The Principal's Journal

Weekly reflections from Union School



I know it has been many weeks since my last posting. I have been busy with end of year responsibilities and preparing to hand the leadership baton to the next principal of Union School.  It is a bittersweet experience; I am looking forward to the possibilities of retirement, and will certainly miss the daily hugs, smiles, celebrations, and challenges of being the principal of this nurturing learning community.

Thank you to our PTO, teachers, and staff for the many precious gifts you have given me, including 2-tomes of retirement messages and advice from our students.  Here are some gems from the 320 student voices I will not soon forget:

Suggestions for what to do when I retire:

  • I hope you go to see a play in New York and climb Mt. Everest.
  • Read a good book and jot down some notes.
  • I hope you go somewhere.
  • You should read a lot of good books and write a book.
  • Maybe you should get chickens and raise them from chicks.
  • My mom recommends these books:  Out of my Mind, The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, and I recommend these two movies;  Life of Pie, and Hachi
  • Since you are leaving, here are some things you can do:  You can be a lifeguard or even a doctor.
  • When you retire, you can be a producer or a museum guide.
  •  You can volunteer for anything. Do this because if you stay inside you might be afraid to go outside.
  • And please be yourself.
  • When you retire you can be a Lego engineer.
  • You can be in the army, a detective, or a zookeeper.
  • You can be a basketball player and earn a lot of money.

Compliments and Best Wishes:

  • I wish you good luck for the rest of your life and beyond.
  • I hope you had to leave for a very good reason because, who wants you to leave?
  • Caption for illustration:  “Union School students protest against their principal choosing to retire!”
  • OK, so this is a secret: Sometimes you can get mean principals but trust me on this- you are not one of them.
  • I like how you would give me advice to not be silly.
  • Some other principals’ kids are afraid of them, but you’re not like that. Kids are not afraid of you. In fact they enjoy seeing you- if they’re not in trouble.
  • I like your clothes.
  • You are not your average principal.  I never see you cooped up in your office like a lot of principals do.
  • You hire great teachers who I’ve learned a lot from.
  • You are very fast because you’re always popping in and out of classrooms.
  • You’ve been here since 1939 and I will never forget you as long as I live.
  • You are like the first sunny day in spring after the freezing cold snowy winter.
  • I love how you maked kids laugh their heads off.
  • No one will forget you and the tears of you leaving will flood the hallways and flood the earth.
  • It was like vacation having you here.

This is my last posting as the principal of Union School.  I’m not sure how to retire a blog-but I will figure that out.  As of July 1, I will seriously consider Union School students’ recommendations and suggestions.  (I am not optimistic about getting into medical school or the Army, and my basketball skills are a bit rusty, but you never know.)  I will certainly read many books and will always remember to be myself.   Great advice for me to follow-and for the Union School community too-Read many books-and remember to be yourself!

Best wishes,




by posted under Uncategorized | Comments Off on Retirement    

A May Day Moment


unnamed (1).jpgfidlers 1st 2nd grade 3swords

 And now listen and learn to weave the May Pole:

IMG_1911 (2)


by posted under Teaching and Learning, Uncategorized | Comments Off on A May Day Moment    

Horrible Harry, Blue Bash, and it’s still April


What a week of learning and celebrations!   Today our students had the opportunity to meet and learn from one of our favorite childrens book authors: Suzy Kline.  Mrs. Farrah and classroom teachers have been preparing our students for weeks, introducing Suzy’s books through read alouds and exploring her website to learn more about this prolific and talented writer.  When Suzy Kline asked a gym filled with Kindergarteners, second and third graders if they liked to write, almost all of our STUDENTS RAISED THEIR HANDS!!  Yippee!

We all know some people who say they don’t like to write.  When I hear that occasionally from children and adults I know, it breaks my heart a little bit. We often find that reluctant writers enjoy the freedom of writing poetry.  If you have a child or parent who doesn’t like to write,  try writing a poem together. You might even write a poem about why you don’t like to write!  The Principal’s Poetry Challenge of the day:  Try writing a poem from the point of view of the paper, or the pencil, or the eraser. (If you think writing is hard for you. . imagine how difficult it is for the poor piece of paper!)  This is known as personification-a wonderful tool for all writers of poetry and prose.  And if you can’t get enough of Suzy Kline’s characters-write a poem about Horrible Harry and Song Lee this week-end.

 Last night our first annual Blue Bash was a huge success thanks to the collaboration and generosity of many teachers, staff members and families.  What a great way to raise awareness and funding for Autism Speaks, while bringing together friends for a joyful evening of dancing, popcorn, face painting, and fun!

photo 4(2)

photo 1(9)

photo 1(8)

by posted under Celebrations, Teaching and Learning | Comments Off on Horrible Harry, Blue Bash, and it’s still April    

Your Teacher


Principal’s National Poetry Month Challenge:    Write a poem for or about a favorite teacher.  Read Jane Yolen’s poem below-as inspiration.  With Teacher Appreciation Week (and The Lauren Avezzie Fun Run) right around the corner in early May-now is the perfect time to write a poem about a favorite teacher at Union School.  (And hey-it’s kind of nice that there are so many cool words that rhyme with Mr. Avezzie!) 

My Teacher

Jane Yolen

My teacher’s tall,
My teacher’s small,
My teacher’s white,
Black, tan.
My teacher is a woman,
My teacher is a man.

My teacher’s thin,
My teacher’s fat,
My teacher’s in-between.
My teacher’s always very nice.
Sometimes my teacher’s mean.

My teacher has a quiet voice,
My teacher’s voice is loud
And you can hear her speaking out
Above the wildest crowd.

My teacher is a riot.
My teacher never smiles.
My teacher lives right near the school.
My teacher travels miles.

My teacher’s younger than my mom.
My teacher’s very old.
My teacher’s hands are nice and warm.
My teacher’s hands are cold.

But when I’m feeling lonely, scared,
Or having a bad day
I take my teacher’s hand and then
Those feelings go away.

©2009 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.

by posted under Uncategorized | Comments Off on Your Teacher    

Union School Stories


Reading narrative poetry is a fun way to learn about history.  Not all narrative poems are historical; some are completely fictional.  The purpose of a narrative poem is to simply tell a story. Whether the story is about Paul Revere (Listen my children and you shall hear. . ) or Santa Clause (T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house. . ) a narrative poem tells a story in a memorable way.  Today’s Principal’s poetry challenge serves two purposes:  1.  Experiment with a different form of poetry-the narrative poem.  2.  Share a Union School story for our 2nd anthology!  We are fast approaching the deadline (April 30) and we still need your stories. Consider writing your story in rhyme (or not), with rhythm, and repetition, and choice words that tell the story of that one time when something important, interesting, funny, scary, cool, naughty, or thrilling happened at Union School.   Do your best work. . and your narrative poem may be published in our next anthology.   Attach your narrative poem to a photograph or drawing that illustrates your story.  See any familiar faces in the photograph below? I imagine Union School’s class of 1940 had plenty of stories to share.  You may even try writing a narrative poem about a familiar face below!


by posted under Celebrations, Teaching and Learning, Union School History | Comments Off on Union School Stories    

April is persistent


Vacation may be over, but it’s still April.   And April means poetry.  Here’s a poem about personification-with examples.  And for Monday’s Principal Poetry Month Challenge-write a poem using personification.  Because April is persistent, and therefore National Poetry Month is sticking around until May says, “Enough is enough! I’ve had it with poetry.  I need a balanced diet-give me some prose.”   (You probably never knew that May had such attitude and no manners.  Don’t let her flowers fool you.)

How to Make a Poem that Flies
Brod Bagert

If you want to put some life in a poem,
a little extra heart,
you might find that personification
is a pretty good place to start.

Make things act like they’re alive!
It’s a poetry delight.
Watch how I use it now to say—
“It was a stormy night.”

The clouds began to growl! 

 The wind began to cry!

The moon got scared and disappeared,

 she didn’t say goodbye.

So in your poems, or in your prose,
or in your conversation
look for little clever ways
to insert a personification.

It’ll get to be a habit,
one of those everyday things,
one of the ways a poet learns
to give a poem its wings.

Then if your poem can find someone
to read its words out loud,
those wings will fill with air and soar
above the highest cloud.

© 2010 Brod Bagert. All rights reserved.

by posted under Initiatives, Teaching and Learning | Comments Off on April is persistent    

Earth Day Poetry


Last week, our amazing student council inspired the Union School community with their creativity and innovations.  Check out this PowerPoint made by Student Council advisors, Wendy Bourget and Ben Stern-highlighting the poetry, the games and toys made from recycled “trash,” Earth Day songs, and even a picture book.   I will try to post more pictures later this week-including photos of fourth graders in their fashionable  “garbage garb.”  You will never look at a cereal box the same way again!

Earth Day Assembly Student Council

And here’s the Principal’s National Poetry Month Challenge for the week:

It’s time to change the world. Write a poem to inspire the reader to protect our earth. Even small changes can make a difference.  Here’s a poem I wrote today:

Paper or Plastic?

A new island is forming

Twice the size of Texas

Bite sized pieces of destruction

Unfathomable poison

Swept away, swirling

These dangerous villains

Silently stalking

Seabirds and fishes

Marine mammals

Sea creatures

Washed up on beaches

An invisible dust bowl:

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

And as I pay for my groceries you ask,

“Will that be paper or plastic?” 

As if my decision will make a difference.

If you want to read more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch check out these sites:





by posted under Initiatives, Teaching and Learning, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Earth Day Poetry    

Poetry Doesn’t Take a Vacation


Poetry doesn’t take a vacation

You may find words traveling in couplets or stanzas

arranging themselves on billboards and menus.

Words whirling and swirling  around you on airplanes

with passports and tickets, and great expectations.

No rest stops for haiku, no breaks, no free time.

No retirement for rhythm, no week-ends for rhyme.

Poetry doesn’t take a vacation.

Poetry is always, forever, full time.

Have a wonderful vacation and may you find a place for poetry where ever you go and whatever you do this coming week.   


diverse books










by posted under Teaching and Learning, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poetry Doesn’t Take a Vacation    

Inspiration is everywhere


Where do you find your inspiration for writing?  Try looking back on your day.  Here are some of my day’s highlights:

  • I read Kindergarten students’ writing and conferred with them about their How to books. Thanks to Landon-I now know how to pet a dog.  (I could “steal” his idea and write a poem about how to pet a dog.)

  • I saw Third grade partners helping each other figure out real world problems related to volume and capacity!  Wow-I didn’t learn those concepts until  high school.  (I could write a poem about a fish tank that overflowed because somebody didn’t know the capacity of the tank!)

  • I watched Fourth graders using Chromebooks to research and write chapter books about the Revolutionary War.  Yes-chapter books.  Long chapter books!  I have never written a chapter book, have you?  (Hmm-I could write a poem in chapters.)

  • I watched artists at work, creating their own Campbell Soup Can prints-inspired by Andy Warhol.  As one student explained, “We get to choose something based upon our own childhood.   So mine is   karate Soup.”   I have always wanted to try Karate Soup.  (I could write a poem about Karate  Soup.)

 Inspiration is everywhere and every day and everyone.  Hey-even a stick is an excellent topic (see below!).

The Principal’s National Poetry Challenge for the Week of April 7:  Find inspiration where you least expect it!  Write a list of 20 topics for your poetry.  

by posted under Teaching and Learning, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Inspiration is everywhere    

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not. . .


Why should 21st Century students memorize poems?  What’s the value when students can easily find poems on the Internet-poetry is a click away.   I believe there is value in memorizing poetry.  Here are 3 reasons in no particular order:

  1. To impress your friends

  2. To learn new and interesting vocabulary words

  3. To develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of the poem

Memorizing a poem takes repeated readings and a bit of effort. Repeated reading of any text, is also known as “close reading.”  Each time you read the poem, you may understand it in a new way, unlocking the theme or message, stanza by stanza.   And through the years of your life, your understanding of the poem you memorize, may grow and change.

The Principal’s National Poetry Month Challenge for April 5 and 6-because this is a big one:  Find a poem that is worth your time and effort to memorize. Memorize the poem and recite it to your friends, teachers, and parents.    Your poem is a special gift; you may give it away, and still keep it.   The words will always be close to your heart.


by posted under Teaching and Learning | Comments Off on Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not. . .    
« Older Entries

Skip to toolbar