Friday, December 8, 2017

Wonder Effects

Did you notice any changes this week after we saw the movie "Wonder"?  I have noticed a couple of things, like more students helping one another in the halls and a variety of "Wonder" related postings on doors, windows, and bulletin boards.  There is a Wednesday assembly next week and I'll be focusing our time on the theme of #ChooseKind.  If you finish your learning in time, please join us in the gym.  I've got some videos and a story or two that will hopefully have an impact on our students, and maybe on you, too.

Great things I saw this week...
Staff stepping up, again, to help one another out with unexpected situations.  This is becoming a habit, and I love it!
Staff sharing pictures via Twitter while I was at SLATE.  Thanks!
Teamwork in a variety of classes.
The true collaboration and open discussions during grade level and specials meetings.
Kim doing the announcements, with her own little challenge for the Giving Tree.  All of the tags were gone before lunch yesterday!
I just love watching the kids do Google Expeditions.
A wonderful report from the teachers about the behavior of our 7th graders on their field trip on Thursday.
Merton Theater team working concessions for the 5th grade girls basketball tournament.  And Jim and Dan did their "normal" exceptional work keeping the tournament running smoothly.

Monday, December 11th
It's a great day for me to be hanging out in classrooms!  Invite me in for some learning!
Tuesday, December 12th
4:15  Homework Club
5:30  Band concert
7:00  Choir concert
*I hope you can stop in for one of the concerts.  Jonathon, Michael, and the kids would appreciate it, and so would I!
Wednesday, December 13th
8:00-9:15  WIN (What I Need) Wednesday
1:15  A-team meeting
Thursday, December 14th
Grade level/Specials meetings
2:00  New family tour
4:15  Homework Club
Friday, December 15th
It's a great day for me to be hanging out in classrooms!  Invite me in for some learning!

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
High, Mid, and Low (from George Couros)

Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
writer and statesman

(from Pinterest)

Excuse Me While I "Just" Go Innovate (from Pernille Ripp)

Catch them doing something wrong or lead them to do something amazing (from George Couros)

(from @laffinteach)

You will succeed if you persevere, and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles, a delight in climbing rugged paths, which you would perhaps never know if you did not sometime slip backward.
Helen Keller,
writer and activist

Desire is this absurdity that holds open the infinity of possibility.
Wendy Farley,

Building Resilience, Preventing Burnout (from Edutopia)

Your time is your life. Period. How you spend it ends up being what your life is.
Henry Cloud,
psychologist and leadership consultant

Family smore for 12.8.17

We have two full weeks of school left.  Keep the expectations and engagement high, for the kids and yourself, and we'll have another great week of school.  I know that there might be a time where you get frustrated with a student.  Remember they're probably just as excited, or nervous, about the upcoming holiday break.  We will all be losing our normal regiment, and that can be really difficult.  Take a deep breath, count to 5, or 500, so that you don't speak out in anger, even if you are angry.  And if you don't think that your interactions, any of them, have an impact on our kids, just watch this.

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

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Never Stop Moving Forward

It’s a few weeks until Winter Break.  What’s a #principalsinaction leader supposed to do to keep the learning going, both for our students and our staff?  Now is not the time to change up the procedures and routines.  Now is the time to review them and make sure to keep learning at the forefront in our schools.

So...what ideas do you have to keep this going?  Mark, Ryan, and I suggest the following:

  • Get Out Of Your Office! (If you need a reminder, send Jay a DM on Twitter and he’ll send you a #principalsinaction bracelet!) You can only be a principal In action if you're in the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, out front, and on the playground interacting with others.
  • Be intentional with your classroom visits. Make sure you're getting into classes, participating with students, and seeing the great things happening. There are a lot of fun things to see between Thanksgiving and winter break.
  • Maintain communication with families about the importance of attendance all the way to Winter Break. We can only be effective and build relationships with students when they're present.
  • Maintain your meeting schedules (all staff or teams) to keep the focus on their learning and student learning. Staff, as well as students, like structure and routines. Many schools take on service projects at this time of year with their communities. It is also a great time to do a staff service project.
  • Don’t use the “it can wait until after Winter Break” excuse. You've already got full days after break so don't overload those.
  • Have fun with your staff and show appreciation and thanks. Plan some "12 Days of Christmas" or "10 Days Until Winter Break" activities to put smiles on adult faces. Send Mark a DM and he'll share what other principals are doing.
  • Look for opportunities to take over a class for a teacher and give the gift of time for them. Being a principal in action, means that you have to be ready for anything. Surprising a teacher with the gift of time, keeps moods positive and the climate is upbeat.
  • Build Relationships: Write a letter that can be sent to students via snail mail over break. There is nothing like receiving mail. You can also send a letter, card, or note to your staff members during winter break.
  • Ryan took ten minutes at his last staff meeting to have all staff members write letters to students to be mailed over winter break. Building a strong community must be intentional and sincere. Once you have the community anything is possible.
We look at the weeks before winter break as opportunities to continue learning, strengthen relationships, and have fun. So, find ways to connect, smile, and get out of your office!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why wait?

Today we get to see the movie "Wonder" as a school.  There are a number of our colleagues in different cities and states who are jealous about the opportunity we are providing our students.  Thanks to Heidi for working with me on this since August.  We were hopeful you would think it was a good idea and I'm glad that you agreed.  So why the title, "Why wait?"  Here is the reason, and it goes to my the saying on my new favorite sweatshirt- CHOOSE KIND.  Why would we wait until seeing the movie to choose kind?  Why should we wait until seeing the movie to remind our students to choose kind?  We should choose kind all of the time.  Why?  Here are a few reasons.
  • Choosing kind is so much better than the alternative.
  • When we choose kind, we showcase the way we should always treat one another.
  • Choosing kind is contagious.
  • Choosing kind just makes you feel better about yourself.
Great things I saw this week...
It seemed like you and the students got right back to learning without a hitch, despite being out of school for 5 straight days.
Conferring in Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies to make sure that the students really understood what they were doing.
Students getting to reading in less than 5 seconds as I covered a class so some teachers could finish up an important meeting.
Staff continuing to step in and help out another staff member, often without even being asked but just because they knew it needed to be done.
Students behaving well for our guest teachers with all of Wednesday's meetings.
7th and 8th grade basketball playoffs in the gym.
Presentations in 5th grade Science.
Students helping out classmates in the hallway when they dropped some of their materials (This happens multiple times every day.),
Our custodians taking over demolition for our new Learning Lounge (This is going to be really cool!).

Monday, December 4th
SLATE conference all day
Tuesday, December 5th
SLATE conference all day (Could someone please take care of Homework Club for me?)
Tree Lighting 7:00PM
Wednesday, December 6th
SLATE conference until 1:00
Thursday, December 7th
Grade level and Specials meetings
4:15  Homework Club
Friday, December 8th
IEP Power Day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs

How to Make a Teacher Smile (from Jon Harper)

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Douglas Adams,

(from Pinterest)

2 Ways to Brighten Your Day (from George Couros)

People will always try to stop you doing the right thing if it is unconventional.
Warren Buffett,

3 Articles for Student Discussion on "Success" (from George Couros)

Some fish love to swim upstream. Some people love to overcome challenges.
Amit Ray,
writer and spiritual teacher

Positive Words Go a Long Way (from Edutopia)

More Obi-Wan, Less Darth (from Jon Harper)

Family smore for 12.1.17

Thanks for a great full week back!  I enjoyed being in your classrooms this week.  You got the kids back into the swing so quickly after Thanksgiving Break.  Next week, I'll need you to send me pictures or tweets so that I can see you and the kids hard at the work of learning.  I'm excited to attend the SLATE conference but I'll miss being around you and the kids.  I know that Ron and Mike will be around to help out so don't be surprised if they stop into your classes to see the great things you do with and for our kids and each other.
Be The One!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving reflections

Thanksgiving- a time to think about what you are thankful for and to thank those who have helped to make your life better.  I am thankful for...
  • Jen- She is my rock and my navigator and my everything.
  • Lauren- She makes me want to be a better dad and educator every day.
  • My parents, Liz and Joe- They were, are, and will always be my favorite teachers.
  • My brother, Brian, and my sister, Priscilla- Their success as parents and in their occupations makes me want to be better every day.
  • Each of you- I am fired up to come to school every day to see you work the magic you work every day in your classrooms and in all the extra things you do to connect with our kids.
Thank you for all that you do for our kids, and each other, every day!

Monday, November 27th
3:30  Eye doctor appointment
7:00  Board meeting
Tuesday, November 28th
4:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, November 29th
8:30  TILT meeting
12:30  Math meeting
4:15  BLT meeting
Thursday, November 30th
8:00  Coaches' meeting
Grade level and Specials meetings
2:30  Google hangout
4:15  Homework Club
Friday, December 1st
Half day
Wonder movie!

Quotes, tweets, and blogs
Are you more focused on the "new", or the "better"? (from George Couros)

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Nelson Mandela,
activist and political leader

WONDERful Ways to Promote Kindness in the Classroom (from Scholastic)

Nobody Wants to Be "Fixed" (from George Couros)

So Much More Than Letters and Numbers (from George Couros)

As I Plan My Lesson (from Pernille Ripp)

I hope that you enjoyed your time out of school these last 5 days.  I know that I did.  I spent time with family and friends and was unplugged more than normal.  I need to do that a little more often.  Anyway, this week is going to be a great one, I can just tell.  I need to ask you two favors for Monday morning.

  1. Get out of your classrooms and into the hallways.  Our kids have been away from us for 5 days.  Some of them had a great time.  Others might not and are looking forward to seeing us.  Like my #prinicpalsinaction t-shirt says, "Smiles, high fives, and changing lives."  Let's make that our motto for Monday and the week to come.
  2. Please show this video of the picture book "We're All Wonders".  It's a nice way, I hope, of prepping our kids for the movie "Wonder" on Friday, especially those who haven't read the book.
See you all tomorrow!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, November 17, 2017

My bus ride

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  This quote from "To A Mouse" by Robert Burns couldn't have been more true on Wednesday.

From time to time, I'll ride a bus with the students after school.  Wednesday was one of those days.  My intent was to assist the driver with some behaviors as well as to get an idea of the climate of the bus.  Normally when the ride is over the driver brings me back to school.  Well, the driver and I got in a conversation and the next thing I knew I was at the bus terminal in a town other than where our school is.  The last minute of the ride went something like this.

Driver-  Thanks for riding along today.  It was the quietest ride of the year.
Me- No problem.  Just keep me informed if you're having an issues or you'd like me to ride again.
Driver- Do you have a ride back to school?
Me- Yes.  My wife should be here shortly to pick me up.

I got off the bus.  It's pitch black due to day light savings time so I walked closer to the driveway entrance to stand under the street light.  And then I texted my wife and daughter of my predicament.  I didn't have the heart to tell the driver that I was expecting him to take me back to school after the last stop.  You see, I didn't have a ride back to school.  My wife came to pick me up and we had a good chuckle all the way home.

I learned two lessons on that ride.
#1.  Be more specific when riding a bus that you will need a ride back to school after the last stop.
#2.  Spending a few extra minutes with our bus drivers develops a relationship that allows the drivers to know you really care about the kids and about them.

Next time, I may just drop off my car at the bus terminal, ride a bus to school, and then ride a different bus home.  That way I can build a relationship with another driver.  And I won't have to have my wife come pick me up.

It's Thanksgiving week!

I don't have much to share this week except I am so proud and grateful to work with each and every one of you every single day.  We will have a fantastic Friday today and a terrific two day week next week.  I know that you will have meaningful experiences for our students leading up to Thanksgiving because that's what you do every day.  The more we make the next three days like any days of the school year, the more our kids will learn and perform for you like they always have done.  Let's make this the best three days of the school year so far.

Great things I saw this week...
Even in tough times, the staff was able to get together, talk about kids, and laugh about the crazy things that happen to us every day.
Therapeutic toys in 6th grade.
Math stations with mini-lessons.
Kids writing and reading every day, with choice and voice.
Having a chance to cover a math class and reconnecting with kids.
Great discussions in team meetings.
Do you even know how lucky I am to get the opportunity to visit your classrooms and do observations?
Conferences the last two weeks.  I had great discussions about you all with families every night.

Monday, November 20
Move it Monday- wear some workout gear
BLT meeting 4:15-5:15
Tuesday, November 21
No Office Day, as much as possible.
Wednesday, November 22-26
Enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Problems are guidelines, not stop signs.
Robert Schuller,
clergyman and speaker

Maybe Next Year (from Pernille Ripp)

I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be who I want.
Muhammad Ali,
11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing (from David Geurin)

"You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give." 

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Only Schools Can End Schools (from George Couros)

The risk is the challenge.
Mario Andretti,
auto racer
Today I cried... (from Kelley Begley McCall)

Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.
Grandma Moses,
folk artist

3 Myths about "Empowering" Students in Schools Today (from George Couros)

Family smore for 11.17.17

Once you school is over today, do me a favor.  Reach out to a family member of friend you haven't been in touch with in a while.  Give them a call or invite them to coffee or lunch.  Focus on the relationship you had, or have, with them.  Catch up, listen, and smile.  And then I challenge you to do the same with one of our students next week.  Find the one, or two, or ten, that you think might be having the most difficult time leading up to our long Thanksgiving break.  Connecting with them might just make next week the best two day school week they could ever have.  You may know that a few of your colleagues are reading Kids Deserve It along with me.  This week we did flipgrid videos.  Full disclosure- your colleagues did their videos but I haven't done mine yet.  The power of the messages in this book reminds me of each of you.  If you haven't read the book and you'd like to, let me know if you'd like a copy of the book.  I know a guy.  And if you like the message of the book, maybe you would like to show off the message by wearing a shirt or sweatshirt.  Here's a link to some options, if you're interested.
See you all soon!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, November 10, 2017


On Wednesday night, at the end of 5th grade conferences, I was involved in #ohedchat, a chat of educators from the state of Ohio.  The question, and my response, was one I think about often at family conference time.  Please take a moment to reflect on my response.

A6 Face to face is more powerful than a phone call is more powerful than an email or text. Make time to talk to someone face to face.

I must say, the power of a face to face conversation does something no other means of communication can do.  When I'm asked, "Are family conferences important anymore?"  My unequivocal answer is YES!  Thanks to all of you for your time with our families to set goals with our students, celebrate our students, and build relationships with our families.

If you're on cycle, don't forget to schedule your observation!
Monday, November 13
Strategic planning 6PM

Tuesday, November 14
Power Day
Homework Club 4:15

Wednesday, November 15
Culver's Night 4-8PM

Thursday, November 16
Grade level/Specials meetings
Homework Club 4:15
6th, 7th, and 8th grade conferences 4:30

Friday, November 17
No Office Day!

Great things I saw this week...
Staff being patient with students struggling both academically and behaviorally
Staff stepping up to help out
Students and Michael preparing for Veterans' Day
Your efforts at family conferences
Staff supporting one another
Keeping the kids first

Quotes, tweets, and blogs
(from Pinterest)

You build on failure. You use it as a steppingstone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Johnny Cash,
singer and songwriter

I look forward to our Veterans' Day celebration this morning.  I look forward to making phone calls home today so please give me the name of one student from each grade level.  I'd love a staff member's name, too.  Keep the kids front and center with all that we do today.  Find that one student or staff member that needs you to Be The One and then Be. The. One.
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell