Friday, May 19, 2017

It's a beautiful life

Take a moment to listen to this song, "It's a Beautiful Life" by Ace of Base.
Part of the reason I wanted you to listen is because of the quote below by Frank Lloyd Wright- "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."  The other part is because of the beauty we should see in our lives every day.  I'm not talking about beautiful people, although that is a nice part of our lives.  I'm talking about beauty in a more figurative sense.  The beauty we have in the choices we are able to make, in school and out, that few others have the opportunity to make.  The beauty we have in living in a community that supports our schools and teachers.  The beauty we have working with colleagues who care about one another.  The beauty we have in teaching kids who want to learn and do there best.  Keep that in mind when one of those moments comes up during the next few weeks.  Someone somewhere else, maybe even someone sitting in your classroom, has it worse than you do.  I challenge you to find something beautiful before school begins again on Monday and share it with a family member, friend, or colleague.  And then ask them about something beautiful they found in their own life.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Staff continuing to provide activities that engage our kids.  I know I'll continue to see this next week, and the next week, and the next week.
  • Students playing tennis, a life long sport, even in the rain.
  • Students working really hard on their portfolios.
  • Excitement about the book fair.
  • Wonderful concerts last night.
  • Smiling faces at Culver's on Wednesday night.
  • Kids reading and writing, a lot.  And that's a good thing.
  • Kids really focused on MAP testing and giving their best.
  • Conversations about doing what's best for kids.  Keep the focus on the kids and we'll power through to the end of the year.


Calendar
Monday, May 22nd
  • 12:22-1:03  AHS AD visits 8th grade
  • 7:00  Board meeting
Tuesday, May 23rd
  • 5th graders at camp
  • 4:15-5:15  Final Homework Club
Wednesday, May 24th
  • 5th graders at camp
  • 4:30  retirement party
Thursday, May 25th
  • 5th graders at camp
  • Jeans for Troops ($5 to our veterans if you wear jeans)
Friday, May 26th
  • Professional Development Day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Managing drama (by Mark French)

"I've always tried to go a step past wherever people expected me to end up.  I'm not about to change now."- Beverly Sills, opera singer


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

(from SmartBrief)

"You can have the nine greatest individual ballplayers in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."- Babe Ruth, baseball player


"You can't use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have."- Maya Angelou, writer and civil rights activist



Co-teaching Twitter chat
If you have an interest, or even if you're a little intrigued, there is a Twitter chat this Sunday about co-teaching.  If you haven't participated in a Twitter chat before, don't be scared.  You don't have to add anything at all.  You can just read what others are posting.  If you want some advice on participation in this chat, or any chat, just ask me.  I'm happy to help!

Don't forget to sign up for a 10-15 minute meeting about your SLO/PPG.  These meetings are some of my favorites as we discuss the success of your students.  When we meet, make sure that you are ready to share one thing you are proud of from this year and one thing you would like to try next year.  That's all for now.
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell


Friday, May 12, 2017

Staff appreciation week- It was amazing!

I don't know about you, but I was blown away by the show of support from our PTO and families this week.  Every day was just one more reminder about how our families feel about us as educators.  You should also know this.  Although there is one week designated as Staff or Teacher Appreciation Week, we are fortunate to live in a community where we are appreciated nearly every day.  Think about the emails you get, or the phone calls you receive, or the conversations you have.  The support of our families is evident in each of them.  You might have to look or listen closely, but it's there.  Keep the focus on our kids over this last month.  They are the reason we are here.  You are the reason they are here.  If I don't say it enough, I apologize, but it is a pleasure to work with and for you each and every day.  Happy Staff Appreciation Week!

Calendar
Monday, May 15th
  • 7:30  IEP meeting
  • 4:15  Final BLT meeting
Tuesday, May 16th
  • 4:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, May 17th
  • 8:00  All staff meeting
  • 1:30  A-team meeting
  • 4:00  Final Sphero Club meeting
  • 4:00-8:00  Culver's Night
Thursday, May 18th
  • Grade level/specials meetings
  • 4:15  Homework Club
  • 5:30  Spring Concerts
Friday, May 19th
  • 1:00  4th grade transition
  • 3:00  5th grade HG&D
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Fly me to the Moon (from Jeff Zoul)


The Full Story (from Pernille Ripp)


In the Small Details (from Pernille Ripp)


Get Excited to Teach (from We Are Teachers)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School on Facebook
Merton Intermediate School on Instagram
Family smore for 5.12.17

If you don't read anything else, please read this
While on Twitter or Facebook last night, watching NHL hockey, I came across this letter that I just had to share.  Please read it, carefully, and keep it in mind when we have discussions with each other and with families about students in our classrooms and schools.  It is a powerful message.
Letter to a parent

One final thought
I've been reading a lot of blogs over the past week and in one of them, or maybe in a combination of them, I remember reading something like this-

We don't have bad days.  We don't have bad mornings, or afternoons, or evenings.  We have bad moments.  And what we do after a bad moment determines how it will impact the rest of our day.

I don't know why this is important to me this week.  Maybe it will be important to me next week, or later today, or next year.  But it was important for me to share with you all today.  Maybe it's important to you today.  This video, shared by my mentee in Idaho with her staff, brings some of these thoughts to light.

Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

P.S.- Don't forget to be at the flagpole by 8:35 this morning and I hope to see you at the get together after school.


Friday, May 5, 2017

It's May!

What an exciting week!  It was Spirit Week and so many students, and staff, dressed up.  I was able to get some pictures that you can check out on social media or in our family smore.  Having a chance to be a bit silly with the kids and each other further helps to build relationships.  As someone once said, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  As the weeks wind down, the emotions of our kids, and our own emotions, will be as predictable as the weather.  Take a deep breath, contemplate your response or lack of response, and realize that we are dealing with middle school kids.  The best thing about middle school kids is that they are middle school kids.  Whether they admit it or not, they do want to learn.  Keep providing engaging activities, keep showing them you care, and they will surprise you with their effort, creativity, and work ethic.

Great things I saw this week...

  • Dissections in Science (starfish and frogs)!
  • Kids rollerskating, playing rugby and playing golf.
  • Tweets from many staff about the things going on in your classrooms and on the NJHS camp experience.
  • The flexibility of staff for all of the activities that happen in May.  These activities help us develop more well-rounded kids.  Thank you for understanding the importance of that.
  • The incredible work our IAs do with all of our kids.  It doesn't go unnoticed.
  • IEP meetings- Wow for all of you!
  • Grade level meeting discussions about kids and what's best for kids.
  • The stuff our PTO does for our students and us is amazing.
  • Spirit Week was amazing thanks to Student Senate.
  • All of the students and adults working hard to be ready for Grandparents' Day.

Calendar
Staff Appreciation Week (Always the first full week in May)
Monday, May 8th
  • Coffee and doughnut breakfast from the PTO
Tuesday, May 9th
  • Garden gift from the PTO
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, May 10th
  • Soup, salad, and potato lunch buffet from the PTO
  • 8:00-8:30  Staff meeting
  • 3:40-4:00  All school assembly
    • Adjusted schedule for 7th/8th.
    • We always impact our morning classes, so we're going to impact afternoon classes this time.
    • All staff will attend with their classes.
  • 4:15-5:15  Insurance meeting
Thursday, May 11th
  • Treat day from the PTO
  • 8:00-8:30  IA meeting
  • Grade level/Specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, May 12th
  • Gift presentation from the PTO
    • Please be at the flag pole by 8:35.  You won't want to miss it!
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
The Fence (from Jon Harper)


3 Misconceptions About Innovation in Education (from George Couros)


5 Reasons to Ban Fidget Spinners from Every Classroom in America (Shared with me by a staff member, and it's not what you think.  Please read it!)


On the Reality of Trying to Create More Readers (from Pernille Ripp)


@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate on Facebook
Merton Intermediate on Instagram
Family smore for 5.5.17

As a reminder...

  • Please make sure to be a presence in our hallways during passing times and before and after school.
  • Check your grade level meeting agenda for notes and important dates.
  • Kids will live up to your expectations so keep those expectations high.
  • Find something nice to say about each student at least once a week.  It will help them know that you really care, and I know you really do care.
What are you proud of?
We all have something we are proud of.  I'm proud of our work in school, I'm proud of our kids, and I'm proud of you.  First and foremost, I'm proud of my daughter and my wife.  They have to put up with me every day, and I'm not the easiest person to get along with on a daily basis.  They know that there are times when school must come first, and I hope they know that sometimes I'm able to change something on my schedule to make sure that family comes first.  You've heard me say "Family first" how many times?  Sometimes Lauren and Jen need to remind me of that, too.  This weekend is a weekend for family.  It's Lauren's final recital, and I get to dance with her in the father/daughter dance tonight and tomorrow.  I'm sure a video will pop up somewhere, but I had to share this video of Lauren and some of her friends dancing to "Space Between".  You can even vote for it, if you'd like.  Enjoy!

Have a great weekend!
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell



Friday, April 28, 2017

It's about the learners

Saturday morning I was reading a post by George Couros called Focus on the "Learner" and it got me to thinking about the choices we make for our students every day.  We decide when classes start and stop, the learning activities during those classes, and when and if they can leave the classroom.  As we approach the month of May, please continue to be deliberate about the choices we make for our students.  Provide more opportunity for choices for our students, too.  Let's do what George mentions- focus on the learner and not just on the learning.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Robots in 5th grade.
  • Kids reading and writing, in LA classes and outside of LA classes.
  • Passion projects in 6th grade.
  • Kids excited for the play.
  • The nervous energy and excitement of Jackie and Michael getting ready for the play.
  • Roller skating, rugby, and golf in PE.
  • Kids learning together in Geometry.
  • The kids in the play, and Michael and Jackie and Carey's son, Ben.
  • 5th grade at BizTown.  Check out this animoto of the day.
  • Field trip in the hallways by 6th graders to develop ideas for fantasy writing.
  • Miniature golf design in PE due to the inclement weather.
  • Listening to a student and parent speak German during Homework Club.
  • The flexibility of the staff providing opportunities for learning in different environments.
Calendar
Monday, May 1st
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Mayhem Monday (wear wacky attire)
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
Tuesday, May 2nd
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Pajama Day
  • Power Day
    • 8:00  IEP
    • 9:45  IEP
    • 3:15  IEP
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, May 3rd
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • College Gear Day
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 1:30  A-team meeting
Thursday, May 4th
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Fandom Day (May the 4th be with you)
  • Grade level/specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30  Literacy meeting
Friday, May 5th
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Squad Day (Twin Day)
  • Grandparents'/ Special Person's Day
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
Saturday, May 6th
  • Volleyball tournament at Arrowhead
Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Why Spirit Week Matters to Middle Schoolers (from MiddleWeb, a daily newsletter I subscribe to for inspiration.  Please think about this during Spirit Week next week)



Because of 4AM (from Brett Hagler)


#PIAchat from Monday (Check out what my colleagues are all about.  We'll be presenting at the National Principals' Conference in July.)

Your Guide to Running a School Like Disney World (from Lynn Colon, one of my #principalsinaction friends. I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Mustang Medal Challenge
Let's try to write at least one Mustang Medal by lunch time today.  I'd love to send out a picture on Twitter showing examples of the great things our kids do for each other and you every day.  Check your mailbox for a few to fill out.  I'll be making phone calls and sending these home early next week.  C'mon!  Help me make phone calls all day on Monday!
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thank yous!

Many of you may have noticed the condition of our school when you arrived on Tuesday.  I sure did.  It looked just like the first day of school.  Jim Hannon and Ruby Jankowski did a phenomenal job making our school look almost brand new again.  I mentioned this to the students on Wednesday morning and I'm hopeful that with my reminder, and your reminders, that our school will look this good all the way through June.  Thanks, Jim and Ruby!

The kids got right back to learning.  Did you notice?  The expectations and procedures that you have put in place are ingrained in the students.  I was a smiling principal as I took my colleague and friend, Jeff See, around the school on Tuesday.  He was impressed by you and our kids.  So was I.  Thanks to all of you!

The Forward Exam might be completely done for the year by the end of the day today.  Thank you for your flexibility and for reminding the students to give a complete effort.  The students did a great job.  You should be proud of them.  Thanks for all that you did to get them prepared.

The discussions we had at grade level meetings about our kids, even the tough discussions, just prove to me how much you care about and love our kids.  The conversations we have about them with no one else around are even more special.  Thanks for always keeping the kids first!

Calendar
Monday, April 24th

  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:15-5:15  BLT meeting
  • 7:00  School Board meeting
Tuesday, April 25th
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30  volleyball games at Stone Bank
Wednesday, April 26th
  • 1:30  Parent meeting
  • 4:00-5:00  Sphero Club
Thursday, April 27th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • No grade level or specials meeting, unless you need to meet with me
  • 10:15-11:45  6th, 7th, and 8th graders visit Primary School for play
    • 7th/8th grade schedule
      • 1/2 block- normal
      • 3/4 block- during 5th hour (No specials or study halls)
      • 6/7/8/9 blocks- normal
  • 2:20-3:50  3rd, 4th, and 5th graders visit Primary School for play
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, April 28th
  • 7:00PM  Play at Primary School
Saturday, April 29th
  • 2:00PM  Play at Primary School
  • 7:00PM  Play at Primary School
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
People are Always Your Best Resource (from George Couros)


Hugging a Porcupine (from Rob Miller- This is a must read!)



So, I watched the Bucks game Thursday night (#FeartheDeer) and they were awesome.  They looked so much better tonight than they did on Tuesday.  I thought about what the differences were in just two days.  They played at home (a familiar location).  They made adjustments (what they did Tuesday wasn't good enough).  Everyone stepped up their game (the effort was there for 48 minutes).  Some players who didn't play much on Tuesday had a chance on Thursday (they changed things up).  On defense, they made great rotations (they covered for one another).  They communicated when things went well and, more importantly, when things didn't go well).  They reminded me of you in your classrooms every day.  You make the learning space familiar to the kids, you make adjustments, you give a complete effort, you take risks and change things up, and you step up for each other.  The Bucks have #FearTheDeer.  We are #mertonint!
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Monday, April 17, 2017

Did your learning stop?

I started this blog post on Monday while sitting in a hotel lobby in Minnesota after a run along the Mississippi River.  Lauren, Jen, and I were visiting the University of Minnesota on our 5 school college tour over Spring Break.  I read some posts on Twitter, read an article or two from blogs I subscribe to, and then came across this blog on Twitter from Todd Schmidt, "Let Them Experience the Rain."  I thought about how many times I have stopped students from doing what they're doing, not realizing the learning that was going on.  It might not have been what I wanted them to learn, but it was definitely what they wanted to learn.  Then I thought a little more.  What if we did this more often- provide a learning target, share it with the kids, and then get out of their way and let them discover and learn on their own?  Imagine the variety of ways the kids could learn, some that we probably haven't even thought about before.  We would also benefit from learning right along with them.  Anyone willing to give it a try?

Calendar
Tuesday, April 18th
  • Welcome back!
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, April 19th
  • RtI/PLN Wednesday
    • 8:00-8:15  staff meeting in the gym
    • 8:45-9:15  student assembly (No need for staff to attend.)
  • Forward Exam makeups starting at 9:30 in the STEM lab
  • 1:30-3:00  A-team meeting
  • 4:30  volleyball games at Kettle Moraine
Thursday, April 20th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • grade level and specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, April 21st
  • 6:30  Choral concert at Nature Hill in Oconomowoc


Tweets, quotes, and blogs
The Game of School vs. The Game of Life (from AJ Juliani- Please take the time to watch the 8 minute video.  It's quite thought-provoking.)


To the Very Last Day (from Pernille Ripp)
Output or Compliance (from George Couros)

What Could Go Right? (from George Couros)
A Strong Line of Fighters (from Jenny Fischer, Merton alum, shared with us by Sarah Kasprowicz, but I needed to share it again.)

EdCampMKE
On Saturday, May 13th, EdCampMKE is coming to South Milwaukee High School.  See this link if you are interested.  EdCamps are great ways to learn and connect with educators, and they're free!

I hope that you all had a chance to enjoy your family and friends over Spring Break.  I sure did.  Jen, Lauren, and I visited UW-Oshkosh, the University of Minnesota, UW-Eau Claire, Carroll University, and the University of Wisconsin.  Jen and I both talked about how much college has changed since we were in school.  All of our travels to colleges made me realize that I am celebrating my 30th college reunion and 35th high school reunion this year.  It's crazy what you think about when you're driving around Wisconsin.  I tell you about our travels for two reasons.  The first is to remember never to take your family for granted.  Make time for your family as often as you can because things change so quickly.  The second is because of what I witnessed, and heard, from some of the university students who were our guides.  They spoke about the opportunities they have, their professors, their classes, and their university.  They spoke about the pride they have in their school and in their courses.  Let's make these last weeks of the 2016-2017 school year prideful ones for our students and for each other.  Let's find ways to celebrate the great things we offer our kids every day in our classrooms and in our school.  The kids deserve it, and so do you!
See you soon, and be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell




Friday, April 7, 2017

R-E-L-A-X


We've made it.  Spring Break is upon us.  Your efforts, and the efforts of our kids, has been fantastic.  Now it's time to relax.  But when you relax, it doesn't mean that you stop learning.  Find a good book.  Check out Twitter.  Over Spring Break, Jen, Lauren, and I will be checking out 5 different colleges.  Jen and I have a lot to learn about when it comes to helping Lauren select the right college for her.  Between visits, we'll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy one another's company.  I have a book or two I want to read, and I know that I'll be checking out Twitter from time to time.  But the most important part of the next week will be having a chance to relax.  I'll be refreshed and ready to get things going again on April 18th.  I'm sure that you will, too.

Great things I saw, and heard, this week...
  • Snap circuits in Science
  • 7th and 8th graders writing poems
  • Students teaching their classmates in math
  • The focus of our students completing Forward Exam makeups.  Their positive attitude continues!
  • Students working together with partners or in groups, even when they weren't with their best friends.
  • The way you continue to engage students right up until Spring Break.  Keep them learning and they'll keep on behaving.
  • Writing and researching and collaborating in Language Arts and Math
  • A phone message from Jim thanking the volleyball teams for all of their help this week in setting up the gym
  • Our custodians setting up the gym for the NJHS induction ceremony
  • Floor hockey in PE
  • The flexibility of our staff with changing schedules and Forward Exam makeups
  • Conversations at the copy machine in the morning
  • Discussions about the voting age in Social Studies
  • The kids at the NJHS induction ceremony.  You have done amazing things with all of our kids and these students are examples of that.  Here's the video that was shown during the ceremony.
Calendar
Friday, April 7
  • I'm out all day.  College visit with Lauren and Jen.
Saturday, April 8- Monday, April 17
  • Spring Break (Have fun, learn a little, relax a lot)
Tuesday, April 18
  • Severe weather week (Tornado drill one day this week, depending upon weather.)
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, April 19
  • RtI/PLC Wednesday 8:00-9:15
    • Staff meeting at 8:00 sharp
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Preparing Kids for Jobs that Exist Now (from George Couros)


Empty Kids into the Gift Shop (from Dave Burgess)

(from @matthew_arend on Twitter)

What We Ask of Our Students and What We Do (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

On Parent Assumptions and Fear of Change (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

Innovate Together (from George Couros- There's a terrific poem in this blog.)



Back to School grants
I know we just got to Spring Break, but here's an opportunity through Meemic Insurance for back to school grants.  It's an easy process and takes little time to complete.  Here is the link if you are interested.

Practice what you preach
Today is one of those days when I'm practicing what I preach.  I'm putting family first.  Lauren, Jen, and I are visiting UW-Oshkosh, our second college visit.  Ron is in the district and can help with any big issues that arise.  If you want to have some fun on the last day, it would be awesome if you stopped down during lunch or recess to hang out with the kids.  Many of them are taking family trips while others will be staying around Merton.  They might not admit it, but they will miss us.  Having some fun at recess or just sitting with them and enjoying lunch would mean more to them than you can imagine.
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell