Friday, October 20, 2017

Can you change?

I subscribe to three blogs which I mention in no particular order.  One is Pernille Ripp's, another is Dave Burgess', and the final, is George Couros'.  You have probably noticed that as I share at least one of them each week with you.  Last week Friday, George posted this blog- Change the World or Simply Maintain It?  Please take a few minutes to read it.  If you don't read the entire blog, please read the last paragraph.  It's the change we need to make in our classrooms and our school.  Are you ready to go there with me?  After conferences last night as well as some of our discussions during team meetings yesterday, I think we are.  No, I know we are.  The question is, can you find just one thing to do a little differently to make a difference for our kids?  I know you can.

Great things I saw this week...
Our BLT. like all of you, is looking out for all of our kids and all of our staff.
Our kids helping each other out in the STEM lab while learning Inventor.
Mark Flynn speaking to 5th graders about his knowledge of South Sudan.  Best thing- Mark asked the students what they thought about when he said Sudan.  The first answer was Sweden.  It caught Mark off guard, to say the least.
How much our staff takes care of each other.
How much our staff cares about our kids and their families as evidenced in conferences Thursday night and grade level meetings on Thursday.
An 8th grade student helping a 7th grade student, who was using crutches, carry his lunch tray to his table.

Red Ribbon Week
Monday, October 23rd
Wear Red!
School board meeting  7PM
Tuesday, October 24th
Wear team gear!
Homework Club  4:15PM
Wednesday, October 25th
A-team meeting  1:30PM
Thursday, October 26th
Professional Development Day
Friday, October 27th
No school- You better hang out with your family and friends!

Tweets, quotes, and blogs

(from Pinterest)

(from Joni Stevenson, a principal friend of mine from Idaho)

Curiosity Leads to Growth (from George Couros)
Who Do You Need to Thank (from Dave Burgess)
Family smore for 10.20.17

You gotta love your family...
I'm sitting in one of the last conferences last night and my watch started to vibrate to let me know of an incoming phone call.  It was my parents, but I didn't answer my phone.  I just finished up the conference.  Once the conference was over, I called my parents and their first question was if I was watching one of our family friends playing the organ in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  It's kind of a big deal and they wanted me to be able to hear him.  I told them that I couldn't due to conferences and then our discussion went to their trip to Connecticut, the state where I was born and where almost all of my parents relatives live.  I asked how they were getting to the airport and they said they were driving and parking there.  As my mom said, "It was cheaper than taking a Huber."  We then had a discussion about the difference between an Uber and Huber.  It was just the laugh I needed after an exhausting and exhilarating day.

I hope that today you find one thing that makes you smile and can share that smile with the students or one of our Merton family.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, October 13, 2017

All kids

Take a close look at this slide I found on Twitter while following the AWSA Elementary Principals Conference going on this week in Green Bay.  It's circled in yellow and I dare to say that we all believe the statistics.  The question is, "What are we doing every day to bring that potential to life?"  Each one of you has a different answer and no answer is wrong.  There are also easy answers as well as hard answers.  Please think of answers in both categories.  Share these answers with our BLT representatives.  It will be an agenda item for our BLT meeting on Monday.  I see the potential in each of you and I know you see the potential in each of our kids.  So, what else are we willing to do to bring that potential to life?

Great things I saw, and heard, this week...
Positive comments and conversation during an IEP meeting that made all on the team smile.
Laughter coming from the 6th grade lounge while I was covering a study hall.
5th grade band learning to play together, and sounding pretty good, too.
A group of educators came together to figure out the best ways to meet the needs of kids (Actually happens more than I can even keep track of every day.).
Watching 5th graders using the Google Expedition goggles in Science.
The jazz band sounded awesome on Thursday morning!
The color run was just plain awesome, and the slime was much easier to clean up from this year.
The 6th grade band practicing outside after the color run was really cool.
I enjoy our grade level meetings more than you will ever know.  There are too many reasons to even explain.  And the reviews are mixed on me bringing fruit instead of donuts.

Monday, October 16th
BLT  4:15
Tuesday, October 17th
Homework Club  4:15
Wednesday, October 18th
MAPs staff meeting (LA, Math, and Special Education teachers only)  8:00 in the Little Theater
Culver's Night 4:00-8:00
Thursday, October 19th
Grade level meetings (Specials meeting at 1:30 in the art room)
Homework Club  4:15
7th and 8th grade invitation conferences  4:30
Friday, October 20th
5th grade interviews  1:00

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"I Got To" versus "I Get To" (from George Couros)
Less Work, Deeper Learning (from George Couros)
Our Perfectly Average Child (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from ASCD K-12 Leadership Brief)

Thanks for all that you do every day for our kids that no one will ever know about.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Boosterthon week thank you!

It's not always easy to change what you're doing in your classrooms.  But this week you did just that.  Please know that I recognized the adjustments you made.  Showing videos, reminding students to log on, creating pledge-o-meters, and on and on.  The benefits of this one fundraiser will definitely offset the little bit of time you will lose in your classrooms.  Thank you for your flexibility and willingness to go with the flow this week and next week.

Great things I saw this week...
Staff stepping up to help out in a variety of ways, including covering for me when I was out all day on Monday and Thursday morning.
Students including students other than their friends in group work.
Students reading and writing independently, without redirection.
Students helping one another at Homework Club.
A 6th grade student sharing his story, and a song, with his Science class, and everyone celebrating with him.

Monday, October 9th
8:45-9:45  cover class

Tuesday, October 10th
4:15-5:15  Homework Club

Wednesday, October 11th
TILT and Math meetings
Picture retake day

Thursday, October 12th
Grade level meetings
1:30  5th/6th grade Color Run
2:45  7th/8th grade Color Run
4:15-5:15  Homework Club

Friday, October 13th
Hoping for a NO OFFICE DAY

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Inspiration in Front of Your Eyes (from George Couros)

If you'd like a good laugh, here's one from Gerry Brooks about his homemade teacher bags.

Anyone interested in giving this a try?  Just make this sign and post it outside of your classroom!
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Family smore for 10.6.17

Telling our story
I'm asking for your help.  I was out Monday all day and Thursday morning.  When I checked what was being shared about our school, there wasn't much there.  I know that we are busy but it only takes a moment or two to share something about your classroom.  If you don't have a Twitter account, you can still take pictures and send them to me and then I can post them.  I'd appreciate any assistance you can provide.  I want #mertonint and #MertonProud to be our story, not my story.  We have so many great things to share.  Thanks for your consideration.

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

The right thing to do

This quote, found in a post from AJ Juliani, is all we need to think about this weekend.
One veteran teacher who has led the move to personalized learning and authentic assessment said to me, "I keep thinking things might get easier. But, they never do. I guess I'm hoping for the wrong thing. Instead, things are getting better for our kids. They are having new experiences we could never have offered 5, 10, 15 years ago. It's not easy for us, but it's the right thing to do."
Here's the rest of his post, with a pretty awesome video, too.
What It's Like to Teach and Lead in 2017 (Hint: It's Exhausting)

Great things I saw this week...
Lots of reading
Great discussions among small groups of students in lots of content areas
Students being challenged in Math and Science with problem solving and vocabulary
Our grade level meetings have been a great combination of talking kids, discussing data, and laughing
MAP testing environments that allowed kids a greater opportunity for success
Gaga ball games have been going well (stop on out and watch if you are able)

Monday, October 2nd
I'm in Minneapolis recovering from the Twin Cities Marathon
Tuesday, October 3rd
8:00  Google Expedition training for all teaching staff
8:45  Boosterthon kick off assembly (Join me in the gym as soon as you are able!)
Adjusted schedule
4:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, October 4th
Boosterthon videos start today following the announcements (See link in team meeting agenda)
5th and 6th grade team meetings (Thanks for changing the meeting day!)
Thursday, October 5th
I'm in Madison for an AWSA meeting all morning
7th/8th grade team meeting
4:15  Homework Club
Friday, October 6th

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
11 Reasons Why Teaching Middle School is the Best Job Ever (from WeAreTeachers)

(from Pinterest)

Incremental Innovations #IMMOOC (from George Couros)

(from George Couros)

What to do when a student constantly refuses to work (from
#mertonint on Twitter
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Family smore for 9.29.17

I know that Thursday is my meeting day, but the meetings never seemed to end yesterday.  I'll be in classrooms all day today, except during lunch and recess.  Invite me in if you have something new that you're going to try or if you just want me to visit to be part of an activity.  I look forward to having an awesome NO OFFICE DAY today.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Hello, this is the Principal calling"

This post was co-written with Mark French, Principal at Gatewood Elementary School in Minnesota and Ryan Sheehy, Principal at Highlands Elementary School in California.

In the summer of 2015, I (Mark) was participating in a Twitter chat and was impressed when a teacher shared that she made a positive phone call home for one of her students every day. I thought, in my school I have 750 students and can certainly find one student a day deserving of a positive phone call home, thus #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay was born. That year (2015-2016) I created a spreadsheet and tracked my 130 different positive phone calls. Actually, I made more than 130 calls, I selected 130 different students that year. For some students I called both parents or other family members, whoever they wanted me to call. I also took a selfie with the student and shared the photo and reason for the call on social media. The following year (2016-2017) I continued my #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay making calls for 135 different students that year. I continued with the selfie and sharing on social media and I bought #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay wrist bands to give each student for them to remember and show others. This has turned out to be a powerful practice taking less than 15 minutes each day and using an easy technology tool, the telephone. Making my positive phone call home is the best part of my day.

During the 2016-2017 school year, I (Jay) had a goal similar to Mark’s- make one positive phone call home.  I failed miserably except for one beautiful Friday in April.  I had every teacher provide me with at least one student and made phone calls most of the day on that Friday.  It was one of the highlights of the year for me and, more importantly, it made our kids and their families feel good.  After a summer of learning and challenges by #principalsinaction, I renewed my goal of making a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay but with a little bit of a twist.  I meet with our grade level teams every Thursday and one of our agenda items is to provide me with a name of a student to receive a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay.  Those not on grade level teams have also provided me with names.  If there are any “extra” names, I encourage the teachers to make the calls themselves as it’s a great way to build positive relationships with families.  This week I added one more twist as I asked staff to nominate a colleague for a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay.  They did, I called the husband of the teacher, and the three of us had a really good cry.  The relationships fostered by sharing good news to a student or staff member’s family cannot be underestimated.

When I (Ryan) became a vice principal of a high school, I knew that I needed to do something to make sure that I wasn’t only calling home for discipline issues or problems. I needed to get parents and students to understand that we care about the positive things that are going on as well. Thinking back to the first call I made, the parents were shocked. I had chosen a student that had been in trouble before, but on this day made a great decision and helped out a student who was down on their luck. As soon as I caught him doing something good, I jumped at the opportunity to spread the joy. As I transitioned into becoming an elementary school principal, calling home for good things was a must. These phone calls have established positive relationships with parents and with students.

You can check out the Twitter hashtag #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay to see other educators making positive phone calls and smiling students. Make it a practice to share the positive and recognize the good things happening in your school. Remember, If you're not telling your school’s story, someone else will.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Are you in a rut or a groove?

We are in the midst of our third week of school.  Procedures should be in place, with a tweak here and there and a reminder from time to time.  When that happens you might find yourself in a groove or a rut.  Which describes where you are?  It is great to get into a groove as an educator, but doing the same thing over and over, even if it's good stuff, can get you into a rut.  And if you stay in the rut long enough, it might look a bit like the car above.  So how do you stay in a groove without it turning into a rut?  Here are some suggestions.
*Challenge yourself not to do the same thing every day.  For example, Kahoots are effective but not all of the time.  Have the kids develop review games sometimes instead.
*Don't talk to only the same staff or students every day.  Make a connection with someone new every week, or day, so that you get to know more of the great people in our school.
*Open your classrooms to others, and visit other's classrooms, too.  There are amazing things happening in our school every day.  Stop in a classroom and check it out.
*Connect with educators outside of school.  We don't know what we don't know.  Sidle up to someone at a conference.  Connect on a Twitter chat, or two.  Join a Voxer group.
Let's make it a "groove"-y year!

Great things I saw this week...
Students congratulating each other in the hallway after a soccer game in PE.
The work of two staff members, and a dad, to ensure that a student was taken care of.
Conversations among students about the books they're reading.
Grade level meetings that focused on kids, and what's best for kids.
The words on the walls above the lockers!
Conversations about the new learning lounge plans for the 7/8 floor.
The three family information nights- I really appreciate this extra effort by all of you!

Monday, September 25th
Kids Deserve It Monday- wear your Kids Deserve It shirt or Merton blue
Board meeting 7PM
Tuesday, September 26th
Homework Club 4:15PM
Wednesday, September 27th
Workout Wednesday
BLT 7:30AM
A-team meeting 1:15PM
Thursday, September 28th
Packers Day!
Grade level meetings
Homework Club 4:15PM
Friday, September 29th
I'll be out of my office all day!  Invite me to be a part of your class.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Questions of Compliance or Empowerment (from George Couros)

(from Jessica Johnson's Facebook post)

Small Change, Big Difference (from George Couros)

#mertonint on Twitter
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Family smore for 9.22.17

Our work with kids is so important.  You do it daily with a smile and a caring attitude, for our kids and for each other.  In my discussions with you, getting to know you better in our individual meetings, I can just see that you are doing your best work.  I notice that.  Sometimes, even when we are doing our best work, we need to do something different to make our work even better.  Work together to make this happen.  Teams are made up of all sorts of people.  That's what makes teams so good.  If we were a basketball team and had 5 identical players, I promise we would not be very good.  The fact that we have a variety of players makes our team pretty phenomenal.  I hope you have a great day with our kids today and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend with family and friends.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017


As we continue with another strong week of school, I begin to consider the expectations that we have for our students and for each other.  The moment we let the expectations slip a little bit, the more they are going to slip.  Let's keep the expectations high for the students, reminding them of our school procedures and acknowledging those who are meeting or exceeding the expectations that we have for them.  The same should be true of one another.  Starting next week, I want to make sure that we start looking at data from classrooms.  Let's see where our kids are doing well and where they need support.  And then lets find ways to get those supports into place.  It's been a great start, but we can always get better, for our kids and for each other.

Great things I saw this week...
Students and staff showing school spirit at our assembly
Staff joining lunch and recess from time to time
Workshop and interventions and conferring happening in all sorts of places
Kids excited about learning
I got a hug from an 8th grade boy who needs more hugs than we can give him, especially on his bad days
Kids inviting our new students into groups
Clean hallways- the kids are really taking pride in the new look of our building
Words going up in the hallways
Staff stepping up to do what's best for kids, and each other
The 5th grade band's first note together

Monday, September 18th
5:30  5th grade FIN
6:30  7th/8th grade FIN
Tuesday, September 19th
4:15  Homework Club
5:30  6th grade FIN
Wednesday, September 20th
8:00  Boosterthon staff meeting
Thursday, September 21st
Grade level meetings
4:15  Homework Club

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(from Pinterest)

"One" is Not Enough (from George Couros)

You're More Than a Letter Grade: Letter to a Discouraged Student (from Danny Steele)

Every Day is Awareness for Survivors: It's How We Use It--Suicide Prevention Week 2017 (from Sarah Johnson)
(from Pinterest)
#mertonint on Twitter
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Student assembly 9.13.17
Family smore for 9.15.17

PBIS reward suggestions
Thanks to the 7/8 team for sharing their PBIS ideas with us on Wednesday morning.  If you are looking for some ideas for rewards, this website is chock full of them.  Please let me know how I might be able to support you with this.

Just so you know...
I have heard from families this week.  They stopped me in the hallway to share with me how much their kids love this year at the Intermediate School.  They weren't shocked that their kids were enjoying their experiences.  I believe it was expected.  They just wanted me to know that they appreciate all that you do for their children.  Sometimes I don't tell you enough, because the little things sometimes go overlooked when they shouldn't.  You spend time in class getting to know the kids.  You spend time outside class getting to know the kids in a different way.  They notice, I notice, and their families notice.  Keep reaching out to families.  They want to hear from us, the good stuff and the bad stuff, so that they can celebrate with us and support us.  Try to make one good phone call or send one good email each week.  It will make you feel good, I promise.

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