Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's half time

I started writing this week's nuts and bolts following the Packers exciting victory over the Cowboys.  I thought of all of the changes that were made at half time of that game for both teams.  It was a one score lead for the Packers, but the Cowboys made some changes that made the game so close that it was tied, twice.  The Packers made their changes, too, and because of the great play of the entire team, the Packers were victorious.  Now we have the same opportunity as the Cowboys and Packers did on Sunday.  We have successes to celebrate, adjustments to make, and expectations to review and reinforce.  You used the time we had yesterday, and I know you will use the time this morning, to get together and have discussions that will lead us to a strong second half.  There will be ups and downs along the way, just like there were in the first half of the year, but I know that we have the teammates to make a great run, an incredible pass and catch, or a last second field goal.  Whatever we do, I know we do it because it's what is best for our kids and each other.  Go Mustangs Go!

Great things I saw this weeks...
  • I received an email early Monday morning from Stone Bank.  Two boys were making fun of a student from another school at last Friday's dance.  One student was punched in the head.  This is what was in the email.  "Jay- two 7th graders were among the boys sticking up for XXXXX.  They were great kids!  One was the recipient of the punch, but he did not retaliate.  I was impressed with their behavior."  You have done a great job helping to raise our students up right.
  • Posters on the walls, emails sent to staff, and cookies in the lounge from our 8th grade health students who are spreading kindness.  And one more example is the terrific website with inspiration for each month of the school year. Merton Inspiration
  • Staff meeting to discuss what's best for two of our new students.  The genuine care you all show was exemplified in this meeting.
  • Staff either picking students up at their home to bring them to school or taking them home when they don't have a ride.  It's those "other duties as assigned" that really show our families how much we care about our kids.
  • Kids celebrating one another during Sphero Club.  Check it out here!
  • Celebrations for our kids, and staff, on Thursday because of their behavior and the expectations you set forth every day.
  • Two of our 7th graders helping the Primary School students celebrate their Mustang Corral being filled.
Monday, January 23rd
  • practice 7:00-8;15
  • I've got nothing on my calendar, so I'll be in classrooms all day long, unless I have to do MAP makeup tests.
Tuesday, January 24th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, January 25th
  • A-team meeting 1:30-3:00?
  • game at Stone Bank 5:30
Thursday, January 26th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • grade level and specials meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, January 27th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • I've got nothing on my calendar, so I'll be in classrooms all day long, unless I have to do MAP makeup tests.
***Don't forget that you need to set up a mid-year review meeting with me beginning the week of January 30th.  If you'd like to meet earlier, that's fine with me.  The final day for these mid-year meetings will be Tuesday, February 7th.  If you can't find a time to meet with me on my calendar, please email me times that work for you and I will see if I can adjust my schedule (i.e.- lunch/recess duty, Homework Club).  Please don't forget to complete the mid-year forms that are in Google Classroom.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs

5 tenets of choice (from Pernille Ripp)
Why Did He Leave the Room (from Jon Harper)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
mertonint on Instagram
Family smore from 1.20.17

Thank you for a great first half of the school year.  You do so much for our students, and each other, that goes unnoticed by many outside of our family.  I have a deep respect for each of you and the efforts, creativity, and perseverance you show each and every day.  Enjoy this afternoon and the rest of the weekend, cheer on the Packers this Sunday, and come to school Monday ready to kick off the second half with a positive attitude, continued care and concern for our kids, and an effort that will make you proud.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, January 13, 2017

Our goal is public. Now what do we do?

Our school goal is out there, maybe not with the specifics, but it's out there.  We want to improve our scores on the MAPs Reading test.  Everyone has a part in this.  If you look at our goal chain, you'll see the names of students and staff, regardless of grade or job title.  You all completed your own chain link with your reading goal.  Do you remember what it is?  I remember mine- to write a book.  Now that the goal is out there, I'm sure you'll hold me accountable.  We will revisit our goals with the kids again in February to see how we are doing.  I'll be sharing mine, too.  Here's a photo of our commons after your assistance.
But now the real work begins.  What are you doing to keep our school goal at the forefront with our kids?  Do you model reading, aloud or silently, when the chance presents itself?  Do you sit down and confer with a student about what they're reading, maybe even with an occasional visit to study hall?  Do you encourage reading when students have finished their class work, even if it's for only 5 or 10 minutes?  I am excited to see the results we get from this round of MAP testing.  If our kids make gains, we'll celebrate.  If they don't, we'll need to look more closely at our instructional practices and classroom expectations.  We can do this!

Great things I saw this week...
  • The positive messages that our 7th and 8th grade health students (that's every student in 7th and 8th grade) to highlight kindness and goodness in our school.
  • Students sharing their writing with one another.
  • Collaboration between our 6th graders for their Mars Medical projects.
  • Have you seen the cool things being printed on our 3D printers?  If not, take a walk to the library and take a look!
  • MAP testing efforts by our students due to the environment and expecttions you all provide.
  • Staff stepping up for one another to cover a class or recess (Thanks, Janine!).
  • Students helping one another during Homework Club.
  • Wednesday at lunch, an 8th grader, upon seeing our goal chain said, "Oh.  Now I get it!"  Let's not forget the power of a symbol for our kids.
  • Your willingness to take another risk with something new- Google Team Drive.
  • Two new students joined us this week and bot were welcomed by our students with open arms.  One joined us from a neighboring school and one joined us from Germany (the country) with limited English.  Watching the kids accept our two new students was awesome!
  • My favorite thing I didn't see until Thursday afternoon upon returning to my office following Homework Club.  There was a new link from a 6th grader because after he was F&P tested, he wanted to adjust his goal because it wasn't high enough.  We should all follow his lead.
Monday, January 16th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • BLT  4:15-5:15
Tuesday, January 17th
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
  • game at North Shore at 6:30
Wednesday, January 18th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • cover class  2:30-4:00
Thursday, January 19th
  • practice 7:00-8:15?
  • parent meeting 8:00-8:30
  • students dismissed at noon
  • AV Rover at 2:00
Friday, January 20th
  • Half day here
Tweets, quotes, and blogs

Small Victories (from Pernille Ripp)

Call me Coach (co-writtenn by Dennis Schug, principal from New York, and me)

Next week ends the first semester, the half way point of our school calendar.  Please do me one favor.  On Thursday or Friday next week, sit with one colleague and talk about your greatest moment of the year here at school.  Maybe it's a grade level group, or not.  Maybe it's a content group, or not.  Maybe it's someone you know really well, or not.  Maybe it's me, or not.  Regardless, find someone to share that greatest moment with.  Next week I'll share mine.  We all have at least one thing to celebrate and it's more fun to celebrate with someone else.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Monday, January 9, 2017

Call me Coach

Dennis Schug, principal of Hampton Bays Middle School in New York and Jay Posick, principal of Merton Intermediate School in Wisconsin receive daily inspiration from our #middleleaders Twitter and Voxer groups.  They encouraged us to write about our experiences with coaching while still being a principal so here are our thoughts.  The following piece was written in collaboration by two principal-coaches- Jay and Dennis.  We dedicate this to our #middleleaders Twitter group and Impatient Optimists Voxer group.

On a personal note, Dennis has been a life saver, confidant, and coach to me as I continue my adventure as a middle school principal and coach.  Thank you, Dennis.

How did each of us come to be coaches?

Jay:  I was a high school and college athlete and always a student of whatever game I was participating in at the time.  I had great coaches who always took the time for me.  There were coaching openings for volleyball at my former high school and I was selected as an assistant coach.  That was the start.  I wound up coaching high school volleyball, basketball, soccer, and track and field.  When I hung up my high school coaching whistle I started coaching at the middle school where I taught.  I added cross country and wrestling, two sports I had never participated in, to my coaching resume.  In recent years, I have had the privilege of coaching 8th grade boys and girls basketball.  Coaching is something I consider a privilege.

Dennis: Waiting on line to sign my daughter up for basketball, parents were told, regrettably, that the league was a coach short of running an eighth team. Kids would be waitlisted and likely turned away without one more parent volunteer willing to coach. When I arrived at the registration table, I mentioned my willingness to help out in any way necessary. By the time I returned home from sign-ups, a voicemail message awaited me: “Dennis, we’d like for you to coach a team for us.” As a former teacher, I was game. This decision, not exactly made by me, turned out to be one of the best things that could’ve happened. I was a new Principal. And I was a new basketball coach. It didn’t take long before I realized, this was not something I HAD to do. Coaching kids was something I GOT to do.


Why is coaching important to us?

Jay: As a principal, I don’t often have the opportunity to be a teacher in the classroom.  When I’m a coach, the gym is my classroom.  I can teach the basketball fundamentals and I can teach the joy and love of the game, too.  The practices are the daily lessons I’m able to teach and the games are the assessments.  But the score isn’t as important to me as it used to be when I was coaching in high school.  Don’t get me wrong- winning is important.  But what’s more important is seeing the progress of the individuals and the team.


Dennis: One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher has been seeing a kid succeed, beyond his or her wildest dreams. I am proud to say that on occasions, I’ve been a member of a teaching team that’s created conditions for kids to love learning. I’m also privileged to have been afforded opportunities to teach students how to read. In the classroom, I felt surrounded by these moments, surging pockets of success that I could witness exploding at different times for different students. As a Principal, one of my greatest misgivings about leaving the classroom was the concern that I’d no longer be there to see, first-hand, when a student exceeded his or her own expectations of what’s possible. Coaching basketball would change all of that for me.

What lessons have we each learned through the Principal/Coach experience?

Jay:  There are a few lessons I have learned being a principal and coach.
  • It’s an honor to be the kids’ principal and coach.
    • It’s nice to be called Mr. Posick, but it’s even better to be called coach.  I don’t even think twice when the need arises for me to be a coach.  It’s a privilege to coach these young men and women.
  • It’s about the journey, not the destination.
    • It’s awesome watching the players progress and improve.  Ultimately we would go undefeated and win the year end tournament.  But we’re not the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, we’re the 2017 Merton Mustangs and we will strive to get better every day in every way.  If that means we win all of our games, great.  But if not, we’ll sure get better every day.
  • It’s about making sure the kids are better people than they are basketball players.
    • We must all show good sportsmanship, teamwork, and effort, and not just on the court.  It makes me feel great when our players and team are recognized for being good sports, working together, and giving it our all.
  • You make an impact on the players so make sure it’s a good one.
    • The players are always watching and listening.  How I behave as a coach toward our players, our competition, and our officials has a lasting impact.  I do my best to stay positive, even when things aren’t going our way, and hope that this positivity can turn the tide in the game.


Dennis: Being a coach and principal present numerous lessons that have nourished each role.

  • Both sports and learning are about having fun and finding joy in personal fulfillment.   
    • When we answer the call to serve children, we commit ourselves to this fundamental value. Designing conditions that promote meaningful and joyful individual success serves a basic need that resonates long after our time together in a classroom, a school, or on a field or court. The impact of such an experience, done right, is mutually beneficial, for both adult and child.
  • Athletics, like learning, is about making progress.
    • Each of us begins at our own starting point and moves forward at our own pace. We focus on our goals, we analyze our technique, we practice, and we improve. And together, we celebrate our successes. Today I view “success” much differently than when I first started (winning doesn’t always necessarily equal success). Who taught me this? It was the young ball player who began, unable to reach the basket, who within a season, was making layups. That’s winning.
  • Athletics provide us with opportunity to model integrity.
    • As a coach, there have been games we’ve won and games we’ve lost. But the outcome - the score - has never mattered. What matters most is each player being able to ask and answer honestly, the questions: Was a good teammate? Was I a good sport? Did I do my personal best? Modeling these qualities for our players has reminded me when I’ve needed it, that each player on our team depends on me to uphold the honor of being in a position to positively impact kids.
  • Being a coach gives us practice...with balance.
    • Anyone who is a school leader knows, being an educator can be challenging. Our time, our energy, and our focus is required both on and off “the job”. But sometimes, when we can easily log a 12-hour workday, it’s also important to make the time to step back to recharge our own batteries. Only then can we restore perspective so we’re our best when we’re back in the role as Principal.
Being a coach and an educator provides so many valuable life lessons...for us, as Principals.


Three Lessons Learned as a Basketball Coach:
  1. Kids: Each player reminded me he or she came to every practice and every game with a story. Players arrived excited, confident, and in some cases, nervous and even on occasion, reluctant. Some had played organized sports, while others were new to the experience. Each player had a personal story and an expectation for what being a member of our team would bring to their lives. Before we could practice skills, it was always important to build a team culture that embraced meeting each player where he/she is and designing an experience that promotes personal success.    
  2. Families: Parents are busy people. Parents also, no matter what, have it in their hearts that they want what’s best for their kids. So when a mom or a dad (or another primary caretaker) reaches out, by phone, email, or in person, there’s an obligation to listen closely and to demonstrate that we both share a common goal centering on their child’s best interests, and that we will work together to maximize this mutual commitment. And when we are together, whether sitting courtside on one side of the gym or the other, when we cheer and we celebrate, we are doing it TOGETHER.
  3. Teamwork: “Knicks on three! Knicks on three! One. Two. Three. KNICKS!” This was the chant that we’d engage one another in before and after each game and practice. It reminded us that, as a team, we relied on one another to bring out the best in each other and to support one another as teammates. Being a basketball coach has served as a reminder that in order for us to thrive together, each member of our team had to feel valued as a contributor and integral to our success. It’s also proven that each of us defines terms like “success” or “progress” differently. While for some, it’s about becoming a more selfless teammate, for others, it may be about having the strength to take shots that not only reach the rim, but that eventually go in, on a consistent basis. It’s about setting goals and accomplishing them, but in the best interest of the collective team.

In conclusion…

Undoubtedly, the life of an educator is a busy one. And the demands of being a parent today stretch us, sometimes to frustration and other times, exhaustion. However, one thing’s for certain: Our decision to leave work a little bit earlier than usual or arrive earlier than normal, a couple of days a week, has been a gift. And while after so many seasons, the players and the years start to blend together, there’s one gift that will always remain.

They called us coach.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What's your goal for testing?

As you know from our grade level and specials meetings on Thursday, we'll be working on reading goals with our students on Wednesday.  Students will write their name on one side of a strip of paper and their reading, or other academic, goal on the other side.  Each homeroom will be creating a paper chain and your name and goal should be included, too.  You have the advantage of knowing what we'll be doing in advance of the kids.  So, with that said, what is your goal for testing?  What will you do to provide an environment that allows all kids to give their best?  What will you say to the kids to make sure that they understand the importance of these tests?  How will you help the kids develop a goal and a plan to go with it?  These questions are vital to our efforts to reach our school goal of improving our reading scores.  We're all in this together.  It starts with me, moves through each of you, and flows to our kids.  I can't wait to see our paper chain in the commons next Wednesday.  It will be awesome!

Great things I saw this week...

  • You and the kids got back into the swing of learning.  It was as if we didn't even have a break.  There's something to say about shorter Winter Breaks.
  • Reading.  Reading.  Reading.
  • I got to facilitate a discussion in Science class.  Dave sat down and let me take over.  The kids did a great job citing evidence to support their claims.  I was more than impressed as this is just one example of what all of you do to help our students express themselves eloquently.
  • The #oneword2017 bulletin board is filling up.
  • Indoor recess due to the weather still allowed the kids to be active.  I played music (Kidzbop) on my chromebook and it was like being at a 7/8 dance.  The only thing that was different was that the lights were all on and there were basketballs and volleyballs.  Anyone who has chaperoned knows what I'm talking about.
  • Great conversations about kids and what we can do for them while they're here at school.  You are the most caring staff any principal could ever work with.

Monday, January 9

  • Practice 7:00-8:15
Tuesday, January 10
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
  • Cover class for IEP 2:30-4:00
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, January 11
  • RtI Wednesday 8:00-9:15 (Don't forget to wear your Merton Way t-shirts!)
    • collaboration time until 8:55
    • meet in the gym
    • goal paper chain in classrooms 9:00-9:15
  • AHS visits 8th graders 12:22-1:03 (Little Theater)
  • A-team meeting 1:30-3:00
Thursday, January 12
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
  • Grade level/ specials meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, January 13
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
Saturday, January 14
  • EdCampMadWI- EdCamp in Sun Prairie (Anyone want to join me there?)

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Three Keys to Creating Successful Reading Experiences (by Pernille Ripp)

Thanks for a great week.  My one regret- I didn't get to spend as much time in classes this week as I wanted.  My hope is that next week is a week full of classroom visits, mini-observations (I hope to get through number 4 for all of you next week), conferring with kids in all classes, and spreading positivity.  Want to visit someone's classroom?  Sign up on my door and I'll cover your class.  Want to call a parent for a positive call?  Send me a text, tweet, vox, or email and I'll stop in so that you can make a call.  Want to cover my lunch/recess duty so I can visit band, choir, art, or study hall?  Just let me know.  Want to join the kids for lunch or recess?  Come on down.  Let's concentrate next week on opening some doors, both literally and figuratively, to make our last full week of the first semester an awesome one for kids and each other.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Priorities- My #oneword2017

I have been a big fan of the #oneword challenge for a couple of years now.  Last year my #oneword was focus.  Although I wasn't as focused as I would have liked to have been, I still went back to my #oneword often, especially in times when I didn't know what to do.  This year, when I decided to take the challenge again, it didn't take me long to choose my #oneword- priorities.  This quote from Stephen Covey helped me make my choice.

Determining priorities can be the most difficult part of choosing the word priorities, but I have a plan.  My priority must be what I am doing at every moment.  At school it should be ensuring the students and staff have all that they need to create a positive learning environment.  At home it should be powering down from work and social media, giving my attention to my bride and daughter more often than I currently do.  Ultimately, my priorities depend on where I am and who I am with.

I must admit that this is really going to be a challenge for me.  I have felt that I could always multi-task pretty well, but when I multi-task I honestly have no priorities.  It's time for me to put down my phone, close my chromebook, and be present in whatever moment I find myself in.  That's how I will try to find my priorities.

It's going to take a lot of practice and so far this year (it's only one day), I've found ways to prioritize being ready for our first day of school in 2017, completing a 6 mile run, and spending some quality time with my bride.  My daughter and I will be spending time together soon as she gets her homework done before tonight's Packer game.  She'll be sporting her Randall Cobb jersey and I'll be wearing my lucky Packer hat.

As I spent time at school today, I created a bulletin board for staff and students to share their #oneword with each other.  Mine is already posted and was shared with staff in our nuts and bolts on Friday.  The challenge now is to live up to my #oneword and to help others live up to theirs, too.

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's thoughts

Educators have an interesting yearly cycle.  We start with a new group of students in September but also have a chance to restart once the new calendar year begins.  I'm not one for resolutions as they seem to start strong and fade quickly or are forgotten almost as soon as the calendar year begins.  But the start of a new calendar year is also a chance to start something new with our kids, something we haven't tried before or a twist on something that we've always done.  When you arrive at school on Monday, we have a chance to renew relationships with one another, refresh relationships that might not be going as we'd like, and recharge relationships with our kids.  Day one of the 2016-2017 school year began with all staff greeting the students outside.  With the uncertainty of the weather, I'd like to make sure that all staff greet the students to start the day somewhere different than their "normal" spots.  If you normally meet students outside your rooms, why not meet them at the door, or in the commons, or outside, or at the buses.  Shake it up a little bit so that they know that you missed them as much as they missed you.

Monday, January 2nd
  • Welcome back!  Let's meet the kids as they come back!
Tuesday, January 3rd
  • Basketball practice 7:00-8:15
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, January 4th
  • Basketball practice 7:00-8:15
Thursday, January 5th
  • Basketball practice 7:00-8:15
  • Grade level and specials meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, January 6th
  • Basketball practice 7:00-8:15
Saturday, January 7th
  • Choirs singing National Anthem at the Milwaukee Wave game!
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Play Your Drum in 2017 (from Dave Burgess- Play the heck out of your drum!)
M.A.D. (from Matthew Meyer, a #principalsinaction colleague)
My 2016 year in review (from me- What would be your monthly highlights?)

Collateral Beauty (from Kelley Begley McCall, a #principalsinaction colleague)
Love what you do (from Eric Ewald, a #principalsinaction colleague)
There weren't too many tweets from @mertonint or on the #mertonint hashtag, so I thought I would put a link to the #kidsdeserveit hashtag from Wednesday night's chat.

One word challenge
If you remember last year, I challenged you all to come up with one word for the year.  It wasn't a resolution or a goal, but a word that would guide you for the year.  Mine was focus, and admittedly sometimes I was in focus and sometimes I was out of focus.  Regardless, I always had that word to go back to when I was unsure of the path I was taking or the path we were taking.  Ted Huff, one of my middle level colleagues, put out the challenge again this year to our Leading in the Middle and PTCamp Voxer groups so I decided I would take the challenge.  My word for this year is priorities.  I'm sure there will be a blog post about that before the end of the semester.  If you had to pick a word, what would it be and why?  Here is a graphic that will be on my wall on Monday.

I was happy for our Winter Break and my time with family, but I am ready to get back to school.  I hope that you are, too.  See you on Monday.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 year in review

As is always the case, Lindsy Stumpenhorst of our #principalsinaction Voxer group has challenged the group again.  This time it's not a photo going down a slide or a tricycle ride in the hallway or a dance party welcoming the students to school.  It's a reflection on our year that includes questions like "What would you change?" and "What did you learn?" and "What was crazy amazing?"  The are all great questions, each worthy of their own blog, so I'm going to focus on the crazy amazing.

  • January allowed me to coach basketball again.  The relationships that I was able to foster with some of our 8th grade boys helped me to get to know them better and helped them to get to know me differently.  The honor of having them call me coach is something I will always cherish.  We also had a visit from Mr. Mark Flynn, our former superintendent, as he discussed the work he is doing with students in the South Sudan.  The students organized a penny war and it was great seeing the reach our students and families have by supporting the work that Mr. Flynn and his wife are doing with these students and their families.  Here's a picture of our Student Senate and their advisers showing their support.
  • February saw Dave Burgess joining our district for a professional development day.  Do I need to say anything else?
  • March provided me with the opportunity to be a student for the day.  It was great traveling around with two different students to see what a day can be like in the eyes of a student.  Other than lunch and recess duty, I was a student all day.  Here is a link to my blog post for my shadow day.
  • April brought Google Expedition to our school.  It was a great experience for our staff and students, so much so that our district is buying a set for our school to be used by most students to extend our Social Studies and Science curriculums.  The learning that was seen in just one day will certainly be extended even further when we have this opportunity for all of our students every day.
  • May found some students stepping of for others.  Avery and Lucy, two of our 7th graders, decided that it would be a great idea to make blankets for kids at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.  What started out as something small just continued to grow.  Project Linus grew and grew and involved way more than just Avery and Lucy.  By the end of may, well over 100 blankets were created and delivered to Children's Hospital.
  • June ended the school year, but the biggest deal for me was my daughter getting her license.  In fact, she got her license on my birthday.  We also got to travel as a family to Niagara Falls.  It was a tremendous experience, shared by just the three of us.  One thing I hope I learned about this time together is to not take it for granted.  I look forward to finding many more vacations with just our family as our daughter continues to become more independent.  For those of you who have young families, don't let your time at school get in the way of your time with your family.
  • July saw our Community garden really taking shape.  I was lucky to have students help with the weeding and upkeep throughout the summer.  The harvested food was given to the Hartland Food Pantry with our final donation given in October.
  • JEDI (Journeys in Educational Design and Instruction) training got many of our staff off and running in August.  Mary Iwanski put together a 3 day training for staff to better understand technology as well as to find ways to infuse technology into our lessons and classrooms.  Learning together with teachers from many grade levels and subject areas was enlightening and provided opportunities to build relationships.
  • September was the start of the 2016-2017 school year.  Some of our 8th grade National Junior Honor Society helped our 5th graders feel welcome by becoming their mentors.  This relationship has continued throughout the school year and has really made the transition from the Primary School to the Intermediate School a smooth one for our 5th graders.  The student leadership of our National Junior Honor Society has been a highlight of the school year so far.  And there was also the honor flight trip with my dad to Washington, DC, too.
  • Our new playground was installed in October thanks to the generosity of our PTO and district.  The students are really enjoying it.  I also got to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.  I was able to spend the weekend with my family and family friends, touring the city, the White House, the Pentagon, and the Capital.  I ran the marathon with Sarah Johnson, an awesome principal from Spooner, WI.  (Apparently I like to be on the left side of pictures when I'm in Washington, DC.)
  • November was our second annual Veterans Day celebration, all organized by our National Junior Honor Society.  One of our students, Joey, put together this incredible video to document the day.  The incredible respect our students showed our veterans and their guests is something I will always remember.
  • December turned into DeSTEMber for our students and staff on the 11th.  There were awesome speakers and activities for the entire day.  Mary Iwanski, our technology and STEM integrator, organized the entire day and it became something that I think will happen every year.  We also had one more example of the giving nature of our students, staff, and family- our Giving Tree.  Presents were provided for needy families in our community thanks to the efforts of Darlene Hafermann.  The Giving Tree is one more thing that makes me proud to be the principal of our school.

These are just the highlights, my highlights, of 2016.  I have much to be thankful for- family, friends, colleagues, students, our students' families- and much to look forward to in 2017.  As I think about these highlights, I realize that I'm leaving out many of the great things that happen every day in our school- reading, writing, math, Science, Social Studies, music, art, Spanish, PE, and most of all, relationships.  On Fridays when I send out our staff nuts and bolts, I always start with "Good morning, Merton family!", and I mean it.  My Merton family is important to me, but not as important as my own family.  As I look forward to 2017, I realize that I need to do more with and for my family.  That's my resolution and one that I know my wife and daughter will hold me to.