Friday, October 5, 2012

Reflections on Quarter 1

Tomorrow is our last day of fall intersession.  Quarter 1 is over . . . how could it have come and gone so quickly?

Intersession is a great opportunity for me to catch up on paperwork, reports, and mandatory trainings.  Right now, my office looks neater than it's been for the past two months, though I don't know how long that will last,  Intersession is also a great time for me to reflect on the past quarter and to look ahead to the rest of the year.

We ended the quarter with over 1,000 students.  I don't know where they came from, but despite the higher enrollment, we actually had a quieter quarter.  It appears that the counselors' actions to provide guidance and support BEFORE problems arise contributed to fewer behavioral referrals.  The Positive Behavior Support cadre also made Tribes more visible by sharing a daily morning message, sponsored a door decorating contest, and constantly reminded students and teachers about working together as a school community.

Our grade levels are reviewing data on formative assessments to make instructional decisions, and the data teams are working through challenges to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms.  The process isn't  "smooth" yet, and there are conflicts in ideas, but disagreements are dealt with respectfully.  I always feel that dissonance is a good thing; we need differing opinions and honest discussions.  The end result, I believe, will be a better product.  I am appreciative of our three Data Coaches who have persevered and are building capacity of the teachers to see the value in  asking tough questions and collaborating to ensure that learning is taking place in all classrooms.

Our fourth and fifth grade blended learning classes are blazing trails!  The teachers have created a rigorous and relevant curriculum which challenges students to be self-directed, critical, and creative thinkers, and students have exceeded expectations with their ability to adapt to this new means of learning.  I had the opportunity to view some of the  individual projects, and I was amazed at the work of some of these students when given the chance to explore something they wanted to learn more about.  I look forward to seeing these students continue to blossom as they take charge of their own learning.

The use of technology is taking hold at our school. Our school webpage is full of information, and almost every teacher has created a class webpage to communicate with parents.  We communicate with parents through Facebook, Twitter, and a Hale Kula Highlights blog.  Students and teachers are using technology and Web 2.0 tools to access, to communicate, collaborate, and create their learning.  All of this is happening despite our school's limited wireless capacity which should be upgraded next school year. 

Our gardens as well as the sea urchin project provide real-world, meaningful experiences which have the potential to have a  lifelong impact on our students.  Look at this  fifth grade garden blog or this sea urchin project slideshow to get an idea of the learning that is taking place for our students. Preschool classes learn while raising flowers or vegetables in their gardens; students are tweeting about their school day; classrooms are communicating with children from other countries through epals, and there are many more examples of meaningful learning experiences.

Finally, I'd like to share about the support from parents and the community.  Approximately 90% of our parents attended their child's parent/teacher conference; we had nearly 100 parents participate in the workshops to share about the Common Core State Standards; volunteers came out in force to assist at the Book Fair, the Complex Cross Country Meet, and in classrooms; and just this week during intersession, Weston Solutions, SYNERGY, and DPW provided funding to pave our outdoor classroom.  We are so fortunate to have such dedicated and caring parents and volunteers at Hale Kula!

As I reflect on Quarter 1 of SY 2012-2013, I am amazed at how much we accomplished in eight weeks. With such a great beginning of the school year, we can certainly look forward to continued success as we exemplify our school vision:  Hale Kula Elementary School - Working, learning, and succeeding together!

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