Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey Day!!!!

Thought of the Week: We live in a society where it is really easy to be negative. It doesn't help that I have to watch the Lions play football on Thanksgiving day (indigestion is blamed on too much pie, I'm beginning to wonder...). I'm so happy that we have a holiday dedicated to positive thinking and family fun! I tend to wonder though, why we need a holiday to do something so basic like being thankful? What would the world be like if everyday was thanksgiving? Besides being completely obese, I think we would find more positive people doing positive things.

Before you begin your day, take a moment to think about the things you are thankful for (it helps if you write them down). If you can't think of any, IPERS laws are changing, so maybe it would be beneficial to retire now (that was my interior monologue), actually come to my office, and I will give you a great list of positive things for you to ponder. I would also encourage you to share them with your students.

Here are a few of mine:
1) Breckyn (healthy and alive) and Amy
2) A talented and gifted teaching staff who love kids.
3) Jane (need I say more?)
4) our 1:1 laptop program
5) The Bears being 7-3
6) Great kids
7) Positive growth within our district
8)Teresa, who continues to live in her office for the betterment of our district :)

This is just a few! I mean it every time I say it: we have a lot of GREAT things going on in our district! Our building is positive, we are having very few majors, and we are continually getting better every day that we teach.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where is the year going?!?

WOW! This year is flying by! I can't believe football and volleyball are over (congratulations to both teams for representing us well). We are two weeks from Thanksgiving and only 4 1/2 weeks (or so) to Christmas! With all of that said, this is a very crucial time for students in school. It is easy during the upcoming holiday seasons to want to relax and take a break, but it isn't break time yet!

Parents: are you encouraging and mandating your child read 20 minutes a day? Students: do you care about your future? The BEST way to improve your reading skills is by READING. I just read a great article in "TIME" magazine about what implications the mid-term elections have on our society. Did you read it? What have you read lately that challenged your thinking or made you want to argue with its beliefs?

Learning doesn't stop unless you let it...

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Case for Change...

Throughout this year, a continuing theme within our district is raising student achievement. One way of raising our district's achievement is clearly identifying which students are not proficient in reading. While reviewing data, there is a clear achievement gap between students who are categorized as low SES and those who are not. A major goal of mine throughout this year is to increase the number of proficient readers in our at risk population by empowering teachers to improve our identification and instructional strategies to meet their needs, to ensure a positive future for all students.

So how are we doing this?
  • Identifying which students are non-proficient readers (and why)
  • Implementing Second Chance Reading at the middle school level
  • Continuing our commitment to SCR at the high school level
  • Early intervention and identification at the primary grade level
  • Continual evaluation of primary curriculum
  • Professional development to improve how ALL teachers can help improve reading
So what is at stake if our district DO NOT improve our reading scores?
  • Labeled a School/District In Need of Assistance
  • Increased number of students who are not successful in our school and could possibly drop-out
  • Negative publicity which can lead to decreased enrollment
  • Our students students do not have the workplace readiness or the 21st century skills to be successful coming out of high school
At Graettinger-Terril, we are working very hard to provide the best education for ALL students. By improving the way we identify which students actually need help, and new and improved strategies on how the help is given, we will be able to serve our students to their full academic potential.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Our First Group of Right Knights!

back row- Cormick, Claudia, Kelsey, Dorothy, Dalton, Mackenzie, Kate, and Laura.

front row - Clayton, Benny, Hailey, Delaney, Halie, Natalie, and Tony

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Science Behind the Music...

Inspired by the BlueMan Group, Zac is working on constructing some musical instruments. He is using a program on his laptop to be able to measure the frequency of the sound being made so he can construct an accurate musical model!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Breckyn Marie Ulrich is the reason I missed the first day of school!

Breckyn Marie Ulrich entered the world yesterday at 5:53pm. She weighed 8lbs 4oz and was 21 inches long.

Amy is doing very well. The Graettinger-Terril Family just got a little bigger!

Monday, August 9, 2010

It's About Here!!!! (a 2 sided story)

August 19th has a very significant meaning to me...

1. It is the first day of school!
2. It is the due date of Amy and I's first child!

Hmm...that was well planned.

SO...summer is about over, and I've been reflecting about it. I had a wonderful summer! Last week I attended SAI (school administrators of Iowa) annual conference. I listened to speakers talk about the importance of setting expectations for those around you so everyone knows the positive things that will happen! I also listened to speakers talk about the importance technology is for our generation of students (huh, what a novel thought). The most intriguing speaker I listened to was Alan November; his challenging talk focused on "What do your students contribute to their school?". More on that later.

I've had many people say "so what does a principal do all summer?" A recap: read, prepare, move offices, sort junk that I didn't get to all year, read more, start my doctorate, schedule classes, hire new staff, keep sorting junk, and think about taking a vacation. About that last one, I did something I have never done before. I took 1 week and did nothing! really, didn't even check the emails beeping on my phone. I did however, manage to watch a ton of Cub's baseball (that wasn't really relaxing).

So, I will keep you posted on the baby situation. At the end of the week our new teachers will report. We are very excited to welcome the following staff:

Kayla De Vos (special education)
Stephanie Hanson (special education)
Nikki Pals (special education)
Karen Naig (FCS)

I hope you all had as an enjoyable and relaxing summer as I have had...but, luckily it is time to start another great year! I'm looking forward to working with students, parents, and the community to show the world class education we are providing for our students!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SMART Table in the PK

A HUGE thank you to Land O'Lakes and Pro Cooperative for their donation towards our PK SMART table! Land O'Lakes granted us $1000, and Pro Coop matched the grant with another $1000! All of this was in combination with the Kiwanis club fundraiser for the SMART table. Here is just a quick sample of what the SMART table can do.

Again, a big thanks to Land O'Lakes, the Pro Coop, and the Terril Kiwanis Club!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

26 Students Publish Poetry!!!

Twenty-six Graettinger-Terril Middle School students now have the honor of saying they are published writers! On May 11, 2010, Mrs. Barb Larson, 6th - 8th Grade Reading and Language Arts teacher, was informed that of 44 entries submitted in a poetry contest, 26 of them would be published in A Celebration of Poets published by Creative Communication. The student's in Larson's class worked on a poetry unit during February and March. They learned about literary tools poets use to make their writing more interesting to the reader, as well as a variety of different types of poems. The 7th grade class worked with found poetry, identified literary tools in those poems, and then posted their work on a blog at The 6th and 8th graders wrote poetry; some of the different types of poetry being published are odes, cinquains, "I am" poetry, biography poems, and Dadas. "I am so proud of all of the students and their poetry work; they really put themselves into the project," Larson said.

(Thank you Mrs. Miller for the write up!!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

8th Grade TAG students attend Lakeside Lab Event

Three G-T TAG students joined 80 other talented and gifted students from around the area at the Lakeside Lab on West Okoboji for a day of science exploration. Students identified archaeological dig finds as to the period and possible use of the finds as well as attempting to fashion a stone piece into a tool. The eight layers of an aquifer were constructed as a snack demonstrating how water flows through the layers. Another session found the students being chemists in the water quality lab. Various water samples were tested using laboratory equipment and then compared for purity. The birding and wildlife management session included capturing a bird, finding the birds' ear, listening to a bird's heatbeat, seeing muscle and bone through the transparent skin of a bird, as well as identifying males and females including coloring and feather purposes. The day concluded with a DNR officer telling about her job encompassing seasonal changes. It was an excellent day of learning and explorations.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mr. Ulrich Gets a Haircut!!!

Before taking the ITBS, student brainstormed with their teachers to determine what they wanted to work towards if they met their ITBS goals. The 4th Grade wanted a pizza party and to give Mr. Ulrich a haircut...

The results? The 4th Grade was 100% proficient in Science, 100% proficient in Math, and 95% proficient in Reading (with 50% of all 4th graders in the advanced reading range). So what is a Principal suppose to do??? Enjoy...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Read, Think, Write


For today's professional development, please post your answer's to the following questions...

  1. How does this strategy work?
  2. Why does it help students increase their reading comprehension?
  3. How could you apply it to your classroom (give specific examples)?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Parent Partnerships

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! Our goal at the Graettinger-Terril Middle School is for all of our students to take pride in their school, and to perform at a high academic level. After reviewing student grades over the 2nd trimester, I’m asking for teachers to improve communication with parents and your help and support to raise the performance level of our students.

Beginning March 29th, we will begin having Academic Assistance, rather than Monday School. Rather than notifying you weekly of missing assignments, we will be notifying you if your child has a D or F in any of their classes (you will receive the letter the same day you would have for Monday School). If they do, they will be required to stay the following Monday night for Academic Assistance with the teacher in the class they are struggling in (even if their grade is improved before Monday).

As parents and guardians I’m asking you to do the following (if you are not already):

1. Talk to your child and reinforce your expectations about their academic performance.

2. Check your child’s grades online weekly and talk to them if you have a concern with their grades. There is a vast amount of research that shows parent involvement is a key factor in their child’s academic success.

3. Ask your child to see their planner. If it is blank, and they are not doing well in classes, require them to use it.

4. Support the teachers educating your child.

We know that your child is the greatest asset that you have. We are very fortunate that you allow us to share them with you every day. Together, we can improve the education your child is receiving. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Committee of Ten

So I started reading a new book, Curriculum 21-Essential Education for a Changing World, Edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. I'm only halfway through the first chapter, but it has immediately caught my attention. Some intriguing questions she has asked:
  1. What are the roots of our school-related habits and dated curriculum?
  2. What if sports where ran like education? Can you imagine preparing for a football game, and you get to another school and the field is actually the size of a soccer field? (Her point is that all states have different curriculum, yet we try to compare them)
  3. Do kids feel like they are entering time machines when they enter our schools?
We only have so much time (because our attention span for reading blogs are only so long), so I wanted to share a little history lesson on The Committee of Ten. This was a group of prestigious educators in 1892 who were asked by the National Educational Association to research how America needed to deal with the influx of students in schools. The reason there was an influx was because at this time in America there was a little thing called the industrial age, so there were less people living on farms and more people living in cities.

There was much debate! The core of the debate centered around the following:
  • Should schools focus on memorization or critical thinking?
  • Should schools group students into college-bound and working-trades?
  • Should there be standardized courses all students must take?
  • Should schools focus on teaching Latin and Greek OR more practical studies?
  • How should schools assess their accomplishments?
So what did they decide? Click here for full report.
  1. All students need the same curriculum.
  2. School calendars will be based on the Agrarian calendar (180 days)
  3. Schooling would take place over 12 years (8 Elementary and 4 High School).
  4. English, history, civics, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics would be the focus.
So there you have it! A century ago 10 guys sat around a table and decided the pedagogy that still exists in schools!

My question to you is this: how many of those same questions are we still asking ourselves today? Is our curriculum meeting the needs of our students for their future? Finally, knowing our current standards of how a school is ran was designed a century ago, what will it take to move forward for the betterment of future generations of students?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cray-Pas Winners at GT!

Thousands of students participated in the "2010 Cray-Pas Wonderful, Colorful World Contest". They only select 150 students as finalist for this elite competition...BUT of the 150 finalist, 4 are right here at the Graettinger-Terril Middle School!! Congratulations to Ethan, Marcus, Jillian, and Danial for being finalist. Congrats also to Rae Ann for being named honorable mention! The students received a t-shirt with their own artwork displayed on it (see picture), a certificate, and a Cray-Pas art set. Special thanks to Mr. James for having our students participate in this competition. They represented our school very well!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Invent Iowa TAG Contest

Graettinger-Terril Middle School TAG students will be competing in the "Invent Iowa" contest. During TAG Mrs. Miller has been facilitating the process of our students finding a problem, and then coming up with an invention to fix the problem. Part of the presentation has to be scientific research (through surveys and trial and error), market research, and doing cost analysis. Alex, Brady, Isaac, Beau, and Blake had some great ideas! Alex and Brady will be competing at Humboldt this weekend...Good Luck!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Education World vs. Business World

I was in Des Moines on Tuesday and I had a very interesting conversation with an individual at a restaurant (Granite City...I highly recommend it next time you are down there). He professed that the educational system of America would be vastly improved if it was actually ran like a business. Some of his points consisted of not understanding why underachieving schools continued to operate, why teachers of non-proficient students still had jobs (because he said if he didn't make his quotas for several months in a row he would be fired), and finally talked about how (in his perspective) there is no accountability. I will be the first to admit that he was very passionate about the subject.

I think he was a little surprised by my answer. I responded by telling him, "the difference is, you are selling a product, we are changing people." He looked at me "what's the difference"? Take for a moment your child or all of your children. Each one of them is significantly different. Each one has a different need. Some are in need of mentors, others tutors, and still others just need an interior motive to achieve. Teachers see hundreds of kids walk in and out of their doors each day. Even the very BEST teachers will truly engage about 80% of all their students in a given lesson. When dealing with people you have a lot of variables that coinside with the instruction that is being implemented.

I went on to say I do agree that as a whole (the educational system in America) needs to improve, but running it like a hardcore business may not be the answer (certain components I do agree with).

So what do you think????

Friday, February 5, 2010

1:1 Laptop Initiative Approved!!!

On behalf of the students, faculty and staff at the Graettinger-Terril Middle School, we would like to send a huge THANK YOU to the board for investing in our students future!!! We are looking forward to the challenge of preparing students with the 21st century skills they will need to complete in a global and digital world!!

3rd Grade Math Jeopardy

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

PD Reflections for 2-3-10

1) What strategies have you used in your classroom?
2) How have these strategies worked for you?
3) When you use the strategy again, what will you do differently?
4) Talk to 2 other teachers, briefly describe their successes with the strategies they have used (you don't have to use names).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ITBS Is Coming!!!

Dear Parent/Guardian:

Next week is a very exciting week at the Graettinger-Terril Middle School! Beginning February 8, 2010 your child will be taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). The ITBS is the statewide assessment that determines how your child is progressing in core academic areas. I can’t stress enough the importance of this assessment. We use this data to determine what area(s) our students need improvement in both individually and as a whole. The ITBS is also an indicator used to compare Graettinger-Terril with other schools in the area and state.

There are several ways you as a parent/guardian can help your child succeed. Next week make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep and a good breakfast. If your child can not have a breakfast at home, we do serve breakfast here at the school. The most important way you can help your child is by giving positive support for the ITBS. It is not just a reflection on the school, but your child as an individual!

Thank you for all the ways you support our school. I’m very proud of our students and faculty, and I know the great academic system we have in place will reflect in our ITBS results. If you have any questions please feel free to call at 712-853-6111x32 or email

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1:1 Discussion

This month I want to focus on a topic that every school in the state of Iowa (if not the nation) is struggling with. How on Earth do we prepare our students for the 21st century, when our schools are designed the same as they were in the 18th century. There is an old adage that the only thing in education that has changed is the color of the blackboard (now whiteboards). So what do our educational institutions do to properly prepare our students for the 21st century?

Dr. McLeod from Iowa State University put it best; we are a decade into the 21st century, it is time to stop talking about preparing students for the 21st century and actually do it. The magnitude of information and research about how students learn differently, that they are digital natives, and that the skills current school systems employ are inadequate to their needs are immense. One would have a difficult time (rhetorical for impossible), to argue that what we teach kids in our schools are useful for the skill sets they need in the 21st century. We are preparing them for the industrial age; which unfortunately is far behind us.

Students need to be in environments which they can interact, create, problem solve, collaborate, and succeed. They need an environment which utilizes each of their uniqueness’s to show how diversity can move our society forward. Students need more than a lecture or a worksheet. They need the tools they are already using, to learn differently. One of the biggest problems however, is the generational gap between what our students need, and how our teachers know how to teach. So how do we bridge that gap? The answer lies in single digits. One-to-one.

Imagine if our students had access to any information they wanted in the world? Imagine if rather than asking students to complete a worksheet on the economy of Brazil, they video-conference with a class IN Brazil and asked them? Imagine walking into a school where we asked students to create a podcast, PowerPoint, movie, or asked them to create a real life product that is relevant to their life? How would our schools be different? Rather than students being asked “right or wrong” questions; we want to ask students to use their uniqueness’ to develop their own thinking.

The way to do this is to put a computer in the hands of every student. The emphasis is on the word EVERY. I’m not talking about more computer labs; I’m talking about a laptop that travels with students home. I know to many people this may be a radical idea, but in reality, it is not. Think about your personal lives; how often do you use your phone, computer, ipod, or digital device? Why should students have to power down to come to school? Why shouldn’t schools empower students to use the tools they use every day, to do something we all want: have a first class education.

On February 4th, the Graettinger-Terril CSD will have one of the most important meetings it has had when it comes to the future of its students. They will decide whether or not to move forward with a 1:1 laptop initiative for its student’s grades 5-12. For our kids, community, and faculty, it will be a defining moment for the future of our district. It is about what is doing what is best for our kids. As I said before; we are a decade into the 21st century, it is time to stop talking and start doing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

G-T Middle School Geography Bee Winner!

7th grade student, Lauren Flaharty, is the first round winner of Graettinger-Terril Middle School's National Geographic Bee. The 2010 competition is sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Google. Schools from across the United States and around the world compete in this annual event. This is the 22nd year of the competition. Lauren now advances to the next level of competition, which consists of a written examination to determine state competitors. All school winners are eligible to win the national championship and first prize, a $25,000 college scholarship, at the national competition held on May 25 -26, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Good luck, Lauren!