I found myself reflecting on why I love working in the field of education this Valentine’s Day. Of course, it is rewarding to grow the next generation of confident and competent citizens. It provides me with purpose. As one of our Kindergarten students wrote, “Love is… helping other people”. And as our superintendent often says, education is the field that allows all the other professions to exist.

Sean McComb, 2014 National Teacher of the Year, launched #LoveTeaching Week a few years back. This national campaign was created by teachers to celebrate the joys of working in education. Despite some of the challenges facing public education, this remains a rewarding and important profession.

Long-term relationships with students and families are my favorite aspect of being an educator. As a building leader, I am able to be a part of student growth and witness family success stories. I was reminded of that fact in 2 simple, but profound ways this week. On Tuesday night, I was working at my desk when I heard a knock on the front door. A Willowbrook mother and her 2 children brought me a home-cooked meal. It was delicious… and so thoughtful. Yesterday, I received a Valentine over Twitter (photo below). You may never really know when or how you influence someone else’s life. That’s why I love teaching.

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Hello from Camp Echo

This week’s polar vortex made it feel like Mrs. Fetzer, Mr. Pablo, and I were working at Camp Echo (the Rebel Alliance’s settlement on the planet of Hoth). I can’t remember a time when we experienced 3 closed school days in a single week. While Mother Nature interrupted our instruction, it did provide the gift of unstructured time.

Similar to your family, the Carlson family calendar seems impossibly full at times. We are juggling 3 different basketball teams, homework, and two careers in public education. This week gave us an opportunity to play together, read for enjoyment, and spontaneous fun. I enjoyed the silly photos my wife shared from home. I hope you found some quality family time too.

We tried something new with teachers on Wednesday. As you are probably aware, we are trying to maximize our summer for Maple School’s construction. We want to avoid going into June as much as possible. With that in mind, the administration quickly pulled together a day of online professional development for our teaching staff this Wednesday. Teachers were given the choice of viewing various webinars around the topics of differentiated instruction, reading/writing rigor, and instructional technology practices. Teachers reflected on their learning and created “action plans”.

Our friends in the New Trier Township (and elsewhere) experimented with remote learning for students. Maybe you heard about this. The Illinois State Board of Education recently approved the use of “E-Learning Days” in place of make-up school days. Teaching staff provided students with electronic assignments and activities to complete at home during the school closures. Some students submitted evidence of their schoolwork via Seesaw, Schoology, or email. I wonder what our parent community would think of this. This may be something for our district to consider. What are your thoughts?

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Attendance Matters

The Illinois School Code defines a “chronic absence” as 10 percent or more of school days of the most recent academic school year, including absences with and without valid cause (Section 26-2a).

Consistent attendance at school is critical to the academic and social-emotional growth of your child.  Teachers work to provide continuity from day to day so lessons build upon sequential goals and objectives.  Daily efforts are made to facilitate positive transitions from home to school and to develop responsible work habits.  Children who are excessively absent from school are at a disadvantage.

During these cold winter months, it can be hard to get started in the morning. We ask that you remain committed to arriving at school on time. If we can be of any help, please feel free to contact me or your child’s teacher.

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Oh, Willowbrook!

Did you know Willowbrook has had 4 different school songs written over the past 50 years? The first song was written in 1971 by Lisa Arnold & Barbra Stern. The most recent version was added to our Friday flag raising this month. Our music teacher and math Navigate teacher (a former Willowbrook student) re-worked version #2 from the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Version #4 (Current)



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A Kindergarten Update

This is our 4th year of the full-day Kindergarten Program. We are very proud of the positive culture and high quality of instruction our teachers have cultivated for the students of District 30. Much of this was shared last night in the annual report to the Board of Education.

This year, we have 118 students spread across 6 sections of Kindergarten. In comparison, we had 117 students enrolled last year. Over 30 of our students are receiving English Language support. Another 12 students are receiving supplementary academic interventions. We share 3 students with our friends at the Northern Suburban Special Education District.

Our reading and writing instruction is highly differentiated through a balanced literacy model. Guided reading (a.k.a., Team Read) begins this month. For 30 minutes every day, our students receive feedback and guidance on important reading behaviors at their individual stage of development. It is remarkable to see the growth from fall to spring! Magic!

In our math workshop, we continue to access the Math In Focus and Bridges resources. There is collaborative plan time scheduled with our math coordinator and specialist. The workshop includes multiple visuals and games. The students love composing and decomposing numbers with dice.

This is our third year incorporating the Shared Collaborative Imaginative Play (SCIP) curriculum. Our specials teachers and classroom teachers co-teach important social-emotional skills and concepts during the play block. We will be giving a presentation on this at the upcoming Illinois ASCD Kindergarten Conference.

Registration for next school year is Thursday, February 7 from 1:00 to 7:00 PM at Willowbrook School. For more information, visit http://www.district30.org/willowbrook/welcome-to-the-kindergarten-center2

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

The holiday excitement is palpable at Willowbrook School. At this time in the year, we are all trying to stay healthy and wrap up our units of study before the winter break. The teachers are trying to hold off all student celebrations until Friday.

“…there’ll be much mistletoe-ing and hearts will be glowing when loves ones are near…”

Some of our parents may want to join us at the All-District Winter Sing or the Willowbrook Winter Sing on Friday. Per D30 tradition, Willowbrook and Wescott students will board buses and travel to Maple School for an all-district sing-a-long. We should begin around 10:40 a.m. Following principal read-a-louds in the library and room parties, Willowbrook will hold a sing-a-long in the gym. Parents are welcome to join us at 2:15 p.m. This is a very special school event.

With all the holiday parties, shopping, and year-end work requirements, it is easy to forget the purpose of these winter holidays. I am often guilty of failing to “live in the moment”. With that in mind, I am trying to remember to be fully present for my students and my 2 boys at home. That means slowing down and turning off all screens. I am also trying to let go of my expectations for a perfect “Griswold” holiday. I am also telling myself to be more gentle with my co-workers and family members.

There is much be thankful for at Willowbrook. I hope you will join me in counting blessings and being “fully present” with each other. I wish you and your family a peaceful season and a restful break. Maybe I will see you on Friday.

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5Essentials Survey

On behalf of the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois 5Essentials Survey will be administered online by UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago. The survey gathers data related to five indicators that can predict important student outcomes, including improved attendance and larger test score gains. These five indicators that affect and predict school success are:

  •    Effective Leaders
  •    Collaborative Teachers
  •    Involved Families
  •    Supportive Environments
  •    Ambitious Instruction

The Parent Survey Supplement will be conducted through February 15, 2019. To take the survey please visit https://survey.5-essentials.org/Illinois/ and select the appropriate survey to begin.

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey for students (grades 4-8) and teachers will be conducted December 11 through February 15, 2019. If you do not want your son or daughter to participate, please contact the Willowbrook front office.

For more information about the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, or to view previous years’ Reports, please visit https://www.5-essentials.org/illinois. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact 5Essentials Client Services at 1-866-440-1874 or 5essentials@uchicago.edu.

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Willowbrook Story Project

In celebration of Willowbrook School’s 50th birthday, current students are collecting 50 years worth of memories from former students and staff. Do you know of someone who would like to share? They can click here to express interest in this project or contact our librarian at aeichmiller@district30.org

Stories can be short, 2-5 minutes in length. Possible themes include friendship, lessons learned, fun memories, persistence, etc. The idea was inspired by the Story Corps Initiative.

We plan to post our favorites on the school webpage. We may even share some at Friday Flag Raising. You can visit the Willowbrook Story Project page at http://www.district30.org/willowbrook/willowbrook-story-project

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If I Could Turn Back Time

The Willowbrook 5th grade gave an entertaining performance to students and parents this Tuesday. Their musical “The Time Solution”, helped us relive some school history. In addition to some great music and a zany script, the audience enjoyed performances from current and past teachers. In fact, the students went back in time to visit Ms. Nadine Lee’s 1976 classroom.

Mr. Barker and the specials staff always do a great job collaborating and bringing out the student’s vision. We had many great musical performances. Here is a short clip of the February 1969 hit song “Everyday People”.

The show’s finale included a remake of the Willowbrook School Song. Students and staff should expect to hear this song at Friday Flag Raisings throughout the rest of the year. Our 50th anniversary celebrations were kicked off this week. Thank you 5th grade! Thank you Mr. Barker!

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Daily Reading is Homework

Homework is a common topic addressed at parent-teacher conferences. Some parents want less homework sent home. Some parents want more homework. Homework can come in different forms (e.g., worksheets, activities). However, all teachers assign daily reading. Some grade levels may place a suggested time limit, but all agree that daily reading is the most important form of homework.

Researcher Richard Allington has written extensively on the topic of reading achievement for the past 30 years. He argues for greater time spent in voluntary reading, inside and outside of school. Reading fluency and the exposure to a variety of texts is the most significant path to improved comprehension (Allington, 2014). One simple analogy – You are not going to become a better runner without increasing your time spent running. Here is a graphic that illustrates the differences between students with daily reading habits.

The most valuable form of homework is engaging your child in nightly reading and holding frequent conversations about what they are reading. We have a finite amount of time to work with at school. While we build in some independent reading time each day/week, it is not enough. Parents are in a unique position to ensure the daily reading habits of their children. Model daily reading and hold your children accountable by expressing interest in what they are reading.

Allington, R. L. (2014). How Reading Volume Affects Both Reading Fluency and Reading Achievement. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(1), 13-26.

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