Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Short week, but lots of learning

Three day weeks create interesting challenges.  We are all here, but we can see the weekend approaching so much more quickly than a full week.  And we still have so many things to do with and for our kids but only three days to do them.  A three day week also means we have a long weekend, something that is so important for us at this time of the year.  Use the time to recharge, refresh, and refocus.  Hang out with your family and friends and do something not related to school for one full day.  Go for a walk in the woods.  Go shopping.  Run a marathon.  You'll come back ready for the kids, almost like the start of a new school year.

Monday, October 31st
  • Jay's in DC
Tuesday, November 1st
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Wednesday, November 2nd
  • PTO staff grants  9:30-11:30
  • A-team  1:30-3:00
  • Sphero Club  4:15-5:15 (Come check it out!)
Thursday, November 3rd
  • Grade level meetings (Please have your team goal/SLO/PPG ready for discussion!)
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Friday, November 4th
  • IEP Power Day (10:45 and 3:30 IEPs for me)
Great things I saw...
  • Janine is back!
  • Great baby shower for Kaitlyn!
  • Incredibly deep conversations among students learning in Science and Math.
  • Gallery walks in LA.
  • Variety of activities in all of your classrooms.
  • Students really enjoying our new playground.
  • Students accepting me as their guest teacher.  Great conversations about Math and Science.
  • Students and staff getting into the Red Ribbon Spirit Week dress up days.
  • After our assembly today, Mr. Olson stopped me and spoke about our kids.  More importantly he spoke about all of you.  He speaks all over and was amazed that you were all sitting with the kids during the assembly.  That is not something he sees very often.  To say he was impressed is an understatement.  Like I sometimes say, it's the little things.
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(I made with Google drawings)

(I made with Google drawings) 
(from Pinterest)
(from Pinterest)
Family smore from 10.27.16

The family picture...
I'll be missing our family picture tomorrow.  Jen, Lauren, and I will be on our way to Washington, DC for the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday.  If you want to follow me while I run, you can use the app found in this website-  I'm bib number 1059 and Sarah Johnson, principal from Spooner, WI, will be running with me.  It's her first marathon.  It's my 30th.  Brooks running has been very nice to us, providing shoes and registration and VIP credentials.  That means we have access to the best porta johns.  I'll be thinking of three things when I run- my family, all of you, and the Marines.  If I break it up the right way, each mile will be for one of you.  I'll be thinking about the great things you do with and for our kids, with and for each other, and for our school.  I'm sure there will be a tweet or two before I run and after, and I'll be proudly sharing it on the #mertonint hashtag.
Maybe one of you can figure out how to photo shop me into the picture.

See you on Tuesday!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

People, not stuff

" the heart of innovation are people, not stuff."- George Couros, p. 91, "The Innovator's Mindset"

Part II of "The Innovator's Mindset" is entitled Laying the Groundwork.  Nothing is as important when trying something new as is laying the groundwork.  Preparing people for a change, no matter how big or small, is no easy task.  The most important element in preparation is involvement.  It is vital to have conversations with those impacted by the change but it is more important to listen.  I think that there are two groups of staff right now that are my guiding force in creating meaningful change- our building leadership team (BLT) and our newly formed school improvement plan (SIP) team.  Each of these teams is different but their importance cannot be overstated.  A brief description, from my point of view, follows.

This team consists of representatives from each grade level, special education, specials, coaches, and technology.  They truly provide me the pulse of our school.  We have shoutouts for staff, share concerns about the school, and work together to plan changes for our school.  This team's honesty with me has helped us become a better school for kids every year.  They take this responsibility seriously and our conversations always end with the understanding that we share one common message with our teams and staff.

SIP team
This is a brand new team made up of staff volunteers wanting to provide a clearer vision as well as a Literacy and Mathematics goal.  The staff on this team all volunteered to join.  We are in the midst of creating our vision (right now it is Striving for Personal Excellence) and determining grade level and school-wide goals.  This is difficult work but each member of this team has joined for one reason- to make our school better for the kids.  We have a good school, but the enemy of great is good so we still need to move forward.

Why do I mention these two teams?  The members of these two teams are my ears and eyes when I'm not in classrooms or hallways.  Their honesty with me is not faked.  They know they can speak their mind and that we will work through difficulties and celebrate successes.  We work at every meeting to build trust with one another and to share a common message.  We are laying the relationship groundwork to provide us the direction and support to help our school become great.  And we know that it is a work in progress but one that we are more than willing to tackle with a watchful eye on what's best for kids.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Work in progress- reflection

On Sunday, I read a blog post from Pernille Ripp entitled "We Are All A Work in Progress".  If you have a moment, it is well worth the time.  To summarize what she wrote, all of us must realize that there will never be a perfect lesson, perfect class, perfect communication- you get the idea.  As I visit classes, I know that I can do a much better job of providing timely feedback or having conversations with students about their learning or sharing out the great things I see you all doing with our kids.  I tweak something here and there but I must understand that it will never be perfect.  What I can be, however, is reflective.  I try to start out with what I did well and then think about how I can do one other thing just a little better.  Remember to celebrate the good things.  There are a lot of them every day.  So pick just one thing to work on at a time.  Otherwise, from my experience, you never get better at anything.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Despite the challenges of a week anticipating the Color Run, the kids, and you, were all so engaged!
  • Your flexibility and "go with the flow" attitude about the Boosterthon was amazing!
  • Students working together in Homework Club to better understand math problems.
  • Teachers working together to come up with plans to help students be more successful, either with interventions or with extension activities.
  • Mary's pure excitement and interest for Sphero Club.
  • Watching conferring in LA and RtI and listening to the conversations about what kids are reading or writing.
  • Kids really enjoying our new playground.  It was well worth the wait!
  • The attitude and behavior of our kids during the Boosterthon huddles.  The Boosterthon team keeps telling me how polite and respectful our kids are, but you already knew that.
  • This!

Monday, October 24th
  • School Board meeting 7:30PM
Wednesday, October 26th
  • Time for Jay to make more phone calls.  Everyone please send a student to the office for a great phone call home.  One per teacher, please!
Thursday, October 27th
  • PD day
  • Jay in DC
Friday, October 28th
  • Enjoy the day off!
Monday, October 31st
  • Jay in DC
Tuesday, November 1st
  • Network Photography here at 9:00 to take pictures for our new website.  Please contact me with any suggestions for pictures.
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(I made with Google drawings)
(from Ted Huff on Voxer)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 10.21.16.

Although next week is a short week, it's still three great days for learning.  Keep the students engaged and they will reward you with great behavior and great results.  Our SIP team has been working on a vision in anticipation of setting our school-wide goals for Literacy and Math.  Talk to your grade level representatives to learn more.  Here's what we've been thinking about.
Striving for personal excellence.
It's short, memorable, and impactful.  As many of the SIP team members said, it's t-shirt worthy.  Let us know what you think.

May you have an awesome weekend!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Who's your booster?

This week was a bit crazy with the start of PTO's Boosterthon.  It got me to thinking about who my biggest booster is.  I could have said my parents or my brother or my sister.  At one time that was probably true.  But now, without a doubt, it's my wife.  Jen continues to put me first in her life, taking vacations that revolve around marathons or our daughter or our family.   It is a very rare occasion when she does something for herself.  She continues to encourage me, almost daily, to write a book about our school and the great things we do here.  Once in a while she'll even drop me an email or print off a suggestion to get my book started.  Because of her I'm sure tat one day I'll start writing that book.  I'm a very lucky guy to have her support and would not be the person I am without her.  So who's your biggest booster?

Cool things that I saw...
  • One of our 7th graders waiting patiently for another 7th grader who he walks to class every day.  He really wants to make sure he does his job.
  • Staff, and kids, excited for the dance off to start out Boosterthon.  Keep the kids energy up for this as it will have a positive impact on your classrooms, as well as a possible opportunity to jump start a theater program.
  • Jordan (AKA Superman) as he made sure we were all safe on Tuesday morning.
  • Flexible staff and students, rolling with the changes as we had a smoke out on Tuesday.  Special thanks to Doug, Dana, and Joy from the Boosterthon to make sure we had something to occupy our 7th and 8th graders until the all clear from the Fire Departments. (We had 3 or 4 here.)
  • Staff being extra flexible on Tuesday morning and doing whatever was needed.
  • 7th and 8th grade staff meeting with families to set the path for success and to celebrate success, too! And I followed it with a 3 mile run with Matt!
  • All of you sharing your goals with one another (taking risks) and even secretly enjoying the theme song from High School Musical.
  • Watching our kids helping out with Before School activities.  They really wanted to get them included.
  • 3 students being recognized for their behavior when others around them weren't behaving so well.
  • While sitting in a classroom with a guest teacher, the students took control of the behavior of students. (I may have had a bit of an impact on their behavior, too.)
  • Homework Club tutors taking charge of the learning of their school mates.
Monday, October 17th
  • Jay at the dentist 7AM (crown)
  • BLT at 4:15PM
Tuesday, October 18th
  • SIP team meeting 8:00AM (vision/MAP results)
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM
Wednesday, October 19th
  • A-team at 1:30PM
  • 1st Sphero club at 4:15PM
Thursday, October 20th
  • Fun Run
    • 5/6 at 1:30PM
    • 7/8 at 2:45PM
    • Sliming to follow?
  • Homework Club at 4:15PM
Friday, October 21st
  • Comfy Clothes Day (We'll need it after the Boosterthon!)
Tuesday, November 1st
Tweets, blogs, and quotes
One nice thing (from Thomas Murray)
(from Pinterest)
(from Pinterest)
(I made with Google drawings)

Reminders from Wednesday's presentation
#1.  Please send me photos of things you've gotten due to PTO grants so that I can send them out in emails to parents next week.
#2.  Think about a vision, something short that students, staff, and families can learn, embrace, remember, and recite.

One final thought...
Dana, Doug, and Joy (Our Boosterthon champions) made it a point to stop me on Wednesday after the team huddles.  They've been at this a while and they told me that our students are the nicest and most respectful students they have worked with.  I just thought you should know that.  Even when we have difficult days with our students, it's still much better than it could be in other schools or districts even on their best days.  We are lucky.  Now it's our job to take our kids to the next level, every day.  Think about your lessons and whether there is something you could have done that would have had more of an impact.  Did you spend time connecting with kids individually during TenMarks time or while they were given time to read or write?  Did you stop by a group in Science or Social Studies or PE or Spanish or music or art while they were working together?  I thought about my "lesson" after our meeting on Wednesday.  I should have given you the vision in advance so that you would have had a chance to think about it earlier.  I should have had you get up and move around, change partners, and provided more time to talk about how you have students set goals.  Next time we meet, I promise to be better.  But one thing I can promise for sure, you'll be hearing High School Musical again.

Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself (John Gunnell)

Friday, October 7, 2016

What did you notice this week?

After reading Pernille Ripp's post "One Small Act" on Saturday morning, I thought, "How many of these small acts do we really notice?"  It set me my focus for the week so here are the small acts I noticed.
  • M&Ms eating lunch with 5th graders, playing at recess, and just watching the 5th graders look up to them.  So happy that Heather and Megan got this started!
  • Barb making phone calls to 7th and 8th grade families to set up invitational only conferences for October 11th.  Thanks, Barb!
  • A student provided me a mint Tuesday morning.  I asked if it was because of my breath but he told me it was because he liked me.
  • 8th graders officiated, and cheered on, 7th graders during the football playoffs at lunch time.
  • NJHS students literally taking over Homework Club.
  • Guest teachers who had nothing but good things to say about our kids.
  • Jordan fixing a compressor so that I now have a pump for playground balls.
  • Watching the "new kids" become acclimated to our school because of you and the students keeping an eye on them.
  • The power of the conversations we had in grade level meetings and our SIP team meeting.  Your honesty and belief that we can be better for our kids is contagious.
  • Ron and Lori covering lunch and recess for me so that I could attend a meeting in Madison.  Thanks!
  • Before and after hours meetings with families to positively impact student success.
  • Innovator's Mindset Twitter chat on Thursday night. (Check out the conversation here at #mertonIM) Continuing our learning and discussions outside of school hours. Just one example of the learning and preparation that all of you do all the time!
Monday, October 10th
  • Boosterthon kickoff assembly 8:45-9:30AM
    • Adjusted schedule is here.
      • 1st hour  9:30-10:02                     6th grade specials  9:30-10:00
      • 2nd hour  10:05-10:36                  5th grade specials  10:03-10:33
      • 3rd hour  10:39-11:10
      • 4th hour  11:13-11:44
    • Don't forget to wear your red t-shirt!
Tuesday, October 11th
  • Picture retake day (No groups at this time.  We ran ahead of schedule last year.)
    • 8:30  staff
    • 8:55-9:10  5th grade
    • 9:15-9:30  8th grade
    • 9:35-9:50  7th grade
    • 9:55-10:10  6th grade
  • 7/8 invitation conferences
Wednesday, October 12th
  • PLC meeting 8:00-8:40AM
  • CPI training 4:15-5:15PM
Thursday, October 13th
  • Anyone up for a Throwback Thursday?  Chance of gift cards if you participate!
  • CPI training 7:30-8:30AM
  • Grade levels/ Specials meetings
Friday, October 14th
  • CPI training 7:30-8:30AM
Thursday, October 20th
  • It's Boosterthon fun run day!
  • 5/6 fun run at 1:30PM
  • 7/8 fun run at 2:45PM
Tuesday, November 1st

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Bright Solutions for Dyslexia Newsletter (Sent to me by Mrs. Brunnbauer.  There is great information for all students in this newsletter.)
I Was a "Relationships Second" Teacher (from ASCD)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
#mertonIM on Twitter (Merton's Innovator's Mindset chat from Thursday night)
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore from 10.7.16
(from Pinterest)
(I made with Google drawings)
(from Pinterest)

School Improvement Plan Team
The quote above from Edna Mode from "The Incredibles" is so appropriate for us as educators.  We can't change history, we can only learn from it.  Why look back when looking forward has so many possibilities.  What are you doing now that is best for kids? (Enough cliches?)  Our School Improvement Plan (SIP) is looking forward to developing a literacy and math goal for our students.  We met for the first time on Thursday.  One of the responsibilities of the team members is to get your input.  Be honest when you are giving your feedback as we want to hear from all of you.  Thanks in advance for your commitment to improvement.

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