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Dru Tomlin

Making a Difference through Student Advocacy Programs

The students needed me to make a difference, and they couldn't wait another year for me to figure it out. The disciplinary referrals were piling up in the manila folder on my desk. Their pink, yellow, and white triplicate forms were complete and signed by parents and guardians and entered into the school system's data management system. Even though I had already dealt with these behavior documents and events, they still troubled me.

As the assistant principal for 8th grade, they bothered me because the same students' names populated the forms day after day. They had become "frequent flyers" in my office. And even though I was doing my job as it was assigned, I knew I needed to do something different to serve these students. Turning students' lives into ink and paper was simple, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't making a real difference in their daily lives at school and beyond.

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Dru Tomlin

Creating a Better Tomorrow Today in the Middle Level: Lessons from Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers

Most of us know the story by now. Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was recently caught making inflammatory racial comments that stoked the cinders of hatred, burning through the NBA and creating a firestorm in the media and the nation.

When I heard about this story, I recoiled and surged with anger. And then, as a middle school teacher and administrator, I looked for the lessons. What could we learn from Mr. Sterling? What could we learn from the team? How could this experience inform middle level education as we reach and teach young adolescents who are creating their tomorrows today?

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Dru Tomlin

Growing Our Middle Grades Educational “Gardens”

After a long winter season with continual blankets of snow and ice sleeping on the ground, the warmth of spring is finally waking up the soil. Seas of grass are rising in front yards and eager blooms are curling upward toward the sun.

Like careful, measured areas of hope, fresh garden plots are starting to appear in back yards. These gardens—and the work that goes along with them—mirror what should be happening in our middle schools. Critical and basic actions are needed to make gardens flourish, and if we want to see the same kind of sustainable growth for every student in our classrooms, we also need to plan, till, sew, and constantly nurture our educational gardens.

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Dru Tomlin

Staff Morale in the Middle

One of the 16 characteristics of an effective school for students ages 10–15 is that teachers, learners, and building leaders should be using multiple assessments to gauge success. Data is collected to gauge learning and instructional success, but there is one other piece of data that also needs to be assessed, analyzed, and acted upon in the middle level: morale. While sometimes elusive, morale is a critical ingredient in the middle school recipe because it affects every instructional dish that is served to our students. But how do we collect, disaggregate, and then act upon morale? How do we pin down such an enigmatic ingredient?

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