Hold it right there David C. Banks!

This morning a friend sends me a link to David C. Bank’s post in the Daily Beast entitled:”Why Middle Schools Should Be Abolished“. I was shocked an educator would write such a thing about any school level, let alone middle school which I hold dear to my heart. As I read the post, David does point out some challenges/needs for educators in the middle level but is focused on throwing out middle schools and combining them with High schools or elementary schools. He missed the opportunity to focus on the students needs and write about the need focus in the middle school level!

Here are a quote from the article really stuck out:

“One challenge is the ill-prepared teacher” – This is very true. Most states don’t have middle school certification programs. Teachers with elementary and high school certifications can all teach in middle school programs. States need to create a third level of certification so teachers are trained to teach this level. This does not mean the students should be lumped in the higher or lower level. I received a master degree in Middle Level Education Programming. All teachers in the middle level need to read “This We Believe” the position paper by the Association for Middle Level Education.

 

Later in the article David said “A teacher’s ability to relate to his or her students is not icing on the cake of serious academics—I believe it is the whole cake.” I totally agree, middle school is about relationships. (Well all school should be) Where is this not happening? I want to go help these schools become better rather than cut them out of the educational process.

I feel David is pointing out a larger problem that exists in our country today. Many Middle Schools are Middle School by name only. The function more like Junior High Schools. YES, there is a difference. If you read This We Believe, it is clearly spelled out. Middle Schools focus on team teaching. Making sure ALL students educational needs are met. Spending time with curriculum in all areas of learning: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Social. Dues to educational budget cuts around the country Middle School programs have been cut drastically.

Our society tends to focus on early intervention and college readiness. School districts feel judged by these programs so have spend the few dollars they have beefing up these programs. In my school district for example we have employed 11 staff members to help out with reading recovery and early reading intervention programs. These staff help the K-3 programs be successful. Our high school also has hired extra staff to help counsel students and prepare them for college success. This leaves funding short to middle level programming which David points out needs improvements.

I feel it is malpractice to propose abolishing an entire level based solely on achievement gaps and personal experience. David have you actually taught in a middle school? Have you read This We Believe? Please do if you haven’t. Don’t throw out the middle level for the reasons you state. It is an important time for our students. Insist that staff is trained properly. Middle Schools that are TRUE middle schools are Highly successful. Just look at the schools to watch list here in Michigan to see some great middle schools at work.

David I charge you to reexamine you post and see the need to make sure all middle schools are TRUE MIDDLE SCHOOLS. We shouldn’t abolish anything.  Hopefully other Middle School bloggers will also take their time to respond to your post and change your mind!

 

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Filed under Educational Reform

Student data and teaching ….

You hear it all the time, in all the media “Student data shows need for better teaching.” It is the mantra of many educational reformers today. I have struggled with this argument for years. When I talk to friends outside of the education field they buy into this argument. If students don’t perform well on a test then it is “the teachers fault”. Seems logical from a business perspective. When a business makes a product, they desire them all to come off the assembly line the same. If a sales man isn’t making sales or a company isn’t selling its product, then the person or company is at “fault”.

 

Problem is education is not a business. Students are not products but individual people with a variety of individual needs. Does our society want all of our students exiting schools to be the same? It seems that way right now with the testing culture that exists in our schools today. Maybe we need to take a step back and look at schools in a different light.

Instead of: 

Student data is to teaching as product sales are to company’s success

The analogy should be 

Student data is to teaching as crops growth are to farmers.

 Farmers grow crops similarly to how teachers help grow youths minds. Farmers look at the climate of the region pick best methods and choose crops. Similarly teachers see the environment students come from and pick lessons accordingly. The best farmer can loose a crop when unexpected events occur. Droughts, insect infestations, and floods are all possible outside influences that can cause a crop to be lost. The best teachers can not show students growth gains when outside events effect their classrooms. Deaths, loss of jobs and other social ills can effect student performance despite the quality of teaching. Farmers can help adjust environmental factors that affect their crops by watering dry fields, applying pesticides and building dykes. Schools systems try to adjust the environments for their students with counseling options but it is often hard to control these factors. 

Even this analogy has a weakness, farmers get to pick their crops for the environment. Teachers have no choice. They have to teach every student that walks into their classroom. Teachers give their “A ” game everyday to create an atmosphere for success and culture of learning.  

Society needs to be careful when using “learning” data to measure the teaching that is going on in the classrooms.  Incredible teachers are leaving the classrooms due the recent trend in using this data poorly. It is time for it to change. 

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Summer is for adventure learning!

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Exploring a sandbar

It is summer, how are you and your family learning together? What your kids aren’t in school? You are just enjoying vacation! Well summer is full of all types of learning activities often MORE, yes more valuable than school. Summer offers all of us unlimited self-paced learning opportunities. It is the best time of the year to show your children that you are a learner, and that learning in its purest form is FUN!!  Summer also gives us the opportunity to learn together and show that no matter what your age is you can learn something new.

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Fireworks for the 4th

Since school was finished for us June 17th, our family has had numerous learning experiences. Some of them are simple, my 10 year old son is learning simple lawn mowing, chores and responsibility. My twin 5 year olds are learning to clear the table and be responsible members of our house hold. Since not every family has parents with as much unscheduled time as a teacher, make sure to take advantage of family vacation time to learn. We enjoyed our 4th of July in fabulous Boyne City. The 4th Parade allow them to ask questions about veterans and the political process. The fireworks created an entire discussion about safety and explosives. Spending days on a lake leads to numerous learning opportunities ranging from nature lessons about the ecosystem to boaters safety lessons. All my kids have learned so many boating skills their are too many to count. Gavin pictured on the sandbar above has become a fish and is upset when the weather is not favorable to swimming. Another favorite learning activity is tubing behind the boat. An understanding of physics is emerging in their developing minds. After a ride they want to know why they go faster coming out of a turn. When a wipe out occurs friction is discussed.

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Walking the pier in Petoskey.

As parents we need to take advantage of every opportunity to learn with our children. We can show them the world. Yesterday when the weather was too cold for lessons on the lake, we moved the classroom to Petoskey’s waterfront pier and the Little Traverse Historical Museum. We learned together about the history of northern Michigan. Afterwards walking the docks of the marina to see all the different types of boats Enjoy your summer by getting out and learning with you children. Don’t leave them to find their own entertainment all the time.  Learning is an adventure that schools can’t contain. Learning happens every minute of every day so make the most of every opportunity!

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Tubing on the lake, lesson in physics

Take a moment look around and see what you can learn everyday. School do not hold the key to learn. Learning happens everywhere, everyday. Schools only provide a structure that formalizes learning. Life is a learning experince that never ends!

 

 

 

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Petoskey Museum visit

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#michED – more than just a twitter chat

“So, I don’t do twitter, I can’t be part of #michED.” This is a statement I recently heard from a teacher when asking me about my T -shirt. Huge misconception. Yes, #michED has a twitter chat, Wednesdays from 8-9 pm, but it is SO much more. The twitter chat is just the gateway to connections that #michED community brings. The community is about connecting educators from all over Michigan to share the positives in education. The community includes anyone who wants to help promote great teaching and learning in OUR public schools.

The #michED community began at EdcampGR 2012 out of a discussion on how to connect state educators. Out of one discussion a twitter chat was born to connect educators and share ideas. As the active participants grew, the #michED podcasts were born. The podcasts highlight creative instructional practices found through out the state. Brad Wilson has done an incredible job capturing teaching practices in the state. Over the past year #michED has grown by fostering an environment of POSITIVE EDUCATION. Members of the community have presented at state and national conferences. Teachers meet in person to discuss our practice. Teachers collaborate online to make incredible learning opportunities for their students. In May, #michED issued a challenge (3 actually) to all educators in the state:

Hundreds of educators participated. If you are an educator and want to focus on the positive things in education, the #michED community is for you. Michigan Teacher of the year Gary Abud JR. recently wrote about the community in the Detroit News. Twitter is just a tool many of us use to connect over the many miles of this state. If you want to learn how to use twitter to connect to the community here is a great starting point. If twitter isn’t for you it does not mean you can’t be apart of #michED. The community includes all educators from pre-K to college. Join us at Edcamps, conferences, on other social media platforms. Be apart of the positive change we can make in education in the state of Michigan and beyond!! Look for ways to connect with other like minded educators.

I, like all educators in the #michED community, look forward to making the connection with you! Whether it is face to face or via social media. Lets make a better education environment for teachers and students alike, by focusing on the positive change we can make!

 

 

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Summer Learning AMLE Institute of Middle Level Leadership on Twitter

What are you doing this summer?

 

Top of my list is to take a break and get away from teaching to reflect on my year. Take time for myself and my family. After my top priority I do want to stay connected and learn a few things. There are so many wonderful Professional Development opportunities out there. For me I want something fast and personalized. Nothing too formal, possibly something I can do as a break from my relaxation. A quick mind turn on.

I would love to travel to a wonderful conference like the Association of Middle Level Educators Institute of Middle Level Leadership but it is not in my budget. The next best thing to being there is to connect with the conference online. AMLE is teaming up with #MSchat to bring to twitter connections to their leadership institute. SO take the opportunity to connect with the best and the brightest while you relax on you vacation!

     What is it? Twitter Event at #mschat about the importance of Middle Level Leadership during the AMLE Institute for Middle Level Leadership! 

·         When?  Monday, June 23rd from 8-9pmET and Monday, July 14th from 8-9pmET

·         Where? #mschat and #AMLELI14

Hope you can join us for a couple of hours of powerful inspired learning!

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Filed under Middle School Chat, Uncategorized

In a time of causual work attire: Dressing for success in school

In a world of casual Fridays, golf shirts and dressing down it is nice to see people dress up for a day!This week our school is having spirit week to help celebrate the year of learning. We have your typical school pride day, favorite sports team day, Grade color day etc, but Today we took things to the formal level. Dress to Impress Day or as I called it Dress for success. Image

Students and staff Dressed up! T-shirts and Hoodies gave way to nice dresses, coats and ties were seen all over the school. It impressed me. Student behavior seemed better. Students stated they felt good about themselves because they were getting compliments. The overall feeling in the building was that of pride! Of course not every student can participate. A few commented that they had “nothing” dressy to wear.

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It was nice to see students take pride in their attire. Girls learned that heels are painful for their feet to wear all day. I took the time to help boys learn how to tie their ties.  It felt great for me to get compliments for being dressed up, finally being called “professor” by a group of students. (My normal attire has me looking more like a golfer than a teacher.)  Staff spent time modeling how to dress for success. I feel it was a very valuable experience for our students. Very different than the typical school spirit day.

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A big thank you to our wonderful building staff for modeling how to dress for success! The student council and their leaders should get kudos for planning a day of modeling self-pride.

Next time your school is planning spirit week, place a positive day like “Dress for Success” next to wacky Wednesday and Sports Team Friday. You will be glad that you do!!

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Filed under Activities, Observations and Opinions, School based

Finding Balance, in our unbalanced world!!

 

The end of the school year brings so many activities. As a teacher and a parent of 3 children, it is often hard to find balance in daily life. Constantly running from event to event. Making the impossible choices of disappointing my many students or my 3 children. Throw in my “extras” of being a union president, my son’s baseball coach and connected educator, one might say I spend my days spinning many plates, making sure none fall. Learning to find a balance is key for an educators survival in this unbalanced world.

A few rules I try to live by to make sure nothing falls:

1. Prioritize: What has to be done versus what can wait. Identify what is urgent and take care of these items. Delay action on items that are not time dependent until you have time. Keep a list, move thing up and down based on the time needs. Make sure you give your up-most attention to those items that are important.

2. Delegate: If someone else can handle the task, LET THEM DO IT!! If a friend offers to grade papers, take the kids to the park, or help out, take them up on the offer.

3. Take care of you: Make sure you eat right, get you needed sleep, and exercise. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t function properly to fulfill all the demands on you time. Take a break from the go, go, go and take care of your needs.

4. Be true to the task: Make sure your efforts are YOUR BEST, if you can’t give it your best it is time to cut items off your to do list and start saying NO!

5. Don’t Regret what you miss out on: IF you couldn’t attend a school event or be there for everyone of your child’s events it is okay. Make sure you ask about what you miss and show those that matter you care about them, but don’t regret that you don’t have a clone or 36 hours in the day.

Finally: Make the important moments matter! Show the appropriate enthusiasm at events, Make everyone that matters know you are there to participate fully. Don’t try to multitask during the school talent show or you child’s award ceremony. Just be there for them!!

So much is going on in our lives. Make sure you focus on what you can do. Live in the moment. Enjoy those that you are with. Keep all the plates spinning!!

Notice I have been so busy I haven’t written a blog post in awhile, many spinning in my head, hopefully I will have time when my summer break begins June 18th!

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