Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dream Big Little Indians!

We have had so many reasons to celebrate lately.   Pride of the tribe, grade level awards, 179 students with perfect attendance, discipline down 92%, and a loving environment full of academically engaged students.   The vibe is strong at VBE!  While this journey to an"A" will not occur overnight, we are on the path to excellence!  At our awards ceremony, we had record numbers come out to support their children.  We asked families to write down their dreams for their kiddos.  Upon reading the messages it was hard not to get emotional.  We are so blessed.  We wanted to share what our families and community want for the future of our amazing students.

This just shows how much they deserve the very best of us every day to help then accomplish their dreams.  Our staff is working hard on a daily basis to support these dreams and build up the confidence in our students.  We have such big goals for our Little Indians and nothing will stop us from helping each one reach their potential.

Keep believing in Vero Beach Elementary.

Every child.

Every day.

No exceptions.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Student-centered decisions

This week, like many, has been filled with opportunities for reflection and growth as a tribe.

The big picture is sometimes hard to see in the day to day tasks that can sometimes seem overwhelming.  However, there was a moment yesterday that had me overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude towards our tribe.

To really understand the impact I must first tell you the story of a student.

The story is about a fourth grader that transferred into Vero Beach Elementary last year.

He was vocal about how much he hated school.  He was commited to disrupting learning in any and all ways possible.  Let's just say, I was a frequent visitor to his classroom.  He would throw items, curse, defy authority, and make open threats.

Despite this, I knew we could reach him.

There was a breakdown in my office last year.  He started talking to me about the show, "Full House."
Boom.  Connection.  You see sometimes it's that easy.  We immediately started talking about it and how much we both loved the show.  The morals and values that were engrained in it.  The complex characters that overcame tragedy and how a family came together to support each other.

The conversation ended with him telling me that I remind him of DJ Tanner and that in the new version, she's a mom.

This kid melted my heart in that moment.

Fast forward to this year.  Structures have been put in place and this student is thriving.  Not only is he academically improving, but he has built friendships and has developed strong leadership skills.  He became a member of our first media production team and always has a smile on his face.

This doesn't happen by accident.

Thank you to all the VBE tribe that make student-centered decisions and encourage, connect, and push our Little Indians.

Yesterday his teacher tweeted out a writing sample.  It was absolutely impressive to see the student's growth.  However, I cried (more like sobbed like a baby) when I found out the work was his.

It's not the test score that will matter in his life.  It's the teacher that takes time to celebrate his growth and share it with the world that will make the change.



Saturday, October 15, 2016

It Takes a Tribe!

It started out innocently.  We had great intentions.  Our leadership team was sensing some anxiety that typically emerges around the end of first quarter on every school campus.  The honeymoon is over, as educators tend to say.  We met as a team to go over what we felt was needed based on observations and data.  We created a blueprint and delegated responsibility.  The team sent out invites to the teachers for our planning period meetings. I have to say,  I left the meeting thinking, "we got this!!!"

It was ready to go.

Then at 2 am that night I woke up in a panic. 
Were we missing the most important element?

The answer was, yes.

We pride ourselves on giving our students choice and voice, but I had a weight in my chest telling me we  were missing the target with our faculty and staff. 

To lead with integrity we must include the stakeholders that are making the greatest impact on our kiddos and I admit, as a leader, we did not include them in the conversation.  Immediately there was a sense of urgency to invite them into the conversation, so an email went out to our grade-level teacher leaders asking the following questions.

Question 1-
What is working for your team?  What support is helping?

Question 2-
What are areas the team needs to improve on?

Question 3-
How can we better support your teams needs and alleviate stress?

What are areas you would like us to focus on for our school based PD?

The feedback we received was insightful, deliberate, and action-driven.  

The leadership team met back up and re-aligned to the needs of our team.  Instead of us focusing on what we felt was important, we focused on what our teachers needed.  

We are lucky to have a tribe that is open to growing.  We are open to change.  We are open to building the foundation that will bring Vero Beach Elementary back to an "A."  

We do this putting our hearts 110% into our vision and mission.  I'm so grateful to work with a tribe that always focuses on what's best for the kiddos.  Our meeting took place on Friday with each grade level and were focused on what they needed.  We were transparent.  We were focused.  We were teacher and student-centered.

Then we did something not many are willing to do, we asked for feedback.  How can WE continue to grow for you?  What support do YOU need moving forward?

We must continue to give our tribe a voice. 

Tribe work makes the vibe work!

We also took time to reflect on why we teach.

Our team also took time to each write a hand-written postcard to a student who is making improvements in their class.  Over 70 postcards will be sent home to our kiddos to let them know how much we appreciate their efforts.

Our Tribe Rocks! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fearless to Fail Forward

The past few weeks have been saturated with moments of highs and lows.  Our discipline is down significantly, in fact we have the second lowest number of office referrals in the entire district.  Our Little Indians are showing kindness, empathy, and utilizing strategies pro-actively to calm themselves.  I watched a first grader the other day tell his friend to calm his amygdala down and helped him control his breathing (which was impressive in so many ways).  It's evident to everyone on our campus that our staff is working hard to implement every strategy they can to keep our campus calm and put the focus on our academics.

Then there have been the lows.  We have some new students that are showing signs of trauma and stress conditions.  It's hard not to feel overwhelmed trying to get them services they need to be successful in life.  It's just a testament to the fact that our public schools can't do it alone.

We need everyone.
The families, the community, everyone.

Luckily, we have that support at Vero beach Elementary.  Just one phone call to Ladell Young, head School Resource Officer, and he was at our school ready to mentor one of our students who professed that he plans to be an officer when he grows up.  If you knew his past, this would be such a welcomed surprise.

The lows also come streaming in with the reality of how much work we have to do to help our students meet proficiency.  Looking at our current conditions, over 80% of our students are below grade level in reading and in math.  This means we have an urgent need to get them the very best teaching, diagnostics, and interventions.

Our staff is working so hard.  They are here at night, on the weekend, before the sun comes up and after the sun goes down.  They are the hardest working faculty I have ever seen.  Ever.

The work we have to do will not come unless every single person is willing to do the following:
  1. Take risks
  2. Reach out for support
  3. Admit when they don't know how to move forward
  4. Be willing to get coaching
  5. Realize that they can't do it alone
  6. Collaborate, and not just share ideas
  7. Find value in each others strengths
  8. Acknowledge that we all have weakness
If we can do this together, we are unstoppable.  I'm a firm believer in our TRIBE of fearless educators.  We just have to be willing to hear that we may not be perfect... yet.

We currently started a VOXER group for the Innovators of Indian River County.  One of the innovators tonight mentioned that she wants to work with her students on growth mindset. That really resonated with me. 

While we may not be an "A" school right now, if we can be willing to take risks, admit shortcomings, grow together through collaboration and our mistakes... then the real statement is we are not an "A" school YET.