Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nice Matters

Prior to heading off for the Thanksgiving break, we had 163 families join us for the annual Thanksgiving luncheon. It was a great turn out, and although it may not have verbalized, the children were certainly grateful that their parents made the extra effort to spend time with them. 

 I relished the time that I was able to spend with my family and friends during the Thanksgiving break and hope you were able to do the same.   I visited a holiday craft show and asked one of the vendors for his business card, which listed his business as Nice Matters.  For an unknown reason, those two simple words struck a chord with me.  How are we helping our children to recognize that although it is nice to be important, it is indeed more important to be nice?

 As the holiday season approaches and the focus narrows to shopping lists and material things, make a concerted effort to remind your children that ‘tis the season to be nice.  Our children deserve to learn important lessons from us and to acquire important habits with our help. They need help in learning what matters to us. We want our children to grow up to be responsible adults. We want them to learn to feel, think, and act with respect for themselves and for other people. We want them to pursue their own well-being, while also being considerate of the needs and feelings of others.

What can you do?
Have your child give a gift of himself during the upcoming holiday season or anytime he wants to do something nice for someone else.
1.      Talk to your child about gift giving. What does it mean to give something to someone else?
2.      Instead of buying a gift, have your child make a gift. Does your child have a special talent? Maybe your child would like to sing or write a song for a relative? Is there a chore your child could do? Maybe wash the dishes for a week. Is there a special toy that could be loaned to a sister or brother for a week? Could they help an elderly neighbor?
3.      Use materials from around the house so that little, if any, money is spent.
4.      If the gift is an activity or chore, have your child make a card with a note on it, telling what the gift will be.
5.      Find places in the community where you could volunteer – read to the elderly at a nursing home, visit the hospital and play board games with sick children, help to prepare meals at a local soup kitchen – do something nice for someone else.
Most young children do not have money to buy a gift for a friend or relative. You can teach your child that a gift that shows effort and attention can mean more than a gift from the store, for indeed, nice matters.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Durham launched it’s +Works program!

Our goal is for our school community to work together to raise vibrant, resilient, upstanding citizens from home to homeroom.

Students are encouraged to use the +Benches that have been placed at each recess area for the following reasons:
-If a student does not have someone to play with he/she can sit there and another student will know to ask them to play.
-If two students are having a problem they can sit on the bench to discuss their problems.

Please talk to your child about being an upstander and asking others to play at recess.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spice Up Reading

Today I witnessed first-hand how important it is at times to spice up children’s ordinary reading routines.  Seven men took part in Real Men Read, and spent an hour reading to our second and fifth grade students.  As I stood in the breezeway talking with Anna Eastman, HISD Board Member, we had to pause our conversation to comment on the excitement that we heard coming from Ms. Reyna’s bilingual 1st/2nd grade class.  One of our participants was reading a non-fiction text, and the students were simply intrigued by his theatrical performance.  It was great to see the students so engaged; they didn’t even realize that they were learning tons of facts about reptiles. 

Reading with your child every day at home is one of the most important things you can do to help his/her education. But there’s no sense in always doing the same old thing. To build your child’s excite­ment about reading:
Find new reading spots. Pick fun, unusual places to read, such as a fort your child builds with pillows in the living room.
Read as a team. Have your child follow words with his/her pointer finger while you read. Or let him/her “echo” sentences after you say them.
Plan a performance. Choose a favorite passage from a book and help your child master it. Gather an audience to admire his skills!
Allow interruptions. When taking turns reading aloud, encourage your child to take over read­ing anytime you reach the end of a sentence.
Celebrate reading success. When you reach a goal (such as 100 reading minutes in a week), do something special!

Most importantly, help your child to recognize that reading is a fun experience!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Recognition of Accomplishment

Today, we shared our campus with 20 members of the armed forces in honor of Take a Vet to School Day.  Students listened to the story The Wall by Eve Bunting  and learned about the importance of service.  It is my hope that the conversations that our students were a part of will help them to understand why we recognize Veterans’ Day.  It is important for us to instill at a young age the importance of recognizing accomplishments great and small.

Last week, we recognized the 242 students who had perfect attendance – zero absences, zero tardies, in October.  The students were ecstatic to receive their certificates and pencils. One eager beaver first grader asked, “What do you mean you are proud of me for being in school?”  I was reminded of the importance of telling children that we are proud of them and most importantly, why!  Be sure to recognize your children’s accomplishments on a regular basis.  Don’t wait for a grand event or accomplishment – tell them you are proud of them when they clean up their toys without being asked to, read for 20-30 minutes nightly, do a kind deed for a neighbor or friend, improve their grades or meet their AR goals.

I also want to take a minute to recognize our volunteers who joined us at our habitat workday. What an accomplishment it was moving tons of soil to prepare the flower beds for our beautification  project by Circle Drive!  The families who came out did so not because they had to, but because they care about the school environment.  I know that many more families will join us for the next campus beautification workday. 
At Durham, it is evident that the work is not accomplished by any one group of stakeholders – it takes a collaborative effort – faculty and staff, parents, and students to make great things happen.  I recognize all that you all do, and as I count my blessings during Thanksgiving, I will indeed be thinking of each of you. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There's nothing like the gift of time...

Every so often, I hear the sympathetic words from another parent, “I don’t know how you maintain a full-time job with three young kids.”  I will be the first to admit, it’s no easy task.  There are many days when guilt creeps in as I leave in the still of the morning before they are awake, and return long after they are tucked in and on their third dream.  I am fortunate to have my mom with me now, and her support is invaluable.  Simply put, I wouldn’t be able to give Durham 120% if she wasn’t around. 
There are moments when I am jolted to remember that I need to do what I tell every other parent to do – create some sacred, uninterrupted time with the kids.  This evening I saw how truly elated our students were to spend time with their parents and friends at our Taco Cabana night out.  When I arrived at home, I saw the same sparkle in my boys’ eyes.  Although I was exhausted from yet another long work-day, I had to have one of our after-school chats.   What routines have you established with your children to gain insight into their day?
“What’s in your backpack?”  Greet your child with this question, and you’ll discover a lot about what he/she does in class.  You can also:
·         Set aside time each day to go through their papers.  If possible, try to do it immediately after school while it is still fresh in their minds.
·         Look over work together.  Help them feel proud by making a specific comment about something they’ve done.  For instance, if they show you a picture drawn in art class, you might say, “The gray sky and big waves look just like our rainy day at the beach.”
·         Have them talk through math problems or science experiments to show what they learned.  They might explain how they found the perimeter of a triangle or why ants dig tunnels.
Children want nothing more than the gift of time, and that doesn’t cost a dime.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Raise a Child Who Gives Back

Yesterday, after a fun-filled Election Day on campus, I carved out time to take my sons with me to vote. Although they are still in their primary years, I feel that it is never too early to share with them that having choices and a voice is powerful and purposeful.  On the way to the voting site, I shared why we were going to vote, who we were voting for and why I made that choice.  Hunter and Parker were interested in how they would find out if their guy won.  This morning they attentively listened to the news to find out. 

As parents, we must remain cognizant of the influence that we have in our children’s lives.  We make choices that will impact their decision-making abilities later in life.  As the holiday season approaches, our kids are likely to share all the great things they want as the catalogs and commercials take center stage.  Try providing this opportunity for choice – for every new toy or game that your child wants or receives, he/she will have to choose a gently used toy or game that is no longer one of his/her favorites, to donate to a local church/shelter/child in-need.  It may be difficult for kids to make this choice, but support them through the process.  Learning to make their own choices helps children to become independent thinkers, responsible citizens and confident decision-makers.  If we begin to raise children who can think about how their choices can impact others, we will indeed be able to say we did our duty as parents.

Let me also share that I would be remiss if I did not express my sincere gratitude to all of our parents and community members who supported our Young Leaders’ Election Day bake sale.  The generous donations totaled $900.00 and will support our campus beautification project.  On behalf of the entire faculty, staff and student body, thank you for your support.  It is truly a pleasure to serve such a dedicated community. 

Young Leaders' Bake Sale

Durham students took to the polls!

Our Top Dogs served a poll workers...

Durham students voted for Pres. Obama wiht 330 votes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thank you to the City of Houston

Superintendent of Schools

Dear Team HISD Member:
For generations to come, our city will look back on this election as a time when Houston stood up for its children and made a long-term investment in our future.
Today, Houston ISD voters approved our plan to rebuild or renovate 38 schools in neighborhoods across Houston — and start work on a host of other critically important projects that were dependent on the bond proposition’s passage.
I want to extend my personal thanks to all of you who shared information with the public about this important project. Your commitment to educate, not advocate, helped voters decide for themselves whether to support this transformational undertaking.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen so many creative efforts to keep this election in the public eye. Employees passed out handbills at dozens of locations, distributed get-out-the-vote yard signs, and even organized a “Zombies Vote Early” campaign to drive voters to the polls.
I can only conclude that your efforts have been successful, so on behalf of myself, the Board of Education, and the many generations of children who will benefit from this bond’s passage: Thank you!
Our children deserve the very best learning environment we can give them — and today’s vote will go a long way toward making that happen.
Terry B. Grier, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Scholastic Book Fair

If you ventured out to shop recently, you'll notice that all the stores are laden with Christmas decorations, and we haven't even carved turkeys yet.  You can jump start your shopping by visiting our scheduled book fair; give a gift that will last a lifetime - books open our children to a new world.

This week's schedule is as follows:
·         Mon. and Tues. – Students will be able to preview books during the day
·         Tues. 3:30 to 6:00 PM – Sneak Peak Grand Opening; doors open to shop!
·         Wed. and Thurs. – 7:45 AM to 3:45 PM; shop ‘til you drop!
·         Wed. – Lunch with Someone Grand; join your child for lunch and shop during all lunch periods!
·         Fri. – Donuts with Dads* 7:40 to 8:15 AM (*donuts while supplies last); students can shop until noon

Remember to:
·         Set aside time for daily reading. Children who read at least 20 minutes a day (in addition to their regular homework reading) are more successful in school and develop larger vocabularies.
·         Make your routine special. Read favorite books before school at the breakfast table. Visit the library every week and fill a bag with new books to read. Do whatever it takes to keep your child excited about reading!
·         Stick to a regular bedtime reading routine. Allow time for getting ready for bed, reading a bedtime story and saying good-night.

Visit http://www.scholastic.com/bookfairs/family/ for additional information.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another week ends...

I must admit that this was an emotionally draining week for me, as so many of my close friends and family members were affected by the destruction and devastation left in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  The outpouring of thoughts and prayers that so many of our parents and staff shared, knowing that I am still a New Yorker at heart, was indeed touching. It certainly helped me to put things in perspective this week. I made a conscious decision to prioritize what’s important and to follow through in getting certain things accomplished.  I encourage you to do the same.
As always, no matter what is happening beyond our walls, we keep doing the work we were charged to do at Durham.  Today, our grade 5 students got to experience the morning at Black MS.  As they came back to campus and reflected on their experience, many of them shared the goals they need to set to transition successfully to middle school next year.  Take a moment to ask your child, no matter what grade he/she is in, what his/her goals are.

The highlight of my day was seeing the share glee of the students who participated in the perfect attendance ice cream social.  As you know, regular attendance in elementary school sets up a good pattern for your child’s entire school career.  Show your child that school comes first by trying to keep days off for seriousness illnesses and family emergencies; schedule routine doctor and dentist appointments for after school or over the upcoming breaks.  Today, the children cheered, “Hip hip hooray, I was here every day.”  I am extremely proud of the 222 students who were here every day, on time, for the first nine week.  The kids who missed it this go around are already talking about being in school every day to participate in the second perfect attendance event.  Healthy competition – that’s fantastic!
"The more you're here, the more you'll learn...

...the more you learn, the farther you'll go!"