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. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year!  I hope that each of you had the opportunity to spend time with your loved ones during the holiday season.  We ended the year with many exciting activities.  The students and staff had a joyous time at the winter performances and school dance, and took full advantage of our Polar Express Day when they wore their comfiest PJs to school.

It is hard to believe that the school year is almost at the midway point.  The beginning of a new year always serves as a great opportunity to reflect on what is working well, and what needs to be improved upon.  I employ you to continue to have meaningful conversations with your children every day.  Take stock of how your child is doing in school.  Report cards will be distributed tomorrow.  To see if you have a good idea on how well your child is doing, answer the following questions yes or no:
1.      Do you talk with your child about graded tests and projects when she brings them home?
2.      Do you ask your child to talk about why he thinks he received a grade and what he has learned – whether it’s a good grade or a grade in need of improvement?
3.      Do you contact your child’s teacher to learn what is going on if your child has a problem with a subject?
4.      Do you check your child’s report card, paying attention to conduct and behavior grades as well as academic grades?
5.      Do you review your child’s test results with the teacher?
How did you do?  Each yes answer means that you are keeping up with your child’s progress in school.  Children’s school success starts at home – and kids’ attitudes about school start there as well.  What you say can influence how your child feels, so speak positively about your child’s teacher.  If you have a problem or concern, make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher rather than speaking negatively at home.  After all, you both have the same goal in mind: your child’s success.
This month, resolve to get involved with your child’s academic success.  On Thursday, January 24th, we will host our first Parent Pop-in Day.  Parents will have the opportunity to visit their child’s classroom and spend some time observing the learning taking place.  On Wednesday, January 30th, the afternoon will be dedicated to Parent-Teacher Conferences.  Please carve out time to take advantage of both opportunities.
George Santayana said, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”  You are an integral part of your child’s experiences, so let’s work toward making this year the best year ever for every child at Durham.