April 24, 2017
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I have recently read two new articles relating to children and technology. One article was called, “What’s the Right Age for a Child to Get a Smartphone?” in the NY Times. The other article came from the NY Post and it was called, “It’s digital heroin: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.”
In the first article, the consensus was that the longer parents wait to give their child a smartphone the better. In a study published by Common Sense Media they polled 1,240 parents and children and found 50% of the children admitted that they were addicted to their smartphones. It also found that 66% of parents felt their children used mobile devices too much, and 52 % of children agreed. About 36% of parents said they argue with their children daily about device use.
In the article they talked not just about the addictive distractions, but also how phones can detract children from schoolwork, impact them socially, and expose children to issues like online bullies, child predators, and sexting. As an administrator every year, I will deal with incidences of students sending inappropriate texts and/or pictures and how those interactions also impact their learning and relationships within our school building. “Last year, at least 100 students at a Colorado high school were embroiled in a scandal that involved trading naked pictures of themselves on their mobile devices.”
Although I didn’t care for the title of the second article, the information intrigued me. This article focused on all digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and video systems. “According to a 2013 Policy Statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 8 to 10 year-olds spend 8 hours a day with various digital media while teenagers spend 11 hours in front of screens. One in three kids are using tablets or smartphones before they can talk.” For many children addictive behaviors start to appear and they are having a hard time stopping or controlling how much they play. The article shared a mother’s experience with her son and his technology use and addiction.
In reflecting on this article, we as educators needs to be cautious of how much we promote computer games such as Minecraft and other education apps. We sometimes send a mixed message of how much learning and problem-solving students can experience by playing these games. However, most of these skills can be obtained by building with Legos, playing board games and participating in extra-curricular opportunities.
Both articles shared different thoughts and ideas for parents as they navigate in our world of technology. They mentioned to wait as long as you can before giving your child a smartphone. When parents feel it is appropriate or needed, the experts recommend starting with a simple mobile device that features only calling. Then once your child shows responsibility to change to a phone with both calling and texting. Finally, opting for smartphones in later teen years. For technology, research and medical studies are publishing reports that suggest to significant limit screen time for toddlers. Balance and “less is more” are two terms used in both articles.
The last item I found interesting in reading these articles was that “Steve Jobs was a notoriously known as a low-tech parent and some Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech schools.”
I know personally during vacation, I am going to make a conscious effort to turn off my computer, not look at my email as often and to turn off my cellphone. I am going to get out on the golf course, spend time with family, and after dinner read a book instead of turning on the television or logging into Facebook.
Enjoy your April vacation and see you back Monday, May 1st!
April 13, 2017
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Who do you get your wisdom from? How do we gain knowledge? Who do you seek out when you are facing a challenge?
All of us would have different answers to these questions. However, if I had to answer these questions I would say: I gain wisdom from reflecting on my different experiences throughout the day. I gain wisdom from watching others and listening to how they have dealt with different situations. I gain wisdom from going to a quiet place and listening to my inner heart. For knowledge, I seek out individuals I respect and ask them questions and listen to their advice. I stay up-to date in my profession by reading books and articles from different educational resources. I attend different conferences and spend time speaking with administrators, teachers and support staff. To gain a broader prospective and understanding of student behavior and choices, I eat lunch with our students. Their comments, dialogue and insight provide me with a broader spectrum of their growth and development. When I am facing a challenge, I call my parents, siblings and closest friends. I am fortunate to have these individuals in my life to guide me and offer support in those tough times.
Sometimes we gain wisdom and knowledge from a stranger—here is an example:
Reg Brett, a 90 year-old man, once wrote his down his list of how to celebrate growing older and his life lessons. I would like to share some of them with you.
Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
When in doubt, just take the next small step.
Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, would we grab ours back.
Over prepare, then go with the flow.
No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
To see his entire list go to: http://benades.blogspot.com/2009/11/45-life-lessons-by-reg-brett-age-90.html
Have a great weekend!
April 7, 2017
It has been a crazy couple of weeks. Last week, I came down with the flu and the week prior, I was swamped with administrative paperwork! I am starting to feel better and some deadlines have passed.
Every month, I receive a magazine called, Educational Leadership written by ASCD (Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development). This month’s theme is “Differences Not Disabilities.” I will usually do a “picture walk”, read the titles of the articles, captions and quotes. Then if something catches my eye, I will read the entire article. One such article was entitled, “How Did You Get to Harvard?” by Thomas Hehir. On the first page, the opening says “How does a student who faces major obstacles to accessing the curriculum make it to Harvard? By developing the right learning strategies.” The author Hehir started teaching at Harvard sixteen years ago after a 30-year career as a special education teacher and administrator. Although the article focused on students with disabilities, I believe the information gained can be beneficial for any student.
Here are the highlights:
The majority of the students by the end of middle school had an understanding of their disability, knew how they learned and what tools and skills they needed to be successful.
The student, parent(s) and educators didn’t accept that their disability should limit his/her potential.
They had adults in their lives that believed in them!
At times, the students would receive specialized instruction however they also had full access to a challenging curriculum.
They made sure that some of their academic load focused on their strengths such as the arts, writing, oral debating, or athletics.
They developed strategies—how to effectively organize their writing; using text-to- speech technology; coping skills for anxiety; organizational tools.
They understood that there would be highs and low in their educational career but they set the bar high.
This four-page article just summarized the finding of the work done by Thomas Hehir. I am going to add his entire book to my summer reading list! I look forward to finding additional ways in which, even at the elementary level, we can have all of your students set their goals high no matter the obstacle!
Have a great weekend!
February 24, 2017
We made it—February vacation is here! I thought I would share with you different ideas that your family could do during vacation time. I did a little research on a few websites and thought I would share what I found. This is not a full list of places that provide these opportunities, but it is a start. Feel free to check out VisitNH.gov or WMUR-Escape Outside for more details and ideas.
For the adventurous type:
Ziplining—Attitash Mountain, Gunstock Mountain Resort, Bretton Woods, Cranmore
Snow tubing—Bretton Woods, Cranmore, Gunstock, King Pine, Pats Peak
Snowshoeing—Franconia Notch State Park, The Flume Gorge, Greenfield State Park
Low Cost Winter Activities for Families:
Before heading out to these places, check in with the Gordon-Nash Library as they might have family passes or discounted tickets.
New England Ski Museum, Franconia Notch
SEE Science Center, Manchester
Sledding on Wagon Hill, Durham
Hood Museum of Art, Hanover
New Hampshire Children’s Museum, Dover
Cheshire Children’s Museum, Keene
Visiting our Gordon-Nash Library
NH State House—take a tour
Build forts inside with blankets and pillows
Write a play and perform it for family and friends
Write a song
Whatever you decide to do over this next week, I hope it is filled with laughter, joy and amazement! Safe journey to all traveling out of town. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s stories of what they did over February vacation.
February 17, 2017
We are finishing up our middle of the year data and starting to look at results. We analyze the data in at least three ways: individual, class and whole school. Our faculty and staff are celebrating the successes and working hard to develop systemic changes to help with our areas that need improvement.
When looking at a systemic change, we discuss a variety of things such as, our delivery of instruction, the intensity of the instruction and the group’s dynamic. We do not look at just one assessment tool. We try to triangulate our data.
Research has studied the impact of students reading at home. Below is a summary of a study done by Nagy and Herman.
It is our hope as a team, we will have all of our students become the best scholars they can be. At school, we will provide a safe learning environment and rigorous instruction using research-based curriculum. At home, students should be reading and completing their homework. Together what a difference we can make!
Have a great weekend!
January 27, 2017
With us being about half-way through the school year, we are asking parents to take a minute to update phone, work and emergency information. If any of this information has changed, please call or send in a note with your child. It is imperative that we have the latest and easiest way to reach you during the school year. Our nurse needs to be able to reach you when your child is ill and needs to be picked up. Thank you in advance for sending in this information.
I had the opportunity to spend some time at Ragged Mountain yesterday with our Ski Program. I want to thank all of the faculty, staff and parent volunteers for making our 5-week Winter Activity Program a success. I love to hear that our students are trying new things and persevering through learning new skills. I enjoy seeing the smiles on our students’ faces as they are having fun, cooperating with friends and for many, participating in life-long sports such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and snowshoeing. We have one more week of fun to go!
To help celebrate the New England Patriots making it into the Superbowl, on Friday, February 3, we ask all faculty, staff and students to wear Patriots gear or their colors - red, white and blue. Let’s have some fun and kick off Super Bowl Weekend by showing our NHCS spirit!
Lastly, I want to remind you that next Saturday, February 4, is the district’s Deliberative Session at Newfound Regional High School, starting at 10:00 a.m. Over the past several months, both the School Board and Budget Committee have met to discuss and debate next year’s school budget. While few citizens attend School Board and/or School Budget Committee meetings, these committees do listen to input, and encourage you to provide it in the future. Your most important opportunity in affecting any desired change lies in attending the First Deliberative Session where interested voters determine what ends up on the ballot for all voters. It is at this meeting that you, the taxpayer, may accept, lower or raise the budget. If a motion is made to amend or to accept the budget, discussion will follow, after which time a vote will be taken. Childcare is available at the high school while parents attend this meeting. Voting day for the district will be on March 14. If you have any questions regarding this process, feel free to give me a call.
Have a great weekend!
January 13, 2017
Last week, I was under the weather and spent several days on my couch, resting. In between naps and drinking tea, I read and watched some television. This time provided me with an opportunity to rest, learn and reflect. I enjoyed listening to all different sports reporters and both coaches as they prepared for the College Football National Championship. I read some articles from ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) and different teaching blogs. I watched a few interviews and news programs that focused on the ending of President Obama’s presidency.
At our faculty and staff meetings this week, we discussed the following quotes:
“The big picture of curriculum is thinking about how all the individual units form a cohesive whole and keeping that at the forefront of your curriculum design, process, rather than taking a unit-by- unit approach.” -- Angela DiMichele Lalor
“When ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better.” -- Barack Obama
“Hold each other accountable—you can’t do it by yourself.” -- Dabo Swinney
Dennis Miranda said, “As you reflect upon where you would like to be at the end of this school year, what one word would you consider to shape that journey?” Some of our words included: nurturing, consistent, mindful, perseverance, juggle, dedicated, happiness, joy, compassionate and thoughtful.
My reflection from reading some teaching blogs consisted of our need to continue to model even basic skills to our students. For example, it is always a challenge at the elementary level to have our students in a timely fashion get dressed and undressed for winter recess. One suggestion from a teacher was for families to purchase a reusable grocery bag and students will always put their snow boots and snow pants into the bag at school. It was recommended that we take the time to model with students what are the right and wrong ways to get dressed for recess and undressed after coming in from outside. We can make this fun by having the teachers try on their winter gear by putting their mittens on first and then trying to put on boots and snow pants. Lastly, we should teach our students a routine. In the younger grades, we can even make a checklist or picture poster for students. One teacher shared her routine that she teaches her students: 1)snow pants; 2)boots (sneakers/shoes) into recycled grocery bag; 3)scarf; 4)coat and zip; 5)hat; 6)mittens. The routine to get undressed was: 1)mittens; 2)hat and mittens go into hat; 3)scarf; 4)jacket; 5)hat with mittens and scarf go into sleeve of jacket; 6)jacket on hook in cubbie/locker; 7)snow pants into bag; 8)boots into bag; 9)sneakers on. For some of our students, the steps that need to be accomplished for going out to recess or coming in can be overwhelming or time-consuming. So the more, as adults, we can help them with organization and practice, the more successful our students will be.
Have a great, long weekend!
P.S. Please join us next Friday, January 20 th , as we celebrate the retirement of Mrs. Knott-Garon. We invite you and your children to come into the MPR from 2:15-3:30 p.m. to spend some time socializing, sharing a story, saying thanks and wishing her well. We will have a brief ceremony at 3:00 p.m. Snacks and beverages will be provided. Katie’s last day will be Tuesday, January 31 st .
December 16, 2016
Do you often wonder why your students, especially in grades K-2, come home with photocopied paper books? Does it seem like some children are “natural readers” while others struggle and reading needs to be explicitly taught? What is the difference between these decodable readers and picture books?
Decodable readers are books that have controlled text. Decodable books are books that contain only phonetic elements that the student has already learned and basic sight words. For example, a child at the beginning stages of reading who has learned the short vowel sounds could decode simple words like hat, bed, and pig, but might have difficulty decoding words like see and owl. A student at a higher reading level might be reading a decodable book with vowel teams like AI or OA and be able to decode more complex words like snail and goal.
Selecting books can be tricky as publishers will often call books a beginning book or decodable book but only half the words in the book are decodable. In reading, we want children to feel and be successful as they read. We do not want students to become frustrated and start to guess at words. We want students to use their knowledge of phonics and their word analysis skills to decode unfamiliar words. As they are able to figure out every word in a book, they feel successful, which in turn helps them to build fluency and develop good reading strategies.
Example text from a decodable reader: “Ted got his red cap back. The red cap had a rip in it. It was not a big rip. Ted can fix his red cap.” Example text from a picture book: “On Friday he ate through five oranges, but he was still hungry. On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami…” As you can see, there is a large difference in the word selection and phonics rules within these two texts.
What should I do as a parent?
Every night, have your child read to you and spend some time reading to your child. Incorporate both decodable readers and picture books into your nightly routine. Have your child read the decodable books and celebrate his/her success! Together, enjoy the picture books from authors like Mo Willems, Mary Lyn Ray and Marty Kelley. Even as your child gets older, spend time together, snuggled under a blanket, reading chapter books like Tuck Everlasting and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Reading at home not only can positively impact your child’s academic success, but also develop a special and lasting bond between a child and parent.
If you would like more information or assistance in selecting books for your child, please reach out to your child’s classroom teacher, our literacy specialist, Carolyn Mallahan, and our ICT teacher, Christine Roman. Also, we have a great relationship with the Gordon-Nash children’s librarian, Christine Hunewell. Our town’s library is open Tuesday-Thursday, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m; Friday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m; Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. The library is closed Sunday and Monday.
December 9, 2016
My dad turned eighty this week! My earliest memories of my dad are playing catch in the front yard, having him and mom sit under the tree at Saco River being our lifeguards as we went swimming, and him correcting papers at the kitchen table as we also did our homework. However, over the years, he has become more than just dad; he has become my hero and inspiration. My dad was raised in a family with one older brother and a younger brother and sister. He lived in the suburbs of Boston. His father served in World War II, came home, worked various jobs, but passed away when my dad was in college. His mom and four special aunts raised him. In the very few stories that he shares about growing up, he speaks about walking to his father’s cab to give him dinner, spending time at his aunts’ house, and sneaking into Boston Brave baseball games.
My dad graduated from high school and went to Keene State College. He was the first member of his family to attend college. Dad shares many stories of his time at KSC. He talks about living off campus as a freshman in a community member’s house. He talks about hitchhiking home on holiday breaks. He shares funny stories about his time as president of his fraternity, Kappa Delta Pi, as well as his time as president of the class of 1958. He talks about the day he was summonsed into the college president’s office and was asked to transfer to Plymouth. My dad held his ground and talked the president into letting him stay at KSC. He talks about almost not graduating from college, because he owed $5 at graduation. Luckily, he had some extra cash that week to pay off that bill!
My dad got his first teaching job in Hopkinton, NH. The next year he got a job in Nashua, NH and taught in the Nashua School District for 37 years. As a rookie teacher, he taught English and then went back to school and received a master’s degree in guidance. For over 20 years, he was a guidance counselor at Nashua High. Then, he finished off his career by teaching 8 th grade US history.
I went into teaching because of him. I watched how every day he would come home, loving his job and loving his family. Over time, he became my role model. His work ethic, compassion, sense of humor, and love of teaching have guided me as an adult. He was a quiet leader by taking on different leadership roles at school and home. He was union president and chair of the guidance department. He would help my mother with the laundry and housecleaning. I saw how he and my mother would purchase an extra winter coat or pair of sneakers and just leave it in one of his 8 th grade student’s locker.
My father continues to be an inspiration to me as he copes with an aging body and mind. Unfortunately, his eyesight and Parkinson’s disease are taking a toll, but his love of family and sense of humor remain strong. His smile brightens and body becomes energized as he plays with his great grandsons and watches his grandchildren play high school sports. In our conversations, he still has those one-liners that just make you laugh and smile for the rest of the day.
I am the person I am today because of my father. As each year passes, I know how fortunate I am to still have the opportunity to call my dad for advice, or to share a funny school story. I cherish the time and have tried to both tell him and show him, through my actions, that he has earned an A+ in being a dad! Happy Birthday, Dad-- I love you!
December 2, 2016
As a student, did you ever get sent to the principal’s office? Do you remember any details of his/her room? Was the administrative assistant in the main office welcoming?
I do vaguely remember the offices of my elementary school and junior high. One was more welcoming than the other. I recall my elementary principal having this large wooden desk that seemed to take up a large part of his office. During my junior year of high school, instead of going to study hall first block, I worked in the “Yellow/White Office.” I helped the administrative assistant by checking in late students, sorting mail and putting it in teachers’ mailboxes, and just hanging behind the counter in this office.
As many of you know, I have a twin sister. Although we attended Nashua High, there were a few classes we had together. Biology class was one of them. One day in class, I became argumentative with the teacher. Our discussion turned to the point in which she said, “Ann, if you continue, you will be sent to Mr. Cote’s office (he was the assistant principal in charge of my part of the alphabet). With my father having taught/worked with Mr. Cote, and knowing my sister would share at the dinner table my fate, I chose to stop arguing.
I decided to share this story because I know when parents receive a phone call from me or the call from Katie saying that Ms. Holloran would like to set up a meeting, the majority of the time, the first reaction is not a pleasant one. This week, I had a parent meeting and the mom shared that her child was nervous that she was going to get yelled at by the principal. At the end of the meeting, I brought the student into my office to sit with us as I reassured him/her that I didn’t yell and I summarized what was talked about at the meeting. We all left the office with smiles. It is one of my goals to try to make all families feel welcomed into our school community and into my office. I try to remember that for some adults, school wasn’t always a great experience. I try to be an active listener. I focus on allowing people the opportunity to share. Lastly, we sit together around a round table instead of me being behind a large wooden desk. It is my ultimate hope that parents’ and students’ memories of my office are ones of getting books, a place of listening to all sides, walls of colorful art and inspiring quotes, an area of learning, and where we fix our mistakes.
I know that often the last sentence of my written correspondence ends with “please don’t hesitate to reach out or call.” I hope this article helps to reassure you that “we are in the journey of educating your child together” and I hope the principal’s office is a little less intimidating.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. To finish the story, of course at the dinner table that night Maryann shared our experience in biology class. Since my dad was a teacher in the Nashua School District, he had a telephone book with the names of teachers in the system. After discussing the events with my parents, shortly after dinner, I had to call my biology teacher’s home and apologize for my rude and disrespectful behavior in class. In addition, I was grounded for a week.