“Be” With Your Kids – The Power of Reading

being-and-doingFor those of you who know me, you know that I will be facing a pretty major milestone in the next few weeks. My only child, Jack, is about to complete his final day of elementary school. While I’ve been living in the world of middle school professionally for quite some time, this is my first (and only) foray into this world as a parent. Like all of you, I have mixed emotions about this. While I am 100% certain he is ready for this next leg of his journey, I am also sad to see this chapter of his childhood come to a close. I find myself walking in that emotionally complex place where one foot is planted in sappy nostalgia and the other is dancing the edge of eager anticipation. While I’m sure all of this is completely normal, I know that the true secret to happiness is pulling both feet together and using them to tow the line of the “here and now.”  Continue reading

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#Whatmatters

Dear CSD Community,

Each week we send a “week ahead” email to our staff that charts out both the details and big picture for the week ahead. We share articles and thoughts that are on our minds as leaders in hopes of inspiring our staff and ourselves to be at our best for the students and entire CSD community. Today, at the start of Spring Break, it strikes us that the words we shared this week with staff are just as relevant to you, our amazing parents. We know that just like our teachers, you give selflessly on behalf of your families and on behalf of this school community. We cherish the fact that you embrace our commitment to inclusiveness and that you, like we, care about the lives and welfare of all children rather than just our own. Continue reading

The “Secret” Everyone Should Know

I don’t know how this is even possible, but here we are…entering the last stretch of this school year. This year marks a very special point in my career. It was eight years ago that I joined the CSD family as a very eager 4/5 lead teacher. I remember everything so vividly, from my interview, to my first staff retreat, to my first set of Covenant Conferences, to the first day those angels walked in mine and Mrs. Aichele’s 4th grade classroom. I can see the room plain as day. I can smell the “back to school” smells of new markers, new glue sticks, and freshly laminated name tags. I can see the new backpacks hanging on their hooks, and I can hear the sound of the children’s laughter as we shared stories over Morning Meeting. I can vividly recall each and every face –sometimes filled with wonder and awe, sometimes filled with happiness and joy, sometimes filled with anxiety and fear. Continue reading

The Quest for “Normal”

Last weekend, CSD hosted our third annual Fresh Take Conference. As in years past, it proved to be a wonderful event filled with sharing, learning, reflecting, and dreaming. It is very powerful and affirming to be surrounded by educators from other walks of education, yet being tied together by a passion for kids and learning! While I had many “aha” moments during the conference, one of my most meaningful realizations occurred during Michelle Icard’s keynote speech. For those of you who don’t know Icard’s work (also known as “Michelle in the Middle”), she is a wealth of information on the topic of pre-adolescent development during the formative middle school years. Her book, Middle School Makeover is a wonderful resource for parents. I highly recommend it!   Back to my “aha”…. Michelle refers to this stage of development as the “Middle School Construction Project” wherein middle school students are building the following three things:

  • a mature brain
  • a grown-up body
  • a unique identity

Continue reading

What You Focus on Expands

I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve heard this expression. As is the case with many familiar concepts, this is much easier said and done. For example, I can recount numerous episodwhat-you-focus-on-expandses in my career where I encountered criticism from either a parent, a student, or a colleague, and rather than focusing on the 98% of people who were happy and satisfied with my performance,I poured a tremendous amount of energy fretting about that other 2%. Now…if this concept holds true, and I do believe it does, think of how my focus changed my reality. Rather than concentrating on all the things I was doing well, I put the majority of my focus on how I was not living up to someone else’s expectations, and before I knew it, my whole reality became about my shortcomings – or even worse – other people’s perceptions of my shortcomings. Crazy, huh? Especially if those percentages are accurate! But here’s what I’ve learned. I’m not the only one who does this. In fact, I think this is a fairly common occurrence. So I’ve spent some time thinking about why that is. Why are we humans so inclined to focus on what’s wrong rather than what’s right? Continue reading

When It’s All Said and Done…

Dear Parents,

Tis the season of report cards and “grades,” so I thought I would take this opportunity to revisit a core, fundamental component of the CSD philosophy. Much research has been done around the notion of ‘motivation,’ and a few glaring truths tend to surface in each study. When people are motivated by external factors (grades being an example of this), not only is the desired outcome compromised, but the ‘motivation’ tends to wane over Continue reading

Doubts or Dreams: The Proof is in the Pudding

Interestingly enough, as a middle school principal, I get more questions about college readiness from parents than you would think.  I suppose this stands to reason as we tend to watch our kids “bloom” right in front of our very eyes at this age.  They go through dramatic changes, both physically and emotionally/socially, and as we all know, change is not easy.  I have become somewhat of an expert on the matter over the last few months.  While change is an essential component to growth, it typically first evokes strong feelings of fear and doubt.  As parents, when we see our little children transforming into young adults right in front of our very eyes, I suppose it is very natural for us to start to jump ahead and worry if we are doing all we can to prepare our children for what lies ahead. Continue reading

August 2014 – Welcome Back!

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Dear Parents,

Welcome back!  I certainly hope that summer has treated you well and that you and your family have gotten the downtime each of you deserve.  While summer always seems to fly by, I have to admit that by the time August arrives, I begin to get that urge…that desire to get back in my routine and greet a new year of learning and fun head on.  To me, that may be one of the best things about having a career in education – the perpetual beginnings each August grants us.  So as we start this new year, I extend a warm welcome to each of you.   Continue reading