Sunday, May 31, 2015

Unsung Difference Makers

The 2014-2015 school year is coming to an end.  Most people look back and reminisce on the positive moments that took place.  But sometimes we don't pay enough attention to the individuals that helped make the year successful.

"Alone we can do so little;
Together we can do so much."
- Helen Keller

Recently I attended a graduation party of a former 5th grade student.  When I entered there was a group of my former students sitting at a table.  I couldn't help but remember some of the great times I had with that group.  I remembered the speeches they gave...the career projects that they worked on and the laughs that we shared.  It's funny, when you think back you don't remember the day-to-day things, but you do remember moments and feelings.  This years graduating group will never be forgotten.  They were funny, outgoing and full of individuality.

Just before I left I looked at some pictures of the group.  One picture jogged a memory.  I saw my former student Bryce, and remembered that every week during that year his mom volunteered in our classroom.  Terri came in once or twice a week and worked with students on multiplication, division, reading and so much more.  Every time she came in she was cheerful, friendly and willing to do anything I gave her.

This year in our school and schools across the country volunteers came in and gave their time to kids. Many rooms had a plethora of volunteers that allowed teachers to shrink group sizes and give students the individual support that they needed to succeed.  As the school year wraps up, now is the perfect time to recognize the volunteers that made a difference in your classroom or school.

I feel blessed to have worked with Terri years ago.  Her unselfish, positive attitude was a terrific compliment to what we were doing in the classroom.  I encourage you to take a moment this week and thank a volunteer.  When we say, "It Takes A Village," no words could be more true.  Volunteers are an integral part of our village.


Monday, June 1st:  3rd grade to Mackinac
Tuesday, June 2nd:  4th grade to Waterloo
Wednesday, June 3rd:  All Grade Assembly in Gym (CP Awards)
Wednesday, June 3rd:  5th grade rehearsal
Wednesday, June 3rd:  Mrs. Smith's class to the zoo
Wednesday, June 3rd:  1st grade Picnic in the Park
Wednesday, June 3rd:  No Early Release
Wednesday, June 3rd:  AM Fire Drill 
Thursday, June 4th:  5th grade graduation
Thursday, June 4th:  KDG to the Zoo
Friday, June 5th:  Half-Day, Last Day of School

Articles Worth Reading:

10 Assumptions @Joe_Mazza

And One @GustafsonBrad

Tribute to Grant Wiggins @curriculumblog

Forget How Much @jonharper70bd

Hand Holding @DJrSchug

Videos Worth Watching:

Sportsmanship at its finest (2 min)

Her Voice... (7 min)

Family Planning with Ellen! (1 min)

Jeff Foxworthy shares the origin of Redneck Jokes (3 min)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

We all have a Sammy...

There is something about the month of May in a classroom/school.  When I look back most of my major challenges occurred in May.  Why is Day number 160+ so much different than Day 5?

I have a theory...patience (and maybe a touch of Hope).

I recently took ten minutes to watch this Ted Talk by Deanna LeBlanc.

Who is your Sammy?  When I listen to Deanna's Ted Talk I think of all my Sammy's, I think of the student that is on my last nerve.  The student that I have redirected thousands of times.  The student that lashes out for no reason.  The student that has seemingly given up.  

So here is the challenge, as we hit the final stretch and we are all showing signs of fatigue, how do we give more?    

A couple days ago I saw one of my former student's brothers at a gas station.  He had his toddler with him and I'm pretty sure he didn't even notice me.  But I noticed him.  I didn't ask about Michael, I already knew.  I knew that a few years ago Michael was in a car accident and passed away.  Michael was in my first ever classroom.  I still think of Michael, I still remember him climbing out my classroom window. I remember him chasing the train at Greenfield Village.  I remember him trying to be the class clown on a daily basis.  I remember redirecting him time after time after time.  I remember my patience wearing thin.

And I still wish I could go back and have a moment to tell him he matters to me.  

For many of you your opportunity with this group of students is nearly over.  I know that you have given your heart and soul to your kids.  I leave you with two thoughts - 

1)  Stay patient

2)  Cherish the moments, when it is all said and done it won't be about the test score, it won't be about the grade.  


Monday, May 25th:  Happy Memorial Day
Tuesday, May 26th:  AM Fire Drill
Tuesday, May 26th:  3rd Grade M-Step Makeups
Wednesday, May 27th:  K-2 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, May 27th:  10am 5th grade to the Middle School for Move-Up Day
Thursday, May 28th:  Grades 1-5 Field Day at SAU
Thursday, May 28th:  Patti's Retirement Celebration after school
Friday, May 29th:  IEP's in the AM

Articles Worth Reading:

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil? by Valerie Strauss

Videos Worth Watching:

Clarinet Scene from Mr. Holland's Opus (7 min)


Musical Impressions with Jamie Foxx (8 min)

Never Walk Alone... (14 min)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Summer Celebration?

If you take a walk outside you quickly realize summer is right around the corner.  Just the other day as I was enjoying a run my senses were in overload.  This is what I could see, smell and hear:

Birds chirping...
Lawn Mowers in high gear...
Smoke billowing off the grill...
The crack of the bat at a ball game...

As a youngster I relished summer vacation.  I spent many hours caddying, playing golf and simply being outdoors.  To me there was nothing better than getting up around 6:30am, brushing my teeth and walking across the street to play.  The peace and quiet of 9 holes at daybreak was the ideal beginning to the day. 

That was my summer.  My friends and I couldn't wait for summer vacation to begin. In fact the weeks leading up to summer were often the most difficult.  We just wanted our FREEDOM!  

Over the years I've come to learn that not all of our kids have this perspective on summer.  Just this week a student approached me in the morning and asked, "Mr. Gilpin, how many more days of school do we have?"  I responded with, "Hmmm. I'm not exactly sure.  Something around 20, I think."  

Her response caught me off guard, she said, "I don't want it to be summer.  Can't you make it so we stay here all year?"  I honestly chuckled at her comment, but then I looked at her and she wasn't smiling.  She was dead serious!

I truly believed most kids had a eupeptic nature when it came to summer vacation.  Was I wrong?

After talking with her for a moment and touching base with her teacher later that day I began to see the big picture reality for this young lady.  She was headed to uncertainty.  Who would take care of her?  Who would cook for her?  Would anyone spend time with her?  

I also believe she was going to dearly miss her teacher and classmates.  

You may have students acting out, pushing away or withdrawing.  Now is the time to refocus on relationships.  If you have a student acting out, is it their way of making the goodbye easier?  Our kids need the patience, consistency and care, now, more than ever.  The uncertainty of summer isn't always something to celebrate.

This Week's Big Question:  When the year ends, is it goodbye or I can't wait to see you again?


Monday, May 18th:  4th Grade singing the National Anthem at the Toledo Mud Hens 6:30pm
Monday, May 18th:  Fire Drill AM
Monday, May 18th:  3rd Grade M-Step
Tuesday, May 19th:  TEAM Meeting 9am
Tuesday, May 19th:  4pm Final Boy/Girl Quest Night at Bean Elementary
Wednesday, May 20th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, May 20th:  3rd and 4th grade Standard Based Report Card Meeting in Board Room
Thursday, May 21st:  Anne & Jeff visit the 5th grade at 2:45pm
Thursday, May 21st:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Thursday, May 21st:  After School Art
Friday, May 22nd:  Fire Drill PM
Friday, May 22nd:  8am Staff Meeting
Friday, May 22nd:  Mrs. Holton Field Trip
Sunday, May 24th:  Happy BDay Pat Rouse

Articles Worth Reading:

Enough @TechNinjaTodd

Thank You, Cancer @HuffingtonPost

Not All Students Look Forward to Summer

The Characteristics of a Good School @TeachThought

Summer Slide @stumpteacher

12 Rules of Great Teaching @TeachThought

Speechless @Jonharper70bd

Rookie of the Year @GenieneD

Eight Ways To Keep Informational Texts Engaging @SpencerIdeas

Videos Worth Watching:

Cat gets a Brain Freeze! (30 secs)

Know or Go on @TheEllenShow  (6 min)

Egg Shell Dryer scene from Modern Family!  Hilarious! (2 min)

Where Good Ideas Come From (18 min)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Call for Consistency

"You cannot control what happens to you,
but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you,
and in that,
you will be mastering change
rather that allowing it to master you."
- Brian Tracy

Recently I met with a student and we discussed why he has been a frequent visitor to the office.  The response got me thinking...

He said, "Mr. Gilpin, I've been doing the same thing all year, but now I get in trouble for it."

Hmmmm.  He wasn't completely owning his actions, but he had me thinking.  Had he changed or had the expectations changed?  

What I have discovered is over the course of days, months and years it is quite normal for people to expect more.  Basically our expectations increase over time.  But do we communicate this to our students/staff?

Years ago as an elementary education major I had a professor that stressed to us the importance of beginning the year very strict.  This professor told us it was always easier to lighten up later, rather than try and get back a class you've lost.

These words have stuck with me, but I also knew my own personal style and I had to be true to myself.  What I've always tried to pride myself in is consistency.  It has always been about these main factors - 

  • Attitude - We can't choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react.
  • Disposition - Body Language and the way you carry yourself matter.  Remember the famous saying, "Never let 'em see you sweat!"
  • Communication - If a student is beginning to go sideways, stay away from the phone call or parent meeting where you have a laundry list of things the child did wrong.  Be specific and reach out to parents just as though it was November.
  • Routine - Back in the days of my own classroom I always had a visual schedule on the board. To our kids the end of the year brings uncertainty and excitement.  If we can provide stability and structure we are putting our students in a spot to succeed.
  • Follow Through - I come from a place where your word is your most important possession.  As an educator if I said I was going to do it, I did it.
  • Relationships - I found that I had more classroom meetings in May than I did in November. We often would discuss friendships, effort, attitude and finishing strong.  
We are now in the closing stretch of our school year.  I urge you to finish stronger than you started. Now is the time to rise above, show patience, be compassionate and end the year with a positive impression to all of your students and families.


Monday, May 11th:  Today marks the beginning of Transportation Week 
Monday, May 11th:  3rd Grade Begins M-Step
Monday, May 11th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Tuesday, May 12th:  9am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, May 12th:  Panther Pride Luncheon
Tuesday, May 12th:  Incoming KDG Observations in the PM
Wednesday, May 13th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45am
Thursday, May 14th:  Breanna Davey BDay
Thursday, May 14th:  4pm After School Art Club
Thursday, May 14th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Friday, May 15th:  AM incoming KDG IEP's
Saturday, May 16th:  10am Boy/Girl Quest Spirit Run 5K at Parkside

*  Once again our Intervention Specialists will be assisting 3rd grade with the M-Step.  Please plan accordingly.

Articles Worth Reading:

Preparing for the Season @Fearless_Teach

Modern Learning Questions @PrincipalHowell

Videos Worth Watching:

Dedication Game (15 min)

Ellen's Prom Friends Go To Prom (2 min)

Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes (4 min)

Social Media Experiment... (3 min)

The education revolution and our global future (13 min)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Appreciation That Lasts

"Gratitude is one of the most important human virtues
and one of the most common human deficiencies.
Gratitude does not develop without effort."
- Dieter Uchtdorf

How often do we cherish the moment?  Do we tell people how much they mean to us?  

Throughout my school career I enjoyed several caring and wonderful teachers.  I also had my fair share of teachers that I simply didn't connect with.  Looking back one teacher made an impact with me as a student & teacher.

As a fifth grade student I was placed in the room of Mrs. Janice Wetters.  I had several friends in the room and at that time fifth grade was part of the Middle School.  It was a Whole New World.  When I think back to my fifth grade year several memories pop into my head.  

It was the first time in my life I held a girl's hand!  I learned how to divide triple-digit numbers.  I really got excited about science, and I found a true appreciation for consistency.

As I look back what I remember the most about fifth grade is that Mrs. Wetters was predictable, consistent and reliable.  I never remember her missing a day of school.  I always knew that she would treat everyone the same, and each school day was filled with routine and procedure.  In the moment I likely thought fifth grade was boring, but thinking back I appreciate what my teacher put in place. My memories of fifth grade will be forever positive.

But isn't that how it always works?  We don't truly appreciate what we have until time has passed.

Years later I landed my first teaching job.  It was exciting and odd at the same time.  The excitement came from actually having my own classroom.  It was truly a dream come true.  The oddness was that I was teaching in the district that I attended as a student.  The story doesn't end mentor teacher was Mrs. Janice Wetters.  What are the odds?  I remember thinking multiple times that year that some of my colleagues treated me as a professional and others seemed to still think of me as a student.  

Those early years I often felt as though I needed to prove myself.  I think Janice recognized this. From time to time she would wander across the hall and check in on me.  We would talk curriculum and she would ask me about things I was doing in my classroom.  Her feedback was always positive, and she often times asked for my assistance.  I now know what she was up to.  Janice was encouraging me through our interactions.  She was allowing me to share.  Over time our conversations began to shift my thinking from, "Do I belong?"  to "I do belong."

For 7+ years I taught with Janice.  I remember trying to get her to use technology.  I remember laughing at her when she started a fire in her room.  I remember her constant support and ability to keep our entire team on track.  Janice was always the calm, consistent voice of reason.  After she retired I began to miss Janice more than I ever thought I would.  What I missed was the consistency and reliability.  Whether it was me in fifth grade as a student or a teacher you knew exactly what you were getting with her.

Years passed and I got word that Janice was sick.  Last year she passed away and I still remember seeing her in the weeks leading up to her passing.  We bumped into each other outside the bank.  She smiled and patted me on the arm.  She was embarrassed that I was seeing her with a bandanna on her head.  She talked about beating the disease and working with teachers in Jackson County on the new science standards.  Janice didn't want the focus to be on her, it was always about others.

That was the last time I saw Janice alive.  At no point did I ever think she wasn't going to beat the disease.  Janice was larger than life.  She was a constant, a reliable friend and colleague.  Her reach will last for years.  The world has one less amazing teacher, but that doesn't mean we won't remember what she taught us.  My appreciation will last forever. 

We don't teach for money, we don't teach for the accolades, we don't teach for the pats on the back. We teach because we have a passion for kids and a desire to make the world a better place. Mrs. Janice Wetters made an impact on me that will last the rest of my life.  I hope she looks down from Heaven and knows that I'm grateful.  

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, I encourage you to show gratitude towards someone that has helped shape you as a person and as an educator.  


Monday, May 4th:  Staff Appreciation Week!
Monday, May 4th:  Spanish Rotation begins at Warner
Monday, May 4th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Monday, May 4th:  4th Grade M-Step Testing
Monday, May 4th:  Transition IEP's for incoming students (AM)
Tuesday, May 5th:  Cinco de Mayo
Tuesday, May 5th:  4th Grade M-Step Testing continued
Tuesday, May 5th:  Transition Observations for Incoming KDG's
Wednesday, May 6th:  Walk/Bike to School Day (drop-off at the Spring Arbor Fire Station)
Wednesday, May 6th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly with SAU Track & Field Team
Wednesday, May 6th:  6pm Top Teacher Dinner at Ella Sharp Park
Thursday, May 7th:  4th grade Jackson Business Tour Field Trip
Thursday, May 7th:  1:15pm Crisis Response Meeting
Thursday, May 7th:  4pm Boy/Girl Quest
Friday, May 8th:  No Staff Meeting
Friday, May 8th:  5th Grade to Chicago

  • Staff, our PTO and wonderful Warner parents are providing lunch each day this week!  
  • Happy Staff Appreciation Week

Articles Worth Reading:

The Nest @GenieneD

Little Things @TonySinanis

Top of the World @jon_wennstrom

Student Showcase @Jeff_Zoul

Videos Worth Watching:

Ryan's Hope (11 min)

Ellen Take the Wheel... (2 min)

Starbucks' New S'More Frappuccino by Ellen (2 min)

The World Needs All Kinds of Minds - Temple Grandin (19 min)