Celebrate Mom and Dad

unnamedI am celebrating today with Ruth Ayres

Today I celebrate my parents and the gifts they have given me. I celebrate the gifts of gratitude, empathy, courage and love.

For the past six years my 92 year old Dad has been the primary caregiver for my 88 year old mom. He has done this without an utterance of a complaint. Preparing meals, shopping, laundry, setting up medication which is no small task as her pill box resembles a small pharmacy. Routines drive the day from morning until bedtime.

On every visit home I was in awe of all he was doing but also fearful as I would think about the two of them alone. Yet they seemed to embrace each moment and dwelled in the present. Holding hands, laughing, driving to church, the theater, and the store. Dad carefully curling her hair with the hot curling brush, methodically setting out her morning pills and breakfast. Serving up Maria Calendars yummiest frozen meals.  A new normal for all of us to embrace.

Six weeks ago my Dad broke his hip. He fell on the basement steps while bringing the plastic Christmas tree downstairs. He crawled up the steps yelling for my mom to call 911. He had hip replacement surgery, went through two weeks recovery in the hospital and is now recovering at home. My brother, sister and I are taking turns being home to help them with this new normal.

Watching my mom cheer my dad on while he works with the home health care physical therapist and listening to her reminders to him not to bend down to pick things up is heartwarming. This morning he made coffee, set out her morning pills and breakfast. My parents continue to unknowingly give me gifts of empathy, gratitude,courage and most of all love.

Today I celebrate my Mom and Dad.

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IMMOOC Innovator’s Mindset


“Twenty -first century education is not about the test; it’s about something bigger. My focus is not on whether kids can knock it out of the park on some science test in grade three. What I care about is that kids are inspired to be better people because of their experiences in my school.”

~George Couros– Innovators Mindset

My highlighter was flying across the pages in the Introduction of the Innovator’s Mindset. I found myself wanting to stand up and start cheering. George Couros already has me convinced that with an Innovator’s Mindset anything is possible. Thank you, George!

Reading the introduction validates so many of my beliefs about school, children and what truly matters in education. The relationships we cultivate with students, staff and families is what helps move us forward. When we focus on strengths or use what Gravity Goldberg calls an “admiring lens” we build capacity for change.  I want to be part of the change that creates environments where kids are inspired and empowered to be better people. I want to be part of the change that creates environments where teachers are inspired and empowered to create meaningful experiences for kids.


~George Couros

I understand that I must be “innovative” in my actions if I want others to be “innovative”. This is one of the many reasons I’m here putting myself out there, connecting, collaborating, and sharing with others. This is not an easy task for me. I’m inspired to do this for the kids I get to work with. It reminds me of what we ask students to do everyday….take a risk…be brave and have courage. It is what we hope teachers will be willing to do everyday…take a risk…be brave and have courage to create student centered learning experiences.  To say yes to student voice and choice.To say no to compliance and yes to creativity.

The challenges we face today are vast, deep and wide. Worksheets and compliance will not provide our kids with the skills they need to design solutions to these many problems. I’m here to learn, share and grow in my understanding of how to lead change in schools where the focus is on creating experiences that inspire and empower kids to be better people.

Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.

~George Couros- Innovators Mindset


Taking Apart The Print Cartridge

In my new role as an Assistant Principal I often have the opportunity to work with students who act out for many different reasons. Instead of inflicting punitive measures against the child, I work to understand the behavior. I also spend time being proactive by trying to build relationships with students who have been identified as needing extra support and attention.

Building Trusting Relationships is the key to successful behavior growth for these students. Which in turn leads to academic growth. Relationship building takes time and intention. It starts with three  simple questions:

What’s going on?

How can I help?

What are you interested in?

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending time with a first grade friend ( I will call him Robert).We were working on strategies to help him calm down when he starts feeling tense,angry and about to blow.Some of our time together was spent with him teaching me about motor-cross and the difference between dirt-bikes and motorcycles. We printed off several different coloring pages of dirt-bikes that he glued into a new Dirt-Bike Writing Journal. It was only fifteen minutes but I know it was fifteen minutes that gave him an opportunity to be heard,valued and to see me as a caring, trustworthy adult.

A few days ago I received a call from his teacher that he was having a very rough morning she asked if he could come visit me. A few minutes later Robert was standing in the doorway to my office.

“Robert, it is so great to see you!” I said with big smile. “What’s going on?

Robert had a terrible morning at home and it carried over to the classroom.

Leaning in I gently asked ,“How can I help?”

Robert hung his head down and then slowly looked up and reluctantly whispered, “Can you print more stuff for my writing journal?”

“I would love to! Are you still interested in Dirt Bikes or is there something else?”

It turns out that Robert is also interested in Lego Ninjago guys. We found several characters he wanted printed off but the printer cartridge was empty. He helped me replace the cartridge. He wouldn’t let go of the old cartridge. He was studying it very closely then suddenly he shouted out , “Mrs. Duncan, Can we take this apart? I want to see how it works! I want to see what’s inside!

fullsizerender-19I had to say YES to that kind of excitement. Of course we can take the cartridge apart. I immediately found a screwdriver.Robert is also working on focus and growth mindset. He was so intrigued with taking the cartridge apart that he didn’t become frustrated when he had to try several different ways to get at what was inside the cartridge. He discovered springs, gears and plastic rollers. It was an amazing moment! He carefully saved the pieces and asked to bring them home.

fullsizerender-21Robert left my office with a big smile on his face. He was standing taller and had a sense of confidence about his abilities to focus and accomplish a difficult task. He was now ready to get on with his day.  The empty printer cartridge wasn’t empty at all. It became a tool that gave a student and myself an opportunity to grow in our learning and understanding about what truly matters in education.

May the Force Be With You

Last week I had the great opportunity to work with a Kindergarten student who was beginning to have a melt down.It was during a transition time and he wasn’t ready to transition. I happened to be popping in to say hello. The teacher was relieved to see me and redirected the student my way. She suggested we look for new books for his book box. I have worked with this student before to help him reset and refocus. I knew he was a “Star Wars Expert.” His teacher also knows how interested and excited he is about Star Wars.

As soon as (I will call this student Bill) Bill and I started looking through the basket filled with Star Wars books, his eyes lit up. We laid out all of the Star Wars Books. Bill selected three books. I asked if he wanted to read with me and he wildly shook his head yes. We had a great discussion about the force, galaxies, and good and bad characters. He found sight words and wefullsizerender-17 acted out scenes with sound effects of light sabers and droids. Bill looked closely at small details in the pictures. He inferred motives and elaborated and empathized with characters. Most important this normally withdrawn student was shining and I was enjoying EVERY second learning from him!

I asked Bill many questions. One question I asked was,”What is the force?” Bill scrunched his eyebrows and his mouth fell open in disbelief that I even asked this question.He matter-of-factly answered “It’s an energy field created by all living things.It keeps the galaxy together.”  “You really are a Star Wars Expert,” I replied in amazement.

The soothing sounds of chimes echoed from the classroom signaling the end of readers workshop and the start of recess. He didn’t want to stop sharing his expertise on Star Wars but it was time to go. Bill had recess and I had other classrooms to visit. He gave me a hug and his departing words were, “May the Force be With You.”

As I walked away my heart was full and I was grateful to have been present in that moment. A moment to create a small opportunity for a student to have voice and choice, to share his passion and expertise. A small opportunity with a large impact.








Summer Literacy Camp

I’m very excited for the opportunity to coordinate a Summer School Program for children in kindergarten through third grade. What I’m most excited about is the freedom to put  into practice my deepest beliefs about what has the greatest impact on student growth and that is to: focus on a child’s strengths, provide choices, and use their interests to engage them in the learning.

Instead of a traditional model this summer school program will have a camp atmosphere with a focus on growth mindset, curiosity,  and nurturing creativity. We will spend time outdoors engaging all of our senses as we explore, notice and look closely. These opportunities will help students develop their observation skills and will transfer to our reading and writing.

Our first week of camp our mentor texts will be The Dot and Ish by Peter Reynolds. In both of these stories Peter Reynolds characters model for parents, teachers and students how to  be brave enough to “make a mark” to get started and if you get stuck you can “ish” it. (This is what I’m doing right now with my first blog post. Friends, I’m a work in progress.)

One of the first things we will be exploring are The Access Lenses, created by  @trevorabryan . The Access Lenses are a powerful tool that help students look for evidence in  pictures/illustrations. The evidence they find allows them to make meaning, increases comprehension and leads to rich discussions. The Access Lenses are a powerful tool because all students experience success and contribute to the conversation. You can learn more about The Access Lenses at Fouroclockfaculty

Dear Students,

You have worked hard all year and the last thing I know many of you  want to do is come back to school over your summer break but wait…

This is Summer Literacy Camp.

Camp is about YOU.







trying new things,

making new friends,

sharing what you love,

creating art,

building confidence,


celebrating your learning.

See you at camp!

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