Friday, September 18, 2009

This and that from Taylor

This week’s column is a little bit of this and that:

The APS Education Foundation asked us to nominate two outstanding 7th/8th graders for recognition. This is part of the Foundation’s celebration of the “Month of the Early Adolescent” in October. Our teachers nominated several students based on the following criteria:
• Exemplary behavior;
• Excellent grades;
• Evidence of leadership/initiative—volunteerism, elected positions in organizations, in-class leadership; and
• Dependability.
We nominated two outstanding students for this award: Neda Mirmesdagh (8th) and Ben Duck (7th). Neda is the daughter of Reza and Lori Mirmesdagh. She has volunteered her time at the Roadrunner Food Bank and Watermelon Ranch Animal Rescue. Ben is the son of Roberta and Ken Duck. He has volunteered his time with the Officer McGrane Street Survival Training program and was a leader in organizing last year’s school-wide fundraiser for the Officer McGrane Foundation. In addition to their volunteer efforts, both students have excellent grades and are acknowledged student leaders. Congratulations to both students.

There has been much ado made about federal economic stimulus monies and their impact on the economy. I want to report on how Taylor is using our stimulus funds.
• We received $3,000 for the Special Education department which we divided up among our teachers. Each teacher received $200 which they will spend for classroom materials and/or books to enrich their classroom library.
• We received $5,000 for use in our two Autism/Social Communication classrooms. Each classroom is being outfitted with a new digital projector, document camera, projector screen, laptop computer, and a shared laser printer.
• Special education teachers have received professional development in research-based math and reading interventions to help them differentiate instruction.

As principal, a paramount concern is the safety of your child while at Taylor and coming to and from home. We work really hard as a school staff to supervise our students and to address student conflict before it escalates into bullying. But, sadly, bullying happens. When it does and we find out about it we discipline the bully. Unfortunately most bullying goes unreported because oftentimes students are afraid of the repercussions from the bully for reporting the original offense. While I fully understand this reluctance to come forward, parents must understand that we can’t address the bullying if we don’t know about it. And we aren’t just concerned about protecting the victim; we also want to help the bully improve his or her behavior. As we know most bullies have been victims of bullying themselves. So while we want to respond to bullying forcefully we also counsel the bully and try to get them some help. Bottom line: bullying is not okay at Taylor and if you are a victim, please let us know so we can help.

Finally, just a building and staffing update: The district is installing new energy efficient lighting in the main gym and mini-gym. The new lights will produce more light for less money. They will mount flush with the gym ceiling which will be safer. In addition to new lights, we also installed new mini-blinds in every classroom over the summer to replace antiquated Venetian blinds. We added two new portable classrooms over the summer to accommodate our growing student body and we just got authorization to hire a new special education math teacher to help us lower our pupil teacher ratio in our transitional math classes.

Have a wonderful weekend and I hope to see you next Thursday night!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Believing is seeing!

Conventional wisdom tells us that seeing is believing. But I had an epiphany recently after watching a video produced by National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. His premise is that believing is seeing. He told of story of a young teacher who was advised that her new class of students was intellectually gifted. She set her expectations accordingly and proceeded to teach them as though they all had high IQs. When she got her standardized test results back, sure enough the students all scored well above the school average. She was later told that in fact she had been a part of an experiment and that her kids IQs were very much average. What made the difference? She believed they were gifted and so she began to see them as gifted. Her behavior toward them (how she saw them) changed based on what she believed. By believing in them, she saw them through a new lens. By believing in our kids - by believing they can achieve - we can affect whether they do achieve and succeed. Henry Ford said “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are right!” So how do you look at your child’s achievement at Taylor or on the soccer field or around the house? A recent article from Psychology Today explored the power of parental expectations:
“Self-fulfilling prophecies—ideas that become reality simply because someone believes them—do not usually have strong effects. But a study shows that expectations may come to pass when many people hold the same beliefs—if those beliefs are unfavorable. Stephanie Madon, an Iowa State University psychologist, investigated parents' expectations about their children's alcohol use. She discovered that when both parents believe that a child will abuse alcohol, in fact, the child is likely to drink more than expected. This holds true even when signs, such as past alcohol use and friends' behavior, suggest a teenager is at low risk. The findings support the social theory that prophecies are especially self-fulfilling for stereotyped groups. But Madon notes that her study also offers hope. If one parent has positive expectations about a child, the child is protected from the other parent's negative belief.”
Here at Taylor, we are striving as a school community to believe each child can learn, come prepared for class, do his or her homework, and achieve at a high level. Sometimes can be a challenge at times because we may have a stereotypical view of a child or even a whole subgroup of children because of our experience or upbringing or cultural bias. But we are working hard to see each child through a lens of possibilities rather than limitations: the proverbial glass half-full. So when you see our marquee asking “Do you believe?” you will know what we aren’t promoting religion or an X-Files fan club. We are asking a core question: Do you believe your child can achieve? Do you believe your child will succeed? We hope the answer to both is “yes!”