MEMSPA: A Community of Principals

We are a community of principals dedicated to advocating, leading and learning. We recognize the evolving nature of the principal’s role and support those committed to this important work. All who share in our purpose are welcome to join. Find out more about MEMSPA here.


  • A Boy and his Bike

    • Thursday, November 20, 2014
    • Jonathon Wennstrom

    During our Curriculum Night, I noticed a boy riding his bike near the entry way to the school.  Later as the Magic Show was going on in the gym for the students, I noticed him again riding his bike in front of the building, trying to catch a glimpse of the show.  This event was for Rosedale families only and I didn't recognize this boy.  I went outside and in my stern principal voice (yes, I do have one:) I told him that this was a school event and that bikes needed to be walked, not ridden when near the school entrance.  I got a blank stare from the child and he walked his bike away from the school.  I then walked back into the night's event feeling pleased with myself for doing my principal duty on this potential ruffian.   Two weeks later, there was a report of one of our students hanging out unsupervised at the school with the boy on the bike again.  Trouble, I thought! However, through the course of the investigation on who this boy was, it was suggested that this might be the boy whose father had passed away recently and didn't have anywhere to go after school.  I stopped in my tracks...had I prejudged this boy and had I come into the situation with a predetermined idea that he was a trouble maker?  I'm embarrassed to say "yes" to both of those questions.  I started to think of all the times I had gotten on my bike for a long ride when things were troubling me as a middle school student.  Was that this child? After a lot more investigating and calls to several schools by myself and others, it was found out that this was not the boy whose father had recently passed away, but was at a private school and had no friends his own age in the neighborhood.  Part of me breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn't been the boy who had suffered that terrible loss and even justified to myself that I had done the right thing in the first place.   However, the more I thought about the situation, the more upset I was with myself.  I had prejudged this child, regardless of the situation.  Yes, I need to keep my school and students safe, but how did I approach the situation? Maybe this child had a set of circumstances that caused him to be riding his bike each evening by the school.  And how about the next child that I chase off the playground? Am I comfortable coming in with a preconceived notion about them (and their family for allowing them to be unsupervised)? Or worse yet, not really caring either way about their situation as long as they stay clear of "my school".  That's not the kind of principal I want to be and that's not the kind of person I want to be.  Yes, I can still keep the school safe and yes, I can make sure students aren't running around unsupervised, but I could approach them with the idea that everyone has a story (because they do).  I guess I needed to be reminded of that and my reminder came in the form of a boy and his bike...   Educational Twitter Account @jon_wennstrom Follow my blog at   PEARLS OF WISDOM   "Riding a race bike is an art - a thing that you do because you feel something inside." Valentino Rossi "I'm going to do as much as I can with this life, and then I'm going to make sure to take some time off and be simple and ride my bike and hang out with friends." Jill Scott "I can think. I can sleep. I can move. I can ride my bike. I can dream." Bill Walton

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  • Bond, James Bond

    • Sunday, October 12, 2014
    • Jonathon Wennstrom

    You may not know this, but I'm a huge James Bond fan. I've watched each of the movies more times than I like to admit and occasionally throw out a Bond quote at home to fit the occasion (often to only my own amusement:).  One of my favorite things about the character is that he always knows just what to say and the right way to say other words, he's smooth.  At one of my professional development sessions last year, I had the opportunity to hear Debbie McFalone, an educational consultant, speak on the topic of having difficult conversations.  As a principal, I sometimes have to have difficult conversations with staff.  As a teacher, many of you often have to have difficult conversations with parents.  At the start of the session, she began with the most common ways that difficult conversations are guessed it, they are avoided!  When asked who has used this method, almost everyone (including myself) raised their hand.  We have all done it, whether at home or at work.  Sometimes it's easier to ignore or avoid and hope the issue goes away.  We know how that usually turns out.  Instead, she gave us a simple and direct approach to give constructive feedback through the SBI method. The S represents the Situation, B represents the Behavior, and I represents the Impact. The beauty of the process is that it takes emotions out of the conversation and focuses on a specific situation, the behavior that needs to be changed, and the impact the behavior had on others.  The root of these types of conversations is honesty, trust, and a desire to help (not punish).  This is quite different from the James Bond approach...nothing smooth or clever and you don't walk away after a glib remark.  You stay committed, you listen, and you lend a guiding hand to work together.  As much as I still love the idea of being as cool as Bond, I would rather tackle the difficult topics and engage in meaningful dialogue than stick to the smooth talk.  I would rather wear a staff shirt with pride than wear a tuxedo.  I would rather spend time on school buses then in my Aston Martin.  I'd never trade a single moment as an elementary principal for the intrigue of being a secret agent...but I can still order my martinis shaken, not stirred;)    by Jonathon Wennstrom Follow me on Twitter @JonWennstrom

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  • Starting a Positivity (Successory) Program

    • Friday, September 26, 2014
    • Shanna Spickard

    While we are using the "Successory" [Suhk-ses-uh-ree] program in the educational setting, it could/should be applied to any organization to promote positivity and recognize people.   During a John Draper's engaging presentation on public schools to county-wide educators (teachers, support staff, and administration), he mentioned that we need to work harder at sharing the positive word. Too many people are talking negatively about our teachers, students, and the institution of public education, and it is our job as public educators to not get sucked into that practice. While we may have difficult, burdensome jobs, we are in it to make a difference. Instead of talking about all the struggles (and we know that legislative reps have added to our burden), we need to focus on sharing the good, positive, and accomplishments that happen each and every day in our classrooms, buildings, and districts. Administrators have the job to be a positive ambassador of the schools/districts, but our teachers are the front men and women that the public find the most creditable.

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A teacher needs a sub. What do you do?
Rest assured that one of the dozens on the list can handle it.
Pray our one sub isn't already working.
Prep to spend the day in the classroom.

Meetings & Events


Wednesday, December 3 - Friday, December 5, 2014  |  Traverse City, MI

National Experts  |  Michigan Practitioners  |  Professional Connections
Designed to offer elementary and middle level administrators a broad range of current topics necessary for continued professional growth, MEMSPA's Annual Conference is a national caliber event right here in Michigan.