Bright Future Campaign – Week 25 – #NoOfficeDay – 1st Grade

Bright Future Campaign – Week 25 – #NoOfficeDay – 1st Grade
In an effort to be more effiecent with my technology I’m going to try and capture much of day using photos of student work throughout my day. As always, I love the time spent with the students and teachers. The days I have in the lower grades (KN & 1st) serve as such a humbling experience for this former 3rd and 5th grade teacher. You ladies teaching these 1st graders have the patience of a saint and are made to do what you do! Thanks for make my day a true experience! 
As you can see, my day started with the Big 3 in Mrs. Wells’ room. I was able to make sure students were answering their questions accurately by checking tier work upon completion and watching them successfully complete their calendar workbook as well. The teachers in grades 3-5 will be thrilled to see our 1st graders so focused on fractions. Not only were students working on fractions during today’s math workshop, they even solved a little probability in their Big 3 warmup as you can see with the pie chart used below. 

In this fractions activity, students had to roll the number cubes and then determine an appropriate fraction. (Improper fractions are not introduced quite, so for the time being, the big number does not go on the top) Once the fraction is determined, students had to find a shape they could divide into the right number of equal parts and then shade the appropriate number as well.  
The 2nd rotation involved students using some picture cards of a given fraction and then finding the fraction on the game board and moving their game piece accordingly. Fortunately, I was able to play for a little bit, but as you can see, my teddy bear was the green one. 
As I transitioned into Mrs. Napurano’s room, the students were also focusing on fractions.  Again, I can appreciate the emphasis on fractions knowing how hard of a concept this can be for students as they become more complex as they enter into 3-5. 

After our time in math, it was time for a little spelling word review prior to their test. Students were able to use Spelling City and the BenQ software to interact with their words. You can see this young lady studying her choice before making a choice of what her letter will be. 
Working together students were able to solve the word BOW. 
Ms. Cano’s room was next and I was able to lend a hand with the support of Ms. Colato and monitor students who were working on a TELPAS writing sample. Students were given the picture as you can see and had to write about it. This picture was fitting as it was a little girl sitting outside of the principal’s office with a black eye and a smile on her face. Without helping them, it was fun to see how their minds work and read their work as it unfolded before my eyes. We have some creative friends in 1st grade. 
Recess and lunch were next and with the absence of pictures, it was obvious how engaged I was. Or it was my way not not capturing my poor basketball skills. Napurano and Wells may have been watching and may have counted a mere one or two shots that I made. Sadly, that was about right. Students would predict each time if I would make or miss my next shot. If they were wrong, they had to run. Needless to say, some ran A LOT! 
As we transitioned into specials I stopped by the gym to catch the students in action. In the shot below, students were carrying the “dead ant” to the mat where they regained their power and came back to life. Students had to be sure there were always four students (one for each limb) to be safe. I may have killed some ants playing this game. 

In the art studio students were working on the finishing touches of their self portraits as you can see one on display below. 

It just so happened I had completed a self portrait on another #NoOfficeDay and couple of years ago and I was able to bring it to life with some color. 

The students are always excited to share their artistic talents so I figured I’d share mine! 
In music, students were in the midst of a game when I entered. Students would be in a line and one would be sitting with his/her eyes closed. One student would sign (I stole your bone) and the student in the chair had to use their sense of hearing to figure out who it was. For some reason no one ever chose me. Guess my voice sounds a bit different than their fellow classmates. 

So, the next stop was in Mrs. Simental’s room. I didn’t get a chance to take any photos because Mrs. Simental had we working!!! 
She had typed up my guided reading plan and left no stone unturned. Picture walks, story map, genre, diagraphs, you name it, I attempted it (and I use the term attempted loosely). Thankfully the boys and girls who were at the table with me get to see Mrs. Simental on a daily basis instead of me! I drew a crowd and Mrs. Deboer and Mrs. Himes were watching me “do my best” as the students read aloud while the rest of the class waited patiently for us to stop so the students could get back to their desks. 
My final stop for the day was in Ms. Salazar’s room and she had the class split up to complete a Mind Missions activity. You can see the supplies we were given and our task was to build a tall building. My team did great! They exhibited teamwork, great communication and understanding as each person was able to share and listen to ideas. 
Ultimately we built a tall building, that didn’t stay tall very long. It collapsed, but the students learned the importance of working together and that is what counts! 

Caught holding it up after time was up! I love the look in his face! 
I had to end with this dinosaur montage of cupcakes. One would have thought, that as hard as I worked in Mrs. Simental’s room that I may have been offered one. I wasn’t even aware they were celebrating a birthday until I randomly came back in after the Mind Missions activity. 
Guess there was no bonus for hard work. I didn’t get a cupcake after all and let the know how disappointed I was. (Not really) We laughed and they did offer. Maybe next time! 
It was a fun way to end the day and by the end of the day I was exhausted. Again, it was a humble reminder if how hard it is to teach 6 year olds. 
Thanks again First Grade for the fun day! 

Bright Future Campaign – Closing the Attitude Gap – Week 24

Picking up right where we left off in chapter 3, it’s important to remember the questions you are to reflect upon throughout reading this chapter. I have included them again for your reference:
Do I know them?
Do I know how they learn? 
Do I know how to keep them inspired about learning?
Do I know how to keep them motivated to excel?
Do I know their goals and aspirations?
Do I know their needs and interests?
Do I know their experiences and realities?
Do I know their challenges and obstacles?
Do I know their parents?
Do I know their neighborhoods?
Knowing Your Students’ Goals and Inspirations:
So, do your students have academic and personal goals for the school year? Is so, do you know what they are? Are they written down? Are they posted? Do you see stud nets intentionally preparing for their success?

Let’s be honest, this is hard for our elementary aged students because they simply do not know what’s out there for them. They have heard of doctors, teachers, lawyers, policed officers, but even with those professions, do they really know what they entail? It is our job to gauge their awareness of the thousands of possible career paths. If we fail to help our students see the connections between what they are learning in school and possible future careers, then our students are bound to underperform. 

So how do we do that? Relationships!! You have to know students and you ha to know what they know. They have to feel comfortable speaking to you openly and honestly about their goals and aspirations; if barriers exist between teachers and students, then the relationship you need will never develop. 
Knowing Your Students’ Needs and Interests
The majority of us come from middle class backgrounds and with that comes our middle class perspectives and assumptions. We bring them to school everyday. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but e problem is when we impose our assumptions on students without taking their backgrounds, including needs and interests into consideration. 
Students’ Needs
Our students have a wide variety of needs beyond the basic; food, clothing and shelter. Again, of you have no relationship with them, you will never know what they truly need. Tens of thousands of children report to school hungry everyday because hey have nothing to eat at home. How and why do we expect these students to focus on school when they are sitting in your room hungry? Fortunately, our students have the option to eat breakfast and efforts are in place to increase the number being served. In addition to going hungry, many students are homeless and/or living in deplorable conditions. You may know your students are homeless, but you will never know to what extent, if you do not know your students and to what extent these needs are impacting their education or ability to learn in your classroom. 
Students’ Interest
We must learn our students interests. Coming from our middle class backgrounds, bring our middle class interests that may be different than our students. We may help them connect to interests and potential career paths related to those interests. 
Knowing Your Students’ Experiences and Realities
What is it like to walk in your students’ shoes? Do you know? Could you handle what they handle outside of school on a daily basis? How can you come to know this information? You can talk to students about their lives, visit their homes, get to know their parents and families, but this would be most impactful outside of school. Are you willing? What would it take? 
The stories shared in Principal Kafele’s book speak of times when he did this which involved gangs, mice and ruined stained hallways. You think your experiences would be different walking into the homes of our students? Knowing what our students survive helps us hold them accountable and allows us to maintain high expectations for all. 
Knowing Your Students’ Challenges and Obstacles
What kind if unique challenges do Sigler students face? Do these challenges effect their desire to excel in the classroom? Are you able to help them overcome these challenges? The only way to know is to know what the challenges are. 
***a real example***
I speak with a local police officer every month or so, to keep on top of what is happening in the community and with our students/ families. Our last meeting was a punch in the gut and a slap of reality when it comes to knowing our students experiences and challenges. A student that attended Sigler last year has found himself involved in drugs and gang activity to the point whee a known gang member was visiting the house describing what the initiation would look like (getting best up, by multiple grown men) and then being asked to take a gun and kill someone. Fortunately, the police were following the known gang member and he was arrested, but recently let out on probation. That is real! Can we change it? In my mind, I want to and I would stop at nothing while our students are at school to guide them and mold them so when e reality comes, they are equipped to make the best decision. 
Knowing Your Students’ Parents
We know the involvement and engagement of parents in their child’s education is essential to their academic achievement. Students whose parents believe education sine key to their childrens’ success are far more likely to do well in school than those who are uninvolved. If you do not know your students’ parents, you do not fully know your students. We know parents can be hard to track down, and it’s not solely the teacher’s job to seek them out, rather is the school community’s responsibility. We must work collaboratively to devise strategies that will work to get parents involved. 
Knowing Your Students’ Neighborhoods
Do you know your students’ neighborhoods? Do you understand them? Do you respect them? Be mindful we must be careful when we talk about students’ neighborhoods because students often are their neighborhoods-they are the products of their unique surroundings. When we lack knowledge of the neighborhood, we lack knowledge of the students. When we lack respect for the neighborhood, we lack respect for the students. So, get to know the neighborhoods. You do not need to be a fixture of the street, but we do need to develop some familiarity with what goes on their, beyond the stereotypes. 
So, you interested? This week we will be having a parenting class at The Oaks, on the clubhouse. Come check it out. Later this spring we will be going door to door passing out flyers about Head Start and Pre-K so out families know the importance of having children in school at an early age. 
While doing our Sigler Race activity in January, I was made aware that for some, it was the first time being at some of the neighborhood apartments or parts of the community. If that is the case, do you know your students well enough? 
It’s heavy stuff folks, but it will change you, if you let it and Sigler will be the better for it. 

I will keep sharing videos of Principal Kafele as they directly support the words in his book, “Closing the Attitude Gap”.

Bright Future Campaign – Closing the Attitude Gap – Week 23

Bright Future Campaign – Closing the Attitude Gap – Week 23
This week we begin Chapter 3, Relationships with Students, Do I Know Them? I do hope you have found the time to review each of the emails highlighting “Closing the Attitude Gap” and have made it important to reflect on the questions that allow each of us to determine what we are doing well and what we need to continue to improve upon. 
The person looking back at us in the mirror can tell us a lot if we are willing to listen. 
Prior to embarking on Chapter 3, please look into the mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students: 
Do I know them?
Do I know how they learn?
Do I know how to keep them inspired about learning? 
Do I know how to keep them motivated to excel? 
Do I know their goals and ambitions? 
Do I know their needs and interests? 
Do I know their experiences and realities? 
Do I know their challenges and obstacles? 
Do I know their parents? 
Do I know their neighborhoods? 
As the chapter begins, Principal Kafele shares his experience in taking over a school that was just placed on the “persistently dangerous school” list under NCLB. One of just 50 schools in the United States. He goes on to share some small things they did to change the environment, such as painting, posting positive messages and meeting with the school as a while every Monday morning in the auditorium ensuring students heard how great they were, how special they were and how brilliant they were. 
Teachers took to the halls and cafeteria to build relationships with students. Saying hello in the halls, greeting students each morning, (even if they were not in your class), interacted with students in the halls, and ate with them in the cafeteria. (Love that) 
In just one year, his campus was removed from the “dangerous” list and make not mistakes about it,MIT was due to the relationships that were cultivated with students. 
Principal Kafele shares, “Show me a school where STRONG relationships do not exist and I will show you an underperforming school. Show me a school where relationships are intentional, however, and I will show you a school with unlimited potential. And make no mistake about it, 
see relationships should be reciprocal-the students should be able to get to know us as well as we get to know them. Hey should see that we are human and that there is more to our lives beyond teaching. 
***What do you think Principal Kafele would say about the relationships at Sigler?***
Knowing Your Students
Do you know each student? 
Really know them? 
Not just the name on the roster, the whole child. 
Do you know who they are after the dismissal bell? 
Do you know who they are on the walk or bus ride home from school? 
Do you know who they are in the neighborhood? 
Do you know who they are in their home?
The answers to each of these questions all affect each student’s ability to learn in your classroom. 
You must be able to form a rapport with your students-a process that might begin as with taking a look at how you greet your students every day. 
Are you warm? 
Do you show your students that you are happy to see them? 
Research by Allen Mendler states, “It’s best to personalize your greetings by including the student’s name. Students appreciate knowing their teacher knows who they are.”
Prior to her passing, I knew a teacher who worked in a building similar to ours who greeted each if her students just outside her door with a handshake, calling each of them by name daily. With the handshake was the expectation students would look her in the eye and said good morning back to her as well, using her name. Needless to say, he results she got out of her students were astounding! 
Knowing How Your Students Learn
How do your students learn? 
How do you connect with them? 
Are they auditory learners?
What is the best instructional methodology for connecting with all of the learners in your classroom? 
Do they all learn alike?
Do boys learn like the girls? 
Does culture play a role? 
Do home or neighborhood conditions influence your students’ learning? 
Instantly Principal Kafele discusses lecture hand how prevalent it is in schools and how great it can be for auditory learners. What about the other types of learners in the classroom who sit through the lesson, having it directed to the wrong side of their brain? 
Students in buildings such as Sigler, urban and/or rural classrooms, need to be placed in student-centered environments where all of them are given the opportunity to learn based on their own unique learning styles. Enter differentiated instruction. It also requires teachers to know their students, which is the best way to know which instructional strategies work for them. 
Keeping Students Inspired About Learning 
Principal Kafele share their are basically three types of schools in urban/rural America today. 
High performing schools, these schools have dynamite administrative/leadership teams, support teams, and classroom teachers who have nurtured a school climate where failure is not an option; excellence is demanded of everyone in the building. Anything less is unacceptable in high performing schools. Some of these schools are nestled in the most dangerous neighborhoods in America. However, within the walls is an oasis of hope and dreams; of purpose, mission and vision; of hard work, dedication and commitment. 
Equally impressive are the urban/rural schools that are transforming their culture-perennially low-performing schools that are suddenly in the road to success. Excitement is in the air at these schools; teachers are fired up about coming to work every day and taking their teaching to the next level. Students are exited about the changes, too, and ready to put forth maximum effort. It’s a new day in these schools and everyone involved can smell victory in the air. 
Unfortunately, the schools above are not the majority. Thousands of students attend low-performing schools in the US where the climate and culture is so toxic that closing the attitude gap becomes almost impossible. Students are not inspired to put forth maximum effort. They do not see the, light at the end of the tunnel-how success in school translates into success in life beyond school. 
This is where you come in. You are the authority of the room with your name on it. What will you do with this authority? How will you keep your students inspired about learning? How can you inspire them, if you do not know them? 
How can you inspire them, if they do not know you?
Keeping Students Motivated to Excel
There is one important question to ask yourself here. 
How do you keep yourself motivated over he course of a school year while simultaneously keeping students motivated? 
The answer is looking back at you in the mirror. Challenge yourself. 
In the context of your frustration with keeping your students motivated throughout the year, given your own fatigue, “Who are you?”
You may answer by sharing all of your positive attributes. 
In the context of your frustration with keeping your students motivated throughout the year, given your own fatigue, “What are you about?”
You may share your purpose for teaching. 
Finally, ask yourself, what your most recent evidence confirming your answers to the previous two questions? 
Dig deep to answer this question. It may be just the motivation you need to stay the course and continue to motivate your students. Reflection, in its truest for is powerful beyond measure. 
Remaining in Chapter 3 is:
Knowing Your Students’ Goals and Aspirations
Knowing Your Students’ Needs and Interests
Knowing Your Students’ Experiences and Realities
Knowing Your Students’ Challenges and Obstacles
Knowing Your Students’ Parents
Knowing Your Students’ Neighborhoods

The timing of next week’s focus blows my mind as I spent time this week with Officer Forman, who patrols The Oaks of Collin Creek and shared with me some stories I will share with you next week. If you think you know what our students are dealing with, think again. Her stories blew my mind, but drives me to share them with you so we may continue to encourage and inspire our students to rise above! 

Bright Future Campaign – Closing the Attitude Gap – Week 22

Bright Future Campaign – Closing the Attitude Gap – Week 22 

This week we will wrap up Chapter 2 which you recall is Attitude Toward Students, Do I Believe in Them? Chapter 2 has been a heavy chapter with a lot of reflection and having to look deep within to determine if we have our belief system where it absolutely needs to be in order to reach all of our students. As we close Chapter 2 we will focus on goal setting (which is timely as our students in grades 3rd-5th listened to two great speakers this past week on our Future’s Day), planning, being a role model, being the primary determinant of student success or failure, and daily self reflection. 
As you recall, the reflective questions for chapter 2 are:
Do I believe in them? 
Do I have a passion for teaching them? 
Do I have a purpose for teaching them? 
Do I treat teaching them as a mission? 
Do I have a vision for what I expect of them? 
Do I set incremental and long-range goals for them to achieve? 
Do I plan each day thoroughly toward their success?
Do I see myself as a role model for them and always conduct myself as a professional? 
Do I see myself as the number-one determinant of their success or failure? 
Do I conduct daily self-reflections and self-assessments of my practice of teaching them? 

Setting Short and Long Term Goals for Students

How are you fulfilling the goals you have set to help your students attain theirs? Depending on what goals you have set for the students in your classroom, consider adding the following: 

Consistently complete homework assignments
Pass quizzes and tests with an A or B grade
Meet the criteria for Student of the Week/Month
Maintain perfect attendance
Arrive to school or class on time

Regardless of the goals you have set for your students, the key is to let your students know that you have set them. Simply telling them the goal is not enough. Post these goals on the wall or a bulletin board. Doing so increases the likelihood that students will be encouraged to help meet the goals. Posting the goals also clearly demonstrates to your students that you are serious about them, because it shows them you measure your success by their performance. The examples above could be considered short term goals, but long term goals need to be in place as well. 

Increasing the number of student who will make the honor roll in all four grading periods
Number of students who will maintain perfect attendance for the entire school year

Planning Each Day Thoroughly for Students’ Success

Planning is essential, unavoidable and non-negotiable. Teachers must have a plan for all of the students if you want to maximize their potential in the classroom. Our special education teachers can relate to this as each of their students has a individualized education plan for each of their students, an IEP. If you stop and think, it makes sense, since each of the students who qualifies for special education has been identified as learning information differently for what ever reason. Their success increases exponentially with a individualized plan in place. For that specific reason, Principal Kafele believes teacher in all classes should keep each of their students in mind as they are planning. In some cases it may mean planning for each student differently. He specifically states, “I am well aware that this requires additional time, time-consuming work, but I can see no other way to effectively close the attitude gap.” Teachers who have accepted this approach, can vouch for the success they have seen in their students. 

Being a Role Model for Students and Conducting Yourself Professionally

Students are in school, on a typical school day for upwards of seven hours. Multiply that times the 180 school days and teachers spend over 1200 hours a year with students. Spending that much time with children makes teachers a role model for students whether you accept it or not. 

Principal Kafele tells teachers, “The power is in your hands – the power to effect enormous change in the lives of students, the power to create entire classrooms of high performers.” There are so many variables that can have an effect on studetns and some we take for granted. One of those variables is the way we conduct ourselves. Students are watching us, they admire us, and inevitably they are going to pick up some of our traits. We must conduct ourselves as professionals at all time.s 

Do you see yourself as a role model for students? 
Do you see yourself as having qualities they may want to emulate? 
Do you realize your students are watching you and listening to you? 

We must be mindful of how we speak, what we say, and how we dress. Many students are looking for role models. Are we living up to their expectations? 

We are professionals and our intent must be to bring our students closer to where we are, not to go where they are in the name of forging a connection. 

Principal Kafele shares being in schools during his consultations where teachers, leaders and students do not greet one another in the morning, they just walk past one another without acknowledging each other’s presence. Is this the culture and climate you wish to work in? We are role models and it is incumbent of us to take the initiative and greet our students – and to expect they will greet us back. 

(On a side note, I know this is something we can continue to build upon, especially the part of expecting students greet us back) 

Being the Primary Determinant of Your Students’ Success of Failure

In workshops across the US, Principal Kafele is constantly asked, “You expect me to believe that, with all of the variables in my students’ lives, I’m the single one that will determine whether or not my kids succeed?” His answer is an emphatic, unequivocal, “YES.” 

In one workshop. Principal Kafele recalls a teacher who had a hard time connecting with the statement above. He argued his students had to many negative influences in the community outside of his school and it was too much to overcome. This is exactly why, attitudes need to change towards students. If teachers succumbed to this believe, that we are helpless in the face of negative outside influences, then students do not stand a chance – they are already at a deficit because of the attitude toward them. 

Regardless of the school, school district, community if the mentality is negative, how can we realistically expect the students to achieve? The mindset must be that despite the social challenges, our students are going to soar like eagles (in our case, shine like stars) because we are their teachers. 

Students/schools in at-risk urban or rural children need us! We need to be confident about our ability to effectively and properly educate students. We need to see social challenges not as excuses, but as motivation to help students scale unimagined heights. We must make students understand they and their friends have a role to play in overcoming the adversity and working hard in school is where it starts. Students deserve this opportunity and the best way of ensuring their success is be declaring it WILL happen because YOU are their teacher. 

What is your attitude toward your students? 
How do you feel about them and their chances for success in life? 
What is your attitude about your ability to inspire them to strive for excellence? 

The answers to these questions will determine outcomes for your students. 

When your students enter your classroom what do they see? Do they see your name associated with their success? That is YOUR classroom. YOU are the one who determines outcomes in that classroom. YOU are the one who creates scholars in that classroom – who creates hope, who lets dreams flourish, who keeps negative influences from entering the room. 

Remind your students constantly that where they are now does not necessarily determine where they will wind up later!

Daily Self-Reflection and Self-Assessments

We all face an enormous pressure and the demands to perform at optimal levels are not going away. How do you ensure you are consistently displaying the right attitude toward your students? It was mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 2, how important it is to pause and reflect upon your performance in front of a mirror on a daily basis. Not a single day should go by that you do not do this. At the end of each day, you must run a mental DVD of your entire day. 

Think of your state of mind when you arrived at the school in the morning. 
Think of the lessons you presented. 
Think of the interactions you had with students. 
Think of how you challenged them and engaged them. 
Think of any incidents that may have occurred and how you handled them. 

During your reflection time, you should also assess your performance:

Rate yourself, and be brutally honest.
What adjustments may you need to make? 

After going through your self-assessment you may want to jot down some goals related to what you would like to improve upon for the next day, preferably in a journal reserved for this purpose. Write down your goals and your strategies for meeting them. At the beginning of the next day ask yourself these questions in your mirror: 

Who are you? 
What are you about?
What is your most recent evidence? 

Principal Kafele shares his responses to the questions above: 

“I am Principal Kafele of Newark Tech. I am not ordinary at what I do; I am extraordinary at what I do.” If you are gong to do your part to produce extraordinary results, you have to feel extraordinary as an educator. How can you consider it realistic that you will achieve extraordinary results if you don’t even know what “extraordinary” feels like?

“I am about the business of ensuring that every student in the building is striving to achieve excellence.” In other words, his purpose what his students’ success. You, too, must hear your reflection confirm that you are all about your students – all of them – and you will therefore do all that is necessary to ensure their academic success. 

The third question is the most difficult. What have you done in the last 24 hours to confirm you are who you say you are? Determine what strategies, activities, and interactions you have engaged in to move your students closer to success. 

After answering the 3 questions you are ready to start your day. If you have no good answer, you know you have work to do – each and every day, you must be able to acknowledge something you did that day to move your students forward from where they were the day before. 

Challenge yourself this week! Set your goals, write them down, create some action steps and then listen do your reflection and determine who you are.