Tagged “Middle Grades”

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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Kevin T. Goddard

Motivation Matters

Middle school kids are a different breed. If you aren't motivating them, they are not learning. In fact, they are probably tearing something up if motivation isn't in the picture. During my years as a middle school principal, I figured out that building a school culture with character education, fun, and a sense of belonging was key to improving student achievement.

The year before I arrived at a junior high of 510 students, teachers sent students 5,090 times to the office for disciplinary infractions. Discipline was handled in three different ways: kick the kid out, let the kid sit on the bench outside the office and go to their next class with no consequence, or paddle them. The school board was very adamant that this building culture change.

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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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Kristen Pekarek

March Is Middle Level Education Month

Whole child partner National Association of Secondary School Principals has joined with other organizations, including the Association for Middle Level Education, the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, and the National Association of Elementary Principals, to declare March the official month to celebrate middle level education. This celebration looks to focus attention on students ages 10–15 and the importance of their academic success and well-being during this stage of their lives.

In acknowledgement of this month's designation, we've compiled a list of whole child examples that highlight schools that are positively affecting middle grades students. Each example highlights a program, focus, or achievement and includes links to more information. Take a look and get inspired for this year's Middle Level Education Month.

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Ashanti Foster

PEACE at Oxon Hill Middle School

As kings and queens arrive at school, they are greeted with warm smiles, hand shakes, and student-initiated hugs to staff members and one another. They can't wait to get to school! It is clear that PEACE (Positive Energy Activates Constant Elevation) lives here. "Peace King, Peace Queen." Here it seems that positive energy activates constant elevation.

Situated in Ft. Washington, Md., is Oxon Hill Middle School, where the campus serves kings and queens that represent varied family lifestyles. Some students arrive in wheelchairs, others with limited English proficiency. In order to promote relationship building, creative instructional and support practices are in place so that every student and every parent knows how important their success is to the school. The way in which adult educators acknowledge students' capacity to learn and grow is the fabric of improving teaching and learning. Teachers greet students at the door each module, each day. Parents visit the school on an open door policy and students know exactly what to do and where to go if they have a concern. Each staff member addresses the work they do as an act of service and for that reason student learning is the motivation in all they do.

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Start Empathy

Image vs. Reality: A Lesson for the 7th Grader in All of Us

Post written by Emily Cherkin for Ashoka's Start Empathy Initiative, a whole child partner organization.

When I tell people I work with 7th graders, I often hear, "Oh, wow. ... I'm so sorry!" They tell me how miserable their seventh grade year was. Sometimes I hear, "It takes a certain person to work with that age group..." before their voice trails off, uncertainly.

I am usually bemused, at turns slightly offended, but mostly, I understand. Because I remember how hard 7th grade was for me, which is exactly why I so love working with this age group now.

As a part-time teacher and a full-time mom, I have been working with 7th graders for the past few years on a curriculum focusing on media literacy and anti-bullying.

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Fred Ende

Exceeding Needs Through a Partnership Perspective

As a coordinator of science for a number of districts in the northern suburbs of New York City, I have the opportunity to work with schools with a tremendous array of needs. For some, finances are the primary culprit in educational challenges they face. In others, high populations of language learners or mobile student populations make it difficult to provide for each and every student. In still other cases, a combination of factors makes meeting student needs an uphill battle.

What's the common denominator? That every district, especially in today's educational climate, is facing drastic challenges. What's different is how districts and schools are dealing with those challenges. Are they embracing and working through them? Or are they brushed under the carpet, in hopes that "magical thinking" will take care of everything?

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Giveaway: Classroom Instruction That Works DVD Series

Edutopia - ASCD Giveaway

Want to fine-tune some of your teaching techniques in 2013? ASCD has partnered with Edutopia and, this week, one lucky winner will receive ASCD's Classroom Instruction That Works, a DVD series that brings to life nine research-based instructional strategies for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms (a $349 value!). With concrete examples and lessons, you'll have plenty of ideas to bring to your classroom in the new year.

Go to www.edutopia.org/giveaway by midnight pacific time on Sunday, December 16, to enter for a chance to win. In addition, once you've entered to win, you'll receive a discount code for other ASCD products.

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