Be Your Own Superlative

As delivered at the Rising Up Ceremony on June 9, 2017…

Good morning and welcome to our 2016-17 Henley Rising Up Ceremony,

Thank you families, students, teachers, and staff. We are here today to celebrate another milestone in our children’s lives. We appreciate all you have done to support these amazing young people.

I would like to acknowledge our families for all of their love, time, and commitment. You encouraged our students to do their best, high-fived them when they achieved, and stood beside them when they failed. When it was time to get back up, you held out a hand and they ROSE.

I would like to acknowledge our faculty and staff, not only the 8th grade team who worked tirelessly to deliver high quality instruction, to teach content, skills and understanding, and to support, mentor, and enrich the lives of our 274 students, but also the 6th and 7th grade teachers, cafeteria, office, and custodial staff, our guidance counselors and the countless others who work to do whatever it takes for kids.

I would also like to acknowledge each and every one of our students. You have breathed life into these halls for three years. You cared for each other, you worked hard, and you challenged us to give you all that you could handle. We hope you are proud of who you have become. You did well.

I took a small poll yesterday about how many boxes of tissues we may need for today’s event and the 8th graders looked at me as if I had sprung a second head! They have been waiting for this day for days, maybe even months, and they are anxious to transition to high school, to enter into that new and fresh part of their lives. We did all we could to get them ready and we have to have faith that we send them with the skills, the hopes, and the desire to become their best selves.

While it has been a long time since I was in middle school (and I will thank you all, 8th grade, to not ask how long:), I’d like to share a memory of my own middle school years. I remember a point in my life when I started to be more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Learning had been something that came easily…I usually caught on to new concepts quickly and I was experiencing success as both a swimmer and a soccer player.

And yet, inevitably, there is a time when that changes and it did. I was driving home with my mother from a summer swim meet and I had just gotten beaten by a rival competitor. I wasn’t feeling great. My mom tried her usual pitch to cheer me up and finally stated, “Be your own superlative.” Don’t compare yourself to others, compete against yourself.

Now, let me pause by saying that I did prep our students at yesterday’s awards ceremony by asking them if they knew what a superlative is…they were mostly familiar because of the yearbook class’ tradition of putting out the “Best of the Class” honors, like Best Smile, Best Sense of Humor, etc.

So, to expand on that idea, a superlative is a comparison suggesting the highest quality of an adjective or adverb. For example, strong is an adjective and strongest is its superlative because it indicates the highest degree of strength. Likewise with prepared and most prepared.

“Be your own superlative” is an important piece of advice that I would like to pass on to you, Henley Class of 2017. It is often our habit as humans to compare ourselves to or compete against others. It is in this way that we “size each other up,” yet it is in this way that we begin to gain or lose confidence in our own abilities. For example, if you work really hard to earn a B in Algebra and hear that a student got an A, our inner voice may tell us that he/she is smarter than us. Today I challenge you to stop comparing yourselves to others. Do not become someone else’s superlative, but rather, be your own.

Let me just take one more minute to point out the gains you make when you do this. Each of us is an individual who has differing strengths, interests, passions, and areas for growth. We do not learn at the same rate or in the same way. We don’t develop in step with one another, but in our own way and in our own time.

So, as you “rise up” to 9th grade, take some time to learn more about yourself, your interests, your passions, and your areas for growth. Pursue things that you do not want to stop doing and set goals for yourself based on what you want to accomplish. Do not look at others and say they are better, smarter, happier, or more successful. Look within you and challenge yourself to get better at something you love, learn more about something that interests you, be happier because you take time to appreciate who you are, and be more successful because you are not comparing yourself to others, but improving your own self. AND, remember you is good, so celebrate you, all you have accomplished at Henley and all you will become at Western (or your high school destination) and beyond. We love you all and wish you the very best as you take this next step in your life. Come back and visit; you’ll always have a place here.

 

 

Henley Happenings-April 27

Dear Henley Families,

We are making our final push toward the end of the 2016-17 school year. I marvel how time can go by slowly and quickly at the same time! I wanted to share a couple of things with you this evening:

  1. Final day to make course overrides is tomorrow. Please double check your child’s recommendations to ensure that he/she is appropriately placed. This is so important for us to know early.
  2. Henley Summer Camp will be held June 26th-July 14th. Our teachers are planning an engaging project and passion based experience for our students. We are also offering an Algebra 1 BOOT CAMP. We are offering a three week course (same dates) to boost students’ confidence and ability in mastering the concepts in Algebra 1. It will be offered for both students who have taken the Alg 1 course already and for those who are going from Math 7 to Alg 1 (rising 9th graders MAY attend). Contact Matt Hopewell, summer school principal (mhopewell@k12albemarle.org) for more information. Conversationally, a rising 8th grader recommended for Pre-Alg Math 8 who takes the Boot Camp course could be ready for Alg 1 next school year. We will make an exception to the course override deadline for those students.
  3. Next week we will hold grades 6-8 Town Hall Meetings. Our focus is on finishing strong! Please talk with your child about the basic tenets of respect-respect for self, respect for adults, respect for peers, and respect for our Henley environment. We will be reiterating these basic principles and working on keeping the culture at Henley kind and welcoming for all stakeholders. We will be sending home a document next week for you to review with your child(ren).
  4. Please don’t forget to check your Parent Portal. Teachers update grades, at minimum, every two weeks. Your child’s teacher should be in touch if there are any problems; however, the Portal is an excellent resource for keeping up to date on your child’s progress.
  5. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week! I know PATSO has requested gift cards for their daily drawings, but there are dozens of other ways to show our teachers that we appreciate all they do for our students and school community. I am sure that they would love a hand written note or email that shares how they have made a difference.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.  It is a daily pleasure to be with your child(ren) at Henley.

Best,

Beth Costa, principal

Henley Happenings

Dear Henley Families,

We hope you had a great weekend! As you know the 1st semester ended on Friday; your child’s teachers were busy completing grades and planning for the second semester. We hope this second semester is even better than the first.

Just a couple of informational items:

  1. While we are only just starting the second semester, it is also time to select classes for next year! Rising 7th and 8th grade students will start meeting with our school counselors and admin team to pick electives. Please have your child bring his/her elective sheet (with your signature) to school tomorrow.
  2. If you would like to review the timeline for registration and scheduling, please visit our Henley School Counseling webpage.
  3. The UVA Women’s Basketball team is hosting a “Henley Day” on Sunday February 12th.  The game starts at 2pm and they are playing against Wake Forest.  This is a free event for students and parents/guardians can receive two free tickets.  The permission slip due date has been extended to Tuesday January 24th.  At the game there will be opportunities for students to participate: ball boys/girls, making a tunnel for the team to run through as they enter the court and much more!
  4. Our Henley Huddles for the next several weeks will focus on Acts of Kindness or The Great Kindness Challenge. We continue to work on helping students develop the Social/Emotional Intelligence that they need to be successful at school and with each other. Ask your child how they are showing kindness toward others throughout the day.
  5. For 8th grade families: The staff of the ECHO (yearbook) would like to offer you an opportunity to capture forever these important years in a more personal format than the typical yearbook mug shot. We will be selling personal ad space for you to create a custom remembrance of your son or daughter. Your ad can be as simple as a note of love or appreciation or as bold as a photographic essay of your child’s life. The ECHO staff will work with you to create any layout that suites your needs. You may purchase a simple 2” x 2” block of space, an entire page (12 blocks), or any combination thereof. For more information, please visit the PARENTS page on our Henley Website. The deadline for ads is 2/22.

As we enter the 2nd semester, I want you to know that I value your feedback and partnership! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or ideas.

 

Best,

Beth Costa, principal

Happy New Year’s…Again!

As a school leader, I get excited by two new years a year…the start of the school year and the start of the new calendar year. As I shared with students, it is a time for an important pause for reflection. How is it going? What have we accomplished? What do we still need to do? How will we do it?

This week we are having our quarterly Town Hall meetings, grade level meetings designed to check in with students and bring the school community together. I hope you ask your child about our discussions. Some of the topics will surround our important R2C2 values (Respect, Responsibility, Community, Creativity). Other topics will involve the upcoming scheduling process (can you believe it’s already time). I enjoy getting together in our Town Hall Meetings and hope that they give us the opportunity to connect with each other and share important information. I will let you know how it goes!

Henley Happenings: October 25

Dear Henley Families,

Can you believe it’s almost November! As we near the end of the first nine weeks, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information:

  • Thursday is the end of the 1st nine weeks. Teachers will have a work day on Friday (10/28) to finalize and enter grades and plan for the 2nd nine weeks. I will send out an email when grades have been “stored” in Parent Portal for the first quarter.
  • Henley’s Annual Halloween Party is this week! The Henley Creepy Crawl will be held on Thursday, October 27th from 4:05-6:00. There will be games, music, a Haunted Classroom and more!
    • This party is a PATSO fundraiser. All proceeds go right back to the school. Admission is $5 and all games and food are $1. Small bills for payment are appreciated.
    • WE NEED YOUR HELP to make this party fun, safe, as well as a successful fundraiser. Many of you have already signed up to donate time or concessions. Thank you! We are in need of more volunteers to run the games or clean up after the dance. If we do not fill the volunteer spots for activities, then we will have to cancel things like the Cupcake Walk, Trick or Treat Transfer, and The Movie Room. Please consider signing up because the students really enjoy ALL of the activities!
    • Please email Dianna Gibson (Dianna@tribegibson.com) or Ames Winter (ames_cville@yahoo.com)
    • Halloween costumes are allowed for the dance (or “blackout”). Students may change into their costumes after school before going to the dance.
  • The Student Council Association (SCA) will be hosting their annual Halloween Costume Contest on Monday, 31 October. Students may wear costumes to school. No masks or clown costumes, please.
  • Activity Period was moved on our calendar to Monday, 31 October from 3-4. Our Entrepreneurship class will be selling Scott Pops and other concessions. Please bring small bills.
  • We have started a Positive Behavior Support with OUTDOOR LUNCH! Once a week we will allow interested students to eat outdoors. Last week 8th graders had a BLAST. This week 6th and 7th students can eat outdoors one day. We wanted to recognize their positive behavior at lunch and students have indicated that they love this opportunity for some extra time outdoors. We do keep the lunch room open for students who do not want to eat outside.
  • This week’s Henley Huddle was our annual Peer Support Nomination Each fall since 2010, we have asked students in grades 4-12 to voluntarily make their school counselors aware of classmate(s) who may be victims of bullying. This Peer Support Nomination process is a vital piece of bullying prevention at our schools. We conduct the peer support nomination in the fall to reach students in need of support early, making help available to them throughout the school year. A copy of the full letter, which details our complete process, will be placed on our Henley Website under the parent tab.
  • From our School Librarian Mrs. Guerrant: 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, & 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/speakup2016 .Our “secret word” is acps2016.
    • Thank you in advance for your participation in this helpful survey.  The survey closes on December 16th.

I know that was a lot. Thank you so much for a phenomenal nine weeks…we value your partnership in your child’s (childrens’) learning!

 

Beth Costa, principal

New Year’s Resolution

Happy New Year! I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our newest Hornets, our returning students, our staff, and the official beginning of my second year as Henley Middle School principal. I am excited for all of the possibilities that a new school year brings! I have a couple of New Year’s Resolutions and I would like for you to think about what you would like to accomplish this year and what it would “look like” to say you met your goal.

In just a few days we will kick off our teacher pre-service week. Teachers will be preparing their rooms, designing learning for students, and collaborating around our big ideas for the year. Last year we looked a lot at movement in the instructional block and we have a strong foundation from which to build our work this year. In addition, a cohort of our teachers participated in the Buck Institute’s Project based Learning Professional Development, so we will take some time as a staff to consider how best to build that our so that all students may have similar learning experiences.

I look forward to seeing many of you on August 22nd at our annual Open House. The format is fluid and flexible; we don’t organize any events, but allow our students to walk their schedules, meet their teachers, and get acclimated back to school before the first day.

If students cannot make it to the Open House, I look forward to welcoming you on Tuesday, 23 August. One big change that you can expect is that we have moved STING. STING and recess are now between third and fourth period. I didn’t want you to be surprised on the first day; we will take some time review the entire schedule upon your return. If you are a little nervous about the first day, you are not alone. I am, too!

If I can do anything to help make this year your best one yet, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at school. See you soon!

 

Beth Costa, principal

Quiet Halls

While the buzz continues with our summer school program, the halls are generally quiet and I find myself anxiously waiting for the start of the school year. I will take some time in the coming weeks to share what we are doing to prepare for the 2016-17 school year!

Henley Happenings: March

We have been hard at work here at Henley and I can’t believe that we will soon be ending our third nine weeks and beginning the last quarter of the 2015-16 school year! Your children have been diligently preparing for our student learning showcase at our annual EXPO Night; it has been an amazing first experience for me. I hope to see many parents and community members this Wednesday evening. Following our EXPO Night, our students will share their special talents at our Henley Talent Show.

I’d also like to share an outstanding student accomplishment that occurred in the extracurricular realm. Our Nerd Herd competed in the Super Regional competition two weekends ago and won nine first place awards to earn an overall Super Regional Title. Go NERD HERD!! They are now planning their trip to compete in the World Competition in St. Louis, MO. We wish them the best of luck. This is an amazing feat! We’ve been anxiously waiting for the green light to open our newest classroom.

On April 15th, we will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new FITNESS Facility. The new facility will change the scope of middle school fitness, and we can’t wait for you to see what’s in store for your child in the coming months. The ribbon cutting will be in the morning during school and we will offer a Community Open House in the evening. Be on the lookout for more details.

In May we will begin our SOL and other end-of-the-year testing. Please help your child feel prepared each day with plenty of sleep, a balanced breakfast, and a prepared mind. Our teachers will be working to help them with curriculum reviews, test readiness strategies, and other mindfulness techniques to reduce stress. On the flip side, we will have many field trips and excursions to support experiential learning and to celebrate the end of the year. It will pass quickly, so enjoy every day!

We have a lot to be proud of at Henley this year! Ask your child, “What has been the most impactful learning you have done and what are you looking forward to the most as we draw to a close?” I wonder what they will say? Thank you for your partnership in your child’s education. I have enjoyed every day working with your child and am excited by all of the fun things ahead!

Positive Behavior and School Pass System

I would like to take this opportunity to explain our new Positive Behavior System and School Pass System. I know I am sharing a lot of information at once; however, it is critical that you know the why and what of these two new approaches.

WHAT:

The Positive Behavior System that begins on Monday is designed with learning at its core. From a developmental aspect, our students are doing EXACTLY what they should be doing. They are well adjusted 11-14 years old boys and girls. This can be an exceptionally difficult time in their lives, and we feel this new structure will provide more support.

In order to be more explicit and purposeful in our teaching of the “social and emotional” curriculum, we created this system to proactively handle the behaviors that, while normal, can cause disruption in and to the learning environment. Previously, teachers would use “short forms” to alert students to inappropriate behavior. Moving forward, we are experimenting with new techniques that support the behaviors we want to see and help students regulate and control the behaviors that need to change. For example, our teachers are incorporating movement in the classroom, mindfulness techniques, and a growth mindset  approach to learning. These strategies should support positive behavior in upwards of 90-95 % of our students.

For students who need extra support in the classroom, we have the ReFocus Room. This room is not In School Suspension, but rather a quiet area to reflect and refocus attention in order to be more successful in the classroom. We have a Teaching Assistant in the room at all times working with students on regulating themselves and re-entering the classroom after he/she has been sent to the Refocus Room. We expect the ReFocus Room to be used for short periods of time when a break is needed, thereby reducing the number of disruptions to the classroom. Because the concept of refocusing shifts the control to the student, he/she will no longer receive a discipline referral or DR. Our goal is to teach students to develop positive behaviors and change those that interfere with their learning and the learning of others.

NOTE: Serious infractions that compromise safety and well-being will continue to be dealt with swiftly and seriously.

With a similar purpose, we instituted a school-wide pass system. Your child may have told you about it already. We had a Henley Huddle and grade level Town Hall Meetings to share the purpose of the new pass system and to ensure that students had the same information about it. The goal of the new pass system is to build consistency among teachers and students and account for their whereabouts in the building. It is not about control, but about consistency.

The system does require students to use a generic pass to move throughout the building. Students CAN get a new pass if necessary AND we are absolutely allowing them to use the facilities whenever and as often as they need. It is very important I repeat those two things, as students get very anxious about not being able to get a drink or use the bathroom and I NEVER want them to think that these things incur any penalty!!

WHY: Some of the why has been explained above. The main WHY is to keep teaching and learning at the core of what we do. Recognizing that what we teach extends far beyond content, we want to be more proactive and supportive of students so that they learn appropriate skills and behaviors in a safe and nurturing environment.

We are implementing these two new systems now because they are fairly important culture shifts and we need time to work out the “kinks” before unveiling the system next year. We want to know what works and doesn’t work so we can have the best system in place for the 2016-17 school year.  Change is not always easy, so please be aware that we are always working and studying our practices to make sure they are best for students.

WHEN: This system will be in place for the remainder of the year. We will dedicate time during our Henley Huddles to explain and explore the Positive Behavior System so that everyone hears the same messages. We expect to learn a lot in the coming weeks; we will likely make some mistakes, but as long as we remain student-centered, we feel this approach better supports their development and well being.

Feedback is critical, so please encourage your child to share his/her thoughts with us. Parents are invited to do the same.

 

Looking Forward…

PRINCIPAL’S MESSAGE

At this time of year, it’s always fascinating to me to be just hitting a mid-year stride while preparing and planning for our next school year! We recently took small teams to each of our elementary feeder schools and met with next year’s sixth graders. They were eager to hear more about Henley, ask questions about their classes and our schedule, and hear from their former elementary school peers about electives, STING, and life before and during the transition. We had a GREAT time with them.

Meanwhile, back at Henley our teams are busily preparing to meet with rising 7th and 8th grade students about their course selections for next year. We recently asked students about the courses offered at Henley and were pleased to hear that the majority of them feel we are offering the appropriate number of engaging electives from which they can choose. In the coming years, we will look to maintain a balance of electives that interest students and support the learning work that they want to do. If you have any questions about dates and courses, please check our Henley Middle School website, as we have developed a transition page under our Counseling tab to improve communications with our families.

Now, we’ve still got a lot of time left in this school year, and lots of activities taking place at Henley.  We’re getting ready to celebrate spirit week next week, which always culminates with hard fought student/faculty basketball and volleyball games.  The second semester will bring National History Day, the Science Fair, EXPO Night, our ACPS Spelling Bee and much more. Please note the change in our EXPO Night to March 30. We are busily planning for our annual student showcase; be on the lookout for more information about the schedule of events. SAVE THE DATE: EXPO Night would not be the same without you.

Finally, our new gym facility is almost complete and we anxiously await the ribbon cutting ceremony and community open house (dates to be announced). As you may know, but it’s worth repeating, our new facility will be one of a kind with a turf field, fitness center, outdoor fitness area, and learning commons. Henley Middle School is paving the way for innovation in middle school physical education and fitness for life!

I look forward to a strong second semester. Thank you for your partnership in your child’s education.