Thursday, October 13, 2016

Who's your booster?

This week was a bit crazy with the start of PTO's Boosterthon.  It got me to thinking about who my biggest booster is.  I could have said my parents or my brother or my sister.  At one time that was probably true.  But now, without a doubt, it's my wife.  Jen continues to put me first in her life, taking vacations that revolve around marathons or our daughter or our family.   It is a very rare occasion when she does something for herself.  She continues to encourage me, almost daily, to write a book about our school and the great things we do here.  Once in a while she'll even drop me an email or print off a suggestion to get my book started.  Because of her I'm sure tat one day I'll start writing that book.  I'm a very lucky guy to have her support and would not be the person I am without her.  So who's your biggest booster?

Cool things that I saw...
  • One of our 7th graders waiting patiently for another 7th grader who he walks to class every day.  He really wants to make sure he does his job.
  • Staff, and kids, excited for the dance off to start out Boosterthon.  Keep the kids energy up for this as it will have a positive impact on your classrooms, as well as a possible opportunity to jump start a theater program.
  • Jordan (AKA Superman) as he made sure we were all safe on Tuesday morning.
  • Flexible staff and students, rolling with the changes as we had a smoke out on Tuesday.  Special thanks to Doug, Dana, and Joy from the Boosterthon to make sure we had something to occupy our 7th and 8th graders until the all clear from the Fire Departments. (We had 3 or 4 here.)
  • Staff being extra flexible on Tuesday morning and doing whatever was needed.
  • 7th and 8th grade staff meeting with families to set the path for success and to celebrate success, too! And I followed it with a 3 mile run with Matt!
  • All of you sharing your goals with one another (taking risks) and even secretly enjoying the theme song from High School Musical.
  • Watching our kids helping out with Before School activities.  They really wanted to get them included.
  • 3 students being recognized for their behavior when others around them weren't behaving so well.
  • While sitting in a classroom with a guest teacher, the students took control of the behavior of students. (I may have had a bit of an impact on their behavior, too.)
  • Homework Club tutors taking charge of the learning of their school mates.
Monday, October 17th
  • Jay at the dentist 7AM (crown)
  • BLT at 4:15PM
Tuesday, October 18th
  • SIP team meeting 8:00AM (vision/MAP results)
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM
Wednesday, October 19th
  • A-team at 1:30PM
  • 1st Sphero club at 4:15PM
Thursday, October 20th
  • Fun Run
    • 5/6 at 1:30PM
    • 7/8 at 2:45PM
    • Sliming to follow?
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM
Friday, October 21st
  • Comfy Clothes Day (We'll need it after the Boosterthon!)
Tuesday, November 1st
Tweets, blogs, and quotes
One nice thing (from Thomas Murray)
(from Pinterest)
(from Pinterest)
(I made with Google drawings)

Reminders from Wednesday's presentation
#1.  Please send me photos of things you've gotten due to PTO grants so that I can send them out in emails to parents next week.
#2.  Think about a vision, something short that students, staff, and families can learn, embrace, remember, and recite.

One final thought...
Dana, Doug, and Joy (Our Boosterthon champions) made it a point to stop me on Wednesday after the team huddles.  They've been at this a while and they told me that our students are the nicest and most respectful students they have worked with.  I just thought you should know that.  Even when we have difficult days with our students, it's still much better than it could be in other schools or districts even on their best days.  We are lucky.  Now it's our job to take our kids to the next level, every day.  Think about your lessons and whether there is something you could have done that would have had more of an impact.  Did you spend time connecting with kids individually during TenMarks time or while they were given time to read or write?  Did you stop by a group in Science or Social Studies or PE or Spanish or music or art while they were working together?  I thought about my "lesson" after our meeting on Wednesday.  I should have given you the vision in advance so that you would have had a chance to think about it earlier.  I should have had you get up and move around, change partners, and provided more time to talk about how you have students set goals.  Next time we meet, I promise to be better.  But one thing I can promise for sure, you'll be hearing High School Musical again.

Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself (John Gunnell)

Friday, October 7, 2016

What did you notice this week?

After reading Pernille Ripp's post "One Small Act" on Saturday morning, I thought, "How many of these small acts do we really notice?"  It set me my focus for the week so here are the small acts I noticed.
  • M&Ms eating lunch with 5th graders, playing at recess, and just watching the 5th graders look up to them.  So happy that Heather and Megan got this started!
  • Barb making phone calls to 7th and 8th grade families to set up invitational only conferences for October 11th.  Thanks, Barb!
  • A student provided me a mint Tuesday morning.  I asked if it was because of my breath but he told me it was because he liked me.
  • 8th graders officiated, and cheered on, 7th graders during the football playoffs at lunch time.
  • NJHS students literally taking over Homework Club.
  • Guest teachers who had nothing but good things to say about our kids.
  • Jordan fixing a compressor so that I now have a pump for playground balls.
  • Watching the "new kids" become acclimated to our school because of you and the students keeping an eye on them.
  • The power of the conversations we had in grade level meetings and our SIP team meeting.  Your honesty and belief that we can be better for our kids is contagious.
  • Ron and Lori covering lunch and recess for me so that I could attend a meeting in Madison.  Thanks!
  • Before and after hours meetings with families to positively impact student success.
  • Innovator's Mindset Twitter chat on Thursday night. (Check out the conversation here at #mertonIM) Continuing our learning and discussions outside of school hours. Just one example of the learning and preparation that all of you do all the time!
Monday, October 10th
  • Boosterthon kickoff assembly 8:45-9:30AM
    • Adjusted schedule is here.
      • 1st hour  9:30-10:02                     6th grade specials  9:30-10:00
      • 2nd hour  10:05-10:36                  5th grade specials  10:03-10:33
      • 3rd hour  10:39-11:10
      • 4th hour  11:13-11:44
    • Don't forget to wear your red t-shirt!
Tuesday, October 11th
  • Picture retake day (No groups at this time.  We ran ahead of schedule last year.)
    • 8:30  staff
    • 8:55-9:10  5th grade
    • 9:15-9:30  8th grade
    • 9:35-9:50  7th grade
    • 9:55-10:10  6th grade
  • 7/8 invitation conferences
Wednesday, October 12th
  • PLC meeting 8:00-8:40AM
  • CPI training 4:15-5:15PM
Thursday, October 13th
  • Anyone up for a Throwback Thursday?  Chance of gift cards if you participate!
  • CPI training 7:30-8:30AM
  • Grade levels/ Specials meetings
Friday, October 14th
  • CPI training 7:30-8:30AM
Thursday, October 20th
  • It's Boosterthon fun run day!
  • 5/6 fun run at 1:30PM
  • 7/8 fun run at 2:45PM
Tuesday, November 1st

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Bright Solutions for Dyslexia Newsletter (Sent to me by Mrs. Brunnbauer.  There is great information for all students in this newsletter.)
I Was a "Relationships Second" Teacher (from ASCD)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
#mertonIM on Twitter (Merton's Innovator's Mindset chat from Thursday night)
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore from 10.7.16
(from Pinterest)
(I made with Google drawings)
(from Pinterest)

School Improvement Plan Team
The quote above from Edna Mode from "The Incredibles" is so appropriate for us as educators.  We can't change history, we can only learn from it.  Why look back when looking forward has so many possibilities.  What are you doing now that is best for kids? (Enough cliches?)  Our School Improvement Plan (SIP) is looking forward to developing a literacy and math goal for our students.  We met for the first time on Thursday.  One of the responsibilities of the team members is to get your input.  Be honest when you are giving your feedback as we want to hear from all of you.  Thanks in advance for your commitment to improvement.

Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Super September!

It's hard to believe that today is the final day of September.  We have the first month under our belts.  Procedures and expectations are in place.  Relationships are being fostered with students, families, and colleagues.  Now it's time to assess where we are going, develop a plan for student success, and do whatever it takes to make that plan a success.  This will begin with our School Improvement Plan and the staff who agreed to help develop this plan.  Please know that we are all a part of this process, even if you're not on the team developing the plan.  Representatives will be sharing our ideas with you in grade level meetings, during lunch, in the hallways, and in the parking lot.  I know that I've told you that I don't like parking lot conversations, but sometimes that's the only place we might see one another.  It is important for us to have these conversations to move the learning forward.  If you have concerns or ideas upon hearing of the plan during its development, don't hesitate to reach out to the members of the team.  We need your voice.  Once we have a plan developed, we will continue to check in with you to see how we are progressing.  I'm excited to set the bar high, create a plan, put it into place, and celebrate our success.

Great things I saw this week...
  • NJHS tutors are so focused on helping out on Homework Club that things are running more smoothly than at any other time.  The kids are really holding one another accountable.
  • The M&M presentation at the board meeting was awesome!
  • The kids were engaged with boomwhackers, Simon Says, and CPR, and so was I.
  • There were 3 after school and one before school learning opportunities for our staff (CPI, Mindset, Innovator's Mindset) that I was involved in, and I know there were many more.  It's great to learn with you all.
  • You really worked hard on data analysis and finding out what we can do to help our kids grow.
  • It's awesome seeing you model your learning, and reading, with the kids.
  • It's all about the relationships, and I continue to see you all reaching out to connect with all of our kids.  My highlight of the week was being invited to take part in CPR in Dave's 8/9 block with 8th graders.  It was amazing listening to the kids providing compliments to one another.  It's incredible to watch the kids squirm when they are complimented.  Makes me think (know) that we should do this more often.
  • The Mustang Medals in the commons show only some of the great things our kids do every day.  Thanks for filling these out, and let's go for double the amount next month!
  • A little something funny...I was reading over a paper during Homework Club.  The student wanted to run for President and he was counting his "delicates". I hope he meant "delegates".

Tuesday, October 4th
  • Twitter Tuesday at 8:00AM in the Library
    • Set up a Twitter account
    • Learn how to use tweetdeck
    • All are welcome!
  • Grade level/ Specials meetings 
    • Jay is at a meeting in Madison on Thursday
    • Thanks for your flexibility.
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM in the Library
Wednesday, October 5th
  • CPI training at 7:30AM/4:15PM in the Library
  • A-team meeting at 1:30PM at the Primary School
Thursday, October 6th
  • Jay in Madison for a 9:00AM meeting
    • I'll return in the afternoon
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM in the Library

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Some Ideas for Channeling High Energy Needs Into Better Learning (from @pernilleripp)
(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

Family smore from 9.30.16

What a week!  I'm so proud of the data work that was done by our Literacy teachers and coaches this week.  You are all so focused on doing what's best for kids, and it shows.  And then there were the team meetings this week.  Kids first, again, and the positive things you have to say about the kids is contagious.  So now I need to ask you a favor.  Please send down one student so that I can call home with them.  Send them down with a Mustang Medal for me to reference when I call.  I'll have copies for you at our meeting this morning.  I can't honestly call them all at the same time so let's use this time frame.
9:00- 8th grade
9:30- 5th grade
10:00- 6th grade
10:30- 7th grade
And if you want to call a family or two in the afternoon, let me know and I'll stop in and cover your class so that you can.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of yourself.  Take care of each other.

Friday, September 23, 2016


This week I began visiting classes to provide feedback through the mini-observation platform.  My goal is to provide constructive feedback to three of you a day.  If I stay for a while and I'm taking notes on my Chromebook, there's a good chance you will receive an email from me before the end of the day, and by that I don't mean the end of the school day.  After taking notes and making sure to "tag the evidence", I'll be making two statements- "I noticed..." and "I wonder..."  These are reflective questions that you can do one of three things with- ponder, blog, or have a discussion with me.  I look forward to reaching my goal every day and helping both you and I become more reflective learners.  On a related note, please provide me with feedback about my feedback.  If you need more or different feedback, don't hesitate to let me know.  I love coming in to watch you try new things with our students.


  • I was asked to read a story one of our 7th graders wrote, and it inspired a blogpost. (See below- Just say yes...)
  • Although I don't really care for indoor recess, the kids were really good this week when we needed to be inside for recess. (Thanks for the use of your classroom, Matt!)
  • You are all doing a fantastic job of keeping the kids engaged in their learning.
  • I'm noticing the connections you are making with our kids, and I like it!
  • Your classroom procedures are having a positive impact on classroom environments.  Keep it up!
  • I'm looking forward to getting started with our SIP team.  I'm still accepting volunteers!
  • The NJHS tutors are doing a fantastic job during Homework Club.
  • John Nettesheim helped me out with a bike repair after a Primary School girl got her dress caught around the wheel.
  • Staff stepping up to help out whenever needed.
Monday, September 26
  • Innovator's Mindset book discussion  4:15PM
  • School board meeting  7:30PM
Tuesday, September 27
  • Homework Club  4:15PM
Wednesday, September 28
  • CPI training  7:30AM/4:15PM
  • 5th grade data day
Thursday, September 29
  • Homework Club  4:15PM
Friday, September 30
  • Staff recognition  8:15AM
  • 7th/8th grade data day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Relationships>Everything Else in Education (from @ajjuliani)
Food for Thought: Four Essential Attributes (from AMLE)
Just say yes,,,(I wrote this because of an interaction I had with a student on Wednesday morning)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 9.23.16

(I made using Google drawings)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(I made using Google drawings)

(Jen sent me this)

So, at this time tomorrow I'll be on the Honor Flight with my dad.  Remember the colors activity we did years ago as a staff.  Tomorrow is going to be one of those all around "blue" days.  Thursday morning I happened to be checking Facebook when this link came up.  
I'm sure that I'll have stories to tell and pictures to share on Monday.  If you'd like to invite me in to speak with your classes, just let me know.

Have a great weekend!
Check your mailbox as a reminder to "Take 5" for yourself this weekend.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just say yes...

Today as I was visiting classrooms and taking notes to provide feedback, one of our students who is new to our school asked me if I'd read what she was writing.  As it was only minutes from lunch and recess duty, I had a choice to make- sit down and read her story or tell her that I didn't have time now but I would read it later.  I just said yes, sat down next to her, and read her story.  She watched my face as I was reading and smiled when I reacted as she had hoped.  She followed up tonight with an email asking me to read over the story again after she made some changes.  I'll be speaking with her again tomorrow about her changes and I can't wait for our conversation.

Why am I telling you this story?  Because sometimes I think we say no when we should just say yes.  As a principal, there are times when I have to say no but most often it's a choice I get to make.  Although I have a daily calendar and a schedule of meetings and responsibilities I cannot ignore, I also have the ability to visit any classroom I want during those times in my day that aren't scheduled.  I urge all of you who are school level or district level administrators to just say yes.

Say yes to-

  • a high five.
  • an invitation to read with or to a student.
  • a fist bump.
  • solving a math problem together.
  • kickball at recess.
  • joining a Science experiment.
  • riding a bus home with the kids.
  • playing a vocabulary game.
  • a positive phone call home.
  • a conversation with a staff member.
  • a celebration of a job well done.
  • a birthday treat.
  • a hug.
  • a run with the cross country team.
  • playing music at recess.
What are some things you'll say yes to tomorrow?

Friday, September 16, 2016

What will you celebrate?

So, we've reached the first full week of school.  What will you celebrate?  Here's what I'm celebrating.

  • Three successful Family Information Nights (Thanks, teams!)
  • A Principal Chat with Mike, the PTO, and lots of families
  • Classroom visits with Voxer feedback for all teachers
  • Respectful and cooperative students
  • Rich conversations with staff about kids and curriculum
  • The humidity has broken!
  • Mike and I had an awesome assembly with all the kids on Wednesday
  • Intense, important, and honest team meetings
  • Most of all, you are putting the kids first!
I'd love to hear from you about your celebrations.  We sure have a lot to celebrate!

Monday, September 19, 2016
  • BLT 4:15PM
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
  • Boosterthon kickoff 8:15AM in the Little Theater
    • PTO providing bagels and juice!
  • Homework Club 4:15PM
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
  • CPI training 7:30AM and 4:15PM
  • A-team meeting 1:30PM
  • Culver's Night 4-8PM
Thursday, September 22, 2016
  • Grade level meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15PM
Friday, September 23, 2016
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(from Pinterest)

The Worst Class in (X) Years (also from Pernille Ripp)
4 fingers pointing back at you (my personal reflection about getting better)

Congratulations on the first full week of school!  Do me a favor and think back about the week.  If someone asked you today, and it might be me, what the best part about the week was for you, what would it be?  What is that one thing?  Find someone to share that one thing with today.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

4 fingers pointing back at you

Today was a great day and a not so great day all wrapped up into one.  I was excited to discuss data with our staff, pushing their thinking a bit, and continuing our journey to do what's best for kids every day, even if it might not be clean and easy.  Sometimes doing what's best is dirty and messy.  The best way to get at the work is to get at the work.  I look forward to getting to work with all of you, moving forward for the benefit of our kids.  But I digress.  Let me go back to the first line.  Today was a great day and a not so great day.

Today was a great day.

  • I got to learn with the staff.
  • I got to have deep conversations with a couple of staff members regarding the data.  I need to have more of these conversations, but today was a great start.
  • Mike and I got to be with all 800 kids today to talk about being a bucket filler.  I was a little nervous, but the kids, as is most always the case, met our expectations and even exceeded them.
  • I got to be in classrooms all afternoon and I got to share out some awesome learning the students were doing.
  • I got to be a part of our 5th grade Family Information Night, a time for our staff to make more connections with family.
  • I got to be husband and father while learning about what Lauren's junior year is going to look like.  I'm proud of Lauren and her vision for her future.
Today was a not so great day.
  • I was nervous, and I mean nervous, about how our assembly was going to go.
  • I was nervous about the conversations that we would have about our data.  As this is our first look at the data for this school year, one never knows how it will be perceived.
  • I had a staff member make a comment to me that hit me between the eyes.  "Jay, I don't know what school you're talking about when you make comments on Twitter about our school, but it isn't the school that I know.  When you find that school, I would love to come and work for you there."
As I reflect on the day, all of the "great day" stuff was about kids and doing what's best for kids.  All of the "not so great day" stuff was before the kids even got to school.  And then it hit me.  I need to look deep within myself, reflect, and do all that I can to work with students, staff, and families to make this the best school learning environment that I can.  This quote comes to mind.

Honestly, if I'm going to make changes in our school, it has to start with me.  In looking at our school data, I know that I must be more involved in the reading and writing in our school.
It started today with these items.  It needs to be something that becomes a part of my daily interactions in school.

  • Writing this blog while in class.  I was modeling but I don't know if the kids, or the staff, knew what I was doing.
  • Reading while in class.  I know the kids and staff saw me reading so modeling was evident.
  • Carry a book with me everywhere I go, except for lunch and recess duty.
  • Fully listening during a mini-lesson.
  • Providing specific feedback when I visit classrooms.
  • Listening in on conversations students are having about their reading or writing.
  • Conferring with students about their reading and writing.

 I know that there is so much more that I can do so I'm up for your suggestions.  I'd also ask you to contemplate what you can do with and for our kids to foster a love for reading and writing.