Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Gifts


One of my favorite things about being a mother is creating my family’s own Christmas traditions with my husband and our two daughters. Though we may disagree on a few details (mostly regarding when to start decorating the house and the specific weather guidelines under which it is acceptable to go cut our tree) my husband and I have finally - for now - agreed on our plan for giving our daughter’s Christmas presents.

We are in our second year of doing four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. While my children are quite young (3 and 1) my older daughter’s reluctance to actually play with toys has left me with no desire to fill my house with junk. Focusing on four gifts helps me think about what their interests are, and how I can happily coexist with those supplies in my living room. I am genuinely excited for them to open their gifts this year because I think they really capture their interests. I’m also really excited that there won’t be piles of toys everywhere that they both trip over as they race to unload the tupperware drawer and scatter its contents across the kitchen.

My three year old is a tried and true “threenager” and it is taking some real work to teach her, and remind myself, about the Spirit of Christmas. If only she could read I’d get a shirt that said “Love and Kindness, that’s what Christmas is all about”, but until then I will just keep saying it 100 times a day (along with “Fine. I’ll just call Santa then.” sprinkled in for good measure). Her rotating Christmas list includes: ballerina slippers, a monkey, Oreos, and a Christmas tree. My one year old would probably also enjoy any of these items as long as her big sister was currently trying to use it. This is to say, their needs are minimal. I am, however, quite happy to establish a gift giving tradition that can grow with them throughout the years.

Though I really think my girls will like their gifts, I will not be disappointed on December 26th if they are scattering kitchen utensils from one end of the house to the other while I sit contentedly coloring with their new art supplies. My true Christmas wish for them is that they know how to love unconditionally and I hope that they feel loved in return. I pray that they are kind to each other, themselves, and others, today and always.

Love and Kindness, that’s what Christmas is all about.



Mrs. Eileen Barendse
Assistant Principal and
Director of Early Education



Saint Francis Xavier School
Developing the whole person:
Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Memorization Doesn't Have to be Frustrating


I know this from experience. Although I come from a family of good memorizers, I was terrible at it and I hated it. I’m not sure how old I was when I learned the “sevens” on the multiplication table - but I do remember poking my head up over the wooden rail of my bed in my room that day because I refused to memorize them. I felt that if I didn’t remember a fact the first time, then I had failed.

Memorizing is frustrating for parents because they can’t just do it for their kids. But kids feel like they just can’t do it, period. There’s nothing more frustrating than that.

I speak from experience: for me, memorization requires effort, but I didn’t know that because it seemed so effortless for my family members.

But it does not have to be frustrating.

It requires the good kind of effort. The kind that is rewarded as soon as the child can say “Hey, I memorized 7x1! I will get extra dessert for the day!” In other words, if you want your kids to “practice, practice, practice”, my advice is to “encourage, encourage, encourage”. We tend to underestimate the amount of time we need to commit facts to memory a lot. If you want your kids, who might not be good at memorizing multiplication facts or words in a foreign language, to spend the correct amount of time practicing memorization, then spend more time than feels necessary to practice. Don’t expect them to get it all at once and tell them that you don’t expect that. Some kids will remember their words the first time (lucky), some kids will remember the third time (lucky), some will remember the 20th time. Students will feel success as soon as they accomplish small tasks. Let them experience that success.

I read what I think is a good strategy for practicing memorization: a mother, who gave her kids the multiplication chart to look at, would quiz them repetitively, and eventually they would stop looking at the chart. I think this strategy makes a lot of sense - don’t remove the children’s study aid too soon; and, let them be in charge of it. It gives them a feeling of “I’m still succeeding”, and checking the study aid is a visual form of repetition.

My last suggestion is to match memorization with some sort of physical activity. As I got older, I began to pace as I held onto my cheat sheet and practiced my words.

I imagine that any repetitive physical activity which they could do while holding a normal conversation could serve as a “physical focuser”, a physical activity which “distracts” the kids from not liking the mental activity. I imagine basketball, jenga, drawing, stacking or organizing objects could serve as physical focusers. If you are going to spend time helping them memorize, pairing the memorization activity with a physical activity might be helpful for a perfectionist or an easily-frustrated child. This would be for a student who is capable of keeping his mind on the facts which are being practiced while his body is busy shooting hoops. As a side note, keep in mind your children’s saturation point and encourage your kids to think about how they learn. How many words can they learn before they need a break? How much time do they need as a break? How does the intensity of their practice affect their duration?


Remember, a good strategy for practicing memorization can make learning new information easier.

Middle School Teacher


Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!




Friday, November 18, 2016

Give Thanks


Thanksgiving will upon us soon so I decided to write about giving thanks!  It seems like it is always easier to gripe or complain about things;   but wouldn't it be nice to spend more time saying thank you?    Thank you for our warm homes, food to eat, clothes to wear and especially each other.  

When my own children were younger we made a paper lunch bag into a Thanks bag.  We drew hands on it to show like they were praying ,giving thanks to God.  Then for the month of November we would put small notes in saying what we were thankful for.  These notes would then be read on Thanksgiving day.  November has already started, but why not try it from now until Thanksgiving?  What a good habit to get into.  


One day we picked up three small flower bouquets at the flower shop.  We decided to give them away to three people we met that day.  One we gave to the lady at McDonalds, who we used to see.  One went to the lady at the meat counter and the third?  I can't remember.  But my children and I can remember their faces.  They were three strangers to us but their faces were glowing with happiness that day when we gave them the flowers.  It also gave us joy to see their faces.

There are many ways to give thanks.  Draw a picture to give.   How about taking the time to write a thank you note to someone who has been a help in your life?  Or how about saying a special prayer for someone?  Brainstorm with your family.  Come up with new and different ways to say thank you!  

Right now, I would like to say thank you for our priests, our teachers and staff, our beautiful school and most of all you, our families.  Without you our school would be empty.  With you, our lives are full!  May God bless you and your families this November.

“He who sings,” said St. Augustine, “prays twice”.

God Bless,











Mrs. Noreen Pelchat
Middle School Teacher


Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Learning our Heritage Through Language

I just heard a little knock on my door. It’s the end of the day, in fact, a day off for the students but a training day for us, faculty. I see a silhouette in the door as I’m approaching. My face lights up as I recognize a parent, smiling back at me. He hands me a little tiny French book. He found it in the older part of the school, as he was doing work for us. I told him I was recognizing it from my days as a schoolgirl. We chat about the book and its stories and there it comes…. my idea for this blog!

Our heritage, just as this father embraces his own heritage and clearly wants to pass it down to his children, it is a vital part of us we cannot ignore.

Mine is French-Canadian. I am proud to say I was born in Quebec, I am even more proud to say I now live surrounded with people of French-Canadian descent. When I first moved to Vermont, I was unaware of this strong heritage. Yes, I knew my history and that of Vermont, but to live it, is a different story. I now have a broader view of my heritage, through the people I meet, the people I connect back to my roots.

One of the many ways to understand our heritage, besides asking our parents and grandparents about your family, is through language. Learning the language your forefathers spoke helps us get closer to them. It’s not always an easy task but in today’s world, we have access to practically everything!

Here at Saint Francis Xavier school, we are blessed to be able to offer all our students both French and Spanish classes. Our Middle Schoolers have the opportunity to practice both languages using a great app, on their tablet, that complements very well our classes.

Here are great suggestions for learning French and many more languages. Adults and children alike will find something of interest. Download on your computer, laptop, iPhone, tablet or smartphone… anywhere, anytime, with anyone! Learning French can be fun!

Apps:
  • Duolingo (free, educational, fun for the school-age children!)
Check this link with great suggestions of apps as well: https://www.thelocal.fr/20160414/top-five-free-apps-to-learn-french
  • Rosetta Stone (probably the best but you must pay to enjoy the complete program)
  • Memrise

Resources:




Happy learning and happy connecting with your heritage!












Middle School Teacher


Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Favorite Pumpkin Activities


Fall is here and it brings with it a new season of crafts, especially ideas for pumpkin pickers, carvers, and crafters of all ages!

There are many new ideas online and traditional ones as well. Here is a list of a few of my favorite pumpkin activities that I have done at home and in my classroom.
Painting pumpkins is so much fun for younger children. Let them be creative and choose from many colors! To make it even more creative, add hair with yarn and googly eyes!
If you choose to carve your pumpkin you can cook the seeds and eat them, choosing to season them with any seasonings you and your family enjoy. We love salt, or garlic salt, and the combination of cinnamon and brown sugar!  Another great idea with your seeds is to dye them with food coloring.  This are a great seasonal and sensory activity to practice sorting by color, counting, or recognizing letters by writing on them with permanent marker.

IMG_2856.JPG
One of my favorite Halloween books is Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins. If you are familiar with Pete the Cat, I am sure you will like it as well.  After reading the book it is fun to collaborate it with a fun pumpkin painting project.  I enjoy seeing the many fun faces that are created.

I find that not only are these activities fun for our children, but essentially get us to spend some quality time with our children doing what they enjoy.  As a teacher and a mother these are the things I like to do best - let them get messy and see them smile.














Mrs. Micky Labonte
Middle School Teacher


Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Will paperless classrooms be the wave of the future?

I’m one of the first generations of students to have a computer in the classroom. Starting in the first grade I remember using a Macintosh Classic once a week in the computer lab. We would write short stories in a word processor, blow up our artwork in KidPix, or ride in a wagon train in Oregon Trail. Looking back, all my experiences in technology seem to be more of a novelty rather than an educational tool.
As an educator I have fully embraced technology in the classroom.  We are a one to one middle school. We provide a tablet to each student to aid in their education. The key word is “aid” in their education. I need to make sure that I am not just using technology as a novelty, not just replacing textbooks and paper with a digital device. I need to figure out different ways to use technology in the classroom to make the students learning experience better.


Early on in education, I decided to make my classroom paperless. I don’t give out worksheets to students. I don’t make a million photocopies each year. All my resources are online on a digital classroom. All my documents are stored in the cloud and students can access them whenever they need them. Students no longer have planners or assignment notebooks. All of their calendars are online. Not only can students access these materials, but so can their parents. Gone are the days of, “I forgot my homework at school.” Or, “I don’t remember what homework I had.” Everything is online.


Parents, for the most part, have fully embraced my digital classroom. I’m not answering countless emails from parents each week explaining homework or why their child got the grade they did. Everything is digital. Parents are able to check what homework is turned in. Parents can check graded assignments with a click of a button.
Students too have come to embrace my digital classroom. I am reminded every day from students to make sure to post assignments on my classroom page. Students seem to be eager to complete assignments online. Students who have, in the past, forgotten to turn in homework seem to love my digital classroom. Once they complete their assignment they can submit the assignment instantly; no more black hole backpacks.

Will paperless classrooms be the wave of the future? Will students live in a physical classroom and work in a digital one? Only time will tell. In the past twenty-five years I have gone from playing Pitfall to grading assignments on my computer. We’ll see where the next twenty-five years takes us.













Mr. Chris Melnyk
Middle School Teacher


Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

So, what is Responsive Classroom?

There is nothing better than watching your kids do something.  It can be anything: competing in a game, playing an instrument, calculating a math problem, making a new friend, or even just watching them fast asleep, lost in a dream.  So, it’s only natural that you’d be curious, maybe even a little anxious about what is happening during their day at school, when you can’t watch them. Let me try to help you understand some of what goes on during our student’s day.
While each teacher has a different style, and each kid has a different experience based on grade and personal strengths, there is one common denominator.  At St. Francis, each classroom practices the philosophical principles of a program called Responsive Classroom.
So, what is Responsive Classroom?  There are four main ideas that make up Responsive Classroom. They are:

engaging academics


positive community


effective management


developmental awareness 



Very simply, teachers believe in creating a safe, nurturing environment where students have ownership, feel confident to take academic risks, and are able to focus on learning that is developmentally appropriate, challenging, and connected to student’s interests.
It sounds great, right?!  But how do classrooms actually put this philosophy into practice?  Every morning, students from PreK-8 begin their day with a morning meeting.  Morning meeting involves a note from the teacher to the students about the day.  The note might be funny, it might include information about something special happening that day, or it may simply welcome students to the classroom.  


Following the message, students participate in a morning greeting.  Sometimes the greeting is in the form of a handshake, a high five, or a peace sign, but regardless, each student is greeted every morning by a peer.  There is a chance for sharing, and finally a fun group activity.  It’s a chance to feel they belong to a group and to prepare for the tasks ahead.


Let me offer a concrete example from our class.  We call it CPR – Circle of Power and Respect.  Every student comes to the circle as an equal with the power to say what’s on his or her mind and is given the respect that each of us deserves.  We acknowledge our successes and take time to discuss challenges and concerns.  We have a share schedule where each student gets a chance to share what’s going on in their life.  We often have rousing activities that, at the very least, put a smile on every one of our faces!  It’s a pretty great way to spend the first 20-30 minutes of the day!



So, when you pick your student up from school today ask some pointed questions: what was your class greeting today, what did your teacher write about for morning message, or even, what are some of the class rules you helped create?   You may be pleasantly surprised by the conversation that ensues, and the picture in your head that is painted of their day.  

This blog, of course, only offers a snapshot of what Responsive Classroom is.  I encourage you to check out the link below that I referenced for this post.  It offers a much more in depth look at the philosophy, helping you to understand what is happening in our classrooms.



Middle School Teacher


Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character
Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Get Out and Play!


According to Medlineplus.gov, the average child spends about 5-7 hours a day in front of the screen. While some of the screen time is for educational purposes, most of the hours come from watching television or playing video games. It is recommended that everyone should be getting at least 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day. While it is only 1 hour, only one out of three people get the recommended physical activity a day. Here are some suggestions for both adults and children to get out and play!

While there is nothing wrong with sitting down and watching the football game on Sunday, or watching your favorite TV show during the week, we need to be more conscious of getting the recommended physical exercise a day.

Here are some ways to get outside and get the physical activity we need!

Grades Pre-K thru 5:
  • Play tag at recess
  • Play a sport you enjoy 
  • Go for a bike ride (or tricycle ride)
  • Play catch with mom or dad
  • Gymnastics
Grades 6 thru 12:
  • Get out and move (skateboarding, biking, swimming, gymnastics, shooting baskets)
  • Muscle Strength Building 
  • 6-9 graders body weight exercises
    (push-ups, running, sit ups, pull ups)
  • 10-12 graders free weight exercises
    (get on a specific workout plan)
  • Team sports
Adults:
  • Join a men's/women’s league
    (basketball, hockey, volleyball)
  • go for a brisk walk or a run

It is so important to get out and move! In my experience, since graduating from college and not playing college baseball anymore, it is hard to find time to be active. I went and bought a fitbit, so now I can always see how many steps and active minutes I get a day!

Below are 3 links for you to look at to see more ideas and statistics of physical activity and screen time!  















Physical EducationTeacher




Saint Francis Xavier School
Developing the whole person:
Academics, Faith, Community and Character
Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Adapting to life in Vermont

In 2012, I moved from just outside of Philadelphia, Pa. to Middlebury, Vt. This was a significant transition for both myself and my entire family. Through, this process I learned that although adapting to a new environment can be very difficult; with the right tools and frame of mind the transition can be peaceful. Here were some of things that helped me through my transition to a new state and new community.

Middlebury, VT - Photo Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lukenicolaides/
Faith
My faith is a huge part of who I am. My wife is originally from Vermont, so when we became engaged we decided to get married in Vermont. The first time we visited Vermont after our engagement we went to see the Father of the local parish. We just knocked on the door of the rectory and Father answered the door with such kindness that I knew at that moment that this community was the place for our family. I put my trust in the Lord, prayed, performed acts of love, and everything worked out just fine.

"The Lord is my light, and my salvation."  (Psalms Chapter 27)

Love – Is there really anything else to say?
"Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians Chapter 13 4:7)

Do you know what really put the icing on the cake? Well, it was really something very simple that is sometimes forgotten: 

"The simple act of a stranger taking the time to greet someone new and introduce themselves made me feel welcome in my new community." 

Mr. Hill and his 7th grade class enjoying "Jeans and Jerseys" Day.
It was very evident everywhere I went that the community I found myself a part of cared about one another. While I am new here at St. Francis Xavier, and I am already feeling comfortable because of this same simple act of kindness. From on outsider’s perspective it was not just an act, but a value that permeates through the community, a positive part of the culture here and a key facet of the virtues of this community.













Middle School Teacher



Saint Francis Xavier School
Developing the whole person:
Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!