Friday, December 18, 2015

Such Tremendous Progress!

      There is a feeling of accomplishment in the air at OQS. As we come closer to the end of December I look back on all that we have accomplished thus far. Students who are practicing PAWS behavior have made many gains. Every day we collect data on student behavior. Our PBiS teams look at and analyze the data and bring it to the staff at every staff meeting for all teachers to examine and discuss. Together we identify trends in the data to plan for instruction and re-teaching of expected behaviors as well as identify students who may need extra support such as check in/check out, positive behavior plans, special time with a buddy teacher, lunch groups with the counselor and other teachers. Every month we identify a school wide focus based on the trends we see in the data and reinforce that focus with extra lessons and recognition. At our last PTO meeting I was able to report out on our most recent data. I am proud to share the results of the hard work your children and our teachers are doing to improve the behavior at OQS. Out of 194 students (not including pre-k), 19% (37 students) have had 3 or more support forms filled out on them, 29% (57 students) have had only 1 or 2 support forms filled out on them, 52% (100 students) have had no support forms filled out on them, and 81% (157 students) are considered to be practicing our expected behaviors; practice safety, act responsibly, work to learn, and show respect. We can attribute the success of a steep downward trend shown in the graph below to the efforts being made to increase positive feedback and our reward system of alphabits, purple star cards, golden paws, classroom rewards and school wide rewards. Many of these rewards are community/ and culture building. When we increase the likelihood of positive behavior we increase the opportunities for students to be available for learning. This should be reflected in our standardized test scores.

            There continues to be a great deal of learning going on here at DBS. Students proudly present their learning in public ways at community meeting time. I encourage you to visit your student’s classroom webpage to learn about the incredible work that goes on everyday.
            We have slowly been transforming our classrooms into flexible learning spaces by introducing new and innovative seating choices. We have purchased several floor chairs as well as standing desks to help students focus better and encourage collaborative learning.

            The holiday concert was the highlight of the month for me! What a joy it was to see so many smiling faces and hear so many jubilant sounds coming forth and shared with such an appreciative audience. I hope that the feeling you got from this experience will propel you into the New Year with peace, love, and joy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A “Paws” itively Wonderful Month !

            Once again the students of OQS have worked together to reach another behavior goal and thus earning an all school celebration. This time classes partnered with their buddy class to plant spring bulbs outside the building. With the help of Paul Sadowski, who dug furrows and left detailed instructions on the side of the garden shed as to how to plant them, we successfully planted over 200 bulbs! Not only are students working to demonstrate PAWS behavior but are working together to beautify our school. What a great way to celebrate success in a way that perpetuates more feelings of success!

            We recently had the good fortune to be contacted and visited by David Liben who has agreed to work closely with our district English Language Arts Teacher Leader, Madeline Carlock, who is also one of our 4th grade teachers. Together they are meeting with the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teams to study navigating non-fiction and teaching text sets. David is the Senior Content Specialist of the Literacy and English Language Arts team at Student Achievement Partners founded by the lead writers of the Common Core. David has taught elementary, middle school and high school students in public and private schools, as well as community college and teacher preparation courses, in New York City and Vermont. Together with Meredith Liben, David founded two innovative model schools in New York City - New York Prep, a junior high school in East Harlem, and in 1991, the Family Academy - where he served as Principal and lead curriculum designer. David holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in school administration from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a nationally known presenter I have come to know through my work with Student Achieve Partners and our work with teachers around the country. You can find a few of his presentations on One of his most recent writings is found by following this link:
I look forward to this amazing yearlong partnership with David as he helps us learn new ways to teach our students.

            This year we have established a new student leadership team called the PAWS SQUAD. This is a team of students made up of 5th graders identified as having leadership potential and who could serve as positive role models for all of our students here at OQS. Their mission is to discover and create ways to promote PAWS behavior and help make OQS a safe and caring place to learn. Alisha Keel, our school counselor and I are looking forward to working with these fine students as we embark on this positive journey.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Working Together to Make OQS Great!

One of the things I am most impressed with at OQS is the way in which staff, students, and community members work together. There are so many examples of people pitching in when needed and working together to make our school a wonderful place to be. Recently, as part of our behavioral reward system, students at OQS worked together demonstrating expected behaviors to earn yet another school wide celebration. Each class earns 100 alphabits for exhibiting expected positive behaviors (small plastic chips with paws on them) and places them in a large jar. Once the jar is full we get to celebrate as a whole school. So far, this year we have filled the jar three times! Sometimes our celebrations are simply time to have fun together as a whole school by having a few more extra recess minutes or having a dance party in the gym or turning the parking lot into a giant piece of artwork using chalk. To celebrate our third time filling the school jar we had the children go outside with their buddy classes to plant flower bulbs for the spring. This was a great way to have fun with our buddy classes and do something nice for our school by helping to beautify the outside landscaping.
         Another example of how people here work together for the benefit of our community is the work done with our own school garden. This garden provides us with not only an abundance of food but also an opportunity for students, staff members, and parents to work together doing something fun while learning valuable lessons. Those that work in our garden grow an appreciation for the environment; learn how to work together in groups; respect nature; increase their knowledge of science; try new foods that are nutritious; eat healthier. We are forever grateful to Paul Sadowski and the numerous parents who volunteer their time to make all of this possible!
         I was once again blown away by a fantastic PTO sponsored fundraiser: the first (hopefully annual) crock-pot cook-off. This is yet another example of how people work together. Using produce from our school garden, families prepared crock-pot dishes to be entered into a contest. Many families came to school for a spaghetti dinner, with sauce made only from school garden produce and sampled over 18 crock-pot filled soups, chili’s and other recipes also containing school garden produce. I can honestly say no one left hungry!
         At OQS we are fortunate to have such wonderful human resources that allow us to work together in ways that benefit us all!

         If you were looking to add your talents to our pool of resources I would encourage you to stop in (or email me) to talk about ways you might volunteer either during the school day or after school. Some ideas might be; spending an hour in our library helping to shelve or check out books, spending some time between 7:45-8:00 in our cafeteria teaching students to play chess, volunteering to go hiking with wolves on the prowl, reading to students, playing an organized game at recess, starting a robotics club or some other idea!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

And the Beat Goes On!

The first six weeks of school have flown by and the pulse of our school is loud and strong. Students are becoming experts in demonstrating expected behaviors as evidenced by the bulletin board full of students who have been sent to the office for having “paws” itive behavior, producing exemplary work, showing acts of kindness and consideration, and following directions.  There are many days in which the only students sent to the office are sent because they have done something extraordinary! We have had 3 all school celebrations already this year for filling our "alphabit" jar as well as our first Golden Paw drawing in which 4 students were randomly chosen to receive choice awards. Yesterday, Ottauquechee was recognized by the Secretary of Education, Rebecca Holcombe, as being a school of merit for Vermont’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBiS) program. This is very exciting as it validates all of the hard work students and staff have done over the past two years while implementing this program!
Over the past couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of spending time in many classrooms interacting with students as they construct their understanding through discussions, projects, reading, and problem solving. Our fourth graders are involved in a national research project through The Learning Design Group at UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science who work with schools and teachers around the country participating in field trials. These trials test preliminary versions of the Learning Design Group's rich science curriculum, developed in partnership with Amplify Learning, which combines hands-on inquiry, the use of digital tools, and support for disciplinary literacy (reading, writing, and talking about science). The curriculum supports both the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects.
The best part of my day is spent with students. Recently, I had the opportunity to cover the library during the preschool block. What fun I had reading to them and engaging them in literature as they chimed in and acted out the story. It warms my heart to see and hear 3 and 4 years olds talk about books as they browse and choose books to take home. It is fascinating to watch them demonstrate early reading behaviors; seeing the excitement in their faces and hearing the enthusiasm in their voices as they peruse texts. I also had the pleasure of reading with first graders, participating in a discussion about weather with third graders, helping second grade students with their morning math problems, interviewing third grade students about their weather instruments and discussing the reasoning behind fourth grader’s decisions about light devices to include in their safety kits. The pulse of learning is indeed loud and strong!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

OQS Greatness Abounds!

There are so many great things about OQS that I am finding out about as I navigate through my first year. Among them is open house, forest kindergarten, community meeting, and garden club just to name a few. Open house is not new to me. I have been a part of many, many open houses throughout my teaching career but I’ve never quite had the experience I had at our recent open house here at OQS. It was truly an amazing event! What I witnessed was a group of parents who worked seamlessly together to expertly and efficiently pull off an all school family cookout complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, side dishes and drinks. I saw families wandering the halls as their children proudly showed off their classrooms and introduced their parents to their teachers. I saw families enjoying conversations with neighbors and friends. There was a general, overall feeling of joy and pride as a community of people came together to celebrate the opening of school. Many thanks to the PTO for organizing this wonderful event and many thanks to the teachers and students who worked together to get their classrooms ready for the event.
Last week I had the opportunity to wander outside with both kindergartens two days in a row to take pictures in the forest kindergarten. The hours spent in the forest were truly magical as students explored their new environment; listening to and identifying sounds they heard, unearthing small creatures that had molted leaving behind their exoskeletal shell, scaling fallen logs and rock walls, sharing snack, sorting themselves according to apple attributes and learning to listen to directions. Take a moment to visit our facebook page for pictures.
Twice now I have been an audience member and participant at the grade 3-5 community meeting event. Both of these meetings were both educational and exhilarating. During the first one we energized our bodies through exercise and learned about the amount of sugar in the drinks we are used to consuming. The second, done on Constitution Day was inspiring and patriotic. We began with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a reading of the Preamble accompanied by a student friendly version in which the Preamble was put into student language. We ended by learning a song about Constitution.
Lastly, I had the delicious fortune to sample the delectable salsa and soup made by the garden club students and volunteers who grew, harvested, prepared and cooked these dishes! I am looking forward to the community/school Harvest Dinner which I’m sure will be a wonderfully sumptuous event!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Celebrating a Successful First Week

What makes this week successful? Could it be the time spent in each classroom watching expert teachers establish routines with their new students or celebrating "paws"itive behavior moments with proud students or catching the gingerbread man who ran away from the Kindergarten? Yes, all of that and more! 
I had the pleasure of having students sent to my office for being...GOOD. This year we have two new additions to our Positive Behavior Intervention Support System used to teach students about expected behaviors and collect data to help inform our teaching about self-regulation and practicing expected behaviors. One addition is the "purple office card." Students can now be sent to the office with a purple office card because they may have broken a school rule and need to talk to me about it or they could be sent to the office with a purple office card because they have some great news to share with me about their behavior. The other new addition is the Golden Paw Award. These are given out to students who are consistently doing the right thing. These Golden Paw Awards have a section that tears off and is then put it a jar for a drawing to be held during our community meeting time. These are both in addition to the Alphabits they can collect as a class for classroom wide rewards and whole school rewards. Come in and see our big blue wall where we are displaying class behavior paws. Each time a class collects 100 Alphabits they trade them in for a paw to display on the yellow path. It is exciting to see this grow!
As you can see, we have so much to be proud of at OQS! I'm looking forward to another exciting week and the opportunity to interact with students, teachers, and parents.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Welcome to the OQS Wolf Pack

Hello OQS families! I want to welcome you to my new blog which was created to keep you informed and enlightened about your school. I am proud to be leading the OQS "pack". It is quite fitting that the OQS mascot is the wolf. Everything in a wolf's nature tells it to belong to something greater than itself: a pack. Like us, wolves form friendships and maintain lifelong bonds. They succeed by cooperating, and they struggle when they are alone. Like us, wolves need one another. Wolves care for each other as individuals. They nurture their own sick and injured. Pack structure enables communication, the education of the young and the transfer of knowledge across generations. The same is true for all of us here at OQS.
Recently, during one of our first days together as a staff, we had the opportunity to face challenges together and solve problems through communication, team work, perseverance, and laughter. The entire staff met at the Dartmouth Low Ropes Course and through skilled facilitation made our way through a series of "elements" that, at first, were seemingly impossible tasks. These activities challenged our thinking and took many of us far outside of our comfort zones. We experienced what many of our students feel when they are faced with challenges associated with learning. We worked together communicating, planning, trying over and over again, encouraging each other, and laughing to complete unthinkable tasks. Our "I can't" s became "How can we"s. Throughout the day connections were made to students and how they learn and interact with each other.
What began as a day of uncertainty and trepidation ended in strength, pride and camaraderie. We are confident that these feelings will propel us into an amazing year at OQS!