Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Take a break!

If you are like me, it's gotten to be time for a break.  I need a break from the routine, a chance to reinvigorate myself, a chance to look at things a little, or a lot, differently than I have since the beginning of the school year.  I am going to focus my attention on that one thing I could do differently to make every day just a little bit better than the one before it.  For me it might be an extra classroom visit, a one on one meeting with a student or staff member to talk about something cool they did, a phone call from a parent who often only hears the bad about their child instead of the good, or being all time pitcher for kickball or wiffleball at recess.  You can do something similar in your classroom by trying a new activity, moving a lesson outside, letting a student or students be the teacher for an hour, or visiting a colleague's class to watch the magic happen.  It's my hope that we can all reflect on these little changes to see how they've positively impacted what we do with our students and what we do for one another.

Monday, April 4th             First staff kickball game at 4:30
Wednesday, April 6th        Ron's Community Forums  9:00 and 7:00
                                           A-team meeting 1:30
Thursday, April 7th           PTO meeting 2:30
Friday, April 8th                Google expedition

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"The power to do good is also the power to do harm."- Milton Friedman, economist
Student-Led Conferences (from www.scholastic)- I'd love to discuss this!
"No man is wise enough, nor good enough, to be trusted with unlimited power."- Charles Colton, cleric and writer
Runners Like Us (from @brooksrunning about my principal friend Adam Welcome (@awelcome) from California)
(from Pinterest)

"Too many people are quick to dream big, but slow to act on it."- Edmond Mbiaka, writer
"If your dream is a big dream, and if you want your life to work on the high level that you say you do, there's no way around doing the work it takes to get you there."- Joyce Chapman, writer
"Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work."- Mark Twain, writer
(from PixTeller)

"Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work."- Bette Davis, actress
"Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits."- Thomas Edison, inventor
"He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still."- Samuel Butler, writer

(from @mandymtaylor during #educoach chat- Please think about this when we have our kids write.)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
BLT notes from 3.21.16
Family smore for 3.24.16

Ahead of us are ten days, but I urge you to take them one day at a time.  I'm looking forward to relaxing, but I know if the weather isn't the best, I'll find some time to get some school work done.  But I also know that the work will be at school when I get back.  The same is true for you.  I'll be studying Google spreadsheets for sure, and I'm reading two books, "Innovators Mindset" and "The Book Whisperer".
Enjoy your break!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Are you ready?

Did the title catch your attention?  Last Friday, I sure thought I was ready.  I had prepared for the Google exam, I had passed all the quizzes in the modules, and I had a positive attitude that I would do well.  I took the exam, checked over my answers, felt good, and pushed the "End Exam" button.  The screen for results had a little spinny thing and then the results came up.  76%- failed.  I got a little feedback with suggestions that I needed to study more about sheets (I knew that was a weakness.) and presentations (What?  I thought I was pretty good at those.)  Oh, well.  I've got two weeks before my do over.  I can guarantee that I'll be working on sheets for the next few days.  I might even ask you a few questions.
As I continue on the theme for "Are you ready?", I realize that I need to be ready every day for those things that I don't expect.  They aren't on my calendar and I can't necessarily plan for them.  But I do have a chance to plan most of my day so I focus on that.  The same is true with all of you.  You plan for your daily lessons, often with meticulous detail (Is that a blue chip word, Heidi?), but something can happen that can throw everything off.  It's how you deal with that that determines the success of your lesson, and maybe even your day.
Our students face these same dilemmas.  They come to school only to find out that they left their homework at home or on the bus or in the car.  Their family pet may have died the night before.  A relative could be sick and in the hospital.  They feel prepared for the test in class and then draw a blank, despite studying for more than just the night before.  It's important that we provide support in those moments when things don't go as planned.  And if one of you needs some support, seek out a colleague or friend.  There's no need to go at it alone.  And you can bet that I'll be asking some, or all, of you about sheets.  I really could use your help.

Monday, March 21st          BLT meeting 4:15PM
Wednesday, March 23rd    8th grade Spanish placement test
Thursday, March 24th        Grade level meetings- Forward Exam/ Celebrate Students and Colleagues
Friday, March 25th-Sunday, April 3rd     Spring Break

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Don't find fault--find a remedy."- Henry Ford, industrialist
"Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.  Try to be better than yourself."- William Faulkner, writer
"The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result.  He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up.  His work is like that of the planter--for the future.  His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way."- Nikola Tesla, physicist, engineer, and inventor

Have a Great Day! (blog from @GenieneD, my friend from Kentucky)
"A change is not growth, as all movement is not forward."- Ellen Glasgow, writer
Learning is Irregular (blog from @Dwight_Carter, my friend from Ohio)
(from Diva Parekh via PixTeller)

"Risk is the companion of innovation."- John Adair, leadership professor and writer
"Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping."- Julia Cameron, photographer
Who gets to decide what's innovative in education? (from @ajjuliani)
"Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together."- J.C. Penney, entrepeneur
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 3.18.16

This is a much watch video.  I've shared it with families in today's smore, too.
Dear Teacher: Heartfelt Advice for Teachers from Students (from brainhighways)

You have done a phenomenal job this week with our students and with each other.  My goal today is to get into every classroom, at least once.  If you have something you'd like me to see or be a part of, please invite me in.  It's awesome when I can learn along side of you and our students.
Have a terrific weekend with family and friends.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Are we counting the days or making the days count?

It seems that for teachers, February and March are the longest months of the year.  The fun of winter is gone and we're just waiting for spring to really arrive.  And not just the glimpses we get once in a while.  So what do we do to bring life to March in our classroom and in our school?  We've had some awesome Friday dress up days, but those are just on Fridays.  What about the four other days of the week?  Maybe it's time to try something new.  Take a risk with your kids and invite me in, or not.  Share your ideas with one another and then share them with me, or not.  Last week, Megan and Katie told me about an idea they have and asked me if I was alright with it.  My short answer was yes, but they wanted to provide me with some rationale for why they were going to do what they were going to do.  Here's what they told me about.  Nope.  I'll let you ask them instead, but maybe they won't want to share.  It could be awesome or it could be an epic fail.  Either way, it will be great for the kids.  So let's make the days count in March instead of counting the days.  The Kids Deserve It. (from @awelcome and @TechNinjaTodd)

Monday, March 14th                 Beyond the Bake Sale book group 7PM
Tuesday, March 15th                 Spring concerts
Wednesday, March 16th            Culver's Night 4-8PM
Thursday, March 17th               Grade level meetings- discuss Forward Exam
                                                      Board meeting  7:30PM
Classroom support for next week

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"In a gentle way, you can shake the world."- Mahatma Gandhi, social reformer
If Ferris Bueller Was At Our School (from @awelcome)
"Status quos are made to be broken."- Ray Davis, writer
"We aim above the mark, to hit the mark."- Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer
"Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor."- Brian Tracy, entrepreneur
"There is no achievement without goals."- Robert McKain, writer
"Only he who attempts the absurd is capable of achieving the impossible."- Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher
Resiliency (A fantastic 2 minute video by Mateusz)
"If you can't do great things, do small things in a great way."- Napoleon Hill, writer
"Goals allow you to control the direction of change in your favor."- Brian Tracy, entrepreneur
"Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better."- Emile Coue, psychologist
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Wednesday's assembly- Digital Citizenship
Family smore for 3.11.16

An example of allowing for student creativity, in math!

May you all have a wonderful weekend with family and friends.  Enjoy the Spring weather.  Get outside.  Take a walk.  Have a conversation with someone about anything, except school.  You deserve it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Last Friday was an awesome day!  Due to a little peer pressure from my #principalsinaction PLN, I accepted the #shadowastudent challenge.  I cleared my calendar of everything and was able to spend the day with not one student, but two.  I actually started my day as the basketball coach of the first student, 8th grader JT, pictured below.
JT and me in Algebra, reviewing of a quiz.

After practice, JT and I had Algebra.  I was lucky enough to be part of a review game that involved basketball.  Each team that answered the question were given the opportunity to shoot a basket for points.  Even with a team containing the coach and two basketball players, we didn't fair very well in the game.  Honestly, the class period went by quickly and I had great fun while still reviewing and learning.

After Algebra it was time to move on to Social Studies.  The students were learning about Revolutionary War battles and famous people, choosing a battle or person to learn about on their own.  I was able to sit with JT and his friends, helping out with research and suggestions.  The conversations weren't all about their project, and that's alright.  They are social middle school students and, not unlike their principal, they like to find ways to talk about what's important to them while still getting work done.

It was then time for lunch and recess, arguably the most social part of the day for our middle schoolers.  I was lucky enough to be in the cafeteria (As you will find out, I didn't eat lunch twice) with JT, sat with him and his friends, and then went outside.  Although I love basketball, I didn't join in the basketball game that JT was playing.  It just seemed like a good time to stop this shadow and get ready for the next.

Ashley and me in class

I took 10 minutes to check in my office and then it was time for lunch and recess with Ashley, a 5th grader.  Lucky for me there were mini-corndogs on the menu, my favorite.  I sat and ate with Ashley and her friends, having a great conversation all the while.  We went outside for recess and I kept my distance while she and her friends were talking.  As soon as recess was over, it was time for math.

Math was always one of my favorite subjects and I actually enjoyed taking tests.  So guess what?  Today was a test day.  Mrs. Jones, Ashley's math teacher, had an extra copy of the test so I joined in the fun.  I had to ask Mrs. Jones a question and she politely answered it for me.  I finished the test and turned it in and waited patiently for the students to finish.  As you can see below, I'm just as smart as a 5th grader, at least on this day.

When math class was over, we went to band.  I forgot my instrument, a trumpet, and sat with Ashley in the flute section.  I even got to direct the band for a few minutes.  The students did well and I pretended to play a flute during the entire band class.  It was really fun to be back in the band again.  While the band was playing, I had a chance to snap this selfie.

After band, we returned to class for the Oscars.  The students had all made Oscars for another student in class.  The students and I each had a ticket and walked in on the red carpet.  Below is a picture of Ashley receiving her "positivity" Oscar and trophy.  It was the best part of my day as I was able to hear so many positive things about the students in Mrs. Jones' class.  As soon as the Oscars were over, we cleaned up the room and put it back in order.

If the day had ended there, that would have been an awesome day.  It only got better.  As I was leaving, I received a text from one of our teachers.  A student didn't have a ride home so I was able to give him a ride.  He was in another class and they had also done the Oscars.  Our entire discussion on the way home was about the Oscar he received.  As I was driving and listening, I looked over and just saw him beaming with joy.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Here are my takeaways.

#1.  Our teachers do some amazing things.  They love our kids unconditionally.  They prepare for the expected and then the unexpected happens.  And they deal with it like it was expected.

#2.  There isn't a lot of movement for our students during the day.  It was evident to me that we need to try to incorporate more time for movement in our classes, especially in our block classes.  I really believe that will help improve student engagement and if done properly, I think that students will be able to focus better for shorter periods of time and will actually produce better work samples.

#3.  Until I was in the hallway, I didn't see another adult in many of the classes.  That is both good and bad.  It's good because the teachers are with the kids but it's bad because there is so much that teachers can learn from one another.

#4.  Lunch and recess are great breaks in the middle of the day.  They can also be difficult breaks in the middle of the day.  The lack of structure is both positive and negative.  Although I'm out at recess almost every day, I really saw recess differently when I was a "student".

#5.  I need to shadow a teacher for the day.  And if one of our teachers has gotten all the way to the end of this blog, email me and I'll use a random selector to pick the lucky winner.

Friday, March 4, 2016


After being out a couple of days this week, I can better understand what it's like to be out of your classrooms.  Things get disjointed and are difficult to get "rejointed".  For me, I try to get rejointed by stopping by to speak with all of you, visiting classrooms, and hanging out in the hallways and on the playground.  Next week I'll be getting "rejointed", stopping in to classes, learning with the kids, providing more feedback to you (either with Voxer or walkthroughs), and having an assembly geared toward digital citizenship on Wednesday.  Don't forget to sign up on my classroom support schedule for next week, too.  I love it when you invite me into to support the learning of our kids!

Tuesday, March 8th          9-10  Group Yearbook photos (volleyball, forensics, anything else?)
Wednesday, March 9th     RtI Wednesday  8:00 in the Little Theater for all teaching staff
(Topic of our meeting is GT identification and enrichment ideas.  All teaching staff are expected to attend.  Corinne and Sarah are "in charge".  Look for an agenda in your email soon.)
Thursday, March 10th      7th and 8th grade invitation only conferences
Friday, March 11th           Half day (AM schedule)
Here is my classroom support schedule for next week.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
"Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency."- Maya Angelou, writer and civil rights activist
7 Lessons We Fail to Teach in School (from @ajjuliani)
"When we are no longer able to change a situation...we are challenged to change ourselves."- Viktor Frankl, neurologist and psychiatrist
"Being powerful is like being a lady.  If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."- Jesse Carr, labor union leader
"Become addicted to constant and never-ending self-improvement."- Anthony D'Angelo, writer
Believe in Yourself (Motivational youtube video from Jaret Grossman and Eric Thomas. You all need to spend a few moments watching this.)
(from @brewerhm)
"A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition."- Henry Miller, writer
How to Reach Kids Who Don't Want to Learn (from edutopia newsletter)
"A brave man acknowledges the strength of others."- Veronica Roth, writer
"What is now proved was once only imagined."- William Blake, poet and artist
"The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better."- Robert F. Kennedy, political leader

If you need to see me today, the best time to try to find me will be before school or during lunch.  I'll be shadowing two students today, one 8th grader this morning and one 5th grader this afternoon.  I must admit, I'm pretty excited about this as I'll be only bringing my book, a writing utensil, and my phone.  I know for a fact that I'll have a blog to write once the day is over.  Next week is a much more normal week for me and I look forward to getting back into the swing of things with regular classroom visits.  But I'm really looking forward to my shadow day.  It will be awesome!

Have a great weekend with family and friends, relax, and recognize all the great things you do for and with our kids.
P.S.- As my good friend John Gunnell would say- "Take care of our kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself."