Monday, September 17, 2012

Walking in Our Light - Incremental Change

I have been reflecting on the work that we have been doing during the last several weeks. I am continually impressed teachers' ability to step back from the current reality and pose thoughtful questions, reflect on our work, and collaborate.

Often in our professional work, we have to take small bites. As educators think about new ides, the sparkle in their eyes is sometimes followed by a moment of feeling overwhelmed. When thinking about the big picture and multi-year goals, just know that we won't arrive tomorrow, and that's ok.

Apollo 17 Lunar Rover Drive
The other day I heard a fact that it's 238,857 miles to the moon. I thought, "That's about how many miles are on the truck. I could have driven to the moon! Cool!" What a trip that would be. Think of all the stops to refuel, stretch our legs, etc. that we would have to do on a trip like that! We are on a journey together, and have to travel one mile at a time.

I pair the idea of incremental change with this thought, "We walk in the light we have at the time." When my children were small, I made my share of mistakes. I was voicing my regrets to someone at church one weekend. "If I only knew... I would have done things differently." He looked at me and smiled and said, "Kelly, we walk in the light we have at the time. You're light is just different now." That has given me comfort. As educators, we need to keep that idea close to us as we work together. Every one of us has the best interest of our students at heart, and that is ALL that matters.


Our responsibility as educators is to continually search for better light, while embracing change as an incremental process.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

We just celebrated Habit 6: Synergize - Together is better! at our recent assemblies.  We are now working on the 7th Habit: Sharpen the Saw - Balance feels best.

At Libertyville, I asked the students how many of them knew the story about the Tortoise and the Hare. They shared what they knew with their neighbor, and then two volunteers shared with the school. I asked the students to think about
  • What happened to the rabbit?
  • Why didn't the rabbit win?
  • What did the rabbit do when he wasn't running?
Later in the assembly, I asked students to think about shows that they had watched on TV, or family members who they had watched sharpening a knife, like a chef. We thought about why a chef would want a sharp knife, instead of a dull one. Students talked about cutting vegetables and filleting fish, and how a dull knife tears and smashes instead of cuts. I asked students whether they thought a dull knife or a sharp knife would be easier for an adult to use. I also explained that it is easier to hurt oneself with a dull knife, because a person has to press harder, and is more likely for the knife to slip.

This led to me telling the story I had learned about "Sharpening the Ax." Here is a similar version:

Once upon a time there were two men who entered a contest chopping wood at a county fair.  The first man was in good physical shape and very muscular.  The second man was in good shape but smaller in statute and wiry.  They would chop wood all day and at the end of the day compare to see who had chopped the most wood.  The first man laughed to himself that there was no way this wiry little man would beat him and so they began the contest.  Every 45 minutes the second smaller man would take a break and seems to just wonder off somewhere.  The first man laughed again to himself and said "Yep there's no way this wiry little man is going to beat me."  This happens several times during the day.  At the end of the day the two men compare their piles of chopped wood and unbelievably enough the wiry little man has chopped twice as much wood as the more physically fit man.  He says "I don't understand.  First I'm twice your size and twice your strength!  On top of that every 45 minutes you rolled off and took a break or a nap or something.  You must have cheated!"  The smaller man says "I don't cheat.  It was easy to beat you because every 45 minutes when you thought I was taking a break, I was out back sharpening my ax." 

Students talked with their neighbors afterward about why taking a break worked for the man chopping wood, but not for the hare. Ask your kids to find out their answers!

Positive Behavior Supports and Intervention (PBIS)

Positive Behavior Supports and Interventions (PBIS) is a framework to help schools develop a system of positive and proactive school-wide behavior expectations. The goals of PBIS are to
  • promote a positive learning environment
  • create a positive culture
  • teach and reinforce appropriate behaviors, and
  • prevent problem behaviors.
The elementary buildings have leadership teams consisting of teachers, associates, counselors and administrators. Those teams merge together for district-wide planning and conversations, so that there is consistency in developing PBIS from building to building.

The elementary PBIS approach mirrors the Fairfield Middle School's PBIS system, which started 3 years ago in response to their School in Need of Assistance (SINA) action plan. The middle school uses the acronym "Trojan PRIDE" to define expectations for behavior in various locations in the school. The three Fairfield elementary schools implemented "Trojan Traits" - respect, responsible, safe - in the hallway as our starting point. Staff directly taught students how to "do" respect, responsible, and safe in the hallway. Students watched a video, created by Mr. and Mrs. Strickler, and practiced Trojan Trait hallway behavior with their teachers. Our leader tickets, still drawn each Friday, have been used to target and recognize the correct behavior in the hallway.

The consistent implementation across the elementary buildings has had many benefits.
  • Teachers who travel from building to building (such as art, music, and PE teachers) know that students have the same expectations and language for discussing behavior in each building. They don't have to learn different systems for different buildings.
  • Students who change buildings from year to year enter a familiar system.
  • Teachers develop a common language and approach which supports them in problem-solving and planning for behavior interventions.
Many thanks to our leadership team as they work together to develop the elementary PBIS system. We are so excited about the positive student response to the Trojan Traits!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cookie Visits School

Cookie the puppy visited Washington Elementary on Friday with Mr. Schloss. One of our students in enjoying petting her. Cookie is a 3 month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She lives at the Schloss home with our Mastiff, Ashley, 2 cats, and 2 teenagers.

For more information about Special Kids, Dogs, and Schools, visit
There is also a lot of information about Therapy Dogs who serve as Reading Tutors. The Therapy Dog International group has a program called "Tail Waggin' Tutors."