Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Did you see what I did there?  The title's of my last three blogs, including this one, are- "On your marks...", "Get set...", and "Go!"  There are two reasons.  One is the start of the school year and the other is because of the Olympics, in particular track races.  The start of our school year is much like an Olympic track race, but with a twist.  Olympic track athletes prepare for years for one opportunity to be the best in the world for one race.  You prepare for a lifetime for the kids who look up to you each and every day to lead them in learning.  I am so excited for the school year to get underway, to see the kids come in ready to learn, and to continue learning along with them and with you.  I am so ready to get this year started!

Calendar (agenda from Ron with more specifics)
Wednesday, August 17th       Jay's at PLC conference in Milwaukee/ You have time to do what you need in your classrooms or with your teams
Thursday, August 18th          Jay's at PLC conference in Milwaukee
Friday, August 19th               Jay's at PLC conference in Milwaukee
Monday, August 22nd           Social Studies curriculum work
Tuesday, August 23rd            7:30-8:00      Breakfast in Primary School
                                                8:00-10:00    District kickoff
                                                11:00-11:30  Intermediate Staff meeting (Little Theater)
                                                *agenda of meeting will be sent out next week
                                                Lunch on your own/ Grade level meetings with me
Wednesday, August 24th       8:00-12:00    5th grade mentoring program
                                                (Thanks Heather and Megan!)
                                                11:00-4:00    Prepare your rooms for Open House
                                                4:00              Staff pictures/ PTO provides subs
                                                4:40-7:00      Open House
Thursday, August 25th          F&P testing or collaborative work time
Wednesday, August 31st       F&P testing or collaborative work time
Thursday, September 1st      First day of school!

I believe that I had shared this with all of you at some point last year, but I thought I would share it again here.  Just click on the title above for the the final schedule.
(from Pinterest)

Team meetings
As you look at the calendar above, please get together with your team to find a time to meet with me either on Tuesday, August 23rd or Wednesday, August 24th.  I am trying a new extension called Calendly to assist with setting up meetings.  Here is a link to give you access.  Click on the "clone" 30 minute meetings for my availability before September 1st.  The other 30 minute meetings option begins on September 1st.  I'll still have my calendar on my door, too, but this saves you some steps (unless you want to be fitbit friends, then you can come to the office to check).  At the meeting next week we'll set our times and dates to meet for the year, discuss Educator Effectiveness, PBIS, Family Information Night, and talk a bit about how we will help our teams become more like PLCs.

(I made this with Google drawings during JEDI training)

Thanks to Leah and many of our National Junior Honor Society students, this is now on the wall in the commons.  We need to keep this in mind for your kids, and for ourselves.  Take what you've learned the last two days and take a chance with implementing some of this with your students, and each other.  I can't wait to see what we can do with our kids all year long.
See you all next week.
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Get set...

Next week we'll all be together again for the first time since the middle of June.  I can't wait to see you, learn with you, catch up on the summer, and begin to focus on the school year.  I have been trying to find things to share with you that will start to get you a bit more excited for the start of the school year.  Here are a couple of blog posts from some of my Twitter friends.

Hustle Like It's the Last Game of the Night (from @_AndyJacks)

A Few Ideas for a Better Organized Year (from @pernilleripp)

Learning is Irregular (from @Dwight_Carter)

(from Power of Positivity)

(I made this using Google Drawings)

(from @alphabetsuccess)

(from @cathern2)

The video of this little girl is how I hope that all of you feel while coming to school every day.  If you don't, bookmark it and watch it every day before you leave home or before school starts or right after lunch or whenever you need a little pick me up.  It sure works for me.
(from dmchatster on YouTube)

Staff highlights
I appreciate all of you who completed the staff highlights form.  If you haven't, please do so before next Monday.  Here is the link.  This is what I have put together so far, but I need more pictures before I send out the first one.
(I made this using Canva)
And, whether you are a fan of Michael Phelps or not, this advertisement is inspiring.  If the families only knew what you do, every day, to prepare for the kids, they would be amazed.

(This is an UnderArmour ad)

See you all on Monday!  It will be great learning with you again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

On your marks...

Well, it won't be long until we're back together again.  Soon you will read the agenda for Summer Academy, Work Days, and Assessment Days that Ron will be sending you.  I'm excited to be learning with you during the Summer Academy and I look forward to meeting with all teams at some point in time during our two work days.

If you haven't been in the building this week, it might be a good idea to wait until next week.  The custodial staff is doing a great job preparing classrooms, hallways, and all other areas for you and the kids.  I'm sure that John will send out an update soon about when your rooms will be ready.  The gym is being repainted, too.  I can't wait to see what it looks like.

Staff smore from July 29, 2016 and staff highlights form
Just in case you missed it, Mike and I sent out a smore for staff last week.  There are some important items (PTO Boosterthon, new staff, some fun reading on my blog) that might be of interest to you.  Here is the smore so you don't have to go check in your emails.
I also had a Staff Highlights form I sent out for you to complete.  In case you can't find it, here it is.  It's seriously 8 short answer questions.  I'd also like a picture or two of you that I can use to share this information in upcoming family smores.  Thanks for playing along.

Garden update
Thanks to Dave Wagner, Patrick Middleton, and many NJHS volunteers, the garden is really doing well this year.  I dropped off squash, peppers, and cucumbers Wednesday at the Hartland Food Pantry.  The volunteers were so happy to hear that we will be bringing our harvest to them in the weeks to come.  Stop on out and take a look when you have a chance.

This is what I'd like to focus on this year.
Some of you may know Pernille Ripp.  Others of you may have heard of Pernille Ripp.  We all should find time to read what Pernille has written this week in her blog.  Here it is.  Let's make sure that we continue to keep the focus on our kids.  And as John Gunnell would say, "Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  And take care of yourself."

See you soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A little reading for August

During the month of July, and more specifically over the last two weeks, I've been curating some blogs and videos meant to inspire, think, and refocus for the upcoming school year.  These are not required readings by any means, but something to peruse and tuck away for those times when you just might need a pick me up or a reaffirmation of what we do daily as educators.
(video from John Spencer)

(from Pinterest)

Tale of Two Vacations (from @PrincipalFrench)

An Open Invitation (from @PrincipalGarden- Great video embedded in this one.)

I also regularly read the blogs of Jon Harper and Pernille Ripp which can be found by clicking on their names.

I hope you enjoy the next couple of weeks and will be ready and fired up for our return on August 15th.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

It's summer halftime!

Well, believe it or not, we have reached the halftime of summer.  I hope that you have been able to spend a lot of time with your family and friends, done a little pleasure reading, visited a body of water or two, and taken a walk on a trail you had never been on before.  I have done all of the above with the following highlights.

  • Niagara Falls with Jen and Lauren for two and a half days
  • Lauren's national dance competition in Sandusky, OH where her group took 3rd place overall!
  • July 4th weekend at Fox Lake
  • Summerfest (twice)
  • Read "Hacking Leadership" as well as most of "Wonder"
  • A little golfing and fishing
  • #edcampldrWI (EdCampLeaderWisconsin) with Mike and Ron
  • Having fun in the garden (Thanks to Brady, Alexis, Abby, Trevor, Owen, and Mr. Middleton for your assistance!)

As I was reading through some emails, I came across this blog post from A.J. Juliani called "5 Rules to a Simpler Life".  I need to do a lot more of #2 on the list.  We all can benefit from #5, too.  I encourage you to utilize these 5 rules for the rest of the summer and then imbed them into the school year.  I think that it will have a powerful impact on all of us.

*Don't forget about the summer academy from August 15th-17th.  More details will be coming soon!

In an effort to get to know each of you better, as well as to share your awesomeness with our community, I'm stealing an idea from Andrea Gribble of #SocialSchool4EDU.  I will be selecting one or two staff to highlight each week starting in August when I begin communicating with families about the upcoming school year.  Aside from answering the questions on this google form for your responses, please also include any photos that you would like me to share.  If you don't send me any, I'll use your staff photo!

Finally, if you happen to be stopping by school and would like to talk, just let me know.  I stop in most days, especially in the mornings, and would love to catch up with you.  I miss seeing my Merton family!

It's summer, so make sure you take care of your family, your friends, and yourself. (paraphrased from John Gunnell, Principal in Baraboo)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Leading like a quarterback

So, it's happened to me more than once.  I've been compared to Brett Favre, hall of fame quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.  Most recently it happened last week by some friends on Voxer and my brother.  I don't always see the resemblance but apparently others do.  Here are a couple of pictures for comparison.  The one on the left is me in November, growing a beard for men's cancer awareness.  The one on the right is Brett Favre taken by Kirby Lee of USA TODAY Sports.
After hearing from my Voxer friends and my brother, a blog post came to mind- How is being a Principal like being the quarterback of a football team?  Here are my thoughts.

Putting players in the right positions.
Some would argue that the coaches put the players in the right positions.  I would disagree.  If you've ever watched a really good quarterback, they know where everyone should be.  The quarterbacks are the ones who make sure the linemen, receivers, and running backs are in the best place for a successful play.
Principals serve the same role.  We need to make sure that teachers, support staff, and students are all in the right places, able to work together to learn with and from each other.  A strong team of teachers, in the right place with the right people, can make all the difference in the world.

Looking over the defense.
Once the play is called, it's time for the quarterback to check out the defense.  The play may call for a run but the defense has stacked the line so that's not going to work.  The play may call for a pass but the defense has one on one coverage on each receiver with help over the top so that's not going to work.  But sometimes the play fits the coverage and then it's "Game on"!
Principals need to look over the "defense", too.  It might be time to have a "No Office Day", but a student or teacher concern takes over the day.  It might be time for a drill, but the weather isn't cooperating.  There might be an assembly planned but the performance group doesn't show up (Yes, this happened to our school once.) so you need to go to plan B.  But most of the time, the play call matches up with the defense and it's time for learning.

Executing the right play.
The play has been called and now it's time for proper execution.  If all of the players do their jobs, including the quarterback, the chances for success are pretty high.  The defense may make the execution a little more difficult, but as many would say, the offense has the upper hand because they know where they are going and the defense players needs to react to the offense players.  Even when the play is executed correctly, things can go wrong so the quarterback needs to make adjustments for the next time the play is called.
Principals need to make sure to execute the right "plays", too.  The teachers, support staff, and students all must do their part.  If they do, the success of the class period or school day is almost certain.  But even when the right "play" is called, there may be a need for adjustments by the principal, the teachers, the support staff, or the students.

The play has been called.  The quarterback looks over the defense.  The play is set, and then the defense adjusts.  That's when a quarterback must call an audible.  Brett Favre was a master at this, but it took some time to get to his level.  It's the reason Packers fans never gave up on a game whether the Packers were way ahead or way behind.  We just wanted to see what Brett would do next.
Principals have to call audibles sometimes, too.  My hope is when we do call an audible, it's for the kids and not for the adults.  Creating a before or after school club for kids who have an interest in something is a great example.  It might be for the environment, for coding, or to get some homework help.  Call the audible and find a way to support it and fund it.  The kids will thank you.  

Hail Mary.
For quarterbacks and teams, this is their last chance.  It's either amazing or disappointing.  Enough said.
For principals, a Hail Mary could be a staff meeting to rebuild trust or put a rumor to rest.  It could be a family meeting with a student and a teacher.  It could be a meeting with a teacher about performance and ways to improve.  Whatever the case might be, it could be a last chance to make a difference and hopefully it is amazing.

The team gets the win.  The quarterback gets the loss.
If you're a good quarterback, you might take the credit for the win and put the blame on others for the loss.  If you're a great quarterback, the team gets the credit and you take the blame for the loss.  I have never met Brett Favre in person, but I am positive that he feels that all of his wins were because of the team that surrounded him and nearly all of the losses were because of something he either did or didn't do.
Principals feel the same way.  The reason any school is good, or is considered a winner, isn't because of the principal.  It's because of the staff, students, and families that a school is good.  Principals need to get all of the pieces in place, work on the climate and culture, listen, and make a decision that they know is in the best interest of kids.  The people in the school get the credit for the success of the students.  On the other hand, if something isn't going well, it's the principal who should take responsibility for the problem.  If she or he then works with their team, positive changes can be made to get the school back on track.

I'm very fortunate to work in a great school district and a great school.  The reason we are great is because we are a team.  We are the BEST school, with BEST standing for Believe, Encourage, Share, and Trust.  We believe this about one another and strive to be better every day.

I'll end with a personal story of my "famous" looks.  I was in a bowling alley in Wisconsin when Brett Favre was still playing.  I am not a good bowler and was wondering why this person was taking pictures of me bowling.  The only thing they would learn from my bowling is what not to do.  After a few minutes, they walked closer to me and I asked them why they were taking pictures.  Until I spoke, they honestly thought I was Brett Favre.  Although I am not Brett Favre, I do look a bit like him, and I hope those I learn with think I'm a pretty good quarterback for our school.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Last thoughts for June

I hope that you are all enjoying this first week of summer break.  I've had time to catch up on paperwork, meet with staff and families, and read a book (I read "Hacking Leadership" by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis).  More importantly I was able to spend lots of time with Jen and Lauren, highlighted by Lauren getting her license yesterday!  I'm proud and thankful, as my taxi driver duties are over, at least for the time being.  I've just got a few things for you.

  • Please remember to think about your reflections and share them with me.  Here's what I wrote last week.
    • I always like to reflect on the day but now I'm reflecting on the year.  Here is a blog from edutopia that might provide some ideas of how you can reflect.  And here is a blog from my friend, Geniene (the one from 10000 days of running), that might help you, too.  As I look back at our school year, some thoughts come to mind.
    • I had the privilege of visiting your classrooms every day.  The one thing I need to do better is providing individual feedback more often.  The miniobservations are alright, but I plan on dropping you a voxer message from time to time.  If you're not on voxer, that's alright.  I'll just email you a link so you can hear what I'm saying about you.I had the privilege of connecting with students every day.  The one thing I need to do better is contacting families when I see the good that students are doing, not just when I have to call because of a poor decision.
    • I had the privilege of great conversations with staff every day.  The one thing I need to do better is finding the time to not just talk about school.  I need to get to know each of you better so that I really can figure out what makes you such great educators.
    • What three thoughts come to mind for you when you reflect on the year?  I'd love to hear about them.
  • We have a number of great candidates for our 7th/8th math position.  First round interviews will be on Monday, June 27th starting at noon if any of you are interested in joining us.  Colleen and I will be taking care of second round interviews on Thursday, June 30th.
  • Take time for yourself this summer.  I'm going to reconnect with Jen and Lauren starting tomorrow as we travel for a few days.  And if you read the first paragraph, we have three drivers now!
  • Take a chance and try something new this summer.  I'm thinking about writing a book.  Anyone want to join me?  I have no idea what I'll be writing about, but it will probably have something to do about education.

And here's a fun video from Lex Prin about differentiation that I thought you might like.

Thanks for taking the time to read this over.  I'm taking some time off and will be back online Monday, July 27th.  Remember, in the words of John Gunnell...
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.