A Moment of Pause

We had our November Activity Period this afternoon. In my opinion, it was our best one yet! I had the privilege of moving from one activity to the next and interacting with multiple groups. It is so pleasing to see students engaged in choice activities, letting go a little and being pre-teens and teens in different contexts than normal. Ask your child what he/she did today.

I wanted to give you a brief update regarding our parking lot. ACPS Transportation and the Sheriff’s Office supported our traffic study and worked with VDOT, who owns our internal roads, to order “No Parking” signs for areas where congestion and backlog occur. As soon as the signs can be secured, cars will not be able to park along the roadway between Brownsville Elementary and Henley, nor will they be able to park in other designated areas in the drop off/pick-up loop. I will let our community know when those signs are in. Thank you in advance for your cooperation as we strive to improve student and driver safety!

Many of our students have asked for information about activities, clubs, and extracurricular offerings. We had grade level Town Hall meetings last week to share with them how they might get more involved. As we offer more activities, we will post them to our Henley Middle School Students page under Clubs, Activities, and Enrichment. In the coming weeks, and as the second semester starts, check back often. We also welcome your ideas as to what offerings might interest our diverse student groups.

Finally, we have our first of two holiday breaks.  As I reflect on my early months as principal, I am thankful for our entire school community and for the joy that your students bring to my everyday experience. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing you at our December events.

Going On and Ongoing

How often do you hear the expression, “time flies”? I have decided that, yes, it does, and so the best response we can have is to fly with it!  And so our Henley School Community has done just that in the first nine weeks of the 2015-16 school year.  Your children have been amazing and their energy has  ignited our hallways and learning spaces.  I hope they share with you daily that they enjoy coming to Henley; our goal is to make our school somewhere that they can’t wait to get to!

Since the beginning of the school year, we have been working to integrate interactive technologies into our curriculum, assessment, and instruction. Now that every student has a laptop, we are able to strengthen our practices and align students’ experience from grades six through eight. While we expect growing pains along the way, our teachers and staff are comfortable “failing up,” as it sends a message to students that we are all lifelong learners, we will make mistakes, and we will learn and persevere as a result.

We strive for continuous improvement.  Henley continues to be a school of excellence, yet, we are always looking for ways to improve our environment for students.  One of the most important instructional design strategies that we have been employing as a school community is movement in the classroom.  Our students need mental and physical breaks throughout the day and so our teachers have worked hard to incorporate “brain breaks” into each period so that students can take a few moments to refresh and refocus.  As adults, we may take this practice for granted; as facilitators, we have to make this an explicit part of what we do.  Our kids have already noticed a difference in their stamina and their engagement.  Ask your students how they have been able to refocus throughout the day!

There have been a number of other instructional design challenges that teachers have been taking head on.  For example, many teachers are creating opportunities for students to deepen their learning with questions that they are interested in pursuing.  Our seventh grade Science teachers introduced, “Wonder Why,” a creative spin from the popular genius hour strategy where students have time to answer questions of their own design.

Our next BIG opportunity to display and exhibit student work will be our annual EXPO.  I want to call your attention to its new date MARCH 30, 2016.  Stay tuned for more details about this event and the phenomenal artifacts that will be on display as evidence of the learning work our students have done.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the progress occurring with our new physical education learning center.  I am hoping the students can help us come up with something unique we can call it…it’s not just a gym, so what is it??  In any event, our new space is scheduled to be completed by Spring Break and we want to ensure the “ribbon cutting” gets the attention it needs, from both the students and the community.

I could consume this entire newsletter with the stories of Henley, our students, our teachers, and our successes!  I can’t wait to see what is next for our school community.  Thank you again for partnering with us for our students’ success.  It’s so important that we are in this together. Here’s to continued exploration of our passions!

Beth Costa, principal

Henley Happenings:1-2-3

Dear Henley Parents & Guardians:

The first happening I would like to share is actually an informational item and a request for supplies.  New to Henley and Western Albemarle this year is a teacher who serves as a Learning Technology Integrationist or (LTI).  Gene Osborn has begun working with many of our students in the Blue Sparks Space during Tuesday and Friday STING classes. Gene works with both teachers and students, identifying needs and areas for passion based learning with technology.  When he met with the students for the first time, he asked them, “What are you passionate about?” and “What do you want to make?”  Their responses prompted the creation of this Amazon Wish List (http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3HI1J6NSCTSKV/ref=cm_wl_list_o_1).

What students will now do is research and engage in the creative process to make those products that they have brainstormed.  Here is where we could use your help. If you could take a moment and look over the wish list, you’ll notice that some of these items are consumable and will be used for specific projects and others are tools that can be used over and over as we explore Maker Education with students.

Last week, for example, Western Albemarle’s Aviation Club worked in the back fields flying drones and other hovercraft that were students’ own creations.  We see lots of potential for the maker curriculum and hope that you can support our students by purchasing an item on the wish list and having it sent to Henley.

You will be able to see what students created at our EXPO Night in March.  Students will be on hand to demonstrate their product, what they have learned, and what they would like to do next.  It should be GREAT!  Thank you in advance for your support.

The second happening I would like to share is that our first Henley Huddle on November 18 from 6:30-7:30 will be on MINDSET.  If you can join us, please RSVP by clicking on this link and letting us know how many will attend.  I have also included an option for you to share how you learn. Our instructional design will include opportunities for differentiated learning and we learn more about developing a more flexible mindset with and in our learners. I hope to see you next week.  If you cannot make it, I will be sure to include some resources on our website so that you can understand more about what we are doing here at Henley to support our students.

The third and final happening is that you have a unique opportunity to provide input for Albemarle County Public Schools’ technology plan.  Since 2003, data from over 2.6 million SpeakUp surveys have been shared with local, state, and national leaders. Staff, student, and parent opinions are used each year to help make decisions about how to improve education at schools around the country.  The division will use the data to inform and measure our work related to our educational technology plan as well as professional development programming.  Our staff members are taking the survey, and over the next several weeks, your child will have an opportunity to take this survey as well.

We want you to share your input, too. This brief survey, which takes about 20 minutes, will inform our school division on topics of technology availability and use in Henley households. Your participation in the survey would be greatly appreciated.

The link to the survey is http://www.speakup4schools.org/speakup2015.     Our “secret word” is acps15.

Thank you in advance for your participation in this helpful survey.  The survey closes on December 11th.