Friday, September 30, 2016

Super September!

It's hard to believe that today is the final day of September.  We have the first month under our belts.  Procedures and expectations are in place.  Relationships are being fostered with students, families, and colleagues.  Now it's time to assess where we are going, develop a plan for student success, and do whatever it takes to make that plan a success.  This will begin with our School Improvement Plan and the staff who agreed to help develop this plan.  Please know that we are all a part of this process, even if you're not on the team developing the plan.  Representatives will be sharing our ideas with you in grade level meetings, during lunch, in the hallways, and in the parking lot.  I know that I've told you that I don't like parking lot conversations, but sometimes that's the only place we might see one another.  It is important for us to have these conversations to move the learning forward.  If you have concerns or ideas upon hearing of the plan during its development, don't hesitate to reach out to the members of the team.  We need your voice.  Once we have a plan developed, we will continue to check in with you to see how we are progressing.  I'm excited to set the bar high, create a plan, put it into place, and celebrate our success.

Great things I saw this week...
  • NJHS tutors are so focused on helping out on Homework Club that things are running more smoothly than at any other time.  The kids are really holding one another accountable.
  • The M&M presentation at the board meeting was awesome!
  • The kids were engaged with boomwhackers, Simon Says, and CPR, and so was I.
  • There were 3 after school and one before school learning opportunities for our staff (CPI, Mindset, Innovator's Mindset) that I was involved in, and I know there were many more.  It's great to learn with you all.
  • You really worked hard on data analysis and finding out what we can do to help our kids grow.
  • It's awesome seeing you model your learning, and reading, with the kids.
  • It's all about the relationships, and I continue to see you all reaching out to connect with all of our kids.  My highlight of the week was being invited to take part in CPR in Dave's 8/9 block with 8th graders.  It was amazing listening to the kids providing compliments to one another.  It's incredible to watch the kids squirm when they are complimented.  Makes me think (know) that we should do this more often.
  • The Mustang Medals in the commons show only some of the great things our kids do every day.  Thanks for filling these out, and let's go for double the amount next month!
  • A little something funny...I was reading over a paper during Homework Club.  The student wanted to run for President and he was counting his "delicates". I hope he meant "delegates".

Tuesday, October 4th
  • Twitter Tuesday at 8:00AM in the Library
    • Set up a Twitter account
    • Learn how to use tweetdeck
    • All are welcome!
  • Grade level/ Specials meetings 
    • Jay is at a meeting in Madison on Thursday
    • Thanks for your flexibility.
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM in the Library
Wednesday, October 5th
  • CPI training at 7:30AM/4:15PM in the Library
  • A-team meeting at 1:30PM at the Primary School
Thursday, October 6th
  • Jay in Madison for a 9:00AM meeting
    • I'll return in the afternoon
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM in the Library

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Some Ideas for Channeling High Energy Needs Into Better Learning (from @pernilleripp)
(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

Family smore from 9.30.16

What a week!  I'm so proud of the data work that was done by our Literacy teachers and coaches this week.  You are all so focused on doing what's best for kids, and it shows.  And then there were the team meetings this week.  Kids first, again, and the positive things you have to say about the kids is contagious.  So now I need to ask you a favor.  Please send down one student so that I can call home with them.  Send them down with a Mustang Medal for me to reference when I call.  I'll have copies for you at our meeting this morning.  I can't honestly call them all at the same time so let's use this time frame.
9:00- 8th grade
9:30- 5th grade
10:00- 6th grade
10:30- 7th grade
And if you want to call a family or two in the afternoon, let me know and I'll stop in and cover your class so that you can.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of yourself.  Take care of each other.

Friday, September 23, 2016


This week I began visiting classes to provide feedback through the mini-observation platform.  My goal is to provide constructive feedback to three of you a day.  If I stay for a while and I'm taking notes on my Chromebook, there's a good chance you will receive an email from me before the end of the day, and by that I don't mean the end of the school day.  After taking notes and making sure to "tag the evidence", I'll be making two statements- "I noticed..." and "I wonder..."  These are reflective questions that you can do one of three things with- ponder, blog, or have a discussion with me.  I look forward to reaching my goal every day and helping both you and I become more reflective learners.  On a related note, please provide me with feedback about my feedback.  If you need more or different feedback, don't hesitate to let me know.  I love coming in to watch you try new things with our students.


  • I was asked to read a story one of our 7th graders wrote, and it inspired a blogpost. (See below- Just say yes...)
  • Although I don't really care for indoor recess, the kids were really good this week when we needed to be inside for recess. (Thanks for the use of your classroom, Matt!)
  • You are all doing a fantastic job of keeping the kids engaged in their learning.
  • I'm noticing the connections you are making with our kids, and I like it!
  • Your classroom procedures are having a positive impact on classroom environments.  Keep it up!
  • I'm looking forward to getting started with our SIP team.  I'm still accepting volunteers!
  • The NJHS tutors are doing a fantastic job during Homework Club.
  • John Nettesheim helped me out with a bike repair after a Primary School girl got her dress caught around the wheel.
  • Staff stepping up to help out whenever needed.
Monday, September 26
  • Innovator's Mindset book discussion  4:15PM
  • School board meeting  7:30PM
Tuesday, September 27
  • Homework Club  4:15PM
Wednesday, September 28
  • CPI training  7:30AM/4:15PM
  • 5th grade data day
Thursday, September 29
  • Homework Club  4:15PM
Friday, September 30
  • Staff recognition  8:15AM
  • 7th/8th grade data day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Relationships>Everything Else in Education (from @ajjuliani)
Food for Thought: Four Essential Attributes (from AMLE)
Just say yes,,,(I wrote this because of an interaction I had with a student on Wednesday morning)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 9.23.16

(I made using Google drawings)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(I made using Google drawings)

(Jen sent me this)

So, at this time tomorrow I'll be on the Honor Flight with my dad.  Remember the colors activity we did years ago as a staff.  Tomorrow is going to be one of those all around "blue" days.  Thursday morning I happened to be checking Facebook when this link came up.  
I'm sure that I'll have stories to tell and pictures to share on Monday.  If you'd like to invite me in to speak with your classes, just let me know.

Have a great weekend!
Check your mailbox as a reminder to "Take 5" for yourself this weekend.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just say yes...

Today as I was visiting classrooms and taking notes to provide feedback, one of our students who is new to our school asked me if I'd read what she was writing.  As it was only minutes from lunch and recess duty, I had a choice to make- sit down and read her story or tell her that I didn't have time now but I would read it later.  I just said yes, sat down next to her, and read her story.  She watched my face as I was reading and smiled when I reacted as she had hoped.  She followed up tonight with an email asking me to read over the story again after she made some changes.  I'll be speaking with her again tomorrow about her changes and I can't wait for our conversation.

Why am I telling you this story?  Because sometimes I think we say no when we should just say yes.  As a principal, there are times when I have to say no but most often it's a choice I get to make.  Although I have a daily calendar and a schedule of meetings and responsibilities I cannot ignore, I also have the ability to visit any classroom I want during those times in my day that aren't scheduled.  I urge all of you who are school level or district level administrators to just say yes.

Say yes to-

  • a high five.
  • an invitation to read with or to a student.
  • a fist bump.
  • solving a math problem together.
  • kickball at recess.
  • joining a Science experiment.
  • riding a bus home with the kids.
  • playing a vocabulary game.
  • a positive phone call home.
  • a conversation with a staff member.
  • a celebration of a job well done.
  • a birthday treat.
  • a hug.
  • a run with the cross country team.
  • playing music at recess.
What are some things you'll say yes to tomorrow?

Friday, September 16, 2016

What will you celebrate?

So, we've reached the first full week of school.  What will you celebrate?  Here's what I'm celebrating.

  • Three successful Family Information Nights (Thanks, teams!)
  • A Principal Chat with Mike, the PTO, and lots of families
  • Classroom visits with Voxer feedback for all teachers
  • Respectful and cooperative students
  • Rich conversations with staff about kids and curriculum
  • The humidity has broken!
  • Mike and I had an awesome assembly with all the kids on Wednesday
  • Intense, important, and honest team meetings
  • Most of all, you are putting the kids first!
I'd love to hear from you about your celebrations.  We sure have a lot to celebrate!

Monday, September 19, 2016
  • BLT 4:15PM
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
  • Boosterthon kickoff 8:15AM in the Little Theater
    • PTO providing bagels and juice!
  • Homework Club 4:15PM
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
  • CPI training 7:30AM and 4:15PM
  • A-team meeting 1:30PM
  • Culver's Night 4-8PM
Thursday, September 22, 2016
  • Grade level meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15PM
Friday, September 23, 2016
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(from Pinterest)

The Worst Class in (X) Years (also from Pernille Ripp)
4 fingers pointing back at you (my personal reflection about getting better)

Congratulations on the first full week of school!  Do me a favor and think back about the week.  If someone asked you today, and it might be me, what the best part about the week was for you, what would it be?  What is that one thing?  Find someone to share that one thing with today.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

4 fingers pointing back at you

Today was a great day and a not so great day all wrapped up into one.  I was excited to discuss data with our staff, pushing their thinking a bit, and continuing our journey to do what's best for kids every day, even if it might not be clean and easy.  Sometimes doing what's best is dirty and messy.  The best way to get at the work is to get at the work.  I look forward to getting to work with all of you, moving forward for the benefit of our kids.  But I digress.  Let me go back to the first line.  Today was a great day and a not so great day.

Today was a great day.

  • I got to learn with the staff.
  • I got to have deep conversations with a couple of staff members regarding the data.  I need to have more of these conversations, but today was a great start.
  • Mike and I got to be with all 800 kids today to talk about being a bucket filler.  I was a little nervous, but the kids, as is most always the case, met our expectations and even exceeded them.
  • I got to be in classrooms all afternoon and I got to share out some awesome learning the students were doing.
  • I got to be a part of our 5th grade Family Information Night, a time for our staff to make more connections with family.
  • I got to be husband and father while learning about what Lauren's junior year is going to look like.  I'm proud of Lauren and her vision for her future.
Today was a not so great day.
  • I was nervous, and I mean nervous, about how our assembly was going to go.
  • I was nervous about the conversations that we would have about our data.  As this is our first look at the data for this school year, one never knows how it will be perceived.
  • I had a staff member make a comment to me that hit me between the eyes.  "Jay, I don't know what school you're talking about when you make comments on Twitter about our school, but it isn't the school that I know.  When you find that school, I would love to come and work for you there."
As I reflect on the day, all of the "great day" stuff was about kids and doing what's best for kids.  All of the "not so great day" stuff was before the kids even got to school.  And then it hit me.  I need to look deep within myself, reflect, and do all that I can to work with students, staff, and families to make this the best school learning environment that I can.  This quote comes to mind.

Honestly, if I'm going to make changes in our school, it has to start with me.  In looking at our school data, I know that I must be more involved in the reading and writing in our school.
It started today with these items.  It needs to be something that becomes a part of my daily interactions in school.

  • Writing this blog while in class.  I was modeling but I don't know if the kids, or the staff, knew what I was doing.
  • Reading while in class.  I know the kids and staff saw me reading so modeling was evident.
  • Carry a book with me everywhere I go, except for lunch and recess duty.
  • Fully listening during a mini-lesson.
  • Providing specific feedback when I visit classrooms.
  • Listening in on conversations students are having about their reading or writing.
  • Conferring with students about their reading and writing.

 I know that there is so much more that I can do so I'm up for your suggestions.  I'd also ask you to contemplate what you can do with and for our kids to foster a love for reading and writing.

Friday, September 9, 2016

First 6 days

I started writing this on Wednesday morning.  That's pretty normal for me.  But I must be honest.  The start of this school year has gone pretty darn well with the kids.  I have heard so many of you comment on our students- how nice they are, how respectful they are, how they get along well with one another.  Someone in one of the Voxer groups I am a part of said that she has had a great three week honeymoon with her students this year.  I thought to myself, "How can we keep this honeymoon going strong?"  A man I used to by fishing bait from year's ago would always reintroduce me to his wife, but he always referred to her as his bride.  He wanted to keep the honeymoon going.  It makes me think about how we can keep the honeymoon going with our kids.  Here are my thoughts, and I'd love to hear what ideas you might have.
  • Mustang Medals, especially if you can meet with the student to let them hear the reason from you
  • Kind words and reminders when students are doing their best for you and their classmates
  • Phone calls home
  • Fist bumps
  • High fives
  • Hugs
The ideas above really came from the words below, words I found in a brief blogpost from Sam Parker.  If you put out some light, the kids are going to respond positively.  So lets put out some light today, and every day, and the kids will continue their honeymoon with us.
Tuesday, September 13th
  • 1st day of Homework Club 4:15PM
    • Please let me know if you'd like to facilitate.  You will be compensated!
  • 6th grade FIN 5:30PM
  • Annual meeting 7:30PM
Wednesday, September 14th
  • PLC Wednesday 8:00-9:10AM in the Little Theater
  • 5th grade FIN 5:30PM
Thursday, September 15th
  • Grade level meetings (FYI- I'll be sending out notes to all staff who work with specific grade levels after our meetings.)
  • Principals' chat 2:30PM
  • Homework Club 4:15
  • 7th/8th FIN 6PM
(from Pinterest)
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Yet (from Pernille Ripp)
(from youtube)

(from #choose2matter)

2nd gear
It's time.  We have had 5 full days, with today being the 6th, to put in place procedures and expectations.  Relationships are taking hold, or growing stronger, and now it's time to turn our efforts to academics.  What's that one thing that you can do today to be the one for a child?  What one thing will make that math concept or musical note or physical skill or Spanish vocabulary really stick for a child?  And what if that one thing doesn't work?  What will you do next?  These questions will be the center of our discussion next Wednesday at our PLC meeting.  We'll also begin to add these questions to our team meetings on Thursdays.  Without breaking into song from High School Musical, "We're All in This Together", and that means all of us, myself included.  We started the year by talking about Being the One.  We will continue that discussion throughout the year with the addition of that one thing we can do to make a difference.  It's not one more thing.  It's doing that one thing differently.  I look forward to our meeting next Wednesday morning and our meetings next Thursday.

Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Great start!

Yesterday was one of those days that we dream about as educators, or at least it was for me.  I saw faces with so many smiles, thoughtful looks, and excitement, and that was only the staff!  The kids sure appeared to be excited to be back, too.  And now we need to do our best to bring that same energy every day.  I hope that you have your "sneakers" on, because we sure need to keep this school year running along.

Monday, September 5th
No School- Labor Day

Wednesday, September 7th
A-team meeting  1:30PM
PTO meeting  2:30PM

Thursday, September 8th
Team meetings start today- Set norms/expectations/504 plans
PLC planning  1:15PM

Friday, September 9th
5th grade at Indian Summer

First smore of the year
Here is the link to our first smore of the year.  Here's a hint.  If you post photos on Twitter (#mertonint) or email or text them to me, they just might show up in a smore.  You all do such amazing things every day with our kids and we need to share them.  And please don't forget to fill out the form and provide photos so that I can highlight you in a future smore.  And did you fill out, and post, your Number 1 yet?

A little pointed humor to end...
Here's a little something from my friend, Tony Sinanis, that he shared on Facebook.  I edited it just a bit, but you'll get the idea.
Exchange at a local coffee shop:
Man: What do you do?
Me: I'm an educator. 
Man: Oh- just a teacher. You didn't aspire to anything else?
Me: Nope. My goal in life was just to educate and empower my students so they can successfully navigate life, make a difference in the world and not turn out to be someone.
Enough said.

Have a great long weekend, and don't forget to "Be the one!"
P.S.- Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.