Fork in the Road: A Symbol for the School Year

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Emotions are the gateway to learning for our students as well as for our staff. How can we tap into that as we start the year? As we know, our first interactions with staff during August workshop week are important for setting the stage for our important work with children. Each school year, I try to find an activity or an object as a touchstone for the year. This year is the Year of the Fork.

Presentation Excerpt from Our Opening Staff Meeting

Everyone this morning received a fork with your name etched on it. I made it just for you. This small gift is a symbol and reminder as we start this important journey of the 2017-2018 school year together.

First, this fork represents a fork in the road. We have 19 new teachers and paraprofessionals this fall. Professionally, the beginning of this school year is a fork in the road for many of you as you join our Kimberly Lane family. Also, it is a fork in the road for all of us as we now get to learn with you and from you. We are so glad you are here. Welcome.

Secondly, each fork has your name on it. No one’s fork looks the same. It represents the personalization we will bring to our work this year. We need to meet each and every child where he or she is, and help each child be better, every day. Academically. Socially. Emotionally. That is our charge for the year. And it is our honor to dedicate our time and talents be a part of such meaningful work in shaping the future. Together.

Finally, I wanted to share a personal story that involves my Grandpa Orville – and forks. Orville carried a fork in the breast pocket of his shirt to every event that involved food. Family reunions. Potlucks. Coffee cake socials in church basements. You name it. All through my youth I didn’t really notice this idiosyncrasy until someone pointed it out to me. At that point, I remember asking Grandpa Orville why he carried the fork. He replied, “So I am always ready for dessert, and a reminder that the best is yet to come.” At his funeral several years ago, we made sure to place a fork in his breast pocket before he was laid to rest, and his eulogy included fond remarks about that trademark fork. Hopefully the fork you received will be a part of many meals, celebrations, and fond memories that you will share with this Kimberly Lane family this year and in the years to come.

As we look ahead to the school year in front of us, I want to thank you in advance for all of your hard work and dedication and for all of the great things we will accomplish together this year. Thank you for all of your efforts to personalize, to help each child be his or her best self every day as we take this journey from this fork in the road. Yes, I can feel it. 2017-2018… the best is yet to come.

Kari Wehrmann

Kimberly Lane Elementary, Wayzata Public Schools
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10 Quick Tips For A Great Year

Welcome to the 17-18 School Year! I hope you had a great summer and are ready to work with students and staff once again.  As you can tell, I didn’t win the Powerball, so I too am hard at work.
As we begin this year, I want to share with you my top ten tips to having a good year:
  1. Take time to build and foster relationships with staff, students and families.
  2. Empower your staff.
  3. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating the right foods; yes, chocolate can be a food group!
  4. When the crazy train filled with other people’s drama comes by, remember that you don’t have to get on; wave and let it pass by.
  5. When you have a bad day, perform a random act of kindness for someone else.
  6. If it’s 5:30 pm and you are still in your office, leave. You aren’t very effective after 5:00 pm anyway.
  7. If it is Saturday or Sunday and you are heading into work, don’t; weekends are meant for family, friends, fun, and rest.
  8. Surround yourself with people who uplift you.
  9. Value yourself and appreciate others.
  10. Develop a new hobby or any hobby for that matter.
  11. Laugh daily, smile always, sing often, and dance for no reason.  (Sorry, it was only supposed to be ten. Ooops!)
As always, let me know if I can ever be of assistance.  Best wishes to a great year!
Nancy Antoine
MESPA President
Principal, Bridgewater Elementary
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Executive Functioning in Early Childhood


At conferences and talks, many early childhood educators are interested in information about executive functioning in children. Recent brain research is demonstrating that the skills and abilities of executive functioning are essential to academic success and effectiveness in the workplace. What can teachers and parents do to support these critical thinking skills?

Luckily for parents and teachers alike, there is a lot that you can do to support these developing skills and capacities. The foundation of executive functioning comes from responsive, consistent, language-rich, child-focused everyday interactions with children.

So, what is executive functioning?
Executive functioning is the coordination of several areas of our brain that allows us to tune out, remember information and manage our actions and reactions. Think of it as the Air Traffic Controller of the brain. The Controller deciphers and remembers information, focuses and prioritizes attention while disregarding the unimportant, and manages internal reactions and distractions, like panic or boredom.

Executive functioning is a set of skills and abilities that begin to develop early in life. It involves the coordination of capacities rooted in the brain. And, they can improve with practice and training. So, what do we want preschool age children to practice?  

  • Self-control. Young children are developing the abilities to regulate their reactions and attention. They are learning to express a full-range of emotions and manage those emotions. At the same time, they are learning to direct their attention and ignore distractions.
  • Flexibility in thinking. Problem-solving skills develop in the second year of life and continue to blossom throughout the first decade of life. Creativity and imagination are central to developing mental flexibility.
  • Memory continues to grow, develop and become more refined. Being able to reflect on what is remembered is an emerging capacity.

Preschool children are just beginning to develop these brain-embedded skills and abilities. The coordination of these areas is just coming on-line. For example, children are learning to focus their attention and solve problems. They are expanding their abilities to wait for turns and listen to others answer questions. Preschool-age children are working to coordinate their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

As parents and teachers, there is much that we can do to encourage three-, four-, and five-year-olds to practice these emerging skills:

  1. Play games that require memory, like I Spy or Simon Says.
  2. Invite pretend play that allows children to invent and reinvent themselves, props and themes.
  3. Encourage problem-solving by asking children to think about how something could happen. For example, we want to eat fruit salad, but there is no fruit in the house. Ask the children, “What should we do?”
  4. Build delay of gratification skills by encouraging children to follow three-part directions, use phrases like “first this, then this” (“First we will cut the fruit and place it in a bowl. Next we will set the table. And then we will eat the fruit salad. “)
  5. Play start and stop games. Count to 10 before starting something. Use “ready, set, go” to announce the beginning of an action. Dance when the music plays and have everyone freeze when it stops.
  6. When putting away clothes or toys, say aloud how the items group. “All of the blocks go in this bin and the cars in the other bin.” Encourage children to help.
  7. Ask children why and what happens questions. “Why do you think we fold the clothes?” “What happens when the letter goes in the mailbox?”
  8. Allow your children to retell stories of their day, their projects or their activities and events. While they may need guidance with the sequence and accuracy of the details, the practice of remembering and retelling is essential.
  9. Play board and card games with simple and “flexible” rules.

Executive functioning begins developing early and forms the foundation for being able to concentrate on important issues with focus and agility. Playing games, encouraging pretend play, supporting problem-solving in young children creates the foundation for future positive school achievement and success in the workforce.

Article by:
Dr. Terrie Rose, Psychologies and Child Development Expert

Dr. Terrie Rose is a licensed psychologist and wellbeing advocate who is transforming our understanding of emotional health and development by seeing from the child’s point of view. Follow her at

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2 Minutes to Better Relationships with Your Most At-Risk Students

There is much pride in the role of being an elementary school principal. There are many different hats to wear throughout the day and many different kinds of people to work with. One of my favorite aspects of the job is getting to build relationships with students at my school. Granted the job is also very challenging and I am looking for any efficiencies to carry out my work. Building relationships is not an area where shortcuts can be taken but I found an easy way for me to focus my energy and attention in a systematic way that creates more time for me to do my work elsewhere: The 2×10 Strategy! Continue reading

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Future Ready Leaders


Four Essentials of Future Ready Leaders

This is the statistic that disrupted my thinking as an elementary principal:

65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

Today’s schools are tasked with serving an increasingly diverse student body in an era of high-stakes accountability with rigorous standards, utilizing technology that is expanding exponentially while preparing students to be future ready for jobs that haven’t been invented. In order to do this effectively, schools need future ready leaders.

Continue reading

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Does Your Building Culture Promote Equity Education?


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a phrase coined by Peter Drucker and made more famous by Ford president, Mark Fields.

Likely all of us in education resonate with that phrase and concept to varying degrees, and I assume everyone is unanimous in thinking that absent a strong culture it is more difficult to move forward with key strategies and initiatives, regardless of how compelling or sound in practice they are. Many of the recommendations outlined in independent studies surrounding equal access to education are embodied in the process of policy making. Policy gets tied up in legislation and politics at the national, state, and local level and is disseminated for implementation in the form of mandates which are meted out procedurally in school districts and ultimately implemented at the school building level. This type of change is slow, cumbersome, frustrating and can take years. In order to create conditions which foster educational equity in your schools, focus on creating a culture which supports equity education. Continue reading

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Minnesota Humanities Center Conference

Blog Post paid for by the Minnesota Humanities Center

The Minnesota Humanities Center is taking applications for the Educator Institute, held in St. Paul the week of June 25–30. Administrators, please encourage a team from your building to attend this incredible experience for K–12 educators!

“The Educator Institute remains the single most powerful training I have participated in and has opened the path to on-going changes in dialogue both in the classroom and with community members.” Continue reading

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