Friday, January 11, 2019

"If you do not create change, change will create you." ~author unknown

I am a swimmer.  Being a swimmer on cold January mornings in Wisconsin is not easy.  Especially when my alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m.  
"Sit up," I whisper to myself.   I will myself upright and pull my legs warily over the edge of the bed.
"Lean in," I say to myself, and I lean forward to standing, giving myself a few seconds to steady.
Lean in...
I've been thinking about leaning in lately.
Lean into conflict.
Lean into the uncomfortable.
Lean into differences.
     ~Lean into change.

Homeostasis is the ability to maintain a certain temperature.  Like a thermostat set to a certain temperature, in homeostasis self-regulation happens.  If it gets too hot,  cool air will kick in.  If it gets too cold, heat will kick in.  Whatever the gauge is set to, the thermostat will regulate.  Similarly, there is an unconscious process within each of us that self-regulates.  We have relationship set points, money set points, and weight set points.  We have comfort zones--sometimes ones that we are completely unaware of.  Sometimes we come up against our own homeostasis-our own comfort zone, especially when we are experiencing change.  We don't want to move out of what we know, of what we are comfortable with.

After I steady myself, I lean into the cold darkness of my house and leave the warm safety and comfort of my bed.  It is not pretty.  I am not a morning person.  Just ask my husband.  I lean into the cold car that will take me to the Y for my morning swim.  It's always easier to stay in my warm, comfortable bed, but when I lean into the things I do not want to do, those that are uncomfortable for whatever reason, I often find that the leaning in is exactly what I need.  It is what helps me grow.

The natatorium (where the pool is housed) is always toasty warm.  I have to pass the woodsy smelling sauna that attempts to pull me back to warmth and safety, but I choose to lean in, toward the pool I know will be cold and uncomfortable.  I pass the tempting, still whirlpool, the therapy pool, also warm and still, and into the chilly competition pool area.  Leaving the balmy warmness to submerge myself into the cold, silent pool is no easy feat, especially at 5 a.m.  Leaving what is warm, comfortable and familiar never really is easy, is it?

As I sit precariously on the edge of the pool, I say out loud to myself, "Beth, just lean in..." and I plunge into the cold water.  The first few laps are always tough (like change is at first)  and I eventually fall into my swim rhythm, letting my breathing regulate, allowing my mind to find that place that fluctuates between letting go and thinking through the many parts of my life that are new position out of the classroom that has been my home for over twenty years, my daughter going off to college, my youngest son getting his driver's license, my husband and I sitting across from each other in the living room of an empty house, looking at each other and wondering how we will navigate a home without our children romping through it.

No, naturally we don't want to move out of what we know, out of what is safe, known, comfortable and warm.  It is human nature to stay where everything is status quo and yet so much of what I read and experience around change suggests that when we are aware of how change affects us, we are more apt to respond to change in a way that helps us navigate change with grace, and also allows us to learn more about ourselves as we grow through change.  The change isn't what is most important.  How we respond, react, and adapt to change is what is important.

We are going through change at our small but mighty Stone Bank School right now.  As an entire staff, we try our hardest to do the right thing, say the right thing, reply to emails and phone calls in a timely manner, do the very best for each and every one of our learners each and every minute of our days (and nights), live our lives with integrity, and embrace the changes we are experiencing right now.  Through all of this, we often times forget to step back to give ourselves some much needed space to reflect on how we are operating as we navigate change.  Sometimes we need to turn the mirror on ourselves, look inward, and ask, 'How am I navigating this change?"  It can be uncomfortable at times, yes, and as we lean in together, we discover a lot about ourselves, both individually, and as a team, as we collectively navigate change.  Our families and community are a part of this team and through this change, I invite you to lean in with us.  When we lean in together, we create space for refining what we already do, as well as begin to see opportunities to improve our small, mighty school.

At a conference, Jeff Bezos once said, "What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you - what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind - you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn't a strategy."  I especially love this as it gives me pause to not blame others for the change, but rather to look inward and reflect on how I am navigating the change, which helps me to ask myself how am I being a part of the solution and growth moving forward.

This blog post is really quite simply my own ramblings and reflections as I try to look inward to myself as I navigate change.  My hope for us collectively is that we navigate our changes with grace and integrity as we look together toward the future.

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and take some time to lean in this weekend...then lean back out and reflect.  Drop a comment onto the blog so we can share our thoughts and ideas.

Be Well,
Beth Wartzenluft

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Get Physical! Physical Education at Stone Bank School

I went to Hartland Elementary North from kindergarten to 8th grade. My physical education teacher was Mr. Frye. From kindergarten on, he encouraged me to run and at a parent- teacher conference one year he said to my mom, "When she puts those running shoes on, off she goes, around and around and around the backstops, never slowing down!"

Phy. Ed. class saved me in school as it was a time during the day where I could just open up and get moving, which in turn helped me return to class, physically spent, and ready to learn. Mr. Frye, and countless other physical education teachers and coaches, helped make physical fitness an integral part of my life then, and now into adulthood. "Children desperately need to learn the importance of physical fitness, how to achieve it, and how to maintain it. Well taught physical education keeps students moving and motivated, building their competence and confidence so that they can stay fit over a lifetime" (USA Today, December, 2018). We are very fortunate here at Stone Bank school to have two extremely talented and dedicated physical education teachers, Mrs. Jody Vance and Mr. Dan Green. Mrs. Vance and Mr. Green encourage, educate and coach our learners in the importance of choosing physically active lifestyles, from very early on.

According to the Center for Disease Control, students who are physically active tend to have better grades, better school attendance, improved cognitive performance like memory and concentration, and exhibit more on-task behaviors in learning environments. Mrs. Vance and Mr. Green use the six standards for Physical Education set forth by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Click here for the WI Physical Education Standards.

Click here to see what Physical Education at Stone Bank School is all about.

Mrs. Vance and Mr. Green want students to understand how important it is to be active every day and to make physical activity a priority for both personal health and personal enjoyment. An analysis of 19 studies involving 586 kids, teens, and young adults was published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. "This analysis found that short 10-to 40- minute bursts of exercise led to an immediate boost in concentration and mental focus, likely by improving the blood flow to the brain" (The Boston Globe, March 2013). This year students will once again be encouraged to challenge themselves, along with their families, to make physical activity a priority at home during their free time in the long, cold, winter months. A fun "winter workout" incentive will be offered to students starting in January. Watch for details coming home with students after break.

Middle School students recently had an opportunity in class to collaborate with classmates to explore strategies, concepts and elements that go into creating an active game. They were innovative and creative in coming up with original target games that had some unique rules and used a variety of equipment and tactics. Not only were students physically active during this unit, they were also practicing important life skills they will continue to use throughout their lives like collaboration, problem solving, time management, creativity and critical thinking. See the video here!

New research by the Physical Activity Council of 40,000 Americans shows children who do not have physical education are more than twice as likely to be completely sedentary outside of school. Furthermore, children who have physical education are two to three times more likely to play sports and be active outside of school than children without physical education. At Stone Bank School, we strive to educate the whole child, therefore making physical activity a priority every day, whether at recess or in Phy. Ed. class, and we encourage you all to make physical education a priority in your lives as well!

Now get out there and get moving! Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you!

"Physical fitness is not only one of the keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity."
~John F. Kennedy

Thursday, November 29, 2018

You're Invited!

SAVE THE DATE: Monday December 10, 2019, 6:00-7:30 pm
read on...

The snow is lying very deep.
My house is sheltered from the blast.
I hear each muffled step outside,
I hear each voice go past.
But I'll not venture in the drift
out of this bright security,
till enough footsteps come and go
to make a path for me."
          ~Agness Lee

As December descends upon us, many of us begin the month with a large and ever growing 'to do' list.  Boots, hats, snow pants, holiday decorations, preparations, and bustle, bustle, bustle hurries us along.  I invite you to come to school and slow down for a few hours and create a Gift of Writing for someone in your life, amidst all of the hurry. 

Gifts of Writing are simply your words and memories, thoughtfully created, that become a gift to someone in your life.  I have been in education for over 25 years now and Gifts of Writing have become a tradition for all of my students and families and this year, my first year out of the classroom, I get to share this tradition with my new Stone Bank community!  

Please join us on Monday December 10th from 6:00-7:30 pm in the library at Stone Bank School to create a Gift of Writing for someone in your life.  Families are encouraged to come together and all you need to bring are some of your favorite writing utensils.  

I look forward to spending some time together with you and yours, on this very special Stone Bank event.

See you on Monday December 10th!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

“We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents” . ~ Bob Ross

I got the distinct pleasure of being in a few art classes this week and wait until you see and hear about art classes at Stone Bank School!

Kym Richardson, our art teacher, uses TAB (click for more info) as a way to engage, teach, and think about art.  

Following are some of the things I noticed about art class...

  • learners knew exactly where supplies and materials were as they were/are out, ready, organized, and clearly labeled.

  • A student was working on a painting, with a Bob Ross video playing next to him. Bob Ross was guiding him, step by step, as he painted.  He came across a technique that he didn't have the correct art tool for, so another student came to his side.  They rewound the video a bit, watched one part again, then together, went to find a tool that would suit the artist's need. The artist tried the tool, with his friend by his side, critiquing its ability to achieve the desired "Bob Ross" effect.  When the tool didn't work, they returned the tool and went looking for another one, with a revised vision of what kind of tool the student artist would need.  Ultimately, they tried two more tools, until finally settling on one.  Then, the two artists returned to their work, side by side, creating two different pieces of art, both using the art room as a shared studio, where careful and thoughtful design allows for this kind of work.

  • The artists that I met were all working on different pieces of art.  Some were painting, some were working with perspective, some were using chalk to work on shading and it was clear that they had been taught how to "do" each art technique, that they were getting time to practice these techniques, and that if they needed a reminder or refresher, they had resources all over the classroom/artist studio to help them.

I guess I just remember being in art class and creating the exact same thing as everyone else, but in here, in this carefully designed art studio, budding artists not only create their own, unique works of art, but they talk about why they choose different types of art try out.  The "Artist Habits of Mind" (below) helps them also talk and write about their art.  

In talking with Ms. Richardson, she is constantly observing, assessing, and responding to the needs of these budding artists.  She has an expert eye toward what artists from age four to 15 need, in order to be able to explore and learn about different way to create and express themselves through art, all rooted in these Artists Habits of Mind.  

Thank-you, Ms. Richardson, for creating such a rich learning environment for our learners and families, ask your children about art!

Have a nice weekend,

Friday, November 2, 2018

Learning and Grading and Assessment, Oh My!

Go ahead and google anything about grading and assessment.  You will likely get results that range from "Get Rid of Grades" to "No More Zeros" to "Confessions from a Grade-Inflating Professor" to "What do Grades Really Mean" to a myriad of opinions and beliefs from parents, teachers, students, community members, administrators, and everyone in between!  Grading and assessment have become hotly contested topics in education lately, and we are going to be embarking on some reading and discussing of what are the best practices in grading, assessing, and the reporting out of learning here at Stone Bank School.

YOU ARE INVITED~to our first round of readings and discussion on November 27th from 7:30-8:30 am in the cafeteria at Stone Bank School.  I am attaching two articles and one body of research in preparation for our first discussion.  The body of research is quite extensive, yet also gives some great history of grading.  We will be breaking up into small groups to dissect each article, and then sharing our whole group at the end of our time together.

The purpose of this time is to help us learn about and weed through the changes we see in grading, assessment and the reporting out of learning, along with looking to our own philosophies and beliefs and how they may impact or fit into new ways of doing this work.

We look forward to seeing you on November 27th and until then...Happy Reading!  If you happen to find any articles that you think would enhance our learning, please share with me and I will post them on the blog.  Thanks!
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Writing Workshop

Dear Families,                                                      November 2018

I am writing today to give you a “behind the scenes” look at our new
writing curriculum being implemented in kindergarten through
eighth grade at Stone Bank School.  We are developing writers
that have voice, choice, and applicable skills to communicate in
an ever-changing world.  

We use a curriculum called the Units of Study out of
rooted in the Workshop Model (click on links for more
information).  As we are embarking on this
work, I want to take a moment to communicate to you a tool we use
to measure growth in our writers.  This tool is called a progression
or continuum.  A progression is simply a process that moves a
learner along from one stage to the next.  It shows “behind the
scenes” what a grade really means or rather, what the writer
really does know how to do.  Some learners fall into one grade
level, while others fall all over the place, as many of us do in our
daily lives and professions~we are stellar in some areas, and
less than in others.  We are human! There are two progressions
attached, both for narrative writing.  One is for Pre-K through
sixth grade, and the other is for third through ninth grade.  
Please take some time to look at the descriptors (to the left)
as well as the grade level (across the top).   

You will begin to see some writing coming home, if you have
not already.  Much of this writing is scored on a rubric or progression/continuum.   
Your child will get a final grade for
each piece of final writing, and we encourage you to take a
look at these progressions or rubrics to help you see what
that grade truly means.  

The Units of Study are very rigorous and as we round out
our first quarter, some writers will produce work in areas
that may fall at or above grade level.  They may also produce
writing that will fall below grade level.  Please understand that
we are developing writers, and their identities as writers,
against the very rigorous benchmarks of the Units of Study
and that we value the process of growth more than anything.  
That being said, even if a writer falls below grade level in an
area, as long as that writer is making progress along the
progression, we are moving in the right direction.  One of the
beauties of these units is that they continue to build upon each
other as writers travel through the grades so as we first
implement the units, we are also building skills that will be
honed in years to come.   

It is an exciting time for young writers right now!  They have
many vehicles to express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions
and we aim to help them do so in respectful and appropriate
ways, and to have a strong written, verbal, and social voice in
our world!  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you should
have any questions!

“Good writing is clear thinking made visible.”
                                      ~William Wheeler, journalist/author

Beth Wartzenluft
262-966-2900 ext. 4050

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Understanding MAPS Assessments

Hello Everyone,

This blog post is to help you all begin to better understand our MAPS testing.  Third through eighth graders take these tests in the fall, winter, and spring.  Please click on the links below for some very helpful info!  The MAPS blog has some excellent resources for you to explore.

As we dig into learning, grading and assessment at Stone Bank School in the upcoming months, and move to position our learners into the driver's seat of their own learning from time to time, it is a good time to start acclimating yourselves to the MAPS assessments, which can give us great insight into not only where our students are at, but even more importantly, highlight areas of strength, and areas which may need more explicit instruction and practice, in order to move to the next level of learning.

As always, please feel free to reach out if you should have any questions, concerns, or feedback.

Have a great week!

MAPS Overview

Reading Your Child's MAPS Report

12 Questions Parents Ask About MAPS Assessments


"If you do not create change, change will create you." ~author unknown

I am a swimmer.  Being a swimmer on cold January mornings in Wisconsin is not easy.  Especially when my alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m.   "...