Author Archive

Messalonskee Middle School Makes National List of Middle Schools to Visit!

December 7, 2013

Congratulations to Messalonskee Middle School for being identified as one of the top 38 elementary and middle schools to visit in the nation. According to Tom Vander Ark’s Education Week blog, On Innovation, Messalonskee Middle School is among the top schools in the nation that achieve extraordinary results, create powerful learning experiences, and/or have created innovative technology blends.

Messalonskee Middle School in Maine, students have Learning Goal Time (LGT) every day, with a full two hours once a week to work on assignments and get the extra help they need. Chris Sturgis has featured the school on CompetencyWorks and in this brief.


Why Join MAMLE?

September 26, 2013

MAMLE, The Maine Association for Middle Level Education, is Maine’s only professional association of teachers, administrators, and parents who have joined together to specifically support the development of quality programs serving the needs of young adolescents. For over a quarter of a century MAMLE and its partners have consistently advocated for and promoted a better understanding of middle grades education across the state. It is a source of ideas, information, and support for everyone working with and on behalf of young adolescents.

Of course MAMLE can only do this work with the active support, involvement and contributions of dedicated Mainers, like you! So, if you, or your school or organization don’t already belong to MAMLE this is the perfect time to join with nearly 100 Maine schools and thousands of educators that work with young adolescents in grades 5-9. Check out this short 3 minute video from the MAMLE Board of Directors as they share why they belong, and why you should too. We look forward to working with you on behalf of all middle grades students, and hope you’ll join MAMLE!

For more information, and to join MAMLE please visit our website

MiddleWeb Smartbriefs – Tips for the New School Year and More

August 10, 2013

Do you know about If not you should!
MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades with a sharp focus on teaching and learning in grades 4-8. Here’s a description from their website.

• Resource Roundups: short, link-laden essays built around a theme. Browse here or search for keywords.

• Guest Posts: Just what you might expect…first-person articles.  The voices of middle grades education stars and many lesser known teachers and school leaders up on the front lines who have stories to tell and good practice to share.

• Book Reviews: Reviews of professional books of interest to educators working in the middle. If you’re interested in becoming a MiddleWeb reviewer, let us know. We’ll share a list of what’s available and some basic guidelines for review writing. You pick what you’d like to read, write the review, keep the book. We publish your reviews, make you famous.

• Interviews: We’re talking with interesting people who have expertise around middle grades education — or just do great things for middle grades kids and schools. Peruse our Five Q Interviews for ideas, insights, and plain good chat.

Middleweb SmartBrief

As part of the new MiddleWeb experience, we’ve formed a partnership with the SmartBrief Education news team to produce the twice-weekly MiddleWeb SmartBrief e-newsletter. You may be familiar with the nation’s premier professional newsletter organization, which also publishes ASCD SmartBrief, Accomplished Teacher SmartBrief, SmartBrief on Ed Tech and other education reports.

MiddleWeb SmartBrief specializes in Grades 4-8 news and resources. We work with SmartBrief editors to shape the content and also contribute our own news and resources to every issue. Subscriptions are free, your address is kept confidential, and you can unsubscribe anytime with a single click.

Here’s some of the latest items from the MiddleWeb Smartbriefs.

Tips on preparing for a good school year
Educator and author Julia Thompson in this blog post offers a laundry list of ideas to prepare for the first day of school and set the tone for the rest of the school year such as planning lessons to engage students’ readiness and planning an icebreaker to help students get to know each other. “Teach your first lesson as if it is the most important one you will teach all year. In many ways, it is,” she writes. Education Week Teacher/Classroom Q&A blog

How teachers can avoid decision-making fatigue and remain productive
Teachers can make as many as 5,000 decisions in a school day, leading to what award-winning educator Brian Page calls “decision fatigue.” In this blog post, Page offers five tips to help connected teachers and administrators remain productive, including doing creative work first, setting an automated e-mail response that lists a later time when a response can be expected, along with scheduling time for social media. He also suggests making the most of downtime and completing one task at a time. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education

“A gift to preservice and practicing teachers that will be hard to keep on the shelf” (Teachers College Record). 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know is a comprehensive guide to teaching any genre or form in grades 3-9. You’ll get a rich collection of mentor texts, tips, and launching points. Preview Chapter 1: Getting and Keeping Writers Motivated.

So check out

June 15th Deadline For MLEI

May 31, 2013

NOW is the time to register for the Middle Level Education Institute at Bowdoin College on July 29-August 1. The June 15th deadline is fast approaching and we don’t want you to miss out! No matter what challenges or opportunities your school, team, or classrooms are facing, MLEI is the perfect venue to bring a team together and work intensively and extensively over a period of three days on one or more key projects for September. In addition to large blocks of team time, and the company of enthusiastic MLEI participants, you’ll have access to internationally recognized middle level experts Nancy Doda, Mark Springer, Jill Spencer, and Chris Toy throughout the institute. We are also in touch with the folks providing training and resources for MLTI who will be on campus to support you with preparing for the fall. Teachers and principals who have attended past institutes consistently report that time together at MLEI has paid huge dividends throughout the school year and beyond. So head on over to the Middle Level Institute website and register NOW! We look forward to seeing you in July. Oh, and be sure to spread the word by sharing this information with your middle level colleagues. Thanks!

Maine Scholar Leader Nominations Due This Week!

April 24, 2013

What: Maine Scholar Leader Dinner

When: Thursday May 16, 2013 5:30 – 7:30

Where: Augusta Civic Center

This is Maine Middle Level Education!

This is Maine Middle Level Education!

This is the perfect opportunity for schools, students, and their families from across the state to gather and celebrate what’s great about middle level education in Maine.

Here are 14 key reasons schools have given for participating in the Scholar Leader program:

  1. positive recognition for students as role models
  2. promotes scholarship and leadership for students
  3. recognition and appreciation of families
  4. recognition of and appreciation middle level educators
  5. the only statewide recognition open to all middle schools
  6. recognizes students beyond the school community
  7. brings recognition to our school
  8. students, parents, school officials and administration all sit together for a great evening of fun and recognition
  9. it reflects well on all middle school students, not just the two that are recognized
  10. it supports our school goals
  11. promotes dignity and respect for all
  12. a way to show pride in our students
  13. lets student scholar leaders see they have peers across the state
  14. it helps support the mission of MAMLE and NELMS organizations




March 19, 2013


“I Pity The Fool!” Leadership Advice From Mr. T

March 2, 2013

Mr. T An opening workshop conversation I often have with school leaders around the world is to share three words of wisdom from a well-known figure—Mr. T. Even people outside the United States recognize the scowling muscular character from “The A Team,” and his signature commentary about his adversaries, “I pity the fool!” delivered in a menacing, rumbling growl. Of course, it’s not this four-word phrase I’m referring to. “Mr. T” is an acronym I use to remind us how to effectively advocate for, support, and sustain the integration of technology and learning in our schools (or any aspect of school effectiveness for that matter).

The “M” in Mr. T represents the need for school leaders to model what they want faculty, staff, and students to be doing in their classrooms. The importance of modeling is echoed in the famous quote “We must become the change we want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. Leadership must be seen as leading by example. Albert Einstein stated that “Modeling isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way.” As the lead teachers in a school, administrators must use and integrate today’s tools and resources in their work with colleagues, staff, and students on a regular basis if they want this to happen in their schools. School leaders should learn about and use both online and offline digital tools and resources in daily work and routines. Using hardware such as laptops, interactive whiteboards, smartphones, and document projectors to share and communicate ideas should be business as usual. Principals who use software tools for presenting ideas, facilitating and archiving conversations, and collaborating are modeling what teachers and students should be doing in their classrooms. “Walking the talk” matters!

The “R” in Mr. T represents the importance of taking time in our busy schedules to pause and reflect. Our days, and often nights, are filled with meetings, deadlines, data, and emergencies. We seldom take the time to stop and reflect on the meaning and significance of our activities. Yet, we regularly pay lip service to the importance of being reflective learners and practitioners as we rush from one agenda item to the next. Or we admonish students to stop and think about the consequences of their decisions. We fall into bed each night then get up in a handful of hours and begin again.

Here again, if we want to implement learning technology in meaningful ways we must periodically stop, or at least slow down, and make time to consider what we are doing, why we are doing it, and its significance in light of our overall vision. The great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, advised us to keep in mind that “Learning without reflection is to become lost.” As educational leaders we must model reflection, and we must create space and the expectation that reflection will be a key aspect of the learning process. This can be accomplished as simply as pausing after an activity and doing a simple “think, pair, share” around the question, “What implications does this activity have for our vision as a school?” This can be accomplished in under five minutes, and can be extended using online tools such as a wiki.

Finally, the “T” in Mr. T represents the critical process of transfer. Transfer happens when we take an experience in one setting and actually apply it in a meaningful way in another situation. If we do not figure out a way to transfer and apply an experience in our own lives or work, that experience is soon forgotten. We can all complete the oft quoted aphorism, “If you don’t use it, you…” It is the responsibility to the leader, whether it’s the school leader or the leader of the classroom, to plan for, build in, and facilitate this transfer. Transfer is critical when it comes to integrating learning and technology where the interest is often focused on the novelty of the latest application or tool. The leader must take advantage of the interest and move the work forward by asking and requiring the staff to grapple with and answer the question, “How can we use this in our own work?”

So, take 30 seconds and ask yourself, “Am I like Mr. T when it comes to modeling, reflecting, and transferring what I want to see in my school?” If not, you know what Mr. T would have to say!

This entry is reposted from NASSP at

Down East and Far East In The Middle

January 30, 2013

We’re everywhere! Who, you ask? Middle level advocates, that’s who! We have many wonderful middle level experts right in Maine. Many of them post here on the Bright Futures blog. We have great conversations with our regional and national  colleagues from NELMS, AMLE, and NASSP as well. Recently I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of middle level educators in Japan, and guess what? They have the very same burning interests and challenges we contend with in our middle grades an ocean and a continent away!

Meeting new colleagues from away is great fun, and connecting them with colleagues here in Maine is the best. So allow me to introduce Trent Citrano, Principal of the middle school and high school at St. Maur International School in Yokohama. Established in 1872, it is the oldest international school in Japan. Interestingly, although it’s steeped in tradition, like Maine, St. Maur’s faculty is looking to implement some of the newest. most progressive middle level ideas to meet the needs of their students while preparing them for the future where everything is connected, personalized, and constantly changing.


Trent is passionate about connecting students, staff, parents and community in order to create the best possible learning environment for his students. He hopes that – by coupling a wide-variety of extra-curricular activities, caring support systems, and engaging best practices – Saint Maur students will excel and develop into balanced, lifelong learners. Trent also likes good food, so I really enjoyed meeting him. I had the BEST ramen ever in their school cafeteria! I wonder if there are any Maine school cafeterias serving ramen?

Trent is also a blogger. Here’s his blog IT has a great name…Something to Munch On, In Your mind and On Your Plate. So check it out. Tell him you’re from Down East and that Chris says “domo arigato gozaimasu”!

Okay or Not Okay? Your Thoughts Please!

November 15, 2012

In September we asked Bright Futures readers whether they had read three documents with major implications for middle level education in Maine and beyond. We’re interested in hearing your thoughts about the results. To paraphrase our colleague Jill Spencer, What in the data confirmed your thoughts?  What was interesting? What was surprising? What was disturbing?

Question #1 – “How recently have you read This We Believe?  This is the most widely read description and prescription of what constitutes effective middle programs and practices based on over 3000 research studies over 30 years published by AMLE. Thoughts?

Question #2 –  “How recently have you read “Bright Futures”, the report of Maine’s Commission on Middle Level Education? The Commission. This report lays out the state of middle level education in Maine along with recommendations to the Maine Department of Education and the field for educating all of Maine’s 10 to 15 year olds. Thoughts?

Question #3 – Have you read Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First” released in 2012.  It sets out objectives and action steps for building an education system in Maine that meets the needs of all learners. At its core is the middle level belief in developmentally appropriate, student centered teaching and learning. For more information and a PDF of the Key Document visit the MDOE website. Thoughts?

So what are your thoughts???

A Well Deserved Recognition!

October 29, 2012

In 2000 the Ed Brazee Friend of Middle Level Education Award was established by the MAMLE Board of Directors to recognize those who have made significant contributions to middle level education throughout their careers. The Brazee Award has been presented only four times previously since its inception. The fifth time was this past Friday at MAMLE’s annual conference.

The fifth awardee has served middle level education for over three decades in a number of capacities. In addition to a long and very successful career as an educator at Mt. Ararat Middle School, this exemplary professional  has contributed through her involvement as a board member and President of MAMLE. She has also been on the faculty, and then director of the Middle Level Institute which for over 25 years has been the premier summer program for middle level educators. She has also been a graduate instructor for middle level curriculum and instruction, an instructional coach in middle school classrooms across Maine and beyond. Her workshops model the kind hands-on, engaging instruction we want in classrooms. This dedicated educator has emerged as a prolific, best selling author of several books including Everyone’s Invited and Teaming Rocks for AMLE. Her involvement in MAMLE, NELMS, AMLE, and MICDL has impacted middle level education in Maine, New England, the US, and Europe.

Please join the MAMLE Board of Directors in congratulating Jill Spencer, the fifth recipient of the Ed Brazee Friend of Middle Level Education Award!

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