Did You Ever Hate School?

As a student, you may not have always experienced school being positive.  As parents, we want our children to have a positive school experience.  This article by Patty Wipfler, a parent skills educator, provides tips on how to have your child have a better time at school.  Hope you find it valuable!  Kyle




What is a noon monitor?

What is a noon monitor at WPS?

As a parent, you may have heard your child talk about noon monitors. You may have wondered what they do at WPS.  The noon monitors are the keepers of the safety and well-being of our learners during breakfast, lunch and the mid-day recess.  They support students to eat properly and to use time wisely in the cafeteria.  When a student may have skinned a knee, they console them and help them get care.   They intervene when an argument ensues during a game of basketball.  More importantly, they take the time with students to teach them safe play and respectful interactions.

For our students noon monitors do so much more than their job description!  Their friendly faces help form bonds with students that go from year to year.  Their actions and positive words of encouragement are role models for many of our students.  As an unbiased listener, they provide the attention that some students most need.  When conflicts arise, you can count on a monitor to help the students resolve it peacefully.  Their interactions with students on the playground encourages safe, physical play.

We have an amazing group of caring and skilled monitors!  We count on these dedicated staff to do so much for our learners!  Students comment that monitors are “When we make messes, they clean it up. It’s really nice,” “I sometimes have friendly conversations with them,” and “They make us feel really safe.”    We are often seeking interested folks to join our staff as a permanent or substitute noon monitor.  If you would like to consider joining our staff as a noon monitor, please contact our office at 892-1840.  Thank You!

Safety & Security at WPS

School Safety continues to be part of the news and social media.  Certainly, our hearts go out to anyone who has been directly affected by these recent school tragedies.  The concerns for safety of students may have been on your minds.  I am very proud of the steps that RSU 14 and Windham Primary School have taken to improve the security of our school and the safety of our students.  This blog post is a summary of the many of the actions we have taken.  Please look for more details about a Trauma, Safety and Security Discussion for parents/guardians on June 12th at 6:30 PM at WPS.

  • We have video cameras that monitor exits, entrances and main hallways and common areas. The cameras can be accessed by staff both inside and outside our building.
  • All exit doors are locked during the school day including the front door.
  • We have the capability to lock off main areas of the building to limit the access of an intruder.
  • We have a contract with a security expert who reviews our plans annually and is often present for our drills.  We revise drills based on his feedback.
  • After a drill has been performed, members of our safety team meet to debrief on the drill and discuss how to continually improve our safety protocols.
  • Annually, we review our crisis documents that are kept secure and held confidential.
  • Our staff practices mock drills with our security expert after school hours.  I would describe these as table readings such as actors do for movies.
  • Per the advisement of our security expert, we do not publish our measures, practices and protocols as they would decrease our ability to react properly to a threat.
  • Seven years ago, a national organization specializing in emergency management audited our protocols and procedures. As principal, I received advanced training on how to react to situations such as an armed intruder.  We changed many of our practices including how our facility looks.
  • I completed an advanced training for crisis management that included national certification for a principal and included an extensive individual interview with the Stockton Springs, ME principal whose school had an armed intruder. We revised our plans after my completion of the training and it helped me understand how to best prepare and prevent such a crisis.

Transitions at School

Transitions are a part of our daily lives.  We wake up, go to work, eat meals and go to sleep.  We also experience larger transitions such as births and deaths, moving and new jobs.  Students in school have transitions, too.  Successfully transitioning from one activity or classroom to another can be more difficult for some students.  A concern that arises for the parents and guardians of students who may find transitioning hard is the number of transitions students experience within a school day.

Transitions at WPS happen for a variety of reasons.  Students visit specialists such as Art, Music, PE and Library.  Students go to lunch and recess.  They participate in classroom transitions such as from one content block to another.  Students prepare for the end of the day dismissal procedure.  Students transition to work with other teachers and support staff for a short period of time for targeted learning based on their individual needs.  This last type of transition is one of the ways we strive to provide a student-centered learning experience that is customized for each of our learners! Young learners with short attention spans especially benefit from transitions and help them perform better as their day is separated into shorter timeframes.  They find more success and demonstrate on-task behavior when they meet as a class, have a mini-lesson and receive instruction, and then move on to small group or individual work.

The ability to transition smoothly is an important factor in school and life success.  At WPS, we want students to safely transition by keeping hands and feet to self, using a quiet or zero-voice level, having walking feet and returning any classroom materials to their proper place.  We expect students to complete transitions within the classroom in a timely fashion, meaning some transitions may take only a minute or two to complete.  Some of the skills we teach as part of this process are listening, personal body space, following directions, responsibility and proper voice level.

Teachers make transitions fun while continuing the academic learning.  A class on the move from one activity to the next might sing the alphabet song or another rhyming song.   As a teacher walks his class down the hall he models a whisper voice while he quizzes students about letter sounds or math facts.  As students clean up from an activity they count by 5s or 10s.  As students move from desks to sitting on the rug, a teacher may ask students to put their hands up in the air if the teacher says 2 words that rhyme.  When students transition quickly and are briefly waiting for classmates to join them on the rug, the sitting students quietly and cooperatively play “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”  As educators, we want maximize and reinforce learning, never wasting a moment while keeping students on task.

Even when teachers design transitions to be fun, we understand that some students experience difficulty during these times.  To help these students and their teachers, there is a team of professionals available for support.  Teachers access our guidance staff to brainstorm ways to support the student or provide direct counseling for the student.  Teachers within the classroom use supports such as holding a hand when in line, having a designated rug spot near the teacher, a picture schedule to anticipate upcoming transitions and use praise and rewards for successful transitions.  If a student has a pattern of difficulty transitioning, a team of educators and often parents/guardians meet to develop an individual behavior plan that includes research-based effective practices.

So just like we teach students lifelong skills to be a reader, writer and a mathematician, we teach our students the lifelong skill of how to transition from activity to activity!

A Student Learning from More Than 1 Teacher

If you are a parent or guardian of a Windham Primary School student, you know that your children typically learn from more than one staff member throughout the course of the day.  This may seem different than what you experienced as a student in elementary school.  Typically, a class of students learned each subject from the same teacher throughout the day.  The content of the subject was what determined what and how all students learned.  In the education field, we often referred to this as teaching to the middle.  All students were expected to learn in the same way and at the same time.  You know from raising your own children that children do not learn and grow the same way and at the same rate.  Think about when your child learned to walk or speak their first words.  It probably wasn’t the same as siblings or friends.  We take this same approach to instruction at our school.  Learning is constant and time to learn is the variable.

Because students learn differently, we instruct students by their learning needs and then group students for a period of time with similar learning needs.  You may hear students and teachers call this “switching” or “trading” students. This regrouping of students to work with a teacher or staff member allows us to individualize and personalize the learning experience for each student.  We determine these groups by assessing students’ knowledge and skills before teaching them a unit of study.  A variety of factors may determine why a student may move to a different teacher such as teacher strengths, interests, and academic support needed.

Therefore, with the type of learning environment that we are trying to create, learners are grouped in relation to learning standards, socio-emotional needs and their individual needs and not by their age alone.  We value learners having good relationships with teachers.  Because teachers are part of a teaching team, learners have the opportunity to form connections with multiple teachers at one time.  Our teachers work hard to have positive relationships with all the learners on their team.  We continue to closely monitor at the student level, class level, team level, grade level and school level the successes of our students.  It is important to note that the care and education of each student is the priority for our school and our teachers. We are operating differently than we have in the past, however, we are only striving to improve the education of Windham students by customizing their education.

PS If you wish to learn more about the value of teaching teams for students, please click here.


New Writing Approach at WPS

You may have heard teachers talk about a new writing program that they are implementing with students.  Instead of being a program, it is a new approach to writing in which the focus is on teaching the individual writer how to write, instead of teaching a writing program to a class of students.  The approach comes from Columbia Teachers College in New York City.  Teachers and administrators across the country get trained in the approach and then use with students in their classrooms.

With this approach to writing instruction, students experience a different type of learning, likened to learning to play  golf, tennis or the piano. The golf coach didn’t teach you about golfing; rather he or she taught you how to golf by taking you from your current skill level and making you a better golfer.  Coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, is often praised as a coach because he drafts players that may not have been highly touted as professional players. He coaches the players as individuals and gets the most out or their performances. Our teachers are teaching writers (students) from what the writers know and can do and personalizing instruction to make them better writers.  Not all writers in a class need the same skills or supports to be successful and confident writers.  This probably sounds different than how we learned to write in school.   Many of us may have experienced a program where the whole class was taught the same lesson, given the same opportunities for practice, and given the same writing assignments.  Most of our students are becoming more confident and interested in writing as a result of this personalized approach.

So what else is different about how Windham Primary School students experience?

  • Students write a lot and write in different ways.
  • The process includes revising their writing, which can be tricky for writers at times because we all like to be done with something and move on. The approach includes writers setting goals and celebrating when they’re met!

So if you are hearing or wondering about the writing program at WPS, you will now know that we are using a different approach to writing that honors the individuality of writers.  Teachers have received common training on this approach and follow a sequence of common lessons to prepare writers to be successful.  The real power comes about because of the differing of the instruction which is based on what each student needs to be a confident and engaged writer!

Lockout or Lockdown?

Every day we take measures at WPS to ensure the safety of our students. During school hours all of our exterior doors are locked so in one sense we are partially in a lockout at all times.  All non-staff are screened by our office staff via our main entrance.  Staff are expected to wear identification badges and visitors receive visitor badges.

We have district protocols that we follow during times when we need to employ greater safety and security.  This week at WPS we conducted a lockout because an adult became ill.  We called for the school-wide lockout to minimize students watching staff and emergency personnel care for the adult.  We conduct lockouts for issues such as an ill person or at times a possible threat in the community that is not on campus.  Students and staff continue with school business behind closed doors.

So what is a lockdown? During a lockdown, our school keeps the exterior doors locked, hallway doors are automatically locked and all staff and students remain behind closed doors, while remaining quiet and with the lights off.  We have protocols in place to keep communication between classrooms and our office.  We practice lockdown drills periodically and at times with emergency personnel such as the local police.  I am very proud of how our school community conducts safety drills throughout the year. It is a testament to how much they care about the safety of our students!