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…


32 Responses to “Christmas in August”

  1. Patricia Smith says:

    I love to be inspired and your post did just that. It stirred the excitement of the new year even more so inside of me. I look forward to what the leadership team of AJUSD can do together not for each site in isolation, but with the approach of working together to be a name to contend with in the state of Arizona and nationally. I like to think BIG! Thank you Brenda for your thoughts and sharing.

  2. Miss Moran says:

    I am most excited about having an awesome group of fellow 1st grade teachers that have already taken me under their wing to ensure both my students and myself have the most successful year possible! I am also looking forward to the students being the second biggest instructional gift. I expect to learn as much from 5-7 year olds as I am able to teach them in return!

  3. smyers says:

    Although this is only my third year teaching, I’ve noticed that each year I have a higher level of desire to “be better”. You are absolutely correct in that we have a staff that shares a willingness to constantly evaluate their own teaching practices. I’m excited to borrow and steal (with your permission, of course…ok maybe not. If it’s really good, I’m going to just take it. *kidding*) the new ideas of others to make me better. I never want to just “ride the wave”. I want to find those practices that inspire me to be a better teacher and to knock the socks off these kiddos when they realize what they are able to do, given the opportunity.

  4. Pat McGuckin says:

    I am excited about building relationships with our new staff and grade level teams. I am also excited about unwraping some powerful math and science strategies from the past with a new look for the future.

  5. Mindy carney says:

    I have always thought we have had a good staff. But after reading your post I thought we are not just good we are amazing. I think of us more as a family. Everyone willing to help eachother and do what is best for our kiddos. I think this year is going to be great. After walking through classrooms last week, teachers are ready to provide engaging lessons that will help all of our students.

  6. Rhonda Best says:

    I am most excited about giving myself and my students more think time and not be so rushed during the instructional time (just so I can fit it all in). Taking the time to actually listen to student responses can lead (and has for me in the past) to some very “AHA” moments for all.

  7. Jenna Iovino says:

    This is a great post that us teachers can all relate to. August is a fresh start and a new beginning for all of us! It really can feel like Christmas and the fact that we all have a clean slate.
    My Instructional gift is to teach kids independence by collaborating with one another. I hope as teacher I can guide my students at the beginning in such a way, that they can go off on their own and soon teach by teaching others.

  8. Karla Stokes says:

    I agree that every year we, as teachers, have the gift of a new start. I am excited about our new staff and the new attitude our vets are bringing to the table about CCS. I think with making thinking visible and focusing on teaching in a deeper more meaningful way, we can reach our common destination which is student success and college readiness.

  9. This year has brought on a lot of changes for me; new team, new grade level, new curriculum, new schedules. As I have been preparing for the start of my new adventure I have discovered that all I really want to do is make my students feel important in this big world of ours. This could mean something different for each any every student, and we get to figure it out together. I am so excited to be in 6th grade and am looking forward to “unwrapping” the potential in all of them!

  10. Mrs. Hamman says:

    I love having the opportunity to recharge and reflect over the summer, but around the end of July I start getting impatient for school to start. This summer I did a lot of reading and blog surfing, trying to find out more about brain-based learning and the connection between social/emotional and academic learning. I am excited to try what I learned in my classroom. The best “gift” was the one I got last week: a room full of third graders who are as eager to learn as I am!

  11. Cheri Springer says:

    As I started preparing for this year, my biggest goal was to start adding in projects and have a room that the students are engaged in and not just being lectured. I fear this! I told my students that I will probably fall flat on my face several times over this year while we are all learning to do projects and learning to have a different type of classroom than I have ever had before. I am thankful for my team mates and all they do to make our year run smoothly. I couldn’t do any of this with out them. I am also thankful for the rest of thte staff for being there and willing to talk and help.

  12. Kim Shirley says:

    That is the best part about teaching. Always being given that fresh start. You learn so much from one year to the next. I love being able to build upon what worked best in my classroom the year before and then adding something new that I saw to that! Love that I can revamp what didn’t work in the classroom too.
    New staff is wonderful to have because they come loaded with great ideas, enthusiasm, and energy that is contagious!

  13. Mrs. Renzulli says:

    I always like the new year because everyone is refreshed with amazing ideas. We all are anxious with what are kids can do and what they need help in. Being a part of this excitment and journey is what makes that “gift” a special one, every year!

  14. Marina says:

    I was so inspired about what you had said that I forgot to mention what I would like to see occur in my classroom. I would like to embrace and encourage collaboration, communication, and critical thinking with my students by utilizing Higher Order Thinking and quality instruction. I know this will be an enormous gift to wrap up by the end of the year…but imagine when another teacher unwraps those gifts the following year. 🙂

  15. Ms. Griffin says:

    This new year, truly is Christmas in August. It is exciting to begin this new adventure in Fourth Grade with new and old students. I am looking forward to this new adventure, and finding new ways to inspire and engage my 33 students to higher levels of thinking. My challenge is to use more cooperative learning activities and tap into the student’s ability to learn and then teach each other, using Kagan structures, and higher level thinking questions. I really enjoy hearing students’ thinking.

  16. Jen Mewhorter says:

    Well, I was super excited to get started and start working with groups of kids, making our labyrinth look like a classroom, and trying out all the neat reading related ideas I have/ found, but now I’m rethinking everything.
    I’m excited to try numerous pre, during, and end reading activities/strategies with my small groups. I spent a lot of my summer looking through my resources and the internet for great reading instruction ideas and activities to use in small groups to make the learning experience more engaging; as well as get the kids thinking deeper when responding to text. I was also excited to use my awesome posters I made, but I may have to rethink their use now.
    This year my goal is to get my kids digging deeper into the text and relating to what they are reading. As well as getting the kids more excited about reading; reading with a purpose in mind. I want the kids to know they can read and can enjoy it. My goal is to use a variety of instructional reading activities. JAM

  17. jdelrosa says:

    I am very excited to begin using what I have learned over the summer in Collaboration Coach training as well as continuing to build relationships with my new team members. I feel this will be a very exciting year.

  18. phayward says:

    The beginning of the year is exciting. New faces and fresh ideas make for a great start. Looking forward to staying on the bike path!

  19. Jen Mewhorter says:

    This year I’m looking forward to trying out more ideas for pre, during, and after reading activities to engage students and make the reading more purposeful. I have my resources ready to go. I also have my posters made and ready; just have to rethink their use now.
    I was very excited to start this year and had so many plans; but with the curve ball of moving an entire room has created a new rethinking of working with students in small groups. The term “gift” takes an all new meaning, but I’m up for change.

  20. Krystina says:

    I always enjoy watching the kids come in and seeing the new faces and the old. I am most excited about using the tools from Kim Sutton over the summer. Trying some of the creative math activities.

    • Fallon says:

      I agree! There were some great engaging games that we learned about at the Kim Sutton training that I can’t wait to try this year with my new kids!

  21. Kim Greer says:

    My favorite “gift” would be all the hugs and smiles I get from returning students. I love that they are all excited to be back at school. I helped a few students unwrap their own gifts just in this first week too. The gift of “Oh, wait, I can do that” after hearing them say “I can’t do that.”

  22. PDeSantis says:

    I just love that the students remembered my name and are understanding when I ask, “what’s your name again?” Someone told me once that you are only as good as your support. At FPES, we support each other and are willing to bend and give. Those are great presents to have when working with children.

  23. Nyssa Frost says:

    I am looking forward to a new year filled with new challenges, but new ways to approach them. I have some activities geared toward the Kinder and 1st grade populations that focuses on letter naming fluency, writing skills, and reading skills, focusing on retell, just to name a few. Can’t wait to put them into practice!

  24. Shannon Miller says:

    I am one that celebrates Christmas in my house and the excitement that waits for that one special day. I almost feel that this new school year is more like Hanukkah. With many, many, days of gifts and surprises!
    I am excited and a bit nervous to move back to 2nd grade this year. When I taught it for 6 years, the testing and curriculum was much different. I am excited to dig deeper with these little “babies” in 2nd grade and push them to where they will need to be for 3rd grade.

  25. Tim says:

    My gift to the students is beefing up my teaching reading skills. I actually emailed some old professors from college and dug out those old college books to reread and dig into what I learned about 8 years ago. My students have already noticed a reading corner. That’s new! My gift this year from them is to have a teacher who is not only excited to teach for them but to teacher ALL of the subject with as much happiness as all of them.

  26. Fallon says:

    I am excited about teaching 2nd grade this year! I have an awesome team that is very helpful! I think that so far we are off to a great start! I am looking forward to developing those critical thinking skills in reading and math questioning my kids and requiring them to expand on their answers within whole group and small group discussions. I am going to do my best to not “rescue” a student that doesn’t know the answer. I am hoping that through sharing our thought processes my class will become better thinkers and problem solvers.

  27. Fallon says:

    I am also excited to learn more about the new common core standards this year and begin teaching them in my classroom!

  28. Linda says:

    Many years ago as a young teacher, I worked with an ‘older’ teacher who seemed very set in her ways and lessons. I promised myself then that I would try to stay new and fresh, keep on learning, and try new things. This year, I hope to learn how to use my new technology [I HAVE A SMARTBOARD], learn to push/pull/encourage my students to do and learn more than either of us expect, to get really good at helping my students to dig deeper and think big thoughts, to instill a love of reading, learn lots of new words, and not be afraid of math

  29. Rhonda says:

    Ok we are going to try to post my comment again. For some reason it did not want to take on the first attempt. What gifts do I want to unravel this year? Well I am excited about pushing myself to give the students more “think time”. This will give me time to train myself that it is not always about trying to fit it all in. There have been times that I have rushed just to get it covered and forgot to allow students time to collaborate. I have already started to do this and they love it. A gift for me along with a gift for them.

  30. Cynthia says:

    I love the gift of unity we have here a FPES.

  31. Joan says:

    My gift to my students is increasing the “wait” time during a “think and respond” activity AND allowing my students to give me a gift at the end of class in the form of a “ticket out the door”.

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