Turning Leaves Mean Sugarloaf Is Just Around the Corner

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At this point in the school year, when I was still teaching, I looked forward to attending MAMLE’s Annual Conference at Sugarloaf.  The changing leaves were a signal to turn in my request for professional leave and register for the conference.  I knew that it would be an energizing time, and I would return to school with a host of new ideas to try and a renewed feeling that I could save the world, or at least the middle level piece of it.  What could be better than spending two days with folks who were enthusiastic about teaching young adolescents!?!  I still feel this way and so in 3 ½ weeks I’m headed back up to the mountain.

This year MAMLE has changed the format to better meet the needs of middle level educators across Maine.  A new component is the work/conversation sessions that are interactive, thought provoking, and focused on some of the biggest hot topics in middle level education: RTI, Standards-Based Learning, At-Risk Youth, and Unmotivated Learners. These facilitated sessions will include Maine educators such as Bill Zima and Marie Soucy talking first-hand about their experiences (get a preview of Marie’s work with standards-based math at http://www.wmtw.com/r/24599326/detail.html).  Then the facilitator will lead a discussion/question period where all of the session’s attendees can participate.  I’m confident participants will leave each session with a clearer understanding of the topic and some fresh approaches to take back to their schools. There will be several of these sessions to choose from during each segment of the conference.

There also will be the traditional concurrent sessions.  I’m going to have trouble attending all of the sessions that look intriguing.  Some that I am interested in are The Art of Teaching Relationally; Throwing Your Students a Lifeline: How to Help Struggling Readers Access Your Content Area Texts; Motivating Adolescents: The Power of Art; Engaging Students with Comics; Give ‘em ROPE! (this is John Hawley who always sets the crowd afire with his enthusiasm); Managing Standards-Based Projects; and Courageous Leadership for Students At Risk… What Does it Take? There are many others, but I’m presenting too so my time is limited.  My topic is Content Still Matters! and its my response to the misguided decision to cut back on social studies, science and other content areas in favor of extending reading and math instructional time.

Mike Muir is going to rev our engines with his opening keynote.  “Dr. Mike” is a Mainer and very popular with the middle level crowd because he has spent most of his career trying to understand the “hard to teach” kids.  I know he will have ideas that can be applied in the classroom and across the school as a whole.

I’m hoping that I will run into many old friends up at Sugarloaf and meet new ones.  The Thursday evening social is always a hoot especially when we can convince the rockin’ DJ, John Keane, to play some oldies so the middle level veterans can get their groove on. The younger generation just looks on in awe.  They can’t believe that our bodies can still rock and roll despite the fact we are slow texters and a bit wary of sharing all of our private lives on Facebook.

I realize that schools are facing tight budgets.  However Maine’s young adolescents are well served when their teachers and administrators engage in quality professional development that focuses on effective and developmentally responsive practices for 10-15 year olds. MAMLE’s Sugarloaf conference is just such an opportunity. Email Executive Director Wally Alexander to register at wallace_alexander@umit.maine.edu or download materials at http://www.mamleonline.org/. See you on the mountain!!!

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