Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to School 2010

The 2010-2011 school year is now in full swing.  We welcomed many parents to school on Thursday night for our annual Back to School Night.  Those of you who were here had an opportunity to meet your child's teachers, hear about our curricula and see pictures of the smiling students who are so happy to be back in school (said with tongue in cheek). 

If you were here at the beginning of the night, you heard a little bit about the things going on in the district and school.  You also heard some of our philosophy.  If you weren't here, or maybe were dozing off because I was boring (that's OK, I understand), I'll recap the message.

Most of you have no doubt seen our website.  It is a constantly evolving tool for communication.  We spent a great deal of time developing a site that is useful and easy to use.  Please take time to check out the website if you have not already done so.
Probably the most important feature of the website is the "Notify Me" function where parents can sign up for email updates when content is added.  Parents have the opportunity to choose the information they want sent to their email addresses.  You can get information from PTA, LTEF, community-based organizations and more.  If you want information from these groups, you need to sign up as we are not sending paper home on a regular basis. 
Does your son or daughter participate in a sport? Sign up for calendar updates and you will be notified of schedule changes and, more importantly, weather cancellations.  You can now get text messages sent to your phone if you like.  Just be sure to select the Woodglen Athletics Calendar if you only want texts about sports.
If you are not signed up for automatic notification through our website, go to right now and get yourself signed up.

This year, we have set a theme of "Respect and Responsibility" for all students.  I meet each year with students to talk about expectations for the upcoming school year.  When I met with students during the first week of school, I explained that throughout the year we would focus on Respect and Responsibility. 
Respect means respecting yourself, respecting others, respecting property, respecting teachers and respecting parents. We take great pride in the climate that has been developed at Woodglen School.  We want it to be one where everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas, working hard and being themselves.  In a time of life when most students are trying to figure out who they are, an atmosphere of respect is crucial to everyone's development.  We don't ask everyone to be friends, that's just not the real world.  We do ask everyone to respect each other, that is what the real world should be.
Responsibility is the other key ingredient to our school climate.  We want students to leave Woodglen prepared for high school and beyond.  Our goal is for them to move along the continuum from little boys and girls who come from elementary school to young people who are ready to succeed in the challenging environment of high school.
Students are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves.  It isn't mom and dad's job to find out when a club or activity meets, its the student's job to listen to announcements.  That's responsible.  All students are given an opportunity to write assignments in their agenda books.  Choosing not to do so and later claiming that they couldn't do the homework because it wasn't posted or the Internet was down is not an option.  That's not taking responsibility for oneself. 
I found it disheartening to hear from fifth and sixth grade teachers that we already have a significant number of students who are not completing homework.  That's not responsible nor is it acceptable.

If I asked what middle school grades mean, I would probably get a variety of answers.  What grades are supposed to be is a standard way to communicate a students achievement in a given subject area.  Unfortunately, what grades have become is a way to evaluate the quality of a child and/or parent.  That is not a good thing.  A student who gets an A is not necessarily any nicer or any better quality of an individual than the student who gets a D.  Too often, though, people like to think, "my kid is a good kid because he or she gets good grades," or, "I'm a bad parent because my kid is struggling in school."  These types of fallacies have led to a situation where grades are more important than learning.
Do you know what an A means to a middle school student?  It doesn't mean that he or she has thoroughly mastered the information and skills presented in the classroom, it means, "I don't have to work any harder than I already am, and, maybe I can work a little less because my parents would be OK with an A- or B+."  That is what happens when grades are used as currency.  "Can I do extra credit to bring my grade up?"  "What does my child need to do to get the extra point to bring that C+ to a B-?"  These are the questions asked when grades are used as currency.  "I get $10 for every A I get."  "You'll be grounded if you don't get all A's and B's."  These are the statements that we hear when grades are used as currency.
Our goal at Woodglen School is for all students to be successful.  Success though, should not be focused on middle school.  If we wanted kids to get A's in middle school, we could put several things in place that could probably accomplish just that.  Unfortunately, those kinds of things are detrimental to students in the long run.  We want students to leave Woodglen prepared for high school and beyond.  What does that mean?  We want them to develop a strong work ethic, one where "just enough" is not enough.  We want them to develop good study and work habits.  Once they get to high school, one high school administrator once put it, everything counts.  Kids can't just start working hard when they get there.  Hard work and good study skills are habits that need to be developed and honed in middle school.  When we focus on that, sometimes kids have to experience some failure and difficulty.  We are here to help them work through that.  We are here to help them develop the habits, learn to be responsible, and become people who will be successful in high school and beyond.

I shared the Woodglen philosophy on dealing with bullying - we do all we can NOT to have to deal with it by preventing it.  That means we put great emphasis on stopping meanness, which ultimately leads to bullying behaviors.  Our goal is simple, we don't want to fix students' problems, we want to teach them how to fix their own problems.  At the beginning of each school year, I meet with every student and we talk about how to deal with unacceptable behaviors.  I remind them of what I consider to be the most important rule at Woodglen, "Treat others the way you want to be treated."  I complete the statement with, "which is not necessarily the way they are treating you." 
Students are encouraged to see Mrs. Hinde or me when they are having issues with other students.  They should not wait until the issue is very large and out of control.  I don't want to see students pushed over the edge to the point where they are using foul language, threats, or getting physical.  If students are having a problem with someone, we want to teach them how to resolve the issue.  Too many people, adults included, avoid issues until they are out of control.  That is what leads to bullying.  We bring kids together to talk in an effort to solve problems.
If your son or daughter comes home and tells you that they are having trouble in school, on the playground or on the bus, encourage them to see Mrs. Hinde so that she can help them fix the situation - not fix it for them.  If we are on the same page with this, the program works much better so I would ask for your support.

Woodglen School is a great school with great kids, great teachers and great parents.  I feel blessed to be able to work in a genuinely nice and supportive community.  I know that we all share the same goals, to work with children to make them good and successful people.  Working together I believe that we can do just that.

If you ever have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at school.

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