Friday, March 24, 2017

Testing week- Thank you!

A week of testing and family conferences has gone by and I need to say thank you.
  • Thank you for your work on test preparation.
  • Thank you for your dedication to our kids.
  • Thank you for providing a testing environment that kept the focus on the kids' opportunity for success.
  • Thank you for your flexibility with our testing schedule.
  • Thank you for having fun with our kids when they needed down time.
  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts with your colleagues and me to make adjustments as the week progressed.
  • Thank you for connecting with our students and their families, face to face.  The power of face to face is so much greater than an email or Skyward message.
  • Thank you for Being the One!
Me and my shadow...
You may have noticed that Lynsey Bakkum, first grade teacher at the Primary School, was shadowing me on Thursday afternoon.  We took part in lunch and recess duty, walked through lots of classrooms, asked students what they were learning, spoke to a couple of students about their behavior, watched students take the Forward Exam through classroom windows, and saw Spheros in action.  Lynsey was impressed with our school and spoke about how quiet it was.  Some of it was the testing environment upstairs, but I also told her that you all have put procedures and expectations in place that help students be more successful.  And I almost forgot.  Lynsey saw me conduct the 5th grade band.  It was just a regular day at Merton Intermediate School, one that I sometimes take for granted.  I apologize for that.  Our school isn't a great school by accident.  It's a great school because of all that you do with and for our students.  So this is another thank you.

Saturday, March 25th
EdCampElm- held at Brookfield Central High School

Monday, March 27th
  • 7:30-8:15  coaching
  • 7PM  School board meeting (SIP team members are welcome to join me.)
Tuesday, March 28th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 12:22-1:03  Makey Makey showcase
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, March 29th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:30  Reading specialist interviews
Thursday, March 30th
  • Grade level and Specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30  volleyball games at Merton
  • 7:00  School board meeting
Friday, March 31st
  • No office day!
Tweets, quotes, and blogs

(from Pinterest)

There is a reason for this number.  Our students will be with us, after today, for 4300 minutes until Spring Break arrives for us all.  It is important for us to take advantage of each one of these minutes, provide a focus for our students and each other, and make every minute count.  If you provide learning opportunities that engage our students in learning, and learning something new, they will provide you with a fantastic effort like none you have ever seen.  Keep up your energy.  Walk the halls with a colleague during your prep period.  Walk the halls with the students.  Visit another teacher during your prep period.  Check on your students in specials or study hall.  Eat lunch with the students.  Eat lunch with a colleague you haven't spoken with in a while.  Let the students know that you are keeping an eye on them, and do it with a smile.  Call home with a student after class to let their family know they had a great day.  Take a picture of a student being kind or safe or doing their job and send it home in an email or post it on Twitter.  And do one more thing.  Reflect on the good you do every day for our students.  Write it on a post it note and put it on your computer monitor or desk.  If you start today, you'll have 11 positive reasons for why you are a teacher, and I bet each one will mention what you have done for a student, or group of students, that shows your impact on them.
As always, Be the One!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mirror or window?

Saturday morning I had the chance to read Pernille Ripp's post entitled "It's On Us".  Please take a moment to read it.  And then this blog, "I Cried at School Today" came across my Twitter feed, thanks to Mark French, a principal from Minnesota, tagging me in his tweet.  Please take a moment to read it.  It made me think of a few things but two in particular I'll share with you.  Lauren, Jen and I recently visited Marquette's School of Nursing for a tour.  We went into their learning lab and saw some of those fun one way mirrors, you know the ones that someone on one side can look through while those on the other side see only a mirror.  The other was the title of this post, and I found a blog post entitled "Are You a Window Person or a Mirror Person?" written by Bill Zipp which really hit home.  Please take a moment to read it.  The following image, which is a brief summary, is taken from Mr. Zipp's post.

Now I know what you're thinking.  "Jay, you want us to read three blog posts?"  Yes I do!  These three posts made me reflect on being a husband, being a father, and being an educator.  I'm sure they'll make you reflect, too.  So I have just one question, are you looking at a mirror or through a window?

Great things I saw this week...

  • Volleyball practice has started, and the kids are really enjoying it!
  • Kids having fun playing in the snow on Monday.
  • Socratic seminar in Science (Visit Dave's class to see it in action)
  • Kim stepping in for Matt while he is presenting and learning at the @shapeamerica conference in Boston (#shapeboston).  Thanks goodness Matt got to Boston safely on Monday.
  • An outstanding choir and band concert on Tuesday night.
  • Coding spheros in 5th grade Science. (Stop in and see!)
  • The overall effort and focus with test preparation and your willingness to change our testing schedule to benefit the students.
  • 5th and 6th graders skiing during PE class.
Monday, March 20th
  • 5th and 6th grade Forward Exam
  • 7:30-8:15  Coaching
  • 4:15-5:15  BLT meeting
  • 7:00  Volleyball coaches' clinic
Tuesday, March 21st
  • 5th and 6th grade Forward Exam
  • 7:15-8:30  Volleyball practice
  • 2:30-3:00  Heather
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, March 22nd
  • Final group pictures and candids for yearbook in the AM
  • 7:15-8:30  Volleyball practice
  • 9:30-11:30  A-team meeting
  • 1:15-2:30  5th grade interviews
Thursday, March 23rd
  • 7th and 8th grade Forward Exam
  • No grade level meetings with me due to Forward Exam week
  • Lynsey Bakkum shadows me in the PM (She's going for her administrative license.)
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30-6:30  Volleyball games at Swallow
  • 4:30-8:15  7th and 8th grade arena conferences
Friday, March 24th
  • 7th and 8th grade Forward Exam
  • 7:15-8:30  Volleyball practice
Saturday, March 25th
Tweets, blogs, and quotes
(from Pinterest)

Stuck in a Rut or in a Groove? (from George Couros)

(from AJ Juliani. I know it's small, but it's powerful!)

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you were pulled in what seems like a hundred directions?  Me, neither. (Just kidding.)  This week was one of those weeks.  But I wasn't pulled in a hundred directions.  I was pulled in just one direction- trying to find what's best for each of our kids.  Think about your week here at school, and probably on your drive and at home, too.  You were going in a hundred directions, too.  And I bet your focus was on kids, ours here or yours at home, most of the time.  That's one of the things that impresses me about you- your focus on the kids.  Remember when we used to say "What we do is for kids"?  Well you all still live those six words.  Have a great weekend watching basketball, or dance, or hockey, or gymnastics, or whatever, and come back focused on our kids again.  Next week will be a great week because of what you do for and with our kids.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, March 10, 2017

Don't lose sight of today

This may shock you.  I was in a Twitter chat on Sunday night.  The topic was how you focus on this school year while looking forward to the next school year.  Reflection came up a lot.  People blog.  People use post it notes.  People use a journal.  People use apps.  People run and think.  My response had to do with concentrating on this school year when the students are in the building and thinking about next school year when the students aren't in the building.  As I reflected on the chat, my thoughts went to this theme- "Don't lost sight of today."  I have concentrated on this all week, realizing I need to give my full effort to today and making it the best day it can be.  It can be a challenge, but it's the only way to get the most out of every day.  Let's challenge one another to be focused on who we are with, be involved in the conversations we are in, and giving a full effort to our kids the rest of this year.  They deserve it.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Collaboration among students in all grade levels and content areas.  Seriously, every class I was in I saw great examples of this.
  • Great effort in PE classes.
  • Students being challenged by activities and not giving up.
  • Staff and parents coming together for the benefit of students.  I was physically involved in two of these conversations but I know they happen all the time.
  • This note from a parent I received on Tuesday.  "This past Saturday, our 6th grade Merton white team won the AMSAC tournament!  It was very exciting and fun to experience.  However, I want to tell you all about something that was equally awesome.  We have a great team of kids and three exceptional players that also play ABC basketball.  They are Thomas, Riley, and Aidan.  On Jan. 24th, we played Richmond and it was obvious we were the stronger team  Our two coaches, Coach Erickson and Coach Curry, were both gone due to business travels.  Mr. Zirgibel and Mr. Mickol helped coach. However, our ABC players took charge and worked VERY HARD to make sure our less talented NBA superstars could shine that night!  They took over the clipboard, drew out and methodically explained plays so some of the other kids who aren’t as strong could have their moment.  For 6th grade (11-12 years old) that was SO IMPRESSIVE to me that I wanted to share it with all of you.  Those three young men didn’t hog the ball, they didn’t run up the score…they became the young leaders they are and rose to the occasion!!!  Congrats Thomas, Riley and Aidan! Simply impressive!!!  I KNOW there are MANY stories about the bad things that occur during sporting events…I wanted to share something GOOD!"
  • The kids and parents who helped out for our 8th grade basketball tournament.  Dan, Ron, and Jim were pretty awesome, too.
  • The sportsmanship of our players, fans, and coaches in the tournament was pretty awesome, too!
  • Mary working with our 5th graders on PLTW and spheros.  The kids are really excited about the opportunities.
Monday, March 13th
  • 7:30-8:15  coaching
  • 2:30-3:30  PTO grants
Tuesday, March 14th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 8:15-8:30  Coopetition celebration
  • 9:45  IEP meeting
  • 11:00  IEP meeting
  • 2:30-3:00  Heather
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 5:30  Mid-Winter Concert
Wednesday, March 15th
  • 8:55  SST
  • 3:00  IEP meeting
  • Culver's Night
Thursday, March 16th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • Grade level/specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, March 17th
  • 7th/8th grade Band/Choir trip
  • 8:45-9:15  Trinity Irish Dancers

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

Have a great rest of your Friday, and I'll see you on Monday.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself- John Gunnell

Friday, March 3, 2017

Choice or chance

As I get older, every day, I think about things a little differently.  A friend of mine recently found out that her job will be changing, and it caught her a bit off guard.  We have spoken a few times on Voxer and our focus has been on what to do next.  The quote below struck me as I thought about her.  I know her, but I don't know her near as well as I know each of you.  Think about those things that you are faced with every day and the choices you make regarding these things.  Do you blame others or focus on what you can do?  Do you celebrate others' successes as much as you celebrate your own?  Think about all that you come across every day and ask yourself this...Do I decide to live by choice or by chance?  If you're like me, I bet you'd rather live by choice.
(from Pinterest)

Friday, March 3rd
  • 5:00  Student Senate Carnival
Saturday, March 4th
  • 5:30  PTO Trivia Night
Monday, March 6th
  • 7:30-8:15  coaching
  • 1:30-2:30  facilities
  • 4:30-8:30  8th grade basketball tournament
Tuesday, March 7th
  • 8:00-8:30  SST
  • 3:00-3:30  Heather
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30-8:30  8th grade basketball tournament
Wednesday, March 8th
  • No RtI Wednesday assembly due to Triinity Irish dancers on Friday, March 17th at 8:50
  • 7:00-8:00  practice
  • 8:00-8:30  SIP team (All are welcome, but SIP team members should attend)
  • 8:55-9:40  6th grade meeting
  • 9:45-10:30  5th grade meeting
  • 12:22-1:03  7th/8th grade meeting
  • 1:30-3:00  A-team meeting
  • 4:15-4:45  Dave
Thursday, March 9th
  • 7:30-9:30  Principal Center (Discussing personalized PD)
  • Data Conference in Green Bay the rest of the day
Friday, March 10th
  • Data Conference in Green Bay all day
  • 4:30-8:30  8th grade basketball tournament
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"The more innovative I have become, the less classroom management I have to deal with." (from George Couros)
(from Pinterest)

The Fear of Sharing (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)
Family smore for 3.3.17

Do you know we can learn anywhere?  So can our kids!
Wednesday night, I was supposed to co-moderate a chat with Ted Huff, principal at Francis Howell Middle School in Missouri.  That was the chat I invited you all to participate in.  No one from Merton joined us, but the chat went on anyway.  Hopefully you can join us next time.  Any way, I wasn't at home on Wednesday night.  Jen and I were at a car dealership looking at a new vehicle and while we were waiting, I grabbed my Chromebook, connected to their wifi, and went to participating in the chat.  Why do I mention this?  We live in a world now where you can learn anywhere, anytime, and with anyone.  We shouldn't make excuses.  We should make the time.  This doesn't go just for us.  It goes for our students, too.  Let's remind one another, and our students, of the awesome opportunities we have to learn every day.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, February 24, 2017


I was thinking about connections over the weekend and realized that there are a number of connections we make as educators.  We connect with our students.  We connect with our colleagues.  We connect with our students' families.  We connect with our families.  We connect with our friends.  We connect with our professional learning networks.  I encourage you to pause and think about what makes these connections vital for our school, vital for our families, vital for our lives.  These connections are always changing with an ebb and flow to them that make them exciting.  We must always work on our connections, making them stronger and more positive than they were yesterday.  One of my favorite responsibilities is connecting with you about your classrooms and what your students are learning and accomplishing every day.  Those midyear meetings that we finished up this week were more important to me than you know.  Your reflections and our conversations make me proud to be your principal.

Great things I saw this week...

  • Students teaching students.  If you can teach it, then you must understand it.
  • The beginning of the week's weather made for some great recess time.
  • Michael and Heather's work on the Arrowhead Choral Consortium.
  • Invitation conferences for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade were a success.  Conversations with families and students have set a path for success.
  • Staff stepping up for one another again this week.
  • Your true concern for my brother in law, Steve, and his road to recovery.
  • Grade level meetings to talk about kids and share some great things.
  • IEP meetings that showed a true partnership between families and our school.

Monday, February 27th
  • 7:30-8:15  coaching meeting
  • 5:30PM  basketball game at Erin
  • 7:30PM  School board meeting
  • 8:00PM  #PIAchat on passion for education
    • Join a group of fired up principals for this half hour chat.
Tuesday, February 28th
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • IEP meeting  3:00 (off site)
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 7:00PM  #edprep chat on classroom management or infusing technology
    • Join students studying to be teachers, teachers, and admimistrators for this hour long chat.
Wednesday, March 1st
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 2:30-3:00  PTO meeting
  • 7:00-7:30 #msteach chat on relationships
    • Join other Middle School teachers from Francis Howell Middle School in Missouri for this half hour chat.  I'll be here in the library if you want a tutor.
Thursday, March 2nd
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • team meetings (except 6th grade)
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, March 3rd
  • 7:00-8:15 practice
  • 4:00  carnival
Saturday, March 4th
  • 5:30  Trivia Night
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
The Ideal Class-Perhaps You Already Have It (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

Facilitation: It's Not Data Gathering; It's Teaching (from Dr. Nancy Sulla)

(from Pinterest)

Working on "Meaning" (from George Couros. This is good, especially the first quote.)
Problem Finders or Problem Solvers? (from Pernille Ripp. A good reflection on assumptions.)

@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 2.24.17

Our job as communicators
This week seemed to be a week of communicating with parents.  I had emails, phone calls, and face to face communications every day.  I have this unwritten rule.  If I receive an email that is longer than a paragraph, I either respond with a request for a phone or in person conversation or I just pick up the phone and call.  Skyward is a tool for communication but it's just that, a tool.  Not everyone is proficient using that tool so reach out via email or phone or face to face meeting.  We are a team when it comes to educating our students, and by we I mean the family, the educators, and the student.  Missing out on one of these elements can cause issues regarding a student's success.  There are three months of school left and those three months can either build stronger relationships or weaken them.  Let's do our part, every day, to make these relationships stronger.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, February 17, 2017

Were you #allin this week?

On Saturday morning, I participated in #leadupchat and the topic was being #allin.  It was an intense chat involving teachers, coaches, and administrators.  In thinking about the chat this week while I was in and out of your classrooms, I decided to take note of some times I saw you and the students #allin.  Here's what I noticed.
  • Scientists changing their posters to include new knowledge about reactions
  • Badminton games with intensity and sportsmanship
  • Focus during reading time
  • "Argument practice" using a Taylor Swift song (which I can't get out of my head)
  • Jennifer organizing, and reorganizing, books for our library and book room
  • Presentation work during Social Studies
  • Staff tweeting out the great things going on in their classrooms using our hashtag! (#mertonint)
  • Sphero Club kids making obstacle courses to solve by coding
  • More and more high school students stopping up to help out with Homework Club
  • Incredible sharing of ideas during grade level meetings (Coopetition?)
Monday, February 20th
  • No School
Tuesday, February 21st
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 12:22-1:03  7/8 meeting
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, February 22nd
  • 1:30-3:30  A-team meeting?
  • 5:30  home game vs. Stone Bank
Thursday, February 23rd
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 6th, 5th, and specials meetings
  • IEP meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30-8:00  6th/7th/8th grade invitation conferences
Friday, February 24th
  • Got a pair of jeans?  Today's the day to wear them!
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Adventure to Fitness (Check this out for ideas for brain breaks.  If you're interested, let me know.  I need to sign you up.)

The Students are Paying Attention (from @gcourous)

A delayed #shadowastudent day (My reflection from Monday's shadow day.)
A Few Ideas to Teach Inference (from Pernille Ripp)

#InnovatorsMindset MOOC
If you read Innovators Mindset, or if you didn't but are intrigued by the things your colleagues said about it, this may be an opportunity for you to consider.  If you're interested, let me know.  Maybe we could get an entire group to take part.  Here is a link for more information.  It starts next Friday, February 27th.

Are you teaching Steve's doctor?

Keep this picture in mind for this reason.  It's my brother in law, Steve, less than 24 hours after brain surgery.  One of you, right now, has in your class a student who will be a surgeon, maybe even a brain surgeon.  You also have a student in your class who will do something phenomenal in any variety of occupations, some of which don't even exist yet.  Teach them all, treat them with respect, push their thinking, and keep doing the great things you do every day.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A delayed #shadowastudent day

Even the best plans need to be adjusted.  I was going to shadow students over a week ago, but instead I was a guest teacher all day.  Today I got the chance to shadow a 6th grader in the morning and a 7th grader in the afternoon.  Interested students completed a Google form and I used a random number selector to choose the students I would shadow.  This is a picture and text story of my day.

I started out with Ashley, joining her in art class for some time with clay.  She did an awesome job and I only wish I had taken the plunge to join her on the potter's wheel.  A shirt and tie with dress pants kept me off of the wheel, but I was close enough to get splattered.  Ashley never gave up on her creation, despite some difficulties, and I was proud of her for that.

After art class, we went on to RtI, completing a word sort with time to read.  I was able to take part in a word sort discussion and realized I have some work to do.  I ended my morning with Ashley with Language Arts time, reading and preparing for a mini-lesson.  It was an awesome morning!

I took a break from shadowing for lunch and recess duty and then began my afternoon with 7th grader Emily.  She was in gym class, playing badminton, so I sat on the floor and learned a bit about the statistics being collected by the students.  Once we were done with gym class, I joined her for Literacy.  The 3 minutes of passing time was just enough to get from the gym to the classroom.  In Literacy we read a book and had some discussion time about what we read.  The other students treated me just like a student, and I was even called on to answer a question!

We moved from Literacy to Language Arts.  I was able to participate in the Circle of Power and Respect, sharing my favorite flower with the class as we prepared for Valentine's Day.  We followed that with some time to read or to find a new book.  When the students returned from the library or the classroom library, it was time for the mini-lesson.  We learned about citing evidence from a text and then had the chance to either listen to it read to us, while we followed along, or going to another room to read it on our own.  After the mini-lesson, we moved to the work room and Emily started working on her preassessment while I started writing my blog.  What a great afternoon!

So here are my thoughts after shadowing for the day.
  • It's great to be able to move from one class to the next.
  • It's great to be a student and have the students treat you like a classmate.
  • The students have the opportunity to read every day, so I did, too.  I almost always have a book when I move about the building so I can read when the students are reading.  It sure doesn't hurt to be a reading role model.
  • Our teachers are prepared for our students every day, and our students are prepared for our teachers.  They have procedures and expectations in place and although it may take a reminder or two, the students get right back on task.
  • Our students get to move around and socialize between classes.  I'm sure they might like more time between classes, but you can connect with your friends in the three minutes between classes.
  • There is little down time for our students during their classes.  They are "on" nearly all of the time, but they still have some choice (reading books, partners, groups) that give them responsibility.
  • The teachers treated this as a normal day.  They knew in advance that I was shadowing but they didn't change anything that they had planned for the students that day.  Maybe it's because I'm in their classrooms a lot.  It's definitely not because I look as young as any of our students, or teachers.
  • I need to shadow more often.  It helps me to better understand what the students are asked to do on a daily basis.  And I think they are more willing to talk to me about their day because I have their perspective, too.
Thanks to Mrs. Johnson, Miss Koch, Mr. Pomeroy, Miss Depies, Mrs. Hess, and Miss Francoeur for letting me shadow in their classrooms.  They treated me as a student and included me in activities that the students were participating in.  The students treated me like a student, too.

I certainly would like to hear your thoughts.  Maybe we can compare notes.  Maybe I can encourage you to give it a try.  The phone calls and emails will be there when the day is done.