Thursday, September 14, 2017


As we continue with another strong week of school, I begin to consider the expectations that we have for our students and for each other.  The moment we let the expectations slip a little bit, the more they are going to slip.  Let's keep the expectations high for the students, reminding them of our school procedures and acknowledging those who are meeting or exceeding the expectations that we have for them.  The same should be true of one another.  Starting next week, I want to make sure that we start looking at data from classrooms.  Let's see where our kids are doing well and where they need support.  And then lets find ways to get those supports into place.  It's been a great start, but we can always get better, for our kids and for each other.

Great things I saw this week...
Students and staff showing school spirit at our assembly
Staff joining lunch and recess from time to time
Workshop and interventions and conferring happening in all sorts of places
Kids excited about learning
I got a hug from an 8th grade boy who needs more hugs than we can give him, especially on his bad days
Kids inviting our new students into groups
Clean hallways- the kids are really taking pride in the new look of our building
Words going up in the hallways
Staff stepping up to do what's best for kids, and each other
The 5th grade band's first note together

Monday, September 18th
5:30  5th grade FIN
6:30  7th/8th grade FIN
Tuesday, September 19th
4:15  Homework Club
5:30  6th grade FIN
Wednesday, September 20th
8:00  Boosterthon staff meeting
Thursday, September 21st
Grade level meetings
4:15  Homework Club

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
(from Pinterest)

"One" is Not Enough (from George Couros)

You're More Than a Letter Grade: Letter to a Discouraged Student (from Danny Steele)

Every Day is Awareness for Survivors: It's How We Use It--Suicide Prevention Week 2017 (from Sarah Johnson)
(from Pinterest)
#mertonint on Twitter
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Student assembly 9.13.17
Family smore for 9.15.17

PBIS reward suggestions
Thanks to the 7/8 team for sharing their PBIS ideas with us on Wednesday morning.  If you are looking for some ideas for rewards, this website is chock full of them.  Please let me know how I might be able to support you with this.

Just so you know...
I have heard from families this week.  They stopped me in the hallway to share with me how much their kids love this year at the Intermediate School.  They weren't shocked that their kids were enjoying their experiences.  I believe it was expected.  They just wanted me to know that they appreciate all that you do for their children.  Sometimes I don't tell you enough, because the little things sometimes go overlooked when they shouldn't.  You spend time in class getting to know the kids.  You spend time outside class getting to know the kids in a different way.  They notice, I notice, and their families notice.  Keep reaching out to families.  They want to hear from us, the good stuff and the bad stuff, so that they can celebrate with us and support us.  Try to make one good phone call or send one good email each week.  It will make you feel good, I promise.

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017


I celebrated, and dreaded, September 5th.  It was our first day of school- a real celebration- because the kids were back.  We're in education for kids, not for the adults.  And I don't mean for that to sound negative or offensive.  The kids are why I'm an educator.  End of story.  I also dreaded September 5th as it was the day of a funeral of one of my friends, Johnny.  He was not a close friend, but when we were together, he had time for me, he listened to me, he told great jokes, and we ended every meeting with a hug.  I knew that he was suffering from cancer, but I didn't take the time to reach out to him, and before I could, he died.  It's not a very upbeat message, but it does make a point.
Our kids look up to us, every day, whether they show it or not.  Do we take the time to recognize them, each of them, every day?  It can be a daunting task, but it sure is an important one.  Think about your interactions with kids this week.  Did you find the time for them or use time as an excuse?  Did you head into the hallway between classes?  Did you stop down into the lunch room or go out for recess?  Did you greet them at the door more than just on Tuesday?  Did you walk them to the buses?  If you did, they noticed.  If you didn't, they noticed that, too.  Please find a way to reach out to the kids that is a little different than just classroom interactions.  It will build relationships that will pay dividends throughout the school year and beyond.  Because some day it may be too late.  Just like it was for me with Johnny.

Great things I noticed...
7th and 8th grade staff performing the Merton Way rap
Kids reading
Relationship building activities (too many to mention)
Patrick reading aloud the whizpopper section of BFG
Kids reaching out to our new kids to make connections
The gaga ball pit is a hit
Procedures are being established and practiced
The family atmosphere in our grade level meetings
Discussion of penny wars to help support a school impacted by the hurricanes

Tuesday, September 12th
Homework Club  4:15-5:15PM
Annual meeting  7:00PM

Wednesday, September 13th
Merton Blue Day!
Staff meeting 8:15
RtI Wednesday assembly  8:40 (All staff will sit with their homerooms.)

Thursday, September 14th
Grade level meetings!
Homework Club  4:15-5:15PM

Friday, September 15th
Coaches meeting  8:00-8:30
7th and 8th grade dance  7:00-9:00PM (Want to chaperone?  You will be compensated!)

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Finding the Good in the Bad (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from The Minds Consciousness via Facebook)

Positive phone calls home
Don't forget about sending one student to me per grade level this morning, along with the reason or reasons for the phone call.  Please don't tell them why you're sending them to the office.  If you have more than one student per grade level, find a moment or two to make the phone call home yourself.  You'll be glad that you did.

My hat is off to you for a great first week!

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

Friday, September 1, 2017


The school year is upon us.  What is your attitude about it?  Can you change your attitude?  It's quite a question, isn't it?  Here is a blog post from Tim McDermott, a principal in my PLN.  Please take a moment to read his post.  Maybe this is a thought for later in the year, but maybe it isn't.  If we can think and take the time to change our attitude to something positive to start the year, it would be beneficial for our students, our colleagues, our Merton families, and our own families.  Are you up to the challenge?

Monday, September 4th
Labor Day- Enjoy time with your family and friends!

Tuesday, September 5th
First day with students!  Yay!  Everyone meet them outside by 8:30!
I cover Geometry 10:19-11:00
I leave for a funeral right after school

Wednesday, September 6th
Nothing planned, so I'll be in classrooms all day!

Thursday, September 7th
See Wednesday

Friday, September 8th
See Wednesday

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Because of the power of these blogs, there are only two blogs for you to read this week.
What's Your Rush? (from Ben Gilpin)
Make Someone's Day (from (Mark French)

Thanks for your time this morning!
Let's be the one for our students, each other, and our families this year!  Here's the presentation, if you're interested.
Be the One!

Have a great weekend!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Monday, August 28, 2017

Let the teachers teach!

Last week was an awesome week for me.  You all came back to work, ready to prepare your rooms, ready to work with your teams, and ready to learn together.  Thanks to Jessica, Brenda J., Mary, Andrea, and Martica for putting together a fantastic Harry Potter themed learning experience for all of us.  As I sat back and took it all in on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, it was great to see us learning from each other.  As we have heard before, we are our greatest resource.  Thanks for sharing in the learning this week!

Tuesday, August 29th
PD all day! (8:00-4:00)
School board meeting 7PM
Wednesday, August 30th
Get ready for the families! (11:00-7:00)
Staff photos at 4:00
Thursday, August 31st
Training all day! (8:00-4:00)
CPI training in the gym starting at 8:00
Other mandatory trainings to follow
Friday, September 1st
Work day (8:00-4:00)
Staff meeting 8:30 in the Little Theater
Lunch and learn- financial planning (12:00-12:45)

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
What's Your Compelling Reason? (from George Couros)

 (from Pinterest)

Investing in the Future (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

(shared by Megan Mastrocola, Mike's daughter)

(from Pinterest)

(from Facebook)

I had a chance to take some more photos of the school so I updated our YouTube video about the changes around the school.  Here it is!

I can't wait to see you all tomorrow, and I'm looking to seeing all of our students and families on Wednesday.  I am ready for a great year.  Are you?
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, August 18, 2017

It's time to learn together!

I can't believe it.  We'll be back together on Monday, getting reconnected, building new connections, and learning with one another.  Just so you know, here's the plan for next week.
Monday, August 21st
*All staff breakfast/ introductions of new staff/ meeting beginning at 7:45 in Primary Cafe
*Work time/ grade level meetings?/ individual meetings with me following the meeting
*Lunch on your own
Tuesday, August 22nd
*All staff meet in the Intermediate Library ready to go at 8:00
*Taco bar for lunch
Wednesday, August 23rd
*8:00 start time
*Pasta bar for lunch
Thursday, August 24th
*8:00 start time
*Lunch on your own
*3:30 at my house for a tailgate party!

This link below is the sign up for dinner for Open House night, provided by our wonderful PTO!  Please complete before Friday, August 25th!
Dinner for Staff at Open House

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Things Change and Things Stay the Same (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

On the First Day (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

Power of Hope and Education (from Tony Sinanis)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

So, I learned something new and made an iMovie trailer
This shows some of the updates to our school.  I'm going to be adding some more new pictures once you all have some rooms set up so that I can share it with our families the week of Open House.  If you have some ideas for other pictures (I think the picture of the table and green wall is in this three times), just let me know.

Enjoy the next three days with your family and friends.  Your room will be there on Monday.  I look forward to seeing you all on Monday, and don't forget your flipgrid!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It's the last week of summer...

It's the last week of summer,
And all through the school,
The custodial staff and others,
Are making the building look cool.

New furniture, new paint,
And a fresh coat of wax,
The building looks great,
Soon the kids will be back.

I can't wait to see you,
And of course the kids, too,
Don't forget to schedule a meeting,
And do your flipgrid, too.

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
3 Quotes on Becoming Successful (from George Couros)

What Parents Wish We Would Ask Them About Their Child (from Pernille Ripp)

I'll be sending something like this to families.  Anyone want to co-write it with me?
Education Decision Making Flowchart (from George Couros)
@Joesanfelippofc: When you ask your kids how school was do they say "I don't know" or "I don't know where to start?" Change the narrative people!!!
Are.You.Ready? (from Jeff Kubiak)

Calendar (Please remember to find a time to meet with me, and don't forget your flipgrid video!)
Monday, August 14th
In all day
11:45 with Carrie R.
12:30  Online registration begins
Tuesday, August 15th
In all day
9:00  Garden
11:15  Boosterthon meeting (more to come on this)
Wednesday, August 16th
In all day
New staff meetings
Thursday, August 17th
In all day
9:00  Garden
Friday, August 18th
In until noon

I can't wait to see all of you.  I have enjoyed the meetings with those of you who have been able to stop in during your busy summers.  The conversations are great, and they are all about getting better for our kids.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What is this #PIAchat thing all about?

#principalsinaction is a wonderful group of principals who are always working to be better for their kids and their schools.  There is a running hashtag on Twitter where principals, and others in and out of education, can see the wonderful things that principals are doing every day. The group consists of about 100 principals that stretch from coast to coast across this beautiful nation.

But there is also a Twitter chat that occurs on Tuesday nights at 8CST that is what we consider the fastest 30 minutes on Twitter.  Moderators post a few questions and principals from all over the country respond.  We end with a call to action or a challenge that many of the principals take on as the focus of sharing the great things principals do.

For me (Mark), engaging in Twitter chats has provided some of best professional development I have received, and it's free! I started as a lurker, advanced to answering questions and contributing, to these days volunteering to facilitate and lead Twitter chat discussions. After four years of Twitter chats, I can even engage in two chats at once provided I'm using the TweetDeck tool.

For me (Ryan), Twitter chats have been a way to constantly push my thinking and hear what others have to say on topics that I am not so comfortable with. It took my awhile before I felt comfortable with jumping in and actively participating in the chat. I would sit and watch the chat, but thought that no one could learn from me. I was wrong! There is so much power in sharing your thoughts and your story. Your answer to some of the questions might spark a thought of another person and that is what it is all about. Pushing each other to better leaders and better people.

For me (Jay), Twitter chats really got me started in the Twitterverse. I initially was a lurker, like Mark, but when I jumped into the discussion, I realized I could learn so much more. The connections began and with it came a comfort level to connect with others face to face at conferences and EdCamps. Before Twitter, I either wouldn’t have known other attendees or I would have been nervous to walk up to speak with them. Twitter became the conduit to deeper professional relationships that fostered learning unlike any other learning before.

Why take part in a chat?
  1. Chats help to focus a conversation.  Moderators or co-moderators post questions that pertain to a topic, often in a Q1 (Question 1), A1 (Answer 1) format.  Chat participants answer the questions and this oftens provides ideas and suggestions that hadn’t been thought of before.
  2. Chats provide connections to others with similar and different perspectives. This allows the participants to grow and learn in ways that don’t occur in other ways, like reading books or blogs.  Participating in chats helps to grow your professional learning network, or PLN.
  3. Chats can be searched by hashtag. Our hashtag tonight is #PIAchat, short for #principalsinaction chat. If you happen to miss the chat, you can always go back and search for the hashtag to see what you missed.

Hopefully you can join us for #PIAchat at 8CST tonight (August 8, 2017) and get to learn what this #PIAchat thing is all about!

Friday, August 4, 2017

What can we learn from each other?

In a couple of weeks, we'll be back together learning from one another.  There is truly no preparation needed, except for making sure that you complete your 30 second flipgrid video.  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Check this link to last week's nuts and bolts.  And please don't forget about setting up a time to meet with me before school starts.  I'm talking to all of you here no matter what your title.  There are three questions we'll be discussing which can also be found in last week's nuts and bolts.  Be open to stretching your thinking, sharing your ideas, and having deep conversations about what we can do a little better for our students and each other.  Be ready to share any summer learning with one another, no matter where or how that learning took place.  Let's make sure that we model our learning for one another but, more importantly, for our students.  They need to see that we continue to learn all the time.

Monday, August 7th
In most of the day
Tuesday, August 8th
In most of the day
Garden 9-11
New Principals with AWSA in Pewaukee at 2:00
Wednesday, August 9th
In most of the day
Meeting with Heidi 9AM
PTO meeting 10AM
Thursday, August 10th
In most of the day
Garden 9-11
GHO at 11:00 (I'm starting a podcast!)
Friday, August 11th
In for the morning (if necessary)

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
A Different Gift (from Brad Gustafson)
What is your 2.0? (from Spike Cook)
Perfect on Paper? (from Ben Gilpin)
Finding Inspiration in Yourself (from George Couros)

Time for a challenge
I'm part of a group of principals that follow the hashtag #principalsinaction.  We have a weekly challenge so I thought I'd give you all one for next week.  Ready- Get outside as often as you can.  Go to the State Fair with family and/or friends.  Leave your phone or other device in another room when you invite over family and/or friends.  Read the book you've wanted to read all summer long.  Do I expect you to do all of these challenges?  No way, but wouldn't that be a great summer week?

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How do you challenge yourself?

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 9.50.55 PM.png

With school starting back up around the country it is important to start thinking, How do you challenge yourself? Jay Posick, Mark French, and I (Ryan Sheehy) are principals that have connected through being in a PLN called Principals In Action. Principals in Action is a group that was started by one of the Kids Deserve It authors, Adam Welcome. It started with a challenge by Adam to ride the slide with kids then tweet the picture using the #principalsinaction hashtag. The group is now so much more than a hashtag. Using Voxer as our communication platform, we communicate on a daily basis, discussing triumphs, struggles, and the everyday occurences of being a principal.  We currently are a group of over 100 administrators that have made a goal of being out of the office and truly being a principal in action. Our group stretches from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

One of the ways we have been able to challenge each other on a daily basis is through creating challenges that everyone participates in then tweets about using the #principalsinaction hashtag. These challenges come out each week and are posted all over Twitter by using the hashtag. This past year some of the challenges included: ride a tricycle, ride the bus, serve food in the lunchroom, eat lunch with students, play on the swings, and read to students. These challenges are constantly pushing administrators out of their office and out with kids and staff.

For me (Ryan), last year was my first year as a principal. Being part of this PLN provided me a level of encouragement, professional development, and outside thinking that I was not getting in my district. The challenges provided me an excuse to document some of the fun things I was doing outside of my office. I have shown up to principal meetings and other principals look at me and say, “Ryan, it always looks like you are having fun.” I am and I show it off because school should be fun and the challenges had that component for me. I have enjoyed riding tricycles, slipping down slides, serving lunch in the cafeteria, and just being with kids. We need to be the one that shows teachers, students, and parents that principals need to be with kids, not in their office.

For me (Jay), I was in my tenth year as principal in the same building. #principalsinaction provided the inspiration and support to get out of my office, interact with students and staff, and accept challenges. I honestly don’t remember all of them, but I do remember my favorite one, shadowing a student for a day. I actually shadowed two students- a 6th grader in the morning and a 7th grader in the afternoon Lunch and recess duty were sandwiched between the two shadowing opportunities. The day was spent in classrooms learning right alongside the students. Interested students filled out a Google form and then a random number selector determined who I shadowed. The students and staff were awesome that day and it was amazing being in the classrooms with them as a student. I think the staff enjoyed me being in their classrooms far more than an observation or a walkthrough, too.

For me (Mark), last year was my 35th as an educator and 20th as an elementary school principal. Being connected with other leaders across the country has revitalized my attitude and energized my spirit. I have a group of colleagues who inspire, motivate, encourage, and hold me accountable. The challenges get me out of my office and connecting with students, teachers, food service team members, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, parents, and other stakeholders. I am excited to be a principal in action at this point in my career.

We challenge you to get out of your office and interact with your students and staff members. We encourage you to follow the #principalsinaction hashtag and participate in the challenges. Find ways to share your experiences with your school community through your newsletter, blog, and social media accounts. Join the movement, get out of your office, and show others how much fun being a principal can be!

Friday, July 28, 2017

The excitement builds!

I am so excited for the school year to begin.  I feel like it's my first day of school all over again.  The building looks awesome, the classrooms look new, and I've got so many ideas to help us get to the next level as a school community.  But it's not a one person job, that's for sure.  I'm going to need each one of you to take us there.  No one person is more or less important than the other.  We're all in this together!  (Did anyone else just start singing that song from High School Musical?)  Before the school year begins, I'd like to meet with each of you individually.  I just want to catch up from the summer, talk about your family, and ask you these three questions-
  1. What should I continue to do for you to help make you better for our kids?
  2. What should I start doing to help make you better for our kids?
  3. What should I stop doing to help make you better for our kids?
I'm in Mondays-Thursdays in the mornings but I'd be more than happy to stick around in the afternoons or come in on Fridays so that we can connect.  I'm so looking forward to starting our school year on a very positive note and I can't wait to meet with each one of you.

Blogs to consider before the school year starts
Take Advantage of the Blank Slate (from George Couros)
The Education "Bat Signal" (from George Couros)
Who Tells Your Story? (from Ryan Sheehy)
We Are Stories (from Pernille Ripp)
Tips for a New Teacher (from Danny Steele) and don't let the title fool you. We can all learn from these tips.
But Not for the Kid (from Pernille Ripp)
Turn Back-to-School Anxiety into Real Enthusiasm (from Angela Watson)
Serendipity (from Jon Harper)
Sharing the Ups and Downs of Learning (from George Couros)
For the Kids Who Show Up (from Pernille Ripp)
An Open Letter to the Parents Worried My Son is in Their Child's Class (from is a great resource for families and educators.
How Will the Kids Remember You? (from Danny Steele)

Update on Room 120E (in library hallway)
This room is going to be used for 4 purposes.
  1. Storage for NJHS, Student Senate, and Merton Theater
  2. Storage for all kleenex and wet wipes collected as part of supply list
  3. 6th grade refrigerator and microwave
  4. Possibly green screen room for student videos
If you have any questions or concerns about this, don't hesitate to ask me.

You have an assignment!
I have come across a new tool that I would like to use with all of you.  It is painless, I promise, and could actually be a little fun.  It's called flipgrid (Heidi shared it with all of you) and I'd like to have you take a 30 second video of yourself sharing two things- the best part of your summer and what you are most looking forward to this year.  Flipgrid is a great conversation starter (You can learn more about it here.) and if you'd like it for use with our students, there is a discount for 10 class subscriptions.  Here is the link to your flipgrid assignment.  Happy recording!

Will and Grace
I just saw an advertisement about Will and Grace, a television show that ran from 1998 until 2006.  It was one of those television shows that Jen and I watched almost every week.  You just never knew what would happen to make the next episode better, or at least different, than the one before.  It made me think about our school days.  Bear with me a moment while I explain.  What do we do every day to make the next day better than the one before for our students?  For each other?  For ourselves?  How do we build and foster relationships?  How do we have conversations that make each other better for our students?  Let's keep this in mind as the school year progresses.  I'm sure the reboot of Will and Grace will be alright, but I know that our next school year will be awesome!

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Live Outside the Box

I've had awesome opportunities all summer to connect with family, friends, and colleagues.  I've also been able to work on projects around the house.  One of these projects was an updated patio.  Our old patio was just that, old.  There were cracks and the cement was a wavy as a lake on a windy summer day.  Frankly, it was a bit dangerous.  Fortunately my wife, Jenifer, knew just what she wanted.  She designed a new shape for our patio and we got a couple of bids.  (Note to all of you who are still reading.  Always get more than one bid, even if you know the people who are giving you bids.  The difference in price was astounding.)  Anyway, we had a stamped concrete patio installed.  That job is way bigger than anything we would have been able to do on our own.

With a new patio comes new patio furniture, right?  Trust me.  New patio = new patio furniture.  Jen found just what she wanted online, ordered it, and had it delivered.  The company who made the furniture, Walker Edison furniture company (@WalkerEdisonCo), makes quality furniture.  It also is the "some assembly required" kind of furniture.  When the furniture was delivered, I went right to work.  I think that it turned out pretty well.  You can even see a bit of our new patio and the landscaping (Jen and I did all of that on our own with the help of our daughter, Lauren.).

So where am I going with this?  It's the saying on the furniture boxes- Live Outside the Box ™.  When you are putting together furniture, there is no living outside the box with the directions.  Mess up one thing and you either start over or create furniture that either doesn't function or doesn't look right.  But once you've put your furniture together, you can enjoy life outside the box.

The same can be true for our students and staff.  We need to provide the parameters for learning and then we need to let them go, let them learn on their own or with others, and have them show off their learning.  I don't know who said it, but these three words mean a lot to me- freedom within fences.  The need for parameters is in those three words, and the fences can have an expansive perimeter.  The directions for the furniture were my fences, but how we organized the furniture was up to us.  In thinking about fences and living outside the box, let's provide voice and choice for our students and staff, and let's learn along side of them.  In that way we can all live outside the box, too.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Be Like Mike- #NPC17

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of attending the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia with my closest colleague, Mike Budisch (@headlearner).  If you have read my other blogs about #NPC17, you know I spoke a lot about connections, and most of them are with educators I have connected with on social media from around the country.  But my most important educational connection is with Mike.

Our connection started in February of 2007 when I interviewed for my current position.  I still remember sitting on a table in the library just talking.  The questions didn't seem scripted.  It was just an immediate connection.  And we talked about kids.

Through the next 10 years, Mike has been a consistent and confident leader that I know I can rely upon.  We have spoken about kids, staff, our families, our schools, and our futures.  I never feel judged but I do feel pushed to be better.  I hope that he feels the same about me, too.

Badger game
Celebration Day

Mike and I had an opportunity that I think other principals should have.  We attended a national education conference together.  We shared plane flights, trips on the train, a hotel room, and some of our meals.  We also shared the great ideas we heard, the connections of fellow educators from across the country, and the desire to be better for our kids, our staff, and our schools.

Flight to Philadelphia
Waiting for train in Philadelphia

Mike and I continue to discuss our learning even weeks after the conference.  And I know our learning and collaboration will continue.  The reason why- We are educators who put our kids first and we want to do better for them every day.  We have our stumbles along the way, but we're always there to pick one another up.

Many of us attend conferences alone, connect with some colleagues during the few days we're together, and then, most often, don't connect again for quite some time.  This can, at times, stagnate our learning.  That doesn't happen with Mike and me.  I certainly hope that you have someone in your school community that you can rely on, and learn with like I do.  And I hope that I can "Be Like Mike" for someone during the rest of my educational journey because together we are better.

Thanks, Mike!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Getting prepared?

Good Friday morning, Merton family!  I hope that you summer is going really well.  In one month we'll be together again as the Summer Academy gets under way.  I can't wait to catch up with all of you and I have a few new ideas of how we can do that, but that's for another post.  Here is a graphic that will let you know how I feel.

The custodial staff and other crews have been hard at work in our school and things are coming together well.  New ceilings are in, painting is underway, the hallways and classrooms are brighter with new lights (It seems like a sunrise in my office!), and the gaga pits are complete.  I'm in most mornings if you happen to stop by.  It's pretty quiet so I could use some conversations and a walk through the building.

Our community garden is looking awesome, too!  The rain and the volunteers (NJHS as well as Lindsay, Patrick, Dave, and Michael) have allowed all of our vegetable and watermelon plants to thrive.  When you stop up at school, take a little walk to see how the garden's doing.  I think we'll have a bumper crop of tomatoes after having about 3 last year.
For other pictures of all that's going on around the school, check out the #mertonint hashtag.

Here are a few quotes and blogs and ideas I thought I'd share.

12 Conversation Starters on What Parents Want You (Teachers) to Know (from Joe Mazza)
Some of the Worst Advice You Will Ever Get as an Educator (from George Couros)
Welcome Back Letters- With a Twist (Pinterest)

I'll be sending out this smore to families on August 1st.  Please let me know if you'd like me to add anything, delete anything, or if you have a photo you'd like me to use instead of the one I took from our directory.

Finally, I have lots of ideas from the Principals Conference I attended in July.  Gerry Brooks, "perncipal" from Kentucky, sums up all of the excellent sessions I attended.  You can see them all here.

I hope that you giggled a little bit after seeing the video.
See you all soon!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The power of connections- #NPC17

People either get it, or they don't.  The connections that we make via social media can have a lasting impression on our lives as educators.  It was never more evident to me than during my time in Philadelphia for the 2017 National Principals Conference. I have had the privilege of connecting with educators from all over the country and the opportunity to meet these educators face to face, sometimes for the first time in person, was incredible.  I don't have pictures of them all, but here are some that I will share with you because of their importance and, more importantly, because they are the ones I could find on my phone.  I only wish that I had one really good one with Ryan Sheehy and Mark French, two outstanding #principalsinaction who I had the privilege of presenting with early on Sunday morning.  So, here goes.

Saturday night I had the chance to connect again, briefly, with Tony Sinanis, a dear friend who without the magic of social media I would never have met.  I am lucky enough to be in a Voxer group with Tony and these amazing educators- Joe Sanfelippo, Amber Teamann, Melinda Miller, Jessica Johnson, Curt Rees, Leah and Tom Whitford, and Tim Lauer.  It's an amazing group.  Tony lives in New York City and I live in rural Wisconsin.  What are the chances we would have met without social media?  We have spoken on Voxer, tweeted one another, and met face to face on at least three different occasions.  When I stepped into the restaurant, Tony was one of the first ones to call out, "Jay!"  We hugged, spoke briefly, and then he was headed out the door for home.  New York City Tony and Wisconsin Jay are connected and we are friends.

On the same night, in the same restaurant, I reconnected with two middle school principals, Joy Wright from Connecticut and Don Gately from New York, that I have met face to face only once before and had the pleasure of connecting with another middle school principal, LaQuita Outlaw from New York, face to face for the first time.  We are part of a Voxer group of middle level principals.  Middle school principals are a different breed and we need our support system.  We are able to share the successes and the struggles of daily life with middle school students and staff.  We know that we can rely on one another for advice and suggestions and a place to vent.  We have all made each other better for our students and staffs, too, because of our connections.

Again, I heard someone say, "Jay!"  There was Doc Sheilah, Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac from New York, one of the first people I connected with on Voxer when Joe Mazza started a world wide book discussion of Beyond the Bake Sale.  Joy Wright is also in the picture as the first place I met her was on social media during the book discussion.  We have been friends for over 3 years.  The conversations we have had about our schools, and our families, and our families in our schools, have truly built a strong relationship.  We know that we can count on one another even though we are miles and miles apart.

The final picture is of our #principalsinaction group.  We had planned to meet in the restaurant before the conference.  When we saw each other face to face, it was like we had met before.  For many of us, this was the first time that we actually had met face to face.  The friendships we have developed on Twitter and Voxer meant that hugs and high fives and smiles were everywhere.  We continued conversations, started conversations, and deepened relationships that night.  It was an experience I will never forget.

And that was just the first night, the night before the conference even started.  These connections continued to be fostered over the next three days.  I could go on and on with more pictures from Saturday night and the conference days but it would just be more of the same.  You all know who you are and I could write a paragraph about each one of you, but I won't.  The connections were fostered on runs, during sessions, between sessions, at meal time, at gatherings in restaurants and beer gardens and hotel lobbies.  Why am I sharing this?  Because as educators, we need to continue to develop connections with other educators.  Share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Sharing will make us all better.  Reach out to your colleagues who aren't as connected and offer to help them along the way.  That's another connection right there.

I watched as two different groups of educators, #principalsinaction and #momsasprincipals, grew membership because they reached out to connect.  A third group, #dadsasprincipals, was born.  It was great to see the variety of educators that grew together at a conference because they were first connected on Twitter or Voxer.  It was amazing.  Because of the connections I made with Mark French (Minnesota), Ryan Sheehy (California), and Don Gately (New York), we were able to prepare for our presentations without even being in the same room let alone the same state.  That's incredible.

I encourage you to reach out to others.  Connect on social media and face to face.  It's what's best for our kids and our staff and each other.  There are plenty of us out there to help and support you along the way.  So what's stopping you?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hats at #NPC17

As principals, we all wear a variety of hats.  But I'm not going to talk about the different hats we wear.  I'm going to talk about two hats I got from vendors at NPC17, hats I wasn't looking for but hats that found me.  And my wife will tell you I certainly don't need anymore hats, but I couldn't resist them.  The reason I couldn't resist them is messages they have for me and for anyone attending a conference or participating in any kind of learning experience.

This is in no way meant to be an advertisement for, a website I use to find educational Twitter chats.  It is meant to be a call to action.  Learning is an active process.  We learn by discussing, questioning, listening, moving around, answering, and sharing our thoughts.  Participating is not limited to scheduled sessions, either.  It includes the times you make up your own sessions with those you have connected with, eating a meal with new and old friends, going for a run with others (check out my previous post), hanging out in the airport or hotel lobby, and just about any other way you can connect with someone.  I challenge you to connect and not just hang out alone.  Your learning will be much deeper and meaningful if you can speak with another learner.

Ripple Effect
When I saw this hat in the exhibit hall, I couldn't believe that it existed.  The hat was at the Overcoming Obstacles ( table and made me pause and speak with the nice people who were there.  I feel that we all have a ripple effect in our schools.  We all create ripples.  We drop a rock in the pool and the ripples go out from there.  Good "rocks" create good ripples.  Bad "rocks" create bad ripples.  And it's not just the principal that creates the ripples.  Students, staff, and families all create ripples.  During NPC17, the ripples were everywhere.  #momsasprincipals led to #dadsasprincipals.  Speakers like Jimmy Casas and Todd Nesloney and Kevin Carroll spread ripples about relationships and believing in our kids, among other things.  I need to be aware of the rocks I drop in my school, with family and friends, and with those I meet while I'm out and about.  The ripples will have a lasting effect and I want them to be good ripples.

What two things from NPC17 impacted you the most?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Runs at #NPC17

I haven't been home for even 24 hours from the National Principals Conference in Philadelphia.  I'm tired and thinking too much, about everything, and what I should do next, so I'm writing a blog to reflect on my learning, my discussions with old friends and new friends, and the challenge that I put forth to our #principalsinaction group of finding that one thing to focus on.  But those reflections will come later.  This blog is about the 3 runs while I was in Philly and how they changed the way I think about attending conferences.

Day 1- Alone (and a bucket list check off)
At the top of the "Rocky steps"
Rocky statue selfie
On day 1 in Philadelphia, I ran, alone, to the "Rocky steps", a bucket list run and a total of 4 miles.  It's how I used to attend conferences, too.  Alone.  Interacting with few people.  Afraid to take a chance or move out of my comfort zone.  Hearing great ideas but never, or rarely, speaking with anyone about them, at least while I was at the conference.  But then something changed.  I connected with a couple of top of the line Wisconsin educators, Curt Rees and Jessica Johnson, on Twitter.  We talked about feeling alone on a desert island as principals and in need of support and encouragement.  We shared our message of being connected with anyone who would listen, informally as well as in sessions at our state conferences.  Now that I'm connected, I don't ever want to go back to attending conferences alone, quietly moving from session to session.
*Full disclosure- I presented at 7:30AM on Day 1 with Mark French (Minnesota) and Ryan Sheehy (California) and needed to clear my head as presenting at a national conference is also a bucket list item.  Check.

Day 2- Old friends and new friends
Ben, me, Eric, and JR
On day 2 in Philadelphia, I had the distinct pleasure of running with Ben Gilpin (Michigan), Eric Ewald (Iowa), and JR Raybold (Virginia).  We started out with an idea to run to the Liberty Bell, then added the Delaware River, and then added the "Rocky steps".  The plan was to run 4 miles but we just kept talking and laughing and enjoying the morning and 4 miles became 7 miles.  I've met Ben in person once before and ran with him at a conference in Chicago.  That run in Chicago was awesome.  I know Eric from our interactions on Voxer and Twitter as part of the #principalsinaction group.  I met JR on day 1 as he was introduced to me by Hamesh Brewer, a relentless educator and cheerleader for kids.  This run was how I now attempt to learn at conferences.  I meet up with old friends, catch up, and talk about our schools.  I meet people I've connected with on Twitter or Voxer and deepen our professional relationship.  I meet new people and start conversations.  The variety of connections stretches my thinking, challenges me, and supports me.  These three types of relationships will continue to grow and flourish and only get better with time, especially if we can, once again, meet face to face.

Day 3- Sharing your learning
Joe, Laura, and me
On day 3 in Philadelphia, I enjoyed a run with Laura Jennaro (Wisconsin principal) and Joe Schroeder (assistant director of our Wisconsin principal association).  We ran to the Liberty Bell, the Delaware River, and ended at City Hall, just over 4 miles.  It was an incredible run with a focus on our learning, how we can share our learning with others, and how we can get more connected as a state.  I'm sure that it's the first of many conversations that we'll have over the course of the year.  It was a great final run in Philadelphia.

This post was not meant to suggest that you run every morning at conferences that you attend.  It was meant to demonstrate a few of the ways that one can participate in a conference.  The total time of the three runs was less than 2 hours, but the conversations (I do talk to myself when I run alone) kept pushing my thinking.  I encourage you to have your future conference experiences be more like my Day 2 and 3 runs.  You'll get so much more out of your learning.

Friday, July 7, 2017

#principalsinaction anticipation

I'm one lucky guy.  I am married to my best friend.  We have a beautiful daughter.  We live in a great house in a quiet neighborhood.  We have had opportunities to travel to beaches and lake houses and Niagara Falls.  I'm one lucky guy.
I started writing this blog as I sat in Virginia Beach, alone, reflecting on how my life has changed in the last 5 years.  My family and Wisconsin friends have stayed the same, but my school family, friends, and life have changed, and it's because of connections with educators all over the country.  And this is the reason for the title of this post- Anticipation.  In one day I'll be connecting, and reconnecting, with educators I have met on Twitter and Voxer.  I can hardly wait!
I look forward to reconnecting with those I've already met in person and am excited to meet those who I know through Twitter, Voxer, and Google hangout.  I only hope that I have enough time.  Three days doesn't seem like enough time.

I'm also a bit scared.  What happens if I don't remember someone's name?  Our profile pictures on Twitter and Voxer can be a bit deceiving.  What if I don't have a chance to connect with everyone?  There are so many great people in our #principalsinaction group.  We have a saying in this group- Get out of your office!  I'm changing that saying a little bit for this weekend- Get out of you hotel room!  There will be plenty of time to sleep on the plane ride home.  I'm hopeful to meet up with as many of my #principalsinaction family as possible.
Mark French, Ryan Sheehy and I have a session about #principalsinaction at 7:30AM on Sunday morning and we'd love to see you there.  By the way, I've met Mark once in person and look forward to meeting Ryan for the first time in person.  We've prepared our session through Voxer and Google hangouts, connecting in ways that weren't possible when I first became a principal ten years ago.
If you have the time, #PIAchat will also be live on Monday at 8EST at the Tenth Floor Grill of the Hilton Garden Inn.  We hope to see you there.

See you in Philly!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Still learning...

As I sit in my office this week, catching up on paperwork and planning for two presentations at the NAESP/NASSP Conference in Philadelphia, the silence of the school without you and the kids is deafening.  I don't often listen to music while at school, but I have been this week, and it's more for white noise than for singing, thank goodness.  I've also done some lurking on Twitter to learn from Summer Spark participants and read a few blogs that catch my attention.  One of my favorite bloggers is George Couros, author of The Innovator's Mindset.  He makes me think, makes me question what I do with and for you and the students, and pushes me to become a better principal.  His blog post from Sunday, What Lies Within Us?, made me pause.  Check out the link here.  You have heard me talk about finding the positive within our kids and each other quite often.  This blog post starts there with asking us to look for the talents of our students before looking for their deficits.  Doesn't that sound like an awesome idea?  Think about that as you begin to think about next year's students and families.  I know it's only the middle of June, but the kids are looking forward to next year already, and I'm sure many of you are, too.

Week of June 19th
I'll be in every day, at least in the morning
Week of June 26th
Vacation with Jen and Lauren

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"The secret in education lies in respecting the student."- Ralph Waldo Emerson

(from Pinterest)

Recognize, Rectify, Move Forward (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

Get the Most Out of Summer (from edutopia)

Removing Barriers and Hurdles (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

I hope your first week of summer has been relaxing and filled with family and friends.  Jen, Lauren, and I are going to the US Open today.  I'll be in next week at least in the morning if you want to stop by for any reason.  Construction is moving along so be aware that room access is very limited.
Have a great weekend!