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I Love Lunch Duty… for real!

I know what you’re thinking…surely, I jest. But, I promise – I love lunch duty!

As an elementary school assistant principal – lunch duty was my least favorite time of day and I usually left lunch with elevated blood pressure and an intense headache. Who can do anything else productive after enduring lunch duty? And then one day at the end of last year, it happened…pure genius came upon me in the middle of another daunting lunch duty!  

I was tired of trying to monitor who was on red and who was on green. I hated putting the kids on red all the time – they needed to talk and socialize. But Lord! It was all just too much. Where the thought came from – well, surely only from the merciful God above – for it came out of the blue and the angels sang! 

Silent Minute! 

Pure Genius.

Once every five minute the kids have a silent minute. No talking to anyone – including adults. Once the minute is over, they go back to using soft voices. At first, I started watching the clock and announcing silent minute myself. 

It worked – but it needed a little more. If I wasn’t in the lunchroom, it didn’t happen and we all know the kiddos need consistency. Wheels turning… then bam! 

I recorded myself on my iPhone announcing “This is a silent minute. Turn your voices off. Silent Minute” and then “You may now use soft voices.” I dumped the audio into iMovie with a picture of the lunchroom. I stretched the timing for the picture to 5 minutes and the end of the five minute I added a sound effect audio (like dramatic piano chords). Next, I added the picture again with the “This is a Silent Minute” audio, added the picture again with no audio for 1 minute then, added the picture again with the “You may now use soft voices” audio. Export. Done! 

I uploaded the video to YouTube and shared it with others on lunch duty. We hooked up a cheap Bluetooth receiver to the PA system and waalaa!

So, we survived the end of the school year with the silent minute. But, I knew it could be better. 

Enter Silent Minute 2.0. 

During preplanning, I shared the Silent Minute Video with teachers and instructed them to add teaching the Silent Minute to their students during beginning of the year routines and rituals lessons. 

Then, I transferred my video to my Mac’s iMovie and exported just the audio as an MP3 file. Transferred that into my iTunes and onto an old iPhone4 (the angels are starting to sing again). See before, someone had to restart the video on YouTube each time. Now, I put the “song” on repeat. Connect to the bluetooth receiver and sit back! Aaaaaahhhhhh!

But why stop there? Now, we keep score! Every time the students have a perfect Silent Minute, they get an “X” on the wall. The points start in the first lunch and continue through all the lunches. No competing against other lunches, but one team, one school. We have a chart we keep the daily and weekly totals on – if the kids earn enough X’s, every student earns PBIS points. 

And just like that, our lunch went from an awful time for adults and students to a truly great time together. Visitors jaws drop when they come into the lunchroom and the kids quickly get quiet for a silent minute. Of course, it is always a blast to be standing next to the visitor when your voice broadcasts across the lunchroom and your lips don’t move! 

Try it! You’ll love your lunchroom! The key – Everyone observes the silent minute.  Adults, students, visitors. 

Silent Minute – YouTube version


They Deserve a Fresh Start Too

So, I have this “club” at school. Most of them are boys… ironically, most of their names all start with the same letter, and each relationship I have painstakingly built over the past two years. They are usually referred to by staff as my sons and daughters. And my husband is extremely grateful we have a small home, since I would gladly take each one home! 

Today, hours after I saw him, one of my sons reduced me to tears on my drive home. 

I love his hugs, I love his smile and he stole my heart two years ago. Some days he tells me he loves me, draws me pictures and leaves me sweet notes. When he makes great gains on his reading benchmark, he won’t stop looking until he finds me to show me his hard work! When he is having a less perfect day, he balls his fists and tells me he hates me and hates school – stomping his feet down the hall (I remind him I’m like Jesus and his Mama and will always love him). 

Things got pretty rough at the end of the year and he enjoyed school less and less. But today, during open house he hugged me, grabbed my hand and pulled me down to tell me a secret. His secrets are the best – he tells me secrets all the time and when his mom asks him what he told me, he tells her he can’t tell – it was just for Mrs. White. Of course, I share them with his mom and we giggle over him. This time, he whispered earnestly. It was loud and I couldn’t hear him, so I pulled him into a room where I could hear him. 

He looked up at me and said, “Mrs. White….” He thought for a few seconds then finished with, “THIS year is going to be amazing!” 

I looked at him and my heart melted. I asked him who told him that. He said, “No one. I just know it.”

Instantly, I knew this little man deserves a fresh start. No one should steal this fire he brought with him THIS year! Who cares what happened last year. And God help me, I’m going to do my best to keep it burning for 180 days! 
So…as we start the new year – I beg you to not listen to teachers of a child’s past tell you all about the awful. And teachers of the past, DON’T tell this year’s teachers about the awful! 

They deserve a fresh start too! 

This is your moment for what you were called to. You were called to your student’s lives THIS year. Be the difference. 

Creativity is intelligence having fun! ~Albert Einstein

It is always an amazing thing when we get together to find ways to make learning fun!  What better way than with Google Apps for Education! Coincidentally, I was working in to update my professional profile infographic and when I saved the image – Albert Einstein’s quote popped up!  A perfect quote to sum up today’s learning!

Creativity is intelligence having fun.

~Albert Einstein

Here we are, giving up one of our summer days, totally engaged in learning about Google Apps for Education!  I would call myself a Google Ninja…but the world of Google is always changing.  I have already added several new tools to my Google Ninja Belt!  What’s on my Google Must Have List for 2017-2018 school year?  Read On!

Google Must Have’s and Must Do’s

Share to Classroom Chrome Extension (Here)

This is a serious game changer for Google Classroom Teachers!  Get everyone on the same page – INSTANTLY!!  At any time, you can push pages to your students and their screens will instantly switch to the webpage you pushed them! You can also post announcements, create assignments, or save webpages to post to Classroom later.

Your students will love the Share to Classroom extension too!  Share your webpages with your teacher, without having to type out the whole URL.

Import Slides

So – I’ve done this in PowerPoint.  You’re given a group assignment – everyone is in charge of a couple of slides, you send them into the point person and that person imports the slides into one PowerPoint.  Ugh!  Enter Google Slides.  Simplicity at its finest!

Give the students their assignment, they create a few slides on their own.  You create another Slide deck and share it to the classroom with full edit rights (or push it with your new Share to Classroom Extension!). Students go to your Slide deck and go File>Import Slides.  From there, the students navigate to their deck and down to the slides they want to import.  BAM! Done.

Quizzes in Google Form

Create a Quiz in Forms

OMG!!! I used to create forms and use scripts to calculate my students’ scores.  My how Google has evolved.  Now, click create a form in Drive, click the gear in the top right and click Quizzes.  Turn the Make this a Quiz toggle on and options galore! Click save and start building your quiz.  When you are done, click Answer Key and start marking your answers.  WOW!!! WAY Easier!

What are your favorite Google things to use in the classroom?

Trailblazers… We are meeting the needs of students!

Our gifted children are, for most of their school days, sitting there in a classroom listening to things they’ve already learned.


A friend posted this article on Facebook. What a profound message! I have to admit, I’ve been on both sides…the teacher who felt gift kids were hard to teach, and the parent wondering if my gifted child was having her needs met. 

Schools spend a lot of resources helping our struggling students. We have tons of resources, specialists and programs to support the students and teachers. Kids can get interventions multiple times a week, if not daily. Our gifted students are lucky to get a small segment of time focused on their needs. And our potentially gifted – nothing. 

That is where we differ!  In the Trailblazer Pathway, we can honestly say our gifted and potentially gifted students are getting their needs met! By leveraging resources, teachers, schedules and curriculum, we are providing Trailblazer students with a learning experience unlike anywhere else. We use a “move on when ready” approach to keep the learning fast paced and exciting.  We are not accelerating through to the next grade level materials, but instead opening time in the year to explore areas of interest and learning – because we love to learn! 

Our students have just finished their third week of school. Trailblazer third, fourth and fifth grade classes are already ahead of their counterpart classes. In less than a month, they have already explored writing for global audiences, extended research and presentation methods, engineering, team building, coding, and so much more – in addition to the required curriculum. 

Another unique aspect of the Trailblazer Pathway is that the extension activities and ongoing projects are NOT graded. Students are scored on rubrics and reflections that are shared with parents, but not added to the grade book. Our goal and philosophy is that we learn and explore because we love to learn and explore. 

Here is the BEST part… We had a zero budget! We have literally gotten this initiative off the ground with nothing more than the support of our principal (he has been amazing through this journey and we couldn’t have made this happen without him), our system, our parents and of course our students!!

We are not a magnet school or a charter school. We aren’t a huge metro school with a huge metro budget. We are a public school in a small city with the same struggling budget of most of every other school. 

If you would like to know more, come see us!

Danielle White, Assistant Principal and Trailblazer Coordinator

S. L. Mason Elementary ~Valdosta, GA 


Getting Started with Morning Meetings

This morning I had the opportunity to sit with Mrs. Cooper’s 2nd grade class for their morning meeting. According to Responsive Classrooms, a successful morning meeting has 4 parts:

1. Greeting

2. Sharing

3. Group Activity

4. Morning Message

Since we are just learning about Morning Meetings, we focused on the Greeting and the Morning Message. We sat together on the carpet and turned to great each other by name – we even had a little fun by greeting each other in Spanish!  
Next, we watched a short video. I have created a YouTube playlist with a growing collection of PBIS/Character Education/social skills video clips. We watch the Sharing and Respecting Others Clip.
After we watched the video, we talked about how and when you could share during the Morning Meeting. Mrs. Cooper has a stuffed animal named Chocolate. If you are holding Chocolate, you are sharing and the others are listening. We took turns sharing times we were a “Bear or Moose” (not sharing or respecting others) and where in our school did we have the opportunity to be a Bear/Moose or a Raccoon/Bunny. This was the meat of our Morning Message – Share and respect others, Be a Raccoon or a Bunny today!

I look forward to joining more morning meetings! Let’s share morning meeting ideas to meet the social and emotional needs of our students!
For more information about Resoponsive Classrooms – Check out this quick read: