Archive for the ‘School Climate’ Category

MiddleWeb Smartbriefs – Tips for the New School Year and More

August 10, 2013

Do you know about Middleweb.com? 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 Middleweb.com

Advertisements

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!

Ready to Stretch Your Thinking?

May 17, 2013

Summer is made for days at the beach, hiking spectacular trails, and reading a good book in a hammock.  It is also the one time during the year when educators have the leisure to pause, reflect, and review their beliefs about teaching and learning. New learning in courses and institutes help stretch, clarify, and reshape the way we think about our classrooms.  For over 25 years the Middle Level Education Institute (MLEI) has provided Maine educators and those from away with ideas that are innovative and effective.  This year will be no different.

I have learned many important aspects of instructional strategies.  Of most importance is the fact that it is not about the teacher, but rather it is about the student learning that takes place.

2012 MLEI Attendee

Join us July 29-August 1 on Bowdoin College’s beautiful campus in Brunswick, Maine to continue the journey toward more powerful learning for our students. We invite you to join the quest to re-envision schooling in a bold way that systematically models as well as promotes the essential capacities students need to successfully confront the challenges of their futures and the future of our world.

In many ways it is indeed a hero or heroine’s journey to pursue powerful teaching in today’s social, political, and economic climate. We believe, however, that spirited middle level educators want to explore…

  • Empowerment and engagement
  • Community and collaboration
  • Content with meaningful context
  • Assessment for reflection and growth

apl-logo07-sm.102173224_std

Are you ready to pursue this bold vision that…

  • Cultivates learning that is engaging, challenging and meaningful?
  • Shifts the classroom environment from teacher-centered to learner-centered?
  • Incorporates student voice and choice in a substantive way?
  • May rock your vision of teaching and learning?

This Institute has given me hope and the courage to take the full journey.

2012 MLEI Attendee

The journey continues July 29 – August 1 at MLEI on the Bowdoin campus.  All of the details and registration information can be found at http://mleimaine.net/home

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 2.10.02 PM

Give my regards to Broadway

April 29, 2013

Pemetic School Show Choir I love to watch Maine’s middle (and high school) show choirs perform. This year’s state competition was held at Ellsworth High School several weeks ago and as always, all schools brought their best work to the stage. As a sports guy whose musical career ended badly in third grade, I’ve learned to admire and appreciate the singing and dancing talents of middle school students. In fact, show choir may be the perfect activity for young adolescents in middle level schools.

Here’s why: It gives large numbers of students—many show choirs have 20 or more students—opportunities to participate. And these students have a wide range of abilities and interests; some like to be out front as soloists as singers or dancers while others like being part of the ensemble. Still others bring their unique skills as musicians, floor managers, costume and  set designers, and assistant directors. In show choir there is a place for everyone. I also like that these young adolescents take a chance by putting themselves out front. Bravo for them and their hard-working mentors and teachers.

Show choirs absolutely require collaboration, very, very strict attention to detail, with everyone striving for excellence. There are few stars here as everyone recognizes the importance of working as a team. But it isn’t all about winning. You can readily see the joy and excitement on the faces of 11-year-olds or 14-year-olds as they begin a routine scared to death and two minutes later realize they are having the time of their lives.

Middle level schools believe in exploration, giving every 10-t0-15-year-old opportunities to try out different experiences. From volleyball to foreign language, drawing and painting to creative writing. Show choir offers young adolescents outstanding chances to find potentially life-long interests,  a place to be a part of a team,  and the satisfaction of doing something well and receiving instant feedback about it.

Isn’t this what life is all about?

If you haven’t seen any of Maine’s middle school show choirs in action take a look here and here. Or go online to see if your favorite middle level school has posted its routine for you to enjoy.

(Full disclosure: My daughter is the director of the Hermon High School Show Choir. I am also an avid Glee and Smash fan!)

Photo permission by PKHomer and Pemetic School, ME.

Middle Level Education–21st Century Style! Empowering Students to Take Charge of Their Learning

April 21, 2013

Jack Berckemeyer

The Young Adolescent Learner

Al Miller

Creativity in the Classroom

Dr. Kevin Perks

Literacy in the Content Areas

Bea McGarvey

Customized Learning

Where Can You Meet All of These Experts in ONE Place?

Plus over 30 concurrent sessions

MAMLE Annual Conference

Point Lookout, Northport Maine

October 17 & 18, 2013

For more information email or call Dr. Wally Alexander, Executive Director of MAMLE

wallace.alexander@umit.maine.edu
207-649-1576

THERE’S STILL TIME . . . to attend the NELMS Annual Conference

March 25, 2013

It’s a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner.  “Meeting the Multi-Faceted Needs of the Middle Level Learner” convenes next week, April 4 & 5, in Providence, Rhode Island, where there will be green grass and blooming flowers(I hope!).  Don’t miss two days of inspiring, invigorating, relevant professional development.  If you need help or ideas on how to fund this incredible opportunity, contact the NELMS office, and check out the full Annual Conference program.

Inspiring Keynote speakers:

Tom Burton on “Magic, Motivation & Our ‘Sparkling’ Middle Level Students”

Carol Ann Tomlinson on “The Demographics, Research & Ethics Of Differentiation”.

Engaging ticketed luncheons and targeted full and half day sessions (a sampling includes):

“It’s More Than A Name” – Tom Burton

“Listen To What The Students Say: Student Profiles That Invite Differentiation”  – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Student Success Plans + “Cutting Edge, New” Advisory = Student Success – Earle Bidwell

Digital Tools for Project Based Learning – Jill Spencer

How Can We Use Strategies and Assessments to Prepare for the Transition to Common Core State Standards? – Deb Scarpelli

Exploring and Applying Web 2.0 Tools and Resources in the Middle – Chris Toy

Courageous and Collaborative Leadership in the Middle – Lyn Ward Healy

Differentiation and the Brain: How Neuroscience Supports the Learner Friendly Classroom – Carol Ann Tomlinson

Timely and relevant concurrent workshop sessions based on the concepts contained in Turning Points 2000 and This We Believe

We (still) aren’t getting it!

January 28, 2013

I may have a bad case of the January grumpies, but frankly I’m tired of reading about these kinds of incidents. More than that I am angry that there seems to be little recourse, little discussion, and most important, little action taken. But take a look for yourself…

• Young teen girl is beaten up in her school…two onlookers film and upload video to Facebook.

•  Two high school students take their disagreement online where it inevitably escalates, disrupting a good portion of their school.

• After President Obama’s re-election last November and again after the Inauguration, a slew of racist comments appeared on Twitter and Facebook.

Not a day goes by when the Internet, TV news, and newspapers don’t feature several instances of students (ok, and adults too…and that is a big part of the problem) behaving inappropriately, sometimes badly, and occasionally illegally because of their online actions. Posting before thinking. Responding without weighing the consequences. Speaking without considering someone’s feelings.

We say our teens are tech-savvy, but what does that mean? For many teens it simply suggests they can navigate, use, and are not intimidated by their devices—laptops, tablets, smart phones, games, and of course, the Internet. Primary use of technology for many teens is still connecting with others (texting, social media) and entertainment (games, music, and more).

Far fewer teens than we would like actually take advantage of the technology at their disposal to learn, collaborate with others about bold ideas, problem solve (and particularly, problem find),  and give back to others. Let me say that again…the level of technology use for too many teens stops at texting and Facebook, unless we teach them how to be responsible (digital) citizens. And in this case, that “teaching” involves as much listening and discussing with them as it does about telling!

Here is what I suggest. Parents need to talk with their teens and teachers need to talk with their students about these issues. Our children and teens need to explicitly be taught what their responsibilities are for being good (digital) citizens, and how they can use technology responsibly, carefully, and ethically. (This is no easy task given the many examples of adults who misbehave online.)

But remember, this is not about technology. It is about common sense, using your brain, caring about others, setting good examples, not doing or saying things online that you would not do or say in face-to-face.

Take five minutes to talk to one of your classes today, and tomorrow, and the next day about a tech-related issue that has come up in your classroom, school, community, or in the news. Many of our students are desperate for guidance; they need to hear each other talk about the opportunities and challenges of being a teen in today’s society with the digital devices and tools they have access to. And of course, parents should have the same types of discussions.

Please note…this is not a rant. I’m simply asking teachers, school counselors, administrators, and parents to take five minutes each day to talk with a group of students about these issues as they arise. You don’t need to be a technology expert, you just need to talk about common sense behavior. Would you do or say this, or this, or this to someone face-to-face, as you have done hiding anonymously behind your computer?

There are tons of excellent resources available for kids of all ages, their teachers and parents. To get started investigate…

Common Sense Media

A Platform for Good

Digizen.org

Please let me know how this works for you and the kids for whom you are responsible!

SCHOOL SAFETY IN MAINE – EDUCATION COMMISSIONER STEVE BOWEN

December 21, 2012

This has been a week of profound sadness, and also great hope. Many leaders in our communities, states, and our nation have spoken with great passion and wisdom about how best to protect our children. I was very heartened to hear Maine Education Commissioner Bowen’s responses to questions about school safety as a guest on Maine Public Radio’s “Maine Calling”. He spoke about the need for action based on best practices, and not knee-jerk reactions. He also emphasized that our schools need to be welcoming to students, parents and the community. You can listen to the complete broadcast here.

The Philanthropy Project

November 19, 2012

Mount Blue Middle School

When middle school educators and students find meaning in work it is so magical! As I sat at the MAMLE awards presentations at the fall conference at Sugarloaf recently I felt the urge to be back in the classroom. I miss those moments that are filled with energy, life, and bring out the best in all involved, students and adults. It is the work that young adolescents do when they have the opportunity to lead, contribute their creative ideas, and work collaboratively that are often the ones that form who they are and last forever. This intense feeling came on for me as I listened to the work taking place at Mount Blue Middle School. Below is a description of The Philanthropy Project.

Joel Smith, Maureen Oswald, Jayne Flagg, and Mark Simpson

The Philanthropy Project idea came about slowly and then took on a life of its own. Ninety-five students began their 7th grade year as ordinary, “I am a dot in this world? typical adolescents. As teachers noticed common courtesy had taken a back seat in our society, we encouraged them to ramp it up a notch. We discussed manners and practiced them, first in the classroom and then in the halls with simple phrases like “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, etc. We then took that to the hallways, adding other elements such as introductions, handshakes, and using a person’s name to address them when they said “good morning” (especially teachers). They began to get feedback from the staff in our building, who remarked frequently about what a polite, happy group of kids we had. We were all beaming.

As a small independent project, we purchased class journals and each class tried to fill their journals with random acts of kindness they h ad performed or witnessed. This became a daily check-in. Their parents were noticing, and some got in on it. We watched “Pay It Forward”. They were enthralled. They created goals (read to younger child, visit an elderly person, rake a lawn, take food to the animal or local food bank). We watched them unfold by the end of their 7th grade year.

By eighth grade, they were itching for more. This is when the idea for a Philanthropy Project truly sprang. Colleagues agreed to head up a focus group, each with a different theme. We had soldiers in Afghanistan/Iraq, The Less Fortunate, The Elderly, and Animals. Students met with the group they chose and brainstormed ideas concerning how to give of themselves to improve the lives of others. The animal shelter saw dozens of kids come in to not only bring items they collected, but also to spend time int he kitten room and outside walking energetic, appreciative dogs. We ended up with boxes upon boxes of collected items sent to Yap for needy children, our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan received care packages and letters, the food bank was filled, and my favorite was a huge “senior social” we put on in our cafeteria for local retirees and nursing home residents, where we provided a DJ and enough food to feed an army, but most importantly where these citizens got to know our students and relationships developed.

The Exemplary Practice Awards are presented to individuals, teams, and schools across the state of Maine who are incorporating “best practices” into their curriculum and instruction, and whose educational practices exemplify excellent middle level education. Please consider nominating middle level educators for this award. You can learn more about the application process at the MAMLE website

Finalist for Teacher of the Year

August 16, 2012

Congratulations to middle school educator Shannon Shanning

Bruce Whittier Middle School is one lucky place for having Shannon Shanning as a teacher. Shannon was recently named as a finalist for the 2013 Maine Teacher of the Year. She joins colleagues Kathy Bousquet, a second and third grade teacher at Central School in South Berwick, and Beth Switzer, fourth-grade teacher at the Coastal Ridge Elementary School. An article in the Sun Journal on Monday provides details. You can access it by clicking here.

When I look at the Core Practices of the Bright Futures Middle Level report there are so many components that are integral to what Shannon does everyday as a middle school educator.

What jumps out? Shannon’s classroom description fits Core Practice 1: Students have access to curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory and is organized and executed to maximize accessibility for all students.

Example: “Shanning embeds learning into real-world experiences and connects students to the school and greater community through such efforts as the “MidKnight Fire-Slayers,” a partnership with the local fire department, according to the Maine Department of Education. She creates an environment of high engagement, challenge and support that inspires students to become more confident, capable and productive learners.”

Core Practice 7: Faculty, administration, and students collaboratively build a safe and caring climate that nurtures the individual while creating a sense of community where everyone is valued. In Shannon’s self-contained special education classroom the relationships that Shannon has with her students is built on her attention to building a safe and caring environment that definitely nurtures individuals as they all care for each other.

Principal Farag-Davis said that “Many of her students have developed a sense of themselves as incapable and helpless as learners,”. Shannon meets each student where they’re at, helps them develop goals, provides the instruction, encouragement “and occasional kick in the pants necessary to help them achieve their goals.”

Congratulations to Shannon as she continues in the process for the 2013 Maine Teacher of the Year!


%d bloggers like this: