Thursdays with North (and East) Oakview

    “We have a problem” the office manager and social worker said in unison as I walked in the door this morning. Good thing I had on my red tennis shoes.

    “We don’t have a substitute teacher for the kids in our special needs room.” It was only 7:30 a.m. and they had already identified the problem and thought of four possible solutions. This is not an exception to the rule. Our staff is skilled at problem identification and the selection of solution sets. It is made a little easier as “everyone” picks up a part of the solution set.

    I visited with a few kids that were eating breakfast in the gyymacafatorium (thanks for the word Ray Ramano). Of course the conversation turned to Halloween costumes. You can plan on seeing a”regular” zombie, a wrestler, and one girl dressed as a raccoon that she though was a puppy costume until she looked in the mirror. I think there is a commercial on television that uses this theme to sell glasses.

    The drop-off line was really a treat today – frost, fog, and funny hats. We could hear the band over at the high school but couldn’t see past the stadium parking lot or across the playground to theschool. Kids love the fog and several said it would be really cool and creepy if we had this on Halloween. One little girl laughed uncontrollably when she pushed a button and the tail on her cat hat rose up above her head. I laughed at the laugh more than the hat.

    I also found out that one first grade boy, who was wearing a medal around his neck, was the “fastest kid on his track team but not the fastest in the school.” He figured that at least one 4th grade kid would be faster than him. He earned the medal last summer.

    Several kids didn’t want to stop and talk today. They wanted to get over to see the new playground equipment that was being installed. They were really disappointed when we told them they couldn’t play on the equipment yet because the cement was still wet. Excitement went to disappointment. When told the equipment would be ready on Friday the excitement returned.

    A few minutes after the starting bell, our teachers were conducing Developmental Reading Assessments (DRA) to determine the current reading levels of their students. This assessment is done one-on-one, three times a year. In between times “running records” are used to target the needs of and instruction of our students. This is done at all three elementary schools.

    Travis always tells me to remember the important stuff. Stuff like:

    • Halloween is a big deal.
    • Some families do not celebrate Halloween.
    • Costumes are okay if if they turn out to be a raccoon instead of a puppy because you still get candy.
    • Fourth grade kids are usually faster runners than first grade kids.
    • Fog and Frost stir the imagination.
    • Playground equipment is more important than talking to the Superintendent.
    • Kids forget about Halloween when they have one-on-one time with their teacher.
    • Our teachers know exactly where are students are in reading skill levels – every day!

    Meanwhile Back at East Oakview………..

    As I arrived at East this morning three students from Cornerstone University walked in with me. They were joining 10 other students in Kathy VanDessel’s college class to observe music and art classes at East. Kathy retired from East Oakview last year and now is making a positive impact on aspiring teachers.

    A line of kindergarten students came down the hall headed for vocal music. Their fingers served a fangs and their arms as wings as the pretended to be vampire bats. Interesting method of using what is currently important to a five-year old to keep order in a hallway.

    Another line of kindergarten kids came by and shared some important stuff with me. “My name is Levi – L E V I.” Spelling and writing your name correctly is a kindergarten weekly goal. Another boy shared that he lost another tooth. His finger was in his mouth as he shared the big news. He asked if I had ever lost any teeth. I told him yes, I lost all of them at least once but now I am trying to not lose any. He said “then how do you get money from the Tooth Fairy?”

    Another student shared that she was five-years old and asked how old was I. When I proudly stated 64 she said “Whoa!” The Beatles song “When I’m 64″ started playing in my head.

    First grader Erica had a birthday today. Her name was on the white board and her cupcake treats were on the counter right below the poster of the Fall and Halloween words. Just think back to first grade. Did you know the words equinox, autumn, apples, costume, pumpkin, and skeleton. Our teachers use a best practice called contextual learning to capture what is currently important to a child and then use that to teach critical learning skills and standards.

    One of our veteran fourth grade teachers was deep into a math strategy lesson when I walked into the room. All of our staff know that they should not stop a lesson to introduce me to their class. The kids looked up at me for a second and then dove back into the strategy on how to do mental multiplication using original facts to determine the answer to extended facts. If you know 6 x8 = 48 then you should be able to do the mental math and get the answer to 60 x 80. Kids were so excited to give answers they sometimes stood up so their hands could be better seen by the teacher.

    A seamless transition to a “Six Minute Selection” reading lesson. Students form partners and read selections to each other with those not reading watching for reading errors. Did you read anything that was as profound as a biography of Maya Angelo “A Life of Words and Music (A. Cary) when you were in fourth grade?

    Travis always tells me to remember the important stuff. Stuff like:

    • Acting like a vampire bat when you walk in the hall is a big deal when you are age five.
    • Same thing goes for losing a tooth.
    • Our teachers influence future teachers.
    • Birthdays are important – so is Fall and Halloween vocabulary.
    • When you have the answer it is okay to be excited and stand up when you raise your hand.
    • Seamless transitions between subjects doesn’t just happen. It is a learned skill based upon high expectations.
    • By the way, as I walked down the hall to leave today, I acted like a vampire bat. A 64 year old Superintendent doesn’t get the same reaction as a kindergarten student when adults observe the behavior.

    However, it was fun to remember the important stuff!

    Sincerely and With Great Respect,

    Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent


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