Friday, February 24, 2017


I was thinking about connections over the weekend and realized that there are a number of connections we make as educators.  We connect with our students.  We connect with our colleagues.  We connect with our students' families.  We connect with our families.  We connect with our friends.  We connect with our professional learning networks.  I encourage you to pause and think about what makes these connections vital for our school, vital for our families, vital for our lives.  These connections are always changing with an ebb and flow to them that make them exciting.  We must always work on our connections, making them stronger and more positive than they were yesterday.  One of my favorite responsibilities is connecting with you about your classrooms and what your students are learning and accomplishing every day.  Those midyear meetings that we finished up this week were more important to me than you know.  Your reflections and our conversations make me proud to be your principal.

Great things I saw this week...

  • Students teaching students.  If you can teach it, then you must understand it.
  • The beginning of the week's weather made for some great recess time.
  • Michael and Heather's work on the Arrowhead Choral Consortium.
  • Invitation conferences for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade were a success.  Conversations with families and students have set a path for success.
  • Staff stepping up for one another again this week.
  • Your true concern for my brother in law, Steve, and his road to recovery.
  • Grade level meetings to talk about kids and share some great things.
  • IEP meetings that showed a true partnership between families and our school.

Monday, February 27th
  • 7:30-8:15  coaching meeting
  • 5:30PM  basketball game at Erin
  • 7:30PM  School board meeting
  • 8:00PM  #PIAchat on passion for education
    • Join a group of fired up principals for this half hour chat.
Tuesday, February 28th
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • IEP meeting  3:00 (off site)
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 7:00PM  #edprep chat on classroom management or infusing technology
    • Join students studying to be teachers, teachers, and admimistrators for this hour long chat.
Wednesday, March 1st
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 2:30-3:00  PTO meeting
  • 7:00-7:30 #msteach chat on relationships
    • Join other Middle School teachers from Francis Howell Middle School in Missouri for this half hour chat.  I'll be here in the library if you want a tutor.
Thursday, March 2nd
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • team meetings (except 6th grade)
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Friday, March 3rd
  • 7:00-8:15 practice
  • 4:00  carnival
Saturday, March 4th
  • 5:30  Trivia Night
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
The Ideal Class-Perhaps You Already Have It (from Pernille Ripp)

(from Pinterest)

Facilitation: It's Not Data Gathering; It's Teaching (from Dr. Nancy Sulla)

(from Pinterest)

Working on "Meaning" (from George Couros. This is good, especially the first quote.)
Problem Finders or Problem Solvers? (from Pernille Ripp. A good reflection on assumptions.)

@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Family smore for 2.24.17

Our job as communicators
This week seemed to be a week of communicating with parents.  I had emails, phone calls, and face to face communications every day.  I have this unwritten rule.  If I receive an email that is longer than a paragraph, I either respond with a request for a phone or in person conversation or I just pick up the phone and call.  Skyward is a tool for communication but it's just that, a tool.  Not everyone is proficient using that tool so reach out via email or phone or face to face meeting.  We are a team when it comes to educating our students, and by we I mean the family, the educators, and the student.  Missing out on one of these elements can cause issues regarding a student's success.  There are three months of school left and those three months can either build stronger relationships or weaken them.  Let's do our part, every day, to make these relationships stronger.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Friday, February 17, 2017

Were you #allin this week?

On Saturday morning, I participated in #leadupchat and the topic was being #allin.  It was an intense chat involving teachers, coaches, and administrators.  In thinking about the chat this week while I was in and out of your classrooms, I decided to take note of some times I saw you and the students #allin.  Here's what I noticed.
  • Scientists changing their posters to include new knowledge about reactions
  • Badminton games with intensity and sportsmanship
  • Focus during reading time
  • "Argument practice" using a Taylor Swift song (which I can't get out of my head)
  • Jennifer organizing, and reorganizing, books for our library and book room
  • Presentation work during Social Studies
  • Staff tweeting out the great things going on in their classrooms using our hashtag! (#mertonint)
  • Sphero Club kids making obstacle courses to solve by coding
  • More and more high school students stopping up to help out with Homework Club
  • Incredible sharing of ideas during grade level meetings (Coopetition?)
Monday, February 20th
  • No School
Tuesday, February 21st
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 12:22-1:03  7/8 meeting
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, February 22nd
  • 1:30-3:30  A-team meeting?
  • 5:30  home game vs. Stone Bank
Thursday, February 23rd
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 6th, 5th, and specials meetings
  • IEP meetings
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
  • 4:30-8:00  6th/7th/8th grade invitation conferences
Friday, February 24th
  • Got a pair of jeans?  Today's the day to wear them!
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
Adventure to Fitness (Check this out for ideas for brain breaks.  If you're interested, let me know.  I need to sign you up.)

The Students are Paying Attention (from @gcourous)

A delayed #shadowastudent day (My reflection from Monday's shadow day.)
A Few Ideas to Teach Inference (from Pernille Ripp)

#InnovatorsMindset MOOC
If you read Innovators Mindset, or if you didn't but are intrigued by the things your colleagues said about it, this may be an opportunity for you to consider.  If you're interested, let me know.  Maybe we could get an entire group to take part.  Here is a link for more information.  It starts next Friday, February 27th.

Are you teaching Steve's doctor?

Keep this picture in mind for this reason.  It's my brother in law, Steve, less than 24 hours after brain surgery.  One of you, right now, has in your class a student who will be a surgeon, maybe even a brain surgeon.  You also have a student in your class who will do something phenomenal in any variety of occupations, some of which don't even exist yet.  Teach them all, treat them with respect, push their thinking, and keep doing the great things you do every day.
Be the one!
Take care of the kids.  Take care of each other.  Take care of yourself.- John Gunnell

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A delayed #shadowastudent day

Even the best plans need to be adjusted.  I was going to shadow students over a week ago, but instead I was a guest teacher all day.  Today I got the chance to shadow a 6th grader in the morning and a 7th grader in the afternoon.  Interested students completed a Google form and I used a random number selector to choose the students I would shadow.  This is a picture and text story of my day.

I started out with Ashley, joining her in art class for some time with clay.  She did an awesome job and I only wish I had taken the plunge to join her on the potter's wheel.  A shirt and tie with dress pants kept me off of the wheel, but I was close enough to get splattered.  Ashley never gave up on her creation, despite some difficulties, and I was proud of her for that.

After art class, we went on to RtI, completing a word sort with time to read.  I was able to take part in a word sort discussion and realized I have some work to do.  I ended my morning with Ashley with Language Arts time, reading and preparing for a mini-lesson.  It was an awesome morning!

I took a break from shadowing for lunch and recess duty and then began my afternoon with 7th grader Emily.  She was in gym class, playing badminton, so I sat on the floor and learned a bit about the statistics being collected by the students.  Once we were done with gym class, I joined her for Literacy.  The 3 minutes of passing time was just enough to get from the gym to the classroom.  In Literacy we read a book and had some discussion time about what we read.  The other students treated me just like a student, and I was even called on to answer a question!

We moved from Literacy to Language Arts.  I was able to participate in the Circle of Power and Respect, sharing my favorite flower with the class as we prepared for Valentine's Day.  We followed that with some time to read or to find a new book.  When the students returned from the library or the classroom library, it was time for the mini-lesson.  We learned about citing evidence from a text and then had the chance to either listen to it read to us, while we followed along, or going to another room to read it on our own.  After the mini-lesson, we moved to the work room and Emily started working on her preassessment while I started writing my blog.  What a great afternoon!

So here are my thoughts after shadowing for the day.
  • It's great to be able to move from one class to the next.
  • It's great to be a student and have the students treat you like a classmate.
  • The students have the opportunity to read every day, so I did, too.  I almost always have a book when I move about the building so I can read when the students are reading.  It sure doesn't hurt to be a reading role model.
  • Our teachers are prepared for our students every day, and our students are prepared for our teachers.  They have procedures and expectations in place and although it may take a reminder or two, the students get right back on task.
  • Our students get to move around and socialize between classes.  I'm sure they might like more time between classes, but you can connect with your friends in the three minutes between classes.
  • There is little down time for our students during their classes.  They are "on" nearly all of the time, but they still have some choice (reading books, partners, groups) that give them responsibility.
  • The teachers treated this as a normal day.  They knew in advance that I was shadowing but they didn't change anything that they had planned for the students that day.  Maybe it's because I'm in their classrooms a lot.  It's definitely not because I look as young as any of our students, or teachers.
  • I need to shadow more often.  It helps me to better understand what the students are asked to do on a daily basis.  And I think they are more willing to talk to me about their day because I have their perspective, too.
Thanks to Mrs. Johnson, Miss Koch, Mr. Pomeroy, Miss Depies, Mrs. Hess, and Miss Francoeur for letting me shadow in their classrooms.  They treated me as a student and included me in activities that the students were participating in.  The students treated me like a student, too.

I certainly would like to hear your thoughts.  Maybe we can compare notes.  Maybe I can encourage you to give it a try.  The phone calls and emails will be there when the day is done.

Friday, February 10, 2017

I missed you this week

As I am sitting in my hotel room in Green Bay, taking a break from learning and connecting with my Wisconsin principal colleagues, my thoughts go to two places- home and school.  The title of this week's blog and nuts and bolts- I missed you this week- is a fact.  I miss when I'm away from my family, even for only a couple of days.  Jen and Lauren are my rocks, they keep me grounded, and they help me realize that I have so much more to learn about being a husband and father.  I also miss when I'm away from you, my school family.  I miss the kids, I miss our interactions, and I miss seeing the great learning experiences that you provide our kids on a daily basis.  I will be back later this afternoon to reconnect with each of you, visiting your classrooms and hanging out in the halls during passing time.  I hope that you all had a terrific week with your family and our school family.  I look forward to being around all next week to visit your classrooms and hang out with the kids.  See you around 2:00.

Monday, February 13
  • Shadow a Student Day  9:00-11:00 and 1:30-3:30
  • BLT meeting  4:15-5:00
  • Home game versus North Lake  5:30
Tuesday, February 14
  • Practice  7:00-8:15
  • TILT meeting  8:30-11:30
  • Homework Club  4:15-5:15
Wednesday, February 15
  • Game at Swallow  5:30
Thursday, February 16
  • Practice  7:00-8:15
  • Grade level and Specials meetings
Friday, February 17
  • Professional Development Day
Tweets, blogs, and quotes
Stuck in your Head and Heart (from George Couros)
They Are Fun (from Pernille Ripp.  I read this at our meeting Wednesday morning.)

I Worry Less (from Jon Harper)

Binge of attentiveness (from Sam Parker.  This is a "must read" and a challenge for each of us)
Developing the Innovator's Mindset (from George Couros, with an embedded video)

I've learned a lot in Green Bay over the last day and a half.  I've learned that Dan is a great interim coach.   I've learned that Heidi and Lindsay are great Homework Club supervisors.  I've learned that more of you tweet with our hashtag when I'm not around.  I've learned that I need to do a better job of providing feedback that makes you want to talk with me afterwards.  I've learned that we do great things with our students that others only wish they could do.  Most of all, I've learned that not being in school with you and the students and being able to go home to Jen and Lauren are things that I've taken for granted longer than I care to admit.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Pineapple- a sign of hospitality

Over the last two weeks, pineapple charts have shown up in my Twitter feed too often to be a coincidence.  Please see this article about pineapple charts for more information.  Below is an example of the pineapple chart from the article.
As we move forward in February, think about the two ways that you could participate in this pineapple chart- adding your activities to the chart and visiting a colleague who has added their activities to the chart.  I heard a rumor that I would cover your class so that you can visit a colleague, too.  On a selfish note, it will also let me see the activities that you are doing in your classes so that I can share the great things you do with our kids.

Great things I saw this week...
  • Daily visits to classes where students were doing math, reading, writing, researching, working on potter's wheels, singing, playing Kahoot for review, and group work.
  • Lizzie, Makiya, and Kayla sharing their health project with the school board.
  • Conversations about what is best for kids.
  • People stepping up to cover for and help out in classes.  I notice and I appreciate it.
  • 6th grade band having fun with me while I was conducting, and they sounded great!
  • Students doing skits in music leading up to the auditions for the play next week. Thanks, Michael and Jackie, for taking this on.
  • Painting with Spheros.
  • February Coopetition and pineapple chart getting started.  What's the first activity that you completed for coopetition or added to the pineapple chart?

Monday, February 6
  • 5:30  home game vs. Swallow
Tuesday, February 7
  • 7:00-8:15  practice
  • 4:15-5:15  Homework Club
Wednesday, February 8
  • 8:00-9:15  RtI Wednesday
  • 1:30ish  leave for AWSA conference in Green Bay
Thursday, February 9
  • Out all day at AWSA conference in Green Bay
Friday, February 10
  • At AWSA conference in Green Bay until about 2:00
Friday, February 11
  • Staff party
Tweets, quotes, and blogs
What Makes a Master Teacher? (from George Couros)  Check out this Innovator's Mindset chart (fixed, growth, and innovator mindsets comparison) taken from the blog.  Where do you fit?
"The organization is, above all, social.  It is people."- Peter Drucker, management consultant

"Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."- John Kenneth Galbraith, economist and diplomat

Creating "Purposeful Conflict" (from George Couros, a great future discussion topic)
@mertonint on Twitter
#mertonint on Twitter
Merton Intermediate School Facebook page
Principals' Presentation from the Board meeting 1.30.17
Family smore from 2.3.17

As many of you know, I will not be at school part of next week because I'm attending a conference in Green Bay.  I'm here all day Monday and Tuesday, until lunch on Wednesday, and then I'll be back Friday afternoon.  While I'm out, Ron and Mike will be on call.  The procedures and expectations that you all have in place have made this a smooth year so far.  A reminder of these on Monday and/or Tuesday might not be a bad idea.  I would also like to ask you one favor.  Take pictures of the students and you in action.  Post them on twitter using our #mertonint hashtag.  Yes, that would count for February Coopetition.  More importantly, it will keep me connected with all of you.  Thanks in advance!

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