It Takes a Village…

Dear friends and families of SAMS,

It’s hard to believe the end of the year is here.  The 2016-2017 year is nearly halfway over, and it seems like just the other day when many of us got together behind the school for our Back-to-School celebration.  The end of the calendar year means winter break and the holidays.  As we get closer to both of these, we want to announce the kick-off of the SAMS Community Fund (SCF).  

We are establishing the SAMS Community Fund to help guarantee all students and families have the same access to everything that makes our community awesome.  Here at SAMS, we see students and families who are unable to participate, experience, and enjoy this community fully. For example, students often need certain clothing items for concerts, sporting events, and Work Hard/Play Hard days.  Or food gets tight over the extended breaks when some of our students cannot receive the two meals they usually get during the week.   Bus passes for our students to use for transportation to sporting events or after-school rides home is just another example.

We recognize there are many structures in place to support families.  It’s just that there are small, seemingly inexpensive costs that prevent all kids from enjoying everything this school and community has to offer.  We know kids who are hesitant to even tell their parents about these little expenses because they know asking will cause stress.  In the past, we have come together as a staff to cover these costs and expenses, yet, recently, the needs are becoming more and more constant.  We are excited to launch our SAMS Community Fund in hopes that we can provide a more sustainable system to meeting these needs.

To get the SCFund started, my family will be donating $250 to the fund in honor of the SAMS staff.  They are some of the most hard-working and caring educators I’ve ever worked with.  And I invite you, friends and families of our SAMS community, to consider making a donation too.  All donations can be sent to or dropped off at the middle school- SAMS Community Fund ℅ St. Anthony Middle School, 3303 33rd Ave N, St. Anthony, MN 55418.  All donations will be received with a letter of receipt for tax purposes.  

Amy is always walking around here with quotes and things from books she’s reading- one of her favorites is from author Jean Vanier about community.  He writes, “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.”   That is exactly why we are creating the SAMS’ Community Fund.  Thank you for considering contributing to this important cause.

Thank you,

Renee

Thankful at SAMS

This week of Thanksgiving, St. Anthony Middle School took on the challenge to be overt in our gratitude. We had a “Thankful Assembly” this morning. We definitely stayed true to our middle school roots and played some silly games and students won some great prizes, but the bulk of the event was about being thankful.

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I often get picked on for my massive love of the “fractions quote” – but the words speak to our vision of creating a school dedicated to authentic learning in a caring environment. Students really ”…will work harder and do things — even odd things like adding fractions for people they love and trust”. We are grateful for this!

The staff at SAMS wanted to show our students how we really do care about them, how we are thankful for them, and how we just-plain enjoy them. So, we made them this video. Be prepared to see our raw and authentic emotion; we love our students, and we are unashamed of being thankful for them, for our work, and for each other.

To the parents of SAMS, thank you for giving us your children every school day, to our larger community, I promise, we are making future citizens ready to take on this world. You should be proud and excited…

Please take 10 minutes and watch this video (shout out to Mr. Meyer for taking the million hours to make this video).

Also, for those of you who want even more insight into our Thankful Assembly click here for our powerpoint with an additional video made by our 7th grade Media Literacy students.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Work Hard Play Hard – SAMS Style

Here at SAMS we take working hard seriously and we take playing hard seriously too! Today we had an unsledding day (no snow in Minnesota, amazing) so we built mini-golf courses and played the links. At the end of the day we all gathered in the auditorium and talked about how we care at SAMS — by being respectful, working hard, and showing that all belong. Please enjoy the show below (just click on the slides) – there are some awesome, student produced videos embedded too. Unfortunately, the only thing missing is the live music performed by our 8th grade band and choir. One more thing, all the music you hear in the background of the videos were created by students in Music Appreciation class – using Garage Band.

I’m not sure how to express how proud I am as the Principal of SAMS. The teachers, the staff, and all the students had so much fun today. Working hard and playing hard, it really is the SAMS Way!

“No Way for Robots”

At SAMS, we like to use the story of the Lamborghini car company as a metaphor for building a school committed to authentic learning in a caring environment.  Watch this short video clip from 60 minutes, it is Scott Pelley (reporter) asking the Industrial Director of Lamborghini about how Lamborghini cars are made.

I love technology, I love using technology to connect and build relationships, I even blogged about this a few months ago. But like this video shows, I have also learned how the work we do at SAMS is some what “old-fashioned”– there’s no room for robots in this work. It is important to meet people where they are at and build meaningful connections. We cannot make decisions about kids, families, staff, each other if we aren’t talking with one another, being in each other’s company, and learning and growing together.  Just like doctors cannot make health decisions about people who are ill by only looking at their charts, we cannot do this work without one another.  There’s just no way for robots just like on the floor of the Lamborghini factory where only 11 cars are made each day.  – “each piece of glass is eyed and each bolt is tightened by feel”.

The fractions quote gets a lot of play time here at SAMS.  I read it before most staff meetings, parent meetings, and community meetings. We want to emulate the fractions quote by becoming a school… “where teachers and students live together, talk with each other, and take delight in each other’s company”. We feel that by caring deliberately and passionately for the students and the adults at SAMS, we will be reaching our goal of becoming a school dedicated to authentic learning in a caring environment.

 

Dare to Care

 

“At a time when the traditional structures of caring have deteriorated, schools must become places where teachers and students live together, talk with each other, take delight in each other’s company. My guess is that when schools focus on what really matters in life, the cognitive ends we now pursue so painfully and artificially will be achieved somewhat more naturally. It is obvious that children will work harder and do things–even odd things like adding fractions–for people they love and trust.” – Nel Nodding

“Take delight in each other’s company”

On Friday Jan. 29th, during our staff development day we did just that, we took delight in each other’s company. As a staff, we took the advice of Ms. Gerard (6th grade Language Arts teacher) and wrote each other “love notes”. Why…the better question is why not? We work in a middle school, and it is the middle of the year, and middle schools are not always fun places, plus, it is cold, snowy, and grades are due. So sometimes as the adults in the building we can dare to care. We can care deeply for each other as we work toward making SAMS a school committed to authentic learning in a caring environment. Thank you SAMS staff for being vulnerable and awesome. We really are building something great.

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Using Relationships to Build a Caring Environment.

This past week a few of us attended the TIES conference in Downtown Minneapolis. Although TIES is known for technology, the conference allowed many of us to see the power of relationships. And how relationships can be created, formed, and kept active with the use of technology. Plus, George Couros, gave an awesome keynote!

Relationships and human connections are seen as non-existent now-days with the increased use of technology. We have all heard “no one ever talks to each other anymore” or “kids only text now”.  We believe we can leverage technology to be even more deliberate and thoughtful as we work to build a caring environment at SAMS. Please understand, technology is not the goal, rather building relationships is the goal – we just use technology to enhance this!

For example, we use Twitter to showcase the many awesome things at SAMS.  Starting this week, look for #todayatSAMS on Twitter to see this daily feed.  We love it when we come across moments here that are funny or inspirational or really cool.  When we see our work- authentic learning in a caring environment- in action, we want the world to know. We can use Twitter to share the experience.  And it makes us smile knowing we are spreading the SAMS joy with the rest of the world.

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A lot of people have told us they just can’t do Twitter. It’s one more thing, they don’t know how it works, who will they follow..but it’s an easy way to connect. Here’s a couple of ways to learn more about Twitter.

There’s a formal way…this website on Twitter.

And here are 2nd graders teaching us about Twitter.

And the 2nd graders teaching an advanced course on Twitter 🙂

Have a great break and please take the time to connect with us on Twitter.

Here are few names to start following:

@SAMS282 – Renee Corneille

@abskujawski – Amy Kujawski

@alammers06 – Ms. Shaffer

@Joe_Krasselt – Mr. Krasselt

@mamussell – Ms. Mussell

@JohnnyNM23 – Mr. Mitsch

@sara_karch – Ms. Karch

@scruffles6 – Ms. Donohue

@Heidi_Haagenson – Ms. Haagenson

@MrPotts282 – Mr. Potts

@PottsAmber – Ms. Potts

@mindylee1107 – Ms. Gerard

@Nathn – Mr. Meyer

@tadams612 – Ms. Adams

@LErpeldingSAMS – Ms. Erpelding

 

 

 

 

Who you are and what you know…

During my teacher preparation program, a professor told the class, “as a teacher, you can only teach who you are and what you know” – for some reason that small statement stuck with me. Maybe due to my need to understand the context of things (I was a history teacher), or maybe, the statement started me thinking about how crucial it is to be authentic.

For the past two weeks I have attended two funerals. One for an amazing 102 year old woman named Mary Fuller. Grandma Mary was my husband Mike’s grandma and my children’s “Grandma the Great”. Her ability to live her life to the fullest for her entire 102 years is not only an inspiration, but also… just super fun. And fun, is what Grandma Mary was, she was always quick to laugh and always quick to say yes to an outing or adventure.

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This past weekend I attended the funeral of my Great Aunt Angela (aka Auntie A). For the past four years my aunt has been rather sick and not totally with-it, but her passing marked an end to a generation of people. The first generation Iafigliola family who in 1911 emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio from Gildone, Italy. The picture posted above is of Angelo Nicola and Maria Teresa, my great grandparents, who gave birth to eight children, the last being my Auntie A.

Being from the United States, many of us have stories of immigration. Stories of grandparents who for many reasons, moved from their native home to the promise of America. The story of the Iafigliolas is not much different, but one thing to note is the Iafigliolas did not measure the American Dream in units of money, housing, or work, but rather, in family.

My Aunt Phil (Philomena Marie, born 1915) would tell us “I am a millionaire…my family, my sisters, my brothers, are worth more than jewels”. If you knew Aunt Phil, you would know she did not say this with sweetness, but rather with strong conviction, it was her truth.

So, what is the value of family? What is the value in knowing who you are and knowing who came before you?  For me, it means everything.

For to know me, is to know my Uncle Mike, Patrick, John and Joe and to know my Aunt Phil, Theresa and Angela, and to know my Grandma Jean. Because it is due to them –  I understand what love is and what family means.FullSizeRender

We often talk at SAMS about the concept that there is “no such thing as other people’s children,” and, now that I think about it, I learned that concept from my family. When I learned about Auntie A’s death, Amy K asked me if Auntie A had any kids.  I replied, “No, she did not.  But she put a few through college.” Yep, it’s definitely something that’s been passed down; there’s no such thing as other people’s children.

I’m not sure why I needed to write this blog, but maybe it is because it goes back to what my professor stated, “you can only teach who you are and what you know” – I am Iafigliola and I know how to love.

I also think I needed to write this blog because, I don’t think knowing who you are and what you know is reserved just for teachers. It is crucial for all of us, in all aspects of our life…right?