Thursday, May 10, 2018

Teacher Appreciation

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I can think of no other vocation that deserves as much gratitude and respect as teachers. They do so much for their students, making an impact that lasts a lifetime. Teachers give so much of themselves on a daily basis, with more and more being demanded of them each school year.

Flashback to the days of the past, when teachers taught mainly academic skills, like the 3 R's - reading, writing an 'rithmetic. They focused on teaching. Fast forward to today, where teachers not only teach, but also serve as a friend, counselor, role model, mediator, and sadly in some cases, parent. It seems like more "stuff" is added to teachers' plates every year.

Despite all of this, our teachers continue to do incredible things for kids. It warms my heart to hear our students talk about Walnut Grove teachers and instructional paras. They constantly say that the teachers here are friendly, helpful, and caring. They brag on our staff for being better than the teachers they've had in other school districts. I often here them say, "I love my teachers." Our parents echo that same sentiment weekly via nice cards, email, and comments.

All of this affirms what I've believed for years: that hiring great teachers is the most important thing that a principal does. Teachers are the people in the school with whom our kids spend the most time. Teachers perform the two most important functions of a school - educating students and loving them. I may be a bit biased, but I believe that WGMS teachers and paras do these two things better than anyone. We love and appreciate our teachers!

Upcoming Events

14 - STAAR Math, 6th and 7th grades; 8th Math 2nd admin.
15 - STAAR Reading, 6th and 7th grades; 8th Reading 2nd admin
16 - STAAR Science, 8th Grade
16 - 6th and 7th Grade Field Day
17 - STAAR S.S., 8th grade
18 - Comp day - no school
21 - 8th Grade Field Day
22 - Elem. tours - Baxter @ 8:45, JAV @ 10:15
22 - Robbie Cornelius retirement reception, 4:15, library
23 - Elem. tour - Longbranch @ 10:15
24 - Staff vs. Student VB Game @ 3:00, pep rally schedule
24 - Soccer vs. FSMS, girls home, boys away, 4:30
25 - 8th Grade Dinner Dance, 7-10pm
28 - Memorial Day, no school
29 - 7th Period Exam Schedule, 7th period exam @ 2:20
30 - Exams periods 1, 3, and 5, exam schedule, early release @ 1:55
30 - WGMS Staff Awards, 2:30, cafeteria
31 - Exams periods 2, 4, and 6, exam schedule, early release @ 1:55

1 - Work day

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Best Kids Anywhere...

I know that I say it a lot, but I firmly believe that the kids of WGMS are the very best. I've told them this countless times. In fact, I've said it so much that the kids themselves can complete my sentence. Whenever I say to them, "You are the very..." they always finish with the word "best."

Our students never cease to amaze me with their kindness and thoughtfulness. Just this week, I have observed examples of how considerate they can be. When Clay, a new student showed up this week, students went looking for him during lunch to make sure that he had someone to sit with. Also this week, I received numerous cards and verbal thank you's from students for buying new mike stands for choir. Earlier today, two 8th grade girls came to me to pitch a program that would assist other adolescents with depression. This past weekend, while on a choir trip to San Antonio, I overheard a man in our hotel lobby talking about our kids to his traveling companions. I heard him tell his friends these are the best behaved kids he had ever seen.

Are our students perfect? Heck, no. They are just like most kids - they like to horseplay, they can be inappropriate, they sometimes say bad words -- they are human.

If you've only worked in MISD, then you may not understand just how good our kids are. Ask anyone in our school who has worked in other districts. Or, better yet, ask a new student. I feel confident that they will affirm my belief that our kids are the very...

Upcoming Events
30 - NJHS Induction, Main Gym, 6:30

4 - Choir Dessert Theater, 7:00, cafe
5 - Choir Dessert Theater, 1:00 & 7:00, cafe
7 - Teacher Appreciation Week!
7 - Progress reports go out
7 - Soccer vs. FSMS, boys home, girls away, 4:30
8 - Algebra I EOC
8 - Faculty meeting, library, 4pm
9 - STAAR training, 4:00, library
10 - Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, CBI room, all lunches
11 - Aim for Success assemblies, 7th science classes, library
12 - 8th Grade Party, 11:00 - 3:00, Southern Cross Ranch

Friday, April 13, 2018

Life Moves Pretty Fast...

This week I had the honor to speak to the 2018 graduating class of Heritage High School at their Senior Breakfast. It was wonderful to see so many former Wildcats, all grown up and ready for the real world. So many of the kids have changed drastically since their time at WGMS, having grown taller and looking more like adults than children.

As I mingled among them as they ate breakfast, I was blown away by the way that these former Wildcats remember WGMS. They shared many fond memories of our school with me. More than anything, they asked about our teachers and staff, wanting to know how various individuals were doing. Many of them shared stories with me about how much specific staff helped them while they were students here. I was reminded in that moment of  the powerful impact that our teachers, coaches, instructional paras, and office staff have on our students. One senior told me, " WGMS just gets into your blood. You never forget it if you went to school there."

As I spoke to the seniors, I was reminded of just how fast life goes. It seems like yesterday that these same young people were little 6th graders, entering Walnut Grove for the first day of school. Perhaps Ferris Bueller said it best when he stated, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." I hope that this year's seniors will take the time to do just that.

Upcoming Events

16 - 6th Six Weeks begins
20 - 22 - Choir trip to San Antonio
21 - Elementary Math Pentathlon, here, 8am - 4pm
25 - Administrative Professionals Day
27 - MHS bound 8th graders tour MHS, 10am - noon
28 - 6th Grade Band at Hurricane Harbor

Friday, March 23, 2018

Wildcat Wrestler

Even though he just recently turned 12 years-old, WGMS 6th grader Eli Biermann has already established quite a name for himself on the wrestling mat. Eli wrestles in a nation-wide league called USA Wresting and recently won first place at The Panhandle Nationals. This tournament is one of the major contests in the sport, and it includes youth wrestlers from all over the country. Beirmann competed in the 75 pound class, which is his normal weight class. At that meet, Eli met fellow wrestlers from Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. To win the championship, Eli defeated a wrestler from Wesley, Texas, about whom Eli says, "He was a lot bigger than me and was a year older than me. I was able to beat him by getting my mind in the right zone and doing what I had to do."

Eli has been wresting since he was five years-old. He first became interested in the sport when his dad, Wade, shared with Eli his own experiences in the sport. Wade Biermann was a two-time Texas High School Champion at James Bowie High School in Arlington. Eli's interest grew even more once he began to compete in the sport and win trophies.

Next year, Eli will be wrestling as a 7th grade Wildcat on the WGMS team. Regarding that subject, Eli stated, "I want to encourage other students to try the sport and make our WGMS team great." Eli also plans to wrestle in high school, in college (as an Iowa Hawkeye), and eventually on the U.S. Olympic Team.

WGMS is a great place because of awesome kids like Eli Biermann!

Upcoming Events
26 thru 29 - Bruce Ahlborn, from Apple, at WGMS
26 - Progress reports go out
27 - Tennis vs. Corsicana, at Heritage, 4:30
28 - STAAR training during conference periods, GCS room D127
30 - No school

3 & 4 -  District Track Meet, at Red Oak H.S., 4:00

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Relationship Bank Account

In our 8th grade leadership group, SEALs (Service, Education, Attitude, and Leadership), we do a book study on the Sean Covey book, The Six Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make. One of the major tenets of Mr. Covey's book is a concept known as the "Relationship Bank Account." This idea holds that every relationship that we have is similar to a financial account that has either a positive balance or a negative balance. Naturally, the higher the balance the stronger the relationship.

Covey (2006) also asserts that deposits can be made into these relationship accounts and withdrawals can be taken out. When you do something positive for someone with whom you have a relationship, you make a deposit. When you do something negative, you make a withdrawal. The goal, therefore, is to have a healthy balance in every relationship account.

As teachers, we have a Relationship Bank Account with every student in our care. We make small deposits into their bank accounts each time we say hello to them, give them a fist bump, ask them how they are doing, or ask them how their weekend was. We make mid-sized deposits by helping them with work in class or assisting them with minor problems. We make huge deposits when we go to their school events to watch them, visit them when they are in the hospital, or take the time to brag on them to their parents. We make withdrawals any time we have to discipline them or give them other negative consequences. Therefore, some withdrawals are necessary. We also make withdrawals when we let them down, treat them unfairly, or don't do what we say we will do.

Some students can be so difficult that it is all we can do to keep our account out of the red. With most, however, it is relatively easy to keep a healthy account. All we have to do is notice them, talk with them, and take good care of them when they need us. Have you checked your balances lately?

Upcoming Events

5 - 9 - Diagnostician's Week
6 - Texas Primary Election Day, voting at WGMS in room A206
7 - Cheer tryouts, main gym, 4:30
8 - Track meet @ Forney
9 - Aim for Succes abstinence assemblies, 8th Science classes
12 - 16 - Spring Break

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Learning Walks for Teacher Improvement

Think back, all you teachers out there, to the semester of college that you did your observation hours. We were required to go to a teacher's classroom and watch him or her teach for x number of hours. This was supposed to help us see examples of great teaching that we could then transfer to own classrooms. Before student teaching, we observed lessons taught by our mentor; then, we took over the teaching.

For many teachers, sadly, that is the last time we have watched someone else teach. We go to our rooms daily; and for the most part, do it just like we have in years past. Sure, we read books about instruction, attend conferences on instruction, and do other types of professional development. But sometimes the best PD is right next door to our own classrooms.

As a principal, I get to see the best of the best teach. I have seen a countless number of incredible lessons and activities during my tenure at WGMS, everything from battles being re-enacted and rockets being launched to students writing powerful poetry and then sharing it in a coffee house. I have become a better teacher myself as a direct result of watching our teachers teach.

You don't always have to drive to a conference or workshop to get better at your craft. You simply need to take a stroll down the hall.

Upcoming Events

19 - iPlan Day at MHS, 8:00 - 3:30
19 - Alan November debrief, 3:30, library
23 - 4th six weeks ends
24 - Band Solo and Ensemble Contest
26 - Lead Teacher meeting, 4:00

2 - Last day to enter purchase orders for supplies

Friday, February 2, 2018

Get Them Talking

Think back to when you were in school for a moment. The model classroom was eerily silent as students toiled away on individual work assignments. Talking of any was frowned upon in class, and resulted in a lecture from the teacher, detention, or even worse for repeat offenders.

Today'c classroom looks and sounds nothing like those of the past. Students are busy working collaboratively, and noise is the norm. In fact, a quiet classroom today is sometimes considered boring.

When we did our book study of The Fundamental 5 back in 2015, we read about the power of Frequent, Small Group, Purposeful Talk, or FSGPT. This instructional strategy allows for time set aside for kids to engage each other in conversation that is directly connected to what you are teaching. For example, a teacher might ask students to turn to a partner and spend two minutes discuss the following:

A character's traits or motives in ELAR
The steps to solve a simple equation in Math
A leader's strategy in a key Civil War Battle in Social Studies
Why a chemical reaction occurred in a Science lab
Why an artist may have chosen to create a particular painting

The possibilities really are endless. According to the book's authors, Cain and Laird (2011), FSGPT provides an opportunity for students to teach each other, resulting in high rates of retention and high levels of thinking. Furthermore, they assert that FSGPT "resets" students' attention spans, which last only about 8-10 minutes for 6th-8th graders.

As you know, middle school kids love to talk. Let's steer that chatter towards learning!

Upcoming Events

5 thru 9 - School Counselors Week
7 - Grand Prairie ISD visits WGMS
8 - 6th Grade Aim for Success Cyberbullying assemblies in Math classes
8 - Basketball vs. Red Oak, boys home, girls away, 5:30
8 - Parent U Alan November technology presentation,  11:15am @ admin and 6:00pm @ Heritage
9 - Sonic Drink Day for staff, conference room
9 - 7th Grade Aim for Success Cyberbullying assemblies in Math classes
10 - Choir All-region Clinic and Contest, here, all day
12 - 8th Grade Aim for Success Cyberbullying assemblies in Math classes
13 thru 15 - Bruce Ahlborn from Apple works with WGMS teachers
16 - No school
17 - Wildcat Dancers contest @ Grapevine H.S.