Friday, December 2, 2016

Growth mindset reflections, and nuts and bolts

Growth mindsets.  I'm sure that you've all heard the term.  The question is, how can we make sure that we help build growth mindsets for our students, ourselves, and the families we interact with?  It's something that I've been contemplating ever since I started reading "Mindset" by Carol Dweck, a book discussion through our Mustang University facilitated by Corinne.  We've had one face to face meeting and the rest of our learning has been reading and reflecting, something we should all find the time to do more often.  When we reflect, we have the opportunity to grow, celebrate the things we've done well and adjust the things that might not have gone so well.  A growth mindset helps us find ways of getting better by our effort and not our innate abilities.  I have tried my best to keep that in mind when I speak with our students and especially when I speak with Lauren.  Lauren has always had a mindset that she isn't good in math.  I've been working on speaking with her about her effort and preparation, not her ability or intelligence.  Here's our texting conversation from Monday.
Lauren- "guess what"
Me- "What?" (Did you notice that I used capital letters and proper punctuation?)
Lauren- "i got an 86% on my math test"
Me- "Woo-hoo! You worked hard for that."
Lauren- "i know so happy !!"
Lauren- "hopefully my grade goes up"
Me- "Keep working hard and it will."

As I have said to our students many times, it's not what you say but how you say it.  Think about how you praise our students or your own children and keep this growth mindset in mind.

Great things I noticed this week...

  • Great 7th grade field trip to see "The Christmas Carol".  The behavior of our kids was, and is, awesome!
  • Staff collaborating on projects for Innovator's Mindset book talk.  I hope to be able to share some of these, with permission, before winter break.
  • Encore choir and Jazz band performances on Thursday night's tree lighting ceremony.
  • Thank you video created for our PTO by our kids.
  • Kids really contemplating what tags to take off of the Giving Tree.
  • Reading, reading, reading!
  • Cool 6th grade Science/LA research about the impact of space on human body systems
(Please invite me in to your classrooms next week for any innovative, creative, or hands on activities I can share with everyone!)

Monday, December 5th
  • Primary School Holiday concerts (It would be awesome for you to consider donating baked goods to their annual Holiday concert sale.  Home made or store bought.  Thanks!)
Tuesday, December 6th
  • Intermediate holiday concerts
    • Bands at 5:30
    • Choirs at 7:00
Wednesday, December 7th
  • "12 days before Winter Break" begins (Look for announcements from me for special dress up and food days!)

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.- Alan Alda, actor, writer and director

@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 12.2.16

And from A.J. Juliani about what is important
“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls.  The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity.  And you’re keeping all of them in the air.  But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  The other four balls - family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.  And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.”  [James Patterson]

I hope you can find some balance this weekend.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself (John Gunnell)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Communication possibilities

As we have ended the 1st quarter, and nearly the 1st trimester, one of the things I am proud of is the communication we have with our families.  Although I am proud, there is always room for improvement.  We rely a lot on Skyward and emails, but I encourage you to also use the phone or to have face to face meetings.  The personal nature of these communications is so much more powerful than written communication.  I know that we just finished conferences, so this may seem like a strange request, but reach out again soon.  Reach out because the student you just spoke about at conferences has made a great improvement.  Reach out because the student you just spoke about dropped a letter grade, or more, since the last time grades were entered.  Reach out because the student you spoke about wrote a magnificent paper or taught the class a math concept.  Reach out because the student you spoke about just always does the right thing.  And if you'd like me to make a phone call or two, send some students down to the office this morning.  I'd be happy to make some calls.

Great things I saw this week

  • Conferences.  You know our kids and their families.  And it shows.  Lots of smiles and handshakes and fist bumps.
  • 7th and 8th graders and their smoothies at lunch time.  Sharing the health.
  • Two of our Merton grads coming back to help out in Homework Club.
  • November weather that keeps the kids enjoying recess.
  • Thank you letters from our veterans to students and staff.  Here's one that's my favorite.
Friday, November 18th
  • I have a pretty free morning but my afternoon is packed with fun.  Seriously.  I have an observation from 1:08-2:36, a meeting with students from 2:36-3:06, and then I'm covering a class from 3:06-4:00.  That means I'm out of my office and in classrooms with staff and students.  If you need me for anything, don't hesitate to contact Barb.  She knows how to get in touch with me if it's an emergency.
Monday, November 21st
  • Coaching  7:30-8:15
  • IEP  1:15-2:15
  • Observation  2:36-3:06
  • IEP  3:15-4:15
  • BLT  4:15-5:15
Tuesday, November 22nd

  • Staff awards  8:15-8:30 in the Little Theater
  • No office day!
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Cool idea for book commercials (from edutopia)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 11.18.16
*These three quotes about success really struck home with me after our grade level meetings yesterday.  We are successful because we don't settle for what we did yesterday.  We strive to do better.  We prepare, work hard, and learn from our failures.  But don't forget about how we always talk about family first.  That helps us be a public and private success.  We won't rest on our laurels.  We're not that kind of family.  We keep striving to be better.  As James Collins says, "The enemy of great is good."  Let's celebrate what we do well, but then let's set a new goal and reach for it.

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016


It is an honor for me to be a part of #SAVMP (School Admin Virtual Mentor Program), a wonderful opportunity to learn with and from administrators throughout the country.  Our next challenge is to share what we are most thankful for, and the list is short but powerful.

  • I am thankful for my family, every one of them, for believing in me, helping me set and reach goals, and picking me up when even I don't realize I need a pick me up.

  • I am thankful for my co-workers who come to school every day, giving their best for our students and each other.  They keep me focused on what's most important (relationships with our students, relationships with each other, and relationships with our families- the real "3 R's" of education) and hold me and each other accountable.

  • I am thankful for my PLN (Personal Learning Network), especially the two principals who helped me become a connected educator, Curt Rees (@curtrees) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ), the original #WIAmigos.  Without my PLN, I'd be on an island, writing S.O.S. in rocks on the beach, and stagnant in my thinking and actions.

Thanks to all of you who have helped my become the educator I am today.  Who are the people you are most thankful for?

Friday, November 11, 2016

The kids are why we are here

I must honestly say I was happy with our staff meeting on Wednesday.  We came in after what was a long night of election results, turned our focus to the kids and each other, and had an awesome day.  After all, the kids are why we are here.  If you missed the meeting, or can't find the link to the presentation, here it is.  As I sit in my office after a night of conferences and Veterans' Day decorating (wait until you see what the kids did), I wonder what other line of work allows someone to be energized by kids, colleagues, and families.  I challenge anyone to find something that does all three.

Monday, November 14th
  • Stone Bank visits LA classrooms
  • I'll be riding bus #2 home
Tuesday, November 15th
  • Conferences 4:30-8:00
Wednesday, November 16th
  • A-team meeting 1:30-3:00
Thursday, November 17th
  • Grade level/ specials meetings
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Friday, November 18th
  • Kick back with Favorite Shoes Day!

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
We Continue the Path (from Pernille Ripp)

(I made using Google drawings)

How to Disagree (from Kid President)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 11.11.16

This is pretty short, Jay...
It's been a long week.  You've been awesome with the kids.  You opened up with one another on Wednesday morning.  Some of you had scheduled conferences.  All of you had unscheduled conferences.  We are celebrating our veterans this morning.  It's been a long week.  Enjoy today with our kids and veterans.  Maybe stop down and eat lunch with us.  And as always, give it your best.  We only have this day with our kids once.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Where did the 1st quarter go?

Holy mackerel!  Where did the 1st quarter go?  I know we only use quarters in 7th and 8th grade, but a quarter of our school year is over.  When you look back, what are your favorite memories from the 1st quarter?  Here are some of mine.
  • The Color Run and getting slimed.
  • Stopping in classrooms and reading, just reading, right next to our kids.
  • Having in depth conversations about Science with our kids.
  • NJHS tutors almost running Homework Club by themselves.
  • Our new playground!
  • Listening in on election discussions about the process.  They have been polite and informative, quite unlike the real election.
  • Grade level meeting conversations, BLT meetings, and our new SIP team.  I am so proud of the work that we do together for the benefit of our kids and each other.
  • Our group of kids this year are awesome.
  • Have you heard the bands and choirs?  They are sounding awesome!
  • The creativity in our art room is amazing.
  • Working together with students on their math.
  • Each of you stepping up to help out colleagues at all different times.
  • Mr. Olson, our Red Ribbon speaker, and our Boosterthon team, stopping me to say how polite and respectful our kids are and how impressed they are about staff sitting with the students during our assemblies.  You set the tone!
  • Our 8th grade mentors really making our new 5th grade class feel special.
  • The occasional unexpected hug from a student.
Tuesday, November 8th

  • Election Day (Don't forget to vote!)
  • SIP team meeting  8:00AM in Jim's office
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
  • #edprep chat at 7:00PM (Topic is mindset.  Join us if you can!)
Wednesday, November 9th
  • Jeans for Troops for Veterans' Day (pay $5 to wear jeans)
  • RtI/PLC Monday 8:00 in someone's room
    • Library has the Book Fair
    • Any volunteers?
Thursday, November 10th
  • Jay at the dentist 7AM
  • Grade level/ specials meetings
    •  6th and 5th grades optional due to conferences
  • Family conferences
  • No Homework Club!
Friday, November 11th
  • Veterans' Day Celebration

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
A Quiet Moment (from Pernille Ripp)
(from Pinterest)

Booksnaps (from Dave Burgess- using Snapchat for book reviews)
How do you connect? (from me for AWSA and SAVMP- Just ask me if you want to know what these stand for.)
(from Pinterest)

Audience Needed- Silly Poetry Videos (from Pernille Ripp)
Letter to a Tired Teacher (from @SteeleThoughts)

(from Pinterest)

I added the visual above for a special reason.  These next two weeks can often be difficult due to the additional stress of conferences.  I know that you have been communicating with families all year long so nothing should really come as a surprise.  But there's always that unknown element.  When you can, take a moment for yourself the next couple of weeks.  Go for a walk.  Read a book.  Talk to a friend you haven't seen in a while.  It will make you feel better.  And do what I do.  Sit down and have a conversation with one of our students.  They can really make you feel good.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

How do you connect?

As I thought about all of the relationships that we build as educators, I also thought about all of the ways that I connect with students, colleagues, and families.  Although this is not an all inclusive list of communication tools, it is a list that has helped me connect with people in my school, my community, my state, and beyond.  Special shoutouts go to Chris Reuter (@chris_reuter) and Mark Flynn (@m4flynn), former Merton colleagues, for their influence on my connectedness using Twitter and my #WIAmigos friends, Curt Rees (@CurtRees) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ) for furthering my connections using Voxer.  Now on to the ways I connect with students, colleagues, and families.

Face to face
I hope this doesn't need an explanation.  Sit down with people.  Walk with them from spot to spot.  Eat lunch with them.  Visit their classroom or invite them in for a discussion in your office.  Have Principal Chats.  Attend PTO meetings and family conferences.  Walk around during Open House.  Go to concerts and sporting events.  I really feel that face to face is the most important of our tools to connect.

Phone calls
Phone calls are the next best thing to face to face meetings.  These can also be done at a time that is convenient for both individuals.  I use phone calls to speak with families about student progress and behavior, but probably not as often as I should.  I also spent a full day calling home to families of students who were recognized for being good kids.  The silence at the end of the line when I said I was calling from my office with their child makes me want to do this more to change the perception of phone calls from the Principal's office.

This is probably how I do my most communicating with colleagues and families.  I really would like to limit the use of email, but the ease of using this tool makes it difficult to get away from.  I'm rarely at "inbox zero", but I'm able to keep my inbox to a manageable number.  I also have a rule that if I receive an email that is longer than one paragraph, I invite the person in to meet with me or make a phone call.  I find that writing a long response can sometimes muddy the message and leads to many more emails.

Image result for twitter
Twitter (@posickj, @mertonint, #mertonint)
Thanks to Chris, Mark, Curt, and Jessica, Twitter has helped me grow and connect as an educator in ways I can hardly explain.  I have connected with educators from all over the United States and a couple of other countries, too.  The wealth of information and ideas I can find on Twitter at any time of the day really blows my mind.  I have found that joining chats (#satchat on Saturdays at 6:30AM CST and #edprep (shameless plug for a chat Eric Rodriguez (@erod129) and I co-moderate) every other Tuesday at 7:00PM CST are two of my favorites) has helped expand the scope of those educators I learn from and with every day.

Image result for facebook logo
Facebook (Merton Intermediate School Facebook account)
I'm pretty new to Facebook, but I do have a school facebook account as that's where I find most of our families are connected.  Sometimes I post pictures but I also post daily student announcements and weekly family emails.
Image result for voxer logo
This is one of my favorite communication tools.  I use it with colleagues and haven't reached out to families yet.  Voxer allows you to text, send photos and videos, and, most important to me, voice responses.  It's like Twitter with an extra feature.  It is a private community, too, so you can invite individuals to join a group or just communicate with one individual at a time.  It's asynchronous meaning you can use it when you have time, a great feature that allows conversations to last for a long time.

Image result for smore logo
This is a great tool to share stories, pictures, and videos with colleagues and families.  I use this in place of the paper newsletter we used to send home.  Here's a link to my smores for this school year.  As I am someone who takes a lot of pictures during the week, I can share the photos I've posted from Instagram here, too.

Image result for instagram logo
I use Instagram to post pictures of the great things going on around our school.  Instagram is one of the newest tools that I'm using and there are a number of students who follow this account, too.

Image result for remind logo
Remind is another way that I connect with families.  Remind provides text messages instead of emails.  I've found that parents might not read all of their emails, but they will read a text when it comes to their phone.

Image result for ifttt
This app (if this then that) allows me to post pictures and text to Instagram which then posts to both Twitter and Facebook.  One post equals three posts, in reality.  This really cuts down on the time it takes to post to social media.

Google tools
I use Google hangouts to connect with colleagues and have also connected with families if they are unable to join us for conferences.  I use blogger (right now, for example) to reflect and write my thoughts as well as for our weekly staff nuts and bolts.  You can look through the list of blogs on the right side of this blog if you'd like to see some examples of our staff nuts and bolts.

I know that there are many other was to connect, but these are my "go to" methods.  There are a lot of them listed, but the variety is powerful.  Not all of the people you connect with will use all of these tools, but they will use at least one of them.  Let them choose the ones they are most comfortable with and you will build stronger connections with your students, colleagues, and families.

I'd also like to share this with you.  I don't follow anyone on our school Twitter or Facebook accounts except for our PTO.  That's just my way of making sure that I have more control over what appears on our timeline.  If you'd like to connect about any of these communication options, I'd be more than happy to discuss any of them with you.  And if you'd like to meet face to face, that would be pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Short week, but lots of learning

Three day weeks create interesting challenges.  We are all here, but we can see the weekend approaching so much more quickly than a full week.  And we still have so many things to do with and for our kids but only three days to do them.  A three day week also means we have a long weekend, something that is so important for us at this time of the year.  Use the time to recharge, refresh, and refocus.  Hang out with your family and friends and do something not related to school for one full day.  Go for a walk in the woods.  Go shopping.  Run a marathon.  You'll come back ready for the kids, almost like the start of a new school year.

Monday, October 31st
  • Jay's in DC
Tuesday, November 1st
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Wednesday, November 2nd
  • PTO staff grants  9:30-11:30
  • A-team  1:30-3:00
  • Sphero Club  4:15-5:15 (Come check it out!)
Thursday, November 3rd
  • Grade level meetings (Please have your team goal/SLO/PPG ready for discussion!)
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Friday, November 4th
  • IEP Power Day (10:45 and 3:30 IEPs for me)
Great things I saw...
  • Janine is back!
  • Great baby shower for Kaitlyn!
  • Incredibly deep conversations among students learning in Science and Math.
  • Gallery walks in LA.
  • Variety of activities in all of your classrooms.
  • Students really enjoying our new playground.
  • Students accepting me as their guest teacher.  Great conversations about Math and Science.
  • Students and staff getting into the Red Ribbon Spirit Week dress up days.
  • After our assembly today, Mr. Olson stopped me and spoke about our kids.  More importantly he spoke about all of you.  He speaks all over and was amazed that you were all sitting with the kids during the assembly.  That is not something he sees very often.  To say he was impressed is an understatement.  Like I sometimes say, it's the little things.
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(I made with Google drawings)

(I made with Google drawings) 
(from Pinterest)
(from Pinterest)
Family smore from 10.27.16

The family picture...
I'll be missing our family picture tomorrow.  Jen, Lauren, and I will be on our way to Washington, DC for the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.  If you want to follow me while I run, you can use the app found in this website-  I'm bib number 1059 and Sarah Johnson, principal from Spooner, WI, will be running with me.  It's her first marathon.  It's my 30th.  Brooks running has been very nice to us, providing shoes and registration and VIP credentials.  That means we have access to the best porta johns.  I'll be thinking of three things when I run- my family, all of you, and the Marines.  If I break it up the right way, each mile will be for one of you.  I'll be thinking about the great things you do with and for our kids, with and for each other, and for our school.  I'm sure there will be a tweet or two before I run and after, and I'll be proudly sharing it on the #mertonint hashtag.
Maybe one of you can figure out how to photo shop me into the picture.

See you on Tuesday!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell