None Of Us Is As Smart As All Of Us!

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While using Skype’s cool screen sharing tool to draft a letter to CIPS schools with Bright Futures editor Jill Spencer last week I was reminded how much of our best work comes from working with others.  It also highlighted how technology has facilitated professional conversations by making it so much easier to connect and collaborate with colleagues at any time and any place! Whether it’s a group of students working cooperatively, a middle school teacher team integrating two or more content areas to make the most of learning time, a leadership team working out a master schedule that puts students first, teachers second, and administration third…it’s about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.  Our live online conversation combined with on screen real time sharing of our ideas resulted in a much better outcome than what we would have come up with alone.

The Middle Level Partnership that has formed around the Bright Futures Report is a great example of this kind of synergy.  The report and its recommendations represent the collective years of experience and wisdom shared by dozens of Maine’s educational experts.  A great first step for and school looking to improve teaching and learning for their 10-14 year old students would be to take advantage of this collective experience!

Here’s an adaptation of the message we’ll be sharing with middle level leaders in the next week or so.  Feel free make us even smarter by adding your ideas!

First some key resources. An important tool to include in your planning conversation is Maine’s new report on effective middle level teaching and learning for young adolescents, Bright Futures. The complete report can be accessed for free at http://www.maine.gov/education/ml/ It is brand new this past year and includes research and resources from local, state, and national findings on what works best for all middle grades students. Another excellent, and free resource is the collection of Bright Futures Webinars (http://www.maine.gov/education/ml/dev.html) These online recordings created this past year are conversations with Maine middle grades educators sharing their perspectives about effective education for young adolescents as outlined in Bright Futures. These two resources are a great place to start or continue a school wide professional conversation about how to improve outcomes for all your students! We encourage you to consider weaving the Bright Futures Core Practices into your school improvement plans for the coming year.

Here are two very worthwhile PD opportunities that many schools are accessing through state and federal funding.  Maine Association for Middle Level Education’s Annual Conference and the Middle Level Education Institute. The MAMLE Annual Conference, the premier gathering of Maine middle level educators, takes place at Sugarloaf from Thursday, October 21 to Friday, October 22. This year’s theme, Graduation Paths in the Middle, focuses on the highest priorities for improving student outcomes: Response to Intervention, At-Risk Youth, Performance-Based Learning, and Unmotivated Learners. Plan on sending a team to bring back ideas and strategies to share and adapt to classroom practice.

Many middle level educators have used tuition reimbursement to attend The Middle Level Education Institute.  Districts often use this as an opportunity to help teams launch major school initiatives.  It will take place at Thomas College from August 1-5, 2011. MLEI is a perfect opportunity to bring one or more teams together in the summer to do intensive planning and work to sustain the school improvement process for the upcoming year. State and national middle level experts work with MLEI participants on a daily basis while major blocks of time are set aside for team and school based work. Here is a link to a very short SlideShare presentation that shows participants from past Institutes. http://www.slideshare.net/christoy/maine-middle-level-education-institute-2010

Finally, if you have ANY questions about these resources and opportunities, members of the Bright Futures Middle Level Partnership are available via this blog, phone, email, or face-to-face to assist in your planning.  Working together…a smart move!

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