Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Marching Bengals: Excellence in Action!

Marching Bengals Entertain at Drums Along the Blue Ridge
I had the opportunity to see the Marching Bengals present their exhibition performance at the Drums Along the Blue Ridge event this past weekend.  The performance was incredible!  I was inspired by the professionalism, work ethic, and talent displayed by our students.  I saw previous performances during half-time at football games this season, but this was the first time I saw it all come together with completed props, choreography, and new band uniforms.  I attempted to take a quick picture (displayed here), without missing any part of the performance.  As I left Bassett High School that evening, I reflected on the powerful performance.  Based on the roar from the crowd, I could tell that everyone else was as inspired as I was.  I was reminded of the fact that students learn so much from participating in band.  These skills will serve our students well beyond high school.  The students should be proud of their accomplishment.  I was also encouraged by the support from our parents and community.  This is a great example of how our community comes together to support students.  I'm looking forward to their continued success.  Way to go Marching Bengals!

Goal 1: High Quality Instruction
Goal 5: Family and Community Engagement

Friday, October 10, 2014

Creativity and Communication at Axton Elementary!

Lego Build Depicting Jamestown Settlement
I had a great visit at Axton Elementary today. As a part of my visit, I always stop by classrooms to observe great teaching and learning first hand.  When I entered Ms. Kirks' class, I was intrigued by the project the students were completing.  Using Legos, the students were asked to create a model for the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown.  Prior to this activity, students learned important facts about Jamestown and reviewed information about the reasons Jamestown was established, the challenges the early colonists faced, and historical figures who contributed to the success of Jamestown. It was clear to see that the students were highly engaged in this activity.  Most importantly, I could see how this activity provided opportunities for students to demonstrate creativity and communication skills.

Clearly, the students had to be creative because they had to "think outside the box" to complete this task.  Students had to find ways to use available resources to create a model of Jamestown.  As I visit schools and see students working with Legos in activities like this, I am always impressed by their creativity.  In addition, the teacher had several students share their models with the class.  This provided the students with an opportunity to develop their communication skills.  Students had to share the aspects of their model and how each component was connected to information they learned about Jamestown.  What a great activity!  I'm confident that the students in this class will remember important information about Jamestown long after today's lesson.  

Goal 1: High Quality Instruction

The 4 C's Are Alive at Laurel Park Middle School!

Critical Thinking Mural at Laurel Park Middle
I recently visited Laurel Park Middle School.  I was impressed to see teachers implementing the new HCPS curriculum.  I was also pleased to see that teachers are working together to incorporate the 4 C's into daily instruction: Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.  This is an area of focus for HCPS as we are working to ensure that all of our students are well-prepared for college, career, and citizenship.  I was also excited to see the murals that have been posted throughout the school.  As an example, I've included the mural for "Critical Thinking" in the picture to the right.  What a great way to remind students and teachers of the 4 C's.  I'm looking forward to seeing the 4 C's in action as I stop by Laurel Park for future visits.  Go Lancers!

Goal 1: High Quality Instruction

Teach Like a Bengal at STE!

I had a great visit at Stanleytown Elementary last week.  I was impressed with how hard the teachers and staff are working to increase student achievement.  The school has taken on the theme, "Facing the Giants."  The Stanleytown faculty and staff plan to use this motto this year to support their efforts to rally together to meet the challenges ahead.  I was very intrigued by the bulletin board that I saw when I entered the school.  It simply stated, "Teach Like A Bengal."  The letters in B-E-N-G-A-L were used to create the acrostic poem noted in the picture below.

Bulletin Board at Stanleytown Elementary
I like the bulletin board for several reasons.  For one thing, it sets the expectation for all of the professionals in the building to follow.  Staff members have made the commitment to approach their work with enthusiasm.  In addition, they are focused on adapting their instruction to meet student needs and networking together to improve their professional practice.  I also like the focus on goal-setting.  As educators, we frequently set goals for our students.  However, it is important for us to also set challenging goals for ourselves in order to continually improve our teaching practices.  Finally, leading and learning are additional traits that all great teachers must possess.  We certainly expect our students to learn a great deal each day, and we hope to see growth in their achievement over the course of a school year.  What about teachers?  It is evident that the teachers at Stanleytown see the importance of  continuous learning for themselves.  If we are going to be better teachers, we need to be lifelong learners.  In addition, we can always learn a great deal from our colleagues!

Although this seemed like a simple bulletin board display in the hallway at Stanleytown Elementary, it delivers a powerful message.  It lets everyone know that the teachers and staff at this school have made a commitment to do whatever it takes to serve the students in their care.  I'm looking forward to visiting the school in the future to see these traits in action.  Stanleytown has certainly inspired me to "Lead Like a Bengal!"

Goal 2: High Quality Professionals

Note:  There is also a great bulletin board for students that says, "learn like a Bengal!"

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Student Advisory Meeting

List of Strengths for HCPS
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the HCPS Student Advisory for the first meeting of the year.  I must admit that this is my favorite group to meet with during the year.  Certainly, it is important for me to meet with all stakeholders throughout the school year, but I would argue that this is an extremely important group to meet with because our students are directly impacted by decisions that are made at the central office level.  As I have said many times, our students are are most important customers!

During the meeting, I asked student representatives to work in groups to discuss strengths and challenges for our school division.  I was impressed with the list that they developed.  Students highlighted such things as access to technology, focus on safety, athletics, and diversity as particular strengths for our school division.  They even discussed the school division dress code as a strength.  I am very encouraged by the feedback that the students provided because many of our improvements in these areas are the direct result of student feedback from previous years.

Student Advisory Members Collaborating
I am also looking forward to the work that this group will accomplish this year.  Rather than simply providing input on school division initiatives or issues, I always encourage the student advisory group to take on a challenge each year.  This helps to encourage student leadership and provides the students with a sense of accomplishment at the end of the year.  Last year, the group decided to focus on ways to create innovative, 21st century learning spaces.  Feedback from last year's advisory group is being utilized to create innovative learning spaces as a part of our strategic plan, EnVision 2018.   This year, the students have decided to work on professional development for teachers.  Students want to help teachers understand the unique needs of today's learners.  I'm looking forward to learning more about their specific ideas at our next meeting.  Certainly, this group is a great example of the caliber of students we have in HCPS!

Goal 1: High Quality Instruction
Goal 2: High Quality Professionals