Blog Archives

It Meant A lot

Vet Salute

This week our school honored America’s Veterans and it meant a lot. It meant a lot to hear 863 kids singing songs from the heart in unison. The depth of their sincerity echoed throughout the gym and reverberated in the hearts of all in attendance.

It meant a lot when several Veterans approached me after the program (many with quivering lips) to express their humble and heartfelt thanks. It meant a lot because the program was all about them and it was the least we could do. It meant a lot to gather with Greenwood parents and staff who are currently serving.

Vet family

It meant a lot to know that our head custodian was at Fort Snelling National Cemetery taking part in services honoring friends and Veterans that he served alongside. It meant a lot to see our students personally thanking him for his service the very next day when he was back at school.

We were able to share the program with several families remotely using a live-stream feed. It meant a lot that our school community could continue the conversations from their workplaces and dinner tables even though they could not be physically present. It meant a lot that one of our staff members was also able to catch a short video clip of our students singing together; an impactful experience I will never forget.

It meant a lot to see all of our boy scouts and girl scouts in uniform and ready to serve as called upon. It meant a lot to see the dedicated employees we have on staff that are currently serving in attendance and sharing a message of character and integrity with our student body.


It meant a lot to see our music teachers invest many hours into the planning of the program. It meant a lot to hear that in the weeks of preparation leading up to the program, many classrooms would quietly sing patriotic songs while working on art projects and other seat work (during math class, art, and more). Our kids and staff really are an inspiration.

The spirit of gratitude that permeated our school yesterday meant a lot. We will not forget the valor or sacrifice of our Veterans.

If You Work in a School…

If you work in a school…you matter. Don’t think for a second that you don’t. (When a principal uses a double negative in a sentence you know he means business.)  If you work in a school you touch hearts and minds every day.  If you work in a school you make a difference.

Seeing how our staff works together on a daily basis…often quietly and behind the scenes…is one of many humbling privileges I have.  As principal, I feel an obligation to share some of these stories; primarily because I’m also a dad and I would want to know.  I would want to know about the people and stories that were being woven in my own children’s minds.  I would want to know the “whos” and “whats” of their day.

Perhaps at dinnertime tonight you can ask your child a different question.  Instead of asking, “What did you learn today?”  Try asking, “Can you tell me about Darryl?”

Our beloved custodian, Darryl, is part of the “Greenwood Story.”  He’s a quiet hero that’s always been willing to drop anything and serve.  Darryl was given a wonderful opportunity to serve in a new position in our district and we are so happy for him.  He will be missed dearly in our school, but his story and impact will go on because he did more than come to work each day; he impacted our building culture.  Darryl’s spirit and sacrificial approach to work will be carried like a torch by other quiet heroes in our building.

If you have a chance to watch the video above you’ll likely see a wonderful and humble man doing a “final lap” around our school and giving out friendly high fives to others.  I hope you’ll also see the difference he made in our staff and students’ lives.  Check out the 2:08 minute mark on the video and watch how excited one of our students is to connect with Darryl.

If you work in a school you matter…don’t think for a second that you don’t!

Greenwood Greats

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 5-9, 2014 and we’re excited to partner with our school community to celebrate!

GWgreats pic

Note of Gratitude

All students, staff, parents, and community members are invited to join us in the fun.  Show your appreciation for a teacher that’s making a difference.  Share a story about something inspiring happening in a classroom.  “Raise the praise” for a para that’s showed extra patience and love.  Give a shout-out to a custodian or cook that is making a neat connection with your child.

There are two ways to participate:

  1. Download the “Note of gratitude” PDF above and e-mail your note or hand-deliver it to Mr. Gustafson in the Greenwood office.  We will be hanging up the notes in our main entryway all of next week.
  2. Share in a virtual celebration by sharing your memory or story with us via Twitter.  Use the hashtag #GWgreats to share a positive perspective or experience.  I’ll be posting some neat insights from our students to our school’s hashtag next week, so check back often!

I’m blessed to serve in a school that has a dedicated staff that is unswervingly committed to student success.  Our teachers are humble and typically prefer to put our students in the spotlight, but I feel like National Teacher Appreciation Week gives me a small excuse to shine the light on all the inspiring work our professionals do to make a difference.  Please let me know if you have any questions about this invitation to share a note of gratitude.  Thanks for your continued support of education!



Story Savvy

What is it about storytelling that is so captivating?  I’ve always been impressed by the relative ease in which a master storyteller is able to connect with others.  I’ve also noticed that a good story always evokes a response.  If I’m being completely honest, there are times I’m envious of a great storyteller’s ability to deliver a message to a completely engaged audience.  I occasionally catch myself thinking, “If only I could deliver a story like she can…I’d probably do more public speaking if I had that kind of charisma.”

Kids don’t require master storytellers…they just need somebody savvy enough to pen a few lines or to speak on their behalf.  I’ve come to embrace the notion that our students are counting on us to tell their stories.  They are also counting on us to muddle through our own vulnerabilities to champion an important narrative.  Students need us to be “story savvy.”

Being savvy simply means that we understand or get the sense of something (, 2014).  It’s similar to a person that’s tech savvy.  An individual that’s regarded as tech savvy understands the problem-solving required to learn new technologies.  An educator that is story savvy understands the value of sharing students’ stories, and effectively communicates them in many ways…including conversation, social media, and other Web 2.0 tools.

Here are five steps to help you be a “Story Savvy” educator:

S  – omebody Else

Believe it or not, somebody else is probably already telling your school’s story!  It’s true…so you may as well share your authentic observations and professional reflections.  After all, who would you rather share important information about your students and school?  It’s important that our communities hear from us.  While you’re at it…share your school’s story with passion and transparency.  We are in classrooms on a daily basis and see the amazing work our students are doing firsthand; we have a reason to be excited!  Be sure to keep the stories you share positive and altruistic and let somebody else share those other kind.

A – cknowledge

Acknowledge the heroic efforts of staff and parent volunteers.  Sharing encouragement and affirming the teamwork it takes to make a school great is an important narrative.  We cannot do it alone, so why not give thanks to the people that make it all happen.  An attitude of gratitude is contagious…pass it on!  Acknowledge the difference our teachers are making in your stories.

V – oice

Student voice matters.  Be sure that your stories empower kids to develop their capacity to communicate, create, collaborate, and think critically.  Better yet…foster students’ leadership potential by passing them the microphone and providing an authentic audience.  Their voice is typically more impactful and interesting than ours anyways…let them speak and be sure to listen!

V – ision

Vision doesn’t talk but people do!  How many times have you been on the sidelines of a soccer game and overhear parents discussing your school’s vision?  (Insert cricket sound effect here.)

There is a better way to communicate your school’s vision with remarkable clarity and that’s through stories!  Highlight activities that exemplify your vision for a 21st century student learning experience.  Even better…let your students share the work they are doing that aligns with steps towards vision.  Your vision comes to life through the pictures of smiling students and emotions associated with their successes.

Our school community and tax payers have made a tremendous investment in our schools and we can be accountable through the results being achieved.  Share those stories!  Your stories can serve as a pathway to a better future and vision attainment.

Y – our Words

If a tree falls down in a forest does it make a sound?  If a principal types a newsletter that nobody reads is it a compelling story?  Your words matter, so why not share them in a relevant format?  Leverage social media, video podcasting, and innovative new mediums to connect your words to those you serve in a manner that they prefer.  People will tend to fill in the blanks if your words are absent.  Communicate with constituents so they are informed and able to support the important work being done for our students.


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