Thursday, May 16, 2019

Let's Grow Together on May 30th!

Someone told me this week that we have 14 days of school left and I just about fell over.  14 days?  That's it?   And then I sat back and reflected on this past school year.

It's been quite a year for my first year as an administrator!  I found out a lot about what they don't teach you in grad school, and I got to practice a lot of what the did teach me! One of the books that has guided my year this year is called Onward,  by Elena Aguilar, an instructional coach in Oakland, CA.

Onward is a book on cultivating resilience, especially in education.  Thankfully, resilience can be grown, but it takes a lot of work.  I mean a lot of work.  And much of this work forced me to look so intimately inward that at times, I wondered if I ever truly knew myself at all... yet.  And I'm kinda old.  After a lot of reading, reflection and enough emotions to send me running for the hills,  I started  practicing resilience. 

What does practicing resilience look like, you ask?  See the invitation below and you can find out!  When I practiced resilience this year, I found myself more clear headed, more able to make rational decisions that were not fueled by emotions, but rather grounded in truth, reality and humanity.  Yup, I made missteps.  Lots of them.   I spoke when I shouldn't have, I used a tone I was later ashamed of, I talked when I should have just listened~I could go on and on, but you get the point. I made mistakes.  I used to think that that was the point~making mistakes and failing, but this year I really began to understand that the true learning was not in the mistakes or the failures themselves, as much as in how I got back up, dusted myself off, and tried again (resilience).  The author of the Onward book says this; (erroneously attributed to Viktor Frankl but actually of unknown origin), "Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom."  As I practiced resilience myself, I often thought of our school.

Our small but mighty Stone Bank School and community had a bit of a rough year as well.  I'm not  one to shield the truth.  It was a tough year, and yet, here we are, 14 school days (still kind of in denial here) left until summer break.  As I was in and out of classrooms this week, I was reminded of  one of the first blog posts I wrote this year.  As I talked to learners, gave feedback to teachers, and supported small group MAP assessments, I realized that one thing that has NOT changed this year is the gist of that first blog post because this week I saw...a hands-on science experiment complete with a visual representation of the water cycle.  I sat in on a music class that gave me goosebumps. I worked diligently with teachers and support staff to ensure that every learner was in a MAP testing environment that would set them up for success.  I sat in on a class that started their a day with a community circle that involved critical thinking, and community building.  I saw partner writing, and talked with a primary teacher on the benefits of Purposeful Play, and then ordered copies of the book for a summer book club.  I spoke with a teacher about the possibility of Spanish in the early elementary grades, as research shows that learning a second language at an early age has many benefits!  I spoke with another teacher about age appropriate STEM experiences for our earliest of learners, and how those early experiences could be the building blocks for later, more challenging STEM experiences, and could also provide opportunities for our young learners to connect with our older learners (one of the beauties of a K-8 school). I saw a teacher using visual images to elicit and build background knowledge, and had the pleasure of watching a Public Service Announcement, created by a middle school learner that both informed me, and make me chuckle!

As the winds of change swirl around us, know that not only are there already great things going on in every corner of Stone Bank School, but that the winds of change will swell and grow into even more powerful educational practices that will engage and empower our learners toward excellence and empowerment.  We are committed to that.  We are outlandishly excited, too!    

As we grow and build and navigate change, we must practice resilience as leaders and educators, and  as a community. I encourage you to practice resilience alongside us.  How easy is it?  You have an opportunity to find out!  

You are Invited!
What: A community potluck and a workshop on cultivating resilience

When: Thursday May 30, 2019
5:00-5:30 - community meal
5:45-7:00 - resilience workshop

Why: "Resilience makes us confident in our ability to manage our own, and others' emotions.  Resilience also enables us to have difficult conversations-and if we aren't having difficult conversation in our efforts of transform schools, we're probably not making meaningful progress.  Resilience will bring communities and educators out of our silos and into healthy camaraderie" (Onward)

HowWe will meet together in the commons of Stone Bank School from 5:00-5:30 pm on Thursday May 30th and share a potluck appetizer meal.  Please bring appetizer to share.  After our community meal, we will head into the library for some resilience work. All you need is your body, an open mind, and an open heart.  We will wrap up at 7:00 pm.

Please R.S.V.P to if you plan on coming so that we can get a head count for space.  Of course, if you decide to come last minute, that is fine, too!
This first Resilience Workshop will be for adults only, and we will elicit feedback for a Resilience Workshop for learners in the future.  WE however, are the first teachers for our children as we model practicing resilience in our own, and collective lives.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment

Stone Bank School Mission:

We educate students in thoughtful, purposeful, and meaningful ways grounded in our tradition to foster lifelong growth.

Hello Stone Bank Families!  

Thank-you to all of you who have and will be coming in and engaging in conversation with your child(ren)'s teacher(s) at our parent/teacher conferences.  This is always an exciting time of year as I hear many teachers remark that their classroom communities are thriving!  All the hard work put in at the beginning of the year to set expectations and build community is paying off.  It is that time of year when we begin to hit a good stride in learning.  I especially love hearing about how learners are encountering and solving problems in their learning communities because this is where they get to practice at real life!  I have seen an abundance of problem solving scenarios at our school and even more importantly, I see our teachers stepping back and allowing kids to practice the powerfully important skills of problem solving~in a place and space where they feel safe to practice and receive "on the spot coaching" from their school community, who care for them deeply.

As we step back and coach our learners into taking accountability for their own actions and navigating their social lives, (seriously, middle school is quite frankly the most interesting environment to observe) we also begin to step back and release our learners to engage in more independent academic work, practicing what they are learning, with supports that they will need to be able to advocate for.  

One data point we use to formally measure academic progress and identify next steps in learning is a MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment, and we recently finished up our winter MAP testing.  We are in our second year of MAP testing and are beginning to understand and implement all that this assessment tool has to offer.  Staff have engaged in two trainings thus far this year with a specialist from NWEA, (Northwest Evaluation Association) to help us best understand what our learners are ready to learn.  

This kind of testing is different from our state standardized test, the Forward Exam, which we will take in March and April of this year.  The Forward Exam (both assessments are taken digitally) shows, or one could argue that it does or does not show, what a learner  knows, at this point in time, based on grade-level criteria, whereas a MAP assessment shows what a learner is ready to learn.  This assessment is on a sliding scale that pulls questions from data banks.  Depending on whether the learner gets the answer correct or not, the test adjusts the difficulty of the next question.  You can read more about that here.  

The tree at the opening of this post is a visual reminder to me of a MAP assessment.  The beautifully intricate branches are the various learners we share, and the equally intricate and deep root system represents opportunities that our learners are ready to learn.  Notice I use the phrase ready to learn instead of should learn.  Learning is not a race to master everything just to master everything, but rather a journey where various learning and experiences take place to formulate lasting and meaningful understanding and application of skills and knowledge learned.  Hence, a MAP score is so much more than a number...and so are our learners.  I can't emphasize that enough.  We have a mental health crisis on our hands and we must be very thoughtful about our use of technology and screen time, and be sure to create time for our brains to power down and to rest and rejuvenate.  This "power down" time allows deep and meaningful learning to stick, and be recalled and applied later.

Having said that, a MAP assessment can provide us with a plethora of useful information when it comes to knowing what our learners are ready to learn.  I stood inside the shoes of a parent this week and poked around the NWEA site, with the data of a mock learner.  I quickly learned that my child was ready to learn to put a comma at the end of a greeting in a letter.  "That's easy!" I thought.  As a parent, I could support my child's learning by teaching him/her that.  Then I got to math.  Not so easy for this parent.  Luckily there are also resources (many of them free) that you can can access to help learners with both learning and practicing ready to learn content.  This link will take you to some resources that can support your learner at home.  Using the Student Progress Reports, along with the resources, can help you locate relevant resources for support at home.  Here is the thing with education these days; time, place, and space are the variables, and learning is the constant.

I ask a few things of you as you review your learner(s) Student Progress Report, first alone, and then with your child:

  • Read this first (short and sweet FAQ type format that gives you some context) before looking at scores.
  • MAP data is growth data, which means that in order to begin to see a consistent pattern for discerning growth, it is best to look across at least two to three years of data.  We are in our second year of MAP testing right now, so just remember that one score, or even one years' worth of scores, do not illustrate a holistic view of growth, knowledge or achievement.  True growth data is acquired with integrity over time.  It is a principal of statistical analysis that the pattern that emerges after four or five tests is usually truer than the pattern that emerges over two or three. Therefore...
  • Don't focus just on the most current score.  Yes, you will look at it and yes you will compare it to the national norm,  but then pan back and look from year to year to look for growth.  
  • Talk to your child about how it felt to take the test.  As this article illustrates, test anxiety is real.  Thankfully the MAP assessment has purposeful built-in features that allow the test proctor (the teacher) to be alerted when a learner is disengaged in the test.  Sometimes a simple, quiet chat with that learner allows the teacher to see that he/she may need a quick break.  MAP allows for a 20 minute pause, and saves the test if it is not complete. 
  • Talk to your child about their test taking habits.  Finding out what they need in order to do their best can be very insightful!  Sometimes a simple pair of headphones or a spot that is tucked in the corner, facing away from other learners can make a huge difference.
  • Remember that a test of this nature does not define your child(ren) as a learners.  We use what is called a triangulation of data to make instructional decisions for our learners, we focus on growth, and this data point is just one piece of the picture.   

Our mission at Stone Bank School is to educate our students in thoughtful, purposeful, and meaningful ways, grounded in our tradition to foster lifelong growth.  MAP testing helps us to be thoughtful as we analyze results to make purposeful decisions so that we can support our learners in meaningful ways to foster lifelong growth.  Please take a bit of time to educate yourselves on our MAP assessment tool and it's wealth of resources!  Our March Family Curriculum Night will be dedicated to the MAP assessment.  We will help you navigate your child(ren)'s Student Progress Report and try out some resources, as well as provide an opportunity to take one of our MAP assessments.  The date for our March Family Curriculum Night will be forthcoming.

Below are some MAP resources.  As you get to know these, please jot down some you are finding especially helpful so that you can share them with others at our March Family Curriculum Night.

"February is merely as long as is needed to pass the time until March."
                                                                                                    ~Dr. J.R. Stockton

Be Well,

MAPS Blog - this blog has some nice ideas for families in how to support learning at home.
Parent Toolkit - this link has some more FAQ type resources

Practice Test - username and password are both: grow

Monday, February 4, 2019

Family Curriculum Night February 2109

Yup, this happened last week in Minnesota, where our daughter goes to school! Gotta love the Polar Vortex! 

Thankfully, we have all survived the Polar Vortex, again, and now is the perfect time to get warm and cozy with a book!  Mrs. Brannan and I will be hosting a Family Curriculum Night this Wednesday February 6th from 5:30-7:00 pm in the Stone Bank Library.  Our focus will be on providing resources and practice in how to support your readers at home.  This is the perfect time to come out and not only learn how to support your growing readers, but also a time to come out and share some fellowship with our Stone Bank Families.  Please join us!  Children are welcome...just know that we will be hunkered in reading, discussing, and practicing some thinking work.

So often I hear these statements/questions from families around what reading looks like these days in schools:

  • Reading is not taught like it used to be!  
  • Can kids really choose any book they want to during reading time?
  • What is the Reader's Notebook for?
  • Don't all kids read the same books anymore?
  • Where is the worksheet that has all of the questions on it?
Yup, reading instruction has changed...and for the better!  When we give our growing readers practice in thinking through texts, it is truly amazing to listen to what they have to say!

Mrs. Brannan will provide a comprehensive overview of our library, both digital and physical, and walk us through some important information on reading levels.  Then we will be splitting up into two groups;  4K-3 and 4-8.  The primary group will be practicing some reading and thinking work with a picture book and the upper elementary group will be engaging in the same type of work, with a short story called Thank-you, Ma'am by Langston Hughes.  

Come for the learning.  
Come for the community.  
Come to help support our learners.
Come to support our school and each other.
Come to be a part of our community.

We look forward to seeing you this Wednesday from 5:30-7:00 pm in the Stone Bank Library!

Stay Warm!

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,

Let's Grow Together on May 30th!

Someone told me this week that we have 14 days of school left and I just about fell over.  14 days?  That's it?   And then I sat bac...