• Time Matters

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 10/12/2017

    Time Matters

    According to research reported in Wong and Wong (1998), the typical teacher consumes 90 percent of allocated instructional time. Consider what would be the loss if teachers gave students the last five minutes of each class period as free time each day. Those five minutes per day over a 180-day school year would amount to more than 17 days of lost instruction. Of all the limited resources in education, perhaps none has a larger impact on student achievement than time.

    The best teachers, of which Brewton has many, always have a sense of urgency about instruction. They don’t worry about having enough material to fill the time, but instead whether or not they will have enough time to cover all of the material.

    Equally important to the amount of time spent on instruction is how effectively that time is used. A well-trained, highly motivated teacher not only utilizes all of the available time, but will also strive to improve the quality of instruction through professional development and personal growth. Increasing the efficiency of student learning is ever present in their classrooms.

    Observations throughout Brewton City Schools validate the emphasis that teachers put on both the quantity and quality of instruction. Our teachers work hard to maintain the Tradition of Excellence by challenging students with well planned, thought provoking lessons that utilize the entire class periods.

    And because our teachers make the efficient use of time such a priority, it’s a great time to be a TR Miller Tiger!

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  • Summer Learning

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 7/26/2017

    Many students see summer as a relaxing break from the stresses of homework and school. Indeed, children need time to be exactly what they are – children. Research shows, however, that while gaps in student achievement remain relatively constant during the school year, the gaps widen significantly during the summer.  This phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer is known as the Summer Learning Loss.

    Studies report that youth typically lose about two months of math skills over the summer. A digression in reading skills is also common during the summer, particularly among low-income youth. Over time these reading and math losses can add up.

    To combat the summer learning loss, it is important for parents to engage their children in summer learning activities. Reading over the summer is a fun and inexpensive way for children to exercise their brains and grow intellectually. The Brewton Public Library is a wonderful local resource that offers an abundance of material for any interest area.

    Additionally, enrichment opportunities abound for students to be exposed to things that are not part of their everyday lives. Taking your child to a zoo, museum, or minor league baseball game are excellent and enjoyable ways to enhance your child’s personal experiences. Summer plays, concerts, and the beach are more examples of enriching activities. Not only will these activities assist children in growing into well-rounded adults, but they also facilitate families spending quality time together.

    As you plan the remainder of your summer, recognize that enjoyable and enriching summer learning experiences can be an important part of your child’s development.

    It’s a great time to be a TR Miller Tiger!

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  • Lessons from the Ant

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 4/6/2017

    “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.” (Proverbs 6:6-8)

    It’s amazing that one of God’s smallest creatures can become one of His greatest teachers. The metaphor of the ant provides us a simple model of success that involves initiative, work ethic and persistent determination.

    Ants have an attitude of initiative and don’t need a commander to tell them to get started. They work faithfully and need no outside accountability to keep them working. When the anthill gets disturbed, they immediately begin the task of repairing the damage. They work diligently until the task is complete, and they do it as often as the task is required.

    Good teachers demonstrate these same attributes. They arrive early, stay late and often work from home to complete the task at hand. They display a tireless dedication to the success of both their students and their school. Like the ant, their commitment is not dependent on the accountability provided by the administration, but rather is borne from within. Like the ant, inspiration can be found in the initiative, work ethic and determination of our many wonderful teachers.

    It’s a great time to be a TR Miller Tiger!

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  • Dr. Seuss, A Story of Perservance

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 3/1/2017

    “Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than the unsuccessful person with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." - Calvin Coolidge

    This Thursday, as we do each March 2nd, students from all three campuses and members of the community will join together to celebrate Read Across America Day. This nationwide observance to promote reading among children coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss, arguably the greatest children’s book writer of all times.

    The story of Dr. Seuss is one of persistence. In 1937, Dr. Seuss completed his first book titled “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” His book was then rejected by 27 different publishers before Random House finally agreed to publish his work. He could have easily given up, but his persistence resulted in a long list of children’s books that are as popular today as they were when they were written.

    In honor of his persistence and his commitment to children’s literature, the Brewton City School System is proud to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday as part of Read Across America Day. We are thankful to all the parents and community members who volunteer to read books to our students as part of this event.

    It’s a great time to be a TR Miller Tiger!

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  • Sharpen Your Axe

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 2/1/2017

    Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” President Lincoln understood that people who excel take time to sharpen their skills. They never stop developing, growing, learning and improving. It takes more than desire to excel – it takes skill and preparation. Therefore, you are never wasting your time when you’re sharpening your axe.

    Teaching is a dynamic profession that requires teachers to continually update their professional skills. Teachers regularly attend professional development sessions in order to stay current on educational trends and pedagogy practices, and also to keep up with the rapid and continuous changes in technology. Teachers who do not continually grow become stagnant and unproductive in the classroom.

    Educators are constantly involved in ongoing professional training related to the ever-increasing academic standards, the integration of technology, and curriculum delivery updates.   School safety and discipline, character education, and sportsmanship are other areas where teachers must grow so they can better address the needs of their students. In order to have effective school leaders, it is also necessary to have teachers involved in professional development related to becoming a school administrator.

    Ongoing and meaningful professional development is an essential part of the culture of an effective school. Educators must constantly sharpen their proverbial “axe” to effectively serve students. The motto of Brewton City Schools, therefore, is as equally applicable to teachers as it is to students. Indeed, it is essential that “Everybody Learns, Everyday!”

    It’s a great time to be a TR Miller Tiger!

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  • Loss Within the School Family

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 11/10/2016

    Today’s educators are charged with so much more than just teaching reading and math. They teach children to express their individuality while conforming to social norms. They teach tolerance and respect for those who are different than them. Educators are expected to teach students how to eat healthy and exercise. They teach students sportsmanship and character. They teach students how to be humble winners and gracious losers.   They model for students how to celebrate appropriately. Unfortunately, they sometimes have to teach students how to grieve.

    Brewton City Schools suffered a terrible loss in the death of TR Miller student Devontay Murray last week. In a small town like Brewton, these losses have a significant impact on large numbers of people. But in a small town like Brewton, people tend to pull together and support each other as they work through difficult situations.

    John Donne stated in his Meditation 17 “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Donne uses this metaphor to illustrate that every individual is a part of mankind, and any death therefore diminishes mankind. Indeed, just as who we are as a community increases with each birth or relocation to our community, so does it decrease with each life that passes.

    Devontay will be missed at TR Miller, but he will always be remembered as someone who enjoyed coming to school and was always happy to be part of the Brewton City School System. May God comfort his family, teachers and classmates as they remember him.

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  • The Butterfly Effect

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 10/14/2016

    The Butterfly Effect is an expression used to describe how small actions can affect large, seemingly unrelated systems through a complex series of events, each one larger but dependent on the smaller event that preceded it. The term comes from the suggestion that the tiniest movement of air generated by the flapping of a butterfly's wings on one continent could, through a series of increasing events, affect the weather on another continent.

    In education, good teachers spend every day hoping that the events that transpire in those 60-minute class periods will somehow change someone for a lifetime. They realize that a single, simple act of kindness or encouragement when a student is at some seemingly insignificant fork in the road may forever change that student’s path in life. It may be the high-five in the hallway, allowing a few extra minutes on a test, or a simple smile that influences a student’s attitude or choices in life.

    Teachers may never know how one of their simple actions, through some long and unpredictable chain of events, will influence the kind of husband, grandmother, inventor, politician, or citizen their student will become. But the best teachers always realize what an awesome and humbling opportunity they have to influence others with their actions, knowing that the tiniest impact may set into motion a chain of events that changes someone’s life forever.

    Great advice can be found in the words of William James: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

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  • Value People, Praise Effort, Reward Performance

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 8/31/2016

    For generations, educators in the United States have been seeking ways to increase student test scores. One popular theory suggests that the best way to improve children’s ability is to puff up their self-esteem. It seems logical, after all, because high achievers tend to have high self-esteem. Researchers, however, have found that simply building children’s egos can breed many negative traits. These include an indifference to excellence, an inability to overcome adversity, and aggressiveness toward people who criticize them. Simply put, if everyone gets a trophy, it incentivizes mediocrity.

    At the same time, it is important not to allow one’s self-worth to be diminished because of a comparison to others. Neglecting to recognize and reinforce the effort put forth can often result in an indifferent attitude by children. Indeed, the balance between building self-esteem and only rewarding success can often be a difficult and slippery slope to navigate.

    Obviously, society tends to place a high value on praising people – especially children. But it’s equally important that the praise be based on truth. Disingenuous praise communicates to the person that you do not value them enough to see their praise-worthy qualities. If you truly value someone, however, you will not have difficulty finding legitimate characteristics or efforts that are worthy of praise.

    Here is a simple and effective strategy to use in distributing praise: Value people, praise effort, reward performance.   This strategy allows for the rewarding of excellence and incentivizing success. It allows for praise to be liberally applied where appropriate. Furthermore, it emphasizes that no matter where we fail or how many mistakes we make, it should never devalue our worth as a person. For as the saying goes, “God uses people who fail – cause there aren’t any other kinds around.”

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  • Talent, or Hard Work

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 8/16/2016

    Have your heard anyone say that an individual is a natural teacher or has a natural gift for teaching? Although meant as a compliment, it fails to give credit for how difficult it is to be a great teacher. Good teaching, the kind found in most of our classrooms, is incredibly hard work. It is physically, intellectually and emotionally demanding.

    A good teacher’s day usually starts early. They spend the majority of the day on their feet, moving from kid to kid, listening, applauding, and helping. There may be few or no bathroom breaks! In their few minutes of planning time, good teachers communicate with parents and collaborate with colleagues. They often leave late in the afternoon packing a bag filled with the evening’s work, and Sunday afternoons are frequently devoted to the next week’s planning.

    The intellectual demands on a teacher are equally demanding. With a continually evolving curriculum, the knowledge base specific to high-quality instruction constantly grows. New technology emerges daily. The expectations for teaching varied learning styles and levels are ever increasing.

    With all that is expected of teachers, it is a wonder that people still choose teaching as a profession. Yet in our community, we are staffed with great teachers who embrace the challenges of the profession and typify what a great teacher should be. They may possess wonderful talents, but they also work extremely hard to insure the success of their students. As we prepare to send your children back to school, we can do so with great confidence in the talented and hard working teachers that eagerly await their arrival.

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  • The Rearview Mirror

    Posted by Kenneth Varner on 6/22/2016

    Have you ever stopped to consider why your windshield is so big and your rearview mirror is so small? The answer is obvious: what’s in front of you is much more important than what is behind you. What has already happened, whether good or bad, is beyond one’s ability to control. The future, however, is yet to be written and is therefore well within one’s ability to influence.

    Our past is special and unique because it belongs only to us. It should be relished for the true treasure that it is. It is important, however, that influential people in our lives and our community are forward thinking, that they are even more passionate about the days to come, and that they embrace the future with excitement and enthusiasm.

    The past year at Brewton City Schools was filled with many successes. Scholarships were awarded, championships were won, community service was conducted, concerts were held, original art was produced, and traditions were restored. But rather than rest on our laurels, we must work diligently to prepare for what will always be the most important school year - the one on which we are preparing to embark. It is that unwritten future that we have the ability and obligation to craft and influence.

    Brewton City Schools will always be successful because of the positive attitude and optimistic spirit of those challenged with leading our students into a bright future. Our rearview mirror will display a constant reminder of past success, but our commitment to maintaining that tradition of excellence keeps our focus squarely on the road that lies ahead.

    It’s a great time to be a TR Miller Tiger!

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