Tag Archive for Monday Memo

What’s the Big Deal with Pinterest?

“What’s the big deal with Pinterest?” my husband asked me as he saw me searching some of my pinned boards.  I didn’t really have a good answer for him, until he followed up with, “why not just do a google search and specify images?”

That certainly is one way to find an image of something when you need it, however, I don’t always know that I need to find something.  That’s where Pinterest comes in; you don’t know what you don’t know so you’re not going to search for it! (Those of you on Twitter probably experienced this when you realized this benefit on Twitter!)

Here’s the perfect example of where Pinterst comes into your life and helps you when you weren’t even searching:

Have you ever had a pair of flip-flops break? I have several times. It irritated me, but I just tossed them and bought new ones.  Never did I think to search for a way to fix them (aside from when I was at work and had to just rely on tape and walking very carefully). Well, I was checking my Pinterest feed (not even sure if it’s called a ‘feed’ on Pinterest) and look at what I discovered:

As much as I love decorating for Christmas/winter theme, I’ve never really sat on google searching for innovative ways to decorate, but look what I found on Pinterest:

Fill balloons with water and add food coloring, once frozen cut the balloons off & they look like giant marbles.

So neat, right?  Or what about these ideas, that again, I don’t know what I would have had to type into google to find:

Paint in ziplock bags, taped to table. Great distraction, no mess!
Who knew aluminum foil was the key for removing food from glass dishes…Find more cleaning ideas here.
balloon powered racers
Make a family fingerprint ornament with salt dough + silver spray paint
Baking soda neutralizes the ph in the soil and nothing will grow there. use baking soda around all of the edges of flower beds to keep the grass and weeds from growing into beds. Just sprinkle it onto the soil so that it covers it lightly. Do this twice a year – spring and fall.
Hot dog spiders. Before cooking, stick pasta through hot dogs, then boil ! -Will have to try this for fun!

OK, so I do find a lot of random and neat ideas that I never would have considered searching for, but since I follow a lot of the same great educators that I follow on twitter, I find a lot of great ideas to share with my teachers, like these:

Six Classroom Questions to start off the school year!
Nonfiction anchor chart
Reading Recommendation Bulletin Board
math journal entry for types of triangles and sum of angles in a triangle
Great way to display class rules, reminders, etc. Use student photos with speech bubbles

Or I’ve found these great images/quotes to put up on the bathroom doors:

Seriously, I probably never would have searched for any of these ideas, but in just a few minutes each day I can check my Pinterest feed and repin a few items I think staff may be interested in and share it on my Monday Memo each week.  Quite honestly, I only check Pinterest a few times a week, so in less than 10 minutes a week I find so many great ideas to share with them. When you’re on Pinterest and see these images, you can also click on them to get to the original blog post/site that explains more about the image (I did not do that for this blog post).

So what are you waiting for? Start Pinning!!  Here’s a great blog post to help you get started: Pinterest-My New Love for Visual Bookmarking Education and Teaching Web Content

My "Coaching Hat"

Here’s another cross-post of my Friday Focus post for staff, in which I openly reflect for them on how my practice impacts their reflection. I’d love to hear feedback from other administrators trying to balance between the coaching and evaluating hats.

In a previous Friday Focus posts I have shared with you my goal to get in classrooms and provide feedback and questions encouraging you to reflect. I also shared with you in this post that I want to act more like an Instructional Coach than a supervisor to help improve instruction and learning. Throughout this year, I have networked with other administrators (both on twitter and in “real life”) and had conversations around evaluations and coaching. In addition, I recently joined DPI’s Teacher Design Team-the committee that is developing the teacher rubric to evaluate teacher practice. Throughout these formal and informal conversations, I have struggled with trying to figure out how I can formally evaluate teachers, yet be seen as someone to give non-evaluatory feedback in a coaching manner to help your reflective process in the classroom. I have read books on instructional coaching and read books geared towards principals, though none that combine the two roles for an administrator. I’m sure by now, you’re probably wondering why I am sharing my own personal reflection with you?

Because I recognize that when I come in your classroom and send you an email or talk to you afterwards, that it may make you feel nervous or worried…which is NOT my intent! As I reflect, I realize, I have probably never clearly explained (or maybe I never clearly understood myself) what my intent is as I come in classrooms and give feedback. When I am come into classrooms for informal walkthroughs I am coming in with a “coaching hat” on, so to speak. Quite honestly, I feel like I’m doing the same when I come in for the formal observations (for the evaluation process) and meet with you afterwards to discuss how the lesson went. I may pose a question to you that stretches your thinking that is not meant to be intrusive or evaluatory, but is a question to have you reflect on why you do what you do. When you are reflective and consciously aware of why you do what you do, you will continue to utilize effective strategies for students in your classroom. I can share with you from my own experience that when I had a guest administrator with me a while back, she asked me ma ny questions for her learning, but as I explained my answers to her, I realized how much it made me reflect on why I do those things she asked about. So, my key message to you is that unless I specifically say, “I have a concern…” then you have nothing to be concerned about, I am just in there wearing my “coaching hat.”

In the future, I would love for us as a staff to begin collaborating even more for our learning and student learning as a result. We have had several staff members be recorded and reflected while watching their own lesson. Several staff members have o bserved each other to gain new ideas and we have even had teachers from other districts visit us. I have recently begun to read about other schools taking this even one step further and putting in the practice of “Instructional Rounds” in which teachers go together in groups to observe and have follow-up discussions. Here are some of the posts I’ve read on this topic:
Teachers Observing Teachers: Instructional Rounds
Walking the Learning Walk
Engaging Teachers in Instructional Rounds
Don’t worry, this isn’t something we’re starting tomorrow 😉 However, if you are interested in taking some walks through classrooms, just let me know and I’d be happy to cover your class for you!

For your reflection this week...how do you engage in conversations with others to reflect on instructional practices and student learning? What are your thoughts on if I’ve had an impact on your reflection process as a result of walkthoughs (this question you can actually hold on to, because in a few weeks I’ll be asking for your anonymous feedback on a survey to help me reflect).

Image by Kathy Cassidy


Here is another cross-post of my “Friday Focus” from my Staff Memo Blog this week:

Previously, I shared with you that I planned to read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck over break, because I had heard about it on Twitter and read another educator’s blog post about it. The premise of the book is that there are two different mind states from which we operate:

    • Fixed Mindset – you believe your intelligence, skills and abilities are carved in stone, or static.


  • Growth Mindset – you believe that you can cultivate your basic qualities through your efforts.



Dweck draws upon studies and examples of students, business leaders, athletes, and her own teaching and personal life as she discusses how these differing mindsets can affect how we approach anything in life. I found this book to be extremely interesting to me for myself as a leaner, as a teacher, as a principal, as a parent, and even as a wife.

As an educator, the student that stood out in my mind the most as I read this is that student that has so much potential, but just doesn’t put forth the effort. Maybe he/she is even highly gifted and has excelled so easily in previous grades or units, but now that the academics are getting more difficult, he’s not used to having to study or work at it and doesn’t. I’m sure that you can all identify a student like this in your classroom. A great graphic I found that highlights each mindset is below (click on this link if you need a larger view):

Image by Nigel Holmes



So, what can you do (besides pull your hair out) to help these students? One of the biggest tools we have to help these students is our feedback/praise. In one of Dweck’s studies with hundreds of students, they started out with groups that were equal in IQ scores, but then were given different types of feedback/praise. In one group students were given feedback that praised their ability (ex: “Wow, you got eight right. That’s really good, you must be smart at this.”) while the other group was given feedback/praise on their effort (ex: “Wow, you got eight right, that’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.”). After praise on ability was given, they could begin to see students differ in each group. The students in the praise group were pushed into a fixed mindset. When given a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from and instead picked an easy problem that they already knew how to do. They didn’t want to do anything that would expose their inability to answer a question. In contrast, the students in the other group that were praised for their effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from. When the problems became difficult, they enjoyed them and showed better performance. The effort praised kids showed better and better performance as the ability praised kids plummeted.

What does this mean for us? Kids are very intuitive to what they’re being judged on and it can affect their mindset. The very tool you have to help students be successful is in your choice of words as you provide them with feedback to empower them. If you praise students for being smart or talented, in the long-run, you will be leading them into a fixed mindset. If you give praise on their effort and hard work, you will be fostering in them the belief that they can continue to work hard to learn and achieve.

It is also important to think about yourself…do you have a fixed or growth mindset of yourself? What messages are you telling yourself when you find something that you don’t know how to do, or you try and fail at something? Do you believe that you can keep working at it to learn it or do you give up? Do you ask others for help when you’re not sure or are you afraid that they will think you’re stupid?

I could seriously talk about what I’ve learned in this book forever, but I know you only have a few minutes to read this. For your reflection this week, please think about what your mindset is and on what type of feedback you give your students.

Leading the Way with Staff Memos

Just over a year ago I heard Todd Whitaker speak to many principals at the annual AWSA (Association of Wisconsin School Administrators) convention. As always, I left with many great tips to continue leading my school, but the biggest tool I learned about was providing my staff with a weekly memo. Whitaker called it a “Friday Flash” or “Friday Focus” and is used to share best practices with staff, along with upcoming events and anything that can be shared in a memo and not waste staff meeting time (that could be better spent on learning/discussion).

I have since found a few other principal blogs used to share weekly memos with staff that I continue to follow for ideas, so I thought it was only fair that I share what I’m doing here for others.
I immediately began implementing this tool last year as a “Monday Memo” to staff. Whitaker says that this should be given to staff on brightly colored paper in their mailboxes, but I kept mine to email since I am also trying to lead staff using technology. This year I have expanded this practice to include:
*Monday Memo that includes “Great Things I Noticed Last Week,” “Upcoming Events,” “Nuts & Bolts Notes,” and “Tech Tips”
*Friday Focus that shares my professional reflections with staff on something I am reading or learning with staff
*Created a blog that includes these posts, the staff google calendar, occassional staff polls, my shelfari widget (so staff can see what I’m reading), and other resources
Since refining this practice, I have really come to see the benefit of sharing “Great Things I Noticed” because I have observed the same practices be implemented in other classrooms after posting them. Some of the Friday Focus messages I have posted have encouraged discussions that I have overheard in the hallways or had staff mention their reflections to me. Since starting this I have also had a couple of staff ask about how to get started with blogging, how to get started on twitter (since I often share things I learn from people on twitter), and ask to borrow books I’ve read.
I have previously shared a cross-post of one of my Friday Focus posts HERE.
Here’s an example of one of my Monday Memo posts from December:

Great Things I Noticed Last Week:
*While sitting in a 5K mini-lesson on setting a student excitedly said, “I just made a connection to another book we read!”
*In another 5K classroom students were practicing their Jolly Phonics with the SMARTBoard program and were able to read the following words: coast, grain, punch, and chimpanzee using their sounds. I bet the 1st grade teachers love to hear this!
*After 5th grade student presentations, the class was asked to give 3 positive comments and 3 things to improve on. I was amazed to hear the feedback given to students by students and surprised how much Daily 5/Cafe language carried over into the feedback for science presentations.
*5th grade started keeping track of “Writing Non-Negotiables” as writing skills are taught in mini-lessons. You can see the list from one class in the picture on the right. Mrs. B says that this list has really cut down on the time spent conferring with students for writing revising/editing–she does NOT help revise if they have a mistake that is on the non-negotiable list. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a list of expectations like this at each grade level?

Events This Week:
*Monday – Mentors meeting at 3:05 in Media Center
*Tuesday – I will be gone all day at the SLATE conference (School Leaders Advancing Technology in Education) in Wisconsin Dells.
*Thursday – No Office Day–I’ll be spending my day in 3-5th grade classrooms
K/2/4 Music Concert (including 5th grade band) at 6:30 PM
*Friday – Just a reminder to show your school spirit and wear your school shirt (please help remind your students too)

“Nuts & Bolts” Notes:
*Just a reminder that next week is already mid-quarter (I had to triple check the calendar to be sure!) so make sure you’re ready to send home a progress report for each of your students.
* We’ve added another Tech Tuesday to the calendar for December 20th. I know that’s a busy week, but there’s quite a few teachers excited about using Pinterest or wanting to learn how before break so Jean and Bethany will be teaching us how that day.

Tech Tip:
*I’ve seen some great websites being used on the SMARTBoards and in the computer lab that I’m sure students would continue to use at home if they have internet access. You can show them how to access the site from the student resources on the district webpage (if it’s there) or include the web address in your newsletter, which can be quite lengthy and difficult to type at times. If you want to learn how to make a shortened web address to share with students/parents for home and for easy access in the computer lab you just need to go to http://bitly.com and sign up for an account. Here’s a screencast I made to show you how to use this tool. Let me know if you need any help getting started on this.

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