Friday, November 17, 2017

My bus ride

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  This quote from "To A Mouse" by Robert Burns couldn't have been more true on Wednesday.

From time to time, I'll ride a bus with the students after school.  Wednesday was one of those days.  My intent was to assist the driver with some behaviors as well as to get an idea of the climate of the bus.  Normally when the ride is over the driver brings me back to school.  Well, the driver and I got in a conversation and the next thing I knew I was at the bus terminal in a town other than where our school is.  The last minute of the ride went something like this.

Driver-  Thanks for riding along today.  It was the quietest ride of the year.
Me- No problem.  Just keep me informed if you're having an issues or you'd like me to ride again.
Driver- Do you have a ride back to school?
Me- Yes.  My wife should be here shortly to pick me up.

I got off the bus.  It's pitch black due to day light savings time so I walked closer to the driveway entrance to stand under the street light.  And then I texted my wife and daughter of my predicament.  I didn't have the heart to tell the driver that I was expecting him to take me back to school after the last stop.  You see, I didn't have a ride back to school.  My wife came to pick me up and we had a good chuckle all the way home.

I learned two lessons on that ride.
#1.  Be more specific when riding a bus that you will need a ride back to school after the last stop.
#2.  Spending a few extra minutes with our bus drivers develops a relationship that allows the drivers to know you really care about the kids and about them.

Next time, I may just drop off my car at the bus terminal, ride a bus to school, and then ride a different bus home.  That way I can build a relationship with another driver.  And I won't have to have my wife come pick me up.

It's Thanksgiving week!

I don't have much to share this week except I am so proud and grateful to work with each and every one of you every single day.  We will have a fantastic Friday today and a terrific two day week next week.  I know that you will have meaningful experiences for our students leading up to Thanksgiving because that's what you do every day.  The more we make the next three days like any days of the school year, the more our kids will learn and perform for you like they always have done.  Let's make this the best three days of the school year so far.

Great things I saw this week...
Even in tough times, the staff was able to get together, talk about kids, and laugh about the crazy things that happen to us every day.
Therapeutic toys in 6th grade.
Math stations with mini-lessons.
Kids writing and reading every day, with choice and voice.
Having a chance to cover a math class and reconnecting with kids.
Great discussions in team meetings.
Do you even know how lucky I am to get the opportunity to visit your classrooms and do observations?
Conferences the last two weeks.  I had great discussions about you all with families every night.

Monday, November 20
Move it Monday- wear some workout gear
BLT meeting 4:15-5:15
Tuesday, November 21
No Office Day, as much as possible.
Wednesday, November 22-26
Enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Problems are guidelines, not stop signs.
Robert Schuller,
clergyman and speaker

Maybe Next Year (from Pernille Ripp)

I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be who I want.
Muhammad Ali,
11 Ways to Build Capacity and Never Stop Growing (from David Geurin)

"You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give." 

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Only Schools Can End Schools (from George Couros)

The risk is the challenge.
Mario Andretti,
auto racer
Today I cried... (from Kelley Begley McCall)

Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.
Grandma Moses,
folk artist

3 Myths about "Empowering" Students in Schools Today (from George Couros)

Family smore for 11.17.17

Once you school is over today, do me a favor.  Reach out to a family member of friend you haven't been in touch with in a while.  Give them a call or invite them to coffee or lunch.  Focus on the relationship you had, or have, with them.  Catch up, listen, and smile.  And then I challenge you to do the same with one of our students next week.  Find the one, or two, or ten, that you think might be having the most difficult time leading up to our long Thanksgiving break.  Connecting with them might just make next week the best two day school week they could ever have.  You may know that a few of your colleagues are reading Kids Deserve It along with me.  This week we did flipgrid videos.  Full disclosure- your colleagues did their videos but I haven't done mine yet.  The power of the messages in this book reminds me of each of you.  If you haven't read the book and you'd like to, let me know if you'd like a copy of the book.  I know a guy.  And if you like the message of the book, maybe you would like to show off the message by wearing a shirt or sweatshirt.  Here's a link to some options, if you're interested.
See you all soon!
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, November 10, 2017


On Wednesday night, at the end of 5th grade conferences, I was involved in #ohedchat, a chat of educators from the state of Ohio.  The question, and my response, was one I think about often at family conference time.  Please take a moment to reflect on my response.

A6 Face to face is more powerful than a phone call is more powerful than an email or text. Make time to talk to someone face to face.

I must say, the power of a face to face conversation does something no other means of communication can do.  When I'm asked, "Are family conferences important anymore?"  My unequivocal answer is YES!  Thanks to all of you for your time with our families to set goals with our students, celebrate our students, and build relationships with our families.

If you're on cycle, don't forget to schedule your observation!
Monday, November 13
Strategic planning 6PM

Tuesday, November 14
Power Day
Homework Club 4:15

Wednesday, November 15
Culver's Night 4-8PM

Thursday, November 16
Grade level/Specials meetings
Homework Club 4:15
6th, 7th, and 8th grade conferences 4:30

Friday, November 17
No Office Day!

Great things I saw this week...
Staff being patient with students struggling both academically and behaviorally
Staff stepping up to help out
Students and Michael preparing for Veterans' Day
Your efforts at family conferences
Staff supporting one another
Keeping the kids first

Quotes, tweets, and blogs
(from Pinterest)

You build on failure. You use it as a steppingstone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Johnny Cash,
singer and songwriter

I look forward to our Veterans' Day celebration this morning.  I look forward to making phone calls home today so please give me the name of one student from each grade level.  I'd love a staff member's name, too.  Keep the kids front and center with all that we do today.  Find that one student or staff member that needs you to Be The One and then Be. The. One.
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, November 3, 2017


This has been one of my favorite weeks of the school year.  Why?  I've had to face a number of challenges, both with students and adults, and it made me really sit back and reflect, more than I normally do.  As we approach the holiday season- it is November, by the way- behaviors of all in our schools begins to change or heighten.  Often we only see what's on the surface but, like an iceberg, there are underlying issues and situations that are the real reason for the behaviors.  Remember precipitating factors from our CPI training?  That's what I'm writing about.  See the graphic below about some of these factors.
There are many more than just those that are listed here.  And as I said in our training, don't become a precipitating factor yourself.  In one of my Voxer groups this week, a conversation occurred about how relationships can have an impact, both negative and positive, on the behavior of students and adults.  I challenge you to build one relationship in November using the 2X10 strategy (If you don't know what this is, just ask me!) or by having me take over your class to foster a relationship with "that kid".  Who is up for the challenge?  Extra credit- Blog about the difference this relationship has made for the student, you, or your class.

Great things I saw this week...
BizTown for our 5th graders (animoto is here)
Coaches and staff working together for our kids
6th grade trip to the Cave of the Mounds
Flexibility of staff to help out one another
Laughter in classrooms
Cleaner hallways
Jennifer's efforts for this year's book fair
Kids reading
Kids supporting one another in math
Family meeting about High School Musical Jr.

Monday, November 6th
4 way stop from 8:15-8:45 (Anyone able to help?  You'll get to leave at 3:45 some day in the future!)
8:00AM  #KidsDeserveIt Twitter chat in the library (All are welcome!)
9-11  PTO grants
6:00PM  Strategic planning

Tuesday, November 7th
4:15-5:15  Homework Club

Wednesday, November 8th
8:00  Staff meeting (Sarah and Corinne are leading us)
1:15  A-team meeting
4:30  5th grade conferences

Thursday, November 9th
Jeans for Troops ($5 donation for wearing jeans)
Grade level/ Specials meetings
4:15  Homework Club
4:30  5th/6th grade conferences

Friday, November 10th
9:00  Veterans' Day breakfast
10:00  Veterans' Day assembly
11:00-11:45  Veterans visit classrooms

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.
William Jennings Bryan,
political leader and orator

(from Pinterest)

We Got This (from Pernille Ripp)

Orly Wahba: Kindness and consequence

Letter to a Tired Teacher (from Danny Steele)

(from Pinterest)

Family smore for 11.3.17

Conferences are next week.  It's an opportunity to...
discuss the successes of students.
build relationships with families.
set goals and plans for student struggles.
discuss specific skills you are focusing on.
develop partnerships with families.
share what you are doing with and for students.
share examples of student work.
share student developed goals.
open the door for future communications.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Short week, and a challenge

Sometimes with short weeks there can also be a shortage of learning.  That was not the case this week.  Fortunately my schedule permitted me to visit classes all day on Monday and Tuesday and I got to see you all in action.  My goal was to complete the first round of mini-observations for everyone and I came up just short.  I did get to visit almost every class (sorry about not getting into 5th and 6th grade PE as they were at the Primary School this week) and I saw students learning to weave, learning about the Revolutionary War, learning about linear equations, learning about Peru, reading, learning about sketch cubes, picking up a student at his house, using evidence to support thoughts, building hot air balloons, and having conversations with some students about behavior.  And that was all before lunch on Monday.  This is just a snapshot of the great things I have the opportunity to witness every day.  When will you find a way to visit a colleague's classroom to see what they do?  I know a guy who would be happy to cover your class so that you can.

Reminder!  Your SLO/PPG is due today before you leave.  I'm in school and available most of the day if you have any questions (9:00 webinar on the new licensing procedure and 10:00 meeting with a teacher is all that's on my calendar right now.).  You can find the SLO/PPG forms in Google Classroom.

Great things I saw this week...
Balloon building in 5th grade
6th grade students helping each other out with sketch cubes
Staff stepping in to help one another for a variety of reasons (flu and root canals come to mind)
Staff wearing bow ties on Tuesday and the great announcement by the kids
School board voting to move ahead with our 7/8 learning lounge

Monday, October 30th
7:30-8:45  CESA #1
Tuesday, October 31st
3:00-4:00  cover Megan- IEP
4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, November 1st
8:30-11:30  Math meeting
9:00-9:45  cover Patrick
12:22-1:03  Social Studies planning
12:30-3:30  TILT meeting
6:30  Principals' Chat with Mike
Thursday, November 2nd
8:55-9:40  6th grade meeting
9:45-10:30  5th grade meeting
12:22-1:03  7th/8th grade meeting
1:30-2:00  Specials meeting
4:15-5:15  Homework Club

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back (from ASCD Education Update)

The Stress of Learning (from George Couros)

I am not worried about the future at all. I don't like to run it down. I don't like to think of it being too dark, because I expect to spend all the rest of my life there.
Charles Kettering,
inventor and business leader
Family smore for 10.25.17

There are often times as an educator that things don't go exactly as planned.  This week was one of those days.  You know what I mean.  I was able to be a lot of different people this week and it gave me a heightened sense of all that you do every day for our students and each other.  I left school tired, either physically or mentally, every day this week, but it was a good tired.  It's tiring when you are doing great things for our kids.  But remember, we shouldn't be doing all the work.  Our kids should be tired, too, because they have put forth a great effort.  Check over your plans from this week to see if you provided opportunities for our kids to be as tired as you were.  If not, think about how you can change that for the kids.  They will appreciate it, and so will you.
Have a refreshing long weekend.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Can you change?

I subscribe to three blogs which I mention in no particular order.  One is Pernille Ripp's, another is Dave Burgess', and the final, is George Couros'.  You have probably noticed that as I share at least one of them each week with you.  Last week Friday, George posted this blog- Change the World or Simply Maintain It?  Please take a few minutes to read it.  If you don't read the entire blog, please read the last paragraph.  It's the change we need to make in our classrooms and our school.  Are you ready to go there with me?  After conferences last night as well as some of our discussions during team meetings yesterday, I think we are.  No, I know we are.  The question is, can you find just one thing to do a little differently to make a difference for our kids?  I know you can.

Great things I saw this week...
Our BLT. like all of you, is looking out for all of our kids and all of our staff.
Our kids helping each other out in the STEM lab while learning Inventor.
Mark Flynn speaking to 5th graders about his knowledge of South Sudan.  Best thing- Mark asked the students what they thought about when he said Sudan.  The first answer was Sweden.  It caught Mark off guard, to say the least.
How much our staff takes care of each other.
How much our staff cares about our kids and their families as evidenced in conferences Thursday night and grade level meetings on Thursday.
An 8th grade student helping a 7th grade student, who was using crutches, carry his lunch tray to his table.

Red Ribbon Week
Monday, October 23rd
Wear Red!
School board meeting  7PM
Tuesday, October 24th
Wear team gear!
Homework Club  4:15PM
Wednesday, October 25th
A-team meeting  1:30PM
Thursday, October 26th
Professional Development Day
Friday, October 27th
No school- You better hang out with your family and friends!

Tweets, quotes, and blogs

(from Pinterest)

(from Joni Stevenson, a principal friend of mine from Idaho)

Curiosity Leads to Growth (from George Couros)
Who Do You Need to Thank (from Dave Burgess)
Family smore for 10.20.17

You gotta love your family...
I'm sitting in one of the last conferences last night and my watch started to vibrate to let me know of an incoming phone call.  It was my parents, but I didn't answer my phone.  I just finished up the conference.  Once the conference was over, I called my parents and their first question was if I was watching one of our family friends playing the organ in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.  It's kind of a big deal and they wanted me to be able to hear him.  I told them that I couldn't due to conferences and then our discussion went to their trip to Connecticut, the state where I was born and where almost all of my parents relatives live.  I asked how they were getting to the airport and they said they were driving and parking there.  As my mom said, "It was cheaper than taking a Huber."  We then had a discussion about the difference between an Uber and Huber.  It was just the laugh I needed after an exhausting and exhilarating day.

I hope that today you find one thing that makes you smile and can share that smile with the students or one of our Merton family.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, October 13, 2017

All kids

Take a close look at this slide I found on Twitter while following the AWSA Elementary Principals Conference going on this week in Green Bay.  It's circled in yellow and I dare to say that we all believe the statistics.  The question is, "What are we doing every day to bring that potential to life?"  Each one of you has a different answer and no answer is wrong.  There are also easy answers as well as hard answers.  Please think of answers in both categories.  Share these answers with our BLT representatives.  It will be an agenda item for our BLT meeting on Monday.  I see the potential in each of you and I know you see the potential in each of our kids.  So, what else are we willing to do to bring that potential to life?

Great things I saw, and heard, this week...
Positive comments and conversation during an IEP meeting that made all on the team smile.
Laughter coming from the 6th grade lounge while I was covering a study hall.
5th grade band learning to play together, and sounding pretty good, too.
A group of educators came together to figure out the best ways to meet the needs of kids (Actually happens more than I can even keep track of every day.).
Watching 5th graders using the Google Expedition goggles in Science.
The jazz band sounded awesome on Thursday morning!
The color run was just plain awesome, and the slime was much easier to clean up from this year.
The 6th grade band practicing outside after the color run was really cool.
I enjoy our grade level meetings more than you will ever know.  There are too many reasons to even explain.  And the reviews are mixed on me bringing fruit instead of donuts.

Monday, October 16th
BLT  4:15
Tuesday, October 17th
Homework Club  4:15
Wednesday, October 18th
MAPs staff meeting (LA, Math, and Special Education teachers only)  8:00 in the Little Theater
Culver's Night 4:00-8:00
Thursday, October 19th
Grade level meetings (Specials meeting at 1:30 in the art room)
Homework Club  4:15
7th and 8th grade invitation conferences  4:30
Friday, October 20th
5th grade interviews  1:00

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"I Got To" versus "I Get To" (from George Couros)
Less Work, Deeper Learning (from George Couros)
Our Perfectly Average Child (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from Pinterest)

(from ASCD K-12 Leadership Brief)

Thanks for all that you do every day for our kids that no one will ever know about.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, October 6, 2017

A Boosterthon week thank you!

It's not always easy to change what you're doing in your classrooms.  But this week you did just that.  Please know that I recognized the adjustments you made.  Showing videos, reminding students to log on, creating pledge-o-meters, and on and on.  The benefits of this one fundraiser will definitely offset the little bit of time you will lose in your classrooms.  Thank you for your flexibility and willingness to go with the flow this week and next week.

Great things I saw this week...
Staff stepping up to help out in a variety of ways, including covering for me when I was out all day on Monday and Thursday morning.
Students including students other than their friends in group work.
Students reading and writing independently, without redirection.
Students helping one another at Homework Club.
A 6th grade student sharing his story, and a song, with his Science class, and everyone celebrating with him.

Monday, October 9th
8:45-9:45  cover class

Tuesday, October 10th
4:15-5:15  Homework Club

Wednesday, October 11th
TILT and Math meetings
Picture retake day

Thursday, October 12th
Grade level meetings
1:30  5th/6th grade Color Run
2:45  7th/8th grade Color Run
4:15-5:15  Homework Club

Friday, October 13th
Hoping for a NO OFFICE DAY

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Inspiration in Front of Your Eyes (from George Couros)

If you'd like a good laugh, here's one from Gerry Brooks about his homemade teacher bags.

Anyone interested in giving this a try?  Just make this sign and post it outside of your classroom!
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Family smore for 10.6.17

Telling our story
I'm asking for your help.  I was out Monday all day and Thursday morning.  When I checked what was being shared about our school, there wasn't much there.  I know that we are busy but it only takes a moment or two to share something about your classroom.  If you don't have a Twitter account, you can still take pictures and send them to me and then I can post them.  I'd appreciate any assistance you can provide.  I want #mertonint and #MertonProud to be our story, not my story.  We have so many great things to share.  Thanks for your consideration.

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

The right thing to do

This quote, found in a post from AJ Juliani, is all we need to think about this weekend.
One veteran teacher who has led the move to personalized learning and authentic assessment said to me, "I keep thinking things might get easier. But, they never do. I guess I'm hoping for the wrong thing. Instead, things are getting better for our kids. They are having new experiences we could never have offered 5, 10, 15 years ago. It's not easy for us, but it's the right thing to do."
Here's the rest of his post, with a pretty awesome video, too.
What It's Like to Teach and Lead in 2017 (Hint: It's Exhausting)

Great things I saw this week...
Lots of reading
Great discussions among small groups of students in lots of content areas
Students being challenged in Math and Science with problem solving and vocabulary
Our grade level meetings have been a great combination of talking kids, discussing data, and laughing
MAP testing environments that allowed kids a greater opportunity for success
Gaga ball games have been going well (stop on out and watch if you are able)

Monday, October 2nd
I'm in Minneapolis recovering from the Twin Cities Marathon
Tuesday, October 3rd
8:00  Google Expedition training for all teaching staff
8:45  Boosterthon kick off assembly (Join me in the gym as soon as you are able!)
Adjusted schedule
4:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, October 4th
Boosterthon videos start today following the announcements (See link in team meeting agenda)
5th and 6th grade team meetings (Thanks for changing the meeting day!)
Thursday, October 5th
I'm in Madison for an AWSA meeting all morning
7th/8th grade team meeting
4:15  Homework Club
Friday, October 6th

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
11 Reasons Why Teaching Middle School is the Best Job Ever (from WeAreTeachers)

(from Pinterest)

Incremental Innovations #IMMOOC (from George Couros)

(from George Couros)

What to do when a student constantly refuses to work (from
#mertonint on Twitter
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Family smore for 9.29.17

I know that Thursday is my meeting day, but the meetings never seemed to end yesterday.  I'll be in classrooms all day today, except during lunch and recess.  Invite me in if you have something new that you're going to try or if you just want me to visit to be part of an activity.  I look forward to having an awesome NO OFFICE DAY today.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Hello, this is the Principal calling"

This post was co-written with Mark French, Principal at Gatewood Elementary School in Minnesota and Ryan Sheehy, Principal at Highlands Elementary School in California.

In the summer of 2015, I (Mark) was participating in a Twitter chat and was impressed when a teacher shared that she made a positive phone call home for one of her students every day. I thought, in my school I have 750 students and can certainly find one student a day deserving of a positive phone call home, thus #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay was born. That year (2015-2016) I created a spreadsheet and tracked my 130 different positive phone calls. Actually, I made more than 130 calls, I selected 130 different students that year. For some students I called both parents or other family members, whoever they wanted me to call. I also took a selfie with the student and shared the photo and reason for the call on social media. The following year (2016-2017) I continued my #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay making calls for 135 different students that year. I continued with the selfie and sharing on social media and I bought #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay wrist bands to give each student for them to remember and show others. This has turned out to be a powerful practice taking less than 15 minutes each day and using an easy technology tool, the telephone. Making my positive phone call home is the best part of my day.

During the 2016-2017 school year, I (Jay) had a goal similar to Mark’s- make one positive phone call home.  I failed miserably except for one beautiful Friday in April.  I had every teacher provide me with at least one student and made phone calls most of the day on that Friday.  It was one of the highlights of the year for me and, more importantly, it made our kids and their families feel good.  After a summer of learning and challenges by #principalsinaction, I renewed my goal of making a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay but with a little bit of a twist.  I meet with our grade level teams every Thursday and one of our agenda items is to provide me with a name of a student to receive a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay.  Those not on grade level teams have also provided me with names.  If there are any “extra” names, I encourage the teachers to make the calls themselves as it’s a great way to build positive relationships with families.  This week I added one more twist as I asked staff to nominate a colleague for a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay.  They did, I called the husband of the teacher, and the three of us had a really good cry.  The relationships fostered by sharing good news to a student or staff member’s family cannot be underestimated.

When I (Ryan) became a vice principal of a high school, I knew that I needed to do something to make sure that I wasn’t only calling home for discipline issues or problems. I needed to get parents and students to understand that we care about the positive things that are going on as well. Thinking back to the first call I made, the parents were shocked. I had chosen a student that had been in trouble before, but on this day made a great decision and helped out a student who was down on their luck. As soon as I caught him doing something good, I jumped at the opportunity to spread the joy. As I transitioned into becoming an elementary school principal, calling home for good things was a must. These phone calls have established positive relationships with parents and with students.

You can check out the Twitter hashtag #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay to see other educators making positive phone calls and smiling students. Make it a practice to share the positive and recognize the good things happening in your school. Remember, If you're not telling your school’s story, someone else will.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Are you in a rut or a groove?

We are in the midst of our third week of school.  Procedures should be in place, with a tweak here and there and a reminder from time to time.  When that happens you might find yourself in a groove or a rut.  Which describes where you are?  It is great to get into a groove as an educator, but doing the same thing over and over, even if it's good stuff, can get you into a rut.  And if you stay in the rut long enough, it might look a bit like the car above.  So how do you stay in a groove without it turning into a rut?  Here are some suggestions.
*Challenge yourself not to do the same thing every day.  For example, Kahoots are effective but not all of the time.  Have the kids develop review games sometimes instead.
*Don't talk to only the same staff or students every day.  Make a connection with someone new every week, or day, so that you get to know more of the great people in our school.
*Open your classrooms to others, and visit other's classrooms, too.  There are amazing things happening in our school every day.  Stop in a classroom and check it out.
*Connect with educators outside of school.  We don't know what we don't know.  Sidle up to someone at a conference.  Connect on a Twitter chat, or two.  Join a Voxer group.
Let's make it a "groove"-y year!

Great things I saw this week...
Students congratulating each other in the hallway after a soccer game in PE.
The work of two staff members, and a dad, to ensure that a student was taken care of.
Conversations among students about the books they're reading.
Grade level meetings that focused on kids, and what's best for kids.
The words on the walls above the lockers!
Conversations about the new learning lounge plans for the 7/8 floor.
The three family information nights- I really appreciate this extra effort by all of you!

Monday, September 25th
Kids Deserve It Monday- wear your Kids Deserve It shirt or Merton blue
Board meeting 7PM
Tuesday, September 26th
Homework Club 4:15PM
Wednesday, September 27th
Workout Wednesday
BLT 7:30AM
A-team meeting 1:15PM
Thursday, September 28th
Packers Day!
Grade level meetings
Homework Club 4:15PM
Friday, September 29th
I'll be out of my office all day!  Invite me to be a part of your class.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Questions of Compliance or Empowerment (from George Couros)

(from Jessica Johnson's Facebook post)

Small Change, Big Difference (from George Couros)

#mertonint on Twitter
#MertonProud on Twitter
Merton Intermediate Facebook page
Merton Intermediate Instagram page
Family smore for 9.22.17

Our work with kids is so important.  You do it daily with a smile and a caring attitude, for our kids and for each other.  In my discussions with you, getting to know you better in our individual meetings, I can just see that you are doing your best work.  I notice that.  Sometimes, even when we are doing our best work, we need to do something different to make our work even better.  Work together to make this happen.  Teams are made up of all sorts of people.  That's what makes teams so good.  If we were a basketball team and had 5 identical players, I promise we would not be very good.  The fact that we have a variety of players makes our team pretty phenomenal.  I hope you have a great day with our kids today and I hope that you have a wonderful weekend with family and friends.

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

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