Friday, January 27, 2017

Connecting to "real life"

Jen shared this with me earlier this week and I just had to share it with you.
Who says we can't make real life examples for the math we're learning?  Or the Science we're learning?  Or the (fill in the blank) that we're learning?  I see the kids learning every day and the way that you connect their learning to the real world.  Continue to make those connections.  One of these days you'll look back and be able to say, "I remember when "Johnny" was in my class.  I knew that he would be a famous computer programmer. Or a famous inventor.  Or a famous (fill in the blank)."  Let's remember to keep it real with the kids.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Review of rules and expectations as we began the second semester.  Some of the presentations for the kids were worthy of an Academy Award (Ask Dave!).
  • Getting outside to play at recess and kids creating new games to avoid the water and mud.
  • I finished almost all MAP testing on Tuesday and the kids thanked me for my time.  Wow!
  • Listening to students share about their learning- read aloud jots, writing, Science observations, equations, and new books.
  • Bring a friend to choir day and our first day of guitar lessons.
  • The incredible effort of our 7th graders on their writing, using text evidence to boot, during LA while I visited Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Being able to share some good news with two families- their kids found money (not just a dollar bill, by the way) and turned it in to the office, one in November and one on Wednesday.
  • Matt sharing PE, and Merton, with educators in Winnipeg, Canada on Thursday and Friday.
  • Our conversations about kids, and keeping them first, is always inspiring.  No matter the circumstances, you always keep kids first.
*Don't forget to schedule your midyear SLO/PPG meeting.  I need to meet with you all regardless of if you are "on cycle" or not.

Monday, January 30th
  • Coaching 7:30-8:15
  • Game at Richmond 5:30PM
  • Board meeting 7:00PM
Tuesday, January 31st
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, February 1st
  • Power Day
  • Game vs. Lake Country 5:30PM
Thursday, February 2nd
  • Tu-Tu Day!
  • Grade level and specials meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, February 3rd
  • No Office Day (I'll be shadowing one student in the morning and one in the afernoon.  I can't wait!)
*Did you find a date and time to meet for your mid-year SLO/PPG?

Tweets, quotes, and blogs
8 Things to Look for in Today's Classrooms (from George Couros)
After a discussion about MAP scores with more than one person, I thought this post from Pernille Ripp was an important viewpoint to share.  I'd love to discuss this at our next team meeting.

@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
SIP meeting notes from 1.25.17
Family smore from 1.27.17

Boss Complex
I get a daily email from Sam Parker and the blog (linked in the heading) caught me square in the eye.  Not just the word boss, but this section of the post...

"We push things. Fail. Succeed. We become confident ... then maybe a little too confident. We start to know a lot ... maybe everything ... becoming less approachable ... less inviting... creating situations where people are afraid to tell us the truth. Feedback slows (or stops). Our self-awareness slips. Bad habits settle in. We drain others and get in the way of good things happening. We become dangerous.
And it can happen to anyone ... leader or not."- from Sam Parker
Doesn't that just get you?  It's January, well past halftime, and sometimes we get complacent.  Something worked all year long, the kids are learning, the kids are behaving.  Why would I want to make any changes?  But if we don't make changes, our complacency could lead to a stagnant learning environment for our kids and ourselves.  February is next week, and there will be an opportunity for you to jump start your teaching and the engagement of our kids.  I won't give you specifics here, but know that we're having a "coopetition" for the month of February that will help us learn some new things, cooperate with one another, and have some friendly competition.  Thus the term "coopetition"- cooperation mixed with competition. It will be fun!

Thanks for taking the time to read this every week.  I hope that you can gain a thing or two every time you read it.  If not, I'm open to any suggestions to help this be more valuable for you.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's half time

I started writing this week's nuts and bolts following the Packers exciting victory over the Cowboys.  I thought of all of the changes that were made at half time of that game for both teams.  It was a one score lead for the Packers, but the Cowboys made some changes that made the game so close that it was tied, twice.  The Packers made their changes, too, and because of the great play of the entire team, the Packers were victorious.  Now we have the same opportunity as the Cowboys and Packers did on Sunday.  We have successes to celebrate, adjustments to make, and expectations to review and reinforce.  You used the time we had yesterday, and I know you will use the time this morning, to get together and have discussions that will lead us to a strong second half.  There will be ups and downs along the way, just like there were in the first half of the year, but I know that we have the teammates to make a great run, an incredible pass and catch, or a last second field goal.  Whatever we do, I know we do it because it's what is best for our kids and each other.  Go Mustangs Go!

Great things I saw this weeks...
  • I received an email early Monday morning from Stone Bank.  Two boys were making fun of a student from another school at last Friday's dance.  One student was punched in the head.  This is what was in the email.  "Jay- two 7th graders were among the boys sticking up for XXXXX.  They were great kids!  One was the recipient of the punch, but he did not retaliate.  I was impressed with their behavior."  You have done a great job helping to raise our students up right.
  • Posters on the walls, emails sent to staff, and cookies in the lounge from our 8th grade health students who are spreading kindness.  And one more example is the terrific website with inspiration for each month of the school year. Merton Inspiration
  • Staff meeting to discuss what's best for two of our new students.  The genuine care you all show was exemplified in this meeting.
  • Staff either picking students up at their home to bring them to school or taking them home when they don't have a ride.  It's those "other duties as assigned" that really show our families how much we care about our kids.
  • Kids celebrating one another during Sphero Club.  Check it out here!
  • Celebrations for our kids, and staff, on Thursday because of their behavior and the expectations you set forth every day.
  • Two of our 7th graders helping the Primary School students celebrate their Mustang Corral being filled.
Monday, January 23rd
  • practice 7:00-8;15
  • I've got nothing on my calendar, so I'll be in classrooms all day long, unless I have to do MAP makeup tests.
Tuesday, January 24th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, January 25th
  • A-team meeting 1:30-3:00?
  • game at Stone Bank 5:30
Thursday, January 26th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • grade level and specials meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, January 27th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • I've got nothing on my calendar, so I'll be in classrooms all day long, unless I have to do MAP makeup tests.
***Don't forget that you need to set up a mid-year review meeting with me beginning the week of January 30th.  If you'd like to meet earlier, that's fine with me.  The final day for these mid-year meetings will be Tuesday, February 7th.  If you can't find a time to meet with me on my calendar, please email me times that work for you and I will see if I can adjust my schedule (i.e.- lunch/recess duty, Homework Club).  Please don't forget to complete the mid-year forms that are in Google Classroom.

Tweets, quotes, and blogs

5 tenets of choice (from Pernille Ripp)
Why Did He Leave the Room (from Jon Harper)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
mertonint on Instagram
Family smore from 1.20.17

Thank you for a great first half of the school year.  You do so much for our students, and each other, that goes unnoticed by many outside of our family.  I have a deep respect for each of you and the efforts, creativity, and perseverance you show each and every day.  Enjoy this afternoon and the rest of the weekend, cheer on the Packers this Sunday, and come to school Monday ready to kick off the second half with a positive attitude, continued care and concern for our kids, and an effort that will make you proud.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, January 13, 2017

Our goal is public. Now what do we do?

Our school goal is out there, maybe not with the specifics, but it's out there.  We want to improve our scores on the MAPs Reading test.  Everyone has a part in this.  If you look at our goal chain, you'll see the names of students and staff, regardless of grade or job title.  You all completed your own chain link with your reading goal.  Do you remember what it is?  I remember mine- to write a book.  Now that the goal is out there, I'm sure you'll hold me accountable.  We will revisit our goals with the kids again in February to see how we are doing.  I'll be sharing mine, too.  Here's a photo of our commons after your assistance.
But now the real work begins.  What are you doing to keep our school goal at the forefront with our kids?  Do you model reading, aloud or silently, when the chance presents itself?  Do you sit down and confer with a student about what they're reading, maybe even with an occasional visit to study hall?  Do you encourage reading when students have finished their class work, even if it's for only 5 or 10 minutes?  I am excited to see the results we get from this round of MAP testing.  If our kids make gains, we'll celebrate.  If they don't, we'll need to look more closely at our instructional practices and classroom expectations.  We can do this!

Great things I saw this week...
  • The positive messages that our 7th and 8th grade health students (that's every student in 7th and 8th grade) to highlight kindness and goodness in our school.
  • Students sharing their writing with one another.
  • Collaboration between our 6th graders for their Mars Medical projects.
  • Have you seen the cool things being printed on our 3D printers?  If not, take a walk to the library and take a look!
  • MAP testing efforts by our students due to the environment and expecttions you all provide.
  • Staff stepping up for one another to cover a class or recess (Thanks, Janine!).
  • Students helping one another during Homework Club.
  • Wednesday at lunch, an 8th grader, upon seeing our goal chain said, "Oh.  Now I get it!"  Let's not forget the power of a symbol for our kids.
  • Your willingness to take another risk with something new- Google Team Drive.
  • Two new students joined us this week and bot were welcomed by our students with open arms.  One joined us from a neighboring school and one joined us from Germany (the country) with limited English.  Watching the kids accept our two new students was awesome!
  • My favorite thing I didn't see until Thursday afternoon upon returning to my office following Homework Club.  There was a new link from a 6th grader because after he was F&P tested, he wanted to adjust his goal because it wasn't high enough.  We should all follow his lead.
Monday, January 16th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • BLT  4:15-5:15
Tuesday, January 17th
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
  • game at North Shore at 6:30
Wednesday, January 18th
  • practice 7:00-8:15
  • cover class  2:30-4:00
Thursday, January 19th
  • practice 7:00-8:15?
  • parent meeting 8:00-8:30
  • students dismissed at noon
  • AV Rover at 2:00
Friday, January 20th
  • Half day here
Tweets, quotes, and blogs

Small Victories (from Pernille Ripp)

Call me Coach (co-writtenn by Dennis Schug, principal from New York, and me)

Next week ends the first semester, the half way point of our school calendar.  Please do me one favor.  On Thursday or Friday next week, sit with one colleague and talk about your greatest moment of the year here at school.  Maybe it's a grade level group, or not.  Maybe it's a content group, or not.  Maybe it's someone you know really well, or not.  Maybe it's me, or not.  Regardless, find someone to share that greatest moment with.  Next week I'll share mine.  We all have at least one thing to celebrate and it's more fun to celebrate with someone else.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Monday, January 9, 2017

Call me Coach

Dennis Schug, principal of Hampton Bays Middle School in New York and Jay Posick, principal of Merton Intermediate School in Wisconsin receive daily inspiration from our #middleleaders Twitter and Voxer groups.  They encouraged us to write about our experiences with coaching while still being a principal so here are our thoughts.  The following piece was written in collaboration by two principal-coaches- Jay and Dennis.  We dedicate this to our #middleleaders Twitter group and Impatient Optimists Voxer group.

On a personal note, Dennis has been a life saver, confidant, and coach to me as I continue my adventure as a middle school principal and coach.  Thank you, Dennis.

How did each of us come to be coaches?

Jay:  I was a high school and college athlete and always a student of whatever game I was participating in at the time.  I had great coaches who always took the time for me.  There were coaching openings for volleyball at my former high school and I was selected as an assistant coach.  That was the start.  I wound up coaching high school volleyball, basketball, soccer, and track and field.  When I hung up my high school coaching whistle I started coaching at the middle school where I taught.  I added cross country and wrestling, two sports I had never participated in, to my coaching resume.  In recent years, I have had the privilege of coaching 8th grade boys and girls basketball.  Coaching is something I consider a privilege.

Dennis: Waiting on line to sign my daughter up for basketball, parents were told, regrettably, that the league was a coach short of running an eighth team. Kids would be waitlisted and likely turned away without one more parent volunteer willing to coach. When I arrived at the registration table, I mentioned my willingness to help out in any way necessary. By the time I returned home from sign-ups, a voicemail message awaited me: “Dennis, we’d like for you to coach a team for us.” As a former teacher, I was game. This decision, not exactly made by me, turned out to be one of the best things that could’ve happened. I was a new Principal. And I was a new basketball coach. It didn’t take long before I realized, this was not something I HAD to do. Coaching kids was something I GOT to do.


Why is coaching important to us?

Jay: As a principal, I don’t often have the opportunity to be a teacher in the classroom.  When I’m a coach, the gym is my classroom.  I can teach the basketball fundamentals and I can teach the joy and love of the game, too.  The practices are the daily lessons I’m able to teach and the games are the assessments.  But the score isn’t as important to me as it used to be when I was coaching in high school.  Don’t get me wrong- winning is important.  But what’s more important is seeing the progress of the individuals and the team.


Dennis: One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher has been seeing a kid succeed, beyond his or her wildest dreams. I am proud to say that on occasions, I’ve been a member of a teaching team that’s created conditions for kids to love learning. I’m also privileged to have been afforded opportunities to teach students how to read. In the classroom, I felt surrounded by these moments, surging pockets of success that I could witness exploding at different times for different students. As a Principal, one of my greatest misgivings about leaving the classroom was the concern that I’d no longer be there to see, first-hand, when a student exceeded his or her own expectations of what’s possible. Coaching basketball would change all of that for me.

What lessons have we each learned through the Principal/Coach experience?

Jay:  There are a few lessons I have learned being a principal and coach.
  • It’s an honor to be the kids’ principal and coach.
    • It’s nice to be called Mr. Posick, but it’s even better to be called coach.  I don’t even think twice when the need arises for me to be a coach.  It’s a privilege to coach these young men and women.
  • It’s about the journey, not the destination.
    • It’s awesome watching the players progress and improve.  Ultimately we would go undefeated and win the year end tournament.  But we’re not the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, we’re the 2017 Merton Mustangs and we will strive to get better every day in every way.  If that means we win all of our games, great.  But if not, we’ll sure get better every day.
  • It’s about making sure the kids are better people than they are basketball players.
    • We must all show good sportsmanship, teamwork, and effort, and not just on the court.  It makes me feel great when our players and team are recognized for being good sports, working together, and giving it our all.
  • You make an impact on the players so make sure it’s a good one.
    • The players are always watching and listening.  How I behave as a coach toward our players, our competition, and our officials has a lasting impact.  I do my best to stay positive, even when things aren’t going our way, and hope that this positivity can turn the tide in the game.


Dennis: Being a coach and principal present numerous lessons that have nourished each role.

  • Both sports and learning are about having fun and finding joy in personal fulfillment.   
    • When we answer the call to serve children, we commit ourselves to this fundamental value. Designing conditions that promote meaningful and joyful individual success serves a basic need that resonates long after our time together in a classroom, a school, or on a field or court. The impact of such an experience, done right, is mutually beneficial, for both adult and child.
  • Athletics, like learning, is about making progress.
    • Each of us begins at our own starting point and moves forward at our own pace. We focus on our goals, we analyze our technique, we practice, and we improve. And together, we celebrate our successes. Today I view “success” much differently than when I first started (winning doesn’t always necessarily equal success). Who taught me this? It was the young ball player who began, unable to reach the basket, who within a season, was making layups. That’s winning.
  • Athletics provide us with opportunity to model integrity.
    • As a coach, there have been games we’ve won and games we’ve lost. But the outcome - the score - has never mattered. What matters most is each player being able to ask and answer honestly, the questions: Was a good teammate? Was I a good sport? Did I do my personal best? Modeling these qualities for our players has reminded me when I’ve needed it, that each player on our team depends on me to uphold the honor of being in a position to positively impact kids.
  • Being a coach gives us practice...with balance.
    • Anyone who is a school leader knows, being an educator can be challenging. Our time, our energy, and our focus is required both on and off “the job”. But sometimes, when we can easily log a 12-hour workday, it’s also important to make the time to step back to recharge our own batteries. Only then can we restore perspective so we’re our best when we’re back in the role as Principal.
Being a coach and an educator provides so many valuable life lessons...for us, as Principals.


Three Lessons Learned as a Basketball Coach:
  1. Kids: Each player reminded me he or she came to every practice and every game with a story. Players arrived excited, confident, and in some cases, nervous and even on occasion, reluctant. Some had played organized sports, while others were new to the experience. Each player had a personal story and an expectation for what being a member of our team would bring to their lives. Before we could practice skills, it was always important to build a team culture that embraced meeting each player where he/she is and designing an experience that promotes personal success.    
  2. Families: Parents are busy people. Parents also, no matter what, have it in their hearts that they want what’s best for their kids. So when a mom or a dad (or another primary caretaker) reaches out, by phone, email, or in person, there’s an obligation to listen closely and to demonstrate that we both share a common goal centering on their child’s best interests, and that we will work together to maximize this mutual commitment. And when we are together, whether sitting courtside on one side of the gym or the other, when we cheer and we celebrate, we are doing it TOGETHER.
  3. Teamwork: “Knicks on three! Knicks on three! One. Two. Three. KNICKS!” This was the chant that we’d engage one another in before and after each game and practice. It reminded us that, as a team, we relied on one another to bring out the best in each other and to support one another as teammates. Being a basketball coach has served as a reminder that in order for us to thrive together, each member of our team had to feel valued as a contributor and integral to our success. It’s also proven that each of us defines terms like “success” or “progress” differently. While for some, it’s about becoming a more selfless teammate, for others, it may be about having the strength to take shots that not only reach the rim, but that eventually go in, on a consistent basis. It’s about setting goals and accomplishing them, but in the best interest of the collective team.

In conclusion…

Undoubtedly, the life of an educator is a busy one. And the demands of being a parent today stretch us, sometimes to frustration and other times, exhaustion. However, one thing’s for certain: Our decision to leave work a little bit earlier than usual or arrive earlier than normal, a couple of days a week, has been a gift. And while after so many seasons, the players and the years start to blend together, there’s one gift that will always remain.

They called us coach.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What's your goal for testing?

As you know from our grade level and specials meetings on Thursday, we'll be working on reading goals with our students on Wednesday.  Students will write their name on one side of a strip of paper and their reading, or other academic, goal on the other side.  Each homeroom will be creating a paper chain and your name and goal should be included, too.  You have the advantage of knowing what we'll be doing in advance of the kids.  So, with that said, what is your goal for testing?  What will you do to provide an environment that allows all kids to give their best?  What will you say to the kids to make sure that they understand the importance of these tests?  How will you help the kids develop a goal and a plan to go with it?  These questions are vital to our efforts to reach our school goal of improving our reading scores.  We're all in this together.  It starts with me, moves through each of you, and flows to our kids.  I can't wait to see our paper chain in the commons next Wednesday.  It will be awesome!

Great things I saw this week...

  • You and the kids got back into the swing of learning.  It was as if we didn't even have a break.  There's something to say about shorter Winter Breaks.
  • Reading.  Reading.  Reading.
  • I got to facilitate a discussion in Science class.  Dave sat down and let me take over.  The kids did a great job citing evidence to support their claims.  I was more than impressed as this is just one example of what all of you do to help our students express themselves eloquently.
  • The #oneword2017 bulletin board is filling up.
  • Indoor recess due to the weather still allowed the kids to be active.  I played music (Kidzbop) on my chromebook and it was like being at a 7/8 dance.  The only thing that was different was that the lights were all on and there were basketballs and volleyballs.  Anyone who has chaperoned knows what I'm talking about.
  • Great conversations about kids and what we can do for them while they're here at school.  You are the most caring staff any principal could ever work with.

Monday, January 9

  • Practice 7:00-8:15
Tuesday, January 10
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
  • Cover class for IEP 2:30-4:00
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Wednesday, January 11
  • RtI Wednesday 8:00-9:15 (Don't forget to wear your Merton Way t-shirts!)
    • collaboration time until 8:55
    • meet in the gym
    • goal paper chain in classrooms 9:00-9:15
  • AHS visits 8th graders 12:22-1:03 (Little Theater)
  • A-team meeting 1:30-3:00
Thursday, January 12
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
  • Grade level/ specials meetings
  • Homework Club 4:15-5:15
Friday, January 13
  • Practice 7:00-8:15
Saturday, January 14
  • EdCampMadWI- EdCamp in Sun Prairie (Anyone want to join me there?)

Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Three Keys to Creating Successful Reading Experiences (by Pernille Ripp)

Thanks for a great week.  My one regret- I didn't get to spend as much time in classes this week as I wanted.  My hope is that next week is a week full of classroom visits, mini-observations (I hope to get through number 4 for all of you next week), conferring with kids in all classes, and spreading positivity.  Want to visit someone's classroom?  Sign up on my door and I'll cover your class.  Want to call a parent for a positive call?  Send me a text, tweet, vox, or email and I'll stop in so that you can make a call.  Want to cover my lunch/recess duty so I can visit band, choir, art, or study hall?  Just let me know.  Want to join the kids for lunch or recess?  Come on down.  Let's concentrate next week on opening some doors, both literally and figuratively, to make our last full week of the first semester an awesome one for kids and each other.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Priorities- My #oneword2017

I have been a big fan of the #oneword challenge for a couple of years now.  Last year my #oneword was focus.  Although I wasn't as focused as I would have liked to have been, I still went back to my #oneword often, especially in times when I didn't know what to do.  This year, when I decided to take the challenge again, it didn't take me long to choose my #oneword- priorities.  This quote from Stephen Covey helped me make my choice.

Determining priorities can be the most difficult part of choosing the word priorities, but I have a plan.  My priority must be what I am doing at every moment.  At school it should be ensuring the students and staff have all that they need to create a positive learning environment.  At home it should be powering down from work and social media, giving my attention to my bride and daughter more often than I currently do.  Ultimately, my priorities depend on where I am and who I am with.

I must admit that this is really going to be a challenge for me.  I have felt that I could always multi-task pretty well, but when I multi-task I honestly have no priorities.  It's time for me to put down my phone, close my chromebook, and be present in whatever moment I find myself in.  That's how I will try to find my priorities.

It's going to take a lot of practice and so far this year (it's only one day), I've found ways to prioritize being ready for our first day of school in 2017, completing a 6 mile run, and spending some quality time with my bride.  My daughter and I will be spending time together soon as she gets her homework done before tonight's Packer game.  She'll be sporting her Randall Cobb jersey and I'll be wearing my lucky Packer hat.

As I spent time at school today, I created a bulletin board for staff and students to share their #oneword with each other.  Mine is already posted and was shared with staff in our nuts and bolts on Friday.  The challenge now is to live up to my #oneword and to help others live up to theirs, too.