Thursdays with North (and East) Oakview

    We have been meeting with small groups of citizens from Northview. We usually meet for about one hour and our conversation is driven by only one question: What do you care deeply about? This question comes into my mind every day. Today was no exception as I walked in to North Oakview this morning.
    I decided to have a “meeting” with the young citizens who inhabit North Oakview on a daily basis. I didn’t even have to ask the guiding question as they freely shared what they care deeply about. Listed below is a sampling of the quotes from students in Kindergarten and first grade.

    • “I lost my tooth yesterday. I put it under my pillow last night and this morning the tooth was gone and I found $5.”
    • “My dad’s birthday is this month. I don’t know whatday but I do know that we will be going to a Chinese restaurant and we always get the same meal – chicken, shrimp, and noodles. My sister likes to go but she can’t have anything with cheese or dairy because she breaks out in hives. That is not good for her but going to dinner with my dad is the best. He will be 29 this year. That is really old.”
    • “Snow days are really great because I get to see my sister and her friends dance. They are 10 years old.”
    • My birthday is in July. No snow days then, unless you live somewhere like Alaska or maybe Greenville. My cousin lives there and they had to go to school until July last year because of snow days.”
    • “This is Thursday and we have “motor moms” today.”
    • “I’m rolling numbers and writing them down on this sheet of paper. I only need four more “threes” and that number wins. The “twos” are really close to winning but the “sixes” are in last place. I love numbers.”
    • “When you give 24 fourth grade students drums you will never have everyone stop drumming at the same time.”
    • “Jotting on sticky notes gives me lots of things to write about later on. It also helps me remember what I just read. I like the pink sticky notes best.”
    • “I am a first grade kid and I am already reading chapter books.”
    • “I have a chapter book and it is 250,000 pages long. You should read one that big.”

    As I walked out of North today I realized I could have some follow up thoughts regarding the quotes:

    • I wish there was a Tooth Fairy available for the State Legislature and one tooth could be placed under a pillow and adequate and equitable “net-operational revenue” for K-12 could be found in the morning.
    • I did share that I am 64 which resulted in a collective “Whoaaa.” I think I will ask my dad out for lunch even though it is not his birthday.
    • The next snow day I promise to do a little jig even though I look a little like Elaine on the old Seinfeld show when I dance.
    • My birthday is in June and I will be 65.  I didn’t dare say that age to the students. We have used 5 of our 6 allotted snow days this year. I wonder how many they have had in Alaska and Greenville.
    • There are a lot of “motor moms” at the car show this week in downtown Grand Rapids but I don’t think that is was he was talking about.
    • Same thing is true when you give elementary teachers scented markers – you will never have all the markers capped at the same time.
    • I like the green sticky notes. Now if I could remember where I put the sticky notes I might have more to write about.
    • I’m a 64 year-old Superintendent and I love chapter books.
    • The last quote was from Travis, my life-coach.

    What do you care deeply about? Where do you talk about things that you care deeply about?

    Meanwhile Back at East Oakview……..

    “Hey, are you the Mayor?” asked Arlyn, a kindergarten student, when I walked into her classroom. I asked her why she thought I was the Mayor and she responded it was because I had on a tie and had gray hair. When I asked her how she spelled her name, her quick response was followed by what kindergarten kids care deeply about – being able to spell their first and last name.

    All six kids at Arlyn’s table spelled their names for me and then asked me to do the same. “That’s a really long name you have there” said one boy. Arlyn said her dad’s name is the same as mine – “the first name not the last name and he spells it the same way.”

    She also let me know that her teacher always says it is important that “no kid in our class is left-out.” Her teacher said it was really good to hear that her students were actually getting what she taught.

    Five-year-old students conversing with adults in full sentences, correctly spelling their first and last names, making statements about caring for their classmates, and still staying on task with a printing exercise is an example of what “student growth” looks like when it is happening. It won’t be measured on a test but one must also remember this would not have happened during the first week of kindergarten.

    A fourth grade student suggested we change the name of Watch DOGS to Parent Pups “so that kids without dads in their life” could have their moms or grandmothers come in and volunteer. She plans to pitch the idea to the principal.

    Several other students gave me an assessment of the new pool at the high school. They swim every day with the Community Swim teams and say the pool is fantastic.

    Two of our staff attended to the needs of a young child who was having a tough day. The response of the staff was professional, caring, and based on a best practice.  What was really telling to me was the response of children in nearby classrooms. They simply closed the classroom door and said “somebody is having a hard time today. They are getting some help.”

    Sounds like this is another measure of “student growth.”

    I had a book talk with a young man who was reading “Not Me” a story about a snake that liked to eat worms.  He had the main idea down and would recommend it to others because it is a “funny story.”  Just down the hall two girls were explaining to me how they use “sticky notes” to jot down ideas as they read their books.

    Student growth is evident throughout our schools. We measure it every day in real-time terms that are qualitative and quantitative.

    What do you care deeply about? Where do you talk about things that you care deeply about?

    Sincerely and With Great Respect,

    Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent

    Northview Public Schools


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