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.

Participate
This is in no way meant to be an advertisement for www.participate.com/chats, 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 (https://www.overcomingobstacles.org/) 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.

Calendar
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!
Jay

Thursday, June 8, 2017

What is your impact?

A friend of mine from Twitter, and Voxer, and in person once, Todd Nesloney, elementary principal from Texas, was invited to do a TEDtalk recently.  Here is the link to his TEDtalk.  The video is 15 minutes long so maybe today's not the day to watch it.  But please bookmark it so that you can watch it soon.  It will make you think about your impact as an educator.  You make an impact every day, so why not make it be a positive impact?  I think about my impact every day and hope that I am making a positive impact.  If you've seen the movie "Saving Private Ryan", the scene at the end, in the cemetery, always gets me.  Here it is.  Lots of people make an impact in that movie, but Tom Hanks' character, Captain Miller, a teacher turned soldier, shows the care and compassion he has for his unit and for saving Private Ryan.  Whether you want to believe it or not, you are a Captain Miller for a lot of our students.  They may not let you know about the impact you have had, but trust in the fact that they are thankful about your efforts, and so am I.

Calendar
Week of June 12th
I am volunteering at the US Open golf tournament at Erin Hills on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday in the evening so would be able to meet if you would like.  I will be out on Friday all day celebrating my birthday and Father's Day with Jen and Lauren at the US Open.
Week of June 19th
I will be around all week, but not necessarily at school.  If you would like to meet, just let me know.
June 24th-July 3rd
Family vacation in Virginia Beach for national dance competition.  Wish me luck!

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
"Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside themselves was superior to circumstance."- Bruce Fairchild Barton, writer, advertising executive, and politician

5 Videos That Show How Technology Can Deepen Face-To-Face Relationships (from George Couros)

Adapt to, embrace, and create meaningful change (from George Couros)


Forget Guide on the Side...Students Need a Guide on the Ride (from AJ Juliani)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate on Facebook
Merton Intermediate on Instagram
Family smore for 6.8.17

When we started the school year, our first blog post ended with three words- Be the one!  It was inspired by Gene Wilder's character in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".  I watched you all this year find ways to "Be the one" for our kids and for each other.  Don't forget that you have a chance to make a difference every day, so why not make it a good difference.  If you need anything, don't hesitate to reach out.  I'm around most of the summer.  Take time for yourself and your family these next couple of weeks.  They deserve to have you back full time.
Be the one for them!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, June 2, 2017

Celebrations

Do me a favor.  Think about one thing that you can celebrate from school this year.  What would it be?  I've been thinking about this for quite some time.  And I  have to be honest- I'm having a difficult time thinking of just one that really stands out.  The goal chain after the assembly, the 5th grade camping trip, the 6th graders and their portfolios, especially when a student invites me in to be a part of it, the 7th graders sharing their memoirs, the 8th graders launching hot air balloons, the color run and getting slimed.  I've met with some of you to discuss your SLO and PPG, but not all of you.  When we do meet, make sure that you share something you'd like to celebrate about the school year.  You have all done so many things with and for our kids, I bet the tough part will be narrowing it down to just one.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Students finishing up MAP testing
  • Geometry students working together to learn the unit circle (I certainly wasn't helpful.)
  • All of you keeping the learning the focus of our days
  • Skits in Spanish with the kids only speaking Spanish
  • 7th graders building kites in Math
  • Robots in 5th grade
  • Mentor training for next year's 5th graders
  • Washington, DC boot camp for kids and parents (Thanks, Becky and Dave!)
  • Michael putting on "The Voice" competition with the help of some staff judges
  • Math Cafe in 5th grade
  • Student portfolio presentations in 6th grade
  • Documentaries in Language Arts
  • Skits, all done in Spanish, in Spanish class
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
They Taught Me (from Pernille Ripp)
"Because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."- Edward Everett Hale, writer and minister
And Yet We Grow (from Pernille Ripp)
"The real fountain of youth is hidden in the imagination you draw upon to face everyday challenges."- Sophia Loren, actress

Who Wants to Change? (from George Couros)
"You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do!"- Olin Miller, humorist

"When you believe, really believe, something can be done, your mind goes to work for you and helps you find the ways to do it."- David Schwartz, writer and professor
5 Things I Learned About Teaching from Being a Student (from AJ Juliani)
"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another."- Walter Elliott, clergyman

The image above reminded me that my #oneword for the year was "priorities".  How did you do with your #oneword?
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School on Facebook
Merton Intermediate School on Instagram
Family smore for 6.2.17

Meemic Scholastic Book Grant
If you're interested in a chance for more books for your classroom, here's a link to a grant from Meemic.

I couldn't believe it when I turned the calendars (yes, I have more than one) in my office to June yesterday.  Where did the year go?  I think about the connections we've made with one another and with our students.  I think about our learning and the learning of our students.  And I start thinking about next year and the steps we can take to make next year better for our kids and each other.  But we have plenty of time to think about that.  Let's concentrate on Celebration Day and have fun with the kids today.
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell


Friday, May 26, 2017

Keep going strong!

So, after school yesterday I realized our 8th graders only have three days of school left- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Friday is Celebration Day, the following Monday is the 8th grade Day Away and dance, and Tuesday is the Awards Assembly and graduation.  Wow!  I also realized that these next few days it is critical to do two things- keep the kids engaged in meaningful learning (because if you don't, behavior might become an issue) and be in the hallways before school, during passing time, and after school.  I'll be out and about all week, except for trying to finish up MAP tests on Tuesday, so if you need me, for anything, don't hesitate to ask me.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Partners working and learning together in Math, Social Studies, and Science.
  • Lots of reading and writing in Language Arts.
  • Students creating with foil and stitching (not together) in Art.
  • Kids learning to play tennis.
  • Kids excited to represent Merton in the Mega Math Meet.
  • 5th grade students, staff, and families enjoying Camp Minikani.
  • Building hot air balloons in Science.
  • 6th graders doing Genius Hour presentations.
  • Jackie working together with parents and students with a "never give up" attitude.
  • 6th graders sharing their portfolios with their families.
  • Kids helping each other learn in the hallways and in the final Homework Club.
  • 5th grade camp- kids and staff cheering each other on and working together to canoe, do the high ropes, and climb the rock wall.

Calendar
Monday, May 29th
  • Memorial Day- No School
Tuesday, May 30th
  • No office day!
Wednesday, May 31st
  • 8:00  IEP meeting
  • 1:30  PTO volunteer lunch
  • 1:30  A-team meeting
Thursday, June 1st
  • No office day!
Friday, June 2nd
  • Celebration Day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Be the One That Believes in Them... (from Ryan Sheehy)

"Life is what we make it--always has been, always will be."- Grandma Moses, folk artist
"Restlessness is discontent--and discontent is the first necessity of progress."- Thomas Edison, inventor
"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."- Willie Nelson, singer-songwriter


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us."- Marianne Williamson, writer and activist (This might be the quote for my 8th grade graduation message.  What do you think?)
"If you are insecure, guess what?  The rest of the world is too.  Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself.  You are better than you think."- Timothy Ferriss, entrepreneur and writer
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate on Facebook
Merton Intermediate on Instagram
Family smore for 5.25.17

Meemic Back to School grants
Want some money for back to school stuff for your classroom?  Use this link to apply.  It's simple and it's easy.  Good luck!

Have a great day today.  I'll be out and about today, gone for lunch from 11:30-12:30, possibly at home for a bit to have a new dishwasher and microwave installed, and checking out the garden, too.  If you'd like me to stop in, send me an email or text or tweet and I'll get there as soon as I can.
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, May 19, 2017

It's a beautiful life

Take a moment to listen to this song, "It's a Beautiful Life" by Ace of Base.
Part of the reason I wanted you to listen is because of the quote below by Frank Lloyd Wright- "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."  The other part is because of the beauty we should see in our lives every day.  I'm not talking about beautiful people, although that is a nice part of our lives.  I'm talking about beauty in a more figurative sense.  The beauty we have in the choices we are able to make, in school and out, that few others have the opportunity to make.  The beauty we have in living in a community that supports our schools and teachers.  The beauty we have working with colleagues who care about one another.  The beauty we have in teaching kids who want to learn and do there best.  Keep that in mind when one of those moments comes up during the next few weeks.  Someone somewhere else, maybe even someone sitting in your classroom, has it worse than you do.  I challenge you to find something beautiful before school begins again on Monday and share it with a family member, friend, or colleague.  And then ask them about something beautiful they found in their own life.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Staff continuing to provide activities that engage our kids.  I know I'll continue to see this next week, and the next week, and the next week.
  • Students playing tennis, a life long sport, even in the rain.
  • Students working really hard on their portfolios.
  • Excitement about the book fair.
  • Wonderful concerts last night.
  • Smiling faces at Culver's on Wednesday night.
  • Kids reading and writing, a lot.  And that's a good thing.
  • Kids really focused on MAP testing and giving their best.
  • Conversations about doing what's best for kids.  Keep the focus on the kids and we'll power through to the end of the year.


Calendar
Monday, May 22nd
  • 12:22-1:03  AHS AD visits 8th grade
  • 7:00  Board meeting
Tuesday, May 23rd
  • 5th graders at camp
  • 4:15-5:15  Final Homework Club
Wednesday, May 24th
  • 5th graders at camp
  • 4:30  retirement party
Thursday, May 25th
  • 5th graders at camp
  • Jeans for Troops ($5 to our veterans if you wear jeans)
Friday, May 26th
  • Professional Development Day

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Managing drama (by Mark French)

"I've always tried to go a step past wherever people expected me to end up.  I'm not about to change now."- Beverly Sills, opera singer


"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."- Andre Gide, writer

(from SmartBrief)

"You can have the nine greatest individual ballplayers in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."- Babe Ruth, baseball player


"You can't use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have."- Maya Angelou, writer and civil rights activist



Co-teaching Twitter chat
If you have an interest, or even if you're a little intrigued, there is a Twitter chat this Sunday about co-teaching.  If you haven't participated in a Twitter chat before, don't be scared.  You don't have to add anything at all.  You can just read what others are posting.  If you want some advice on participation in this chat, or any chat, just ask me.  I'm happy to help!

Don't forget to sign up for a 10-15 minute meeting about your SLO/PPG.  These meetings are some of my favorites as we discuss the success of your students.  When we meet, make sure that you are ready to share one thing you are proud of from this year and one thing you would like to try next year.  That's all for now.
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell


Friday, May 12, 2017

Staff appreciation week- It was amazing!

I don't know about you, but I was blown away by the show of support from our PTO and families this week.  Every day was just one more reminder about how our families feel about us as educators.  You should also know this.  Although there is one week designated as Staff or Teacher Appreciation Week, we are fortunate to live in a community where we are appreciated nearly every day.  Think about the emails you get, or the phone calls you receive, or the conversations you have.  The support of our families is evident in each of them.  You might have to look or listen closely, but it's there.  Keep the focus on our kids over this last month.  They are the reason we are here.  You are the reason they are here.  If I don't say it enough, I apologize, but it is a pleasure to work with and for you each and every day.  Happy Staff Appreciation Week!

Calendar
Monday, May 15th
  • 7:30  IEP meeting
  • 4:15  Final BLT meeting
Tuesday, May 16th
  • 4:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, May 17th
  • 8:00  All staff meeting
  • 1:30  A-team meeting
  • 4:00  Final Sphero Club meeting
  • 4:00-8:00  Culver's Night
Thursday, May 18th
  • Grade level/specials meetings
  • 4:15  Homework Club
  • 5:30  Spring Concerts
Friday, May 19th
  • 1:00  4th grade transition
  • 3:00  5th grade HG&D
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Fly me to the Moon (from Jeff Zoul)


The Full Story (from Pernille Ripp)


In the Small Details (from Pernille Ripp)


Get Excited to Teach (from We Are Teachers)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School on Facebook
Merton Intermediate School on Instagram
Family smore for 5.12.17

If you don't read anything else, please read this
While on Twitter or Facebook last night, watching NHL hockey, I came across this letter that I just had to share.  Please read it, carefully, and keep it in mind when we have discussions with each other and with families about students in our classrooms and schools.  It is a powerful message.
Letter to a parent

One final thought
I've been reading a lot of blogs over the past week and in one of them, or maybe in a combination of them, I remember reading something like this-

We don't have bad days.  We don't have bad mornings, or afternoons, or evenings.  We have bad moments.  And what we do after a bad moment determines how it will impact the rest of our day.

I don't know why this is important to me this week.  Maybe it will be important to me next week, or later today, or next year.  But it was important for me to share with you all today.  Maybe it's important to you today.  This video, shared by my mentee in Idaho with her staff, brings some of these thoughts to light.

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

P.S.- Don't forget to be at the flagpole by 8:35 this morning and I hope to see you at the get together after school.


Friday, May 5, 2017

It's May!

What an exciting week!  It was Spirit Week and so many students, and staff, dressed up.  I was able to get some pictures that you can check out on social media or in our family smore.  Having a chance to be a bit silly with the kids and each other further helps to build relationships.  As someone once said, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  As the weeks wind down, the emotions of our kids, and our own emotions, will be as predictable as the weather.  Take a deep breath, contemplate your response or lack of response, and realize that we are dealing with middle school kids.  The best thing about middle school kids is that they are middle school kids.  Whether they admit it or not, they do want to learn.  Keep providing engaging activities, keep showing them you care, and they will surprise you with their effort, creativity, and work ethic.

Great things I saw this week...

  • Dissections in Science (starfish and frogs)!
  • Kids rollerskating, playing rugby and playing golf.
  • Tweets from many staff about the things going on in your classrooms and on the NJHS camp experience.
  • The flexibility of staff for all of the activities that happen in May.  These activities help us develop more well-rounded kids.  Thank you for understanding the importance of that.
  • The incredible work our IAs do with all of our kids.  It doesn't go unnoticed.
  • IEP meetings- Wow for all of you!
  • Grade level meeting discussions about kids and what's best for kids.
  • The stuff our PTO does for our students and us is amazing.
  • Spirit Week was amazing thanks to Student Senate.
  • All of the students and adults working hard to be ready for Grandparents' Day.

Calendar
Staff Appreciation Week (Always the first full week in May)
Monday, May 8th
  • Coffee and doughnut breakfast from the PTO
Tuesday, May 9th
  • Garden gift from the PTO
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, May 10th
  • Soup, salad, and potato lunch buffet from the PTO
  • 8:00-8:30  Staff meeting
  • 3:40-4:00  All school assembly
    • Adjusted schedule for 7th/8th.
    • We always impact our morning classes, so we're going to impact afternoon classes this time.
    • All staff will attend with their classes.
  • 4:15-5:15  Insurance meeting
Thursday, May 11th
  • Treat day from the PTO
  • 8:00-8:30  IA meeting
  • Grade level/Specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, May 12th
  • Gift presentation from the PTO
    • Please be at the flag pole by 8:35.  You won't want to miss it!
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
The Fence (from Jon Harper)


3 Misconceptions About Innovation in Education (from George Couros)


5 Reasons to Ban Fidget Spinners from Every Classroom in America (Shared with me by a staff member, and it's not what you think.  Please read it!)


On the Reality of Trying to Create More Readers (from Pernille Ripp)


@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate on Facebook
Merton Intermediate on Instagram
Family smore for 5.5.17

As a reminder...

  • Please make sure to be a presence in our hallways during passing times and before and after school.
  • Check your grade level meeting agenda for notes and important dates.
  • Kids will live up to your expectations so keep those expectations high.
  • Find something nice to say about each student at least once a week.  It will help them know that you really care, and I know you really do care.
What are you proud of?
We all have something we are proud of.  I'm proud of our work in school, I'm proud of our kids, and I'm proud of you.  First and foremost, I'm proud of my daughter and my wife.  They have to put up with me every day, and I'm not the easiest person to get along with on a daily basis.  They know that there are times when school must come first, and I hope they know that sometimes I'm able to change something on my schedule to make sure that family comes first.  You've heard me say "Family first" how many times?  Sometimes Lauren and Jen need to remind me of that, too.  This weekend is a weekend for family.  It's Lauren's final recital, and I get to dance with her in the father/daughter dance tonight and tomorrow.  I'm sure a video will pop up somewhere, but I had to share this video of Lauren and some of her friends dancing to "Space Between".  You can even vote for it, if you'd like.  Enjoy!

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



Friday, April 28, 2017

It's about the learners

Saturday morning I was reading a post by George Couros called Focus on the "Learner" and it got me to thinking about the choices we make for our students every day.  We decide when classes start and stop, the learning activities during those classes, and when and if they can leave the classroom.  As we approach the month of May, please continue to be deliberate about the choices we make for our students.  Provide more opportunity for choices for our students, too.  Let's do what George mentions- focus on the learner and not just on the learning.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Robots in 5th grade.
  • Kids reading and writing, in LA classes and outside of LA classes.
  • Passion projects in 6th grade.
  • Kids excited for the play.
  • The nervous energy and excitement of Jackie and Michael getting ready for the play.
  • Roller skating, rugby, and golf in PE.
  • Kids learning together in Geometry.
  • The kids in the play, and Michael and Jackie and Carey's son, Ben.
  • 5th grade at BizTown.  Check out this animoto of the day.
  • Field trip in the hallways by 6th graders to develop ideas for fantasy writing.
  • Miniature golf design in PE due to the inclement weather.
  • Listening to a student and parent speak German during Homework Club.
  • The flexibility of the staff providing opportunities for learning in different environments.
Calendar
Monday, May 1st
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Mayhem Monday (wear wacky attire)
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
Tuesday, May 2nd
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Pajama Day
  • Power Day
    • 8:00  IEP
    • 9:45  IEP
    • 3:15  IEP
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, May 3rd
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • College Gear Day
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 1:30  A-team meeting
Thursday, May 4th
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Fandom Day (May the 4th be with you)
  • Grade level/specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30  Literacy meeting
Friday, May 5th
  • Student Senate spirit week
    • Squad Day (Twin Day)
  • Grandparents'/ Special Person's Day
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
Saturday, May 6th
  • Volleyball tournament at Arrowhead
Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Why Spirit Week Matters to Middle Schoolers (from MiddleWeb, a daily newsletter I subscribe to for inspiration.  Please think about this during Spirit Week next week)



Because of 4AM (from Brett Hagler)


#PIAchat from Monday (Check out what my colleagues are all about.  We'll be presenting at the National Principals' Conference in July.)

Your Guide to Running a School Like Disney World (from Lynn Colon, one of my #principalsinaction friends. I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Mustang Medal Challenge
Let's try to write at least one Mustang Medal by lunch time today.  I'd love to send out a picture on Twitter showing examples of the great things our kids do for each other and you every day.  Check your mailbox for a few to fill out.  I'll be making phone calls and sending these home early next week.  C'mon!  Help me make phone calls all day on Monday!
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thank yous!

Many of you may have noticed the condition of our school when you arrived on Tuesday.  I sure did.  It looked just like the first day of school.  Jim Hannon and Ruby Jankowski did a phenomenal job making our school look almost brand new again.  I mentioned this to the students on Wednesday morning and I'm hopeful that with my reminder, and your reminders, that our school will look this good all the way through June.  Thanks, Jim and Ruby!

The kids got right back to learning.  Did you notice?  The expectations and procedures that you have put in place are ingrained in the students.  I was a smiling principal as I took my colleague and friend, Jeff See, around the school on Tuesday.  He was impressed by you and our kids.  So was I.  Thanks to all of you!

The Forward Exam might be completely done for the year by the end of the day today.  Thank you for your flexibility and for reminding the students to give a complete effort.  The students did a great job.  You should be proud of them.  Thanks for all that you did to get them prepared.

The discussions we had at grade level meetings about our kids, even the tough discussions, just prove to me how much you care about and love our kids.  The conversations we have about them with no one else around are even more special.  Thanks for always keeping the kids first!

Calendar
Monday, April 24th

  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:15-5:15  BLT meeting
  • 7:00  School Board meeting
Tuesday, April 25th
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30  volleyball games at Stone Bank
Wednesday, April 26th
  • 1:30  Parent meeting
  • 4:00-5:00  Sphero Club
Thursday, April 27th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • No grade level or specials meeting, unless you need to meet with me
  • 10:15-11:45  6th, 7th, and 8th graders visit Primary School for play
    • 7th/8th grade schedule
      • 1/2 block- normal
      • 3/4 block- during 5th hour (No specials or study halls)
      • 6/7/8/9 blocks- normal
  • 2:20-3:50  3rd, 4th, and 5th graders visit Primary School for play
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, April 28th
  • 7:00PM  Play at Primary School
Saturday, April 29th
  • 2:00PM  Play at Primary School
  • 7:00PM  Play at Primary School
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
People are Always Your Best Resource (from George Couros)


Hugging a Porcupine (from Rob Miller- This is a must read!)



So, I watched the Bucks game Thursday night (#FeartheDeer) and they were awesome.  They looked so much better tonight than they did on Tuesday.  I thought about what the differences were in just two days.  They played at home (a familiar location).  They made adjustments (what they did Tuesday wasn't good enough).  Everyone stepped up their game (the effort was there for 48 minutes).  Some players who didn't play much on Tuesday had a chance on Thursday (they changed things up).  On defense, they made great rotations (they covered for one another).  They communicated when things went well and, more importantly, when things didn't go well).  They reminded me of you in your classrooms every day.  You make the learning space familiar to the kids, you make adjustments, you give a complete effort, you take risks and change things up, and you step up for each other.  The Bucks have #FearTheDeer.  We are #mertonint!
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Monday, April 17, 2017

Did your learning stop?

I started this blog post on Monday while sitting in a hotel lobby in Minnesota after a run along the Mississippi River.  Lauren, Jen, and I were visiting the University of Minnesota on our 5 school college tour over Spring Break.  I read some posts on Twitter, read an article or two from blogs I subscribe to, and then came across this blog on Twitter from Todd Schmidt, "Let Them Experience the Rain."  I thought about how many times I have stopped students from doing what they're doing, not realizing the learning that was going on.  It might not have been what I wanted them to learn, but it was definitely what they wanted to learn.  Then I thought a little more.  What if we did this more often- provide a learning target, share it with the kids, and then get out of their way and let them discover and learn on their own?  Imagine the variety of ways the kids could learn, some that we probably haven't even thought about before.  We would also benefit from learning right along with them.  Anyone willing to give it a try?

Calendar
Tuesday, April 18th
  • Welcome back!
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, April 19th
  • RtI/PLN Wednesday
    • 8:00-8:15  staff meeting in the gym
    • 8:45-9:15  student assembly (No need for staff to attend.)
  • Forward Exam makeups starting at 9:30 in the STEM lab
  • 1:30-3:00  A-team meeting
  • 4:30  volleyball games at Kettle Moraine
Thursday, April 20th
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • grade level and specials meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, April 21st
  • 6:30  Choral concert at Nature Hill in Oconomowoc


Tweets, quotes, and blogs
The Game of School vs. The Game of Life (from AJ Juliani- Please take the time to watch the 8 minute video.  It's quite thought-provoking.)


To the Very Last Day (from Pernille Ripp)
Output or Compliance (from George Couros)

What Could Go Right? (from George Couros)
A Strong Line of Fighters (from Jenny Fischer, Merton alum, shared with us by Sarah Kasprowicz, but I needed to share it again.)

EdCampMKE
On Saturday, May 13th, EdCampMKE is coming to South Milwaukee High School.  See this link if you are interested.  EdCamps are great ways to learn and connect with educators, and they're free!

I hope that you all had a chance to enjoy your family and friends over Spring Break.  I sure did.  Jen, Lauren, and I visited UW-Oshkosh, the University of Minnesota, UW-Eau Claire, Carroll University, and the University of Wisconsin.  Jen and I both talked about how much college has changed since we were in school.  All of our travels to colleges made me realize that I am celebrating my 30th college reunion and 35th high school reunion this year.  It's crazy what you think about when you're driving around Wisconsin.  I tell you about our travels for two reasons.  The first is to remember never to take your family for granted.  Make time for your family as often as you can because things change so quickly.  The second is because of what I witnessed, and heard, from some of the university students who were our guides.  They spoke about the opportunities they have, their professors, their classes, and their university.  They spoke about the pride they have in their school and in their courses.  Let's make these last weeks of the 2016-2017 school year prideful ones for our students and for each other.  Let's find ways to celebrate the great things we offer our kids every day in our classrooms and in our school.  The kids deserve it, and so do you!
See you soon, and be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell




Friday, April 7, 2017

R-E-L-A-X


We've made it.  Spring Break is upon us.  Your efforts, and the efforts of our kids, has been fantastic.  Now it's time to relax.  But when you relax, it doesn't mean that you stop learning.  Find a good book.  Check out Twitter.  Over Spring Break, Jen, Lauren, and I will be checking out 5 different colleges.  Jen and I have a lot to learn about when it comes to helping Lauren select the right college for her.  Between visits, we'll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy one another's company.  I have a book or two I want to read, and I know that I'll be checking out Twitter from time to time.  But the most important part of the next week will be having a chance to relax.  I'll be refreshed and ready to get things going again on April 18th.  I'm sure that you will, too.

Great things I saw, and heard, this week...
  • Snap circuits in Science
  • 7th and 8th graders writing poems
  • Students teaching their classmates in math
  • The focus of our students completing Forward Exam makeups.  Their positive attitude continues!
  • Students working together with partners or in groups, even when they weren't with their best friends.
  • The way you continue to engage students right up until Spring Break.  Keep them learning and they'll keep on behaving.
  • Writing and researching and collaborating in Language Arts and Math
  • A phone message from Jim thanking the volleyball teams for all of their help this week in setting up the gym
  • Our custodians setting up the gym for the NJHS induction ceremony
  • Floor hockey in PE
  • The flexibility of our staff with changing schedules and Forward Exam makeups
  • Conversations at the copy machine in the morning
  • Discussions about the voting age in Social Studies
  • The kids at the NJHS induction ceremony.  You have done amazing things with all of our kids and these students are examples of that.  Here's the video that was shown during the ceremony.
Calendar
Friday, April 7
  • I'm out all day.  College visit with Lauren and Jen.
Saturday, April 8- Monday, April 17
  • Spring Break (Have fun, learn a little, relax a lot)
Tuesday, April 18
  • Severe weather week (Tornado drill one day this week, depending upon weather.)
  • 7:15-8:30  volleyball practice
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, April 19
  • RtI/PLC Wednesday 8:00-9:15
    • Staff meeting at 8:00 sharp
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Preparing Kids for Jobs that Exist Now (from George Couros)


Empty Kids into the Gift Shop (from Dave Burgess)

(from @matthew_arend on Twitter)

What We Ask of Our Students and What We Do (from George Couros)

(from Pinterest)

On Parent Assumptions and Fear of Change (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

Innovate Together (from George Couros- There's a terrific poem in this blog.)



Back to School grants
I know we just got to Spring Break, but here's an opportunity through Meemic Insurance for back to school grants.  It's an easy process and takes little time to complete.  Here is the link if you are interested.

Practice what you preach
Today is one of those days when I'm practicing what I preach.  I'm putting family first.  Lauren, Jen, and I are visiting UW-Oshkosh, our second college visit.  Ron is in the district and can help with any big issues that arise.  If you want to have some fun on the last day, it would be awesome if you stopped down during lunch or recess to hang out with the kids.  Many of them are taking family trips while others will be staying around Merton.  They might not admit it, but they will miss us.  Having some fun at recess or just sitting with them and enjoying lunch would mean more to them than you can imagine.
Be the one!
Jay
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell