Saturday, March 23, 2013


It seems like we just flipped the calendar from February winter weather to spring! It’s hard to believe that spring break has come and gone.  I know that we were all ready for a little break, and are back refreshed, and ready to continue on the path to success. Your kids have been working so hard since they returned and they too are recharged to move forward towards the last nine weeks. It is during this time of year that you really begin to see growth. Many of the skills that they have been learning since fall take root through daily practice. Kindergarteners are writing sentences with words you can read rather than the string of letters we see in the fall. First graders are so proud of being able to read big books and 2nd graders are reading chapter books. When I walk from kindergarten to fifth grade, I am always amazed at how much kids learn in six years. I often wonder what our world would be like if we all made similar academic growth every six years. It would be astounding!

 A rousing thank you for the support you each showed for our first Fine Arts Night. We are so fortunate to teach in such a great community. Next year, you can expect it to be bigger, and even better. 

I’d also like to extend gratitude for the many families who supported our popcorn fundraiser.  The participation truly exceeded our expectations.

This week, we celebrated our Young Leaders who were recognized by Reliant Energy as being outstanding citizens. 

In recognition of Texas Tobacco-Free Kids Day, your children all signed a pledge this week to remain tobacco-free.  Please be sure to have conversations with them from time to time, and remind them of the importance of making good decisions, even at the primary level.  Most importantly, please remember that as adults, we serve as models for them, so be sure that you are practicing what you preach.

As a committed lifelong learner, I usually take time each week to reflect on the challenges and celebrations of the week and decide the changes that I need to make to ensure that the week ahead is even more productive.  As I reflect today, I cannot help but think about the unexpected death of a friend of mine.  She was only 43 years old, and her passing this week was a shock to all who knew her.  In reflecting on all the great memories we shared together, I am reminded of how much she treasured and enjoyed spending time with her 14-year-old daughter.  They were inseparable. Recently, I heard someone who was severely injured comment on what she misses the most – hearing her children bickering in the backyard, watching the morning dew on flowers in the garden and pointing out the various bugs visible, laughing as she watched her son try to scale a wall at the park.  What’s the point?  It’s the simple things that we so often take for granted; the moments that if we do not stop to pay attention to, fleet by without us noticing.  So today and every day, I believe that the best way for me to honor her memory is to take a few minutes with my kids to "be in the moment", and I strongly encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Touching Base

I just wanted to share some of the fun events that have been happening at Durham.  Last week our students in grades 2-5 participated in a Junior Achievement Day.  Junior Achievement helps young people connect what they are learning with real-life experiences and recognize the importance of staying in school. JA also inspires students to develop competitive skills and confidence. Representatives from Ernst and Young spent the day with our students and they had a memorable experience.

This week, our students participated in two Black History Month assemblies.  Our students in grades 2-5 took part in a presentation by Pilot Xavier Samuels, who encouraged them to set goals beyond the sky.  All students also had the opportunity to participate in a hands-on session of The Children’s Griot which was a musical time travel adventure.  Be sure to ask your children about their daily experiences.

You can watch a small segment of today's performance.


I also want to thank all of our parents who have taken time this week to participate in the National PTA event Bring Your Family to School Week.  Please know that the experiences shared with our students are simply priceless.  Today, Elizabeth Humbert and Nora Nester shared their Polish heritage.  Please take a look at what they shared.


Tomorrow, I am truly hoping for a huge turn-out for the STAAR testing meeting.  If you are a parent of a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grader, please attend.  It is important that you understand how your child will be tested, and what you can do to support.

Lastly, Friday is a big day for many reasons:  Jump Rope for Heart permission slips are due, it is the final day to prepay for the Spaghetti Dinner, and of course, it’s Go Texan Day!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Welcome to Anti Bullying Awareness Week

At Durham, we continue to work hard to encourage positive behavior. This week, we will shift our focus from being “me-centered” to “we-centered.”  Each teacher will be sharing Carol McCloud's book Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  The book teaches children how to give back and care about others as well as themselves.  If we focus on positive behaviors, we will not have to worry about students being bullied, or students bullying others. 
The book explains that we all carry an invisible bucket in which we keep our good thoughts and feelings about ourselves. This bucket represents our social and emotional health. When our buckets are full, we are happy; when our buckets are empty, we are sad.

So how do we fill our bucket or someone else's bucket? You fill a bucket when you show love to someone, when you smile, make someone feel special or do something kind. That’s being a bucket filler. A bucket filler is someone who says or does nice things to other people. Bucket fillers are those who help without being asked or give hugs and compliments. By filling other people's buckets, we fill our own bucket too!
What is a bucket dipper? Bucket dippers rob us of happy feelings by refusing to help with a task, by saying or doing mean things, by making fun of someone or by ignoring or excluding someone. Bucket dippers act this way because they have empty buckets. They think that they can fill their bucket by dipping into our bucket, but that will never work. A bully is an example of a bucket dipper.

Do we need a lid on our bucket? Yes, to keep the dippers out! The reason that bucket dippers act mean is because their buckets are empty. Their actions usually don’t have anything to do with us, and if we understand that then it helps to keep our bucket full, thereby preventing others from dipping into our bucket.

Always remember that everyone carries an invisible bucket. What can you say or do to fill someone's bucket today? You can say hi, smile, invite a new friend to play, write a thank you note, hold the door, carry groceries for an elderly neighbor, read to a younger sibling, help someone with homework, help tie someone’s shoes, or simply ask someone if they need a hand. There are so many things that you can do to fill someone’s bucket. Remember, when you fill someone’s bucket, you fill your own bucket too!

We need everyone's help in creating a bucket filling school. You can be a bucket filler to anyone; the Dunkin' Donuts cashier, the gas station attendant, the waiter or waitress who serves you, the grocery store cashier, the bus driver, coworkers, friends and family or anyone that crosses your path each day. If we remember to be bucket fillers at home, school, work, and in our communities every day, then everywhere we go will be a better place. The little things we say and do affect others in a very significant way and make a difference.

I enthusiastically recommend that you purchase an individual copy that you can reread at home from time to time.  You may want to consider creating a space at home to keep track of all the bucket filling happening in your lives, or create a family journal for everyone to share their selfless acts of kindness daily.  In support of the 100th day of school on Tuesday, set a goal of doing 100 acts of kindness.  When do you think you will accomplish this goal?
Most importantly, please be mindful that the behaviors you display will matter more than the words in any given book, so be sure to be the example that your children need to be successful citizens.

For more information on bullying awareness, please visit

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Importance of Parent-Teacher Conferences

In order to help your child have a successful school year, you need to know what is expected of him/her, academically, from now until the end of the school year. I truly hope that many of you will take advantage of this week’s Parent-Teacher Conferences.  I was a bit surprised that only 30 parents visited campus for our Parent Pop-In Day. I am scheduled to visit my son’s school on Thursday to meet with his teacher, and I wanted to share the following questions, which I will be asking when I visit.

What skills and knowledge will my child be expected to master this year?

·         What will my child learn this year in key subjects like math, science, writing, and social studies?

·         Are there challenging academic standards in place at this school, and how do they compare with those at other school districts?

·         How do you inform students about the academic standards they're expected to meet? What kind of projects and assignments have you planned that will help my child meet higher academic standards?

How will my child be evaluated?

·         What kind of information do you use to evaluate students? How do you know if they're academically ready to move on to the next grade?

·         How are grades determined in your classroom?

What can I do to stay more involved in my child's academic progress?

·         What can I do at home to complement what is happening in the classroom?

·         How can I know on a daily basis what homework has been assigned?

·         How can I support the teacher's efforts in implementing higher academic standards?

How do you accommodate differences in learning?

·         Have you identified the way my child learns best?

·         What if my child has a different learning style and falls behind, or is a fast learner and is bored?
Please remember that all students
will be dismissed
 at 1:00 PM on Wednesday.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

National School Board Recognition Month

National School Board Recognition Month

Congratulations to Durham's Board Member Anna Eastman who was elected president of the HISD Board  of Education today.  We wish her great success in her new post.

Trustee Anna Eastman Elected President of the HISD Board of Education

Trustee Anna Eastman was unanimously elected 2013 president of the Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday.
Eastman, who was elected to the board in 2009, pledged to create an environment of “healthy, spirited, and respectful debate” with a focus on raising the level of academic achievement for all students.  Eastman said she will make a priority of ensuring that more HISD students graduate prepared to succeed in college.
“Thank you to all of my colleagues for your support tonight,” she said.
Eastman holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Texas, and a master of social work degree from Our Lady of the Lake University.  She and her husband, Brad, have three children in HISD schools.
Ms. Eastman thanked 2012 President Michael Lunceford for leading the board through the largest successful bond election in Texas history, and for helping the board strengthen its ethics policy.
Other school board officers for 2013 are First Vice President Juliet Stipeche, Second Vice President Manuel Rodriguez Jr., Secretary Rhonda Skillern-Jones, and Assistant Secretary Michael Lunceford.
HISD Communications | January 17, 2013 @ 6:15 pm at 6:15 pm | Categories: Board of Education | URL:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

...and the winner is...

Last Thursday we conducted our school-wide Spelling Bee.  Thanks to Ms. Williams and her team, Ms. Jones (announcer), Ms. Moan, Ms. Welker, and Ms. Anderson (judges) the event was a great way to kick-off our week back to school. 

I must extend congratulations to fifth grader, Garrett Saulnier from Ms. Brame's class. Garrett will represent Durham at the district spelling bee.  In the event that Garrett cannot make it, our first runner-up, Alejandro Ortiz Escoto from Mr. Lister's class will represent us. I am super proud of you both.   I am also very proud of our budding spellers who were the grade-level winners in 1st and 2nd grades; they attended to see what is in store for them if they continue on their current path.

Through the years, I have noticed that great spellers are avid readers.  I am struggling with finding the time to read as much as I used to, I wonder why, but know that it is a must for the new year.  I do not usually make resolutions, for fear of not living up to my own expectations, but I am committing to reading more this year.

My Reading Commitments for 2013 are:

1. Use Goodreads to track my reading.  I've been convinced by Donalyn Miller to use Goodreads to track my books, keep a to-read list, and connect with others on books I'm reading. I spent time today exploring this site and can already feel a blog post coming on about how neat it is!
2. Have family "Read-to-Self" time with my kids. Read-to-Self is one of the components of Daily5 that I would like to introduce at Durham next year.  This will be a chunk of time (at least 10-15 minutes, because that's what they can handle right now) that they can read whatever they want (not to me) while I also read myself.  This will be a win-win for all of us! (I realize I did say kids plural--I'm hoping that 2 year-old Sawyer can be focused that long looking at books or listening to books on the iPad).
3. Read 1 professional book a month. I will probably end up reading more, but I want to focus on reading more fiction so I'm not so boring!
4. Read 280 books. I'm not as crazy as I sound, I swear!  As I was exploring Goodreads today, my son thought it was cool and asked if we could keep track of the books I read to him (and his brothers) on there too, so out of the 280 goal, I expect 225 to be for picture books and 55 to be for novels, professional books, and kids' chapter books.

What can you commit to this year?  Start small and build upon your successes.  Remember that a home without books is like a house without windows.