Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Connected- It's what makes us better for our kids!

Due to the support of our Merton Community School District, I was able to attend two amazing conferences in Chicago this summer- ISTE and the National Principals' Conference.  Through the 6 days of learning, I was able to refocus and refine my thinking about what we can do for and with our students every day.  My big takeaway was the power of being connected, and it started with a ride to Chicago from a Park and Ride just outside of lil' 'ol Merton, Wisconsin.  But before I tell you about the journey, I'd like to discuss what it means to be connected.

In checking out Thesaurus.com, I wanted some synonyms for the word connected.  Some of the suggested words are associated, linked, united, banded together, and undivided.  Reading these words also brought into focus my #oneword18 for the school year- connected.  This focus will be something that helps me with my family, our school, and my PLN.  What does that mean?  It means that when I'm with each of these groups or individuals, either in person or online, I need to be connected with them during that time.  But I also need to realize that there are times when our school and my PLN need to take a backseat to my family.  As I often remind our school, family always comes first so that should take precedence over work or friends.  That could probably go unsaid, but I need to remind myself of it more often than I care to admit.  You may need to remind yourself of that from time to time, too.

So here is my learning journey this summer.  It began with ISTE.  I left the Park and Ride lot with 5 staff members, some I've known for a long time and others with whom I was just beginning to connect.  The drive from the Milwaukee area to Chicago can be smooth or it can be full of stop and go traffic.  We were lucky enough to have the stop and go traffic.  There is no sarcasm in that statement as there was lots of time to discuss what we'd be learning and how we would share what we've learned with our staff.  Excitement and a sense of overwhelming opportunities were everywhere.

Once in Chicago, it was time to check in to the hotel and grab some dinner.  We had a blast eating at Dick's Last Resort where I got the nickname "Grandpa", apparently because I was the oldest person in the group.  We got to know one another better and took a selfie to remember the moment.  We spent more time together walking the streets of Chicago and headed back to the hotel for some rest.  Tomorrow was the start of the conference with about 20,000 in attendance and what seemed like 20,000 different learning opportunities.  We learned about technology tools, mindsets for change, creation, collaboration, and so much more.  There isn't one specific strategy or idea that sticks with me other than supporting those staff and students who want to take risk with their learning to make it more relevant and meaningful.  Imagine that going on for 4 days.  It was truly amazing.

Merton crew at ISTE!

Although we traveled to Chicago and back together, we didn't only learn with one another.  We made connections with educators from all over the country.  We connected in their sessions, in the exhibit hall, and in other venues throughout Chicago.  The learning was fun, engaging, and we have already begun sharing what we learned with our colleagues.  Now it's time to focus on what to share and really connect with the educators we work alongside of each and every day.

The second part of my connected learning journey also happened in Chicago at the National Principals' Conference.  It started with a 3:30AM drive to Chicago so that I could arrive in time for a 5:30AM run with #BalanceLAP authors Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson.  Talk about a great start to the day.  From there came the opportunity to connect with #principalsinaction colleagues and to recruit more colleagues to join us.  It was an amazing experience that allowed me to become more connected with colleagues from across the country.  It was a learning experience I will never forget because I was able to direct my own learning, share some of my passions, and be pushed in ways that I know will make me a better principal for our students, staff, families, and district.  Having a meal with my Wisconsin peeps on Thursday night and lunch with Beth Houf, Andy Jacks, and Hamish Brewer were great learning and sharing opportunities outside of the regularly scheduled sessions.  And the conversations didn't end on Friday, July 13th.  They continue and keep me motivated to be better for our students, our staff, and our families.

But here is the highlight for me.  Below this paragraph is a picture of Darcy Willis (@DarcyWilliz) on her third day as a principal.  She stopped by to speak with Hamish Brewer (@brewerhm), shaking with nerves.  Those speaking with Hamish asked her if she was on Twitter.  She wasn't, and the rest is history.  The next thing you know, we're taking getting her on Twitter, taking over her phone to enter our Twitter handles, and taking this epic photo of Darcy and her new and growing PLN.  Hamish said it best when he told Darcy, "We've got your back.  Just reach out to us and we'll be there."  Nothing could be more true.  I know I feel this way every day with my interactions on Twitter and Voxer with the wonderful PLN that keeps me growing and learning and striving to be better.  I will never take this connectedness for granted.

Darcy's first tweet!

So now I have this goal, to be connected with family, colleagues, and friends when I am in their presence.  Sometimes it might be online but as I've found, the face to face conversations during a meal or moving from place to place or in a Google hangout or Skype are so much more powerful.  When I am connected, I need to make sure that I'm listening and focusing on the conversation right in front of me.  And I need those I'm connecting with to hold me accountable, too.  If you see me disconnecting from our conversation, snap your fingers and bring me back in focus.  We all need a reminder sometimes.  Thanks to my PLN, those from lil' 'ol Merton, Wisconsin and around the country, for your encouragement, support, and friendship.  I am better because of you.  Thank you!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

So long June. Hello July!

The month of June has been pretty awesome for the Posick family.  Lauren graduated from high school.  We got to hang out at Fox Lake.  Lauren signed up for classes at UW-Oshkosh.  We had Lauren's graduation party.  I had the honor of attending the ISTE conference in Chicago.  July is just around the corner and we'll be hanging out more at Fox Lake and visiting friends in Atlanta.  We're taking a vacation that has nothing to with running a marathon or a dance competition.  It will be great!  I hope that you all get to have a chance to continue connecting with your family and friends during July.  There's still time for you to relax, recharge, and reflect before we kick off the 2018-2019 school year.

New 2018-2019 calendar from Google (Thanks, Mary!)
Please let me know if there are any events that need to be added to the list.  Many events are already on the calendar.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere that I needed to be.
Douglas Adams,

It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good.
Tina Fey,
entertainer, writer and producer

Flipgrid is now free for all educators!  Check this out!

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little.
Sydney Smith,
clergyman and writer

3 goals for next year (from my blog)

To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to do.
Khalil Gibran,
writer, poet and artist

A pleasure is full-grown only when it is remembered.
C.S. Lewis,
writer and academic

2 Questions to Focus on Long-Term Learning in Classrooms (from George Couros)

A culture is made -- or destroyed -- by its articulate voices.
Ayn Rand,
Optimism is true moral courage.
Ernest Shackleton,
(from Pinterest)

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I cannot reach them: but I can look up, and see their beauty; believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
Louisa May Alcott,
All endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time.
Mitch Albom,
journalist and broadcaster

Keep enjoying your summer!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

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