Wednesday, July 31, 2019

August 2019

I'm embarrassed that it's been over a year since I've posted on this blog. I have good intentions and then I get sidetracked. Getting sidetracked at a school site is not uncommon, so I don't feel guilty about it. However, keeping this blog current was a goal of mine last year that I obviously failed at miserably. Yet that is the great thing about goals and having perseverance. I'm setting some new goals this year and revisiting ones I didn't get to last year, this blog being one of them.

What are my goals for this year? Well, let's see:

  • Initiate a "Student Voices" project here at school. We have 180 days with students and our student population is about 185. I plan to interview one student EVERY DAY of the year (some days will have to be two) and ask them various questions about Lake School. The only instruction is that they have to keep their answer under 30 seconds. I'm excited to hear their answers, their honesty about being a Lake Panther. My purpose of this project is to make sure every student is heard because every student has a voice. 
  • Visit two classrooms per week for at least 30 minutes. (Sadly, a repeat goal from 2018-19.)
  • Leave school by 4:30 p.m. I love my job, yet I am also a wife and mother. If I don't take care of my personal life, my professional life suffers. (Oh my, another goal from 2018-19.)
  • Update the Lake Panther Blog at least monthly.
I won't be alone in setting goals for this year. During one of our staff days, I will be asking all staff members to write one or two goals for themselves. We started doing this last year and I'm excited to implement it again. 

Why is this important to me? A few years ago, the teachers and I began looking at research in which students who had developed and monitored goals saw gains in academics and/or behavior, dependent on their goal. We began to dabble in the idea of students setting goals and have seen increased student performance based on their goals. We intend on continuing guiding students in identifying and setting goals, and more importantly, achieving them. You might consider talking with your children about goals you have set in your life, when you were successful and when you weren't, because a goal without a plan is just a wish. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

July 20

The start of a new school year is right around the corner and I am as excited about it as I was my first year of teaching over 20 years ago! I often reflect on my first job in education. I was hired as a high school business teacher in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, at Blue Ridge High School.

I didn't realize then how lucky I was to begin my career in education at that wonderful school. I was surrounded by optimistic, positive, and fun-loving people who wanted to do what was best for students every single day. My principal, Mr. Bortin, was not only my boss, but my mentor and coach, and in later years, I'm happy to say my friend. 

When I first applied to Lake as an administrator, I emailed Mr. Bortin and asked him what he thought about my new endeavor. He said I was crazy to go into administration, but that he saw leadership skills in me so many years ago and knew I would do a great job. His confidence in me allowed me to believe in myself because as a classroom teacher of 11 years and a program administrator for seven, making the move to a school administrator can be daunting. 

So now here I sit in my office, ready to begin my seventh year at Lake Elementary, with as much enthusiasm, eagerness, and energy as I had on my first day of teaching. 

Welcome back to our returning students and welcome to our new kindergartners. May you have a wonderful year and come to school every day with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. I can't wait to see you all on August 8!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Here I Go Again

It's Mrs. Baker again, attending an annual conference that never fails to energize me, challenges me to "think outside the box" of education and to encourage others to be innovative in their teaching and leadership. Yet again, I've been inspired to get back to blogging so we can tell our school's story. No need to go back and read previous blog posts, in a nutshell, my philosophy (as shared by many who have inspired me), if we don't tell our school's story, no one else will, or even worse, it will be the wrong story.

Today's inspiration came from author, principal, innovator, George Couros. My take-away (I had many, mind you, but want to try to stay on point) is that we (educators) need to effectively model technology and its many opportunities it may provide our young people. How has technology impacted our students at Lake, you might be asking?

Did you know that our 5th grade class has pen pals in India this year? Yep, they do! Imagine the opportunity this provides to our students - using a real-life experience to apply writing standards as well as effectively using technology to communicate with others around the world. Many of us may have also had pen pals when we were growing up. I can remember the excitement of getting those letters in the mail and reading what my pen pal had to share. Today's students can move beyond the letter and use FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, or other applications to actually converse with their pen pals in real time. What a great opportunity to learn about other cultures firsthand!

Did you know that area schools contact our school to observe ELA curriculum, which includes an online component? They heard we were early adopters and want to see how we're implementing it in our classrooms because they've heard we're doing great things. How awesome is that!! Imagine being really good at something and people want to come watch you do it? That's happening at Lake Elementary!

Did you know that a student emailed me to ask to speak with me regarding a topic that she was concerned about? What a great, responsible way to communicate and advocate for oneself. Again, teaching students the responsible way to use the technology that is all around us should not be lost in our day-to-day teaching.

Did you know that every one of our students and/or classes adopted an elder or family during the holiday season? What does that have to do with technology? On the outset, nothing, yet I should have "tweeted" that awesome community service that everyone of our students participated in as it just might have inspired someone else to do the same. You never know how your good deed might turn into another good deed, yet if no one knows what good deeds we are doing.....see my point? Technology provides us with the opportunity to share the good in the world, to share the good in schools, which sadly, does not often make the headlines.

So here I go again (isn't that a Whitesnake song, oh golly, showing my age, but that is an awesome song!), sharing our story, our Lake story, and all the great things that happen at our school every single day....what's happening at your school?

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 2017

With the communication tools of Facebook, the monthly all-calls, and even the school’s website, I’ve found myself thinking there wasn’t a need for my weekly updates on this blog. And then I was thinking how many people really read this blog and is it really worth my time. Yet as I consider all of the great things that are happening at Lake Elementary on a consistent basis, it's my duty to let our community know what's going on, regardless of how many "reads" it may get. So here it goes...I'm back on the blogging train.

Last school year, 2015-16, the Lake Elementary School Board took on the tumultuous task of reviewing board policy. The purpose of the review was more than just to update policy; the board also outlined a goal to provide the policy online for parents and the Lake community. (Policies should be online soon!) Through this review, we learned that, although outlined in policy, we do not have some components in place. Two that quickly rose to the top were: Service Learning Plan and Transportation Safety Plan. School Site Council is currently reviewing sample Transportation Safety Plans and will be submitting a draft policy to the board later this year.

In regards to the Service Learning Plan, once we discovered we didn't have one, we hit the ground running. Fortunately, one of our own staff, Mrs. Taylor, was working on her master's over the summer; as part of a master's project, she had been working to develop a Service Learning Plan. Simultaneously, staff members attended various professional development in which service learning was identified as a key component at school sites and in classrooms.

In a very short time we have participated in various service learning activities this year. We realized that some of the things we already do at Lake are service oriented; most notably is our Grandparents Day event. In conjunction with Grandparents Day and Patriot Day this year, every student participated in "Letters to Troops" by writing a letter to a veteran, an active member of the military, or a wounded warrior.

At the end of September, Student Council led the "Bring the Change" fundraiser in which all funds raised were donated to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This progressive coin drive focused on a different spirit-wear item and coin: Pajama Penny Monday, Neon Nickel Tuesday, Dazzling Dime Wednesday, Crazy Quarter Thursday, and Team Up for All Coins an Dollars Friday. Did you know that our small, rural school of 179 students raised over $1,000 in one week! What a great show of support for a great cause!

This week, our third graders will be taking a trip to West Haven to read to and make crafts with senior citizens. Our goal is to expand our relationship with West Haven and other community agencies through all grade levels.

As you can see, we're off to a great start, and our Service Learning Plan is still in its developmental stages! If you see a need in the community, county, region, state, or beyond, please let me know. While we are pleased to continue the strong traditions that make Lake great, we are excited and eager to engage in new service learning opportunities with our students.

Yours in Learning,

Mrs. Baker

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week of February 1

It's a good thing my New Year's Resolution wasn't to stay up on this blog, because that certainly didn't happen! Here it is, the day before February 1 and I'm writing my first post for 2016.

We will be celebrating the 100th day of school this week, always an exciting time at elementary schools. This day is celebrated a variety of ways across the country, most of which involve math. An exciting activity if you're finding yourself with some time to kill - hop on over to Pinterest and search for 100th day. There is a plethora of ideas for school and home.

In celebrating the 100th day, I have to admit it's a bittersweet time for me as it means we are over halfway done with this school year (55% to be exact). For parents of kindergartners, it's often a cause of excitement as they accurately recall the first day of school and all the jitters and now, after 100 days, dropping off their young one is a walk in the park. And for parents of our eighth graders, it means 100 days closer to 8th grade promotion, a day in which youngsters arrive on the threshold of adulthood, soon to be high school freshmen with new schedules, new teachers, new friends, new experiences, and a new school. An exciting, yet scary time, for both students and parents. Outspoken 8th graders may tell you they "can't wait to go to high school", and having been there, I couldn't wait either. However, I was also a bit nervous about the unknown and knew deep down I would miss the comfort of my junior high school and a staff I knew well.

So as our 8th grade class may be struggling with the emotions of "out with the old and in with the new", I know that many of them, if not all, will fondly remember their days at Lake. And while this sounds like an end-of-school post, it is what comes to my mind as we celebrate the 100th day. We came to this day so quickly that I know the end of the school year is right around the corner. The emotions that comes with "the end" are strong, and for me, they begin this week, the week of celebrating "100 days smarter".

May you celebrate the 100 days and reflect upon the growth of your child, both academically and behaviorally, and continue to give him/her the positive support every child deserves for the next 80 days we have together.

Happy February!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week of November 30

This time of year seems to go by faster than any other as calendars start to fill up with family get-togethers, holiday parties, and Christmas shopping - for those who participate in the upcoming tradition. Wanting to take a moment to slow down before I get caught up in the holiday madness at school and at home, I'm taking advantage of this week's post by reflecting on the past week.

Thanksgiving, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S celebrated as a legal holiday for people to be thankful for what they have. (An interesting fact: our Canadian neighbors celebrated their Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.) "Thankful for what they have" - what exactly does that mean? For me, as the instructional leader at Lake Elementary, there is a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful that we have an involved parent community. Not many schools have the volunteers we do in the classroom on a weekly basis. So much so that teachers can regularly depend on them for assisting with centers, grading, organizing, filing, and more. I've observed parents eating breakfast and lunch with their children, as well as making arrangements so students can attend various school activities - dances, after school tutoring, after school sports, and more. And if it's not a parent I see, it's an involved grandparent!

I'm thankful for the staff in which I commonly refer to as my Lake Family. I'm fortunate to work with caring and motivated people. So many great things happen at our school on a daily basis that go unnoticed; from little things like tying a shoe to bigger things like organizing support for families in need; checking in with one another to make sure they "had a good day"; celebrating birthdays and babies; and just being kind - in a world in which negativity is so commonly reported, all these acts of kindness mean so much.

Most importantly, I'm thankful to be greeted by bright and cheery faces every day, the young learners who have their entire lives before them, but for awhile, call Lake Elementary home. I am thankful to sometimes be the one who wipes away tears and brings out a smile; I'm thankful to hear the laughter of young people and see the seriousness of learning. I'm thankful to hopefully be making a positive difference in the lives of young people. So this Thanksgiving season, I gave thanks for being able to call Lake Elementary my "home".

As someone who is very proud of their "home", I want the Lake Community to know that we have applied for the Gold Ribbon Award.  The California Gold Ribbon Schools Award was created last year to honor schools while the California Distinguished Schools Program is on hiatus as California transitions to new assessment and accountability systems. We submitted our application a few weeks ago and should be notified in mid-January. Our application included a description of the positive and supportive culture that exists on our campus, a culture we describe as LAKE - Leading the Advancement of Knowledge Everyday. Regardless of the outcome of this application, Lake Elementary School is a gold ribbon school. Thank you for all you do to make LAKE possible.

Have a great week.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week of November 9

Wow, what a weekend! The Lake Panthers PTO did it again. The annual Spaghetti Feed and Carnival was an extraordinary evening. I felt so proud to be part of such a colossal event! While sitting with some friends of ours during dinner, a question was asked if this event was a combination of several schools. I smiled and with a twinkle in my eye, answered, "No, this is just how we roll at Lake Elementary." Or what may be a more current saying of the times, "Go big or go home." Well, we certainly did it big and I was grinning from ear to ear the entire evening.

Many might be surprised to know that I coached girls basketball for about eight years while teaching. In basketball, players are often excited/anxious to be chosen as one of the five "starters". What teams fail to realize is basketball is more than just five players, it's a team of players who bring various strengths to the court. I tried to instill in my players the importance of the "sixth man". Wikipedia defines the sixth man as "a player who is not a starter but comes off the bench much more often than other reserves, often being the first player to be substituted in.  The sixth man often plays minutes equal to or exceeding some of the starters. The presence of a good sixth man is often the sign of team excellence. It usually means that a team has excellent depth..."

Our sixth man, the Lake Community, showed up in force on Saturday night. Our sixth man includes parents, grandparents, babysitters, neighbors, friends. And while they might not be "starters" who are "on the court" at school everyday, it's my belief that the sixth man is what makes Lake Elementary so strong. How do I know this? I had people I have never met before approach me Saturday night to thank me for having such a great school. Well, of course I beamed and politely thanked them, but quickly explained that Lake was an excellent school before I got there, that it's truly the Lake Community - their support of the staff, the students, and the events - that makes Lake Elementary what it is.

So if you see me this coming week and I have a funny little grin on my face and a twinkle in my eye, it's because I'm still thinking of all the families I saw Saturday night, the old and the young and all in between, enjoying their time together; and to know that it was all because of a small, rural school in northern California that many years ago decided to have a spaghetti feed and carnival. Way to go, Sixth Man!