Relationships are the Foundation

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“You get out what you put in,” is an oft-used phrase when we are encouraging someone to put more effort into an endeavor.  We probably think of it as an admonishment to “try harder,” but last week’s Homecoming celebrations reminded me of how relevant that concept is for fun, or relationships, or anything else, for that matter.

If you had the opportunity to attend Friday’s Homecoming pep rally, you saw lots of people stepping out of their comfort zones to be present in the moment and create a fun event for everyone.  Students, parents, and school personnel all let down their guards and celebrated being in community – and it was a beautiful thing to witness.

One teacher commented, “That was the best homecoming pep rally in which I’ve participated in 25 years!  What FUN!  No one had to be the brunt of jokes or skits, there was lots of energy and lots of laughter!  Thank you!”  A group of students commented, “We’ve never had that much fun at school!”

The Homecoming pep rally is just one example of how our staff pours into developing positive relationships and meaningful opportunities for our students.  It happens every day in small and big ways, and I couldn’t be more thankful to serve with a team of people who understand the importance of relationships and are willing to pour themselves into every moment, every day!


Welcome Back!

I say it every year, but “I love this time of year!”  I’ve been going to school – in one form or another – for the last fifty years, and the opportunity to start fresh every August still invigorates me and fills me with optimism.  It is my hope that every student and every member of the MOC-Floyd Valley faculty and staff feels the same way.  Let’s make this our best year yet!

As the year gets under way, I want to share with you the three areas that we will focus on to fulfill our mission of fostering learning, excellence & civic responsibility.


  • Focusing on
    • Presuming the positive
    • Encouraging and supporting
    • Believing and loving

We have caring people who truly want what is best for every student and every person involved with MOC-Floyd Valley.  The more we keep our focus on building each other up and maintaining our focus on the mission at hand, the more our growth and success we will experience!


  • Focusing on
    • Quality planning for instruction (You-We-I)
    • Quality questioning (You-We-I)
    • Productive energy and engagement in the classroom

By embracing the concept of “productive struggle,” finding the perfect balance between creating challenge, and instilling confidence, our students will develop a growth mindset and will stretch and learn in all situations.


  • Focusing on
    • Being positive & proactive
    • Celebrating daily
    • Focusing on our values

When everyone is “on the same page,” we function at our highest levels.  We will presume the positive of each other, never assume we know what someone else is thinking, and err on the side of providing too much information instead of too little information.  We will also celebrate learning, growing, and living out our mission and values.

I look forward to the journey of another school year and am thankful to be making it with the students, families and educators of MOC-Floyd Valley!

Safety on the Bus

We are fortunate to have a team of drivers who are committed to transporting your children safely to and from school and school activities each day.   We recognize how precious every student is, and want to make sure that we do all that we can to keep them safe – not only in school – but as they travel to and from school.

To that end, our entire transportation team participated in some excellent safety training led by Highway Patrolman, Vince Kurtz and Sioux County Sheriff’s Deputy, Waylon Pollema.  They covered many topics, ranging from expectations for students riding the bus to de-escalating student behaviors to dealing with potential intruders on the bus.

Below are a few things that parents and other drivers can do to help our drivers keep our students safe:

  • NEVER pass a stopped school bus while the stop-arm is extended – from either direction!  This happens more than one might think – both on school grounds and at route stops on town and rural roads.  The fines are steep, and more importantly, lives are at stake!
  • NEVER drive through or park in the bus loading and unloading areas at the buildings during the restricted times.  There is too much congestion and the visibility is far too dangerous!
  • If you need to communicate with a driver, contact the school office or district office and the message will be relayed to the driver via radio.  Drivers have been instructed not to allow anyone other than student passengers on to the bus.  They have also been instructed not to stop and visit with anyone other than student passengers while transporting students.

We also try to clearly communicate student expectations while riding the school bus.  Parents, please review these rules and expectations with your children and encourage them ride safely and respectfully!

MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District Bus Rules & Expectations

A safe, orderly, and respectful environment for everyone is the expectation on the school bus.  Whenever students are riding a school bus, whether on a regular route each day or on a field trip, they are responsible to follow these rules. Parents are urged to encourage good bus riding habits so that the driver may direct his or her attention to the surrounding traffic and to safe loading and unloading procedures.

  1. To ensure safety, the driver must be totally in charge. Students must respond promptly when instructions are given. 
  1. Students are asked to be quiet when the bus stops at railroad tracks.
  1. Animals, oversized objects, glass containers, or any inappropriate materials (i.e. tobacco and related material, alcohol, and other prohibited items) are not allowed on the bus, as designated by School Board Policy.
  1. Students must observe classroom and school-wide expectations as covered by the Student Handbook.  Ordinary conversation is permitted.  Horseplay, unruly behavior, fighting, abusive and obscene language or gestures are unacceptable.  Kicking, hitting, pushing, spitting, yelling or screaming, littering or other inappropriate behaviors are forbidden on the bus, just as they are at school or on the school grounds.
  1. Students must keep feet, backpacks, book bags and other items within the seating areas at all times.  As much as possible, the aisles and stairwell must be clear of items and objects at all times.
  1. All body parts must be kept inside the bus window at all times.
  1. Students must remain seated in the same seat until they are dropped off at their bus stops.  Moving about the bus while it is in motion is unsafe and unacceptable.  A student must move out of a seat promptly if requested to do so by the driver or monitor.
  1. Students will use the emergency door only in cases of emergency.
  1. If a student causes damage to the bus, parents will be expected to pay for that damage.
  1. Regular schedules must be observed. The bus will not wait for tardy students. Students must be at the bus stop 5 minutes before the scheduled pick up time.
  1. Students should get on and off the bus only at their designated stops.
  1. Failure to follow these rules may result in a range of consequences up to and including suspension from transportation.
  • Cameras have been installed and are utilized to maintain order and safety on our buses.


Fostering learning, excellence and civic responsibility through Project-Based Learning

If you could spend two hours per day for about two weeks, trying to answer any question you wanted, what would your question be?  That was the opportunity given to MOC-Floyd Valley High School students last month.  Below are a few of the questions that drove student projects during the second annual MOC-Floyd Valley High School Project Based Learning Unit.

 “Can I separate Hydrogen from Oxygen in an electrolysis reaction in order to capture the gas and potentially use it for fuel?”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Can I use my knowledge of drums to create an actual snare drum?” 

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“What are HeLa Cells and how do they affect the world around me?” 

–MOC-Floyd Valley Sophomore

“What alternate endings can I come up with if I change one important detail in a story I write?”

— MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Can we successfully take apart a laptop and desktop computer and put both back together?” 

–MOC-Floyd Valley Freshman

How can we maximize profits for the Raiders4Haiti project with the PBL time given?” 

–MOC-Floyd Valley Sophomore

During this exciting two-week unit, students designed their own projects, defined project supply needs and then completed their projects.  Regular coursework continued during the unit, but students had two hours at the end of each day to work on their projects.  The unit culminated with a Project Exhibition for their fellow students, teachers and community members.  Students received feedback on their projects around creativity, communication and value beyond school.

Projects ranged from cooking, painting, composing music, writing stories, building things, serving the community, producing videos, producing show choir shows, doing science research, restoring tractors, re-building go-karts, making water shoes, learning new instruments and more.

Just as interesting as the student-generated questions are the bits of wisdom they took away from their projects.  Below are several that definitely reflect the world I have come to know:

“It’s ok to fail.” 

MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Measure twice, cut once, and maybe even measure more than twice!”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“The better you plan, the easier it will be and the less mistakes you will make.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Always show others kindness throughout the day.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“Some things are harder than they seem.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“Working with other people is better than working by yourself.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“The way you ask a question can affect the outcome.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Things take time and some figuring out!”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Sophomore

“Communication is key to success.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“Start small and dream bigger as you proceed.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“Painting is harder than it looks and time management is important.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Freshman

“The elderly are a ton of fun to talk with!”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Sophomore

“All things take time and practice, and working together is harder than we thought.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Junior

“Unless all group members are working for the same cause, you’ll never make it.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Freshman

“Everyone has their own strengths as well as weaknesses, and you need to learn how to deal with each one as an individual.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Simple things can make people happy.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“I can be a leader!”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Freshman

“Sometimes the ideas that you think will work, won’t.  You need to have back-up plans when things don’t work or look the way you planned.”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior

“Kindness matters!”

–MOC-Floyd Valley Senior






Important Learning Opportunity for Students, Staff, Parents & Community Members . . .

In November of 2014, Matt Carver, the attorney for the School Administrators of Iowa wrote a column – his third – on the topic of “sexting”-(sending of sexual photos, videos, or messages) by students.  At that time, Matt mentioned that this topic was one of those most frequently brought up by member schools.  In fact, in a two-week period, he had received eight separate calls from different school districts dealing with students and their families embroiled in the issue.  Recently, Matt shared that sexting is more prevalent than ever. 

When you consider the fact that the average American child has his/her first exposure to online pornography by the age of eleven, and you couple that with the rapid changes in technology and how our youth use technology to communicate, it isn’t surprising that society is facing this challenge.  There is no doubt that as parents and educators, we need to understand the implications of this and how we can best guide and support our children. 

That is why the MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District has invited Mr. Aaron Baart – Dordt College, Dean of Chapel to share with students, educators and parents regarding this very important topic of sexuality, pornography, and self-respect in a presentation entitled, “Sexuality and Self Respect.”  Aaron has given presentations in a variety of neighboring school districts to both parents and students.  In addition, local law enforcement officials and Sioux County Sheriff’s Deputy Waylon Pollema will provide students and parents with the legal ramifications that accompany this issue. 

Presentations will be held at MOC-Floyd Valley on Thursday, February 9, 2017 as follows:

·         Grades 9-12- 9:00 – 950 a.m. in the high school auditorium

·         Grades 6-8- 10:15 – 11:10 a.m. in the middle school gymnasium

·         Parents and Community Members- 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium

By opening this conversation with students and continuing it with parents, we hope to bridge the communication gap that often happens surrounding this topic.  We appreciate your support of this endeavor with your planned attendance to the event. 



More about Stretching to Learn . . .

Through an organizational planning process, our leadership team identified “stretching to learn,” as our thematic goal for the year.  It is our belief that if we design our teaching and learning activities around that concept of stretching to learn and embracing productive struggle, our students will learn and grow at the highest possible levels.  This goal has been embraced by teachers, support staff, and students; and the fruits of this approach are showing up in great ways!

Stretching to learn, or productive struggle, goes beyond passive reading, listening or watching.  It builds useful lasting understanding and skills that engage learners in the “whys” and “hows” of life.  Students who are stretching to learn explain their ideas and question solutions that don’t make sense to them.  They take risks and willingly struggle with ideas and concepts that are unclear or incomplete.  They recognize that mistakes are a means to learning and not an end.

Twice a year, a team of administrators, instructional coaches and teachers conduct instructional rounds visits in each building.  We observe teachers and students during instruction and gather evidence of instructional practices that enhance learning.  Because we feel strongly in developing the mindset and skill of stretching to learn, we are making that the focus of this year’s visits. 

We have completed one visit at each building and it is clear that our students have embraced a mindset of stretching to learn and that our teachers and support staff are intentional about challenging students and requiring them to think (struggle).  The key, and one being managed exceptionally well, is keeping that struggle productive – providing the right questions or assistance to keep the student moving forward without robbing them of the opportunity to discover and learn for themselves.

This is summed up well by the words and actions of a student at the middle school during our last instructional rounds visit.  He had been working with a team of his peers to develop a shared Google document that they were going to collaboratively utilize outside of school to complete the class assignment.  The members of his team had differing opinions on how to best accomplish the task.  The teacher had provided enough information for the task to be completed, but had given the students enough responsibility that they were going to have to figure things out (productively struggle).  The student and his teammates persisted and made great progress.  As they were leaving the class, the student thanked the teacher and quipped, “Oh yeah!  We embrace the struggle so we can learn.”

That attitude will serve him well and I am grateful to our team of educators for making it a priority to instill it in all of our students.  We should all be wise enough to “embrace the struggle so we can learn!”



Collectively Embracing Productive Struggle


Is anyone else amazed at how differently two people can see the same situation?  What’s even more amazing is how both can be correct!  Unfortunately, we often get stuck in the middle trying to prove that we are “right” and they are “wrong.”  This is both paralyzing and polarizing – and definitely not productive!

An obvious example of this is occurring in our country right now.  Do black lives matter or do blue lives matter?  The obvious answer is they both do—all lives matter!  That isn’t devaluing the concerns of any one group, it is valuing the concerns of everyone, and hopefully drawing us back to the importance of empathy, and cooperation – through personal responsibility.

Zig Ziglar once said, “Life is like an echo, what you send out comes back.”  I believe this is an accurate statement about human nature, but not about the capacity of humans.  We do have the freedom to choose.  We can choose to consider the opinions and perspectives of others.  We can choose to respectfully share ours, and we can choose to learn and grow together.

In most circumstances, I believe parents, educators, and outside agencies work together in a positive productive manner while trying to meet student needs.  On rare occasions, perspectives differ and the right steps aren’t as clear as we would like.  When this occurs, I pray that we can all presume the positive, move past the idea of right and wrong, and embrace the “productive struggle” that leads to new and better perspectives – and ultimately great things for our children.


Stretching to Learn . . .

Welcome back! 

From Superintendent Russ Adams

It’s that time of year again – a new beginning, a chance to refocus and undertake the important mission of fostering learning, excellence and civic responsibility at MOC-Floyd Valley!

We take this mission very seriously and as we strive to fulfill it this year we will be guided by our thematic goal for the year “Stretching to learn . . .”   As we wrestled with the question, “What is the most important thing we can do to help our students learn at the highest possible levels?” the concept of “stretching to learn . . .” rose to the top.

Over the years, I have written about the importance of a growth mindset and the need for us to cultivate a growth mindset in ourselves and our students.  This concept is not difficult for us to grasp, and most of us intuitively agree with it.  Developing a growth mindset involves more than just the words we speak, however.  We talk about the importance of effort, and we praise students for their thinking and problem-solving, but when we they are struggling, we often come to their aid and short-circuit the learning that could take place.  We interrupt, instead of nurturing productive struggle.

Struggling without hope for success is frustrating and overwhelming.  Struggling with the confidence that you will eventually succeed is productive and leads to deeper learning.  That’s why we are creating opportunities for our students to productively struggle – to wrestle with concepts, try new things, and learn in the process.  We are striving to construct learning tasks that they are meaningful, challenging and require work and thought, while at the same time providing the structure and support that allows for hope.  By doing this, we are confident that our students will be “stretching to learn . . .”

As always, we look forward to a year of serving our students and value the partnership with families and community members.  Best wishes on the new school year!

An Attitude of Gratitude

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I am struck by my own ignorance! I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually complain at times – when, in reality – I am about as blessed as a person could be. Thankfully, I receive periodic gentle reminders of this simple truth that drive me to an “attitude of gratitude.”

With that attitude in mind, I want to share my updated MOC-FV Gratitude List. I shared the original draft of this list with staff prior to my first year as superintendent at MOC-Floyd Valley. As I revisit it now, the intensity of my gratitude is greater than ever! Below is my updated gratitude list:

School Board

Who gives of their time with absolutely no monetary compensation? Who volunteers their time, talents, energy, and expertise to serve us, and everyone in the MOC-Floyd Valley School District? Who ultimately makes this such a great place to work and serve?

Thank you to our selfless, visionary MOC-FV School Board Members!

Transportation Staff

Who are the first and last school representatives that many of our students see every day? Who sets a positive tone by warmly and sincerely greeting students to start each day, and then safely transports them to and from school? Who, while watching the road, constantly makes sure that all students are treated respectfully?

Thank you to all of the patient, dedicated men and women who drive our buses and transport our MOC-FV students!

Food Service Staff

Who provides our students with the nutrition and energy they need to function throughout each day? And who does this while meeting numerous difficult, government-imposed requirements and still provides flavorful choice? Who works in a stiflingly hot kitchen, doesn’t always feel appreciated, but does all of this with a servant-hearted smile?

Thank you to our ultra-talented and efficient MOC-FV food service staff!


Who oversees all of the health needs of our students? Who juggles the required paperwork? Who works with parents, family members, other medical personnel, and all of us to make sure our students are educated despite various health needs? Who does this in all four buildings with the help of our building secretaries and some of our uniquely qualified staff members like Mr. Krohn?

Thank you our own Wonder Woman, Nurse Adams!

Custodial/Maintenance Staff

Who are the ultimate “behind-the-sceners” who keep things running, keep things clean, anticipate needs, and epitomize service? Who hears, “Could you fix . . . or could you get me . . . ? and always does their best to meet those requests while at the same time, keeping up with the messes and the needs that come from buildings used by hundreds of people every day?

Thank you to all of our amazing, servant-hearted MOC-FV custodial and maintenance staff!

Secretarial/Office/Business Staff

Who is the face and the voice of each building in our district? Who sets the tone by her smile and her unflappable demeanor when bombarded with requests from students, parents, teachers, and administrators? Who always seems to understand what we mean, even when we’re not completely clear in our questions or requests? Who seems to know everyone, helps everyone, and demonstrates more flexibility in a day than seems humanly possible?

Thank you to all of our wonderful, resourceful MOC-FV office personnel!

Aides, Associates & & Family-Partnership Liaison

Who epitomizes support? Who works closely with teachers to meet the needs of all of our students, and often gives that extra dose of love and support that ultimately makes the difference for many of our students with the greatest needs? Who is often instrumental in making sure that no child ever falls through the cracks?

Thank you to all of our caring, compassionate MOC-FV aides, associates & liaison!

Technology Staff

Who lives on the edge of what might be possible? Who is tasked to understand what many of us struggle to understand, and then to make it understandable and useable to us? Who is empowering us with technology and then helping us to understand and use the technology to deepen and add meaning to learning? Who fearlessly leads us through necessary changes while at the same time preparing and repairing all of our technology equipment and infrastructure?

Thank you to our tireless, creative, problem-solving MOC-FV technology team!


Who seems to have mastered the art of caring and listening? Who leads the way in supporting students and families when issues arise? Who connects people so that problems can be solved and healing can begin? Who makes it a priority to instill hope and find help?

Thank you to our empathetic, helpful, resourceful MOC-FV guidance counselors.


Who has a passion for students and a passion for curriculum? Who develops positive relationships with students, collaborates with colleagues, partners with parents and tirelessly works to meet each student where he or she is and take each one as far as possible? Who cultivates a love of learning and arms our students with the tools they will need to successfully meet the challenges ahead?

Thank you to our dedicated, hard-working professional MOC-FV teachers!

Coaches & Activity Sponsors

Who teaches students about character, honor, self-discipline, loyalty, effort, teamwork and humility? Who teaches students that “it is more important to be your best, than to be the best?” Who masterfully uses co-curricular activities to give our students a sense of belonging and an understanding of being a part of something bigger than self?

Thank you to our tireless, giving, passionate coaches and sponsors!

Building Administrators

Who oversees our efforts as a system and insures that our practices align with our mission? Who develops routines and procedures that allow everyone else in the system to do their jobs? Who models learning, challenges, and supports students and staff. Who selflessly leads and cares deeply?

Thank you to our bright, articulate, caring building administrators.

Community Partners

Who extends the walls of the school so that our students have real, relevant learning opportunities?   Who collaborates with teachers and students to bring learning to life? Who even provides material support to students and to programs?

Thank you to our world-expanding, “child-raising village” of community partners!

Parents & Families

Who are the most significant leaders of learning in the lives of our students? Who invests all that they have into their children? Who sacrifices time, energy, and resources to make life for their children the best it can be? Who are the most important partners we have?

Thank you to our involved, engaged, supportive MOC-FV parents and families!


Who is the reason we exist? Who holds the keys to our future – and theirs? Who encourages us with their optimism, humbles us with their honesty, and amazes us with their growth? Who makes every day a joy at MOC-Floyd Valley?

Thank you to our wonderful, world-changing students!


Below are a few gratitude quotes worth considering:

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

John F. Kennedy

“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.”

Neal A. Maxwell

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”

Brené Brown

“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me…”

Helen Keller

What message are we sending . . .

Earlier this year, I attended a conference led by education consultant and author, Steve Barkley. He shared with the group, how proud he is of his granddaughter and how well she does in school. He described how she had gone the entire first quarter without missing any of her spelling words and earning 100 percent on all of her other academic tasks.

If Mr. Barkley’s granddaughter was our child, how many of us would react to her school performance with great pride and satisfaction? Mr. Barkley’s reaction was much different. It’s not that he wasn’t proud of his granddaughter, but he was concerned that she might not be facing challenges that would cause her to learn and grow.

Mr. Barkley’s perspective challenges me, and anyone who is committed to helping young people develop. As we work with and support our children, I believe it is more important than ever that we emphasize the right things. With that in mind, consider the following:

  • Do we value A’s more than we value learning?
  • Do we value being right more than we value doing right?
  • Do we value convenience more than we value contribution?
  • Do we value playing time more than we value being part of a team?
  • Do we value self-esteem more than we value self-awareness?
  • Do we value comfort more than we value struggles?

It isn’t bad when our children struggle. Our role isn’t to remove the struggles, our role is to equip our children to face and overcome those struggles. By doing so, I believe we are preparing them for the future and instilling in them a growth mindset that will serve them well no matter what they face.