Tuesday, June 19, 2018

3 goals for next year

In preparation for my summative evaluation, I was charged with coming up with three goals for next school year.  Here they are.

It's a novel concept, right?  Not at all.  It should be what we're about as educators all of the time.  So what can I do to accomplish these three goals?

Be better for the kids
Get into more classrooms to learn with the kids.
Sit down at a different lunch table every day.
Join in a game of basketball or kickball at recess.
Greet as many kids by name every morning and in the hallways.
Attend more basketball and volleyball games.
2X10 with our new kids to start the year. (2 minutes, 10 days in a row and let the kids lead the conversations)
Restart our Sphero/coding club and learn with the kids.
Play my trumpet in a concert, if our band director will allow.
Start up a before school Homework Club that's like our after school Homework Club.

Be better for the staff
Be more intentional with feedback after classroom visits.
Meet more regularly to celebrate, discuss concerns, and offer support.
Remember birthdays.
#GoodNewsCallOfTheDay for staff more often.
Listen more than I speak.
Visit as many classrooms a day as possible.
Cover classes so that teachers can see each other teach or collaborate or...
Make our meetings more kid focused and uplifting.
Share the great things staff are doing with and for our kids more often.

Be better for the families
Be out at drop off/pick up at the Intermediate School instead of at bus duty at the Primary School.
Communicate more frequently by phone than email.
#GoodNewsCallOfTheDay regularly.
Hold a Principal's Chat or Coffee once a month.
Invite families in to help out in classrooms or find other volunteer opportunities.
Attend all PTO meetings and share the great things happening in our school.
Remind staff to use Mustang Medals and send them out monthly.
Connect with more families at concerts and sporting events.
Attend more family/teacher conferences and just listen.

What do you think?  Did I forget anything?  Are there too many items to focus on?  Can I do it?

Monday, June 18, 2018

How did you relax?

Good Monday afternoon!  I promise that now that I have all of my work for the 2017-2018 school year completed, I won't be emailing you again until after June is over!  I wanted to share how I have relaxed since you all left.

  • Lots of family time, which included watching my brother's beast of a dog.  No need for the chiropractor as he readjusted my back every time we went for a walk.
  • My daily run, or runs, have allowed me to just let my mind wander.
  • Mowing the lawn to try to keep up with all of the other neighbors' yards.
  • Golfing and finding more golf balls than I lost.
  • Dinner out with friends, sometimes even without my phone.
  • Serious discussions with two co-authors about a potential book.
  • Summer Spark presentation and learning with some great educators from across the country.  Maybe we can present together next year?
  • Spreading six yards of mulch in one 4 hour span of time.
  • Talking to Lauren, without our phones!
  • Planting the community garden with Patrick and some students.
  • Hanging out by the pool in Fox Lake.
  • Dinner with family and friends.
Important Calendar Dates!
Tuesday, September 25th
Boosterthon pep rally

Thursday, October 4th
Boosterthon fun run

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Everyone must dream. We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming -- well, that's like saying you can never change your fate.
Amy Tan,
(sketchnote from @woodard_julie of WoodStock Images)

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

"Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind."- Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter, sculptor, and inventor

It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
Paulo Coelho,

(from @smartinez, my favorite quote from Summer Spark)

You won't be happy, whatever you do, unless you're comfortable with your own conscience.
Lucille Ball,
entertainer and producer

This is the last nuts and bolts of the 2017-2018 school year.  Thanks for your willingness to read my sometimes random thoughts, reading an occasional blog which resonated with me, reading a quote or two, and hopefully gaining a little inspiration along the way.  It has been an honor serving our community with you this school year.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself!- John Gunnell

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thank you!

The school year seems to start so quickly, but it ends even more abruptly than it begins.  I'd like to thank each and every one of you for your dedication to our kids, for your dedication to each other, and for your dedication to your passion.  It was a great year!

Great things I saw this week...
Becky, Carey, and Barb doing so much behind the scenes work for graduation.
Students still reading, writing, mathing, and all other types of academic work, even on the last week of school.
The graduation ceremony, with awards handed out at the ceremony for the first time in a long time.
Brainstorming ideas for next year to make it an even better year.

Enjoy the next few days, or weeks.  You deserve it!
Friday, June 8th
I'm at school, at least until noon

Monday, June 11th and Tuesday, June 12th
I'm at Summer Spark all day

Wednesday, June 13th-Friday, June 15th
I'll be in school all day, or at least most of the day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Lessons From Ten Years of Trying... (from Pernille Ripp)

"Enjoy the little things in life because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things."-Kurt Vonnegut

Pushing Past the Organizational Plateau (from George Couros. Take note of the highlighted line in the last paragraph, and the Bruce Lee quote is pretty great, too.)

It has been my personal experience that the true flavor, the real fun, the continuous excitement of work lie in the process of doing it rather than in having it over and done with.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
statesman, scientist and engineer

3 Questions To Challenge Practices That No Longer Work in Education (from George Couros)

Tell Your Story (from Todd Nesloney)

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
Anne Lamott,

What We Can Give (from Pernille Ripp)

One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
Andre Gide,

Any kind of creative activity is likely to be stressful. The more anxiety, the more you feel that you are headed in the right direction. Easiness, relaxation, comfort -- these are not conditions that usually accompany serious work.
Joyce Carol Oates,
Take the time to focus on yourself, and your family, this summer.  Read a book that you want to read.  Find a happy place to be all by yourself.  Unplug from your phone and any other device you might have that connects you to email, voicemail, and social media.  Write someone a letter.  Go surprise a friend with their favorite beverage.  Go for a boat ride.  Go for a bike ride.  Go for a walk in the woods.  Do whatever it is that you do to find your happy place and do it.  If you do one of these things, or all of them, you will come back next year ready for the opportunities that a new school brings.  Have a great summer!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, June 1, 2018

Hidden strength

Men are accused for not knowing their own weakness, yet, perhaps, as few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold, which the owner knows not of.
Jonathan Swift,
writer and cleric

I want you to really think about the quote above.  As educators, I think that we focus more on the negative than the positive.  As you reflect upon the entire school year, focus on a hidden strength, that vein of gold that you don't often consider.  It's there in all of us, we just need to look for it.  I would say that my hidden strength is the ability to stay calm, at least most of the time.  I'm really like a duck on a pond, calm above the water but paddling like crazy under the water.  For the most part, I think it serves me pretty well.  What's your hidden strength, and if you don't know, go find it this weekend.

Great things I saw this week...
Roller skating, skateboarding, long boards, rip sticks, and scooters in PE.
Kids creating documentaries.
Country reports in Social Studies.
Watching 8th graders bust open their pinatas.
The anticipation of Celebration Day.
6th grade portfolio conferences.
Staff eating lunch at the picnic tables.
Kids creating in Science classes.

Saturday, June 2nd
Lauren graduates!

Monday, June 4th
1:30  family tour
3:00  portfolio conference

Tuesday, June 5th
8th grade Day Away
9:00  A-team meeting
7PM  8th grade dance

Wednesday, June 6th
8:45-9:15  Recognition assembly
10:30  Graduation practice
7:00  Graduation (It would be great if you could come and see the kids!)

Thursday, June 7th
Half day- noon release (Make sure you've had your end of the year meeting with me!)
Ice cream and yearbook schedule

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
4 Reflection Questions for the End of the School Year (from George Couros)

"You have to try the impossible to achieve the possible."- Herman Hesse

To be good and lead a good life means to give to others more than one takes from them.
Leo Tolstoy,

Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back.
Princess of Wales
Family smore for 6.1.18

Today is Celebration Day, a day to truly celebrate the progress of our students, and each other.  Find the good in everything, even when it might be difficult.  The kids have come a long way, and so have you.  None of us, students or staff, is the same as we were when the school year started.  Hopefully we're all a little better at something.  I can't wait to celebrate the day with you.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, May 25, 2018

The homestretch

Many of you know that I moved to Wisconsin from Louisville, KY.  That was way back in 1977 (Some of your weren't even born then!).  We always had the best seat for the Kentucky Derby back in the 1970s, right in front of our television.  When the Kentucky Derby is on now, I'm right next to the television for the fastest two minutes in sports.  Last weekend I watched the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.  Did any of you watch it?  Justify, the favorite, held on for an exciting win over three other horses, all of which were separated by barely the length of a horse.  Those three horses didn't lose, they just ran out of time.  They really gave it their all down the homestretch.  And now that's where we are, on the homestretch.  Be like Justify, or Bravazo, or Tenfold, or Good Magic, and give it your all down the homestretch.  I just hope the homestretch isn't as sloppy as the track was at the Preakness.

Great things I saw...
Kids actively learning in every classroom.  Keep up the intensity!
Last week's "chalkabration" on Friday
Making pinatas in Spanish
8th grade non-fiction books
Kids struggling to create in Science
5th grade kids excited for camp

Monday, May 28th
Memorial Day- No School

Tuesday, May 29th
6:30PM  Board meeting

Wednesday, May 30th
1:00-2:30  4th grade transition

Thursday, May 31st
Final grade level and specials meetings
"new" 5th grade meeting in the PM

Friday, June 1st
Celebration Day

Monday, June 4th
Last day of 8th grade classes

Tuesday, June 5th
8th grade Day Away and dance

Wednesday, June 6th
Recognition assembly
8th grade graduation

Thursday, June 7th
Half day
Yearbook signing and ice cream sandwiches!

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Controlling the Solution (from George Couros)

"Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before." — Neil Gaiman

It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals.
Albert Einstein,
theoretical physicist
We Need Them (from Jon Harper)

"Let's obsess over how much we can give with our time rather than how little of our time we can give.  In the long run, it's a better bet for making those good things happen for yourself."
Sam Parker, the Two-Twelve Guy

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view -- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
Harper Lee,
"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."
Helen Keller

Mirrors, windows, and doors
Every other Tuesday night I help co-moderate a Twitter chat called #PIAchat (PIA stands for PrincipalsInAction).  This week we discussed reflecting on our school year.  If you have a moment, you can check out the thread to the chat here (You'll just need to search for the May 22nd chat in the link and possibly sign up, but it's worth it.).  If you don't want to read through the thread, could I ask you a favor?  Reflect on your year, or maybe just your day or last hour of the day, by thinking about a mirror (What did you do?), a window (What did you provide to others?), and a door (What opportunities did you create?).  I'd love to hear or read your thoughts.

Have a great Friday, and relax over the Memorial Day Weekend!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, May 18, 2018

How was your aim?

The goal is not always meant to be reached, but to serve as a mark for our aim.
Joseph Joubert,

The quote above really caught my attention.  As the minutes in the day go by, and the days of the week go by, I've noticed that although my aim is high (you can pick the topic), I might not always get there.  I've had visions of having a school where students and staff respect one another all the time.  For the most part, it's true here in Merton.  But there are days, or times of the day, where than might not always be the case.  The goal is mutual respect, and that's also the aim.  Aim is a personal thing that needs to be adjusted a variety of times during the day.  Jen shared this video (it's at the end of the article, which is also good) with me about teenagers.  I think one reason was so that I understood Lauren better.  The other was to give me a better perspective on teenagers.  After all, teenagers aren't just mini-adults.  They are teenagers.  As you can continue to read this week's nuts and bolts, you'll notice a lot of quotes.  Maybe you'll relate to the quote above, or maybe not, but hopefully one of the quotes will resonate with you.

Monday, May 21st
8:00AM  BLT meeting

Tuesday, May 22nd
5th grade at camp
8:50  cover Brian F.
4:15  Homework Club

Wednesday, May 23rd
5th grade at camp
8:30  Parents' United?

Thursday, May 24th
5th grade at camp
Half day career day
Specials meeting
2:00  A-team meeting
4:00  Opioid Awareness at Swallow
4:15  Final Homework Club

Friday, May 25th
Jeans for Troops Day ($5 to wear jeans.  Money collected goes to military veterans)
3:00  5th grade HG&D

Future Dates
Monday, May 28th- Memorial Day (No School)
Friday, June 1st- Celebration Day
Tuesday, June 5th- 8th grade Day Away and dance
Wednesday, June 6th- Awards assembly and 8th grade graduation
Thursday, June 7th- Last day of school (half day)

Great things I saw this week...
See this below from one of our new families on Facebook.
"New to this school coming from St Joe’s and Brighton in Kenosha county. Two other great schools. Merton Schools and staff are outstanding. Clean school, well kept, friendly, class and sports options. Real food and healthy options for lunches. The list goes on! Singing that was actually really great and enjoyable. (Not just parent requirements lol). Looking forward to my sons program tonight."
Sphero and ozobots in Science
Students creating multimodal books in LA
Custodians going above the call of duty for concert setups and tear down, even though they were shorthanded.
The concerts on Tuesday night were amazing!
I continue to visit classrooms and you continue to keep the kids engaged.  Keep it up!

Tweets, quotes, and blogs Thriving Through Adversity (from George Couros)

(from @SylviaDuckworth)

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver,

Only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky,
writer and philosopher

(Thanks to Jen for sending this my way.  I also think "month" could be substituted for "week".)

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." — George Washington Carver

Deliberate with caution, but act with decision; and yield with graciousness, or oppose with firmness.
Charles Caleb Colton,
cleric and writer

What, after all, has maintained the human race on this old globe despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not faith in new possibilities, and courage to advocate them.
Jane Addams,
social activist

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.
George Orwell,
writer and journalist

There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.
Andre Gide,

A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.
Helen Keller,
writer and social activist

Family smore for 5.18.18

I hope you remembered to wear jeans and a sweatshirt today.
See you all soon.
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, May 11, 2018

Reflecting on our year

Believe it or not, I'm a pretty reflective person.  It happens a lot while I'm running, or walking the halls, or driving around.  Every day I think back on many different things to see what I can celebrate and what I need to do better tomorrow.  This week has been overly filled with reflective moments, some of celebration and some of wanting to do something completely different the next time.  Why is it that I tend to focus on the things I should do better?  Why can't I just celebrate the good once in a while?  Maybe you feel the same way.  If you do feel like I do, let's find something to celebrate together next week.

Great things I saw this week...
Everybody wearing their baseball shirts on Monday.
Monday's softball game with the smiles from kids and staff.
Staff "taking one for the team" to be with our kids while the rest of us played or coached.
Wiffle ball games during PE and at recess.
Spheros, Vex robots, and all things creation in Science classes.
Kids reading and gaining background information for documentaries.
A text message to share a huge gain in MAPs so that I could let the student know how proud I am of him.
Getting closer to the end of MAP and F&P testing for the year.
The individual and small group attention you give our kids every day.
More volunteers than I can remember for starfish and frog dissections.
The pride Jen has in our book fair.
Michael and the kids getting ready for Grandparents' Day.
#1 all time- Dan suggesting a collection for an 8th grader, and the staff filling an envelope to make sure his graduation is something that he will remember.  Thanks, Dan!

Monday, May 14th
End of year EE meetings start

Tuesday, May 15th
4:15  Homework Club
5:30  Spring Concerts

Thursday, May 17th
Grade level and specials meetings
4:15  Homework Club

Friday, May 18th
1:30  Family tour

Future Dates
Monday, May 21st- BLT meeting (8AM)
Tuesday, May 22nd-Thursday, May 24th- 5th grade at camp
Thursday May 24th- Career Day (8:30-11:30)
Monday, May 28th- Memorial Day (No School)
Friday, June 1st- Celebration Day
Tuesday, June 5th- 8th grade Day Away and dance
Wednesday, June 6th- Awards assembly and 8th grade graduation
Thursday, June 7th- Last day of school (half day)

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Saying "Yes" to Yourself (from George Couros)

The great man does not think beforehand of his words that they may be sincere, nor of his actions that they may be resolute -- he simply speaks and does what is right.

Keep Your Head Up and Keep Creating (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
John Steinbeck,

Surviving the Home Stretch (from Dan Tricarico via Dave Burgess)

The secret of living a life of excellence is merely a matter of thinking thoughts of excellence.
Charles Swindoll,

"I think you have one time around.  And I don't know what's going to be in existence in six months or a year.  So, I think that you're here on earth to make some kind of contribution...But, I'm impatient.  I suppose, I would hope everybody would be impatient."
Robert Kennedy, 1925-1968, American politician
You have to be absolutely frank with yourself. Face your handicaps; don't try to hide them. Instead, develop something else.
Audrey Hepburn,

And What Do We End With? (from Pernille Ripp)

Family smore for 5.11.18

Yesterday, one of our colleagues asked me how I do all that I do every day as a principal.  What I do pales in comparison to what each of you do.  You are a teacher, and if you were to write a list of all of the duties you actually do every day, what would you put on the list?  I won't even start as my list would not be inclusive enough or as accurate as the list you would make.  What I do know is that your love of kids would be at the top.  I witness it every day and am so impressed by what you do for and with our kids.  The kids and families might not tell you enough how thankful they are for all that you do, but know that they are.  And know that I am thankful, too.  You live the words that ends every weekly nuts and bolts- Be the one.
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell