Friday, December 18, 2015

Almost here...

After the way last week's blog started, I had to have a bit of humor this week.  We can do it!

We have had an incredible start to our year, and I know that there is so much more to come.  As we look forward to our last two days of school with our students, keep in mind that some of our students are not looking forward to the Winter Break with as much anticipation as we might be.  These can be really difficult times with behaviors and performance sometimes impacted by the time away from school.  Let's give our best to the kids these next few days and they'll give us their best.

Friday, December 18th                 PTO brunch and Ugly Sweater and Jeans Day!
Monday, December 21st               BLT meeting  4:15-5:15
                                                        Board meeting  7:30PM (Coding for Student Showcase)
Tuesday, December 22nd             Staff recognition awards at 8:15AM in the Little Theater

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity."- Marie Curie, physicist and chemist
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."- Will Rogers, entertainer and humorist
"No one learns as much about a subject as the one who is forced to teach it."- Peter Drucker, writer and management consultant
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School facebook page
Family smore for 12.18.15

(from Pinterest)
(from Pinterest)

Thanks for all of your efforts this week.  All of us are a bit restless and maybe a bit less flexible, but I still am amazed as I walk through our school, hearing and seeing the learning.  Students are reading and writing and doing math and learning about the world we live in, and it's the last few days before a well deserved break.  Keep the expectations for learning and behavior high and the kids will rise to the challenge.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


During even my busiest of days, I find time to reflect.  It may happen when I'm running or driving, and sometimes it's while I'm sitting around the house.  One thing that caused me to pause and reflect was a comment I heard from one of our parents.  She had this to say, "The quarter 1 report card comments are worthless. They are generic and mean nothing if it isn't specifically about each student.  (Name removed) had two specific comments without "a" name being used to personalize it.  (Name removed) had nothing. I know it's more to do for the teachers but give us something that shows you know our child and not just the entire class."  It's tough to read and tough to share with you.  But it's important for us all to consider.  We don't need to provide comments only on report cards.  An email, phone call, voicemail, or text at any time during the school year are powerful.  Our Mustang Medals are hung on refrigerators and shared with families.  The reflective part for me about this is the kind of feedback I provide for each of you.  I need to do better, and not just with mini-observations and formal observations.  I need to leave more notes for you after I've been in your rooms- not every time, just more often.  That is my point for sharing the parent's comment with you.  Let's remember to provide more feedback to our families about how their children are doing.  The rewards from this will be unexpected and, I promise you, uplifting.

Tuesday, December 15th          Training Tuesday- Wear your workout clothes!
                                                 Practice  4:15-5:15
Wednesday, December 16th     A-team meeting  1:30-3:30
                                                 Culver's Night  4:00-8:00
Thursday, December 17th         Thermal Thursday- Wear flannel, fleece, or sweatshirts
                                                                             PTO sponsored K-cup restocking!
                                                 Environmental Club  8:00-8:30AM
                                                 Practice 4:15-5:15
Friday, December 18th             Ugly Christmas sweater and jeans day (Kids vote for the winner!)
                                                 PTO sponsored Staff brunch!

Tweets, blogs, and quotes

"Innovation is not about saying yes to everything.  It's about saying NO to all but the most crucial features."- Steve Jobs, entrepreneur
"If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that.  Word of mouth is very powerful."- Jeff Bezos, entrepreneur
"If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong."- Charles Kettering, inventor
The Real Influence We Have on Students (from @ajjuliani)
"The goal is not always meant to be reached, but to serve as a mark for our aim."- Joseph Joubert, essayist
"If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there."- Yogi Berra, baseball player and manager
"If you're bored with life, if you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, you don't have enough goals."- Lou Holtz, football coach
Presentation for Wednesday's student assembly
@mertonint from Twitter
#mertonint from Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore from 12.11.15

Just wondering what you think, and if any of you would be interested...

Mentorship program helps 5th graders feel at home in middle school (from Wisconsin State Journal)

Just so you know...there are dozens of students who say this about you every day. (LInk from our meeting on Wednesday)

(from Jen via
(from Pixteller)
(from Pinterest)

Have a great weekend, rest up, and be ready to bring your best, like you always do, to our last full week before Winter Break.

Friday, December 4, 2015

December is here

December is here.  How did that happen?  Honestly.  One third of our school year is over.  Whenever I turn the page on the calendar, I reflect back on how the month has gone.  November had two big moments, one personal and one professional, for me- the NYC marathon on November 1st and Veterans Day on November 11th.  The marathon was an awesome experience because I spent 4 wonderful days with Jen and Lauren.  We had a great time even though my marathon time wasn't the best.  But that's OK.  Veterans Day was over the top.  The staff and students of our school put on a first rate celebration of veterans that will be difficult to beat next year, but I have a feeling next year will be better than this year.  What are your two big moments from November?

Did anyone feel like this on Monday?
The day after Thanksgiving break video

Tuesday, December 8            4:15-5:15  Practice
                                                 5:30 and 7:00  Holiday Concerts
Wednesday, December 9       8:00-9:15  RtI Wednesday
                                                 12:45-4:00  Math Committee
Thursday, December 10         Grade level meetings
                                                 1:30  Epi-Pen training
                                                 2:01  Coaches meeting
                                                 4:15-5:15  Practice
Friday, December 11              Lunch on Jay and Jen
                                                 7-9PM  6th grade Youth Night

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise."- Sigmund Freud, psychoanalyst
Crack the Code (blog about coding written by my friend, Adam Welcome (@awelcome)
7 courageous quotes to help you dream big before you go to bed (from @NancyTerryMath)
Teacher Harriett Glickman and the Integration of the Peanuts Cartoon (How a school teacher had an impact on potentially the most famous cartoon- from @coolcatteacher)
"I am not a teacher, but an awakener."- Robert Frost, poet
What's the worst that can happen? (from @jon_wennstrom)
Embrace what you don't know (my latest post with help from @JPo1992 and @jon_wennstrom)
"Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas; he must burst it open."- Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist
"We cannot build our own future without helping others to build theirs."- Bill Clinton, 42nd U.S. president
"None of my inventions can by accident.  I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial."- Thomas Edison, inventor
"You're never a loser until you quit trying."- Mike Ditka, football coach and commentator
"The mediocre teacher tells.  The good teacher explains.  The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires."- William Arthur Ward, writer
"When you study great will learn much more from their caring and hard work than from their style."- William Glasser, psychiatrist
A simple way to encourage creativity (from @RACzyz)
"Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can."- Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer
Principals' report for the 11.30.15 school board meeting
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 12.4.15

Looks can be deceiving
As we continue to move through the holiday season, I have taken more time to really look at my surroundings and the people that I encounter.  I used to go shopping to go "people watching" and rarely stopped to think about the circumstances that others encounter on a daily basis.  I am blessed with a wonderful and loving family, friends who always are there, and a school community that gives me strength every day.  One of my PLN colleagues from twitter and voxer posted this video on Facebook.  Tell me you wouldn't think twice before opening the door, just like the woman in this video.

As I prepared for this, the first week in December, I happened to see this blog post from Bethany Hill (@bethhill2829), a principal I met face to face in Chicago at the end of October. The Time is Now, a great blog about innovation.  I began to wonder, how often do I try to innovate?  How often do I encourage each of you to innovate?  How often do we allow our students to innovate?  So I began to think about the opportunities we provide one another and our students on a daily basis.  We give ideas and suggestions, and sometimes that's as far as we or the students can go.  What if we just said, "Here is the content I need you to learn this week.  I'll be here to support you and guide you, but I need you to take charge."  As Jon said in his post, "What's the worst that can happen?"  I would instead say, "What's the best that can happen?"  We've got three weeks in December to give it a try.  Anyone want to join me?  And speaking about innovation, sometimes it just takes using something old in a different way.  Just ask Jimmy Fallon, Adele, and the Roots.  We've got three weeks in December to give it a try.  Anyone want to join me?
(from Pixteller)
(from Pinterest)
(from Pixteller)

Have a great weekend, enjoy the holiday decorating weather, and I'll see you on Monday!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Embrace what you don't know

My wife sends me emails almost daily with quotes that are either made to make me smile or make me think.  She is a master at gauging my emotions for the day and knowing just what I need.  Sometimes the quote helps me focus on the good things in my day and sometimes they make me smile to get me back on track.  Recently she sent me the one above that made me think, and I like what I thought.

Often, we do things the way we have always done them because it's easy.  It's comfortable.  It's predictable.  It's safe.  Even more, we are in the days where doing things the way we've always done them just isn't good enough.  But trying something new can be scary.  You may even keep it to yourself until after you have made the attempt.  And that's alright.  Take a chance.  Try something new.  What's the worst that can happen?  (I must be honest.  I took that last line from the title of a recent blog, linked above, by @jon_wennstrom.)  The worst that can happen is that you have modeled how to recover from a failure with your students and your colleagues.  Don't we learn best from our failures?

So I challenge you to try something new this week.  Maybe it's joining twitter or voxer.  Maybe it's writing and sharing your first blog.  Maybe it's incorporating music or a brain boost into your class.  Just try something new, anything, and see what kind of impact it has on the learning of your students.  And then when you're done, reflect on it, share it, and learn from it.  I promise you that it will be a powerful experience. 

Why do I lead?- #SAVMP 1st assignment

Why do I lead?  It's an awesome question that I reflect on nearly every day.  I was never a formal leader early in my life.  I lead more by example and action and not by words.  I was never the captain of any of the sports teams that I was a part of, but I know that athletes followed me because of my attitude and work ethic.  As I told one of my basketball players many years ago, you don't have to be formally named a captain to be a captain.  Just work hard, keep a positive attitude, and people will notice that you are a leader.  That was the same advice I got from my high school coaches, and I think that it helped me get a scholarship to college.  I worked hard, had a positive attitude, did what I was told, and I got noticed.

As a teacher, I didn't have a formal leadership role, either.  I just did what needed to be done.  I taught from 1987-2002, a span of 15 years.  I taught 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.  Some would say that I couldn't hold a job.  They might be correct, but it also gave me experience in working with a variety of age groups in a variety of schools.  I was also able to coach, both at the high school and middle school levels.  It was yet another opportunity to lead students. My final few 12 years of teaching were all at the middle school level.  I taught many content areas and worked with many teachers.  The best parts of my middle school experience were working as teams with teachers and lunch duty.  Maybe that's why I like my current placement as a middle school principal.  I have the privilege of working with teams of teachers and I have contact with the students every day during lunch duty.

I now am in my 14th year as a middle school administrator, 5 years as an assistant principal and now in my 9th year as a principal.  I work with the best students, colleagues, and families one can imagine.  I have the support of my family.  Every day is a new challenge and another chance to celebrate the awesome accomplishments of our students and staff.

Why do I lead?  I lead because it's my calling.  I lead because I have the chance to impact the lives of those I come into contact with every day.  I lead because of the experiences I have had in school and in life.  I lead because of the support of my family.  I lead because others follow me, have faith in me, and believe in me.

Honestly, all educators are leaders.  I'm no different than any of you who are reading this.  We all have the same characteristics I mentioned above- education is a calling, we impact the lives of others, we learn from our experiences, and we have the support of those around us.

So why do you lead?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving thoughts

It's Thanksgiving, an incredible time to reflect upon all that we have.  I am so thankful for each and every one of you.  You always put the needs of the kids first, even when it's not the easiest thing to do.  Thank you for that.  You share with your colleagues in order to learn from one another.  Thank you for that.  You step up to help each other out, whether for something school related or personal.  Thank you for that.  Take the time to thank those near and dear to you this Thanksgiving holiday season.  They will appreciate it and it will make you feel really good, too.

Tuesday, November 24th           I'm facilitating #personalizedpd chat on Twitter at 8:00PM
Monday, November 30th           School board meeting (Did you get me names for the Showcase?)
Tuesday, December 1st             Practice 4:15-5:15
                                                    Merton tree lighting  7:00PM
Wednesday, December 2nd      A-team meeting  1:30-3:30
Thursday, December 3rd          Grade level meetings (regular times)
                                                    Practice  4:15-5:15
                                                    Beyond the Bake Sale book chat 7:00PM
Friday, December 4th               Half day (HG&D talks for 5th and 6th graders)
                                                    Where will you be? (Please complete this form.)

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."- Helen Keller, writer and activist
Brainboosts (from Jon Samuelson)
"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."- Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist
Presence- Our families might not tell any of us this, but know that it's true. (from @Jonharper70bd)
Let's change the world with our students (This could be something really cool! from @ajjuliani)
Good enough (Don't forget the Mustang Medals for our kids! They do things like this every day. from @Jonharper70bd)
@mertonint on Twitter!
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 11.24.15

Staff blog
Please don't forget about the form for our staff blog.  It's here again for your convenience.  It only takes a few minutes to add your thoughts, either as an individual or a group.  It's important to share the great things you are all doing with each other, with our families, and with the community.  Thanks for your consideration.

Social Emotional Learning chats
It was an interesting couple of twitter chats last week on Thursday (#mschat) and Saturday (#satchat).  Both of the chats were about social emotional learning.  They made me think of what we do here, especially in terms of building relationships and developing a positive learning culture.  Here is a link to a graphic from Saturday's #satchat.  Here is the reason I'm including this today.  The holidays can be difficult times for our students.  Let's keep in mind that for some of our students, school is the safest and most loving place they can be.  When students leave us for extended periods of time, they may start to behave differently before the long break.  It's still important to hold student expectations high, but please be aware that they may act out more or become withdrawn.  A couple of extra minutes, a kind word, or a warm greeting when they arrive to class may make all the difference in the world.
(from Jaime Casap, Google Global Education Evangelist)
Jen sent this to me.  She always sends me something to think about that has a connection to school.  She gets it and pushes me to be better.  If she was telling the story, she would tell you that she wants me to write a book.  I'm really thinking about it and may put together a draft proposal to share with you after Thanksgiving.  But that's a different story.  As we move forward this school year, think about the main point of the above quote- Don't ask kids what they want to be but instead ask them what they need to learn to be able to be what they want to be.  It changes the focus, doesn't it.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy your time with family and friends, relax, take some time off from thinking about school, and just have some fun.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


"Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy."
Robert Half, businessman
I saw the quote above on Friday evening when I stopped into my office in between dodgeball and karaoke (supervising, not participating) during our 6th grade Youth Night.  It made me think of the talents that each of us have and in particular, the talents that we see in others that they don't see in themselves.  I have seen some of you do things that are incredibly difficult only to discount them when someone points out the greatness of the activity.  It reminds me of the line in "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess that really bothers him.  One of his colleagues said, "It's easy for you.  You're creative."  As Dave goes on to say, nothing is easy.  It takes a lot of work to be creative, and everyone is creative.  Keep working on your talents, those sometime hidden gems that make you who you are.  It's hard work to be as good as you are every day for our kids, and I know that.  As I say on Twitter from time to time, keep on keeping on.  It's awesome to see you bring your best for your kids every day.  Remember, they give us their best every day, too.

Monday, November 23rd                Meeting 1-4PM
Tuesday, November 24th                Staff meeting 8:15 (Staff recognition awards)
Monday, November 30th                Board meeting (Student Showcase- Veterans Day)
***Friday, December 4th is a half day with an AM schedule!

Crisis team
I am looking for 3 people to serve on a medical crisis team.  This team would receive training on medical emergencies and be our "first responders".  Please let me know by our December 3rd grade level meetings.

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
**You can't miss this- A teacher compliments his students every day (from Huffington Post)
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"- Vincent van Gogh, artist
"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self."- Ernest Hemingway, writer
"When you see a good person, think of becoming like him.  When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points."- Confucius, teacher and philosopher
"All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make, the better."- Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer
"You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore."- William Faulkner, writer
How to teach the "on demand" generation (from @ajjuliani)
"The great secret of power is never to will to do more than you can accomplish."- Henrik Ibsen, playwright
"Hard work spotlights the character of people: Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."- Sam Ewing, baseball player
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear."- Mark Twain, writer
If a child doesn't know how to behave we... (from @EricEwald_Iowa)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 11.20.15

Don't forget our Thanksgiving Email Challenge
Pick at least one person on the staff (maybe more than one if you have time) and send them an email shairng something you value in them and thanking them for their work.  It doesn't have to be a long email- just specific, kind, and thoughtful.  I think if we are all able to send at least one of these emails between now and next Tuesday, we will start the Thanksgiving holiday off on the right foot!

Here's a challenge for you...
Pick one of the following "posters" and reflect upon it for our staff blog.  If you aren't already a contributor on our staff blog, please consider it.  There is still the opportunity to share your classroom, grade level, or content area excitement on our staff blog using this form, too.  Give it a try!
            (from             (from my wife, @JPo1992. She gets it!)

               (Jen sent me this one, too!)                             (from Pinterest)
                    (from Pixteller)                                      (from @gcouros)

Thanks for another great week.  Enjoy the weekend.
Take care of our kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Exciting times!

The excitement of the week caught up with me this morning.  I realized that there was a great deal of planning, flexibility, and pride in two major activities this week- Veterans Day and conferences.
Veterans Day was an emotional day full of smiles, tears, hugs, hand shakes, and high fives.  Thanks to Heather, Megan, and the myriad of staff and student volunteers who made the day a special one for veterans, guests, students, and staff.  Here is a link to Mary's animoto of the day.
Conferences are vital to the success of our students and you all always are prepared with an attitude of teamwork, celebration, and goal setting.  You find the good in every student and every conversation and it doesn't go unnoticed.  Thank you for all that you do every day for our students and each other.

Please remember to have your students take the BrightBytes survey.  You need to take it as well.  Please find the links in emails that were sent to you by Tina.  Thanks!

Monday, November 16th               4:15-5:15  BLT meeting
Tuesday, November 17th               4:30-8:00  Conferences (5th and 6th grade only)
Wednesday, November 18th          1:30-3:30  A-team meeting
                                                         4:00-8:00  Culver's Night (Anyone want to be a server?)
Thursday, November 19th             Tweetdeck Thursday (8:00AM in the Library- Bring Chromebook)                                                              Grade level meeting day (Bring great work to share!)
                                                         4:15-5:15  Practice resumes in the Library

Great things I saw this week
*Students and staff helping out our veterans and guests on Wednesday and the set up crew of volunteers to make our Veterans Day celebration something we will long remember.
*Smiles and tears from our veterans, and an uncountable number of compliments of our students and staff by the veterans and guests during and after the morning.
*Book fair volunteers speaking highly of our students and how nice and respectful they are.
*Parents excited to share conference news with me and the proud look on the faces of the students who attended.

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Believing in our students, when it's hard to do (from @gcouros, a thought leader in education)
"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."- John Shedd, writer
Are you on the bus? (from @benjamingilpin, a principal and friend from Michigan)
"Show class, have pride and display character.  If you do, winning takes care of itself."- Bear Bryant, football coach
"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President
"Persistence and determination are always rewarded."- Christine Rice, opera singer
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School on Facebook
Family smore for 11.13.15

What do you think?
As you look over this graphic, how often do you do this with our students?  How often do we do this with each other?  How often do I do this with you?  I encourage you to keep this graphic in mind as we continue learning with our students and each other.  Thanks to Dr. Laquita Outlaw (@DrLOutlaw) for sharing the graphic and for George Couros (@gcouros) for creating it.

Thanks for an awesome week!  Enjoy your family and friends this weekend.  Relax and recharge so that you are ready for our last full week of November.

Friday, November 6, 2015

No surprises

As we reach the end of the quarter, it's a great time to remember that there should be no surprises when conferences occur.  I know all of the ways that you communicate with families, but the most impactful is a phone call home.  As you finish up final grades, keep a close eye on any significant changes that you notice.  Call for both concerning decreases and celebratory increases.  The celebrations will make the concerning calls easier.

Tuesday, November 10th          4:15-5:15  Practice
Wednesday, November 11th    Veterans' Day- Please dress in red, white, and blue!
Thursday, November 12th        Conferences
Friday, November 13th             Jeans for Troops Day
                                                     NO OFFICE DAY!
                                                   7:00-9:00PM  6th grade Youth Night

Great things I saw this week
*Collaboration by students in Science, Math, Social Studies, and Language Arts.
*Open, honest conversations in our grade level meetings. Rest assured that I listened and that I will do all that I can to help us continue to move forward for kids.
*Staff stepping up for other staff, without complaint, and with a smile on your face.
*Kids helping out one another in classrooms and in the hallways.
Don't forget to fill out this form so that I can share the great things we're doing with the world!

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities; seize common occasions and make them great."- Orison Swett Marden, writer
"In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity."- Sun Tzu, military leader
"Change has to come for life to struggle forward."- Helen Hollick, writer
(from Pinterest)
"Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change."- Mary Shelley, writer
My first guest post on ASCD- 7 Tips for Staying Centered
Being left out hurts- Post from @lisabarr18 about girl cliques in middle and high school
"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."- J.K. Rowling, writer
"We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."- Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer

As I moved about NYC on Sunday, you can imagine that my mind wandered more than usual.  I was thinking about my family, each of you, our students, and any number of other topics.  Then, when I woke up on Monday, I saw this post, A Cause Bigger Than Ourselves, from my friend, Ben Gilpin (@benjamingilpin).  I don't shave the day of a marathon, so November 1st was an easy way to start No Shave November.  Ben encapsulated everything behind the meaning of the month but the thing that really caught my attention was the focus on relationships.  You know how much I care about the relationships we have with our students and with one another.  Movember is just another way to make connections with our kids.

Have a great weekend, enjoy some family time, and be ready for another great week of learning!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Are you settled in?

Here is a picture of our family dog, Phoebe.  She is definitely settled in.  This picture, along with this blog post by Kevin Hodgson, a "field study" of 6th graders, made me stop and think for two reasons.
  1. Have our kids settled in?
  2. Have we settled in?
Settling in isn't all bad.  It means we're comfortable with the routines, expectations, and people with whom we are learning.  But settling in can also be too comfortable.  There's a chance that we become so comfortable that we don't stretch ourselves and those that we learn with to go even further with our learning.  The line between what's expected and what's not expected becomes a bit blurry for both the adults and the children.
So what does all of this mean?  Remind the students of the routines and expectations, continue building on the relationships, and stretch the learning opportunities.  I promise to do the same with all of you and sure hope that you do the same with me.  Let's keep growing this learning environment for all of the learners, young and old.

Monday, November 2nd              NYC marathon recovery!
Tuesday, November 3rd              Practice  4:15-5:15PM
Wednesday, November 4th         A-team  1:30-3:30PM
Thursday, November 5th            Team meetings (6th- 8:55, 5th- 9:45, 7th/8th- 12:22)
                                                       PTO meeting 2:30-4:00PM
                                                       Practice  4:15-5:15PM
Friday, November 6th                 Principals' meeting  7:45-8:45AM
                                                       6th grade Youth Night  7:00-9:00PM

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning."- Albert Camus, writer and philosopher
"Champions keep playing until they get it right."- Billie Jean King, tennis player
"Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored."- Tim Fargo, writer and entrepreneur
"Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club."- Jack London, writer and social activist
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent."- Calvin Coolidge, 30th U.S. President
(from Pinterest)
"The lesson will always repeat itself, unless you see yourself as the problem--not others."- Shannon Alder, author
"Even a rock moves on."- Anthony Liccione, author and poet
Innovate (a terrific blog post by Scott Rocco, well worth the time- @ScottRRocco)
Shake Up Learning (This is an awesome site with great Google tips.)
"Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them."- David Allen, productivity consultant and author
(from Pinterest)
"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on."- Robert Frost, poet
"The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."- Thomas Edison, inventor
"Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work."- Chuck Close, painter and photographer

Meemic grant (65 reasons)
Please use this link to enter the 65 reasons grant opportunity from Meemic.  It won't take long and you might even get a giggle out of the video that is shared.  Enjoy and good luck!

Beyond the Bake Sale discussion from 10.28.15
Janine and I met with four parents and we had a wonderful discussion.  Here are the notes from our discussion.  I'd love to discuss this at our grade level meetings next week.  Ask Janine about the discussion if you'd like her point of view.  Overall we're doing some great things to be proud of and, as always, there are areas for improvement.

Sharing the good things we're doing in Merton
After our attendance at What Great Educators Do Differently, we discussed finding one thing to focus on.  Our "one thing" is to share the positive things we are doing here at school.  Here is a simple form (Merton only access) for you to fill out as an individual, content area, or grade level.  I will compile this weekly and put everything into our staff blog.  I'll continue to remind you of this opportunity at grade level meetings and other times that I see you in classrooms and hallways.

Where in the world is Jay?
As many of you know, I'll be out of the district running the New York City marathon on Sunday, November 1st.  If you want to follow along, here is a link to an app for your phone.  Race time is 9:50EST.  Ron will be in charge on both Friday, October 30th and Monday, November 2nd while I am gone.  Here's some runformation about the marathon.  Runfographics for the NYC marathon.  I'll be living this mantra on Sunday.

Have a great weekend!  I'll honestly have you in my thoughts, from time to time, on my travels through NYC.  You are one of the strengths that I rely on when times are tough.  Here is my biggest strength.
And yes, I'll be wearing my Merton singlet on race day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Keep moving around

Where does instruction occur?
You may or may not know this about me- I don't really do well sitting at my desk.  I don't really do well sitting anywhere for very long.  I enjoy being up and about, interacting with students and staff in as many ways as I can.  I notice that most of you do your best learning when you have a chance to move about as well.  I have seen you move about the classroom, checking in with students, whether they are asking for help or not.  Here is a link to an article about a principal who obviously didn't notice the same things about her staff that I notice about you.  Don't worry!  I won't be taking your teacher desks, or your filing cabinets, out of your classrooms.  Teacher desks have a purpose.  It's just not a place for you to sit all day long.  If I notice that you are almost always moving about the room, you can bet the kids notice, too.  Keep on doing what you're doing and don't hang out behind your desk.  And if you keep moving about the room, it will have a great impact on your daily step count, too.

Monday, October 26                  4:15-5:15  BLT meeting
                                                    7:30  Board meeting
Tuesday, October 27                 1:00-4:00  Science curriculum meeting
                                                    4:15-5:15  Practice
Thursday, October 29                Team meetings (6th- 8:55, 5th- 9:45, 7th/8th- 12:22)
                                                    2:01-3:01  Coaching meeting
                                                    4:15-5:15  Practice
Friday, October 30                     Out all day- New York City Marathon weekend
Sunday, November 1                 New York City Marathon
Monday, November 2                Out all day- New York City Marathon weekend

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Minds are like flowers; they only open when the time is right."- Stephen Richards, writer
"Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do.  Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better."- Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, writer, and motivational speaker
Backing Up (from @GenieneD on Twitter, my #ptcamp friend, about the importance of reflection)
"Action is the foundational key to all success."- Anthony Robbins, writer and motivational speaker
"The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare."- Dale Carnegie, writer and motivational speaker
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 10.21.15

What Great Educators Do Differently
The picture below reminds me of a number of conversations that I had with Brian, Holly, and Carey last weekend at the What Great Educators Do Differently conference.  The hashtag from the conference can be found here. (#wgedd)  If you have a moment during this long weekend, take a look through the tweets.  You'll notice that Merton was well represented, both in tweets and during presentations.  Don't hesitate to talk with Brian, Holly, Carey or me if you'd like to know more.
(from PixTeller)
Now a little more about the sign above.  Have you ever come across a new idea, something that you think could really be a game changer, but you don't take the chance to give it a try?  Next week is the week to put that all behind you.  Come on.  Try something new.  And once you have, share it with a colleague, or with me, or with everyone.  Imagine the possibilities.  Model taking a risk.  Show your creative side.  And if you're on twitter, how about sharing your idea with the #mertonint hashtag.  (More to come on that from our BLT in the weeks to come.)

Enjoy your long weekend, and I'll see you all on Monday.  Don't forget to wear red!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Conference Reflection- What Great Educators Do Differently

Friday, October 16th and Saturday, October 17th, I got to spend time with some great educators- Shelly Brown, Mike Budisch, Laura Day, Brian Klink, Jackie Kohnert, Melissa Krogman, Carey Niemczyk, and Holly Zimmermann.  They are educators from my district, the Merton Community School District, in Merton, WI.  We traveled together to attend the What Great Educators Do Differently conference, the brain child of Jimmy Casas, Todd Whitaker, and Jeff Zoul.  We found that all in attendance seemed to have one thing in common- we want to do all that we can to help our students be successful.  Here are a few highlights from my vantage point.

  • We must hold one another accountable to do what we agree to do for our students.  Thanks, Todd Whitaker, for that reminder.
  • We must encourage our students to create with technology and not just consume with technology.  Thanks, George Couros, for that reminder.
  • We must always find ways to connect with our families and communities to share our school's story.  Thanks, Joe Sanfelippo, for that reminder.
  • Merton staff spending time with Jimmy Casas and Jeff Zoul, two of the conference organizers, after conference hours was amazing.  As one of our staff said to me, normally the conference speakers and organizers present and then disappear.  That didn't happen with Jimmy and Jeff and our staff noticed that.  Thanks, Jimmy and Jeff, for showing such great interest in our staff.
  • Principal leadership is the same no matter where in the United States you might live.  Thanks, Dwight Carter, for that reminder.
  • There is a continued need to improve upon family and community engagement in our schools.  Thanks, Bethany Hill, for that reminder.
  • Student choice and student voice are two important topics that we need to always keep in mind.  Thanks, Shannon Miller, for that reminder.
  • Being connected with others, sharing with others, and supporting one another help all of us become better educators.  Thanks, Amber Teamann, for that reminder.
  • All of our kids matter, and all of us matter, and we need to acknowledge one another every day for our efforts.  Thanks, Angela Maiers, for that reminder.
  • During our travels to and from the conference, and during the times that weren't scheduled learning time, we all learned together.  We shared our thoughts, got connected on twitter (and not just with other Merton staff but with great educators from around the world), and continued our learning with one another and with those we met in person.  Thanks, Merton staff, for showing the dedication and desire to be the best that you can be.
In the next week, the Merton team will be getting back together to share the "one thing" that will be shared with those staff that were unable to attend.  This assignment is meant as a reflection of the two days we spent together, but it can't end with a reflection.  We must find a way to share that one thing and put it into action.  Then we'll know that our time learning together will take us to the next level.  That's what great educators do differently.  They take what they learned and then apply to be better than they were before they left.

Thanks to the Merton Community School District and the Merton School Board for supporting our learning at What Great Educators Do Differently.  Being in the presence of great educators makes us want to be great educators, too.  This conference was a showcase of greatness and a model of what we hope to become.

Friday, October 16, 2015

What are your circumstances?

As I've been training staff in CPI techniques, one thing keeps popping into my head- precipitating factors.  If you've taken our CPI course, you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, here's the definition of precipitating factors- Internal or external factors over which we have no control.  What does this have to do with the above message?  Our students have things that they must deal with every day that we know nothing about.  They come to school every day anyway with a smile upon their face because of you.  They know that you will treat them with respect and love and care and almost always give them a clean slate.  Our students exemplify the statement above each and every day.  With that said, how many of you know the precipitating factors of your students, or your colleagues, or yourself?  Think about that and then figure out, on your own, what you can do to find out these precipitating factors.  Knowing these factors will make every day better for you and your students.

Monday, October 19th                          CPI training 4:15-5:15
Tuesday, October 20th                          CPI training 7:30-8:30
                                                                Practice 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, October 21st                     403b meeting 7:45-8:30
                                                                A-team meeting 1:30-3:30
                                                                Culver's Night 4:00-8:00 (Anybody want to serve with me?)
Thursday, October 22nd                        No school
Friday, October 23rd                             No school

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"At every step the child should be allowed to meet the real experiences of life; the thorns should never be plucked from his roses."- Ellen Key
"Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself."- Elie Wiesel, writer and activist
Think about this next Monday!
"Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."- Benjamin Franklin, US Founding Father
"It's hard to beat a person who never gives up."- Babe Ruth, baseball player
"If you look at what you have in life, you'll always have more.  If you look at what you don't have in life, you'll never have enough."- Oprah Winfrey, media personality, businesswoman, and philanthropist
7 must watch teacher Chromebook videos (shared by Matt Pomeroy)
"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work."- Colin Powell, military leader and statesman

PTO grant requests
Here is the link to staff PTO grants.  Remember, the deadline is October 23rd!  It's easy to complete the grant and well worth your time.

ADHD resource
So here is another reason to be connected on Twitter, Voxer, and in person.  My good friend, Tony Sinanis (@TonySinanis) shared this with his PLN in an email and I just had to share it with you.  I was actually encouraged to share it by Lindsay and Holly after they read it.  It's a smore with some great information.

Digital Citizenship Week
Digital Citizenship Week is October 18thh-24th.  Here are some Digital Citizenship Week resources.  Thanks to @TonySinanis who shared this with his PLN so I thought I'd share it with you, too.

Transition discussion
Thank you for your honest discussions, suggestions, and commendations for one another.  Now let's not forget about this!  I can see this becoming an important part of a staff meeting, as a reminder, after Spring Break.  If you have any other suggestions, don't hesitate to add them to the google doc found here.

I hope that you have a great Friday.  I'll be at What Great Educators Do Differently with Brian K., Carey, and Holly.  I"m sure we'll have some great things to share when we return.  Please send or tweet some pictures (#mertonint) so that I can see you and the kids in action.
If you need something, call or email Ron as he is filling in for me.
Have a great weekend, and stay warm!

Friday, October 9, 2015

I wish my teacher knew...

I wish my teacher knew...
This week one of our teachers shared an activity that she did with her students.  She had the students complete this sentence-
I wish my teacher knew...
She shared these with me and boy, were they powerful!  She also slipped one in for me to read that said, you guessed it, I wish my principal knew...  Her response is just between us.  But I thought I would take it one step further, so here goes.
I wish our staff knew...
how incredibly lucky I am to have a loving wife and daughter who support and encourage me.
how awestruck I am when I see them working with our kids.
how the relationships you make with our kids has a lifelong impact on them.
how proud I am that when I ask you your thoughts or opinions about something you are brutally honest with me.
that I notice the look in your eyes when a kid really gets it.
that I notice the look in the kid's eyes when they have made a great connection with you.
every day I come to school is better than the day before because of you.
And now you know.

Monday, October 12th              Community forum at NSMS 7PM
Tuesday, October 13th              CPI training 7:30-8:30AM
                                                    Practice 4:15-5:15PM (Anyone able to help? Bueller?)
                                                    7/8 conferences 4:30PM
Wednesday, October 14th         CPI training 4:15-5:15PM
Thursday, October 15th            RtI Thursday- staff in Little Theater 8:00-8:40 (see below)
                                                    Sam's Club assembly 8:45-9:15 in the gym (Sit with your homeroom)
                                                    Practice 4:15-5:15PM
Friday, October 16th                 Jay out all day at WGEDD

RtI "Thursday"
Due to being named School of the Year by Sam's Club, we moved our RtI Wednesday to Thursday.  We will meet as a staff from 8:00-8:40 in the Little Theater to discuss transitions from one grade level to the next.  Please bring your thoughts about what your expectations are for your grade level, what has gone well, and what needs to be adjusted.  You all do amazing things with our students to move them on their educational journey and we should celebrate that.
*Important!  We will be handing out staff recognition awards, too.  If you have one from last year, be prepared to pass it along!  Any questions, concerns, or comments, please let me know.

Great things I saw/heard this week
*A teacher working one on one with a student on his writing, and the student realizing that the teacher really cared about what he was writing about and how he was writing.
*Students actively listening and jotting during the read aloud (I saw this in more than one classroom and at more than one grade level.).
*A teacher walking about the room checking understanding of a new math concept (Again, I saw this in more than one classroom and at more than one grade level.).
*Jon sharing the first two notes of 5th grade band (It's in the smore and also here.).
*Students preparing songs for Veterans' Day in choir.
*The excitement I have seen and heard from staff regarding Veterans' Day.
*Honest and open conversations about tough topics during our grade level meetings.
*Parents in our Beyond the Bake Sale book discussion last night could not say enough about the great things you are doing with and for their kids.  Ask Janine for more specifics.  By the way, if you are still interested in joining the book chat, I have some extra copies of the book.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"He who rejects change is the architect of decay."- Harold Wilson, former UK prime minister
"Be not the slave of your own past."- Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer
Let's Be Four Again (blog from Jon Harper @Jonharper70bd)
"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."- Vince Lombardi, football coach
On Listening, or in other words, "care for" or "care about" (from via @Joe_Mazza)
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven't found it yet, keep looking.  Don't settle."- Steve Jobs, entrepreneur
 (from PixTeller)
Tech Tip: Be a connected educator (from ASCD SmartBlog)
"There can be no courage unless you're scared."- fighter pilot and business leader
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."- Vicki Corona, writer
(from PixTeller- I know that success is spelled incorrectly, but I like the saying!)
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."- Walter Bagehot, journalist
"If you don't like something, change it.  If you can't change it, change your attitude."- Maya Angelou, writer and entertainer
"When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve."- Napoleon Hill, writer
"The thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."- Mary Pickford, Canadian American actress
(from @FitnessGandhi)

Merton Staff Blog
You all know the importance of reflection on our practice as an educator and as a person.  Many of you in the past have shared your thoughts on our staff blog.  It can feel risky to share your ideas with others, but this is truly a safe place to do so.  Heidi took the risk this week and posted her thoughts on our staff blog.  Here is the link entitled "Kids Are Listening".  If you aren't a contributor on our staff blog and would like to be, just let me know and I'll add you.

Have a great weekend!  I just found out Thursday that I'm going to go to the Packers game on Sunday.  Look for me in the crowd.  I'll be wearing a Green Bay Packers hat.