Summertime, A Time for Learning

topperMiddle

Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School

Student Placement

We have taken quite a few phone calls and emails regarding the placement of your kids on teams for the coming year, although not more than in the years past. It is always good to review the process we use in assigning students to their new teams and our reasons why we do it.

We have three academies teams at each grade level, each grade has a 4-person team and a 2-person team. The 7th and 8th grade have a 3-person team and the 6th grade, for the first time in several years have two 4-person teams, the result of a dramatic increase in the number of 5th graders coming from the elementary schools.

Our goal is to create teams at each grade level that are very similar in make up as the entire grade. We consider things like the proportion of males to females, the number of students receiving Special Education services, the number of students who receive services through our Gifted and Talented Program and students who have demonstrated behavioral issues in the past few years. We examine the results of the students NWEA assessments given during the current school year and the results of NECAP scores in previous years. This information helps us to make sure that we distribute all sorts of learners to each team.

We also ask parents fro  information on their children. You may remember that many of you completed a form (online this year for the first time!) answering, in a “million words or less”, questions about what your child found challenging in the current year, what your concerns are for your child in the coming year and anything that you wanted to tell us about your child as a learner.

We finally asked the current year teachers about the make-up of the teams. We asked if they noticed any combinations that may create a problem, should we pair students with another students, because they work well together. We also asked if their was anything that they saw in the teams that should be addressed.

Then we assigned the students to teams.

As you can imagine, this is a very tedious, human-intensive process, and we are bound to make mistakes or miss something. However, once the teams are created, it becomes very difficult to make changes, not impossible, but very difficult. The district has devised a protocol for making changes that all schools must follow. In order to make changes, one of these conditions must exist:

    1. Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child
    2. Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
    3. Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
    4. Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

As a final caveat to this protocol, we always have several students move out of the district and several students move into the district. Remembering that we want all of the teams to be a microcosm of the entire grade level, we will re-examine the team make-up in late August to see if adjustments need to be made. We will then call folks who have expressed interest in changing their child’s team, but do not meet any of the above conditions to see if they still want a change. Then we try our best to accommodate s many requests as we can.

Student Supply Lists

During the step up day, back in June, each team gave their new students a list of the supplies that they School Supplieswill need for the coming year. Now, I don’t think for a minute that these lists actually made it out of every student’s backpack. I want to encourage each of you to wait before you head out to Staples or Walmart to purchase each of the items on the list that probably never made it home.

We will post on our web site the lists for each team, but, I promise you, your child will not need all of the supplies on the first day of school! My hope is that we can be a bit more judicious with our list and try to reduce the cash layout for parents!

The Gift of Failure and What is “Grit”

Over the summer months, I have been fortunate to have some of the good people I follow on Twitter offer some very interesting ideas on the work that we do with our kids.

gift of failureJessica Lahey is a parent, a middle school teacher and an author who regularly contributes to the New York Times, Altlantic and is seen occasionally on the TODAY Show, as well as Vermont Public Radio. She writes about her experiences with her kids and her students. Of the many people I follow on Twitter, she regularly offers the most sound and reasonable advise in how to deal with our kids who are at a very vulnerable and precarious stage in their young lives. I value each and every morsel of information she offers because it is based in reality and not coming from the theoretical lab.

She has authored a new book called The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. The book is expected to be released later in August and it is available on Amazon for pre-purchase.

This is from the back cover of the book:

Modern parenting is defined by an unprecedented level of overprotectiveness: parents now rush to school to deliver forgotten assignments, challenge teachers on report card disappointments, mastermind children’s friendships, and interfere on the playing field. As teacher, journalist, and parent Jessica Lahey explains, even though these parents see themselves as being highly responsive to their children’s well-being, they aren’t giving them the chance to experience failure—or the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.

Everywhere she turned, Lahey saw an obvious and startling fear of failure—in both her students and in her own children. This fear has the potential to undermine children’s autonomy, competence, motivation, and their relationships with the adults in their lives. Providing a clear path toward solutions, Lahey lays out a blueprint with targeted advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, and sports. Most important, she sets forth a plan to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s setbacks along with their successes.

I offer this information, not as an indictment on our communities parenting skills, but as a reminder that our kids are just that, KIDS! That means they will sometimes (some more than others) be forgetful. They will, in act, make mistakes and sometimes do things that we find absolutely inconceivable! But, they are still kids.

It also means that our teachers need to remember this as well, our kids are kids, prone to mistakes and failures as we work with them.

Joe Bower was a classroom teacher in a Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, middle school.More recently, he has left the traditional classroom to teach at a local hospital in Red Deer providing short term crisis stabilization and inpatient assessments  to children under the age of 18 who present a wide-range of mental heath related difficulties. (joebower.org).

Joe is a prolific blogger on education issues facing his school and his Province. He writes about a wide-range of issues that impact education.

In his blog… for the love of learning… dated December 12, 2013 and entitled, let them eat grit:four reasons why grit is garbage, he does a great job of dispelling our misguided ideas that our kids who areJoe Bower struggling only need to “buck up”, “stiffen their back”, “don’t give up” in order to succeed in school.

Joe does a great job of identifying those students we claim “need to show more grit” in order to succeed. He puts it this way:

When pundits call for more grit and resiliency, they aren’t talking about all children. No one is demanding that high-scoring students show more grit. When people call for more grit they are talking about the low scorers — and we know the low scorers tend to be children who are English language learners, special needs, living in poverty, suffering from mental health problems or are for complex reasons generally difficult to educate.

And, when we truly think about the kids we want to demonstrate more grit, he is spot on! Sure, we have a lot of students who appear to be from wonderful families, and they are, but we don’t know what happens when our kids leave school each day.

But the most important takeaway from this post by Joe are these words:

 Challenging one’s own practices and system priorities can be tough but nothing will ever change and schools will never improve as long as we place all the responsibility for change and improvement on students and schools.

Think about this. We spend a great deal of time in test preparation and angst about the results of standardized testing. We write, and re-write, curriculums to align with the Common Core State Standards or the Next Generation Science Standards or the myriad of other mandated standards aimed at our students, and then lament that they aren’t producing the results we want.

The better question is, “What are we doing in our classrooms that is different?” Are we still assigning lots of homework and rueing the the fact that some of our kids never get it passed in? Are we assigning worksheets and getting upset when they aren’t done?” Do we worry that the students are using technology to copy and paste their assignments, and then sharing them with their classmates?

We all know the answers to these questions band yet, we soldier on with what we have always done, albeit with our attempts to change.

So, let me ask you, is anyone interested in continue this conversation? If so, please drop me an email and we’ll set up a group!

 

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