabulary words with your students both formally and intentionally (such as on your WORD WALL) or informally through conversations during reading (such as during Eyes Past Print).
  3. Using connections – make sure you connect important concepts with your students through multiple ways for them so they can make connections to the idea from a variety of ways.  Building schema (their background knowledge) as well as using strategies such as metaphors and similes to explain a difficult concept always makes learning more enjoyable and understandable.
  4. Implementing data teams interventions – small groups, individual tracking with data, remediation, reflection – these are all hallmarks of the work of your data team.

Week 24 – A Look Ahead

Wednesday – Benton Leadership Team at 7:00 Room 106

Thursday – District Walkthrough 8:00 – 12:00 p.m.

Friday – 2 Hour Early for MEC Speech and Debate Tournament at Benton

Monday – No School (Holiday)

Tuesday – District Professional Development Day (No school for students only)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images available in CC on Flickr:  Paths by Pensiero; Me and Chuck in Central Park by Kevin H.


Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community. ~Anthony J. D’Angelo

It was good to see and hear about what it means to join together as a community of learners and celebrate the true soul of #CARDNATION as we celebrated Homecoming last week.  When we take time to recognize each other’s strengths, to celebrate our ability to navigate troubled waters or tough times, when we all pull together for the success of our students – we live in the world of CARdinal Excellence – we are #CARDNATION!

“In communities, writes Thomas Sergiovanni in Building Community in Schools, ‘we become connected for reason of commitment rather than compliance’ (p. 58). ‘People are bonded to each other as a result of their mutual bindings to shared values, traditions, ideas, and ideals’ (p. 61). His thesis: that we might better understand, design, and run schools as social rather than formal organizations and, in particular, as communities. His reasoning: the universal need for a sense of belonging, of being connected to others and to ideas and values too often goes unfulfilled in schools as they are currently conceived. His prescription: reformers and theoreticians alike should recognize that schooling is first and foremost about relationships between and among students and teachers, and that community building must be the basis for school reform efforts that seek to improve teaching and learning; all else will come more naturally when authentic communities flourish” (p.1).

It’s important that we continue this path of excellence. The foundation has been set, and we are seeing the fruits of our labors.  Stay the course and be there for our students and for each other.  We are…Southside!

Week 23 —  A Look Ahead

Monday – ACT Academy (AM)

Tuesday – ACT Academy (AM)

Wednesday – ACT Academy (PM)

Thursday – ACT Academy (PM); Earthquake Drill (10:15 a.m.)

Reminder:  District Walkthrough is February 14th.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

Images are available CC on Flickr:  “Strawberry Heart” photo credit here; “Yes You Can” photo credit here.

Westheimer, Joel. (1996). “Building Community in Schools.” Harvard Educational Review. Winter 1996.  Accessed; 2 February 2013.

Comprehensive CARE

One of our greatest strengths of caring as an ethic is that it does not assume that all students should be treated by some impartial standard of fairness.  Some students need more attention than others… ~Nel Noddings

What a special week this is for all of us.  In addition to it being Homecoming Week with all the exciting celebrations we will engage in, it is also time to begin talking with our students and their parents about progress grades.  As you approach the presentation of grades for your classes, it’s good to consider research-based strategies – even about grading.

Ken O’Connor, an educational author about grading systems, reminds us that, “’fair does not mean equal; yet, when it comes to grading, we insist it does.’ Fairness is much more about equity of opportunity than it is about uniformity (p.7).”  If a student needed to wear glasses, we would not ask him to test without them or ask everyone to wear glasses in order to fair.  Connor suggests that classwork, testing, or even make up work, you take a “positive, supportive approach that directly affects student behavior, leaving the scores and the resulting grade as pure measures of achievement (p.27).

When you begin to talk with your students in CAMP about their academic progress in the next week, make sure you ask them to create a plan to maintain or improve their current grade status.  Make sure their goals are measurable and achievable.  Help the students set deadlines for their goals.  Write the plan down and check with the students on their deadlines to see what needs to be adjusted or to celebrate.  The students should own this process, but you will need to help them manage their plan and help them be successful.  As they see success in their goals, you will see a higher level of motivation and CARE-ing from the students.  One of the greatest cures for student apathy is personal success.  It’s good to celebrate every step of the way.

Finally, as you approach talking with students and parents, here is a great professional piece entitled, “Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say and Do,” that will help guide you in your process. For many of you, this article will just be a great reminder of how very skilled you really are in your actions each day, but it may stir ideas from years past.  For our newer teachers, this is a great read and provides a list to create your own goals for your personal professional development. 

Week 22 – A Look Ahead

Monday – Ugly Sweater Day; Hillyard Tour for registered Sophomores (see list)

Tuesday – Mustache Day; Assembly Schedule – Intro Homecoming Candidates

Wednesday – Red Carpet Day

Thursday – Black and White Day; Intruder Drill @ 1:15 p.m.

Friday – Spirit Day, Special Assembly Schedule (will be emailed Thursday); Homecoming Basketball Game vs. Chillicothe; Homecoming Dance (Sophomore Class Sponsors Supervise) 9-11 p.m.

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images available CC from Flickr: Pink Heart photo credit available here; Hands photo credit available here. 

O’Connor, Ken. (2011).  A repair kit for grading: 15 fixes for broken grades. Pearson Education, Inc., Boston, MA.

Health CARE

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. ~Siddhartha Gautama

The season of influenza is upon us.  It is during this time that a myriad of students will come and go from our classrooms with various levels of cough, sneezing and full blown flu.  Part of our CARdinal Excellence is taking CARE of our students – even when they are not in our rooms and especially if they are ill.

If you have students who record as HEA on your attendance, consider taking a moment or two to touch base with them.  A phone call or email will go a long way with a parent.  Also, create a folder, or several folders with one designated for each hour, and place handouts, tests or notes into the folders with the names of each student missing.  Then when the student returns, you can just have him go copy the work and cross off his name.  It’s an easy way to keep track of who has accessed the missing work and help stay organized amid the chaos of students who are absent.  As easy as it is to claim the students must be responsible to ask for and make up their work from their absences, it is good to remember they are, after all, kids.  All kids need help and guidance to create good habits.  What an excellent way to show how much you CARE.

Week 21 – A Look Ahead

Tuesday – JEPD in Library (UMKC Site Visit) – bring your next PS and your whiz wheel

Wednesday – BLT at 0700 in Room 106

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC from Flickr:  “Achooo!” (View License Agreement here) and “A Very Belated Bless You” (View License Agreement here).

Noting our CARE

If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it. ~William James

Walking through classrooms this week, I noticed something empowering the success of our teaching – students taking notes and documenting their learning.  It seems so simple of an action, yet it is so powerful.  We are a school district that relies on research-based instructional strategies that work, and we often turn to Marzano’s work to remind us of tools to add to our draw out of pedagogical toolbox.  I thought this time of year  — the start of the new semester — offered us a great opportunity to encourage and remind everyone to break out a few of these great instructional tools for greater gain in your own classroom.  Marzano lists “Nine Essential Instructional Strategies” that show documented gain when used in a classroom.  Try one of these in your lessons this week.  Also the use of Advance Organizers can be used very simply and effectively in almost every lesson and are especially helpful to add to your close reading and vocabulary studies when bringing your reading in line with your content learning.  If you were to Google “Marzano’s Instructional Strategies” or “Advance Organizers,” you will find not only content specific ideas to add to the link I’ve provided, but you will also find strong theoretical information behind why these strategies work and how to utilize them for the greatest instructional gain. 

Good job to all the teachers who I saw using these differentiated techniques in their classroom this week.  Thank you for holding our students accountable for what you share with them or ask them to discover.  From learning how to take notes, to reorganizing the materials you are learning on a graphic organizer, these activities solidify knowledge to be learned by our students.  It is effective and you will see a huge learning curve from the process.

Week 20:  A Look Ahead

During our walkthroughs, we will be looking for students utilizing strategies to retain their learning from your direct instruction and small group work.  Our admin goal for this week is to provide feedback to every teacher who is found utilizing a Marzano strategy or advance organizer. 

Monday-Friday:  Department chairs visit with me about scheduling and courses for the 2013-2014 school year.

Wednesday – Upward Bound Meeting during CAMP for students registered

Friday – Pep Assembly Schedule

~Excellence is journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC on Flickr:  “Taking Notes” by ocherdraco; “Tapping a Pencil” by Rennett Stowe.

Resolute CARE

My guiding principals in life are to be honest, genuine, thoughtful and caring.  ~Prince William



The New Year always brings the thought of New Year’s resolutions.  Year after year, I find myself resolving to improve many of the same areas in my life.  What I realized after considering this for a moment is that resolutions are really about commitment.  I’ve read numerous action research books and many of them claim that, “what gets measured gets done.”  I find this to be true in my own life.  The more precise the goal and the more often I measure it, the better I am at sticking to it and accomplishing my goal.  It was easier to stay committed when my goals were tangible and more achievable – or more likely in my world — they were easier to get back on track when I missed one.  For example, my goal to exercise more has now become my goal to walk 100 miles each month and not to miss more than one day per week walking.  In our world of data teams, we call these SMART goals – S: specific, M: measurable, A: achievable, R: relevant, T: timely.  Oh sure, I’ve missed monthly mile markers, and I’ve gone more than one day missing, but not often.  My resolution this year is to get back on track quickly and not allow missing a measurement to keep me from my commitment.

When I think about what resolutions and commitments we have made at Benton, I realized there are a plethora of parallels to reaching our goals as a school.  We make almost the same goals each year.  I realize now, that where we get smarter each year is when we continue to make the goals more achievable and timely.  I think our New Year’s resolution this year needs to be to make sure if we get behind or miss a weekly goal, we put that behind us and get back on track.  It’s tough to stay the course and finish strong.  That really does take commitment.  So think about this in your classroom.  Where can you set more timely and achievable goals in order to finish strong?  Make that commitment to yourself and for your students – and ultimately, for our school.  And if you resolve to stay committed to the end – that really shows your CARdinal Excellence!


Week 19:  A Look Ahead

Administration has our EOC courses observations finally on a schedule, so we are going to start up with our building walkabouts again.  This week, we will walkthrough looking for vocabulary implementation in your lessons. 

Monday – WHITE DAY FINALS (regular bell schedule); pass out Semester 2 schedules in CAMP

Tuesday – (WHITE DAY) Start of Semester 2 classes

Wednesday – Benton Leadership Team Meeting @ 7:00 a.m. room 106; Hillyard visits with sophomores in auditorium during CAMP (students report after roll is taken); JEPD that was added for today is moved to Friday.

Friday – JEPD for 30 minutes each period (schedule will be sent out as a Thursday reminder)

~Excellence is a journey not a destination.~

All images are available CC on Flickr: “resolution” by New Oxford American Dictionary;  “Diet – new year’s resolutions” by neeravbhatt

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.