March 16, 2017 - Communication, Staffing, Facelifts, and Professional Development
So here I was, patting myself on the back for our excellent communication in my January message, and then I stopped communicating...or at least that’s what it looks like when you look at the webpage. The reality is, there are so many communication options these days, that it is hard to keep up. In addition, we try very hard to make sure that whatever we communicate, gets to the right people and isn’t just being sent to everyone regardless of need. We communicate daily with Twitter, at least once a week (if not more) with our Synrevoice callouts (the e-mail messages or voice mail messages that you receive from the school), and monthly through our School Council meeting (check the minutes and you’ll see the Principal’s message there). And, of course, through our website. So apologies all around to those of you who only look at the website. Here’s what’s been going on and what you need to know coming up:
We have had some LTO teachers come, go, and stay here at the school. So just to make sure everyone is up to speed, I have updated the staff list on our website and indicated who is with us until the end of the year. Everyone you see on the staff list will be in our building following the March Break.
Throughout the year our school has been given a facelift. We have painted the hallways throughout most of the school (Grade 6 hallway, Grade 8 hallway, South and North Gyms, Life Skills hallway, and the boys’ and girls’ washrooms across from the library); over the March Break we have had the carpet in the library and the music room replaced; and we have had new mats put into both gyms to cover the walls. Finally, we have replaced the broken sound systems in both gyms. Starting with the greening of the link in September, all of this helps to create a positive atmosphere where students and staff want to keep it that way and make an effort to keep common and classroom areas clean. Keep an eye out for more upgrades as we start giving the school an electrical overhaul in the Spring.
Professional development goes hand in hand with the academic achievement of our students. Here at MSB, we take professional development seriously and spend every moment of our staff meetings and PD days focussing on how to become better teachers. We also find creative ways to release our teachers so that they can learn from each other.
For example, over the winter months, we released all of our Junior, Intermediate, and Primary Math teachers to meet with the math coach, the Instructional Programme Leader and the Ministry SAO support. They planned lessons together that focussed on thinking and application skills which were identified as weak areas for our students through the EQAO data. They taught a lesson, had others observe their teaching, then they sat together and talked about how it went, what needed to be done differently and what the students learned. Finally, they went back into the classroom to tweak the lesson and make the changes. We have found that this is an excellent way to examine our own teaching and learning practices in math and can be carried over into other subject areas. We will be releasing all of our Math teachers to work through this cycle again in the Spring.
Our French teachers have been involved in an action research project that has them working closely with the Special Education teachers to find ways to meet the needs of special education students in French. This project will also continue into the Spring and will involve them giving up their lunch hours and extra time to meet, share ideas, and learn from each other.
As a former teacher and Vice Principal at Robert Little, I know how connected the two schools are with many of our families having children in both schools. As a result of this, our teachers are also in the midst of planning opportunities for both the schools to work together to learn from each other (we had a shared Staff Meeting in February) and to share our learning with our community. Keep an eye out for a Spring Celebration of Learning that will be produced jointly by both schools.
Finally, we spent the last staff meeting and PD day focussing on innovation in education. Staff learned more about a process called “Instructional Rounds” that helps a school look carefully at a problem of practice and develop a plan to change the practice; we listened and learned from teachers in our school who were teaching and assessing in new and effective ways; and we talked at length about how we can best meet the needs of our students, knowing what we do about good teaching practices, but still work within the confines of the reality of our “school system”. These are challenges that we face every day as we welcome students into our classrooms and try to create a safe place where students can grow and learn. I can tell you that MSB staff is definitely up to the challenge.
There is so much more going on here at MSB, but in order for this not to become a novel, I will save that for the next message (or Tweet, or Synrevoice) and hope that you will continue to follow us in the way that best meets your needs. Now that’s 21st century communication!
January 16, 2017 - Communication, Extra Curriculars, and Kindy Registration
At the last school council meeting I asked parents to tell me, What could we do better? What would make MSB the best place for your children to be? How can we connect with our community more effectively? and many other questions. The answers to those questions have now become a part of our Five Year Plan created to help us map out where we want to go and, even more important, the steps we need to take to get us there.
One of the items that came out of the parent discussion was the need for greater communication between home and school. We have made several attempts to increase our level of communication here at MSB: updating the principal's message on the website more frequently, tweeting out daily the wonderful things happening in our school, encouraging parents to connect first with teachers with questions or concerns before "going straight to the top", and finding ways to invite our community into the school. This month we have the Acton Hub in connection with ROCK who will be running presentations for our intermediate students to help them better understand the mental health supports available to them in our community. In addition, we will have Inspire Halton joining us for a lunchtime to highlight Bell's "Let's Talk" focus on positive mental health. Our Wellness Committee is up and running with the help of one of our parents, Ms. Bell and they will be looking at ways to foster, support, and highlight the need for positive mental health in families and at school. Reds Garden Centre and Ms. Skinner continue to help make sure that our link remains "green" and we will certainly be looking for willing volunteers to overhaul our garden beds once the weather gets warmer.
Another desire was for parents to know about the extra curriculars that are available at the school and when they run so that they can encourage their children to get more involved and become better connected with their peers and with teachers outside of their classroom. In an attempt to get that information out there, I have asked teachers to add the extra curriculars that they run to a shared google doc. The document can be accessed here:
Now, please be aware that this doesn't list ALL of the extracurriculars. I haven't listed any that have come and gone and/or that are ending soon. In addition, opportunities come up on an ad hoc basis as teachers review their own time and energy before deciding to offer something outside of class time. Either way, hopefully this provides a place to start as you look at what is available for your child and we hope you do encourage them to become involved in their school in many different ways.
Finally, this week we look at inviting the newest members of the MSB community to join us as we begin our Kindergarten Registration on Tuesday, January 17th. Parents of children who will be four years of age by December 31, 2017 are encouraged to join us in the library from 1pm to 6:30pm to register your child for Full Day Kindergarten. We will have our secretaries there to get you registered directly into the system. Some of our administrators will be there to meet and greet. We will also have a Kindergarten and Early Childhood Educator there to answer any questions you may have. In order to register properly, you will need proof of address (any two of the following current documents: lease or deed, car registration, property tax bill, utility bill, residential telephone bill, moving bill, health card, bank statement, credit card statement, correspondence with a government agency), proof of the child's age (birth certificate, passport or baptismal/faith document for your child), proof of citizenship: (birth certificate or passport or Record of Landing [IMM 1000] or Permanent Resident card), and proof of immunization. We do have a photocopier available so that we can copy and return original documents on the spot. If you know of anyone who has a child of this age, please share this information with them.
In the meantime, keep checking here and Twitter @MCKSmithBennett to keep up to date on what's happening within our walls. We look forward to working with you to provide the best educational experience we can.
January 10, 2017 - !Busses Cancelled!
When busses are cancelled this means that there is no transportation before or after school, even if the weather improves. Please be aware that students will not have transportation home at the end of the day. On a bus cancellation day, typically over half our school is absent. In case you were wondering what this looks like at school, sometimes our teachers collapse classes in order to be able to provide a viable and engaging programme for students (which usually means at least some time out playing in the snow...fully encouraged by me since that's the best kind of daily physical activity!). In addition, many of our older students choose to wander in and out of school (coming and going as they want). While we appreciate their independence, this creates havoc in our attendance process as we must confirm by voice with parents if students are allowed to leave. If your older child has chosen to stay home, please have them remain home. If they have chosen to come to school, please encourage them to stay at school. Last bus cancellation day we had to follow up on over 350 absences so reducing the amount of "I'd like to call home because I don't want to stay at school" phone calls would be appreciated! As always, drive safely in this weather as the snow continues and the winds pick up, and we look forward to teaching and enjoying this snowy day with everyone who is in the building.
January 9, 2017 - Challenges, Successes, and Goals
Having been an educator all my life, in one form or another, to me the New Year always starts in September. However, for the rest of the world, we celebrate that in January, so I will bow to convention (for once!). Whether you think New Year’s Resolutions are a good idea or not, it’s never a bad idea to stop and take stock of where we are at and where we are going (whether you choose January, September, or some other date). Therefore, let’s take a moment to think about the challenges we continue to face, our successes so far, and our goals moving forward.
Challenges we face in the 2016-2017 school year:
Goals for the 2016-2017 school year (that we are still working on):
Wow! What a summary. It IS important to take stock…because otherwise, we would forget all the good things we do. Despite the challenges listed, I am overwhelmed by the work we have already done and continue to do here at MSB. I believe that by focusing on the successes and goals above, we can create a safe and welcome space for our students, teachers, and community so that when we enter the building EVERYONE is ready to focus on teaching and learning. In this way, our students can and will achieve academic, social, and emotional success.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back in the building tomorrow rested and ready to learn. Here’s to re-focusing on what counts and to a successful rest of the year!
January 9th, 2017 - School Council Message (great news!)
I hope 2017 will be as great as 2016. The MSB Parent school council would like to thank everyone for all their hard work with the holiday baskets over the holiday period last year. I would like to thank the Parents for donating the many Wonderful items for the Holiday baskets. Thank you to the Teacher's and Secretary's for collecting the holiday items for the baskets. Also a big thank you to the parents on the committee who helped collect, wrap, and make those baskets look AMAZING! Thank you to all those who organized and helped on the day of the auction. The evening was a success with us raising around a $1000.00 dollars for our school. Thank you again and wishing you a Happy New Year!
MSB Parent School Council, Chair
December 16, 2016 - Holiday Concert News
It was such a disappointment to have had to cancel the Holiday concert, craft night, silent auction, and book fair last night. However, with the storm and winds that came through last night, it was the right decision. It was better to be at home and enjoying a quiet evening with family than to be battling the winds to get to our concert.
The good news is, the concert has been rescheduled for Monday December 19th, same place, same times...different day! We recognize that this is short notice, but we hope that all parents and family members that were going to attend last night will be able to come out and support our celebration on Monday. Just in case you needed the times again, here you go:
Silent Auction starts at 5:45pm and ends at 7pm sharp
Holiday Crafts run from 6-6:45pm
Book Fair starts at 5pm and runs for the whole evening.
The concert starts at 7pm.
December 13, 2016 - Safe and Welcome Schools and our Holiday Concert!
How do you have a welcoming school that is also safe? It is a dilemma for all administrators. We definitely want our schools to be a welcoming place where parents and community members can be involved in supporting our educational goals. We also want our students to be safe and for their parents to know that when they are with us, we are aware of their interaction with others (students and adults) and know that their well-being is of the utmost importance. In order to ensure that we find that balance, I want to remind everyone in our community (custodians, YMCA staff, teachers, students, and parents) of a few things.
We recognize that because of the large physical building that we have, coming to the front doors can sometimes be seen as a hassle, but I know that all parents would prefer a bit of an extra walk if it meant that our school was a safe place for students. If we follow these two basic requests, I know that we can achieve what everyone wants for our students: a safe AND welcome school.
Speaking of a welcoming school. This Thursday December 15th, we have our annual holiday concert. At 5:45pm we will be welcoming people in our front doors for the following activities: Silent Auction (this is a major fundraiser for our school and is expertly organized by our School Council); Family Craft Night (students and parents waiting for the concert to start can stop by one of our classrooms opened specifically for creating wonderful holiday crafts); and our Holiday Concert run by Mrs. Lebert which showcases our music programme and our student bands. We hope that you will join us in celebrating the season.
December 2, 2016 - Snow, Concerts, and Gift Giving
I simply cannot believe that December has arrived. With no snow on the ground and weirdly warm temperatures, it just doesn’t seem like we are 3 weeks away from the holidays. The kids here at MSB know how much I love the snow so I diligently do my nightly snow dance (which is usually quite effective) and hope for the best. I know, some of you are cursing me, but I know we all get a little excited when we get that first big snow!
Another thing we get excited about in December is our annual Band performance. On Thursday, December 15th we will be having our concert in the evening. More details about the evening will follow with school council events as well but for now, just mark your calendars, do a little snow dance, and prepare yourself for a lovely evening out to listen to our wonderful band.
When December hits, many of us start thinking about shopping for gifts. The giving of gifts is a time honoured tradition. For some it is a joyous opportunity to find the perfect thing that expresses feelings about another person. For others it is a difficulty because it’s hard to find just the right thing to express your feelings about another person. For others...well….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNZjVvbgM08.
That being said, at this time of year (and at the end of the year) many people want to give gifts to their teachers. It’s a way of saying thank you. It’s an opportunity to teach children about the valuing of showing someone that you appreciate them. Or, it’s a social convention that people feel they need to follow. If you are like me with my own kids, during the last week of school (or more likely with me, the night before the last day), it suddenly hits you that you did not purchase a gift for the classroom teacher (bus driver, coach, or piano instructor) and you run scrambling to the store to pick up a plant, or to Tim’s to get a gift card, or you bake madly into the evening to put together a little “care” package. I know that I don’t speak for everyone in this, some of you are much better prepared and have things well in hand weeks before, but for most of us….life is pretty busy.
Because of our busy lives, we often let the things that make us happy; that are going well; or that come together as they should, go unacknowledged. The only time that we do a “full stop” on our busy schedule is when we need to fix something or, in other words, bring to someone else’s attention that there is a problem. We make time to call the bus company to say that the bus was late picking up a child; we call the teacher to say that a child’s third pair of mittens have gone missing in two weeks; or we call the principal to say that a teacher is not responding to messages. All of these are important conversations to have (although I’d advise a string for the child’s next pair of mittens!) but so are the calls that aren’t made: the call to tell the bus driver that your child loves the music the driver plays each morning; the call to tell the teacher that your child came home singing a math song that helped her to remember the multiplication tables; or the call to the principal to say that you love the twitter communication that’s coming out from the school (okay, I’m hoping people like that last one!).
I get it. Life is busy. There are good intentions to call about the good things happening in life, but because it’s not a problem to be solved, it falls off the “to do list” radar.
So here is my time-saving but still wonderfully special solution to gift-giving: write a thank you letter.
Ok, it doesn’t even have to be a letter, even a brief note will do. What most people need is to be recognized, valued, and appreciated. When I’m having a bad day, or I’ve made a mistake, or someone has yelled at me about something, I stop, dive into my thank you note folder and remember that many people have appreciated me over the years. A note written to me in when I started teaching in 1989 can still positively affect my day 27 years later. So, instead of the 20 minutes (or more) it takes to go out and buy something, sit down and write a note of thanks. A thank you note expressing exactly what your child likes about his teacher is worth a thousand candles, mugs, or Tim’s cards. Just as equally important is a thank you note from a parent expressing how a teacher has made a difference in the life of a child. They are the gift that keeps on giving.
So this season, think about teaching your children the gift of appreciation through the power of positive words; it is a lesson worth remembering for all of us.
November 14, 2016 - Behaviour is EVERYONE'S responsibility
Anti-bullying week is this week. Bullying is a real thing that takes place when one person intentionally targets another through physical or emotional abuse and over a sustained and extended period of time. This can happen to children but it can also happen to adults. It is a terrible thing and can leave a life-time of invisible emotional scars. In order to confront it, deal with it, and eventually eliminate it, we need to truly understand what it is and how to combat it.
Many of us in education struggle with the use of the word "bullying" when it is used to define what are regular everyday annoyances between students in a school. Anyone who has ever attended a school or workplace knows that it is important to develop resilience when dealing with people of different views, different approaches to life, different abilities to interact in socially appropriate ways, and different ideas about the acceptable use of certain words.
As adults we have lots of strategies to manage those uncomfortable and sometimes negative interactions.
We use strategies such as balancing which is responding to negatives with a positive: "Did you see what Sarah was wearing? Looks like she time-travelled from the 80's!" "Actually, I thought she looked pretty good and I was thinking that haircut really suits her".
Sometimes we use planned ignoring: "I'm fed up with Mike, he's always bugging me about my writing. He's such a jerk! Did you hear me?" "Sorry, I'm just really busy trying to get my work done.".
Sometimes we try to use humour to diffuse a situation: "Mrs. Phillips always dresses in fancy shoes. She probably thinks she's better than us." "What are you the shoe police?" "Well, look at them, bright green? It's like 'look at me!'" "Do you get a badge as a member of the shoe police or do you just get special shoes? Maybe Mrs. Phillips is in the shoe police! That's why she has special shoes!".
Sometimes we use re-direction: "I'm so mad at Megan We used to be best friends, but now she doesn't even come by my desk anymore!" "Don't sweat it. Hey did you see that new movie yet? The one with where the aliens come to earth?".
Sometimes we just say it like it is: "I overheard Lisa talking about the text I sent. It's none of her business and I can't believe she's talking about it!""Well, if you sent it out there, you can't get mad if it gets shared. That's the nature of the internet. Don't complain if you post something you wanted to remain private and it ends up lighting up the internet!"
All of those situations are ones we commonly see and hear in the workplace. But they are also ones that we easily observe in the school day. Every day, we see students who are commenting negatively about the appearance of others; students who feel that if someone hurts them (emotionally, physically, socially) then they have a right to hurt them back; students who don't understand that a text, snapchat, or facebook entry is no longer their own and is going to be subject to everyone's opinion; and students who waste their time complaining about everyone else and don't focus on what they are really at school for: learning.
At MSB, we work hard to create opportunities so that our students can learn to be more self-aware, to be more compassionate, to be more understanding, to be more empathetic, and to develop their own resiliency when it comes to the normal, day-to-day experiences they might face. We do this throughout the year in our character assemblies; we do this with our Child and Youth Counsellor supporting individual students and whole classes; we do this by building in opportunities for our students to have a voice in school decisions; and we do this by highlighting and modelling the incredibly good and kind things that our students do every day.
However, we also recognize that bullying, (the intentional targeting of one person by another usually involving physical or emotional abuse and over a sustained and extended time) does and can happen anywhere, including our school. This is why we take the time to focus on anti-bullying initiatives so that successful strategies can be brought to the forefront and so that we can remind students that we all think, believe, and act in different ways and it is important to recognize and accept those differences.
As a result of this, we have a number of Anti-Bullying week activities coming up for students to be involved in.
Here are next week's highlights:
Monday: Students are to wear multi-colours. These outfits are to recognize and support the diversity and uniqueness of all of our students.
Tuesday: Students are to wear orange. Orange represents cultural diversity and support for basic human rights. It is also commonly connected to racial tolerance and awareness of Aboriginal rights.
Wednesday: Students are to wear pink which (because of a school incident where a young boy was teased for wearing a pink shirt) has become synonymous with the "anti-bullying" movement.
Thursday: Students are to wear green. Green represents support and tolerance for those struggling with mental health issues.
Friday: Students are asked to wear white. White is accepted around the world as a symbol of peace. If we can live in harmony with one another despite our differences, diversity, and individual beliefs, then we can achieve peace. Friday is also the day that we encourage everyone, students, staff, and custodians to wear pajamas. This is the day that we ask everyone to bring in a loonie or a toonie to support the United Way. The United Way's mission statement is to empower and enable a diverse community to achieve positive social development. What a great way to sum up all the work we will have been doing this week. Donations to the United Way have a profound impact on our community by ensuring an essential network of programmes and services that can achieve lasting, positive change. It's a perfect way to end our week; by giving back to others.
In addition, out librarian will be putting together a set of "read aloud" books about anti-bullying so that some of our student leaders can go into primary and junior classes to read to them and discuss bullying/acceptance/and tolerance with support by the classroom teachers.
One of our junior teachers with the support of her students is creating a set of anti-bullying posters that outline the differences between true bullying behaviour and behaviour that is mean/rude/hurtful. They will be delivering a poster to each classroom and the teachers in those rooms will spend some time discussing the differences between the two.
Announcements have been prepared and will be read each day to explain the choice of colours and to help students put that thinking at the forefront of their minds.
Finally, the grade 6,7, and 8 students will continue to work through many of the empathy activities that were provided to the school at the beginning of the year. These focus on understanding your classmates, standing up for each other, and developing strategies for deflecting negative talk and actions.
Together we really can eliminate bullying but how we behave and encourage our children to behave is EVERYONE's responsibility.
November 9, 2016 - Parent Event....check it out!
This is a great opportunity to talk about, understand, and identify concerns about mental health in children. Specifically designed for parents.
C.A.P.P. for Kids hosting education meeting about parenting Nov. 15, 2016
C.A.P.P. for Kids (Community and Parent Partners for Kids) is hosting an upcoming C.A.P.P. for KIDS Community and Parent Partners for Kids with the theme,Understanding Mental Health Issues and Nurturing: Positive Mental Health in Our Youth.
The guest speaker is Dr. Jane Storrie, a Burlington-based psychologist who will provide information about how to promote positive mental health in youth. She will also help parents understand when they should be concerned and explain how to find professional support and services.
Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.; community displays are from 6:45 to 7 p.m.
Location: Gary Allan High School/New St. Education Centre, 3250 New Street, Burlington
Admission is free, but, donations toward future speakers will be gratefully accepted.
English-speaking American Sign Language interpreters are available upon request.
In the event of poor weather conditions, please dial 311 for cancellation information.
For more information visit halton.ca/capp or dial 311.
The following message has come to us from Halton Region. While the occurrences have been in Burlington, it is important to always be aware of possible safety issues regarding wild animals:
The Halton Region Health Department has received test results confirming cases of raccoon rabies found in skunks in Burlington. The rabies virus is spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually entering through a bite or scratch. Halton Health Dept reminds anyone who comes into physical contact with a raccoon or other wild animal to see a physician immediately about post-exposure rabies treatment and to report the exposure to the Health Dept as soon as possible, by calling 311.
The Health Department is reminding residents to:
More information about rabies is available at www.halton.ca/rabies
November 8, 2016 - Remembrance Day Assembly Rescheduled
Urgent. The Remembrance Day Assembly that was planned for tomorrow has been rescheduled to Thursday, Nov. 10 at 10:15am. Please join us and the Acton Legion Colour Guard on the new date!
November 7, 2016 - What's happened and what's coming up:
We have had a busy autumn at MSB! So I’m just going to start right into it!
At the October School Council meeting, a new School Council was elected for the 2016-2017 school year. We welcome Ms. Sarah Davies as Chair, Ms. Diane Gowland as Vice-Chair, Ms. Pam Campbell as Treasurer, and Ms. Sarah Ansell as Secretary. We also welcome all our parents, teaching representative (shared by Mr. Tony Robinson and Ms. Patt. Resch) and community member (Ms. Dorota Magiera) as voting members. In addition, Ms. Shari White has offered to be our PIC representative and the representative for the Halton Hills School Council run by Jeanne Gray our Trustee. We appreciate the dedication and time that is given to make a difference for students at MSB.
Thank you for everyone’s support with our fundraising efforts so far! Our QSP and Lamontagne fundraising has been successful so far; thank you for helping to make a difference. Funds will be used for purchasing classroom literacy materials (e.g., home reading materials, levelled literacy materials), technology (e.g., to outfit each room with a presentation/projector option so that any device can be connected and displayed) and numeracy materials (e.g., manipulatives).
We welcome back the Breakfast Club and want to say ‘thanks’ to the group of dedicated volunteers who help Gina Adema (Coordinator) run this important program for our kids! The Breakfast Club runs from 8:45 - 9:15 every Wednesday morning in the north gym. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the school and we will connect you to Gina.
On Wednesday November 9th, we will be having our Remembrance Day Assembly beginning at 10:15 to honour the commitment and sacrifice of Veterans from the World Wars, modern day conflicts and peacekeeping missions. We have the school assembly on November 9th in order to host the Acton Legion Colour Guard as part of our ceremony. Each class will be placing a wreath around the Canadian flag and our student leaders will be leading the assembly by contributing stories, poems and songs in remembrance and recognition of our Veterans. To honour the men and women who have served our country, students will be given a poppy to wear. If students wish to donate $1.00 to support our Canadian Veterans, it would be appreciated. All donations will be given to the Acton Legion.
On Remembrance Day, November 11th at the 11th hour, we will be honouring our Veterans by marking two minutes of silence at the school. Our nutrition break time will be flipped so that students will be inside during the 2 minutes of silence. Some of our students and staff will represent MSB at the Remembrance Day Ceremony held at the Cenotaph in Acton.
Student Progress Reports will be coming home with all grade 1-8 students on Monday, November 21st. The fall progress report card places a strong emphasis on the development of students' learning skills and work habits (e.g., responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative and self-regulation). The progress report card also indicates how well students are progressing in all the subjects and provides an early indication of those subjects where the student may need additional help. For each subject, teachers will indicate whether the student is: Progressing With Difficulty, Progressing Well, or Progressing Very Well. Interviews will be held for most families on Thursday, November 24th (evening) or on Friday, November 25th. There will be no school for students on Friday, November 25th.
Interview forms will be sent home on Monday November 14th and are due back on November 16th - your interview time will be confirmed by the end of that week by the classroom teacher(s).
Also coming home on the 14th will be the information about the Holiday Basket fundraiser that our School Council runs at the Holiday Concert on December 15th (mark your calendars).
Starting November 14th, our Intermediate teachers will be giving up a portion of their break times to supervise a “Study Hall” that is available to students who need extra help, to get caught up, or just need some time to work on homework. This takes place in room 125. Usually it runs 4 days a week but I will post the exact days once I have confirmed with our Intermediate teachers.
We also have more hiring to do. Another of our EAs Mr. Lawrence accepted a permanent job at another school and he will be starting there on November 21st. We have already posted the job and will be hiring a new person before he leaves. Mrs. Armstrong will be leaving on her maternity leave on December 3rd so we are interviewing for her job next week as well to get that in place well in advance of her move. We wish them both the best, they will be greatly missed this year.
The Santa Claus Parade is coming up in November, unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be unable to put a float into the parade this year. However, we are already making plans to overcome this year’s hurdle to make sure that we can participate fully next year as we have in the past.
Finally, our staff spent the staff meeting this evening finishing up our visioning exercises and creating a plan for this year, next year, and the next three years after that. Once I’ve had a chance to review that with the admin team and the leadership team, we will start thinking about allocation of funds and purchasing needs for the school. Again, doing things right takes time and we want to make sure that all funds raised by our families is directed appropriately and usefully.
November 2, 2016 - Workshops for Parents (like you don't have enough to do...but it's always nice to get help and find out you are not alone!)
I just wanted to give you a heads up about a series of workshops being provided by the Learning Disabilities Association of Halton (LDAH) designed for parents/caregivers of children with Learning Disabilities, Family and community members, educators, and counsellors. All workshops are in the evening from 6:30-8:30pm and child care is provided for school age children only. All workshops are free and definitely worth checking out.
There are topics ranging from "Understanding Psychoeducational Assessment and IEPs" (Nov 23-Georgetown), "Understanding Learning Disabilities (Jan 18-Milton), "Transitioning into High School" (Feb 22- Acton)), "Executive Functioning Strategies" (Mar 29-Milton), "Surviving After School Homework" (April 25-Burlington), "Organizing the Disorganized Learner" (May 17-Oakville), and "Investigating ADHD" (June 14-McMaster). Mark the dates on your calendar and remember these workshops are FREE for parents however registration is required for these workshops so sign up soon since space is limited and these look like they will fill up fast.
October 31, 2016 - Hallowe'en Thank you's (other than it's almost over?)
I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to the teachers who organized and ran our grade 6,7,8 mummification assembly, our grades 1-5 parade, and our pumpkin carving contest. Many hands make light work and I know our students had fun and still managed to maintain great behaviour. I do have to apologize profusely to the parents that showed up for 6th period for the parade. We always like to do the parade 5th period so that some of our senior students can go into primary classes over lunch and help get all of our little ones ready with their costumes. Unfortunately, in our official notification that went home, we wrote in that the parade was happening 6th period rather than the correct period which was 5th. As a parent myself, I know how hard it is to make arrangements for the middle of the day to see your kids doing something special at school. It breaks my heart to think that some of you missed the parade and the excitement on your child's face. Sometimes, there are just so many balls in the air that things get dropped (I know if you are a parent you can totally relate to this!) So please, accept my sincerest apology and know that we will try to get our home messages checked, double checked and triple checked for next time.
I also want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Daniel the Owner of No Frills, and Scott the Produce Manager who not only donated ALL of the pumpkins for our pumpkin carving contest, but also took time out of their day to come and judge the contest! It is wonderful to have community members in our school and engaged with our students. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So, we have survived Hallowe'en which is really saying something! However, November 1st is the true test of how well the rest of the week goes. Fingers crossed the weather stays nice for tonight and for tomorrow (I suspect everyone will need to get lots of energy burned off at recess!)
Happy Hallowe'en!! Have a safe and fun evening.
October 14, 2016 - What we've done since September
Well, we are a month and a little bit into the school year and what a start up we've had! So far this year we've had a character assembly focussed on empathy; two behaviour assemblies (one for grades 1-5 and another for grades 6-8) focussed on taking responsibility for your own actions; a successful open house evening for the parents of our Access (8.5) class; a largely attended grade 7 parent night for Camp Muskoka; a hugely successful Meet the Teacher Night with a pizza dinner, a quick assembly in the gym, opportunities to visit classrooms, a community fair in the gym, and opportunities to sign up for Cashless Schools and to follow us on Twitter; two fire drills; grade 7 and 8 immunizations; a kick-off QSP fundraising assembly; a wonderful day at the Acton Fall Fair; a successful Cross Country meet; Crazy Hair day; intramurals and grade 8 hockey starting up. Whew! Schools are very busy places these days and sometimes, we can get so caught up in the "busyness" that we don't take time to reflect on what we are doing and where we are going....but we've actually done that too!
Our first PD day with staff was spent visioning and talking about what it would look like if MSB were the best school in the board. What would students be doing? What would teachers be doing? How would parents be involved in the school? What would the school look like? Our leadership team (representing all our grades, programmes, and languages) is now taking that end result (the brainstorming) and planning backwards over a five year timeline to create a step by step plan to help make our dreams come to life. We will look at resources, budget, class building, staffing, curriculum delivery, and community involvement and engagement; all areas where we can make change happen. At our parent council meeting in November, we will spend some time gathering the parent perspective and Mrs. Cation, one of our VPs, will be gathering the same input from our student body. Together we will be working toward making MSB a place where students truly hope, lead, and achieve.
I'm very pleased to share that our Twitter nation has ballooned to almost 200 followers. We will try to honour your interest by making sure that we post something every day. However, please know that MANY of our teachers have class Twitter accounts where they post daily events, learning, and important announcements. Talk to your child's teacher and see if there is an account that you need to be following. In addition, some of our parents were unable to be present for our start up assemblies and have asked for the presentations to be posted somewhere. I guess the website is as good a place as any. Therefore, if you are interested in knowing what was shared with students at the behaviour assembly, I have combined the two (primary/junior and intermediate) into a "parent" presentation that is posted at the following link. Behaviour Assembly Link Apologies in advance for the "static" nature of the presentation. It was originally simply used as a reference for talking points so it's not the most dynamic of youtube videos. However, it will give you the overview of the discussion we had with students.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or even better, positive feedback for us, please do not hesitate to call. We look forward to a productive fall with all of our parents and students. Go Mustangs!!!
Regards, Kim Phillips.
September 2, 2016 - Welcome Back Thoughts
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As I write this on September 2nd, it is hard to believe that the summer is almost over and the school year is around the corner! I hope all of you were able to enjoy the hot summer days we had and that you were able to keep cool in a variety of fun and relaxing ways (personally, I can't wait for some snow!).
It is my true pleasure to welcome all of you to McKenzie Smith Bennett P.S. For those of you returning, I look forward to spending another year with you learning, laughing, and growing. For those of you joining us for the first time, I know you will find MSB a welcoming and engaging place to learn. We have a dedicated staff who works very hard to meet the individual needs of all our students and who maintain personal connections with their families.
We are sending out a special invite this year to all our parents and guardians to become an active participant in our school community through volunteering, joining our School Council (no we won't ask you to be the chair the minute you walk in the door!), or attending and supporting school events. Research clearly supports that when parents/guardians participate and are involved in their child's education, there is a greater likelihood of academic success for the child. On top of that, it's easier to start a conversation with "Hey, how did that number talk go in math today?" than with "How was school today?" (which we all know as parents is responded to with a mumbled..."fine"). The more you know about what happens day to day in the classroom, the more you can engage and support your child as a learner.
We truly believe that communication is the key to a successful educational experience. We are going to be reaching out to all of you in many different ways this year to establish and solidify that connection. So keep a look out for opportunities to join us in the building. If you can't be in the building, please follow us on Twitter at @MCKSmithBennett. We will be tweeting out every day (if not more than once) to help you see all the great things that are happening in the building. Take a moment right now and join our on-line community.
Together, we will continue to improve the quality of our school community and provide the best for the children of McKenzie Smith Bennett Public School. Have a wonderful long weekend and we will see you on Wednesday, September 7 as we begin another school year journey together.
Regards, Kim Phillips
And, no, I haven't forgotten that some of our kids are desperate to find out whose class they are in! The class lists will be posted on the front doors and a link will go live on our home page at 2pm today for anyone interested in knowing the details! Please make sure you have your child's OEN number so that you can access the information.
June 30/2016 - Year End Summary (not as boring as it sounds!)
It’s that time of year. The final bell has rung, the tears have been shed, the lockers have been cleaned out, and the last bus has pulled away….another year of educational ups and downs, challenges and successes. However, education (as all teachers know) is a life-long journey and so this really isn’t the end. For our Grade 8s moving onto high school, we hope to see and hear about them in the upcoming years as they start to blossom and come into their own. For our kindies who have started the year with us, we look forward to watching our graduating class of 2025 as they learn and grow. For everyone inbetween, we look forward to seeing everyone back, rested and relaxed from a summer with family and friends ready to tell us about their learning journeys outside of these four walls.
My challenge this year at MSB, as a brand new principal arriving in March, was to soak up the atmosphere, the culture, and the vibe in the building; to learn from the wonderful staff here who will go on this leadership journey with me; and to challenge myself to up my game. I’ve tried to do this by connecting with our community through technology. We introduced Twitter to our community in April and at present we have 113 followers. Our challenge for next year? 3x that number so that all of our families are following and connecting with us every day. But connecting with families will not just be done through technology, we have to be creative about how we can get our community in the building. The more our families feel welcome in the school; the more they know about what happens in the four walls; and the more they interact with teachers and educators on a daily basis, the more conversations we will have about creating a community of learners where the village really does raise the child.
What will this look like next year at MSB? Well certainly there will be some changes. We have an incredible group of LTOs (Long-term occasional teachers) who by the very nature of their contracts are only with us for a short time. However, they have made a huge impact on our school and it’s important to say goodbye and wish them well. Goodbye to Ms. Abela (gr. 1), Mme Burmaster-Hansen (gr. ⅞ FI), Mr. Fry (gr. ¾), Ms. Jacobs (SERT), Ms. Job (EA), Ms. Koning (Life Skills), Ms. Manson (gr. 1), Ms. Marinelli (gr. 6), Ms. Samuel (ECE), and Ms. Smith (LRT).
We also have some long time members of our community moving on to new teaching positions. As with any job, this happens for a variety of reasons (wanting to be closer to home with family, looking to spread their wings and take on new challenges, or just ready for a change to help them continue to grow and be effective as educators). It is a tough day when we say goodbye to people who have been core members of our staff, since their contributions to this school by helping students develop in the Arts, Literacy, Numeracy, and through extra curricular teams, clubs, and sports have helped to make a difference for kids every day. While we will miss them, we know this change will mean that they get to share their passion and expertise with a whole new group of students who will be the better for it. We say goodbye to Mrs. Brown who is moving on to become a system Math Coach in our board. Mr. Carmichael and Mrs. Lewis are starting new teaching roles at Irma Coulson PS. Mrs. Whiting and Mrs. Moxey are going to be sharing their expertise with the students at Oodenawi PS. Mrs. Conn-Smith is joining the staff at Bruce Trail PS and Mlle Dhaliwal will be sharing her love of French at Pinegrove PS. Mrs. Porter will be moving on to Montclair PS and Mrs. Ferreira will be teaching at Chris Hadfield PS next year. Finally, Ms. Lobelio will be joining the staff at George Kennedy PS and supporting students there in her role as an EA.
Those staffing changes mean that we also want to take the opportunity to welcome some new people to our building. Joining us next year at MSB will be Mrs. Donohoe who is going to be teaching as part of our FDK team; Mr. Primerano who will be leading up our grade 8.5 Access class; Ms. Okom who will be teaching grade 7 next year; Ms. Graham who will be teaching grade ⅞ FI in the fall; Ms. Touchie who will be joining us in a planning/coverage position; and Mrs. Everett who will be joining our secretarial staff. We are very excited to have them join us and look forward to working with them in the fall.
Finally, I would just like to say that it is a privilege and a blessing to be working with such a dedicated community of educators and students who at some point in every day (yes, every day) bring a smile to my face.
Have a wonderful summer. See you in September.
April 5, 2016 - I'm back!!
I’m very excited to be back at MSB. After my years of teaching at Robert Little, my 2 years as VP at MSB, and my brief stint as VP at Robert Little, Acton feels like home to me and I’m glad I was able to stay in the community. Thank you to all who have sent me welcome wishes. I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome Mrs. Kim Cation who is our new Vice Principal replacing Mrs. Nargi. Mrs. Cation comes to us from Anne J. MacArthur PS in Milton and brings with her a wealth of experience in Special Education. Together with Mr. Morton, we all look forward to learning and working together with our students and parent community over the next few months.
Speaking of the next few months, we have many exciting things happening at MSB that I'd like to fill you in on.
First off, April is a busy month for us here. Today we had Scientists in the Classroom visit one of our Grade 7 French Immersion classes. The students had a great opportunity to learn in the Science Lab with hands on experiments and an engaging guest scientist. All of this is thanks to Superior Glove of Acton who has sponsored Scientists in the Classroom for all of our students here at the school. Over the next few months, each one of our classes will have an opportunity to engage in this program free of charge. Also today our Intermediate students were able to take part in a Halton Skills Competition presentation in the gym. In addition, Mr. Brodie's and Mrs. Radford's classes were able to attend the competition to take part in and watch demonstrations of activities such as the technology challenge, green energy challenge, Lego robotics, and TV/video production competitions. On Thursday we have Tier 3 double header basketball games being played at the school and we look forward to welcoming students from other schools to join us in some basketball fun. Finally, there is a PD on Friday April 8th to round off the week! And that's just the first week of April.
Some other events coming up are our Electives for our Intermediate students which will be taking place on the next few Fridays. Students will be able to swim, cook, sew, engage in leadership opportunities and so many other activities it's impossible to list. A big thanks must go to our teachers who have planned and organized these extraordinary activities designed to provide students with a chance to branch out into other skill sets.
On Thursday April 21st we have a special social media event here at the school as well. Chris Vollum is joining us during the day to meet with our grade 6,7, and 8 students to talk about creating a positive media on-line presence as well as how to interact, engage, and learn from others on-line with safety. In the evening, Chris will be presenting to parents of students of all ages. Parents are encouraged to bring their own devices and learn about what Chris shared with the students during the day as well as some important tips on how to work with their kids to ensure they become social media savvy.
Then, as April comes to an end, we have our monthly pink shirt day on Wednesday, April 27th to highlight the need to provide a welcome, safe, and inclusive community for all of our students. In the evening of the 27th the Halton District School Board hosts reknowned behavioural expert, Dr. J. Stuart Ablon in a presentation on dealing and addressing challenging behaviour in children and teens. It will be from 7-9pm at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre (440 Locust St. Burlington). Dr. Ablon will speak about why some children and adolescents have difficulty managing their behaviour. His presentation will provide an overview of Collaborative Problem-Solving, an evidence-based approach to understanding and helping children and adolescents with behaviour challenges. Specifically, the Collaborative Problem-Solving Approach provides an alternative conceptualization to help parents with explosive non-compliant children and adolescents. The CPS model helps adults teach children lacking cognitive skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance and problem-solving. Dr. Ablon is the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. I have had the privilege of attending a conference hosted by Dr. Ablon in the past and can highly recommend attending this event. He speaks in real terms about the needs of children and how to manage effectively as parents to support and guide them. As a parent and an educator I came away with MANY practical ideas that I could use right away.
Finally, there are a few community pieces I would like to highlight for you that are worth looking into or getting involved in. First there is an Annual Food Drive happening this weekend. All you need to do is leave canned/boxed food items on your porch or outside your door by 9am this Saturday and you can support a local family in need. Volunteers will come and pick up the food for this FoodShare program. Check out the FoodShare website (www.actonfoodshare.com) for further information on items that are needed most and for more details. Next, there is a Halton Resource Fair happening on April 30 from 10-2pm at Craig Kielburger Secondary School in Milton. I would encourage you to find some time to attend if at all possible. At the fair you will find booths set up to inform you about pretty much every resource available to parents here in Halton. It's definitely worth the drive. Finally, the Annual Candlelight Walk is coming up during the first week of May and although that is a month away, I add it here because it is so important for us to show support to the Veterans in our community for their sacrifice and commitment to our peace and safety. The parade itself is on Thursday May 5th at 6:30pm. It begins at Hide House or at St. Alban's Anglican Church parking lot where you can light your candles and begin the walk to the cenotaph. Mark it on your calendar.
One last item and this one's especially important for our web page. We have recently created a Twitter account for MSB. At this point we are still trying to figure out how to best make use of it, how to attract followers in our parent community, and how to engage our student community in this new way. As a way to kick it off, we are going to be a part of the #LoveMySchoolDay conversation on Twitter on Monday April 11th. Teachers will tweet out all the great events, learning, conversations, and insights that they are engaged in throughout the day. Keep an eye on that thread to see some MSB shoutouts!
I think that's more than enough for now. I look forward to warmer weather, opportunities to learn, and great connections with our families in the community. Have a wonderful April!