What are you thankful for…

I sent this message to the families and teachers of St. Anthony Middle School:

It has been a crazy, fun, and quick start to the school year. I have enjoyed meeting our new 6th graders and building even stronger connections with our 7th and 8th grade students and their families. As many of you know SAMS is a school where all are expected to learn and contribute in a school committed to authentic learning in a caring environment. We take this work very seriously, but we often do not take ourselves very seriously! 

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We are driven to work really hard, but also work hard at having fun and connecting with each other in a really human way. I often (well somewhat often) email everyone to report out information, share important dates or events, but today I want to email you and say thank you,

I want to say thanks for being committed to raising and teaching all the students of SAMS as if each child was your own. 

I want to thank you for wearing really ugly sweaters — here is the proof.

I want to thank you for dropping your kid off in the inside loop in front of the school and having to read about this request over and over again 🙂

I want to thank you for letting the principal refer to herself as the princiPAL way too much and way too often.


I want to thank Traci for being at the center of everything and everyone and doing it with such grace and with a smile.

I want to thank the students for letting us give them feedback on their learning in ways that make it meaningful.

I want to thank the parents for trusting us with their children, their babies, the things they love the most.

I want to thank the teachers for working hard on how to build instruction that equates to authentic learning, but for never forgetting to love kids first.

I want to thank everyone for showing that we value every subject and every content, not just those that are “tested”. 

I want to thank the community for showing with actions and words — that they value education.

I want to thank the incredible teachers (Patty, Sue, Margie) from All Day Preschool at the St. Anthony Community Center who trudged over with 30 preschool students to do science experiments with the high school chemistry students. Plus, touring them around both the MS and HS so their parents could see them. 

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Hope is more than just a strategy

Alan Blankstein states in his book Failure is Not an Option, “Hope may not be a strategy, but a strategy without hope is going nowhere fast”. SAMS has a yearlong hope to have 100% of teachers have 100% of their students achieve mastery of at least one essential standard. This is our hope and we are in the midst of figuring out our strategy to get there.

Although I know the principal is important to a school dedicated to ensuring learning for all students and the actions and beliefs of the principal matter. I also know it is only second to the role teachers play in student learning. By knowing this, it is clear to me that here at SAMS what matters the most is not the leader, but the leadership that is most crucial.

My essential standard for SAMS is simple in statement, but difficult in practice. If we have a vision to create a school committed to authentic learning in a caring environment, then my two objectives are to provide an environment at SAMS where every staff member can 1. Identify the vision and 2. Apply the vision. It looks a little like this:

Essential Standard: SAMS is a school committed to authentic learning and caring environment.
Benchmarks (outcomes):
1. SAMS staff can identify and define the vision – authentic learning in a caring environment.
2. SAMS staff can apply the vision in practice and decisions.

My role at SAMS is to be the keeper and the promoter of the vision and belief. I must provide the resources, time, and motivation to move this vision into reality. But I’m not alone, everyone at SAMS is responsible for leading this charge, because it is not about the leader – it is all about leadership.

I continue to appreciate the efforts made by designated teacher leaders on both the Authentic Learning and Caring Environment teams. Their staff development work allows for all staff to learn and contribute as the adult learners at SAMS. This growth mindset, by the adult learners, will model for students the type of thinking and courage it takes to be a learner.