The Reflective Teacher is an Effective Teacher

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Reflection has always been an important part of my routine as a wife, mother, teacher, and principal.  Reflection doesn’t just happen at the end of a  lesson or experience, it should happen at the beginning and during as well. When we enter a situation in life or a lesson in the classroom with intentional thought our outcomes are most likely to be more successful.

Although I continued to be reflective last school year through various strategies, I did not purposefully talk about it with my staff as much as I have done in the past.  This year I want to be intentional again about it.  After reading Pete Hall and Alisa Simera’s book

  I was reminded again about the power of reflection and its capacity for success in the classroom.  If you haven’t been reflective in the past, please become intentional about it.  Your students will benefit from it and you will be more effective.  AND we all know the number one contributing factor to success in the classroom is the teacher.    Are you ready to take the challenge?


As always, be joyful in your thoughts!


Curiosity- The Often Overlooked Piece to Engagement

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As a faculty we are always discussing, searching, and collaborating on ways to increase the engagement for our students.  One aspect that is sometimes overlooked is that of curiosity.  How can we harness that power of curiosity to help transform everyday tasks, or lessons into interesting and engaging experiences?  When you think of curiosity as a sense of active interest in and about something,  it helps to begin to build a framework for greater engagement in our lessons and daily interactions with our students.

I am currently reading the book  Curious  written by Ian Leslie.  In his book he separates curiosity into three categories.

  • Diversive curiosity is attraction to novelty. It’s what encourages us to explore new places, people and things. There is no method or process. This curiosity is just the beginning. (It’s also not always benign curiosity: High diversive curiosity is a risk factor for drug addiction and arson.)
  • Epistemic curiosity is a deeper quest for knowledge. It “represents the deepening of a simple seeking of newness into a directed attempt to build understanding. It’s what happens when diversive curiosity grows up.” This kind of curiosity requires effort. It’s hard work, but also more rewarding.
  • Empathic curiosity is putting yourself in another person’s shoes, curious about their thoughts and feelings. “Diversive curiosity might make you wonder what a person does for a living; empathic curiosity makes you wonder why they do it.”

It started me thinking, perhaps when we are planning our lessons we can take a look at these three categories and keep in mind the definition of curiosity.  What are we doing to support this in our classrooms, whether it is during the anticipatory set, the materials we use, the questions we ask, or the evidence of learning we gather from our students.

Let’s remember, curiosity is a gift given exclusively to humans. As British TV producer and writer John Lloyd said, “It’s only people, as far as we know, who look up at the stars and wonder what they are.”

I believe it is worth taking time to reflect upon.

As always, be joyful in your thoughts!






Modeling Year Around

Posted in 21st Century Classroom, Common Core, Quality Instruction, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I am fascinated when watching my staff teach, model, and reinforce beginning of the year procedures.  It takes very little time to turn those procedures into the routines that will create an environment that is conducive to learning.  A magic wand could not create such an environment any faster.  We have something more magical than a  wand and that is the power to model. Each year my staff and I take time to discuss the importance of modeling, what it is, and how to effectively accomplish it.  An easy definition is to ask teachers to “think out-loud” their own learning steps or thinking while solving a problem or creating a solution.   In addition, it is important that the visual input of modeling be accompanied by the verbal input of labeling the critical elements of what is happening (or has happened) so that students are focused on essentials rather than being distracted by non-relevant factors in the process or product.  In our new world of Common Core, we are asking students to justify their answers.  For many of our students, this hasn’t always been the expectation and therefore brings the importance of modeling to the forefront once again!

Other than modeling classroom procedures, what have you modeled today?

As always, be joyful in your thoughts!



Hooray for College Day

Posted in Leadership, Quality Instruction | 2 Comments »

Sometimes the simple things in life make the biggest impact.  Even though we are an elementary school campus, we want our kids to think about year 13 and the possibilities it will bring.  We believe it is never to early to start that conversation.  So my staff and I decided to dedicate one day a week to wear a college t-shirt.  We were amazed by the conversations and chatter this simple idea created!

What conversations are you having with your students to set the expectation and dream of college one day?

As always, be joyful in your thoughts.



College Day

Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch

Posted in Leadership, Quality Instruction | 4 Comments »

I recently listened to an interview with the Arizona Diamondback’s Manager Kirk Gibson where he spoke about creating a culture within his players and his club.   He referenced a book by Davis H. Taylor, The Imperfect Leader,  where Taylor believes “culture eats strategy for lunch.”  Basically what it means is if you don’t have the right culture, you don’t have a shot. You can have all the talent and all the strategy and all the systems in the world but if you don’t have a good culture, you’re not going to go anywhere.  The same can be said for our schools and our classrooms.

This past week as we started back in our new year, I had the priviledge of watching my teachers and staff build upon our culture that embraces a scholarly attitude which includes creative and critical thinking, a sense of kindness, belonging to a team, and the importance of communication and colloboration.  What a joyous first week we experienced!

As we start this new school year, think about what type of culture you want in your school and classroom.  What are you going to do to create that culture and maintain it?

As always, be joyful in your thoughts!


Re-thinking and Re-imagining Instruction and Student Learning through Common Core Standards

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Lots of buzz around the world of education with Common Core.  Just like many across the country, we have begun to implement the CC.  Our big ideas have been centered around designing learning experienes for kids that engage them in thinking, formulating, testing hypostesizes, and challenging one another to develop concepts.  We embrace the fact that students will be moving away from rote learning, as we shift our mindsets to want to understand the students’ thinking instead of just a right or wrong answer.  It is a daunting task, and it is going to take re-thinking and re-imagining our instruction and student learning.  But what an exciting time to be an educator.  So let’s all take a deep breath and remember Common Core supports what good teaching has been about for many of us: inviting students to think and understand complex concepts, to think about what students are learning and what types of questions we are asking for deeper understanding, to reflect upon our own teaching, and to intellectualy engage our students.  Our classrooms will  become a space for awakening of intelligence, sensitivity, creativity, observation, self-initiative, and self discipline.

As a principal, I can’t wait to walk in to our classrooms at Four Peaks Elementary School this new school year.  I truly care about what the teacher is doing, but in many ways I care more about what the students are doing.  As I do my rounds this year two questions will be at the forefront of my mind:  What type of performance task will I see students engaged in and what evidence do I see of students being invited, or even required to think?

What do you hope to see in your classroom(s) this year?

As always, be joyful in your thoughts!


PS.  I provided my staff with a large sheet of paper and asked them to describe to me the differences they see in a Common Core classroom.  Below is a creative example from one of my teachers, Shana Myers.  Enjoy!


CC Teacher






Be Inspired to Inspire

Posted in 21st Century Classroom, Leadership, Quality Instruction | 4 Comments »

    Over the past several years we have participated in various staff development opportunities, had several discussion groups in our professional learning environments, implemented “best practices” from these experiences, and created common assessments with reflection time to measure our students success.  We have made professional learning a priority on our campus.  We have had positive results, some teachers having more than others.  The teachers that have greater success have one thing in common: they don’t wait for established staff development time.  They seek out their own learning opportunites.  Whether it is attending an EdCamp, reading blogs through our Edublog communities, or searching various websites.  They are inspired about learning, which in turn, inspires their students. 


Our theme this school year is:  Be Inspired to Inspire. ..cropped-bee-trail-left-320-xtno0b.jpg

       Four simple words that pack an enormous responsiblilty.  We have so many resources at our fingertips in this day and time that make it easy for us to become learners; we do not have to rely upon any formalized system.   We can attend trainings and collaborate and communicate with each other. However, if we are not inspired to follow through on this newly acquired knowledge and continue to refine and define our instructional practices, what is the point?  My wish as the FPES leader is that each and every individual in our school will be inspired into action this year, and then to inspire others.  We will continue to make it a priority to engage in  professional learning, discussions, and reflection, but to reap even greater benefits, we must first be inspired! 


I wish you all the best of luck as the new year begins.  Think about what inspires you.  How will you use that to inspire others? 

As always, be joyful in your thoughts!


Building an Instructional Field of Dreams

Posted in 21st Century Classroom, Quality Instruction | 25 Comments »

What is the first thing you think about when you see this cover photo (besides how good looking Kevin Costner is)?  My mind goes right to the whisper he hears: “Build it and they will come”.  That is exactly what Kevin’s character Ray did.  Imagine the stress he must have felt while doing so, but what a reward he experienced in the end.

Aren’t we doing the same thing in our classrooms?  We are making conscious decisions about our lessons through our task analysis.  We are creating opportunities to engage kids by providing more think time and developing their critical thinking skills, therefore digger deeper.  We are incorporating ideas from our 21st Century principles, thinking about what type of questions we are asking, and taking time to assess  whether or not our kids are grasping the concepts. All of this will lead us toward “building” solid instruction so that our field of dreams become achievements for our students.

Take a moment and think about the concept or strategy you are currently trying to “build” or strengthen that relates to student achievement.  Share what it is and why you think it will increase student achievment.

As always, be joyful in your thoughts.


Christmas in August

Posted in Leadership, Monday Matters, Quality Instruction | 32 Comments »

As a kid, I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come.  Just looking at the gifts under the tree brought a sense of anticipation not easily matched.  Fast forward a few years and you will find I am still a kid at heart when it comes to Christmas and the gifts that it brings and the opportunities of giving as well.  I am very fortunate as a Principal because now I can experience the same feeling one more time during the year.  August brings me as much joy as what I find under the tree in December.

This year as I had conversations with my staff, listened to ideas, shared ideas, participated in goal setting, and watched as classrooms transformed themselves, I was once again feeling that sense of pure joy and anticipation of another school year.  The “gifts” I have been given this year started with my administrative team once again focusing on  what quality instruction is and how as instructional leaders we could build the capacity of our staff to experience the highest quality, not being satisfied with the status quo.  A veteran teacher rethinking her instructional practices so her students would be more engaged in higher level thinking,  new teachers who understand the importance of not only sharing ideas but to listen to the ideas of the more seasoned colleagues, teams welcoming a new member by pitching in and helping where needed.  Several teachers stepping into new positions and academic areas without hesitation because they know it will be good for kids. A custodial staff putting in extra efforts to ensure the cleanliness of our campus. An office staff that leaves late and comes in early to ensure our success and all the while doing so with a smile and joyful attitude.  These are just a few of the many gifts I have been given before the new year has even started.

The best gift however is my staff’s willingness to focus on their instructional practices.  Thinking about the objectives, the all important task analysis, questions that will enhance covert and overt behaviors, how to engage all kids simultaneously, and what it takes to be a 21st Century Student.  I could not ask for a better gift than that.

I look forward to opening our gates so our students too can experience Christmas in August!

What instructional gifts are you most excited about unwrapping this year?

As always, be joyful in your thoughts…


Lakeside Leadership

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Having recently spent a week on a gorgeous lake fishing, I was reminded, of all things, of a few key leadership concepts.

1.  Cast out your line and pay attention to that little tap on your lure.  You never know when it might be “the big one”.  This is also true as an instructional leader, we must be in the moment and practice active listeningHow many times have we been sitting across from someone and instead of actively listening, we are thinking about “catching that next big fish“.  Our mind is on a conversation we might have had previously to this one, or the upcoming parent meeting, or thinking about the latest benchmark data, instead of truly listening to what the person has to say.

2.  When you feel a tug at your line, don’t doubt or second guess whether a fish is attached.  Sometimes as leaders we don’t always filter the information that comes our way.  We  receive commentary of all kinds, both encouraging, and discouraging.  Don’t doubt what you are doing, be confident.  If the conditions have been set and clearly communicated and you have the right people in the right seats on the bus, move forward with confidence.

3.  Once you’ve caught the fish, don’t stop fishing!  Don’t be satisfied with the victory of just one fish on your stringer.  As leaders, we must strive for continued growth for ourselves, our staff, and most importantly our students.

Have you gone fishing lately?

Be joyful in your thoughts.


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