Praising great effortPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 12/7/2016
I have never meet a child who has been praised too much. When our students give their best effort and are making progress, they want the approval of adults and need to have feedback to know that they are on the right track. We should praise our children MORE!
Our focus at Baker continues to be on having a Growth Mindset. Much of this approach is based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck reminds us that praise is indeed important...but to get the most out of it, we need to make sure we are praising students in the right way.
In order to foster a growth mindset, we should be praising our students effort and the processes they are using rather than their innate abilities. Not only can using praise in this way help build a growth mindset, but NOT doing it could be harmful. For example, if a child thinks, "I can do this because I am smart," then what does that mean when they can't do something? Are they suddenly not smart? Of course not. On the other hand, if children think, "I can do this because I worked hard," then if they can't do something, their response would be, "I need to work harder." That's a positive step to a growth mindset and meaningful praise.
We try to focus on this at Baker all the time. Try it at home as well and help build our children up as learners!
Get Started - then GET BETTERPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 10/11/2016
My apologies for not posting more about the exciting times at the beginning of the school year, but we have certainly been busy here at Baker. Recently I came across the motto of the National Implementation Research Network's motto: Get Started - Get Better. This seems like a perfect mantra for Baker.
Not only has the school year now started and we will focus on getting better each day, but this phrasing also articulates very well with our ongoing focus on a growth mindset at Baker. As you enter the building, hopefully you have noticed the bulletin board with the graphic above and all of our students' pictures, stating that we are "Learning and Growing Together" at Baker.
Sometimes it is hard for students (and adults!) to get started on a task. Either we dont' seem to have the motivation or don't know how to start with a difficult task. Our goal at Baker continues to be to find ways to help students realize that when they focus on making progress each day, amazing things can happen.
We've gotten started - now on with getting better!
Visit from Dan FoxPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 5/24/2016
Yesterday, our fourth grade students were treated to an amazing experience. Dan Fox, the Director of Baseball Informatics met with our students to explain how what they are learning in the classroom really can change their lives.
Mr. Fox is working at a job that didn't exist when he was in school. He gathers and analyzes information in order to make better decisions for a baseball team. Personally, I think that job is amazing! I like to think that I do the same for teachers, but let's be honest...I don't work with Andrew McCutchen.
But I do work with Mr. Wiesemann, whose connection to Mr. Fox brought him to our school yesterday. Thank you Mr. Wiesemann! Without your initiative, we wouldn't have gotten to hear about how Mr. Fox's team gathers information about where balls are hit and then makes decisions about where to place fielders, or how to take information about Pirates hitters and then optimize a batting order.
While our students are unlikely to reach the Major Leagues either as players or analysts, it was great to see real-life application of skills on a level that all of the students could relate to and enjoy.
Celebrate You and Me!Posted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 5/4/2016
A great tradition at Baker School is the 4th Grade Musical. Ms. Hestwood prepares our chorus students to put on a fantastic, kid-centered show. This year, even more adults have pitched in to make it work, with Ms. Findley providing choreography through our dance intramurals, Ms. Vucelich and Ms. Dillie providing drama coaching, and Ms. Stasik and Ms. Petrarca helping out at rehearsals with crowd control. Add in the assistance that Ms. Rooney and Mr. Ruffalo always provide and you have quite a team helping these kids!
This year's peformance, "Celebrate You and Me," was another great show (for those of you who might be reading this before the evening of May 4, you can still catch the 7:00 pm show this evening). The students sing of working together, respecting one another and themselves, making new friends, and making healthy choices. Whenever people ask me what kids are learning in school these days, these are the lessons that I discuss with them.
Music is very important in our schools. Not only for its own sake, but as a vehicle to help students understand how to become better people each day. Thanks to Ms. Hestwood and the other adults for making this happen, and congratulations to our students on a fantastic performance!
2nd Grade Japan UnitPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 4/25/2016
Fear not! Even though we have had PSSA tests for our 3rd and 4th grade students in the past few weeks, it does not mean that new learning has been at a standstill. Even with a different schedule, we focus every day on learning and growing at Baker.
As a prime example, in second grade, our students study Japan as a case study to understand elements of culture. Within the context of this unit, Baker second graders experienced a visit from the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania last week. Our children met with members of the society that have lived in Japan and learned about Japanese geography, customs, and culture.
Students tried their hands (literally) at using chopsticks and learning origami as well as witnessing traditional Japanese dress. The experience, coordinated by our Elementary Social Studies Curriculum Leader, helped the content come to life.
Upside Down Weeks!Posted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 4/11/2016
The next two weeks at Baker may seem strange to our students in 1st through 4th grades. Our schedule will be "upside down!" Specifically, our first and second grade students will have their specials classes in the morning and the 3rd and 4th grade students will have their specials in the afternoon.
Why all the craziness? During the next few weeks, our third and fourth graders will be taking their PSSA tests. To enable our students to be at their best and to allow for as much time as possible (these tests are not time-limited), we want to give our students the tests at the first available time. Because we share teachers with other schools, we need to change the schedule for both weeks, even though testing will not necessarily occur every day.
Fourth grade will also have science testing after the two weeks, but we can manage that within our normal schedule.
What won't change? Kindergarten will still go on its regular schedule. Lunch times will all still be the same. Students will still have recess and their specials, just perhaps at different times. Our testing philosophy is that kids should certainly try to do their best, but that no additional stress should be placed on them because of the assessments. They are ready! They have great teachers, great families, and they work hard at growing as learners.
So be ready for your children to tell you that their days were sort of strange for the next few weeks. In particular, I won't be surprised if our first graders are particularly tired at the end of the day. It is all part of a team effort, and every part of the team is important. Flexibility and resilience are two of our greatest qualities at Baker!
Parent VolunteersPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 3/30/2016
There is so much to do at Baker as a volunteer! We both want and need parents to be involved in their children's education. From helping teachers with activities to shelving books in the library to volunteering for our annual field day, there is something for anyone interested.
As a reminder, anyone who wants to volunteer to work directly with children needs to have current clearances to do so. Clicking here will bring you to the district webpage that explains the protocol for all volunteers.
There are some ways that parents can help that do not require clearances. If the experience is not a regular event and does not have direct contact with students, then parents can be treated as visitors rather than volunteers. Below is a list of events at Baker that current do and do not require clearances. This list can also be found on the Baker website under the heading "Volunteer Events."
The following list explains the clearance status for events at Baker Elementary. A person MUST HAVE CLEARANCES if s/he are participating in an event labeled "VOLUNTEER". While this list may not be exhaustive, it will hopefully provide some guidance.
VOLUNTEER STATUS (Clearances Needed)
4th Grade Farewell
After School Clubs
VISITOR STATUS (No Clearances)
Baker Boo Bash
Reading in Classroom
VIP Student Day
Viewing Student Presentations
Kindergarten RegistrationPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 3/16/2016
Chances are, if you are reading this, then you are an informed parent. You know all about what is going on in your child's school life and if you have a child entering kindergarten, you have already registered.
Way to Go!
Now...on to your way to pay it forward. It's time for you to scour your neighborhood and talk to your friends (or time to make some new friends) about all of the wonderful things going on in USC schools and Baker in particular. Please remind them that they can still pick up a registration packet and return it at the Baker office. The three key pieces of information we need for registration are:
- Proof of Birth (birth certificate)
- Proof of Immunizations
- Proof or Residency
That's it! It's so simple, and think of how important it is. The sooner we know about our incoming kindergartners, the sooner we can begin planning for their success. So if you have someone coming next year, stop in the office. If you don't...find someone to invite!
Student TestingPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 3/7/2016
With all of the snow gone it's time for a new season...testing season! There is ample media coverage about the amount of testing in schools and whether it is good or bad. While that debate may prove entertaining for political campaigns, we simply go about our business at Baker school, trying to do what is right for students.
The philosophy of Baker School and the Upper St. Clair School District as a whole is that while standardized tests can give us important information about students and our schools, they are only one data point in our process of understanding where we are. Rather than focus on testing, our teachers focus on quality instruction. Rather than focus on testing, our students focus on growing as learners. If we provide quality instruction and students are dedicated to growing as learners, our belief is that the test scores that follow will be reflective of our hard work. Hopefully, test scores will come back great, as they historically have in Upper St. Clair. Those scores are a reflection of our educational process, never the end goal.
Certainly, we must continually update our curriculum to make sure it is consistent with state standards and we want to make sure students are prepared to do their best on any assessment. Just as musicians looks forward to a performance date or athletes look forward to gameday to demonstrate how far they've come, our students hopefully use testing to show off their skills after much hard work practicing. Okay...perhaps "look forward to" might be a stretch, but I think you understand the underlying point!
This week, our first and second grade students will be taking standardized achievement and ability tests. These will be used by the school to see how individual students are progressing and how we compare nationally to others in the norm group. These results are typically mailed to parents in the summer.
Next month, our third and fourth grade students will take PSSAs in Math, English/Language Arts (ELA), and Science (4th grade only). These are required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and show our students' success in relation to the state standards. These results are shared with parents as soon as they are provided by the state, typically in the fall.
So while this is a new season, it is not one to dread. Spring is in the air. Let's enjoy it the best we can!
Leadership ClubPosted by Patrick McClintock-Comeaux on 3/2/2016
Beginning after 3rd grade, all Upper St. Clair Students have an opportunity to participate in Upper St. Clair School District's Leadership Academies. These summer programs are a week long and offer students entering 4th through 12th grade exposure to leadership concepts and practices. As the the School District website states, "Students identify their leadership strengths and learn how these skills can be used to make them successful in all stages of life. Through experiential learning strategies, group projects, and hands-on activities, students experience the application of leadership skills, building confidence in their abilities and enhancing their capacity to serve in leadership roles."
The basic philosophy of the USC leadership academies builds on the phrase "Who you are is how you lead." Leaders can lead in different ways, so understanding yourself helps you understand how you can maximize your own leadership potential.
For several years, Baker teachers have used the Leadership Academy as a springboard for Baker's Leadership Club. Starting with students who participated in the previous year's academy, the club identifies what its goals will be and how each member can become a leader at Baker. The group quickly grows to include other fourth graders who did not participate in the Academy. Student leaders at Baker work to give tours to prospective families, make announcements on the morning broadcast, help organize and run outreach drives, and remind the other students in the school that they can continue to grow to reach their leadership potential. They choose leadership opportunities based on their strengths.
Baker's Leadership Club meets each month after school. During the last session, they brainstormed a list of "50 ways to be kind at Baker."
These suggestions are displayed in the school entrance for all to see. Not only do they serve as a reminder to other students of how to behave, the display also reminds everyone in the building that student leadership is important. It is not adults telling students who they can be - it is their peers. This sense of community is an important part of what makes the Baker Family special.