Courageous educators and students
Sixty Maine educators and students shared their work at MAMLE’s Annual Conference at Sugarloaf. They were willing to step out of their comfort zones and talk about their ideas, practices, and products with colleagues from across the state. Presenting takes tremendous courage because the classroom door is flung open and all is subject to both praise and critique. Participants left the conference with many new ideas and models with which to compare to their own practice. Both presenters and attendees grew professionally as a result of this event. For two days we were an active learning community focused on successful educational practices for young adolescents.
The need for a statewide learning community focused on young adolescents and their learning needs
At the Bright Futures World Cafe event in Belgrade last June, a young teacher said to some of us more veteran educators. “It sounds like you had a network of middle level teachers–we don’t have that.” He was right; when Maine schools were making the transition to middle level philosophy, we had the MAMLE conference, the Middle Level Education Institute, Ed Brazee’s master’s program at Orono, the NELMS conference, MAMLE newsletters and journals, and small regional after-school drive-in conferences. As a teacher I knew who or what school to contact if I wanted to know more about a particular program or practice because I was continually meeting folks who were elbow deep in work. They remain friends to this day–in fact, many are my friends on…Facebook. I still know what they are doing!
But wait! All of these things except for Ed’s courses still exist, and Chris Toy teaches similar ones at USM in the summer. Yet they are not providing the networking that builds a state-wide vision of what our young adolescents need to experience in school. I am not going to expend negative energy examining why these activities are not attended as widely as they used to be. Instead, I would like to suggest some ideas to rejuvenate a statewide learning community or professional learning network dedicated to the education of Maine’s young adolescents.
Let’s Build Our Professional Network of Educators Dedicated to Providing Our Young Adolescents the Educational Experiences They Need to Thrive!
I learned to be a better teacher from my colleagues. Today I would add that I also learn from my students and young relatives who are so savvy about technology. In this day of social networking we have the means to share ideas, ask questions, and participate in action research projects statewide. As Ed Brazee said in every class I took with him–we have a professional responsibility to share our work so the profession can grow and improve practice. Let’s Do It!
Some ideas to consider:
- Be willing to share your work in a public forum open to all. Maine educators are exploring exciting practices like customized learning, expeditionary learning, proficiency-based learning, STEM, and STEAM–we all need to hear how your work is going and what you have learned. Middle level education is bigger than any one school, district, or cohort. As a state we need to grow and nurture successful practices. Think about MLTI–how much we have learned from one another across the state about integrating technology.
- “Like” the Maine Association for Middle Level Education page on Facebook and post comments to share ideas, resources or pose questions. You’ll get ideas back that you can use.
- Ask your principal if the school has an institutional membership in MAMLE, NELMS, and/or AMLE. If you do and are not receiving digital newsletters and other updates, ask your principal to please forward to the staff everything that comes in via email. Here are the topics in a recent AMLE Middle Level Insider:
- Creating Online Galleries of Student Work
- Make Environmental Education Exciting
- The Family Connection
- Host a Google Hangout video conference (they are free — http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/) with colleagues across the state on a specific topic. Be brave, ask people to participate via MAMLE’s Facebook page–there are people following from all over the country!
- Follow Maine Middle Level Educators on Twitter–Lisa Hogan, Chris Toy, Barbara Greenstone, Mike Muir to name a few.
- Forward this blog and others of interest to your colleagues. Encourage them to join the conversation.
- Write about your work. It doesn’t have to be long.
- MAMLE: send articles to Wally Alexander (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Start a blog (you and/or your students) and publicize it on MAMLE’s Facebook page.
- Write a guest post for this blog.
- Consider doing a Pinterest on strategies that work for you. Here’s an example of one on math apps: http://pinterest.com/mikefisher821/math-apps-for-the-ipad/
Geographically we are spread out from Ft. Kent to Kittery, but we are only a keystroke away from building a powerful and energizing statewide learning network. I know readers have many more ideas than I do—please make suggestions in the comment box. Let’s do it!