Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year's thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 year in review

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

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

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Relax, renew, and recharge

It's an overused quote from Aaron Rodgers, but it is fitting at this time of year.  R-E-L-A-X.
You deserve it and, more importantly, you need it.  Please take time away from all things school related for as many days as possible.  Relax on the couch or in your favorite chair or on a walk or wherever you best relax.  Renew your goals for the school year or alter them, if necessary.  Recharge with a friend or family member or colleague.  I've found a new interest in Board and Brush with Jen and Lauren so maybe we'll find a day to go back there.  Or maybe I'll get outside for a run when it's light out and the temperature and wind cooperate.  Or maybe I'll find a book or two to read.  Whatever it is that you do over break, come back with that beginning of the year mentality and see how long you can ride the wave.  It will make things better for you and for our kids.
*Speaking of books, I think that I lent out two books recently- "#KidsDeserveIt" and "Thanks for the Feedback."  If you have either of these, just let me know.  If you're finished, I'd love them back.  If you're not finished, keep on reading.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Kids working together on videos for health class, and taking responsibility for their part of the project.
  • Kids reading whenever they had the opportunity.
  • Staff checking in on students that they know might have a difficult time this week due to the uncertainty of their break.
  • Students sharing their learning with one another.
  • Staff showing love to Jim and sending him off in the best way to see his family.
  • Article in the Lake Country Reporter on DeSTEMber.
  • Staff stepping in to help students they don't even work with regularly.
  • Great brunch provided by the PTO.  Wow!
  • Maintaining expectations for learning every day this week.
  • So many staff using the #mertonint hashtag to share all that is Merton!
  • SST meeting before school to discuss what can be done here at school to make things better for a student.
  • Lots of school spirit for the Student Senate Spirit Week.
Monday, January 2nd
  • Welcome back!
Tuesday, January 3rd
  • I start coaching 8th grade basketball
    • Practices are 7:00-8:15 almost every morning
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Thursday, January 5th
  • Grade level and Specials meetings all day
    • MAPs schedule discussion
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, January 6th
  • Good calls home
    • One call per teacher
    • Send down when it's convenient for you (Barb will find me!)
Saturday, January 7th
  • Choirs sing at the Milwaukee Wave game

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying...that he is wiser today then he was yesterday."- Alexander Pope, poet
10 Simple Rules for Learning (from AJ Juliani)
"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal."- Albert Pike, writer and lawyer
"I have never felt that anything really mattered but the satisfaction of knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed, and had done the very best you could."- Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady, diplomat, and activist
"Mistakes are a part of being human.  Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way."- Al Franken, politician, writer, and entertainer
With just one simple tool (from Pernille Ripp)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Board presentation from 12.19.16
Family smore from 12.22.16

Don't forget about our assembly at 3:45 in the gym today.  The Jazz Band will be playing and we'll be singing some holiday songs, too!  Which of you will be like Buddy the Elf?

It's a Wonderful Life
Although "Elf" is my all time favorite Christmas movie, followed closely by "Christmas Vacation" and "A Christmas Story" (Notice a theme there?), I am also a big fan of "It's a Wonderful Life".  The main character, George Bailey, reminds me so much of each one of you.  The impact George has on the little town of Bedford Falls is immeasurable.  He saves his brother who saves a transport of soldiers during the war.  He saves the town during the Great Depression, canceling his honeymoon in the process.  He saves Mary from a life with Sam Wainwright.  He saves the people of the town with an alternative to Pottersville.  And he does all of this without asking for anything in return.  You all remind me of George because of your selfless nature with our kids and each other.  This quote from Clarence the angel sums it all up for me- "Strange, isn't it?  Each man's life touches so many other lives.  When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
I hope that you realize the impact that you have on our kids.  As Zuzu Bailey says at the end of the movie, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."  Know that when the bell rings to end the day today, you will all have earned your wings.

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's a Wonderful Life or Teachers are angels

Although "Elf" is my all time favorite Christmas movie, followed closely by "Christmas Vacation" and "A Christmas Story" (Notice a theme there?), I am also a big fan of "It's a Wonderful Life".  The main character, George Bailey, reminds me so much of each one of you.  The impact George has on the little town of Bedford Falls is immeasurable.  He saves his brother who saves a transport of soldiers during the war.  He saves the town during the Great Depression, canceling his honeymoon in the process.  He saves Mary from a life with Sam Wainwright.  He saves the people of the town with an alternative to Pottersville.  And he does all of this without asking for anything in return.  You all remind me of George because of your selfless nature with our kids and each other.  This quote from Clarence the angel sums it all up for me- "Strange, isn't it?  Each man's life touches so many other lives.  When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
I hope that you realize the impact that you have on our kids.  As Zuzu Bailey says at the end of the movie, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."  Know that when the bell rings to end each day, you will all have earned your wings.
Thanks to all teachers who are angels for our kids, and especially those who are angels for my daughter.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Keep focused!

Today is the final Friday of the calendar year.  Next week is our last four days of the calendar year.  That being said, it's important to keep the expectations up for ourselves and our students.  It's important that the students recognize that you take each learning experience with them as a gift, a special moment that comes only once, a chance that you might provide an "Ah ha" and not an "Oh, no".  Find a chance to sit down with a student you haven't gotten to know as well as you'd like so far this year and make a connection.  It may be the one bright spot of their year to this point that they will always look back on.  We started the year with three words of challenge- BE THE ONE!  Look back on your year to this point.  Who considers you to be their one?  Who is your one?

Great things I saw this week...

  • Students and staff learning together on Wednesday.
  • Staff stepping up for one another and our kids.
  • Kids reading and writing in all areas of the school.
  • Former Merton students stopping in to help out with Homework Club.
  • The Giving Tree

Monday, December 19th
  • Wear Red and Green
  • School board meeting at 7PM
Tuesday, December 20th
  • Ugly Sweater and Jeans Day
  • PTO brunch in the lounge
Wednesday, December 21st
  • Workout Wednesday
  • Holiday Hats for the students, too
Thursday, December 22nd
  • No grade level or specials meetings
  • Raffle gifts
  • Pajama Day for the students (Polar Express- Join in if you'd like!)
  • Last 15 minutes of the day we'll be in the gym.  Jazz band will play and we'll sing some holiday songs.
    • (Adjusted schedule for 7th/8th grade will be provided next week. Each hour (6th-9th) will be 4 minutes shorter.  Thanks to Jonathon and Michael for agreeing to do this.)
  • Staff get together after school (location to be determined)
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Look for the One (from Pernille Ripp)
"So many dreams at first seem impossible.  And then they seem improbable.  And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."- Christopher Reeve, actor and director
The Forest for the Trees #kidsdeserveit (from Todd Neslony)
"Strong, deeply rooted desire is the starting point of all achievement."- Napoleon Hill, writer
"Every child is an artist until he's told he's not an artist."- John Lennon, singer and songwriter
The Basement or the Balcony (from @benjamingilpin)- I hope that you know I am always in the balcony for you!
"A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind."- Robert Oxton Bolt, screenwriter and playwright
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 12.16.16

In discussing Wednesday's DeSTEMber speakers and activities with most of you the last couple of days, two things came out loud and clear.  The first was that Mary did a fabulous job planning, organizing, and implementing a great day.  It was amazing.  The second was that people who aren't educators don't realize the magic that you do each and every day.  I witnessed speakers going to lunch a session early (I helped her get reset for her final session) and heard speakers saying they couldn't imagine being with our kids all day, every day.  I heard speakers say they were scared of our kids (I'm sure that it was fear of the unknown) and honestly telling me that you are all saints.  It's nothing that I didn't already know.  You amaze me.  You amaze each other.  We have five more days, including today, to keep making magic.  I know that you can do it!

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

It's what we do

I had a day on Thursday.  We've all had one of those days.  We have a schedule with events we know we must take care of with space for maybe a couple of unexpected issues.  And then it happens.  The "script" you thought you had for the day takes a drastic change.  Sometimes the change is for the best and sometimes it's not and sometimes it's a little bit of both.  I won't go through the list, but know that I wanted to be in classes more than I was but I just couldn't.  Thursday is over and today is another day, and it's also a Friday.

So here's my challenge for you all.  Please realize that the kids know it's almost Winter Break.  Some of them can't wait because of some phenomenal things that will happen with and for them.  Some of them don't want anything to do with the break because there is so much that is unknown.  Please keep that in mind.  As many of you say, the 7 plus hours the kids are with us every day might be their best 7 plus hours of the day.  What can you do to make this time their very best?  I know that it gets difficult to keep up the energy in these days before break, but I also know that you are all here for the kids and don't want to disappoint them.  Keep sharing your ideas with one another to spread the wealth of ideas that you have.  If the kids are engaged and enjoying their learning, there will be fewer issues in classrooms, hallways, the cafeteria, recess, and the bus.  And as always, let me know if I can stop in to help you with anything.  My favorite days are the days when I spend the majority of time in classrooms, so don't hesitate to invite me in!

Great things I saw this week
  • Teamwork by students and staff to prepare for our concerts.
  • The work ethic of our kids is outstanding.  I saw this first hand while covering for Colleen on Monday afternoon.
  • Students responding to blogs from other students, both ours and students from other schools.
  • The Giving Tree tags are disappearing and wrapped presents are showing up in their place.
  • Soloists in band and choir fearless while performing beautifully.
  • Smiles on our students and their families throughout the holiday concerts.
  • Supportive staff attending the holiday concerts.
  • Kids coding and teaching each other (and staff).  I had a blast with the 7th graders on Tuesday!
  • Discussions in Science about geomagnetism and the relationship of the sun and moon.
  • The true concern that staff show for our students who are dealing with things we can hardly even imagine.
  • Students helping one another during Inventor 2 as I was literally no help.
  • Students stepping up to clean up in the cafeteria even though they didn't create the mess.
  • Presents continue to come in for the Giving Tree.
  • The wonderful support you are showing to Jim as he continues to battle cancer.
Monday, December 12
  • 4th day of Christmas
    • Bagels in the lounge!
Tuesday, December 13
  • 5th day of Christmas
    • Thermal Tuesday (Wear flannel or thermal shirts and jeans)
Wednesday, December 14
  • DeSTEMber all day (See emails from Mary about this.)
  • 6th day of Christmas
    • Donuts in the lounge!
Thursday, December 15
  • Team meetings (last ones of the calendar year)
  • 7th day of Christmas
    • It's a surprise!
Friday, December 16
  • 8th day of Christmas
    • Lunch on Jay and Jen (but you know Jen does all of the work)
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset with Your Children (from
"The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it."- Charles de Lint, writer
Grow like a lobster (I found this during #mybad16, a Twitter chat on Monday night.  Please take 1:31 to watch.  It's worth it.)

"Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save."- Will Rogers, humorist and entertainer
The ABCs of Middle Level Education (from AMLE)

Storify from #satchat on Saturday morning where we discussed homework.
7 Keys to Positive Classroom Culture in the Middle School Classroom (from TpT, a good reminder)
3-D printed prosthetics model future (from ThisWeek Community News)
"You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."- Dale Carnegie, writer and motivational speaker
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 12.9.16

I said this in my opening paragraphs, but I need to say it again.  This time of the year is difficult for some students.  And the same is true for some staff.  Please be mindful of that.  John Gunnell's quote is even more important now.  "Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself."
Be the one!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Growth mindset reflections, and nuts and bolts

Growth mindsets.  I'm sure that you've all heard the term.  The question is, how can we make sure that we help build growth mindsets for our students, ourselves, and the families we interact with?  It's something that I've been contemplating ever since I started reading "Mindset" by Carol Dweck, a book discussion through our Mustang University facilitated by Corinne.  We've had one face to face meeting and the rest of our learning has been reading and reflecting, something we should all find the time to do more often.  When we reflect, we have the opportunity to grow, celebrate the things we've done well and adjust the things that might not have gone so well.  A growth mindset helps us find ways of getting better by our effort and not our innate abilities.  I have tried my best to keep that in mind when I speak with our students and especially when I speak with Lauren.  Lauren has always had a mindset that she isn't good in math.  I've been working on speaking with her about her effort and preparation, not her ability or intelligence.  Here's our texting conversation from Monday.
Lauren- "guess what"
Me- "What?" (Did you notice that I used capital letters and proper punctuation?)
Lauren- "i got an 86% on my math test"
Me- "Woo-hoo! You worked hard for that."
Lauren- "i know so happy !!"
Lauren- "hopefully my grade goes up"
Me- "Keep working hard and it will."

As I have said to our students many times, it's not what you say but how you say it.  Think about how you praise our students or your own children and keep this growth mindset in mind.

Great things I noticed this week...

  • Great 7th grade field trip to see "The Christmas Carol".  The behavior of our kids was, and is, awesome!
  • Staff collaborating on projects for Innovator's Mindset book talk.  I hope to be able to share some of these, with permission, before winter break.
  • Encore choir and Jazz band performances on Thursday night's tree lighting ceremony.
  • Thank you video created for our PTO by our kids.
  • Kids really contemplating what tags to take off of the Giving Tree.
  • Reading, reading, reading!
  • Cool 6th grade Science/LA research about the impact of space on human body systems
(Please invite me in to your classrooms next week for any innovative, creative, or hands on activities I can share with everyone!)

Monday, December 5th
  • Primary School Holiday concerts (It would be awesome for you to consider donating baked goods to their annual Holiday concert sale.  Home made or store bought.  Thanks!)
Tuesday, December 6th
  • Intermediate holiday concerts
    • Bands at 5:30
    • Choirs at 7:00
Wednesday, December 7th
  • "12 days before Winter Break" begins (Look for announcements from me for special dress up and food days!)

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.- Alan Alda, actor, writer and director

@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 12.2.16

And from A.J. Juliani about what is important
“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls.  The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity.  And you’re keeping all of them in the air.  But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  The other four balls - family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.  And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.”  [James Patterson]

I hope you can find some balance this weekend.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself (John Gunnell)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Communication possibilities

As we have ended the 1st quarter, and nearly the 1st trimester, one of the things I am proud of is the communication we have with our families.  Although I am proud, there is always room for improvement.  We rely a lot on Skyward and emails, but I encourage you to also use the phone or to have face to face meetings.  The personal nature of these communications is so much more powerful than written communication.  I know that we just finished conferences, so this may seem like a strange request, but reach out again soon.  Reach out because the student you just spoke about at conferences has made a great improvement.  Reach out because the student you just spoke about dropped a letter grade, or more, since the last time grades were entered.  Reach out because the student you spoke about wrote a magnificent paper or taught the class a math concept.  Reach out because the student you spoke about just always does the right thing.  And if you'd like me to make a phone call or two, send some students down to the office this morning.  I'd be happy to make some calls.

Great things I saw this week

  • Conferences.  You know our kids and their families.  And it shows.  Lots of smiles and handshakes and fist bumps.
  • 7th and 8th graders and their smoothies at lunch time.  Sharing the health.
  • Two of our Merton grads coming back to help out in Homework Club.
  • November weather that keeps the kids enjoying recess.
  • Thank you letters from our veterans to students and staff.  Here's one that's my favorite.
Friday, November 18th
  • I have a pretty free morning but my afternoon is packed with fun.  Seriously.  I have an observation from 1:08-2:36, a meeting with students from 2:36-3:06, and then I'm covering a class from 3:06-4:00.  That means I'm out of my office and in classrooms with staff and students.  If you need me for anything, don't hesitate to contact Barb.  She knows how to get in touch with me if it's an emergency.
Monday, November 21st
  • Coaching  7:30-8:15
  • IEP  1:15-2:15
  • Observation  2:36-3:06
  • IEP  3:15-4:15
  • BLT  4:15-5:15
Tuesday, November 22nd

  • Staff awards  8:15-8:30 in the Little Theater
  • No office day!
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Cool idea for book commercials (from edutopia)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 11.18.16
*These three quotes about success really struck home with me after our grade level meetings yesterday.  We are successful because we don't settle for what we did yesterday.  We strive to do better.  We prepare, work hard, and learn from our failures.  But don't forget about how we always talk about family first.  That helps us be a public and private success.  We won't rest on our laurels.  We're not that kind of family.  We keep striving to be better.  As James Collins says, "The enemy of great is good."  Let's celebrate what we do well, but then let's set a new goal and reach for it.

Have a great weekend.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


It is an honor for me to be a part of #SAVMP (School Admin Virtual Mentor Program), a wonderful opportunity to learn with and from administrators throughout the country.  Our next challenge is to share what we are most thankful for, and the list is short but powerful.

  • I am thankful for my family, every one of them, for believing in me, helping me set and reach goals, and picking me up when even I don't realize I need a pick me up.

  • I am thankful for my co-workers who come to school every day, giving their best for our students and each other.  They keep me focused on what's most important (relationships with our students, relationships with each other, and relationships with our families- the real "3 R's" of education) and hold me and each other accountable.

  • I am thankful for my PLN (Personal Learning Network), especially the two principals who helped me become a connected educator, Curt Rees (@curtrees) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ), the original #WIAmigos.  Without my PLN, I'd be on an island, writing S.O.S. in rocks on the beach, and stagnant in my thinking and actions.

Thanks to all of you who have helped my become the educator I am today.  Who are the people you are most thankful for?

Friday, November 11, 2016

The kids are why we are here

I must honestly say I was happy with our staff meeting on Wednesday.  We came in after what was a long night of election results, turned our focus to the kids and each other, and had an awesome day.  After all, the kids are why we are here.  If you missed the meeting, or can't find the link to the presentation, here it is.  As I sit in my office after a night of conferences and Veterans' Day decorating (wait until you see what the kids did), I wonder what other line of work allows someone to be energized by kids, colleagues, and families.  I challenge anyone to find something that does all three.

Monday, November 14th
  • Stone Bank visits LA classrooms
  • I'll be riding bus #2 home
Tuesday, November 15th
  • Conferences 4:30-8:00
Wednesday, November 16th
  • A-team meeting 1:30-3:00
Thursday, November 17th
  • Grade level/ specials meetings
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Friday, November 18th
  • Kick back with Favorite Shoes Day!

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
We Continue the Path (from Pernille Ripp)

(I made using Google drawings)

How to Disagree (from Kid President)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 11.11.16

This is pretty short, Jay...
It's been a long week.  You've been awesome with the kids.  You opened up with one another on Wednesday morning.  Some of you had scheduled conferences.  All of you had unscheduled conferences.  We are celebrating our veterans this morning.  It's been a long week.  Enjoy today with our kids and veterans.  Maybe stop down and eat lunch with us.  And as always, give it your best.  We only have this day with our kids once.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Where did the 1st quarter go?

Holy mackerel!  Where did the 1st quarter go?  I know we only use quarters in 7th and 8th grade, but a quarter of our school year is over.  When you look back, what are your favorite memories from the 1st quarter?  Here are some of mine.
  • The Color Run and getting slimed.
  • Stopping in classrooms and reading, just reading, right next to our kids.
  • Having in depth conversations about Science with our kids.
  • NJHS tutors almost running Homework Club by themselves.
  • Our new playground!
  • Listening in on election discussions about the process.  They have been polite and informative, quite unlike the real election.
  • Grade level meeting conversations, BLT meetings, and our new SIP team.  I am so proud of the work that we do together for the benefit of our kids and each other.
  • Our group of kids this year are awesome.
  • Have you heard the bands and choirs?  They are sounding awesome!
  • The creativity in our art room is amazing.
  • Working together with students on their math.
  • Each of you stepping up to help out colleagues at all different times.
  • Mr. Olson, our Red Ribbon speaker, and our Boosterthon team, stopping me to say how polite and respectful our kids are and how impressed they are about staff sitting with the students during our assemblies.  You set the tone!
  • Our 8th grade mentors really making our new 5th grade class feel special.
  • The occasional unexpected hug from a student.
Tuesday, November 8th

  • Election Day (Don't forget to vote!)
  • SIP team meeting  8:00AM in Jim's office
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
  • #edprep chat at 7:00PM (Topic is mindset.  Join us if you can!)
Wednesday, November 9th
  • Jeans for Troops for Veterans' Day (pay $5 to wear jeans)
  • RtI/PLC Monday 8:00 in someone's room
    • Library has the Book Fair
    • Any volunteers?
Thursday, November 10th
  • Jay at the dentist 7AM
  • Grade level/ specials meetings
    •  6th and 5th grades optional due to conferences
  • Family conferences
  • No Homework Club!
Friday, November 11th
  • Veterans' Day Celebration

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
A Quiet Moment (from Pernille Ripp)
(from Pinterest)

Booksnaps (from Dave Burgess- using Snapchat for book reviews)
How do you connect? (from me for AWSA and SAVMP- Just ask me if you want to know what these stand for.)
(from Pinterest)

Audience Needed- Silly Poetry Videos (from Pernille Ripp)
Letter to a Tired Teacher (from @SteeleThoughts)

(from Pinterest)

I added the visual above for a special reason.  These next two weeks can often be difficult due to the additional stress of conferences.  I know that you have been communicating with families all year long so nothing should really come as a surprise.  But there's always that unknown element.  When you can, take a moment for yourself the next couple of weeks.  Go for a walk.  Read a book.  Talk to a friend you haven't seen in a while.  It will make you feel better.  And do what I do.  Sit down and have a conversation with one of our students.  They can really make you feel good.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

How do you connect?

As I thought about all of the relationships that we build as educators, I also thought about all of the ways that I connect with students, colleagues, and families.  Although this is not an all inclusive list of communication tools, it is a list that has helped me connect with people in my school, my community, my state, and beyond.  Special shoutouts go to Chris Reuter (@chris_reuter) and Mark Flynn (@m4flynn), former Merton colleagues, for their influence on my connectedness using Twitter and my #WIAmigos friends, Curt Rees (@CurtRees) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ) for furthering my connections using Voxer.  Now on to the ways I connect with students, colleagues, and families.

Face to face
I hope this doesn't need an explanation.  Sit down with people.  Walk with them from spot to spot.  Eat lunch with them.  Visit their classroom or invite them in for a discussion in your office.  Have Principal Chats.  Attend PTO meetings and family conferences.  Walk around during Open House.  Go to concerts and sporting events.  I really feel that face to face is the most important of our tools to connect.

Phone calls
Phone calls are the next best thing to face to face meetings.  These can also be done at a time that is convenient for both individuals.  I use phone calls to speak with families about student progress and behavior, but probably not as often as I should.  I also spent a full day calling home to families of students who were recognized for being good kids.  The silence at the end of the line when I said I was calling from my office with their child makes me want to do this more to change the perception of phone calls from the Principal's office.

This is probably how I do my most communicating with colleagues and families.  I really would like to limit the use of email, but the ease of using this tool makes it difficult to get away from.  I'm rarely at "inbox zero", but I'm able to keep my inbox to a manageable number.  I also have a rule that if I receive an email that is longer than one paragraph, I invite the person in to meet with me or make a phone call.  I find that writing a long response can sometimes muddy the message and leads to many more emails.

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Twitter (@posickj, @mertonint, #mertonint)
Thanks to Chris, Mark, Curt, and Jessica, Twitter has helped me grow and connect as an educator in ways I can hardly explain.  I have connected with educators from all over the United States and a couple of other countries, too.  The wealth of information and ideas I can find on Twitter at any time of the day really blows my mind.  I have found that joining chats (#satchat on Saturdays at 6:30AM CST and #edprep (shameless plug for a chat Eric Rodriguez (@erod129) and I co-moderate) every other Tuesday at 7:00PM CST are two of my favorites) has helped expand the scope of those educators I learn from and with every day.

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Facebook (Merton Intermediate School Facebook account)
I'm pretty new to Facebook, but I do have a school facebook account as that's where I find most of our families are connected.  Sometimes I post pictures but I also post daily student announcements and weekly family emails.
Image result for voxer logo
This is one of my favorite communication tools.  I use it with colleagues and haven't reached out to families yet.  Voxer allows you to text, send photos and videos, and, most important to me, voice responses.  It's like Twitter with an extra feature.  It is a private community, too, so you can invite individuals to join a group or just communicate with one individual at a time.  It's asynchronous meaning you can use it when you have time, a great feature that allows conversations to last for a long time.

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This is a great tool to share stories, pictures, and videos with colleagues and families.  I use this in place of the paper newsletter we used to send home.  Here's a link to my smores for this school year.  As I am someone who takes a lot of pictures during the week, I can share the photos I've posted from Instagram here, too.

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I use Instagram to post pictures of the great things going on around our school.  Instagram is one of the newest tools that I'm using and there are a number of students who follow this account, too.

Image result for remind logo
Remind is another way that I connect with families.  Remind provides text messages instead of emails.  I've found that parents might not read all of their emails, but they will read a text when it comes to their phone.

Image result for ifttt
This app (if this then that) allows me to post pictures and text to Instagram which then posts to both Twitter and Facebook.  One post equals three posts, in reality.  This really cuts down on the time it takes to post to social media.

Google tools
I use Google hangouts to connect with colleagues and have also connected with families if they are unable to join us for conferences.  I use blogger (right now, for example) to reflect and write my thoughts as well as for our weekly staff nuts and bolts.  You can look through the list of blogs on the right side of this blog if you'd like to see some examples of our staff nuts and bolts.

I know that there are many other was to connect, but these are my "go to" methods.  There are a lot of them listed, but the variety is powerful.  Not all of the people you connect with will use all of these tools, but they will use at least one of them.  Let them choose the ones they are most comfortable with and you will build stronger connections with your students, colleagues, and families.

I'd also like to share this with you.  I don't follow anyone on our school Twitter or Facebook accounts except for our PTO.  That's just my way of making sure that I have more control over what appears on our timeline.  If you'd like to connect about any of these communication options, I'd be more than happy to discuss any of them with you.  And if you'd like to meet face to face, that would be pretty cool, too.