Friday, March 1, 2019

Heart for the Homeless

One of the things that I want our students to learn at WGMS is how to love and serve others.  I want them to know that the happiest people on earth are those put other's needs ahead of their own. Sixth grader, Chase Jones, has already mastered all of the above.

Chase developed a heart for homeless people when he was a young boy. He developed his concern for them  one day when he was thinking about their plight while hanging out in his room. He had seen homeless people, living on the streets or in tents when he visited the city, and heart went out to them.

Chase then approached his mom, Shelonda Jones, and told her about how he was feeling. His mom then asked him if he wanted to help. He and Mrs. Jones then started collecting food, towels, toiletries, clothes, and gloves to give to needy people on the streets. They have even started their own 501(c)3 to collect funds to buy items for the homeless, and named it Chase's Heart.

Jones has made many personal sacrifices in order to help others. He has taken his own money, given to him as a gift, to purchase items for the needy. He has done yard work and other chores to raise money for the less fortunate. Chase has even sacrificed his own Christmas in order to have money to feed the homeless.

Chase also provides meals for those living on the streets. On his first outing to feed the needy, he provided meals for 227 people! His goal is to feed 500 or more at one time! WGMS is a special place because of incredible kids like Chase Jones!

Upcoming Events
4 - 7th Grade No Zeroes Party, 3:15, cafeteria
5 - 8th Grade No Zeroes Party, 3:15, cafeteria
7 - Faculty meeting, STAAR area teachers only, 4:00, library
8 - Cupp's Kids
8 - Aim for Success Assemblies, 8th Science classes
8 - 8th Grade Band Lock in, 6:00
11 - 15 - Spring Break
18 - Progress reports go home for the 5th Six Weeks
18 - Middle School # 3 Groundbreaking, 4:30, at job site
21 - Sonic Drink Day, compliments of parent volunteers, conference room
21 - Band Concert, 6:00, @ MHS Auditorium
23 - Wildcat Dancer Spring Show, 7:00, @ MHS Auditorium

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Assessment: The Forgotten Quality

Think back to your time as a student for a moment. Do you remember ever taking a test that covered very little of what you actually learned in class? I'd be willing to bet that most everyone can relate to this. In education lingo, the problem was that the taught curriculum didn't align with the tested curriculum.

Of the six qualities of effective teachers that James Stronge discusses in his book, assessment may be the area with which teachers struggle most.  I used to think that to assess my students meant only to give a written test; which in my mind, measured how well they paid attention in class, how well they took notes, and how hard they studied in the days before the test. I've now learned that to assess meant to measure how well my kids learned what I've taught them, and to measure how well I actually taught them. There should have been perfect alignment between what I was required to teach them, what I actually taught them, and what I assessed them over.

For me, the missing piece of my assessment procedures was what I did with the data that I gleaned from the test. I could have used that information to better work with my struggling students. Also, I should have been giving them frequent feedback regarding their learning in my class.

So, what are some ways (other than a written test) that effective teachers assess their students in order to improve teaching, help struggling learners, give kids feedback on their progress, and drive instruction? Effective teachers use exit tickets, oral questioning, observation of students as they work, student journal entries, quizzes, projects, and homework assignments to measure student learning and teaching effectiveness. Please remember this as you plan with your colleagues!

Upcoming Events
18 - iPlan at MHS
19 - 5th Six Weeks begins
20 - District Wide Faculty Meeting on Zoom, 3:45 and 4:15
21 - Choir concert, at MHS, 6:30
22 - Report cards go home
26 - Aim for Success Parent meeting
27 - District Wide Faculty Meeting on Zoom, 3:45 and 4:15
1 - Lunch and Learn with Dr. Ledbetter, all lunches, library

Friday, February 1, 2019

Guest blogger - Carly Woolery

I always seem to miss that time in January when one feels highly motivated to make changes in life that will make everything better. No, my New Year’s Resolutions begin a bit late, around July, when a new school year is looming ahead. Looming - not a very attractive word and definitely not one an educator should use to describe the upcoming school year. But, for me, it was an accurate description. To be completely transparent, 2017-18 was not a great year for me. I was miserable - many days not even wanting to be at work. I allowed so much negativity to get the best of me, and it seeped into my life outside of school as well. So my New School Year Resolution this year? Negativity would not rule my life.

Over the summer, I attended a Restorative Practices conference and read a few books - Kids Deserve It and Elizabeth Smart’s books My Story and Where There’s Hope. These resources helped me refocus, helped me remember my why, my purpose - that each day I have an opportunity to be a positive influence on a young person.

Not every day is rosy. There are days when it’s not easy, and I find those negative thoughts seeping in. I still need venting sessions. But I will not stay there in that moment. I will not allow my day to be dictated by negativity. I make a choice to move on and find something that’s good. This quote from Smart’s My Story has stuck with me and I refer back to it often: “Life is a journey for us all. We all face trials. We all have ups and downs. All of us are human. But we are also the masters of our fate. We are the ones who decide how we are going to react to life.” How will you decide to react to life?

Upcoming Events
4 - Wrestling, 5:30, @ FSMS
6 - 6th Grade Aim for Success Anti-bullying presentations, 6th ELAR classes
7 - 7th Grade Aim for Success Anti-bullying presentations, 7th ELAR classes
7 - Basketball vs. FSMS, girls home, boys away, 5:30
8 - 8th Grade Aim for Success Anti-bullying presentations, 8th ELAR classes
8 - Dance and Open Gym, 7-9pm
12 - 6th ELAR Choose Your Charity, cafe, 6:00
14 - End of 4th Six Weeks
15 - School holiday, iPlan day on the 18th

Friday, January 18, 2019

Special Delivery

In this fourth installment from the book Qualities of Effective Teachers James Stronge discusses what is perhaps the most important part of a lesson: the delivery. In using this term, Stronge is referring to what teachers actually do with students during class time. Delivery, in my mind at least, may be the most important thing that teachers do. For the actor, it is comparable to performing the actual play. For the athlete, it is like playing in the big game.

Stronge breaks down Instructional Delivery into six key components:

Using a Variety of Instructional Strategies - In addition to using direct teaching, effective teachers mix it up, using inquiry-based problems, critical thinking skills, and hands on activities.

Differentiating Instruction - I know this term is a popular buzzword right now, but it simply means to design lessons that address individual students' learning styles, grouping students by shared interests or by their ability, and giving students a variety of ways to show mastery of a skill.

Communicating High Expectations - Effective teachers expect kids to learn and set high standards. Effective teachers clearly communicate these high expectations.

Promoting Complex and Higher-Order Thinking - Effective teachers are concerned with students demonstrating understanding of concepts rather than memorization of facts. Great teachers connect what they are teaching to other content areas whenever possible. Great teachers help student think in order to solve problems.

Using High-Quality Questioning - Effective teachers go beyond simple recall questions. They hit higher levels of thinking with questions that challenge students. They pre-write thought provoking questions during planning time.

Supporting Student Engagement in Learning -  Effective teachers teach high-interest lessons by using meaningful activities and by relating learning to students' interests. They praise students regularly. They foster a positive classroom environment. Take special note of this quote from the book: "When a teacher's instruction supports students' perceptions of belongingness, student engagement increases (Turner, Christensen, Trucano, & Fulmer, 2014). To me, that means that when we love our kids and make them feel special, they actually learn better. We do a great job of that here. Let's work to make it even better!

Upcoming Events
21 - Student/Staff Holiday - MLK Day
22 - 5th Grade Parent Night, 6:00, cafeteria
22 - Wrestling meet, here, 6:30
24 - Olive Garden Luncheon, all staff, CBI room
24 - Basketball vs. Waxahachie Life, boys home, girls away, 5:30
25 - Cat Night, 6:00 - 10:00
26 - MYBA basketball here, 8-4pm
28 - Progress reports go home
31 - Basketball vs. Alvarado, girls home, boys away, 5:30

1 - Lunch and Learn with Dr. Ledbetter, all lunches, library
1 - Choir girls sleepover

Thursday, December 20, 2018

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Like many of you, I absolutely love Christmas. I love giving and receiving presents. I enjoy the food, the fellowship, and the time off. I even like watching some of the cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies with my wife.

Most of all during the holiday season, I am thankful. Thankful for a Savior that came to Earth to save us. Thankful for a wife and family that love me despite my many faults. Thankful to be working in a field that impacts lives. Blessed to work with the best staff in the best school anywhere. And honestly, thankful for two weeks off to rest.

To the best staff (as Mr. Gordon would say) - Please enjoy your time off. Please sleep in. Please eat some good food. Please watch Christmas movies (some of the Hallmark ones are pretty good). Please spend quality time with those whom you love, and create some memories. Be thankful.

I appreciate each of you more than you know. Merry Christmas.

Upcoming Events


7 - Staff development day at WGMS all day, 8:00 - 4:00
8 - Staff development day - 8:00 - noon at MHS, 1:30 - 4:00 here 
9 - 4th six weeks begins
10 - 6th No Zeroes Party, 3:15
10 - Basketball vs. Howard, boys home, girls away, 5:30
11 - Cupp's Kids
11 - 7th No Zeroes Party, 3:15
14 - 8th No Zeroes Party, 3:15
16 - Spelling Bee, cafe, 9:30
17 - Basketball vs. Coleman, girls home, boys away, 5:30
18 - Winter Dance/Open Gym, 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Importance of Planning

The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, "No great thing is created suddenly." I believe that this is especially true of great lessons. All teachers experience those moments when a great lesson idea pops into their heads. Sitting down to transform that idea into a meaningful, engaging lesson takes careful planning and preparation. Collaborating with colleagues and getting their ideas and feedback can make the experience for students even more powerful.

In his book, Qualities of Effective Teachers, Dr. James Stronge lists Instructional Planning as the second piece of the puzzle to teacher success. He says, "Planning is a deliberate process that results in teachers being prepared before walking through the classroom door for the day." Dr. Stronge suggests that teachers consider three questions in order to plan effectively:

1. What should be taught?
2. How should it be taught?
3. How do we know if students learn what we taught?

Stronge also emphasizes the use of the lesson cycle,  and the fact that research shows that the first ten minutes and the last ten minutes of a class period are the most critical, as it is during those times that students' attention is the most focused. He suggests that during the first ten minutes teachers employ some type of hook to get students thinking, like a powerful question, an intriguing video, or an interesting picture. During the last ten minutes closure is used to 1) reinforce what has been learned and to 2) assess student learning. An early study of lesson closure found that active review at the end of the lesson is more effective at helping students remember information is more effective than having teachers simply restate key points about the lesson. An effective hook and closure helps teachers to revisit previous learning and gives students a look at what is to come in the future.

Finally, Dr. Stronge emphasizes collaborative planning. According to research, when teachers plan collaboratively, students show better achievement gains (Ronfeldt, Farmer, McQueen, and Grissom, 2015). Studies also show that teachers who plan collaboratively feel more effective in the classroom, and have more positive perceptions about their work than those who plan alone (Rimpola, 2012). Teachers who plan together report having a better understanding of student needs, developing better learning objectives, selecting better activities, and having higher morale (Cook and Faulkner, 2010).

Upcoming Events
6 - Basketball vs. Kennedale, boys away, girls home, 5:30
6 - Band Christmas Concert, @ MHS, 6:30
7 - Boys BB @ Kennedale Tournament
10 - All-City Choir Concert, 6:00, MHS
12 - The Scoop w/ Dr. Ledbetter, 3:45 and 4:15
13 - Basketball vs. Corsicana, boys home, girls away
14 - Girls BB @ Kennedale Tournament
17 - Staff Christmas Party, Fuzzy's Taco, 7:00
20 - Exams periods 1,3,5,7
21 - Exams periods 2,4,6 w/ early release @ 1:55
24 - Jan. 4 - Christmas Break
7 and 8 - Staff Development days
9 - 4th Six Weeks begins

Friday, November 9, 2018

WGMS Makes A Difference for Veterans

Each year, our school honors veterans by holding the best assembly that I have ever seen. To even call it an assembly is an understatement. It thing is an event like no other.

The video done by Cat News gave us a up close and personal view of veterans from various eras and backgrounds. The music performed by our band and choir was absolutely beautiful. Taya Kyle presented a powerful and challenging message to us about the sacrifice that all who serve make for us. Our entire student body honored the most special people in the country. Mr. Fontenot - Today you orchestrated a masterpiece.

My favorite moment of the day actually occurred well after the assembly. Two Vietnam veterans approached me after they had eaten lunch. I thanked them for their service, thanked them for being at our school today, and wished them both a happy Veterans Day. One of them replied, "No. Thank you. I have been honored for my service twice and only twice since I returned from Vietnam in 1970. Both times were here at Walnut Grove." Enough said.

Upcoming Events
12 - 7th No Zeroes Party, 3:15
13 - Parent U with Scott Poland, 5:30, L.A. Mills
15 - Parent Volunteer coffee bar for all staff, conference room
15 - Basketball scrimmage vs. FSMS, 5:30, Girla away, boys home
19 - 23 - Thanksgiving!
28 - The Scoop Zoom conference with Dr. Ledbetter, 3:45 and 4:15