Skills & Investment

Make no mistake, the primary and middle school years arm our students with skills and habits of mind that place them on a trajectory that will carry them through high school, college and into a career. This is exactly why we work to fulfill the educational needs of all children while recognizing the individuality of each child.

The reality is that today, the skills and habits of mind needed include the hard skills like reading, writing, mathematics, problem solving, and critical thinking. They also include agility in learning as applied to rapidly evolving tools like technology, and the skills of collaboration, communication, and creativity.

I had the pleasure of visiting classes at Willowbrook on Wednesday, October 28th. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing reading and writing workshop in action in first, third, and fifth grade. I also participated in our kindergarten specials that integrate music learning with movement in amazing ways.

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These powerful collaboration efforts were also evident in the evening’s Fifth Grade Musical led by music teacher Mr. Barker, physical education teacher Mr. Goss, and art teacher Ms. Sendaydiego. This entire production was put together by our students. What a wonderful example of our students applying and developing their creativity! I applaud the efforts and accomplishments of our staff and students.

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The closer one gets to the learning occurring across our district, the clearer it is that we are on the right track. It is what our kids do that matters, guided by skilled adults who are clear on their objectives. Our students are being asked to read and write about fiction and non-fiction, are being challenged to explain their thinking, and to creatively utilize technology. I continue to be inspired to see the learning progression across our grades, to see firsthand the skills being developed, and the thinking being realized. At every turn, our students amaze me!

Collaboration, communication, and creativity were also alive and well in the many Halloween activities across our district on Friday, October 30th. We held parades, haunted houses, and the Monster Mash at Wescott.

 

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Older students helped younger students with games at Wescott; Maple students designed and ran an amazing haunted house; and the parades and classroom parties held by our staff and parents were engaging. Our children benefit from the comprehensive educational experience in District 30 that is accomplished through a strong partnership between our talented educators and our invested parents.

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Passion and Improvement

On Friday, October 23, 2015 Wescott and Willowbrook welcomed visiting author Pam Muñoz Ryan, who recently released her new book Echo. She shared her journey of becoming an author, highlighted how she spends her days as an author, and reflected on inspirations for many of her books.

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As she reviewed the six years she spent working on her latest book, she projected a heavily marked up page from her editor and pointed out, “I am not a writer. I am a rewriter.” What a wonderful lesson for our kids and for us.

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As she reflected on her own learning, she told our students, “I wish I could go back to school today. Education has improved so much, as kids today get the chance to authentically write, journal, and hear visiting authors.”

Listening to her wisdom, I couldn’t help but walk away with two messages about passion and improvement.

Find Our Passion:

In her journey, she found her passion, which motivated her through the challenges presented by six years of work for one book.

Consider, author Greg McKeown’s three key questions for a successful life in his book essentialism:

  1. What deeply inspires me?
  2. What are my talents?
  3. What meets a significant need in the world?

Pam Muñoz Ryan was a wonderful example of someone who has answered these questions well. What answers will our kids define as they progress through their educations and lives?

Attaining Excellence Requires Revision and Improvement:

Excellence in anything, like clear and rich writing, requires revision and improvement. I attended elementary, middle and high school in the seventies and eighties. The focus was rote memorization, skill development that included writing for the teacher only, and listening passively. In my twenty-seven years in education, I absolutely agree with Pam Muñoz Ryan that education has improved. Today’s students are given the opportunity to be active learners, who are asked to understand, explain and connect.

Education today must address the seven survival skills defined by acclaimed author and Harvard Education Fellow Tony Wagner:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

These were highlighted by Mr. Andy Kohl, our Director of Educational Technology at our Board Meeting on Thursday, October 22, 2015. Mr. Kohl reminded us all that these are not skills that we can begin developing in a student’s junior year in college. These are skills that are essential in every phase of education.

Thursday’s District 30 Board Meeting also included several other examples of our district’s continuous efforts to improve:

  • Hirsch shared the results of our Teacher Assistant Task Force, which codified protocols and training for individuals in these valuable aide positions
  • Robyn Kogan advocated for the addition of a Civic Action Project for 6th graders that provides a service learning opportunity
  • Our Social Emotional Committee & Guided Studies Team shared the changes that have resulted from their summer curriculum projects that improve these already effective programs
  • Our administrative team reviewed our significant first-quarter progress on this year’s Board Goals

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District 30 embraces the concept of continuous improvement. Our collective efforts strengthen our ability to fulfill the educational needs of all children while recognizing the individuality of each child. In addition, our focus on the intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth of ALL students arms them with skills they need to thrive in today’s world as they explore and ultimately define their won passions.

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Parenting Toward Independence

We are partners in raising our children to be quality, independent adults. Since I began teaching in Glenview in the mid-1990s, I have been amazed at the quality of our students. Of course, this is no accident. A favorite saying of mine is that in our communities, parent is a verb.

Character Counts! Week

Our ongoing focus on the whole child through efforts like Character Counts! certainly influences our kids. At District 30’s October 15th Board Meeting, our Board again unanimously approved a proclamation in support of Character Counts! Week, which will be from Monday, October 19th through Friday, October 23rd. I applaud the focus on the Character Counts! Pillars:

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Character Counts! Week focuses on these pillars and includes Canned Food Drives at each school. Our efforts combine with District 34 and OLPH to create the single largest donation to the Northfield Food Pantry, which serves over 700 families in need from within our communities.

Ongoing Growth as Parents

This week also included author Julie Lythcott Haims sharing insights from her book How to Raise an Adult at Glenbrook North High School last Wednesday, October 14th. Ms. Haims’ presentation through the Family Action Network was outstanding and worth watching.

Her core message for parenting. She emphasized, “Our job is to build confidence, competence, and ultimately independence.” Ms. Haims shared a compelling argument that our parenting responsibility is inhibited by our well-meaning over-involved parenting. She used the example of teaching our children to walk across the street to highlight the need for us to teach life skills by:

  • Doing it for them
  • Doing it with them
  • Watching them do it
  • Let them do it on their own

She shared that childhood is supposed to be opportunity after opportunity for our kids to gain more and more skills toward building independence. A time to take chances, fail, and learn to do and think for themselves. She believes that over-involved parenting stunts our children’s growth. They depend on their parents to do the planning, implementing, figuring out, problem solving, handling, etc. They cope, but depend on parents.

Ironically, she shared compelling evidence that over parenting deprives kids of life skills and leads to higher rates of anxiety and depression. In essence, we deprive them of the ability to form self-efficacy, and the understanding that one’s own actions, lead to outcomes.

We certainly don’t begin our parenting journey by giving our sons and daughters independence. They need our guidance and parameters in place as they learn the skills needed to be successful adults. However, I completely agree with Ms. Haims, “Our job is to put ourselves out of a job and raise our offspring to be able to do for themselves, and think for themselves, and feel for themselves.” As we partner in parenting, we collectively need to arm our kids with the confidence that comes from learning from their failures, overcoming challenges and achieving independence.

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Loving District 30’s Family

The District 30 Family was one of the top themes that emerged from over 130 meetings that I had with staff and members of our PTOs. I was lucky to attend several events this week that illuminated the caring hearts and joy across District 30; we truly are a family!

On Tuesday, our Student Council Induction Ceremony at Maple School for officers and representatives included officer reflections on each of the Character Counts! pillars.

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In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed participating in The Wescott Walk (Facebook Link), which raised over $10,000! It was a great day as our students donated shoes and walked all day long! Our parent volunteers continued to demonstrate amazing commitment, and our students learned another valuable lesson about service.

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At Friday’s Wescott  Assembly, a packed gym of excited, and well-behaved students:

  • Celebrated raising over $10,000 at their walk
  • Reflected on gathering a record-setting number of shoes for children in Africa,
  • Recognized Brad Walters, of Advanced Disposal who Ms. Latek has noticed helping her aging neighbor by kindly returning their garbage can,
  • Expelled the Cub’s curses, and
  • Ended with the Wescott Song!

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Along those lines, the Willowbrook Front Office provided great karma to the Cubs as they lead the entire school in Go Cubs Go to kick off the school day. They used the opportunity to gather donations for the Lew Blond run from staff who chose to wear blue jeans with their Cubs attire for the day!

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Parent-teacher conferences also connect us in important ways. This significant investment of time by our teachers and parents provides valuable information to our parents as our teachers gain important insights into all of the students in our care. As I visited each school during conferences, I encountered parents and teachers who echoed these sentiments.

I was particularly inspired by the reflections of one parent. During a conversation, she shared with me, “My child is not just surviving these years. She is thriving!” She reflected on the growth she sees daily in her daughter along with the sincere care she feels each and every day at school. And there it is in a nutshell. As we focus on each child in our care, our collective efforts are to help each child thrive. The Family Action Network (FAN) will host a meeting at GBN on Wednesday, October 14th at which author Julie Lythcott-Haims will reflect on her book How to Raise an Adult. I am certain that this will be the topic for next week’s Blog Post. Please attend if you can, and stay tuned.

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Growth Mindset Across District 30

Our Growth Mindset remains a staple of District 30. This is true for our students, staff and parents.  The last week in October contains an opportunity for our parents and community from which we can all benefit entitled Raising Digital Natives, which will be put on by Devorah Heitner. This important program on Monday, October 26th and Tuesday, October 27th will provide our parents and our educators with insights on equipping their children with tools to successfully leverage the power of technology while maintaining healthy habits.

This week included several examples of growth worthy of our reflection.

Student Growth Through Courage

On Tuesday, September 29th I was honored to attend Maple’s Student Council Speech Assembly. Our sponsors, Ms. Lynn Reimer and Ms. Betsy Johnson did a wonderful job organizing the assembly. From the posting of the flag through the end of the speeches, our student body was respectful and attentive.

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I was especially proud of our students who had the courage to stand before their peers and deliver their speeches with composure and character. Each speech was unique, interesting and well done! More Student Council Speech pictures are available on our Facebook Page.

Faculty Growth Systems Through The Learning Lab & Professional Development

Our profession, like many others, has learned that sustained system-wide growth requires job-embedded opportunities for coaching and support. To that end, four of our faculty members worked with a gifted educational consultant, Ellin Keen, this week. Participating teachers included Ms. Heidi Fletcher and Ms. Jody Madden from Willowbrook, and Ms. Ashley Grosshuesch and Ms. Samantha Lipkin from Wescott.

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Their collaborative work centered around creating a leaning lab, designed to generate a platform for collaborative exploration and learning. It is a valuable component in the arsenal that creates an embedded system for continuous professional growth.

Furthering our continuous growth, district teachers spent the afternoon with Shelly Taylor in a workshop entitled Enhancing Instruction through Talented Planning. Our staff worked with their colleagues to analyze current instructional practices focusing on formative assessment, and foster student ownership for their own learning.

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One of our Student Council speeches included one of my favorite quotes by Jerry Rice, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” I was touched by the vulnerability and courage demonstrated through all three of these events, and can’t help but believe that they are examples of what makes our district special, and that they are living examples of Jerry Rice’s quote.

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Character Counts in District 30

Northbrook/Glenview School District 30 was recently listed as the best school district in Illinois (http://public-schools.startclass.com/stories/5508/best-school-districts-in-every-state#42-Illinois), in an article titled, “Best School Districts in Every State,” (http://public-schools.startclass.com/stories/5508/best-school-districts-in-every-state) by Nick Selbe withFindTheBest.com (September 8, 2015).

There are many school “ratings” out there and none comprehensively capture all of what makes great schools great. As I continue to plug into District 30, I am honestly inspired each and every time I am lucky enough to be in our schools and classrooms. Simply put, we have great students surrounded by talented and committed adults.

There are two aspects of District 30 that I believe are worth highlighting. First, our district continues to embrace the idea that it is what students do that matters. Classroom visits illuminate engaged students and actively learning that empower our students to grow socially and academically as they make connections. This is the essence of our workshop model in the K-5 curriculum and the principles reflected throughout our curriculum and instruction.

Second, we maintain a focus on the “whole child” with particular focus on the pillars of Character Counts.

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My week was filled with several examples:

  • Friends supporting each other after school at Maple;
  • Our 8th Grade Girl’s Volleyball team, which fell short of victory against Springman this week, but showed class as they shook hands and gave hugs to friends on the opposing team after the game;
  • Our Wescott Greeting Lines that welcome students and positively kick off each school day; and
  • Our Willowbrook Friday Flag Raising Ceremony, which included several Character Awards: Ms. Weingarten’s 5th grade class all of whom have literally provided a “helping arm” through the week to help their teacher, along with Mia and Kyle who were recognized for their positive actions during the week.

As we head into the end of September, I am thankful for another inspiring week. Thank you District 30!

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Our Students Enjoyed the Willowbrook PTO Ice Cream Social

There was excitement as the District 30 Community came together at the Willowbrook PTO’s Ice Cream Social.

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Board President, Chuck Gitles, Mrs. Wegley and I enjoyed seeing Mr. Carlson, the Willowbrook PTO and teachers as they brought joy and ice cream to our energized students.

Thanks to our Willowbrook PTO for this wonderful event!

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Curriculum Nights

I had the pleasure of attending Maple’s Curriculum Night on Thursday, August 27, 2015, and the Curriculum Nights at Wescott and Willowbrook on Thursday, September 3, 2015.

I witnessed teachers sharing their passion for educating our children. Our teachers’ welcoming and thorough presentations helped to reveal why our kids continue to love school so much, and reinforced why our parents are so impressed with their children’s teachers and everyone who supports the wonderful learning and care across District 30. Parents left with sincere smiles and gratitude, and an even deeper understanding of why they are so fortunate to have their kids at Maple, Wescott & Willowbrook.

Evenings also included presentations by our PTOs inviting parent participation as PTO leaders highlighted a few of the many areas for which they provide support to our schools. The evenings also continued to reinforce for me the things that are emerging to be our core:

  • At every level, District 30 is agile and does what is best for all students;
  • District 30 is driven by a growth mindset: We challenge and involve students in high quality learning experiences with a focus on intellectual, social-emotional, and physical growth;
  • District 30 is a family – I see this in our continual focus on kindness and compassion.

Thank you to our faculty and staff for their commitment to make these late evenings a reality for our parents, and thank you to all of our parents for their continued engagement in our schools. Our strong partnership is a key element of our success in continuing the growth of our most precious resource – our children.

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Full-Day Kindergarten Kicks Off in District 30

Full-Day Kindergarten kicked off today with excited teachers and students. After lining up at Willowbrook, teachers escorted their students to their lockers and then to their rooms. Within minutes, students were in their seat’s focused on their teachers and ready to learn!

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The day included stories, focus on the procedures within the room, math lessons and meaningful play. Students and parents reunited at the end of a very successful first day!

Special thanks to our Kindergarten teachers who have worked with many District 30 specialists to craft this new experience within District 30. I am truly excited to see this expanded opportunity enrich the lives of our newest District 30 members!

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District 30 Welcome

Mr. Chuck Gitles, our Board of Education President, welcomed back our staff on Monday, August 24, 2015. Several other board members, PTO leaders and parents were on hand to kick off the year.

Mr. Gitles shared his appreciation for all of the hard work that has been undertaken by our District 30 Family over the past several years, and emphasized that our changes have been good ones. He shared our Board’s great confidence in our staff and in our students as he reflected on how many members of our Board of Education intentionally moved to District 30 for the consistently strong education provided to our kids. He ended by warmly wishing all in District 30 a tremendous year.

I was also honored to welcome our staff. I shared all that I continue to learn about this wonderful district, and highlighted a few powerful stories from my son Rob’s District 30 classmates who recently graduated from many respective colleges. These talented District 30 graduates are now:

  • Finishing Fulbright scholarships,
  • Entering their teaching careers (like my son Rob),
  • Becoming Software Engineers,
  • Entering business careers, and
  • So much more.

As a District 30 parent myself, I know I join many of our district parents in gratitude for the path our students now travel. District 30 keeps one foot in the present and one foot in the future!

I also shared my focus for the year, which will be to:

  • Strengthen our high-functioning District 30 teams;
  • Renew our Strategic Plan; and to
  • Continue connecting with all aspects of District 30.

On that note, over the summer, I was also fortunate to meet with nearly 130 District 30 Staff Members and the PTO Leaders from Maple, Wescott and Willowbrook.

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From these meetings and from my leadership team’s reflections, several strong themes emerged that capture our culture. These include that:

  • At every level, District 30 does what is right for all students;
  • District 30 is driven by a growth mindset: staff crave improvement, are supported with outstanding professional development and strong resources, and focus on intellectual, social-emotional, and physical growth of or students; and
  • District 30 is truly a family.

A theme that also emerged was the need to analyze our facilities to maximize the support they provide programs, learning agility and flexibility, and innovation.

I look forward to continuing to connect with District 30 as I learn how to best serve our tremendous students, staff and families. You can read more on District 30’s News Section and see pictures at our Facebook Site!

All preparations are in place and we are ready for a wonderful year!

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