Sunday, November 29, 2015

Giving Kindness is Free...

What if everyday were similar to a day between Thanksgiving and New Year's? I ask this question because as I walked through the malls and stores this past weekend, it's ironic to me to see how many more kind and giving people you come across during this one month stretch. I find people saying please more frequently, I see people donating to causes, and I certainly hear the words "thank you" more often for simple gestures like letting someone go onto the escalator first. What would our society be like if every day were like this?

I ask this question because I wonder, does everyone suddenly change into some bizarro personality because that's what they think they are supposed to be during the holidays or do all of the really polite, well-mannered people suddenly emerge from hiding and spend time in public during this month? We all know manners, how to be respectful, how to treat others... so what is so hard about being that way every day? I am excited for our school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program to get off the ground in the coming weeks because it's about time we find more ways to acknowledge positive behavior. Too often, people don't do the little things in life because we feel like they may go unnoticed or not given praise. Maybe the praise and recognition we need is not external but internal. Perhaps the feeling that one gets when they do a small gesture of kindness or go out of their way to help another is what we need. We all know that society would be a better place with more random acts of kindness... it's time to stop preaching to the choir about it and start leading the orchestra.

Black Knight Kudos ...

Thank you to everyone who participated in any of our giving programs prior to Thanksgiving. What a great gesture as a school community to provide for others.

Congratulations to the Junior class for a well organized and attended Open Mic Night!!

This Week at RFA...

12/1 - Ed. Policy Committee Meeting
12/2 - STASS Meeting
12/2 - SBIT Meeting
12/2 - Faculty Meeting
12/2 - Board of Education Business Meeting
12/3 - NYSSMA Field Trip, All-State
12/5 - SAT Examination
12/5 - Robotics Competition @ RFA

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

How often do we focus on the positive behaviors in our classrooms? More often than not, when a kid does something kind it goes unnoticed because as adults we know 'that's what they are supposed to be doing'. But they are still kids and they are still learning. Maybe instead of addressing every negative behavior and drawing more attention to an unruly situation, try spending a week making a big deal about every positive interaction or behavior. Go out of your way to say "thank you" to a kid that you witness doing something great, especially if you don't know them.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Because I Said So...

This past week I had the privilege and honor of meeting with and fielding questions from a Syracuse University Project Advanced (SUPA) English class. Having the opportunity to meet with kids and answer their questions is always the best part of any day. Our students bring a unique perspective to schools and can really cause us to think about 'WHY' things are the way that they are. After all, isn't public education supposed to be about what kids want and need? For the longest time, since I can remember, the phrase "because I said so" has been a fixture in public schools. Teachers use it frequently when kids question an assignment, topic, or expectation; administrators use it frequently when challenged by teachers or parents; and district leaders and politicians use it as a blanket clause to justify decisions. The reality is, we often use the phrase "because I said so" because we don't know any other way to do what it is that we do, educate.

Public schools have been in a rut for the better part of a century. Yes, a century. Not a year, not a decade, not a generation, but a century. Schools feel very similar to what they did 100 years ago. We are hesitant to make changes to our schedules, courses, offerings, approaches, instructional methods, and more. After all, it worked for us when we went to school so it must still work for them, right?! However, I'm 38 and when I was in high school we used a computer maybe once a year, not once a period like we expect our students of today to do. What worked once upon a time doesn't always work anymore. It's time to listen to our kids and make the necessary adjustments to public education and become 21st century establishments for their benefit. If we truly expect our future citizens to be able to change the world, we need to teach them to live and survive in the world that exists around them now, not the world that we grew up in of yesteryear. For once, maybe our students need to be able to use the line, "because I said so."

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to the sophomore class and thank you for everyone who participated in the turkey donation to the Rescue Mission. In all 50 turkeys were donated!!

Congratulations to STASS and thank you to everyone who participated in their canned food drive. More food was collected than we can weigh, at least 5 flat bed carts left the building on Friday to help families in need!

Congratulations to Jed Musch and the VEX Robotics team who were recognized by the Genesis Group's "Celebration of Education" awards program on Thursday, 11/19.

Congratulations to all of our Fall athletic teams and athletes on a very successful season. Good luck to our winter sport athletes and teams as they begin their seasons.

This Week at RFA...

11/24 - ASVAB Administration
11/24 - Open Mic Night
11/25-11/27 - Building Closed
11/26 - Happy Thanksgiving!!
11/27-11/28 - Bobby T Ciccotti Hockey Tournament 

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

One of the most challenging things to do as any professional or adult is to accept feedback or criticism. We try to call it constructive criticism to make it sound and feel more positive, but often times we still take it too personally. When our students give us feedback it normally is even more hard to swallow because they are kids, what do they know? I bet you will get some of the best feedback possible when allowing your students to provide you information in a safe and productive way. Seek some feedback from your students about how the first quarter of the year went and see what can be done to better the learning environment for everyone!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What Happened to the Common Core?

 Roughly 4 years ago the entire educational community was spun into a tizzy and the alarms were sounding as if our entire universe and all that we stood for was about to explode because of the Common Core Learning Standards  (CCLS). Mass confusion, hatred, fear, assessment, optimism, APPR (New York's teacher evaluation system), money (yes we can't forget to mention Federal/State financial aid), and many other things ensued following the arrival of the CCLS. Back then, it almost felt as if the world of education was being terminated in light of a new effort, an effort that none of us could explain or figure out.

Fast forward to today and I ask, what ever happened to the Common Core? All the hysteria, panic, fear.... education was being ruined... where did it go? Schools look very similar today as they did then and one could even argue that schools that implemented the CCLS with fidelity are finding increased academic outcomes. Of course we are still dealing with the stress and issues related to over assessing kids and the APPR process, but neither of those are the Common Core. Still, the CCLS have been a positive shift in education if not for any reason other than we haven't abandoned them yet after the scrutiny they have caused. Most educators feel the standards are positive, productive, and worth while. The CCLS have also caused schools to think collaboratively and combine efforts in regard to reading and writing while bringing our issues in math to the forefront. While we may not all agree about the approach to implementation and curricular decisions made as a result of the CCLS, hopefully we can all see the standards themselves are well written and provide a good foundation for developing our curriculum.

To that end, our new commissioner in New York State, MaryEllen Elia, has asked our help in collecting feedback about the Common Core. This link: http://www.nysed.gov/aimhighny will take you to a survey to provide her with your feedback regarding the Common Core. While the survey is not a referendum on the CCLS, it is an opportunity to provide feedback about the standards. I encourage all educators to take a moment and let your voice be counted.

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to Jed Musch and the VEX Robotics team who are being recognized by the Genesis Group's "Celebration of Education" awards program.

Congratulations to Marian Draper for her performance this weekend at the NYS Cross-Country Championships.

Congratulations to the Black Knights VEX Robotics team on their performance this weekend at Liverpool High School.

This Week at RFA...

11/16 - Second Marking Period Begins
11/16 - College Application Assistance Night, 5-7 pm, RFA Library
11/16 - Parent Advisory Committee Meeting
11/17 - Rotary Interact Club Field Trip
11/17 - Jill Pekarski Guest Speaker for Journalism and Knight Times
11/17 - Discipline and Attendance Meeting
11/18 - NYS Academic Excellence Scholarship Announcement
11/18 - MDA Lock-Up Fundraiser Event
11/18 - Smart Schools Investment Planning Team
11/18 - Board of Education Meeting
11/19 - Field Trip to 9/11 Memorial and Museum
11/19 - Sophomore Seminar, Law Enforcement & Fire Department
11/19 - SBIT Meeting
11/19 - Dr. Monger Guest Speaking from Cornell University
11/19 - Teacher Coordinators Meeting
11/20 - West Point Museum Field Trip
11/20 - PBIS Meeting
11/20 - Area All-State Music Festival
11/20 - Field Trip to Munson William Proctor Art Institute
11/20 - Shop With A Cop Fundraiser, Basketball Game @ Strough Middle
11/21 - Mathletics Competition at Westmoreland
11/21 - Area All-State Music Festival
11/22 - JROTC Basket Raffle Fundraiser
ONGOING - RFA Ceramic and Sculpture Display at Jervis Library
ONGOING - STASS Canned Food Drive
ONGOING - Sophomore Class Turkey Collection
11/24 - Open Mic Night

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

When was the last time you allowed your students to run the lesson? Hopefully it was sometime last week or anytime other than never. Instead of doing the traditional worksheet to demonstrate knowledge or review for that test, let your students develop the review lesson and tasks associated. You may be pleasantly surprised with their knowledge and may learn something about their learning styles you didn't already know.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Morale? Huh...

One of the prevailing trends in education is to hear that morale is low in our schools. Teachers' morale is low, students are negative about their school experience, and parents are just frustrated with the whole ball of wax. Walk into almost any school and ask the administration this question,  "what's the must important thing to fix in your school currently?" Almost universally you will get the cliche answer of,  "morale."

Is that truly the case though? I will admit that I'm one of those administrators who thought morale was low and that's the solution to all of our problems, but I'm not sure that's true. I have struggled to find a teacher not wanting to teach kids to the best of their ability. If morale was low, wouldn't we expect to see people "mailing it in." Teachers and staff members routinely come to work every day smiling and ready to make a difference. Even in the face of disruptive students and rude mannerisms by our kids, the adults in our schools still show up every day ready to make a difference. So I pose the question, is morale the problem or is the problem really the inability of leadership to make a difference? Being a leader that's kind of a loaded question, but it's the truth. It's time that we, as leaders, step up and make a difference for our communities. Morale is fine, but stress is not. By taking care of our school communities and helping our staff's by reducing stress, not only will morale be higher than ever but our adults may just become the super heroes that we hope the can be.

Black Knight Kudos ...

A giant Black Knight thank you to all of the veterans in our community, past and present, who have sacrificed for our way of life. Happy Veteran's Day!!

Congratulations to our new National Honor Society inductees. 65 students in all have joined the RFA chapter this year.

Congratulations to our athletes who participated in the girls cross-country, boys cross-country, and girls swimming Sectional competitions this past weekend.

This Week at RFA...

11/10 - Rotary Interact Club Polio Vaccine Fundraiser (lunches)
11/10 - Field Trip to Oneida Community House
11/10 - Field Trip to MWP Institute
11/11 - VETERAN'S DAY, No School
11/12 - Sophomore Seminar on Veterinary Science
11/12 - Guest Speaker Andrew Derminio (Knight Times/Journalism)
11/12 - Rotary Interact Club Polio Vaccine Fundraiser (lunches)
11/12 - Math Competition Field Trip to MVCC
11/12 - DASA Task Force Meeting
11/13 - End of Marking Period 1
11/13 - Rotary Interact Club Polio Vaccine Fundraiser (lunches)
11/13 - Guidance Field Trip to MVCC
11/13 - Cap and Gown Ordering During Lunches
11/14 - Vex Robotics Competition at Liverpool H.S.
ONGOING - STASS Canned Food Drive
ONGOING - Sophomore Class Turkey Collection

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

When was the last time you went out of your way to help a colleague that may have been having a bad day, simply because it was the right human thing to do? Take a moment and this week and try to do something nice for a colleague. Maybe introduce yourself to that person you never met even though you've worked together for 10 years, maybe just compliment someone on their hair or smile. We all have personal baggage that other's don't carry, supporting each other reduces our stress!!

Monday, November 2, 2015

A New Beginning...

 One of the most challenging things that all human beings can face is change. By nature we enjoy the comfort of routine and knowing what happens next. In education, most of our whole lives are centered around routine and clearly defined expectations. We have bells that tell us when to leave or arrive at class, due dates for assignments, clear and precise directions for how to complete assignments, and curriculum that tells us what we should be teaching.

So what happens when these routines are disrupted? In our classrooms we have mastered the art of improvisation because rarely does a lesson go the way we want in our head. However, many of us still struggle to handle change when we are not in control or don't know what's coming. This week I begin my new journey with my new professional family at Rome Free Academy High School. While I myself am excited, nervous, optimistic, and yes a bit scared; I know that the foundation established at RFA will help this transition. I look forward to the opportunity ahead and through collaboration as educators, I am excited about the amazing things we can do together. Change is never easy, but through listening and open communication, anyone can make the change process what it needs to be to benefit all.

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to the girls cross-country team for winning their second consecutive Tri-Valley League Championship this past weekend.

Congratulations to the RFA Marching Band on their second place finish this past weekend during the NYSFBC State Championships.

This Week at RFA...

11/3 - RFA Blood Drive in the Small Gym
11/3 - Education Policy Committee Meeting
11/4 - STASS Meeting in the Small Cafe
11/4 - Faculty Meeting in the Small Cafe
11/4 - BOE Meeting
11/4 - National Honor Society Induction in the Auditorium
11/5 - French Club Dinner in the Cafe
11/6 - FBLA Field Trip to Herkimer BOCES
11/7 - SAT Exams
11/7 - Marching Band Performance in Veteran's Parade
11/7 - NHS Dodgeball Tournament in the Large Gym

Worth the Read...




Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

Think about the last professional transition that you went through. I'm sure that things went well while others did not go so well. What could you have done differently to help yourself and/or your colleagues have a better transition experience?