Saturday, November 29, 2014

Special Thanks

Dear Coolidge Families,

On Wednesday, November 26, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving assembly at Coolidge, organized by Team Voyager with special contributions from the band and acapella group.  It was moving and fun, and I am so appreciative of those students and adults who so carefully planned for the assembly, the food drive, and the music!

During the assembly, I read my own list of thanks as a way to both share myself with the school as well as to encourage the students to take a moment to pause and to give thanks.  I hope they were able to do so!

Thankfulness, by Mrs. Marchant...

 ·          I am thankful for my immediate family, including my husband Dave, my son Taylor, my daughter Olivia, and my dog Teddy.
·         I am thankful for my parents, my brother, my sister, and their families.
·         I am thankful for my health and that of my family.
·         I am thankful for my friends, who remain my friends through thick and thin, through celebrations and challenges, and over distance and time.
·         I am thankful to have a home.
·         I am thankful to be able to provide for my family, such as food and heat and fun.
·         I am thankful for being provided an excellent education, and to always keep on learning no matter how old I get.
·         I am thankful for the community of Reading, which I share with most of you students, as it is a wonderful place to work and learn and grow.
·         I am thankful for the country I live in and for those who work hard to keep us safe.
·         I am thankful to have a job.
·         I am thankful to love my job.
·         I am thankful for my amazing colleagues, meaning the teachers and staff in this building, who love what they do and who are passionate about supporting and educating middle school students along their/ YOUR path in life.
·         I am thankful for all of you students, who are the heart of this school.  My life would not be the same without you!
·         I am thankful for our Community Core Values, which hold us strong at our foundation of who we are as a community.
·         I am thankful for laughter.
·         I am thankful for music.
·         I am thankful for sunsets. (Did you happen to see the one last night?)
·         I am thankful for exercise.
·         I am thankful for good books, movies, and TV shows that make me think, laugh, or cry, or just allow me to get lost in the stories.
·         And lastly, I am thankful for the teachers and students of Team Voyager for putting together such a wonderful assembly!

I hope you and your families had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sarah Marchant

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coolidge Community Core Values Assembly

On the heels of our first all-school assembly, this seems the perfect time to write a blog post.

Whenever we come together as a school, 99% of the time, it is in celebration.  It seems almost strange that we haven't joined together as a school until this past Friday, but at the same time, it seemed perfect in the moment.

As the community is now aware, we have kicked off a new set of Core Values for our school community: Perseverance; Accountability; Respect; Teamwork.  The kick-off has included grade-level assemblies, advisory activities, and a culminating project in advisory groups.  These activities have taken time, and have been done with fidelity across the school.  Additional layers of our kick-off have included parent email updates, a presentation by myself, Mrs. Warren, and two students at the October 6 School Committee meeting, and many meetings of the school leadership team to create activities and plans surrounding the kick-off.

The assembly was a community effort, and in the end, it was fantastic.  The assembly included the following:

  • An introduction and welcome from Principal Marchant.
  • Five students from the Coolidge World of Difference program who were the "Emcees" for the assembly.
  • A student-written explanation of the connection between A World of Difference and our new core values.
  • A guest speaker, Mr. Jason Cross, who is the district METCO director.
  • A slide show, created by the enrichment groups led by Ms. Steinhauser and Ms. Grant, that showcased the Core Values projects and students modeling core values.  And it had awesome music as well!
  • A ticket drawing (gift cards to Zynga!) for two students per team who have already exemplified the new Core Values so far this year.
  • An explanation of our new ticket system, which will continue to recognize students for exemplifying our core values.
I would like to further describe two aspects of the assembly that parents might appreciate following up on with their children:

Mr. Cross's Speech: We videotaped his speech and need a bit more time to get it properly formatted to share via the blog.  When we do, I will send it out so parents can hear it directly.  Mr Cross started his speech by changing the energy of the room, asking students to count down from 5 and to say "bang!" at the end.  It certainly did change the energy, and involved teamwork!  Mr. Cross then began his story with a powerful first line, stating that he was hanging with his friends in high school, answered his phone and leaned forward to better hear his girl on the other line.  By leaning forward, a bullet that went flying over his head missed him by centimeters.  At this moment, the students were silent.  An environment of guns and bullets is one that is, thankfully, not a familiar one for our students.  The bullet came not from a stranger or passer by, but from his friend, as Mr. Cross and his friends were hanging out, playing with their guns.  The bullet came from a friend, who had accidentally shot it; Mr. Cross would have lost his life had he not leaned forward in that moment.

Mr. Cross grew up on Boston and his life did not start easy.  He was part of a gang, he was involved with drug and alcohol abuse, and he did not value his education.

At one point, lost in this world of gangs and drugs, he came to the realization that this wasn't the life he wanted to live.  And it was up to him to be the impetus for change.  
  • It took Perseverance to get out of the gang, to quit drugs and alcohol, and to keep that energy for change going.  He had to stand up to those doing wrong when trying to do right.
  • It took Accountability, as he was accountable for his actions, positive or negative, so he had to be accountable for the changes that he wanted to happen.
  • It took Respect.  To make change, Mr. Cross needed to respect himself first and foremost.  Secondly, rather than having an aggressive stance with those around him, he had to change his ways of thinking about those around him, and respect others as well.  As a result, he earned more respect from them.
  • It took Teamwork, as Mr. Cross couldn't act alone in life.  He needed his family, he needed coaches, and he needed supports, in order to find his success in life.
So was he successful?  Absolutely.  He went to college (although it took seven tries).  He is now married with three beautiful children.  He is a METCO director, a motivational speaker, a father, a fitness coach, and an actor. (And as we all learned, he's a very good beat boxer as well!).

He shared a very powerful story, and everyone in the room was extremely riveted and moved.

What was the takeaway for our students?  It was to think about their story.  What will their story be when they leave middle school?  High school?  And beyond?  How will our core values impress upon a nd support their story?  Will they be proud of their story when they take pause in the future to share it? Mr. Cross's story was certainly a good reminder to all to appreciate all we have, and to always work to be our best selves, in all aspects of our community.

Ticket System: The message will continue, as will positive reinforcements in the form of tickets.  Please visit our foyer, where three trees have been painted by our students, and on these trees, tickets will be hung (like leaves) by students who exemplified the core values!  When the trees get full, we will come together again as a community to draw more names and to give more prizes!  A second phase of this ticket system will be to incorporate parents; you will be given the opportunity to also give tickets to students and teachers.  More to come!

Thanks to all of our students and staff for this tremendous kick-off!  We hope to keep this energy going through the months to come!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year!

And here we go!  What a positive, energy-filled, exciting two days we have had back at school!  Students have been so fun, respectful, kind, and ready to learn.  Teachers have started the school year with the mindset of engaging students in learning, supporting the whole child, having fun, and making connections with students.  The only negative thing about this week has been the heat... (insert quote from Elaine/Seinfeld here)!  Certainly it would have been a bit easier to ease into the school year if we had two solid days of rain, but the students (and teachers!) have persevered despite the hot classrooms.

As you may or may not know, a team of teachers have worked hard to develop a new set of core values for the year ahead.  These values were built over the summer after asking for feedback/input from staff, students, and parents (thank you!).  Over the next four weeks, students will be participating in activities and a project in order to truly internalize, and thereby live by (ideally), our new Coolidge Community Core Values.  We are so excited about them, and expect that they will lay a strong foundation for our expectations of each other and for ourselves.  Another important improvement in the values is their title, which involves not just "Coolidge Core Values", but "Coolidge Community Core Values".  

What is a community?  As defined in the dictionary, it is "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals."  Our attitudes/interests/goals here at Coolidge are shared through our care for our school (namely children!) and our Core Values.  And while you can't teach "feeling" per se, you can build feeling through the teaching of values, and through the rewards one receives by upholding and living by values, and maintaining consistency.  And so a community is built.

Our Coolidge parents are such an important part of our Coolidge community.  Staff and parents share responsibility for the well being of our students.  To that end, I hope that you feel a partnership with us when learning, living by, and modeling these values in matters relating to our students and Coolidge.  We hope that these can act as our "common ground" in the future.  The hope is that we hold ourselves, our students, and each other accountable.

And here they are!

ALL community members are “PART” of our values!

·              Always do your personal best
·              Stay committed to your goals
·              Practice consistently
·              Rebound and recover
·              Use various problem solving strategies
·              Take chances; go beyond your comfort zone
·              Advocate for yourself

·              Be honest in your work
·              Think before you act to make good choices
·              Take ownership of your actions
·              Be reflective
·              Honor your commitments
·              Strive to be organized

·              Be honest with yourself and others
·              Appreciate what you have to offer
·              Be kind, caring and courteous
·              Understand and accept differences
·              Use good manners

·              Present your most positive self
·              Be reliable
·              Be a good listener
·              Be inclusive
·              Stand up for others even when it’s uncomfortable
·              Solve problems collaboratively and peacefully

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Super Cool Events

We have had two events this week that I am so very proud of on behalf of Coolidge:


The first was Difference Day, which happened on Tuesday.  It was a day run by students who are part of our A World of Difference program.  This event was student run, student initiated, student scheduled, with teacher support.  It was a real success, and it was student leadership at its best!  This was the first year that we did this at Coolidge, and I am so proud of all of the students who took on leadership roles, as well as all of the student participants, who were wonderfully supportive.  Special thanks to Mr. Bernard, who leads this year's World of Difference group.  Photos from the event can be found at:


Today, we had Field Day, organized by Mr. Huizenga and Mrs. Schiavo.  The kids had a BLAST, were SO well behaved, and will remember this day forever!  Photos (All 200 of them!  Yikes!) can be seen here:

I am so proud in these moments, when our school comes together and does something special, as it only reinforces the wonderful students and staff we have here.  The care teachers have for students is clear, and the investment students have in Coolidge is also evident as well.  As the year comes to an end, I am so grateful for our community of learners, teachers, and support.  As Coolidge is truly a special place!