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!

 

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. 

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