Posts Tagged ‘AMLE’

Let’s Put the “Middle” Back in Middle Level

April 11, 2012

There are a lot of discussions of what should happen in school for 10 to 14 year olds. It’s driven by a lot of factors: implementing the Common Core, increasing graduation rates, getting ready for high school, work readiness, making kids more compliant, a global economy, 21st Century Skills, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, the demands to know and be able to use technology… And on. And on.

I’ve even seen middle level organizations get distracted by these issues, starting to be led away from their focus…

It’s not that I don’t think these goals for education are important. They are. I’m just reminded of the saying, “keep the main thing the main thing.” I don’t see these issues as the main thing, even though I think of them as goals or issues that could support the main thing.

Middle level shouldn’t be about test taking, or getting kids to put aside their cell phones or Facebook pages, or high school readiness, or work readiness. It’s not even about “hormones with feet” (although, ironically, it does seem to apply to a couple teachers I know!). 😉

First and foremost, middle level needs to be about young adolescents: what are their characteristics and what practices are harmonious with those characteristics.

That is the “Middle” in middle level.

And the more we get away from that being our center (no pun intended), the harder it is to teach middle level students. That includes (and is perhaps especially true for) that list of important (but supporting) goals for middle level education I mentioned in the first paragraph.

You see, the irony is exactly that our believing in the importance of those goals, which has taken us away from the middle, has made it harder to achieve those goals. We can only achieve those goals with young adolescents when we put the Middle first.

So, how can we put the Middle back in middle level education?

I was part of a team that created two wonderful tools for AMLE for just that purpose. They are shared on AMLE’s website for you to use with your school and community.

Fundamental for Student Success In The Middle Grades is a self running presentation overview of the characteristics of young adolescents, an overview of national recommendations for this age group, and an introduction to some of the research on what works.

Middle Grades Education: Fundamentals and Research is a collection of 9 presentations with presenter notes on topics vital to understanding what works with 10-14 year olds.

Use these tools with your colleagues, your teaching staff, your parents, your communities, and your young people wanting to become teachers to remind us all what the main thing is in middle level education.

Let’s put the Middle back into middle level, so we can achieve all our goals.

I Need My Middle Level Conferences!

September 15, 2011

I need my middle level conferences.

I know that funding is tight and might rule out being able to attend.
But I need my middle level conferences.

And I know it’s hard to be away from your classroom and the school.
But I need my middle level conferences.

I need them because they feed me.

Most of you know about the MAMLE conference at Sugarloaf each October – this is certainly one of my favorite places to learn and to network with friends. But I’m always surprised at how many Sugarloaf conference attendees aren’t familiar with the NMSA/Association for Middle Level Education, or with that amazing conference.

(Yes, NMSA recently updated their name to Association for Middle Level Education, to better reflect their global, not simply national, mission and that they work with any school that works with middle graders, not just “middle schools.”)

This year’s national conference is in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 10-12, and promises to be just as amazing as previous years. Henry Winkler is one of the keynoters, and there are fabulous featured sessions on everything from student motivation to technology to dropout prevention to literacy to differentiated instruction, and more! There are also hundreds of breakout sessions on nearly any topic you might find helpful, the the Exhibit Hall is full of vendors with interesting and helpful products (as well as freebies!). But mostly there are thousands of amazing middle level educators from all over the country just dying to connect and to share and to collaborate.

I don’t know about you, but by this time of the year, I have initiatives I’m working on, challenges I’m facing, and ideas I want to share. And by attending middle level conferences, I can hear keynotes that inspire me, and attend sessions that answer my questions, and give me more good ideas, and address my challenges.

But for me, the most important aspect of attending middle level conferences is networking. My best work in school comes from the ideas I’ve shared with, talked over with, or “stolen” from colleagues. And other than some communication through email, twitter, and Facebook, conferences are primarily where I get to see, visit with, and talk to (face-to-face!) my colleagues. Conferences are where I can find out what my professional friends are up to. What are their initiatives, successes, and challenges? How are they doing? What tidbits can I take away from their experience? What tidbits can I share from my own? Where are our potential points of collaboration? What are their new best books or resources or contacts to share?

And this is is how I am best fed professionally.

It’s your turn: How are you fed professionally? Why do you need to attend your middle level conferences?

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