Tuesday, June 14, 2016

End-of-year Updates

Please return any/all Barrows School Library books ASAP! :)  Thank you for your support

Lunch Money
Hello Parents and Guardians! We would like to remind and inform you of some end of the year procedures.

Please remember that all money that was borrowed from the cafeteria must be paid back by Monday, June 20th (last day of school meals).

For MySchoolBucks users...
1. Please TURN OFF your automatic prepayments before the end of the school year.
2. Remember that positive and negative balances will follow the students. If you have money on your child's account, it will be there when we return in September.
3. We will open our on-line payment system again on Monday, August 29th.Please feel free to turn on your automatic payments at that time.
4. Ensure your LOW BALANCE alerts are set so you receive email notices when balances reach your limit.
5. Next year for SY1617, Elementary Lunch is $2.75 and Middle and High School is $3.00. Breakfast is $1.75.

We would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve your children and we wish you the safest of summers. See you in August!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A New Barrows Baby!

Please welcome the newest member of the Barrows community - Patrick John Haladay.  He came last weekend, 7 pounds 5 ounces. Congrats to our Special Education teacher Mary Haladay and family!

End of year transitions and Move-up day

Hello Barrows Families!

This time of year we are filled with transitions.  The wrapping up of a school year, although exciting and filled with celebrations, can also provoke anxiety for students around change and leaving beloved teachers or peers.  We will do our best to be mindful of supporting our learners through this time, and also encourage you to talk through these feelings with your children.  Let your child know it’s common to feel happy/excited and sad/nervous at the same time.  Consider strategies that may help them work through these feelings (talking to a trusted adult, writing in a journal, drawing a picture for their friend or teacher, reflecting on past transitions and their success, etc.)

One of our upcoming transitional activities is our Move-up day.  Here at Barrows on Move-up day students travel with their current class “up” to the next grade level teachers/classrooms.  Students have the opportunity to travel into each of the next grade-level classrooms, meet all of the teachers, and hear a bit about the things they will learn next year.  Many of our grade level teachers collaborate and work together to support students, and this structure provides an opportunity for all of our students to get to know all of our teachers and vice versa.  The goal is that this time allows students to continue to enjoy the end of the year with their current class and teacher while also providing a preview and thoughtful transition to the upcoming year.

I recently had an inquiry about the design and structure of our day so I hope that this information will help to answer questions about why we structure it this way and how it came to be.  As I noted at the start, this time of year holds heightened emotions for all involved. During the 2013-14 school year staff shared concerns about the Move-up day structure.  For many students the desire to keep their best friend in their class or a perception of a desired teacher feels like the most important values for their forthcoming year.  We understand and acknowledge the benefits of positive peer and teacher connections; unfortunately what was happening in practice was we had many students that had difficulty with the day as they became very focused on not being with a particular peer or feeling left out of a group.  This translated to students feeling stressed and anxious, tears, and feelings of disappointment (instead of hope and promise) for their upcoming year.  It was also observed that students seemingly missed information that was being shared, as their focus was elsewhere.  Staff reported that this lead to the end of the school year turning into a ‘recovery’ with students about than a celebration of a successful positive experience as a classroom community, leading to the all-important last day reflection and wrap-up being lost.

I have spent time over the last couple of months asking other principals around the state how they handle Move-up day to inquire if there are alternative ways to best support our transitioning learners.  I have found that the majority of schools that I have heard from either follow the last-day notifications similar to Barrows or do not release the names of teachers to students until mid-summer or the week prior to school starting.  Their reasons (which are ones we face and try to manage as well) include the fact that there are inevitability staff changes that can occur, student move-ins, student move-outs, and other information that is shared that could impact class dynamics/sizes/needs.  While we encounter those challenges as well, I agree with the sentiment that it is helpful for a child to know whose classroom they will be in to help build peer connections over the summer and envision their future teacher/year. 

I have had communication from parents and staff over the last 2 years about this day. Some parents have communicated a desire to have the Move-up day be with their assigned teacher and with their future student group as a way to decreased anxiety about whom they will be with and also arrange opportunities to get together with peers over the summer. An overwhelming majority of parents and staff that have provided feedback to me about this structure have been in favor of the way we manage it and have reported that it has been helpful in having a more positive end of the school year.  At the last PTO meeting last spring (June 2015) some parents requested that I send the report cards later in the day after students were released.  Parents have shared that it allowed the parent to process with their child in a calm environment and discuss questions and concerns in a way that met their child’s individual needs.  Some parents have also shared that their students experienced less worries about being away from a friend or peer when they weren’t learning it right alongside peers that were celebrating their placement.

An additional change that has taken place is that in order to comply with confidentiality laws, we no longer release the entire class list of names.  I know that this creates challenges for students seeking to find out who their peers will be.  Thankfully to meet this need our PTO has hosted an online “GoogleDoc” within which parents and families can ‘opt-in’ to sharing their child’s names to build a list of classroom peers for those that want to share their info. It may not be complete, but it does allow those families that would like to build connections over the summer to participate.

Please know that we all understand the anxiety that comes with this process and I hope you can see how much thought has gone into the structure and design that we hope best benefits our students.  This also follows many hours of thoughtful student placement by our staff that incorporates parent input that was provided.  We know there is not ‘perfect’ system but we continue to do the best we can to meet the needs of our learners.  That being said, I haven’t formally sought feedback about our Move-up day process.  In hearing request and questions and such a wide range of perspectives, I understand that this would be beneficial for us to do to ensure we are continuing to do the best we can collaboratively as a community.  Our Move-up day is scheduled this year for June 17th.  Following this event I will gather feedback from students as well as send a survey for staff and parents to help inform our future practices.

I thank you all for your ongoing dialogue and efforts to support all of our learners here at Barrows. Please enjoy the wonderful celebrations of learning through this last stretch of our school year!

~Mrs. Leonard

Friday, May 27, 2016

Reading Community Information

The Town of Reading Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Finance Committee, and Library Board of Trustees will be holding Community Listening Sessions to discuss the financial challenges facing the Town of Reading, including a possible override ballot question in October. At these meetings, there will be a brief presentation of the current and projected town finances, followed by the opportunity for the community to ask questions, voice opinions, and share ideas.
The dates, times, and locations of these meetings are as follows:
Wednesday, June 1st (7:00 p.m.) at Coolidge Middle School Multipurpose Room
Tuesday, June 7th (1:00 p.m.) at Reading Senior Center, 49 Pleasant Street
Thursday, June 16th (7:00 p.m.) at Walter S. Parker Middle School
All are encouraged to attend.  For more information regarding town finances and a potential override ballot question, please go to the Town of Reading website below:

Did you check out our recent Starburst?  Check it here:  http://www.edline.net/files/_QbDBE_/57cba57f2538872e3745a49013852ec4/5-23-16.pdf

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Vacation, Earth Day, All-school writing prompt, REF

I hope our Barrows families are enjoying this BEAUTIFUL spring day today.  Its days like this that vacation is made for!  I've been spending quite a bit of time with my family enjoying the beautiful weather with hikes, beach visits, playing at the park, scooter riding, and more.

beach combing
Visit to Castle Island Park in Boston 

Spring leads to so many wonderful opportunities - and also fills up calendars of our students, staff, and families. As we kick into this spring swing, be sure to pause and enjoy the many exciting spring events and the "small" moments (achievement of a great piece of art, conquering a set of tricky math problems, finally making that 3 point shot, nailing the spelling of the trick words, etc.)

I hope some of our Barrows Shining Stars will consider celebrating Earth Day tomorrow (April 22nd) with an action in their community to support environmental stewardship.  Additional ideas are listed in the websites below.  With April also being National Poetry Month we have teamed them up together and invite our Shining Stars to submit a piece of poetry inspired by Earth day!  Poems will be accepted in the Barrows office until April 29th, when they will be displayed in our school hallways!

Learn more about Earth Day here: https://www.epa.gov/earthday
Learn more about poetry structures here: http://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/poetry

I hope you will join our Reading Education Foundation (REF) for their annual Spring Gala, auction, fundraiser to support our schools.  If you don't have your tickets yet - you can get them here:  http://readingef.org/?page_id=684  REF has funded grants directly supporting Barrows in acquiring Document Cameras for our classroom, Ukulele gear for our music department, and (coming soon!!) materials and equipment for Barrows Outdoor Learning areas - with our garden beds!  I encourage your participation in this wonderful event and/or online auction.

Enjoy the rest of your April Vacation - we will see you all on Monday!
Love, Mrs. Leonard

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Barrows Read-A-Thon 2016

What an AWESOME way to celebrate reading at Barrows Elementary School.  Our Shining Stars blew their previous records out of the water - far surpassing the school-wide goal of 150,000 minutes.  Barrows Shining Stars read a total of 319,895 minutes during our Read-A-Thon!!!

In exceeding their goal, the class that lead their grade with the most minutes read had the chance to help tape me up to the wall.  Additionally the top reader from the other classes added a piece.  We came together as a school community to laugh, dance, and celebrate this fun achievement!

I am so proud of our Shining Stars!

Check out the names of our 100 minute and 500 minute readers here:  http://www.edline.net/files/_PGCNM_/5a717e4bfcecfd583745a49013852ec4/read_a_thon_2016.pdf

Check out the great video made by Mrs. Becker and some of her 5th grade students capturing our celebration assembly today:  http://viewpure.com/iqEom76Zpnk?start=0&end=0

Why all the fuss? Research shows that the best way to improve students' reading skills... is more time reading!

Check out some more links below about love and engagement with reading, books, literature, and stories...

  • Reading Tips for Parents:  http://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-tips-parents-11-languages

  • How to instill the love of reading blog:  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/instill-the-love-of-reading-levar-burton

  • 12 Ways to Nurture a Love of Reading:  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/12-ways-nurture-love-reading-elena-aguilar

"The biggest, most important question is, "Are kids reading for pleasure?" If the answer is yes, then we are on the right path."  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/reading-2.0-mary-beth-hertz

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Read-a-thon update

Hello Barrows Families!
We have been so impressed with all of the reading that is taking place at home as part of this year’s read-a-thon!  If things keep going like this, there is no way we won’t make it to our goal of 150,000 minutes read collectively as a school!  In fact, we are pretty sure we are on track to blow last year’s record out of the water!!  With this in mind, we are asking for donations of duct tape to help make our celebration assembly a shining success.  As we enter our final week:
·        Any rolls of duct tape your family would be willing to donate would be greatly appreciated and can be sent to school with your child.  We will have a box in the office to collect donations starting this Friday, March 25th
·        Wednesday, March 30th will be the last day we collect reading logs from students.
·        Donations can be sent in at any time, but we are hoping to have them all collected by Monday, April 4th at the latest.
·        Zinga! has been kind enough to offer an extra reading incentive for our Shining Stars.  Any student who reads at least 100 minutes will be given a gift certificate for 4 free ounces of frozen yogurt from their Reading location.  A special thanks to Zinga! for this sweet incentive!
·        If you feel your child should be recognized in the 100 or 500 minutes read club and they have not seen their name shared at school yet, please reach out to Sarah or Colleen (sarah.lanzo@reading.k12.ma.us or colleen.derosa@reading.k12.ma.us).  Your child’s classroom teacher does not have access to recorded minutes, but we do and are happy to help!
·        A big thank you to our Book Fair co-chairs who have donated over a dozen books to be raffled off to students at our celebration assembly.  During the week leading up to our celebration on April 4th, students will be given a raffle ticket for every reading log submitted (up to 4 possible tickets total).  Their teachers will arrange a time for them to visit the lobby and enter their tickets to win the book of their choice.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either one of us with any read-a-thon questions you may have.
Happy Reading,

Mrs. DeRosa and Mrs. Lanzo

Monday, February 29, 2016

A New Barrows Baby!

Jack Ryan McClain early this morning, February 29th is his birthday, a leap day baby! 

He weighed 8 pounds 1 oz and is almost 20 inches long.

Mom and baby are doing well!  The Barrows community sends our love to Mrs. McClain and her new little boy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why do teachers need to be out of the classroom for Professional Development?

During periods of the school year staff may be out of the classroom, attending professional development opportunities.  Although we try to limit the amount of time our teachers are out of the classroom, this time is important learning time that directly benefits students and student achievement.

Teacher Professional Learning, when done well, includes the following components; (Information below cited from Center for Public Education http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/teachingtheteachers#sthash.CuCtnDmC.dpuf.)

•  "Short, one-shot workshops often don’t change teacher practice and have no effect on student achievement (Yoon et al, 2007; Bush, 1984).

•    In order to truly change practices, professional development should occur over time and preferably be ongoing. Studies show that effective professional development programs require anywhere from 50 to 80 hours of instruction, practice, and coaching before teachers arrive at mastery (French, 1997; Banilower, 2002; Yoon et al., 2007). 

•    Coaches/mentors are found to be highly effective in helping teachers implement a new skill. In coaching, teachers work with a master educator before, during and after a lesson, getting feedback on their implementation of a newly learned teaching skill. Numerous studies have shown coaching to be successful at changing teacher practice and improving student learning (Showers, 1984; Slinger, 2004; Knight 2007; Batt, 2009; Stephens et al., 2007; Knight and Cornett, 2009). Before coaching, however, teachers need to get a solid foundation of knowledge about the teaching strategy. This presentation of knowledge should be active, not passive (Roy, 2005; Richardson, 1998).  Further, modeling by the coaches has been shown to be very effective at helping teachers grasp a new teaching approach before they attempt implementation (Roy, 2005; Goldberg, 2002; Rice, 2001; Black, 1998; Licklider, 1997).

•    Professional development is best delivered in the context of the teacher’s subject area. Regardless of whether teachers are working with coaches or in professional learning communities, teachers need to be working with the content they teach. Teachers don’t find professional development on generic topics useful (Peery, 2002; Redding and Kamm, 1999; Dunn and Dunn, 1998).  However, professional development that focuses on teachers analyzing the specific skill and concept they’ll teach in their discipline is not only well-received by teachers, but has also been shown to improve both teacher practice and student learning (Bland de la Alas and Smith, 2007; Carpenter et al., 1989; Cohen and Hill, 2001; Lieberman and Wood, 2001; Merek and Methven, 1991; Saxe, Gearhart, and Nasir, 2001; Wenglinksky, 2000; McGill-Franzen et al., 1999; Darling-Hammond et al., 2009)."

Our staff will be participating in a variety of academic trainings that complement the work they are doing in their classrooms with students, is ongoing, parallels the work of teacher Professional Learning Communities as well as the work from the district Literacy and Math Instructional Coaches.

If your teachers are out for professional learning days - it's good news!  They're continuing to grow in their practice in order to provide the best support for our learners.

Questions?  Reach out to your child's teacher or feel free to contact me!

Love, Mrs. Leonard