Friday, January 29, 2016

#oneword2016- Together, part 2

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about my #oneword2016- Together.  If you missed it, here's a link.

Well, now it's time for part 2.  It comes on the heels of a book chat that families, staff, and I are having about the book Beyond the Bake Sale.  We have met four times and our last meeting was our best discussion.  It's not that the other discussions weren't good.  This one just happened to be exceptional.  This fine group of people have really come together to talk about our school- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The honesty of the members of this group is enlightening.  As I tell them, we won't get any better unless they're honest with me.  I take notes, really listen, and try to determine at least one item that I can tackle.

But this time, we got together, talked, listened, and then picked one big thing that we all wanted to tackle- Open House.  It became a passionate discussion, with lots of ideas for communication, for welcoming families new to our district, and for welcoming families new to our school.  We decided to really revamp the communication process, add some maps, find mentor families, and a myriad of other items.  We all realized, together, that Open House is truly the first impression all of our families have about our school.  Having more voices in the room and working together will really help make our Open House something that all students and families will look forward to every year.  Together this is going to be awesome!  Check back in August to see what we've come up with.

What changes did you make at halftime?

As many of you know, I'm the proud coach of the 8White boys' basketball team.  As a coach, I need to make adjustments at halftime, analyzing the progress to this point, to allow for a better chance for a successful outcome.  It might not be a victory.  It might just be that we played better as a team in the second half.  Whatever the situation, reflecting on what you have done almost always leads to a change in how we do things in the future.
Last week was our school halftime.  I know you all well and know that you reflected on the first half of the school year and are putting things in place to make things better for our students.  It might be something with classroom management or it might be something with the delivery of content.  It might be something else all together.  Whatever it is, don't hesitate to reflect on these changes and their level of success.  As with halftime adjustments for our basketball team, not all adjustments will lead to a better outcome.  Reflect, reassess, and make any necessary changes.  It will make the learning experience in your classroom better for everyone.

New idea- Classroom support signup (Sign up for times for me to come support in your classes. If a time doesn't work, just email me for other options.)
Wednesday, February 3rd  Conferences
Thursday, February 4th      Conferences
Friday, February 5th           Sports Fanatic Day (Wear your favorite sports gear.)
                                               Google fun in the tech office (See/learn how to use a double monitor)

Your best hook...
So, last week I put the link to a Google form to share your best hooks.  Remember that?  5 of us, including myself, filled out the form.  It honestly is 2 questions- your name and your best hook.  That's it.  Here is the link again, and I hope that you take the time to complete it so that I can share the results with all of you.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them."- Michael Jordan, athlete
The Power of Peer Feedback (from edutopia)
"We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us."- Jean-Paul Sartre, philosopher and writer
"Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential."- Jeannette Walls, writer and journalist
"To do anything in this world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can."- Sydney Smith, writer and clergyman
"Obstacles can't stop you.  Problems can't stop you.  Most important of all, other people can't stop you.  Only you can stop you."- Jeffrey Gitomer, business trainer and writer
"When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal."- Napoleon Hill, writer
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundation under them."- Henry David Thoreau, writer
"Don't waste your time striving for perfection.  Instead, strive for excellence- doing your best."- Laurence Olivier, actor
"You can't always expect a certain result, but you can expect to do your best."- Anita Hill, lawyer and academic
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
School board presentation from 1.25.16.
Family smore for 1.29.16

I hope that you had a great week with our students and with each other.  I am honored to work with such incredible educators every day.  Now the weekend is upon us and it's time to spend time with family and friends.  Check out a new restaurant or movie or hiking trail.  Enjoy yourself.  And when you come back on Monday, it will be February, a new month and a new focus for us all.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Exceeding expectations

Have you ever set a goal only to fall short?  I"m sure that we all have.  But then there are those times when you've set a goal and exceeded it.  That's what happened last week with our Penny Wars for me.  I never shared this, but I was hoping to raise $500 for the school in South Sudan.  I had a glimmer of hope for $1000.  No way did I think the kids would raise over $1700!  They truly exceeded my expectations.  Why did this occur?  There was a purpose behind the Penny Wars, Mr. Flynn came to speak with them, there was some competition, and there was a chance to wear pajamas.  Do we know which of these reasons reached every student?  We certainly don't, but the variety of reasons definitely reached nearly every student, the hook that Dave Burgess speaks about in Teach Like a Pirate.  So it made me think, what's the hook that we use in our daily classroom lessons, or assemblies, that keeps the students interested, engaged, and willing to learn?  I don't have the answer for every lesson, and neither do you, but we have to find that hook, that reason for the learning to continue.  We all have it in us, and it takes effort, but I've seen all of you in action and you do it well.  Now what about exceeding expectations with our kids?  There's one thing that we can do every day, and it only takes a minute or two.  Share your hook with a colleague.  Ask a colleague about their favorite hook.  And to take it one step further, here's a Google form to use to share your hook with all of us.  Can you exceed expectations with this request?

Wednesday, January 27th      Google fun at 8:00 in the Library
                                                   Workout Wednesday (Break out those workout clothes!)
                                                   Jay's leaves early for a physical

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Are we preparing students to be chefs or cooks? (from @ajjuliani)
"Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment."- Oprah Winfrey, media personality, businesswoman, and philanthropist
Before you turn out the lights (from @Jonharper70bd)
"If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters.  Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude."- Colin Powell, military leader and statesman
One little change in how you talk to your kids can help them be more successful (from
"Difficulties increase the nearer we approach the goal."- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman
"Our business in life is not to get ahead of other people, but to get ahead of ourselves."- Maltbie Babcock, clergyman and writer
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 1.21.16.

In honor of Glen Frey of the Eagles (Thanks to Mike B. for finding this.)
With the death of Glenn Frey, of the Eagles, Dan Rockwell posted these tips for teams-thoughts for the day.  7 ways to expand your personal team:
  1. Get over yourself. Stay open to receiving help. You don’t need to do it alone.
  2. Join someone else’s team. Ego isolates; humility connects. You might be thinking, who can join my team. Try the opposite.
  3. Hang with talent. Go where they are.
  4. Watch for bright eyes. See who lights up when you light up.
  5. Hire great people. Don’t fill positions.
  6. Include weirdos. Cookie-cutter-people, seldom change the world.
  7. Connect with your opposite. If you’re a visionary, you need a doer. If you’re good with the soft stuff, find someone who’s good with the hard stuff.
Bonus: Use a coach or find a mentor.
By the way, we have a wonderful coaches in our district.

And one final positive to end the semester...
I received this email from a guest teacher this week.  I have taken out the names, but the message is still there- we have great kids and our parents and you have gotten our kids to be this way.
"Yesterday, I was in for XXXXX and spent a large part of the day with XXXXX.  During that time, I witnessed a number of unnamed students (unnamed because I don’t know theirs) make an effort to befriend and / or help XXXXX and also saw a number of students nonchalantly say hi to XXXXX or make a conversational remark to him. That sort of inclusive behavior was demonstrated in XXXXX’s room, in the rooms of XXXXX and XXXXX and in the halls.  I was able to remark to some of those students.  That sort of behavior is a real mark of character, kudos to those students."

Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 15, 2016

What is your next step?

As I began thinking about this week's nuts and bolts, this one question kept popping in to my head- "What is my next step?"  It's actually been in my head for quite some time.  What's my next step to being a better husband and father?  What's my next step for Educator Effectiveness?  What's my next step for being a better friend?  What's my next step for Google certification?  What's my next step to be in classrooms instead of my office?  What's my next step to get back into real running shape?  And the list goes on.  So I decided to make a list because there's nothing like crossing something off of a list, right?  But I also went back to my #oneword, TOGETHER.  None of the the next steps can occur without the assistance of someone else.  My next step for being in classrooms is to take NO OFFICE DAYS.  I know that I have to be in my office for some things, but today, Friday, January 15th, is definitely a NO OFFICE DAY.  And so is Saturday, January 16th!

Monday, January 18th                BLT  4:15PM
Tuesday, January 19th               Beyond the Bake Sale  7:00PM
Wednesday, January 20th          A-Team meeting 1:30PM
                                                     Culver's Night 4-8PM
Thursday, January 21st              Half day, PM schedule (No 5th hour classes)
                                                     PD starts at 12:45PM in the Little Theater
Friday, January 22nd                  Teacher work day (Use this form to let me know where you'll be!)

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Start with big dreams and make life worth living."- Stephen Richards, writer
"Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don't see it yourself."- Edmund Lee
"The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude about the problem.  Do you understand?"- Captain Jack Sparrow
"Don't worry about the failures.  Worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try."- Jack Canfield
Ideas to give students constructive movement breaks (from MiddleWebSmartBrief)
"The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."- Roger Banister, athlete and physician
5-Minute Film Festival: Freedom to Fail Forward (from Edutopia)
What Students Remember Most About Teachers (from Edutopia)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 1.15.16

(from tweet by @justin_heid)

This quote by Vincent Van Gogh really hit home with me today.  I have worked with many of you this week to come together to try to solve struggles- picture day, student issues, staffing, class coverage, heating system.  Not one of these struggles was solved by one person.  Many people worked together for a solution.  Not every solution may have been perfect for everyone, but I believe the solutions we came to had or will have a positive impact on our students.  That's why we're here.  As the school year moves forward, let's continue to work together, supporting one another, and, more importantly, supporting our students.  TOGETHER we can continue to move forward to make Merton the best school for our students.

Have a great weekend!  Enjoy some time away from school work with your family and friends.

Friday, January 8, 2016

One word...

As we begin the calendar year, I once again am challenging each of us to come up with one word that is your focus for the year.  Last year mine was focus, and although it was only one word, I found that it wasn't specific enough.  Focus is a great word, but what is it that I would focus on?  Family, kids, staff, friends, running...  You get my point?  So this year, I've decided to concentrate on the word TOGETHER.  Together we can be so much better.  If you are interested, here is my blog post for the #oneword2016 challenge (link to Twitter hashtag included).  I encourage each of you to come up with your #oneword and share it with others.  Maybe you could post it on our staff blog (hint, hint).  If you're interested, just let me know.  I'm also going to provide a space for us all, both staff and students, to post these in the lobby.

Wednesday, January 13      RtI Wednesday- All teaching staff meets at 8:00 in the Little Theater
                                              Mark Flynn will be speaking with the students about Penny Wars
Friday, January 15               Environmental Club at 8:00 in the library

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."- Eleanor Roosevelt, US first lady, diplomat, and activist
"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try."- Seth Godin, writer and entrepreneur
Coming soon- Positive Post It Day! (We'll need to choose a day to do this for the entire school!)
Find your 10 minutes (I shared this from @Jonharper70bd on Thursday)
"Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo."- John Sinclair, poet
"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves."- Henry David Thoreau, author and poet
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 1.8.16

(from @yankee_todd)

This is a rather short nuts and bolts, but that's okay.  I haven't been in as many classes as I would have liked this week, but that's okay.  Sometimes what we have planned is changed and we just have to deal with it.  That goes along with the graphic above.  I woke up this morning and said to myself, "Self.  Today is a new day.  Refill the glass and make it a "No office day."  Get into classes, learn with the kids, and give feedback to the teachers."  So that's what I'm going to do.  To paraphrase the graphic, "The glass isn't half full or half empty.  It's refillable."

Have a great Friday and a great weekend!

Saturday, January 2, 2016


A challenge has been put forth by many in my PLN- What is the one word that will be your focus for the calendar year?  There was even this video of an interview of Jon Gordon, co-author of One Word, on the Today Show shared by Brenda Vatthauer (@PrincipalMN).  After much thought, a list, and some time to just reflect on the past year, my one word is...TOGETHER.

Years ago, I was a high school and middle school coach.  As a coach, I tried my best to live by the idea of TEAM (Together Everyone Accomplishes More).
(image from

We had successes and failures as a team, tried to improve on our successes, learned from our failures, and made a plan to move forward as a better team.  And it all starts with the word TOGETHER, so that's where I got my one word for this year.

(image from

When you get down to it, we have to do things together to get any better.  As a principal, I am the only one in my role in our school.  There are no other principals or assistant principals so I rely on all of the people in our school every day to do what is best for students.  Our educators need to work together to accomplish great things for our students and each other.  Together we need to do three things to be the best for our students.  We need to listen to one another, to our students, and to our families.  We need to learn with one another.  We need to take supported risks to try things that will make the learning of our students more relevant, impactful, and engaging.  Together we can do all of these things so much better than we can do them alone.  Here are some school examples.

Together as a school with families
This is a new focus for me due to being a part of #ptchat and reading the book Beyond the Bake Sale.  We started a book chat using Beyond the Bake Sale with families and staff to better understand the ways that we can become more of a partnership school.  Our discussions have been honest, eye opening, and reaffirming.  But best of all, we are learning together about ways to make our school a better place to learn for our students, staff, and families.  We have a strong PTO that has supported many innovative teacher grants and are beginning a student grant cycle.  We have strong support from our families, but I'd still like to see this become stronger.

Together as students with students
Due to our use of Google Apps For Education, our students are able to learn from each other even when they aren't in school.  But students also learn from each other without the use of technology.  They meet face to face in class and outside of school, too.  We need to continue to teach our students how to collaborate with one another, and not just compete with one another, both online and in person.

Together as staff with students
The is one of the most underrated and overlooked aspects of our schools.  Our students have so much to offer us.  Have you ever sat down with a student to learn from them?  And I'm not talking about a project that students are required to do in class.  I'm talking about sitting down to really listen to a student as they talk about a hobby or passion.  The students so often listen to us but do we make the time to listen to them.  We need to find a way to make the time.  Our students deserve it.

Together as administration with teaching staff
I happen to be very lucky to be a part of a building leadership team that is honest with one another, shares successes and struggles, and comes together to provide solutions to issues in our school.  It is a varied group of educators who are focused on making our school the best that it can possibly be.  We grow together at each meeting.  But the building leadership team isn't the only place for me to work together with teaching staff.  We have weekly grade level meetings to discuss students and our school.  I meet with individual staff members in their room or in my office.  We join together for professional development, curriculum, and social events.

Together as staff with staff
There is so much we can learn from one another.  We can learn about our students.  We can learn about content.  We can learn about pedagogy.  We can learn about each other.  It is important to set time to allow this to happen.  It might occur during common planning time, before school, after school, during inservice days, or in some other creative ways.  In Merton we have the opportunity once a month to spend time together that doesn't impact the school start time while providing 75 minutes of time for staff to learn together.  Years ago I used the term "coopetition", a blending of cooperation and competition.  If we all want to get better, we need to work together and learn from one another.

I would be remiss if I didn't include ways that I need to be "together" with my family.  I was fortunate to spend five full days with my family in Mexico over Winter Break.  We swam in the ocean, swam in the pool, laid in the sun, read a little bit, and played some volleyball.  But the best part was sitting down and eating nearly every meal together.  There was limited use of personal devices, except for a multitude of pictures.  But I need to be much better with this together aspect of my life.  I need to unplug and be there physically and emotionally, without distraction, to support my wife and daughter in any way that I can.

No one can do anything alone.  There is a spouse to help raise a family.  There is a coach for an athlete.  There is a writer for an actor.  And the examples can go on forever.  Together everyone accomplishes more, and it all starts with TOGETHER.