Friday, May 22, 2015

Looking Back. Looking Forward. Reflections.

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On the night before the first day of this school year I wrote this post outlining some goals and dreams for our school. Now, in the craziness that is May, with Open House, end-of-year performances, and making plans for next year behind the scenes, I'm taking a look back at the list of things we hoped to accomplish at our school this year. People who know will me well embrace me as a girl who likes to dream big and start lots of things, some times too many! Other ideas I embark on with enthusiasm, and sometimes without having a clear path or plan, embracing the mess and learning as I go. I love setting goals. I love dreaming big. And so, nine months later it's time to reflect on this year and start penciling in dreams for 2015-16. 

Here's the "dream list" for this year (in italics), and the results in bold. 

357 students by name in the drop off line! I am looking forward to greeting the students I know and learning the names of our newest students as fast as I can!  

I love drop off! I look forward to it every day, rain or shine! This year, I had big kids getting out of the front door for the first time with the addition of 4th and 5th grade. I also had some awesome helpers out there!

My helper almost every day!

Learning like a pirate- seeking treasure and getting to know our crew was a big focus this year as we looked deeply as a staff into kindness, empathy, and building relationships with kids and each other. 

Connecting as a staff

Connecting with kids

Autism Awareness Parent Night Team

Kindness Capes

Writing! Every student and teacher in our school has a writer's notebook and we'll be exploring writing and writer's workshop together all year long, culminating with a Family Writing Night in the Spring. 

Everyone wrote at Star this year- even the teachers at our staff meetings! And one of our 4th grade students even published his second book. We also had 4th graders submit entries for the B Street Theatre Script contest! We did not have a Family Writing Night, but it's on the list for next year!

Reading!  Our library is slowly getting ready to open, and we're starting a monthly family/student book club this year after being inspired by this post! We love to read at Star!

We finally opened our library in May and we held three Family Book Clubs! Hopefully we will have more next year.
One 5th grade class!

The library!

Homework! We're rethinking homework this year in hopes of making it more inspiring, relevant, and meaningful. Here's a post you might be interested in if you're tired of traditional homework! 

We did re-imagine homework this year, decreasing the amount and creating opportunities for optional activities including students writing blog posts. Most of the feedback was positive although a few parents noted they thought we should have more homework in our end-of-year survey. We'll keep looking at this next year.

Adopt a college! New this year, each classroom is adopting a college and we hope the college will adopt them back! If you see pennants and college flags around our school, it's because we are planting the seed that college is possible for each an every student in our school. Each grade level has a few college-related vocabulary words and we are looking forward to singing fight songs and promoting college spirit!  

We DID get the flags up! That's about it. Ugh. I wish we had done more in this area. But this is that evidence of too many ideas to implement well at once. My fault. 

Art! We are excited to be incorporating more art of all kinds this year. We will have a school-wide visual art program, grade level plays, and we are hoping to fundraise for a portable stage! Every student in our school also will learn Spanish, and we're hoping to incorporate more music in the coming year. 

Big win here. A school-wide art show at Open House last night, choir, Spanish, and yes, we got that stage thanks to generous parent and community donations!

Choir performance to a standing room only crowd!

Schoolwide Art Show at Open House

Technology! This year, we have a Mac lab, Chromebook carts, an iPad mini cart and teachers have iPads for teaching. We decided to purchase iPads instead of a traditional document camera since there is so much additional functionality for not much more money. 

Technology is everywhere at our school. We even purchased more, and we need more. Our teachers infuse it into every subject area and kids dig it! Our biggest problem was sharing the 30 iPads so they now live in my office and kids come and go all day checking them out :)

Maker Space! This year we are trying to incorporate a maker space, Minecraft, Genius hour, STEAM, and more. Our after school enrichment will feature a Maker Monday session that will combine Minecraft, making, DIY and more with our very own IT team of Joe Wood and Joe Cook! We can't wait to see how that evolves. 

Another big win. Our after school Minecraft Club was a huge hit, filling up in as fast as four minutes when signups opened. Over 100 kids participated. Special thanks to Joe Wood for creating the amazing worlds for the kids to build in! Additionally, our 4th and 5th grade team knocked the ball out of the park with their enrichment elective rotations that culminated with a showcase every 6 weeks for students and families. The 4/5 enrichment block inclided digital photography, stop motion video, art, engineering, Zumba, knitting and crocheting, coding, YouTubery, debate and improv, and more! Second grade even  built their communities in Minecraft! STEAM is an area we hope to ramp up next year schoolwide-- inspired by school visits over Spring Break.

Elizabeth made this! A driving ice cream!

Totally new classroom design! I'll share more pictures later, but our two 4th grade teachers have totally transformed their learning environments- no front, comfy learning spaces, rugs, tables instead of desks and more. We were inspired by two blog posts Reimagine Classroom Design and  Room Design or the Hobbit: An Unexpected Gathering when designing our new spaces. 

Not only did they redesign classrooms in a new way, but we got even more inspiration for our new school from a visit to the Cove School in Marin County-- inspired by Google!

No Office Day! Tomorrow is my first #noofficeday! Check out my previous post about getting out of the office and into classrooms with teachers and kids. 

This was another big win for me. Almost every Monday I was out and about in classrooms with teachers and kids! Check out this post for a look back at No Office Day via Twitter! Next year, I hope to be out at least two days all day. Or schedule one "Office Day"-- I like that idea better!

Looking back, I'm excited about all of the new experiences we had at our school, and looking forward to 2015-16!

What are you excited for in the coming year?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mama's night out by Jessica Green #unravelpediatriccancer

My name is Jessica Green. I have two boys here at Star Academy (Chase-2nd grade and Parker-Kindergarten). I am honored to introduce my friend Libby Kranz. She is an amazing mother of four who lives in the Bay Area. We met in a moms group back before we even had kids. Libby's amazing sense of humor, way with words, and willingness to be vulnerable was endearing to me and all the other moms. She was very open about her and her husband's difficult journey to parenthood. We as a group rejoiced with Libby and Tony when they adopted a precious little girl, Jennifer Lynn Kranz, over 7 years ago. Little Jennifer (or JLK as her family and friends referred to her) was the fulfillment of so many hopes, dreams, and prayers. They went on to be blessed with 2 sons and another daughter.

In the Fall of 2013 right after JLK started kindergarten, their life would be forever changed. I am going to let Libby take over and share their story.

A little before her 6th birthday we noticed Jennifer's eye was starting to turn inward. This prompted me to make her an appointment with an opthamologist which led to s specialist which led to a MRI. October 28th we woke up to celebrate her birthday. She chose to wear her new Belle costume to the hospital for our appointment to hear the results of her MRI. We learned of 4 letters. DIPG. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. And then the words we never imagined we would hear.. terminal.. 9 months average.. radiation to lessen symptoms. We called our family and had the most bittersweet birthday party you can imagine.. It would turn out to be her last.

Just 3.5 months later and 2 days before Valentines day I held my barely 6 year old as she took her last breath.

Throughout her unfair fight I learned so many statistics that were both startling and horrifying. Childhood cancer steals 7 children a day in this country and is the number one disease killer yet it only receives less than 4% of the Federal governments’ entire cancer research budget. The American Cancer Society/ Relay for Life gives less than 1 cent of every donated dollar to our kids.

I made my Jennifer a promise before she became forever 6. That I would take care of her brothers and baby sister and our attempt to Unravel Pediatric Cancer is the best way I can do that. We were able to donate all of her tumors and a successful cell line was created from them. My Jennifer will be part of the cure and I invite you to be also.

Photo by Heather Avrech

We are joining Libby in the fight to find a cure for Pediatric Cancer. Ladies grab your girlfriends for a fun night out. On June 27th, there will be a Mama’s Night Out at Beatnik Studios.

This will be an evening full of good food, drinks, shopping, dancing, a photo booth, and inspiration. Tickets are available at www.UnravelPediatricCancer.org/mno/sac .You can visit www.unravelpediatriccancer.org or www.facebook.com/mamasnightout to find out more information about Unravel and this fun night.