We Are Smarter Together


Every year as I watch my son’s hockey teams start their season it is the same thing.  For the most part, his team consists of a different group of boys each year. They do not start off playing as a team.

It seems as if each player is trying to prove themselves as the best goal scorer or the best defenseman or the hardest hitter.  After they get a few games under their sticks, they come around to the idea that hockey needs to be a team sport and at that point we start seeing some well-played hockey games.

At the beginning of the school year we had a number of changes in our school staff.  At our first staff meeting, before the school year began, we were all getting to know each other, and maybe at that point,  we were trying to prove ourselves to each other as the boys on the hockey team do, but more likely we were all wondering how we might get to know each other well enough and fast enough to construct the strong team we all know is necessary to do what is best for our students.

B13jXS-CcAAS0hX As an administrator, I am constantly in awe of the strengths and abilities of the people I work with, but at the beginning of each year I feel a bit unbalanced as we try to figure out each other’s strengths and build the trust necessary to work as a team.

I strongly believe in teamwork.  I also strongly believe that each member of the team is equally important.  We cannot run a school and educate and support our students without each member of our team including our bus driver, our custodians, parents, teachers and support staff .

B1TVOmBCEAAdi0q It occurred to me in the past couple of weeks  that without me even knowing it the strength of our team is building around me and I can see it everywhere I look.

We recently completed our first term reporting and student-led conferences.  Certainly a busy and stressful time for everyone. As I walked around the building on our conference nights talking to students and visiting with parents I had a feeling of celebration of the learning of our students.  I had so many positive conversations and I credit the strength of our school team for happy students and families.

This year we have spent a great amount of time building our Student Support Team.  This team consists of our RTI teacher (Response to Intervention), our LST teacher (Learning Support), our school counselor, the vice-principal and myself. Individual classroom teachers are also included when needed.   We talk about academic needs, behavior, attendance and many things directly related to how we can support individual students and families. B0FislzCMAEQQvf We have been having student support meetings for a number of years, but this year, under the direction of our school division, we have been able to make our meetings much more focused with accountability and follow-up that only benefits our students. We are now tracking all of the students in our building and truly working as a team, to ensure we are doing our best to meet the needs of our students.

It has been an interesting process and involves everyone in the building.  The best part for our students is that we are getting to know them well.  We are starting to really know their stories, we try to be aware of their ups and downs and their individual needs.

The importance of a strong school team cannot be understated.  I see the benefits to our students every day. Long gone are the days when we can come to school, close our classroom doors and do our thing.

What I see in our school everyday is…we are smarter together.

Attendance Does Matter


There seems to be so many reasons why our students miss school and in some cases, school attendance is becoming a chronic issue.   Everything from being sick, having appointments, attending sporting events, taking family holidays and many other reasons,  seem to be contributing to a growing idea that school attendance does not matter.

Although we realize that our students can’t always be at school every day, and we can’t expect sick children to come to school,  I have to wonder when the attitude changed that school attendance wasn’t important.

I know when I was in school myself, it seemed to me that my parents did not let me miss school unless I was throwing up.  I can remember more than once, my mom or dad telling me that if I just got up or just got moving or just had a shower or just ate some breakfast, or just a number of other things, they were sure I would feel better and would be able to attend school.

I can also remember this same attitude backfiring on me once or twice as a parent when the school office administrator would be calling me or my husband by 10:30 to come and pick up a sick kid.

Our family holidays were always planned around our school breaks and most of our appointments were done either after school or on our days off.  Our extra-curricular sports did not take us out of school with the frequency that students are out for these activities today.

Now in saying that, I am the first one to also admit that very little about education is the same as it used to be.  Our classrooms do not look the same, our teaching methods and learning assessments are not the same, and many other things about public school today looks different from it used to.  It is no longer possible to assign some pages out of a text-book to be completed when a student is missing school.  So much of our day is spent in interactive, collaborative activities that cannot be repeated in the same way outside of the classroom.

With the exception of a few chronic cases, I had not even given much thought to attendance until recently when our school division brought it into focus, because it does have such an impact on the academic success for our students.  It did make me stop and think about my attitude toward attendance and whether we as a school community could do something to turn around the idea that  school attendance does not matter.

When I started looking at some of the statistics related to attendance, I knew that we needed to come up with a plan to improve attendance in our school.

Did you know…

  • By 6th grade, chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school.
  • When students improve their attendance, they improve their academic prospects and chances for graduating.
  • Poor attendance can influence whether children read proficiently by the end of third grade.
  • The academic impact of missing that much school is the same whether the absences are excused or unexcused.

These statistics and much more information related to attendance can be found at http://www.attendanceworks.org/

There are many things we can do to start on the road to improved attendance.  Education and engagement of students families is the first step.  I look forward to the challenge ahead, because Attendance Does Matter.



Celebrating the Moments


I been thinking recently how hard it can be to stay right in the moment in this job.  It seems like with the greater focus on gathering data and striving toward future goals it can be easy to forget to celebrate the journey and remember the story along the way. Now I am not trying to say that goals and data are not important…quite the opposite really.  I think having goals keeps us focused on continual improvement and we can’t argue with that.  Gathering data is one quick and easy way to show that we are making improvements or in some case that we are not.  It helps us know when to change our strategies and readjust our focus when striving to meet the needs of our students.

I think one thing we need to remember though, is that data does not tell the whole story.  We can get so focused on where we need to be that we forget to concentrate on where we are.

Last weekend I came across a blog post linked to twitter by Josh Stumpenhorst.  In his post titled, “Stop Preparing Students” he talks about our race to the future always preparing our students for some future moment, rather than staying in the present and enjoying and nurturing their growth where they are right now.

Every day when I am walking around our school and observing teachers and students in action, I appreciate the here and the now.  It is really what tells the story about what is happening.  It tells the story of student growth and of teachers nurturing that growth in every student in many different ways.

As we are approaching our 3-way conferences, again we are planning for the here and the now.  Students are reflecting on their own growth and what things they will share with their parents.  Our parents are wondering how their children are doing right now at this point in their growth and academic and social development.  Teachers are completing report cards taking a look at the here and now for each of their students.  They know the journey and are planning to share the story of student growth with parents next week.

Looking at data and striving toward goals is so important in our schools and in our classrooms, but taking time to celebrate the moments is important as well.  Each of our students has a story to tell, I hope we will slow down and listen.