Thursday, August 27, 2015

5 days!

In 5 days, our students will be here.  They will be nervous, excited, shy, verbose, quiet, and unsure, all within the first day.  You may have some of the same feelings.  Be supportive.  Be visible.  Be reassuring.  Be positive.  Let's make next Tuesday the best day of the year, with many more best days to follow.

Monday, August 31st   F&P testing
Tuesday, September 1st  1st day of school!
Wednesday, September 2nd  PBIS kick off in the morning
Thursday, September 3rd  PBIS kick off in the afternoon
Friday, September 4th  All school read aloud in the morning
                                        All school assembly in the afternoon
                                        (adjusted schedule here for all three days)

Meemic $100 book grant
Meemic just keeps offering us opportunities for money for our school.  Here is a link to a grant application for $100 for classroom libraries in conjunction with Scholastic.  It's seriously only 3 questions long.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."- Warren Buffett, investor and philanthropist
The Intentional Innovation Manifesto (from AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani) about innovation)
"It often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong."- Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President
Start the School Year by "Awakening Your Dreamers" (from
"You've got to say, 'I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough I can have it.'  It's called perseverance."- Lee Iacocca, auto industry executive
Purposeful Learning Spaces (from
"Life isn't worth living unless you're willing to take some big chances and go for broke."- Eliot Wigginton, writer
Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement (from
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  The fearful are caught as often as the bold."- Helen Keller, author and political activist
Genuine Connections (from @Jonharper70bd)
"Nothin recedes like success.  Don't let it happen."- Ray Kroc, businessman
10 Commandments of Innovative Teaching (from @ajjuliani)
"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."- Thomas Paine, political theorist and revolutionary
Developmental Characteristics of Young Adolescents (from AMLE)
                                               (from Math Education SmartBrief and Andertoons)
300 teachers (from
"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe."- Anatole France, poet, journalist, and novelist
West Des Moines Schools welcome back video (This is worth your time!)
First Day of School activities, if you were looking for more. (from
#mertonint on Twitter
@mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for August 27, 2015


(from Pinterest)
(from PixTeller)

I end with these three quotes for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I love quotes, especially those that send a powerful message.  The first quote above comes from, a website by Sam Parker.  There are lots of nuggets like this that can be found there.  The message of the quote is to model what you want our students to exemplify.  They watch us all of the time, even if you don't think they are watching us.  The second quote comes from Pinterest and helps me remember that setting a goal or dreaming a dream is something we must also model for our students.  I share my goals and dreams with students at least once a month during Wednesday assemblies.  We can all find ways to model our goals and dreams with our students.  They like it when we share stories about ourselves, and they remember these stories for a long time.  The final quote is from PixTeller and is a good reminder to get started.  As the Nike ad says, "Just Do It."

Have a great weekend, and I'll see most of you on Monday!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nuts and bolts for staff meeting

(from Jen via

In an effort to make our 2:00 all-staff meeting as short as possible, please make sure to look this over beforehand.  We will be reviewing PBIS procedures (see presentation here and Wednesday's schedule and Thursday's schedule) first and then opening up the floor to any questions you might have about the information in this blog.  These items are in no particular order of importance or significance except for the first one.  I need your picture with your 3 words!

3 word challenge
Please choose three words (see previous request in last week's blog) and send me a picture for a Google presentation.  Here's what I have so far.  If you need a photographer, just let me know.

Open House
I'm so excited for this!  Remember, you can only make one first impression so let's make it a good one.  Hours are from 5:00-7:00 and don't forget the staff picture at 3:30!  The PTO is also providing dinner for us following our picture.

Supervision responsibilities
Please greet our students either outside, in the commons, or in the hallways for the first week of school.  It sends a message that we are happy to see them and will be keeping an eye on them, too.  Once the school year begins, please be in the hallways to greet the students and one another.  The students enter the building at 8:40 and they want to see you there.  All staff should be in the hallway during passing time and dismissal at the end of the day.  Let's get this habit started early.

Emergency procedures
Please locate the emergency procedures (tornado, fire, intruder) information in your classroom.  If you don't have one, please let me know.  We will practice these procedures during our PBIS kick off.

Communicating with families
Start off positive and it will pay big dividends later on.  Phone calls are personal and will make a great first impression.  Emails are also effective.  Matt has put together a Google form that will send a message.  And don't forget our Mustang Medals.  I have Barb send these home each month or quarter.

Grade level meetings
I will meet with grade levels weekly on a time and date that you agree upon as a team.  Please avoid Wednesdays if at all possible.

Family Information Nights
Please choose a night during the week of September 7th or 14th to host Family Information Nights by grade level.  These only need to be 30-45 minutes in length.  I will attend so that I can briefly speak about communication and PBIS.

Teacher attire
Please remember to dress professionally.  There isn't a need to wear skirts or a tie or both each and every day, but the students notice what we wear and model it, too.  We will have plenty of Friday's to wear jeans and plenty of Tuesday's for bow ties.  In fact, our first Friday will be jeans and our Merton Way t-shirts.  If you are in need of a Merton Way t-shirt, please let me know.  I have some but may need to order more.

Guest teacher folders
Please have these prepared for the first day of school (You never know!) with your schedule, seating charts, lesson plans, names of students to rely upon, and PBIS information.  Including the names of staff would be helpful as well.  Also provide important contact numbers (Barb- 2003, Jay- 2001).

Teacher work hours
We are scheduled to be at school from 8:15-4:15.  Students enter the building at 8:40 and you should all be in the hallway at that time.  Announcements are at 8:48.  Classes start at 8:50.  Students are dismissed at 4:00 and you should all be int he hallway at that time.  It is important for all of us to be visible in the hallways before and after school as well as during passing times.

Second Wednesday of the month
We will continue the tradition of late start for the students and extended time for staff on the second Wednesday of the month.  We will begin at 8:00 on these days with a meeting in the Little Theater.  Students will be dismissed from the gym at 9:15 and an adjusted schedule will be provided.  Topics for our meeting will be communicated by Lori, Corinne, or Jay.

Teacher observation meetings
I will be emailing staff who are "on cycle" for this school year to set up pre-observation meetings.  If you aren't "on cycle" and still want to meet, that's great for me.  Staff new to Merton are definitely "on cycle" as are staff who joined us last year (5 new staff, 3 second year staff).  There are seven of you who volunteered for year 2.  I think you know who you are, but if not,  I will be emailing all of the year 2 volunteers to see if you would be willing to move to year 3.  Having 15 staff on formal observation is difficult but not impossible.

National Junior Honor Society
Thanks to Heather and Megan for bringing this to our school.  They will explain more about this at our staff meeting.  Great opportunities for our students and for staff.  We will be having a Veterans' Day assembly on November 11th as part of National Junior Honor Society.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I am so ready...

As I think about the upcoming week, one line came to mind over and over.
I am so ready...
I am so ready for all of the scheduling and hiring to be done.
I am so ready for you all to be back at school.
I am so ready to work with you to meet the needs of our students.
I am so ready not to be in my office.
I am so ready to greet students, visit classrooms, and have lunch duty.
I am so ready for the students to be back.
What are you so ready for?

Tuesday, August 25th  Teacher work/meeting day (8:00-4:00)
                                       7:45  Breakfast at Primary School
                                       8:15  District updates
                                       9:30-10:45  F&P meeting (5th grade, 6th-8th LA teachers)
                                                          All others dismissed at 9:30 for work time
                                       10:45-2:00  Individual and team work time and lunch on your own
                                       2:00-3:00  All staff meeting
                                       3:00-4:00  Individual and team work time
                                       (Please find 30 minutes for me to join your team!)
Wednesday, August 26th  Teacher work/ meeting and Open House (11:00-7:00)
                                       All staff meeting at 11:00 in the Little Theater to hand out grant money!
                                       11:30-3:30  Individual and team work time
                                        1:00  IA meeting
                                        3:30-4:00  All district photo and individual photos
                                        4:00  Food provided by PTO
                                        4:30  Ready for early arrivals
                                        5:00-7:00  Official Open House time
Thursday, August 27th  F&P testing

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out."- Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President
"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it."- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President
"If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough."- Mario Andretti, race car driver
"There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going."- Beverly Sills, opera singer
Learning Lessons by Saying Goodbye ( A great blog from @Tim_Dawks that puts focus on thinking about the issues our students and colleagues bring to school every day.)
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."- Oprah Winfrey, businesswoman
"Happiness depends upon ourselves."- Aristotle, philosopher
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint hashtag on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page

                             (Thanks to @DrRoyTroddy)                      (Thanks to PixTeller)

Three words activity
As we prepare for the students and their families to return, I have something I would like you all to do for me.  I will be sharing this favor with our families in a Google presentation that I'd like to have running during Open House.  Where this is going to be running, I have no idea.  I'll figure out that little detail later.  I got this idea from a superintendent in Massachusetts, Kristan Rodriguez (@Dr_Rodriguez21) through a parent of one of her students, Mary Ann Stewart (@MAStewartMA).  So here's what you need to do.  In 3 words, no more and no less, tell me what motivates you as an educator to be your very best or the message you'd like to share with our students and families.  Take a picture of yourself with the 3 words and email it to me.  Have some fun with it.  Here is my example.

Enjoy the weekend, and I'll see all of you on Tuesday, August 25th at 7:45 in the Little Theater.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Get out of your room!

Way back in January of 2012, my awesome wife, Jenifer, sent me an email with a quote that has stuck with me every school day.  Here it is.

"Make time to walk around the office to talk to people face to face.  Your team needs to hear from you personally."

In a google search, I was unable to find the person who I could give credit for the quote, but I did find a link to an awesome blog entitled "Management By Wandering Around" from that made me think even more.  I'll let you read the blog on your own if you are interested.  But now, back to the quote.

In my time as principal at Merton Intermediate School, I have encouraged staff to open classroom doors, invite others in, and invite themselves in.  I have modeled that, or at least I hope that I have, so much so that people know that one of the last places to find me, especially when the lights are out, is in my office.

But it is still a struggle to get staff to visit other classrooms.  I have offered to cover classes for the visits to occur but few have taken me up on my offer.  I remind them, almost monthly, and the common response is, "Yeah, I need to do that."

So what are the roadblocks?



Something else?

I am passionate about the fact that we need to get in classrooms to learn from one another.  As one of our wise Merton teachers, Brian Fleischman said, "We are our best resources."  I'm looking for suggestions to make this a reality.  We need to get out of our rooms!  Does anyone have any ideas?

11 and 18

As I wrote this week's blog, I realized that by the time you read this, there will be 11 days left before our first teacher day and 18 days before the students return.  I am really excited to see you and the students.  In the meantime, I will be around the building if you want to stop in to chat.

Schedule changes
On Monday, the online registration process started.  I have been fielding requests and questions all week.  There may be some changes that occur for reasons we can discuss face to face if you would like.  Students are also still entering our system almost daily and some families are also moving out of the district or state.  I guess what I'm saying is that the class lists are still fluctuating.  Please be patient and understanding with me as the process continues.

Monday, August 17th   Google training 9-4
Tuesday, August 18th   Google training 9-4
Friday, August 21st       A-team meeting 9-11:30

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune, but great minds rise above them."- Washington Irving, writer, historian, and diplomat
"Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion."- Michael Jordan, professional basketball player and team owner
A Label by Any Other Name: One Teacher's View of Diagnosing a Child (blogpost from Jill Morgenstern (@Sugartov) shared by Colette Murphy)
"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."- Arnold Bennett, writer
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."- Neale Donald Walsch, writer
"I have learned that the best way to lift one's self up is to help someone else."- Booker T. Washington, educator, writer, and orator
"As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears."- Rumi, poet and philosopher
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."- Helen Keller, author and political activist
"Nothing can withstand the power of the human will if it is willing to stake its very existence to the extent of its purpose."- Benjamin Disraeli, U.K. prime minister
Great schools share these 8 qualities (from Business Insider regarding Sir Ken Robinson)
"If you don't build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs."- Dhirubhai Ambani, entrepreneur
"You've got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction."- George Lorimer, journalist and author
@mertonint Twitter feed
#mertonint Twitter hashtag feed
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page

Just one more thing...
If you do nothing but watch this video today, your day will be complete.  Please think about the message being sent by Chris Wilson.  What we see on the outside doesn't tell the whole story.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The warmup begins

I was thinking about running this week.  It's hard to imagine, I know.  One of the phases of running is the warmup.  I don't warmup often, but when I do, especially for races, I find that it gets me better prepared.  I equate August to the warmup of our school year.  Think about it.  We are all in the midst of planning for the return of our students.  We are thinking about our classrooms, our colleagues, our schedules, our content, and all that we have to do to be prepared.  I have my sights set on a number of things that I want to do this year and can't wait to get them all going.  If you are around at all next week, stop in and chat awhile.  I'd love to hear what you have prepared for our kids.

Monday, August 10th- Online registation opens
Thursday, August 13th-  CPI training 9:00-3:00 (Intermediate School Library)

As of the posting of this blog, Dawn (Did I ever tell you what a rockstar she is?) and I think we have all of the schedules done for online registration.  Thank you for providing me with suggestions (2 teachers, what students to keep together, what students to keep separate, etc.).  There were a lot of suggestions and we did the best that we could for the benefit of our kids.  It may even help out some of you, too!  Some of the suggestions just couldn't be done due to math placements and co-teaching opportunities.  Thanks for your understanding and support.

Teachscape release webinars
Just so you know, we will be using Teachscape again this year.  There are some upcoming webinars that will explain the new options.  They can be found in this link.  If you are unavailable at any of the times and would still like to view the webinars, all you need to do is sign up and you will have access to the webinar when it is convenient for you.  Scroll to the "Teachers and Support Professionals" options.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."- Helen Keller, author and political activist
If you want to know more about Voxer, here's a great link from Cybrary Man.
8 key connectors (from Julie Oppelt)
The Power of Connectedness (from @JayBilly2)
"Being tolerant does not mean that I share another one's belief.  But it does mean that I acknowledge another one's right to believe, and obey, his own conscience."- Viktor Frankl, neurologist and psychiatrist
"Pirate lessons"- (from @tellez318 via #tlap chat on Twitter)
Remind 101 for students and families (from @8amber8)
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."- John Wooden, basketball coach
Katie's Krops video (from @TroyBilt)
"We become what we think about."- Earl Nightingale, radio personality, writer, and motivational speaker
Teachscape 2015 release webinars
"No chance, no destiny, no fate, can circumvent or hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul."- Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poet
5 formative assessment ideas (from Suzanne Klein at ASCDEDge)
"Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable."- Theodore Vail, industrialist
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."- Dale Carnegie, author and motivational speaker
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Intermediate School Facebook page

(from Cierra Kaler-Jones on Pinterest)

Family communication challenge
As I continue to search for ways to connect with families, one glaring thing comes to mind.  I don't have any "hard evidence", but I bet that more than 90% of our contacts with families are either posted assignments or discussions about inappropriate behavior.  With that said, I challenge you to the following- take 5 minutes a day and make one positive phone call home.  Not an email.  Not a text message.  A phone call.  With 180 school days, that's 180 positive phone calls for each staff member.  And you know what.  If you need me to cover your class for 5 minutes so that you can make the call, I'll gladly do so.  Often when I make these calls, the person on the other end of the line starts out by saying, "What did he/she do now?"  If we all do this enough, our calls home won't always appear negative.  So, who's up for the challenge?

Have a wonderful weekend!