• The Awards Edition of Mr. Ed's Soap Box

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 4/27/2016

    I am honored to have been selected from a large pool of very qualified professionals for 3 wonderful awards.  I have to admit that I was blown totally away when I received notice that I had been nominated for these awards.  After receiving the nomination, I promptly piled it with a hundred other pieces of mail, information, and "stuff" that accumulates regularly on my desk.  Weeks later, I was encouraged to work on the materials they needed to secure the award.  There was a lot of "paperwork" needed for this and a lot of work had to be done in a short amount of time.  Maureena was, as always amazing and made it all happen!  I ended up getting everything in on time and in order (amazng for me as i struggle right along our students with material management).  To make a long story short, the awards were awarded and I am now scheduled for dinners on April 27th, May 6th, and May 12th to accept them. 

    While I am happy that these were given to me, I have to be honest, these awards (Excellence in Administration, T. Walsh McQuillan Innovative Leadership, and Principal of the Year) are truly given to the Genesee Valley Elementary School.  Our school, together has changed the way we deliver education to our students!  It is the teachers, the aides, the teacher assistants, the parent,  the maintenance crew, the bus drivers, and the office staff that has who deserves these awards!  Without the thousands of little changes that they have made, I would be running around in circles with no one behind!  They are the award winners and I so incredibly proud to be a part of who we are becoming. 

    In the end, it boils down to a single idea.  It's not rocket science.  It boils down to the philosophy that at GV, kids are first and foremost.  Their needs, to move, to explore, to communicate, to use their excitement, will define what we do.  We will put kids first.  It's an honor to be part of this movement!

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  • Mr. Ed's Soap Box

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 1/8/2015
    As I step up on my soap box for a moment, a few things jump to the front of my mind.  The first and most important is about the passage of time.  My oldest son is now 20 years old (almost).  It seems like yesterday when I was the proud new dad, looking at a newborn who had unlimited potential, but now, after an apparently long blink, he's 6'5" tall, setting National cuts in the 200 backstroke, and leading others down a road of success.  So many of you are on that journey right now and I want to encourage you to open your eyes and notice every single moment.  They are the pieces of our lives that sustain us.  With the pace of life, it is incredibly easy to look inside and miss the truly important parts.  DON'T!  You will regret it.
    Second item on my Soap Box, put things in perspective.  What is really and truly important?  What do you remember about your days of growth and development?  I bet, if you are like me, it will not be the details of the learning, but the people who cared along the way.  Be that person for someone today.  You will change a life forever.
    Third,  take time for yourself.  Draw up a bucket list, check off the things that are important to you, add new items.  The reality is, if we are born, we will eventually be at the other end of life.  That dash between the dates on our gravestones is our life.  Some people have a dash that is devoid of any truly amazing things, however, others have a dash with thousands of points of light shining through.  Make sure that when we get to the final date, our dash is long, has affected more than we can number, and that your family struggles to keep it simple due to the sheer volume of those you have affected.  
    It is about people and how we interact.  Be positive, be engaged, and be happy.  They go together. 
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  • Thoughts for the Season

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 12/8/2014 5:00:00 PM
    What is play?  It is the way we learn.  In play, there is never a right or wrong answer, there is not one way of doing something, and sometimes the laws of physics do not need to apply.  During play we are able to be ourselves, allow the true person we are to be at the forefront of our thoughts and actions.  We do not worry about failure, in fact, we just start over again and try it once more.  If at first you don't succeed....play and you will.  
    This year, one of our initiatives at GV Elementary was to bring play back into the school setting.  Play is defined as "to engage in sport or recreation."  (as per Google definitions) It does not say it is always "fun" as sometimes it is very serious, however, it does involve a level of exploration.  We are trying to bring that opportunity to the children here.  They deserve to be able to learn about their world by exploring it.  It is how we learn everything.  We learned to walk by trying it, falling down, trying it again, falling down again, and again, and again, and again.  We learned to talk the same way.  Why then, should learning new concepts here be any different?  It is not, and we will strive to continue to make this truth evident in our hallways.
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  • Meet the Teacher Night

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 9/29/2014 8:00:00 AM
    Meet the Teacher Night on September 23rd was a fun night.  I was a little disappointed in the number of "outside" of school community groups who attended.  I am not sure exactly how to increase participation in this, so if you have suggestions, please let me know.  
    We did have 53 tables set up, a little over 500 people in attendance, and a chance to get to know some groups who serve the community of Genesee Valley in a new and different setting, so all-in-all, the evening must be counted as a success! 
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  • The Start of School 2014

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 9/11/2014 4:05:00 AM
    At the end of the year faculty meeting for the 2013-14 School Year, the Elementary staff brought up the thought of doing something at the beginning of the next year to greet our students and families to the new year.  They wanted it to be as exciting and fun as the send off we have done each year....
    At the beginning of the year faculty meeting this year, the staff decided to meet and greet the students at the bus circle rather than have kids come into the classroom.  This event, the first of many now, was so well received by students and staff alike that it will continue!  One student actually yelled, as he got off the bus, "It's like camp!"  What a great way to start the year.  
    Some other highlights for the year include the fact that all of our students now get at least a few minutes of recess each day attached to their lunches.  Research shows, over and over, that kids who have recess come back from it more ready to learn.  Ms. Knapp was instrumental in planning this time, which allows kids who need more time to eat up to 40 minutes to do so, and those who are done to go to the gym (or outside) to get the wiggles out!  Ms. Clark has been amazing planning activities, games, and/or free play time!  Kids are returning from this time rejuvenated and ready to learn!
    Standards based report cards are going to become the norm in grades K-4.  Parents will be receiving a much more comprehensive picture of what their children can do well and what they may need to work on.  All of the evaluation tools we currently have (i-Ready, NY Tests, and more) will now match up in expectation better than ever before.  
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  • Reading List- Summer 2014

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 7/28/2014
    I have read a number of school-related books this summer.  I thought I would share a few with you...
    My favorite thus far... David and Goliath, Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcom Gladwell
    Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change by William Bridges (funny, transitions...bridges)
    Schools That Learn by  Peter Senge
    District Administration also puts out a monthly newsletter which included an interesting article about Homework.  Worth a read...
    Other than that, I have re-read the One Minute Manager, and spend a lot of time in the School Law book.... 
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  • Albany 2014

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 7/14/2014
    I have just returned from Albany where I spent 4 days learning from the State Education Department what is coming down the pike.  While there are some minor changes, I think the biggest thing I have learned is that they are really listening to the concerns from the field.  Teachers, Administrators, and Parents have all expressed concerns around the amount of testing that has been put on our children.  The State is now allowing us some lee-way into this to the effect of being able to utilize end of year testing to begin the new year, thus eliminating a whole round of tests for our children.  These changes, and the fact, that GV is only using NYS Tests as a single piece of data (rather than being a determining factor), puts us in a good place to maximize instruction!  Great things are in store for our students in 2014-15!  Stay tuned for more updates!
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  • The Common Core Standards and Genesee Valley

    Posted by Brian Edmister on 11/26/2013

    I know there is a great deal of angst around the Common Core Standards and our children.  Just so you know we are in this together, I sat with my daughter (6th grade) a couple of times this year and had troubles helping her do her HW the way it was supposed to be done too! 

    In order to clear a few things up....the Common Core has been around for a few years and in my humble opinion, is a wonderful set of outcomes that really capture the many things that kids of this century need to be successful in a post-school world.  So, if that's true, why the firestorm?  I really think that the disconnect is in the way the CCS were rolled out in New York State.  There was at one time a beautiful, 10 year plan to roll out new Modules first to grades K-1, the K-2, then K-3, then K-4 (you get the idea....) 

    This idea was changed when a great deal of Federal money was offered to States who implemented the Common Core Standards immediately.  New York State, in an effort to put a large amount of money into education, took the bait and took their 10 year plan and reduced it to a 2 year plan.  This left huge gaps in instruction which local districts have been trying to fill.  Some of the gaps have been so wide that we have not been able to build bridges fast enough.  Now, on top of this stress, the money was also tied to NYS making a connection between Teacher success and student success.  This created a huge amount of stress as jobs that were once pretty secure, became attached to an accountability system that was not fully developed and left largely to local decisions. This is where the push for teachers to send home common core aligned homework (much of which is Greek to those of us who grew up in a different era), and where much of the stress has come from.

    At Genesee Valley, we are trying very hard to find that balance between great test scores, which we need to show success for our school district and students (and consequently teachers) and the incredibly valuable parent/student time that is our short evenings at home.  There are times that homework has been sent home that didn't make sense to anyone there, which just frustrates everyone involved.  We are working on this.

    An interesting note...there have been almost no issues with the implementation of the Common Core Standards at grades PK-2 as the kids (and parents) there haven't learned another way of doing things.  As you go up in grades, the gaps become greater and greater and the frustration follows.  As we continue to work on those gaps, we need your input more and more. If you don't understand HW, please call, let us know, and we will find a way to help. 

    We are exploring a variety of ways of bridging these gaps, and your input is GREATLY valued in this trip!  Please be patient, help us find that fine line between frustration and success that our kids so richly deserve.  Together we can do this!

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