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!