Sunday, September 30, 2012

Speaking the Truth

The Power of "your" word.  We've all done it, we've all stretched the truth, exaggerated, fibbed, even lied.  (Don't tell me you haven't, ie: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy...) It is human nature, but at some point we all learn that, The Truth Sets Us Free.  I bring up this topic for a few reasons: 1) If people can't trust you, you are essentially no good to them 2) If you cannot be trusted it is likely that other parts of your life are "needing" to be fixed 3) You are only as good as your word.

We are moving away from September and into October.  I have met with a variety of students the past few weeks and I'm finding a theme.  The theme is dishonesty.  I'll admit, this is a very small percentage (probably 2% of the student population).  I still believe this is not a suspicious trend, rather an alarming societal problem.  

When I was younger I spent gobs of time with my grandfather.  As long as the weather was decent I would walk over to his house with my golf clubs and we would play golf until we literally couldn't see any longer.  I loved these evenings, I still look back very fondly on those years.  I never took our time for granted, I enjoyed the stories, the funny sayings, and mostly the companionship.  I'm fortunate enough to still have my grandfather, but life has changed for both of us.  The point to that is this, my grandfather taught me a very important lesson, he taught me that my word is my most prized possession.  I needed that talk, at the time I was a teenager, I never wanted anyone to think bad of me.  I learned it was best to admit faults, and try my best to not make the same mistake again.

Now, as a dad and principal I try very hard to teach the lessons I learned to my own boys and to all my students.  I often tell kids that being honest will save them from "max" punishment.  The book on me is, admit you're wrong, tell the complete truth, be remorseful, and I'll likely give you a second shot.  On the flip side, students that lie to me get a very irritable person.  I just can't put up with dishonesty.

This past week my word was put to the test.  I told a few people what I would do if... (we've all been there, you speak hypothetically), well the "what if" happened.  My first thought was I gotta follow through.  I did follow through, I believe everyone is in a better position for it.  I'm here to tell you that as principal I'm going to be in tough spots, I'm going to be in the middle of many situations, but I also want you all to know that I value the truth and keeping my word.

Society is changing, the world we grew up in no longer exists.  Every day we are asked to not only teach and guide, but to try and mold our students into better people.  The term that is often thrown around is, "teachable moments".  I believe "teachable moments" happen every day, and sometimes they are not warm and fuzzy, sometimes we must give the harsh truth.  We are now on the verge of October, you've identified the most needy students, be honest with parents, and take the time to utilize "teachable moments".

Things to make note of:

*  Brief after school teacher meeting on new special education procedures
*  MEAP begins October 9th
*  5th grade Camp for Warner is October 3-5
*  Mr. Baum will be joining the 5th graders at Camp, this will effect your RTI schedule on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
*  Safe Schools Online Videos should be complete
*  If you are interested in a SAU tutor please let me know as soon as possible
*  Mileage Club begins Monday, October 1st.  Mileage Club will be every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the month of October.  Challenge your class to get in laps!
*  Welcome to our new Spanish teacher Lisa Prichard!
*  NO assembly on Wednesday, I will be heading up north with our 5th graders.  Next week will be grades K-2.
*  Teachers please take an extra moment to make sure lunch counts are accurate, we've been 20-30 lunches off almost every day.

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, October 1st:  Happy Birthday Mr. Lenhart
Tuesday, October 2nd:  3:45 staff meeting in the Library, I promise it will be brief
Tuesday, October 2nd:  After School Warner String Team 4pm-5pm
Wednesday, October 3rd:  NO assembly (next week will be K-2)
Friday, October 5th:  Happy Birthday to John Raymond
Friday, October 5th:  Happy Birthday to Jeff Kinney

Great Things Noticed or Heard:

*  Really enjoyed Johnny Appleseed Day with 1st grade on Friday
*  Fall Festival was a huge success!  The energy in the building was terrific.
*  The delicious smell pulled me down the hallway Friday.  Apple Crisp in Mrs. Soper's room and a wonderful birthday lunch.  Thank you to everyone that helped make the yummy lunch.
*  Talked to a tech guy Friday, our ticket count went from 34 to 8 in one week.
*  Enjoyed my time in Mrs. Oliver's room, very upbeat, positive and engaging.  : )
*  Lost the "m" challenge to young Eli H. in Mrs. Kline's class, he was able to name more "m" words than me.  Way to go Eli!
*  Caught Matthew reading in Mrs. Nash's class.  Always a good sign to enter a room unnoticed because kids are so busy reading.
*  Loved seeing all the 5th graders dressed for success.  CP interviews were Thursday and several students put on their Sunday best.

Articles Worth Your Time:

Videos Worth Watching:

Need Motivation...

The Future is now...

Fall Festival Fun!

Johnny Appleseed Celebration!


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Power of Positive Attitude

Before I begin to explain the pic I must rewind to Monday.  The beginning of the week started with a lengthy to-do list.  I was whittling away at it and then it got longer... much, much longer.  As Monday came to a close, I was sure Tuesday would be a better goodness, it wasn't.  Wednesday arrived and I was certain my K-2 assembly would be the perfect antidote to my craziness...and though I'll admit the assembly went well, Wednesday was possibly the worst day of the week!  Thursday then arrived and I was set to make it a positive one.  I attended a Compass Learning session and then had two very good discussions. Those talks seemed to start turning things around.  Friday arrived and, simply put, I had one thought:  TGIF! That brings me to the pic. You gotta smile when you see that cat, don't you?  As most of you know I try to be very upbeat on a daily basis; I do not want to be the person that dumps on people and is always saying, "Woe is me."  I would say my upbeat attitude has lessened tension in some areas and allowed me to have very strong relationships with most individuals. Most of all I believe our students feed off positive energy.

That brings me to the message of the week: The Power of Positive Attitude.  Almost every Friday people are chipper and upbeat; the weekend is near and a chance to recharge is in the air.  Homecoming week is another week that people always seem a little happier. Whether it is the festivities or the helpful distraction, things seem joyous.  Another event that spurs good feelings is Holidays.  Most people in general are more positive around special Holidays.  I realize it is next to impossible to be "up" every single day, but what if we had the "Friday" attitude on Mondays?  What if we took the positive energy of Homecoming week or a Holiday and tried to use it most days or weeks?  My guess is we would be a happier society.  Think about kids. Most kids love holidays.  They love all holidays, and don't we wish we could bottle that happiness and open it up in late September to give kids a jolt they need.  

What I notice is this:  When people are happy, all aspects of life improve.  When you are happy you are more patient.  When you are happy you "do the little things", when you are happy you volunteer, when you are happy you routinely give 100%.  I believe it is the same for kids.  Students give better effort when they are happy (and feel safe & secure).  Happy students typically don't bully, happy students don't argue and act disrespectful.  The sad thing is we encounter so many students that are unhappy for one reason or another.  When I was teaching I tried to "get to know" each student.  I wanted to know their interests, hobbies, favorite music, safe place, and even things that bugged them.  I found that by making a personal connection they would be easier to communicate with and understand.  

At some point you are going to encounter negativity... the feeling of being overwhelmed, the thought of "why me", possibly even the thought of "I can't do this".  It may or may not be you, it could even be a student that echoes this in your class.  How do we change the attitude?  How do we get ourselves or others to be more positive?  I would tell you from personal experience (especially this week), it takes little things to start making a dent.  A simple note to a colleague, a phone call, a supportive meeting, a hug to a student, or just a friendly smile.  The little things can make the biggest difference.  

My challenge for you:  If you have a student that exhibits a poor attitude, you may not be able to fix it in one day or even one week, but the consistent positiveness will eventually make a dent.  If you see a colleague struggling, try something small to encourage them.  Take the mentality of paying it forward.  Finally, if it is you that feels down or overwhelmed, think of the day as Friday, take on the mentality of a Holiday, try doing little things to snap yourself out of it.  We all go through ups and downs, and remember you aren't alone.

Next Week at a Glance:

Tuesday, September 25th:  TEAM meeting AM only
Tuesday, September 25th:  String Team in cafeteria from 4-5pm
Tuesday, September 25th:  FALL FESTIVAL from 5:30-7:30pm
Wednesday, September 26th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly 8:45am
Thursday, September 27th:  CP Federal Credit Union Interviews
Friday, September 28th:  Homecoming versus Eaton Rapids!  Go Panthers!
Sunday, September 30th:  Happy BDay to Lori Phillips

Notes of Interest:

*  We will be having a tornado drill this week.
*  Goals and Growth are due Wednesday at 3:45pm.  Keep in mind these can be amended after you put them in.  I would like a starting point by the end of Wednesday.
*  We have a new procedure coming for "TAT's", this is a state and district mandate.  I will share the new procedure with everyone this week.
*  I'm going to attempt to "flip" a staff meeting soon.  Never done this before and I'm going to try and make it painless for myself as well as all of you.  The goal is to value everyone's time and to also create more two-way conversations.  I may completely fail at flipping staff meetings, but I'll at least give it a go.
*  If you are interested in a Spring Arbor Tutor please email me and let me know best times.
*  Finally, please complete your SAFE SCHOOLS videos/quizzes by the end of September.  If you are not done by Friday I'll have to give you a homework assignment for the weekend.

Great Things Noticed or Heard:
*  Must say I loved the Book Commercials Mrs. Gibbs showed me!
*  Great video of Michael H., proud mom and dad created it!  #boardmember #prouddad
*  Excited to see Seth W. getting his picture taken with Mrs. Archer...step in the right direction.
*  Received a delicious treat from Mrs. Soper's class...yummy chocolate/peanut butter no bake cookies.
*  Heard several positive remarks about the cleanliness of the building.  People notice!
*  Enjoyed counting in Mrs. Nash's room.  Lots of hands-on manipulatives for kids to learn with.
*  Got a kick out of Mrs. Smith's class.  They created construction paper models of their houses.  Aurora drew herself peeking out the window!  
*  Worked on a puzzle with Luke in Mrs. Dault's class.  Her class acted like it was April, everyone engaged and working hard!
*  I was fortunate to receive 9 hugs in Mrs. Moffitt's room.  Very loving group.
*  Enjoyed seeing Mrs. Kline "on cloud nine"!  She now has a new projector and the Smart Board is getting oh so close.
*  Loved it when Lanie scored on the boys in soccer!
*  Caught Mr. Baum playing the guitar with a few Young Five students.  He had them hooked.

Articles Worth Your Time:

Videos you'll enjoy:

Leading with lollipops, interesting, little things make a big difference, definitely worth six minutes.

Dan Meyer, Math Curriculum makeover.

This is a 6th grader.  I don't need to say more...

Amazing pick of Space Shuttle!

Extreme weather in some parts of our globe!

Fall is officially here.  I really love fall, I just wish it lasted longer.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finding Balance

Week number two is in the books.  I've had several conversations with staff.  Some people are feeling fantastic about the start of the year and others, it is a work in progress.  I for one have felt as though things have been nuts.  Truly nuts!  For me, life has been out of balance.  When I lose my balance that is when I stress.  I imagine some of you are like me in that regard.  I wanted to begin with this picture I took in mid-August (10 points if you can name the location...going once, going twice, it is the Dahlem Center).  This photo reminded me of balance.  So, as you look at the calendars and you see things like grade level meetings, assemblies, IEP's, Fall Festival, practices and games with your own kids, and even possibly trainings or classes you need to take, remember this: At some point we are all in the same boat; we can relate to one another and bit by bit try to find balance.  

Fall Festival is only 10 days away.  This stresses me out a bit!  I want to let you know that I'm proud of your attitudes.  This was a late decision on my part; one that I thought over at great length.  In the end I had a belief in our staff that we would come together and do a terrific job.  Remember the goals of Fall Festival: 1) School and Community Spirit  2) Go Green Book Sale  3) To raise funds for our Warner Elementary Positive Praise T-shirts.  In the end I believe we need close to $1600.  I don't expect us to earn all of this at Fall Festival, but I hope we are in the ballpark.   Remember do not spend a lot out of pocket.  If you feel as though you must, please see me and we can brainstorm ideas.  Finally, because of Fall Festival and your overwhelming willingness to participate I'm canceling our Friday Staff Meetings in October.  I may ask you to watch a video on your own time or participate in a survey, but I will not have a Friday Staff Meeting in October.

Things to take note of:

This past Saturday, Sept. 15th Jenn and Aaron were trained in Data Director.  Jenn and Aaron are learning as they go.  I have been pleased with everyone assisting them and being patient.  

Next week we will have a fire drill in the beginning of the week.  Please be ready.  Also, we will have a tornado drill soon.  Make sure you and your class are prepared.

TEAM meeting is set for Sept. 25th, I believe I know exactly who is on the agenda.  If you have not spoken with me about a concern please do so next week.

I emailed everyone about goal setting for this year.  If you have questions please contact me.

Next Week at a Glance:

Monday, Sept. 17th:  Constitution Day.  I will have a short Constitution piece on the morning announcements.  Feel free to create any additional lessons on the Constitution.
Tuesday, Sept. 18th:  5pm Warner String Team Parent Meeting in the Cafeteria
Tuesday, Sept. 18th:  6:30 5th grade Camp Orientation in the CAC
Wednesday, Sept. 19th:  K-2 assembly at 8:45
Thursday, Sept. 20th:  Compass Learning Presentation from 8-11am 
Thursday, Sept. 20th:  CD Federal Credit Union Presentations

Great Things Noticed or Heard:
*  I stopped by Mrs. Soper's room on Friday and got to watch our MiCI students cook quesadilla's!  The life skill application and enthusiasm in the room were amazing.  Great idea Mrs. Soper!
*  The Jackson Symphony Orchestra stopped in Wednesday.  I always love to hear Mozart and several students seemed genuinely interested in joining the Warner string team.
* I always chuckle when the kindergarten students call me MRS. Gilpin
*  Put together a nice video on Friday and had some great kids participate.  They were telling me why they love Warner!
*  Saw a really catchy way of getting students attention in Mrs. Struck's room.  You'd have to see it, but I really liked it!
*  Logan's birthday was Friday and he brought me a treat, I told him he was giving me breakfast, lunch and dessert...his response, "really?"  I just smiled!
*  Brody was super excited to get his soccer jersey.  Sometimes the simplest things light up students.
*  At our 3-5 assembly I was really impressed with the attitudes and participation.  They soaked all parts in like a sponge.

Articles Worth Your Time:

Videos Worth Your Time:

If you don't have State Spirit after watching this something must be wrong.

Sid Shuffle...great for a brain break!

Google Forms, creating teacher/student connections.

Really cool video about student blogging.

Constitution Day is Sept. 17th

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It all starts with the FOUNDATION

I've met with many new parents over the last 4 weeks, spoken at orientation and met with our PTO.  My message to all groups has been very simple, that is, the goal at Warner Elementary has three main parts.  These parts are, 1) educate all students 2) safety for everyone 3) create a love for learning.  Inside each area I'm sure I could get much more descriptive, but on the surface these would be what I believe our main goals to be.  I state this for a reason, we just completed our first week of school and I can still vividly remember my days in the classroom.  My primary goal early in the year was to build our classroom/school FOUNDATION.  I would focus on management, procedures, routines, norms and my expectations.  Sometimes I felt stuck with certain classes, these would be the challenging groups.  Whenever I had a challenging group I had to "plan" different approaches.  My lesson plans early in the year were filled with more management and team building activities than educational activities.  I always felt the stronger my FOUNDATION, the better my school year would be.

The beginning of this year has been pretty good, all things considered.  We are adjusting to new technology, we are dealing with construction, we are figuring out new schedules and we are getting to know all of our new students.  In all, we have 68 new students.  This number is huge!  I do realize this includes many kindergarten students, but that number is still high to me.  I have spent a lot of time this past week reading IEP's, calling previous schools, and chatting with teachers.  New students are a part of school that I accept, but figuring out the needs always takes a bit of time.

I've been really pleased with the staff, our PLC model is helping our new grade level teachers get acclimated.  Our new para pro's are confident and willing to help anywhere that is needed and the mood around the building has been positive!

Things to discuss this week:

Fall Festival Sept. 25th
PTO meeting participation (grade level reps, building rep, etc...)
5th grade camp
Constitution Day Sept. 17th
First TEAM meeting Sept. 25th

Week of Sept. 10-14
Happy Birthday on Saturday, Sept. 8th to Jenn Schaible

Monday, Sept. 10:  Ben will be at the "Focus" school meeting in Dearborn
Tuesday, Sept. 11:  3:45 brief staff meeting in library to discuss Fall Festival
Tuesday, Sept. 11:  7pm PTO meeting
Wednesday, Sept. 12: Happy Birthday to Kristy Soper
Wednesday, Sept. 12:  PLC Morning Assembly with grades 3-5 8:45 in cafeteria
Thursday, Sept. 13:  Happy Birthday to Colleen White
Thursday, Sept. 13:  CP Federal Credit Union Presentations begin at 9am

Great things noticed our heard:

Sid using the word "loquacious" in Miss Hinkley's class!
I've already heard six teachers tell me they "love" their class
The construction workers outside commented to me that we had really great kids, they are polite and well mannered!  (Love hearing this)
No major issues in the lunch room or recess area after one week!  This is a testament to teamwork, let's keep it up.
Watched an excellent YouTube video in Mrs. Shearer's class on not giving up in the face of adversity.  Great message for 5th graders.
Mrs. Holton's mom and sister stopped in, I chatted with Becky's mom for a bit.  What a wonderful lady, if you ever want to hear good stories she has em'.
Thank you to Mrs. Struck's class for surprising me on Friday morning.
Way To Go Faith L. in 5th grade, Faith completed the Allegiance 5K this past weekend.
Finally, congrats to Natalie and Mr. Lenhart for being the first two riddle solvers.

Articles Worth Your Time:

Top 40 Corporate Blogs
Eric Johnson's verdict on homework...
Happy Grandparent's day (Sept. 9th is Grandparent's Day) Blog on Grandparenting
Connecting iPads and Reading in the classroom
Diane Ravitch with an interest take on evaluations (I agree with this blog)
3 Ways to Give Yourself a Lift by CoolCatTeacher
Chicago Teachers Strike? (This is an ugly situation)
20 Simple Class Management Ideas

Videos Worth Your Time:

Lee Crockett discusses change and technology.

Focus on the bright spots, not the weaknesses.  (This video really made me think of how I approach my own life, my boys and other things.)

This is not exactly flipping a classroom, but this is a start.  I love the idea of video story problems.  Check out this vimeo video by Ben Rimes.  Ben teaches in Michigan, over on the South West side of the state.  This lesson is on Oreo Permutations.

Oreo Permutations

Who's that goofy guy in orange?

Monday, September 3, 2012


Tuesday, Sept. 4th:  First Day of School!
Wednesday, Sept. 5th:  Happy Birthday to Kathi King and Jenny Shearer
Wednesday, Sept. 5th:  No morning assembly, first one will be Sept. 12th

This past weekend my family and I went up north to Port Austin (The tip of the thumb) for our last moments of relaxation before the hustle and bustle of school returns.  I enjoyed the trip, the weather was nice and I think I played at least five miniature golf courses.  Good times and great memories.  I returned home late this afternoon and I felt I had to come in and check things out.  It has been very frustrating to not have a computer at school for 7 days (my "port" was bad and my carpet was replaced).  The convenience the computer offers can sometimes be taken for granted.  It didn't help that up north my iPad could not get a signal to save its life.  All this being said, I walked through classrooms, I checked out the cafeteria, I inspected the office.  I can tell we are ready for the first day of school.  The work that the teachers and custodians have done to get everything ready blows me away.  Our floors are shining, the new cupboards look good, the classrooms are remarkable.  I'm impressed with every one's hard work.  

So Tuesday we start.  It's SHOWTIME!  I get excited for the first day, I know headaches will occur.  I expect some transportation headaches, I expect lunch times won't be long enough, I expect the construction outside will make for recess dilemmas, I expect some end of the day confusion.  It's the first day, routines are not in place, schedules are not memorized, and we are all getting back into the school groove.  Even though these things will likely happen I'm still excited for the day.  The first day is full of hope, excitement, and a new beginning.  Starting tomorrow we will make this year amazing for all Warner students!

* Couple things to figure out-
Judy always constructed the lounge cleanup list, any volunteers to construct this helpful list?
Birthday's begin Wednesday, we will need a monthly sign-up in the lounge for treats

Articles Worth Your Time:

Nice blog on parenting
We Need To Disagree Better by Greg Miller
8 Keys to blogging success
The issue of HOMEWORK by Eric Johnson (interesting...)

Videos Worth Your Time:

What would your three words be? Great video to start your year.

Western Middle School Rolling out iMovie

WOW!  Best Wedding Proposal I've seen.  Creative, catchy, and out of my league.

Picture of Mom and Troy enjoying the calm water of Lake Huron.