Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hopping Down the Trail...

I love that quote, "When the going gets tough, QUIT!!" Unfortunately, for many individuals in our society this quote has become the reality for many reasons. In our schools, students are quick to give up on anything from small tasks, to athletic teams, to friendships because the challenge is greater than expected. Life is full of challenges as all adults know, but adults also have experienced the benefit of perseverance and survival. Our students have not all had the privilege to experience this joy and satisfaction yet. However, for some students they haven't experienced this because throughout their whole life they have been told that they can't succeed, or at least that is the perceived message that they are receiving. No educator would like to see children be unsuccessful, but at the same time many educators don't stop to think of the unintended consequences of our habitual language.

I personally have never been one to go down the path most traveled. In fact, I prefer not to go down the path less traveled either. Usually, I prefer to make a path where no one has gone before. Why? I don't really know, most say because I'm crazy and I've grown to kind of embrace that. Our students need to feel safe to fail before we can expect them to persevere. Perseverance is developed from the ability to move forward through failure and end up successful despite hurdles. If we expect our students to develop academic grit and perseverance, we have to encourage them to take chances and expand outside their comfort zone, without fear of repercussion for failure. Our students want to take chances and they want to learn, it's time that we show them the promised land. Fear of failing can be our worst enemy in education, let's remove this impediment to true learning.

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to the Rome City School District music department and music educators for being named a NAMM Best Community for Music Education!!


"PAIR"ents Partnership ...

As we move closer to the summer months, we are making preparations at RFA for the 2016-2017 school year. Among other things, we are looking to increase parent and community involvement and outreach in the upcoming year. We intend to distribute a parent needs assessment in the coming month and I ask that you take the time to provide us with feedback regarding your needs as a parent as it relates to your student's educational experience. Lastly, as always, if you have questions or concerns I urge you to contact your student's grade level administrator or myself so that we can work together to improve RFA for everyone. 

This Week at RFA...

3/28 - No School, Snow Day Give Back
3/29 - JROTC Field Trip to VA Clinic
3/29 - Key Club Meeting
3/29 - Travel Club Meeting
3/30 - PBIS Meeting
3/30 - College and Career Planning Seminar
3/30 - Musical Performance at The Beeches
3/30 - Mock Trial Field Trip to Utica Courthouse
3/31 - SBIT Meeting
3/31 - STASS Field Trip to Washington, D.C.
4/1 - Travel Club Meeting
4/1 - Varisity Bowling Banquet
4/1 - Chorus Trip to Virginia, Acappella Competition
4/2 - Mid York Colorguard Championships, CNS High School

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

Are you ready to give up? You've tried something new and it isn't going well or not as easy to implement as expected. We've all been there and we all have things on our checklists we want to ignore for now. Don't!! Persevere through the challenge and be willing to ask for help from a colleague, parent, or student. Whatever it is that has become a challenge is worth seeing through to the end. There is a reason why you ventured on that journey to begin with, don't lose sight of those purposes and goals just because of some challenges. Go and get what you want...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

MaRCh MADneSs...

'Tis the season where madness abounds!! We are crazed about college basketball, Spring is springing, snow day giveback days, our days are longer and our longest continuous stretch of school weeks without a vacation is in full swing. The reasons for anyone to go crazy at this time of year is bountiful. Throughout school, you can sense the tension increasing as we worry about time running out, state assessments on the horizon, AP exams coming in a few short weeks, and the biggest burden for many, graduation. For many of our seniors, the reality that their public education is coming to an end is becoming real. Also, for some of those young adults, the fear of the unknown and/or not knowing what they are doing after high school is even more frightening. These children, for the first time in their lives, will lose one of the greatest support systems and constants that we have to offer; the fear is real.

From all of the craziness we develop stress. Our kids are stressed, parents are stressed, and staff is stressed. Frequently in our schools, many people make decisions and portray actions that we normally would not display due to this stress. Concurrently, many of us are watching young adults handle the stress and pressure of a basketball championship from afar. Upsets abound this weekend! Why? Because those athletes have found a way to harness their fear and used it for positive energy rather than negative. Our best athletes find a way to take stress and fear and convert it to confidence. This confidence creates what many deem unforeseen performances and upsets, but to the athletes it is simply another day. We need to find a way to have this mentality in our schools. Convert our stress and fear to confidence. Be that analogy of the duck swimming in the water. It is our responsibility as adults to show our kids that fear of the unknown and stress can in fact lead to the pathway of our dreams. We just need to have enough madness to dare to face those fears.

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to Shawna House, Amanda Keane, Rockia Ricketts, Ian Pisaneschi, Ashley Blanchard for being inducted into the National Technical Honor Society!!

Congratulations to the students from Fermata Nowhere and our Select Choir for their performance on Friday night with Barry Manilow. You made RFA and the city of Rome proud!!

Congratulations to Zach Carrier, Aaron Internicola, Marybeth Flick, and Sidnee Lenaghen for receiving the Rome Chamber Character Initiative Award!!

"PAIR"ents Partnership ...

During the coming weeks and months there is a lot that your student may stress from and/or attempt to avoid. Twelfth grade students especially have the unique ability to develop "senioritis" as we all love to call it. All of us adults have been there at one point or another in lives so we know that the feeling of almost being done is real. However, it's not just twelfth grade students that can develop habits of avoidance and apathy during the last weeks of school. There are many reasons why kids display negative behaviors toward the end of the year; exams, completion of assignments, promotion in grade, summer, and many more. If you see anything that concerns you with your student, don't hesitate to contact his or her school counselor, or another school person. We all need to work together to help our children be successful. 

This Week at RFA...

3/21 - Area 51 Meeting
3/21 - Cheer Leading Dinner
3/22 - Key Club Meeting
3/22 - District Attendance Committee Meeting
3/22 - National Technical Honor Society Meeting, BOCES
3/23 - College Planning Workshop
3/23 - Symphony Orchestra Field Trip to Elementary Schools
3/23 - Mock Trial Field Trip to Utica Courthouse
3/24 - Jack Hirsch Hypnosis Show
3/25 - No School

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

What does it take to be different? There are roughly 13 weeks left in our school year, during that time, attempt 1 new thing that makes the lives of your students better and attempt 1 new thing that makes your life easier. Differences come in many shapes and sizes, you don't have to make a huge change in order to make a huge difference. Challenge yourself and be the change you want to see...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is Learning Worth the Risk...


One of the things that frustrates me most about human nature is the ability to get "stuck in a rut". By nature we are creatures of routine, comfort, and path of least resistance. However, as I reflect on my life (and I'm the sure this is the same for many), I have learned the most through moments of failure. Taking a chance on myself to attempt something that I never thought possible, or having a trusted adult encouraging me to take a leap into a world that was scary and foreign. The risk at leaving your comfort zone is tremendous. What if you fail? What if it exposes you to emotional lows? What if people laugh? What if ....? What if you SUCCEED!!

In every experience there is success. Failure is always a sign of success because failure means you tried. Without trying, you can not fail. Without failure you can not grow. Without growing you can not LEARN!! Some will argue that learning can occur without failure. Perhaps this is true, but more often than not we never get concepts right the first time we attempt to understand them, especially through childhood and adolescence. Learning without failure would imply the perfect human being, which to my knowledge science hasn't created yet. Students in today's schools are afraid of failure and afraid of attempting rigorous tasks for the fear of the teacher making them FEEL insignificant or unintelligent. The truth is, all teachers care; it's just time to show it in a different way. Academic risk taking leads to student inquiry, knowledge acquisition, and positive relationships between adults and children. After all, the first time your own child falls off their bicycle or doesn't want to try riding the bicycle you don't throw away the bicycle and tell your child to give up do you? Take the risk, the rewards are beyond your imagination!!

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to Nicholas Wilson, Spencer Parrish, Andrea Cady, Sarah Chien, Quinton Cosentino, Mackenzie D'Auito, David Jeselson, Kalei Krzemien, Devante Saenger, and Jennifer Tasco, the RFA Top Ten for the class of 2016!! What a great accomplishment!!


Congratulations to all students who participated in this past weekend's Science Fair!! It was a wonderful display of talent from our students!!

Congratulations to Kayla Barber on the Girls Indoor Track Team who placed 7th at the NYS Championships last weekend!!

Congratulations to Isabella Carpenter who finished 48th out of 200 and to David Francis who finished 49th out of 150 at the NASP State Archery Tournament!!

Congratulations to Sydnei Ward who will be participating in a local version of "Shark Tank" this week as part of the Young Entrepreneurship Program!!

Congratulations to Shawna House, Amanda Keane, Rockia Ricketts, Ian Pisaneschi, and Ashley Blanchard for being accepted into the National Technical Honor Society!!

Congratulations to Daniel Paquette for placing 3rd in the regional contest for SKILLS USA in the area of Community Service!!

"PAIR"ents Partnership ...

Recently, some information has come to my attention that parents have had difficulty communicating with school officials (being told administrators are not available for them, not free for a phone call, or that other things are more important). I ask that if you ever experience this, please contact me directly at 334-7202 or via email at pblake@romecsd.org. Our partnership (family to school) is the most vital connection needed for our students' success. Parents not having the ability to speak to an administrator is simply not acceptable in the RFA that we want to create together. That being said, I want to thank you all for continuing to take a vested interest in your child's education. Communication is the key to success and I urge you to please contact your child's teacher, counselor, administrator, or myself if you have any questions or concerns during these last 15 weeks of the school year.

This Week at RFA...

3/14 - Area 51 Meeting
3/15 - SPAC Meeting
3/15 - Key Club Meeting
3/15 - POPS Concert #1
3/16 - Mock Trial Field Trip to Utica Court House
3/16 - Winter Guard Dance Competition
3/16 - Board of Education Meeting at RFA
3/17 - POPS Concert #2
3/18 - Superintendent's Conference Day (No School for Students)
3/18 - Fermata Nowhere and Show Choir singing with Barry Manilow

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

Historically in education we measure success by a number. 100% means we are perfect!! 60 means we failed. We start with a 100 point scale and take points away for errors or actions not in compliance. What would happen if we started at 0 on the scale and added points for successes and growth. Starting with 100 assumes that everyone has background knowledge of the content, starting at 0 assumes that all of our kids need to learn. Assess your grading practices and search for a strategy that you can use that rewards knowledge acquisition as opposed to completion non-compliance.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bias or Ignorance ...

Almost on a daily basis, I come across situations where I find myself wondering if the people involved in the situation truly can't understand more than one perspective. One of the hot topics in education today is the concept of bias and social justice. Taking social justice out of the conversation, for today, bias is simply put the viewpoints that one holds regarding others or other things. We all have them and some are worse than others. For instance, I am bias toward Titleist ProV-1 #8 golf balls. I am convinced that is the only golf ball that I can play well with and no one can tell me different. Okay, that example is a little out there but they exist. In our schools, philosophy on homework, grades, discipline, and much more are all subject to our biases. The nice thing about bias is that we are able to admit and recognize that they exist which means that we can have growth producing conversations about those topics. The problem with bias is when ignorance enters the picture.

Ignorance is all of our worst enemy because it is a barrier to learning and growth. When ignorance shows up, people shut down and refuse to see more than one perspective. I have found in my experience that while it is not easy to recognize and admit bias, it can be done and generally makes someone a better, more well rounded citizen when they can recognize and admit that their viewpoint may not be the only viewpoint. I'm not sure that I've ever met someone that is willing to admit that they are ignorant. The "my way or the highway" attitude needs to be a thing of the past in our schools. Compassion, understanding, and collaboration are what it takes to be successful in the real world. I recognize that in the real world we still have deadlines, schedules, and mandates... but we can still teach accountability without being as rigid as a stone age razor. It is my hope that before I retire we all live in a society where we are able to acknowledge our biases and confront ignorance in a productive, growth producing way.

Black Knight Kudos ...

Congratulations to our VEX Robotics team on winning the Best Design award at the New York State Championships qualifying them for the World Championships again this year!!

Congratulations to the members of our A Cappella and Select Choirs for being invited to perform with Barry Manilow on 3/18 at Turning Stone!! Read 96.1 The Eagle's local blog about this here.

Congratulations to the members of our Girls Volleyball team who were selected for Tri-Valley League Awards!!
Congratulations to Mr. Agen for being the winner of Travel Club's 'Kiss a Pig' fundraising competition!! A video of the wonderful moment can be seen here.
Thank you to the Mrs. Nisiewicz and the English department for bringing A Midsummer's Night Dream to RFA live for all students to see. What a great experience!!

"PAIR"ents Partnership ...

Just a reminder that third marking period progress reports will be coming home soon. Upon receiving your student's report, have a conversation with them regarding concerns you may have. Also, contacting your student's teacher with questions about progress is never a bad tactic. We look forward to continuing to build a collaborative culture with all stakeholders at the high school.  

There are discussions being had about offering some parent professional development on technology and personal devices. Stay tuned for dates and times of these events tentatively scheduled to happen in April.

Finally, parents of students in 11th grade, our counselors have secured an ACT prep opportunity for our students free of charge. Through a grant, we are able to provide all 11th grade students in taking an online ACT prep course free of charge. Please have your student see their counselor for more information.

This Week at RFA...

3/7 - District Parent Advisory Committee Meeting
3/8 - DASA Task Force Meeting
3/9 - BOCES Open House
3/9 - Panasci Memorial Art Show Opening
3/10 - Community Schools Conference
3/11 - Faculty Art and Music Recital
3/12 - RFA Science Fair
3/12 - Winterguard Competition at Johnstown
3/12 - Indoor Drumline Competition at CNS

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

For the remainder of the school year, pay careful attention to the conversations you are having with colleagues, students, and parents. Listen carefully and seek to understand the opposing point of view from your personal opinion. This strategy will help to recognize bias and differentiate it from ignorance. When we listen with our biases in check, great things happen for all people involved in the situation!