Dear Middle School Student –

Dear Middle School Student-

These years in middle school will be the best of times and worse of times.

Smile often.

You will be experience all of the emotions (some of which you have never felt before).

Every event will seem life changing.

These years will transform you from a grade school kid to a confident high school student. These changes will be hard but are necessary.

There will be days you fall flat on your face in failure, just remember to get up so that the next day you can glisten in the light of success.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the moments. Take one day at a time.

Be true to yourself!

Don’t change to impress your friends, change because you want to change. Your friends will always be there when you need them.

Listen to your parents and teachers advice. They speak from experience and believe in you!

Speak up when you have convictions so your voice is heard.

Listen to others so you can hear their point of view.

Be kind and courageous.

Remember you matter!

And You will survive!

Love A Middle School Teacher!

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Compliance vs Engagement

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from https://educationcloset.com/2016/06/14/engagement-vs-compliance/

Teachers endlessly debate compliance vs engagement. Twitter is full of quick takes on the topic focusing on how students need to be engaged not compliant. Arguments are made that make is seem like compliance is a bad thing in education. Yes, most teachers goal is engagement or a level of empowering students, but without compliance it can never be achieved.

The compliance naysayers often focus on strict classroom management techniques for their examples of compliance. Sit in assigned seats, arranged in rows, be quiet, do everything I say. Does this style of teacher work for today’s learners? Some but probably not too many. Military style compliance classrooms aren’t the norm now (sure seemed to be when I was a child). Many classrooms are moving to flexible seating with a culture of learning as a community. Classrooms do need students to comply with school rules and expectations. Students need to learn the procedures for choosing a seat and when the teachers voice has to be heard. Without simple levels of compliance students will be engaged only in their desires, not the class’s learning targets.

Might the lack of compliance be one of the issues hindering education today? Students are so engaged with social media, sports, Fortnite and their personal agendas that they fail to comply with the educational goals of their school. Lack of compliance is modeled all over in our society. Just turn on the news, everyday their is a story about non-compliance, where someone is engaged in their own agenda.

Successful teachers know the balance that is needed between compliance and engagement. Focusing on classroom procedures and expectations first and then moving to more engagement style tasks once students show they can comply with expectations. Many activities start of as compliance and move towards engagement after students show they can follow the expectations. Many teachers use choral response activities to help model for students how they can learn concepts. Like this one

 

Students can learn from compliance. Compliance is a skill that every employer desires. Compliance is needed in our society.  Education should focus on the balance between compliance and engagement. Without compliance the engagement can be misguided and unfocused!

School Our Students Deserve

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By all current assessments our school systems needs a make over. Schools have remained stagnate for the past hundred years as humans have rapidly advanced. Schools have failed to keep up with the innovations and advancements that have happened around them. It is time we adapt schools to their surroundings.

Our current school structure is absolute. Our high school students deserve schools without a bell schedule, built more like a modern library or bookstore. Schools need large gathering areas for students to meet, collaborate and socialize. Surrounding the large community space should be smaller gathering rooms and offices for instructors. Instead of having a set schedule of classes set to a bell schedule. Students can work like most offices with a flex schedule, attending labs and lectures as needed. Handing in assignments digitally. Teachers would use their offices to meet with individual students, small meeting rooms for groups projects and a few classrooms to schedule large group instruction. A classroom management system can be used for students to schedule their meeting times with instructors. The building could be open from 7 AM till 7 PM and students would be able to come and go as needed. School should go year round to allow students to keep learning. If students feel they need a break then they can take on, returning when ready to work.

Currently schools function as a holding cell for students while parents are at work. Students currently come and go as they please for doctor’s appointments, vacations sports and when sick. Our current structure is failing our students and families. Students miss so much instruction time, schools need a system that is more flexible allowing students to learn at their own pace with no penalty for absences.  In this flexible structure, grade levels would be eliminated.  Students would focus on learning standards and receive credit for mastering standards working at their own pace.  Students would have the flexibility to pick their learning pathway that focuses on their interests and career paths.

Teachers would be able to create their schedules to fit their daily needs and districts would not need to hire substitute teachers. Classroom management can be handled by asking any students not meeting expectations to go home for the day and return when they are ready to learn.

It is time to create the schools our students deserve, ending the school day care centers we currently run.

Lets get to work and make it happen!

MAMSE 2018

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I will be presenting at the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators Conference on Monday March 12, 2018. I have gone to MAMSE every year since 2011. I feel every middle level educator in Michigan to try to attend at least once. Yes, I am biased since I am currently president of MAMSE. Our conference focuses on middle level instruction and the needs of middle level teachers. This is a great networking opportunity to meet up with other teachers in the middle. The conference is held in a middle school building with middle school students assisting by introducing speakers and occasionally presenting. This year our host is The Middle School at Parkside in Jackson, MI. MAMSE is a state affiliate of the Association of Middle Level Educators (AMLE) which is the leading provider of support of middle level instruction.

This year I will be presenting on Social Media and Legends of Learning. My presentations are embedded below. Hope to see you Monday.

Just Kidding …

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Part 1 of school safety series

Since Valentines day and the sad events that happened in Parkland, Florida at Stoneman Douglas High School, schools have been on edge. School safety is a ht topic on the news, radio and in the papers. Our students see how serious adults are around the topic. Many are calling out for attention by making their own threats. It seems like every news cycle we hear a story about teens making threats. When caught voicing their threat of violence whether on social media or in person, the next words authorities hear are “Its a Joke” or “I am Kidding”.

Now days schools have to take every threat seriously. At any word of a potential attack, safety plans are put into place. Police are rushed to the scene. Tensions mount. School violence is not a joking matter. The authorities are using a zero tolerance approach. Still the jokesters are still out there. Each passing week it seems more tomfoolery arises. Students are testing the system, looking to see how the adults will react. Raising the stress levels in schools.

It seems jokes have reached a new level, that similar to the famed MTV show “Jackass”. I am left wondering when jokes became this way.  We need to teach our children that jokes are obvious, if we have to tell others its a joke we weren’t funny. Another clue to a jokes is that they create laughter not fear. Has YouTube warped our children’s understanding of humor?

or is something else happening?  Has our on demand world, made our students hate the social, community demands of school? Questions to ponder as we seek answers to how to make our schools safe. (and better)

In the meantime could ALL media outlets help our children understand how to make a joke that doesn’t cause fear!

A Modest Education Proposal

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Education is an expensive endeavor. Schools need to be kept modern. Students need the latest technology in their hands to learn and be ready for the careers for tomorrow. Isn’t it time that our education system began acting like a business so many politicians want it to be?

It is time for schools to benefit from their captive audience like movie theaters, sport and concert venues, banks and airlines. Instead of having water fountains, schools can sell water can be sold for $4 a bottle. The lockers and bathrooms use will be for a cost $1.00. Lessons can come will come with paid advertisements from the schools sponsors. Small Fees will be charged for students to be tested and a larger fee structure for grades issued. Once all these policies are implemented, taxes for the community will be reduced and schools will be able to recruit the brightest and best teachers.

When schools focus on being profitable like businesses everyone wins. These are sound business principals. Airlines, airports and concert venues take advantage of their captive audience by over charging for needs commodities like water. At movie theaters customers pay to see a movie but also see ads that add to the theaters bottom line. Extra fees exist all over the business world. It is time for schools to follow this trend and act like a corporation by find profits everywhere they can. Heck, network television charges cable companies to carry them (fees past to customer) while they charge millions for advertising. When I go down to Comerica Park, I pay $20 for a Little Ceasars Pizza that would cost me $5 at the store by my house. Why haven’t schools realized this potential before? Students have to go to school by law, time for us to capitalize on our captive student audience.

 

Please read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” if you don’t understand my satire. It is time to recognize education isn’t a business and needs to be fully funded by taxes.

Moana- the story of our education system

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I recently watched Moana with my children. I was stressed about the pressures teachers feel to perform daily in our classrooms. It was nice to sit and relax with the kids on the couch and watch a great Disney film. Then my mind started to focus on the the educational value of the film. I realized the Moana is a parable for our education system.

Moana represents our students, eager to learn, take risks and find adventure. Her parents represent parents that want to hold on to traditions, their children to be the same as them and experience a similar education system. Moana’s Grandmother represents the possibilities of our education systems to take students where they desire to go in life. Maui the Demi-god  and Heihei the dim witted rooster represent our politicians.  Maui has good intentions but is full of ego, wants to be praised for accomplishments instead of empowering others. Heihei follows misguided instincts even when others try to lead him in the right direction. The heart of the The ocean represents the value of education, which has been lost in our society.  Moana is on a quest to restoring educational values and ridding our society of the demons Kakamora, The Realm of Monsters and Te Ka. These demons represent our societies value systems currently. Kakamora are the “haters” and “trolls” the extoll negatives towards anything and feel they are always right. The Realm of Monsters is social media that loves the shiny and bright of entertainment disregarding knowledge. Te Ka is our government influenced by the Kakamora and Realm of Monsters focusing on blame and angry public opinion.

It is a hard battle for Moana and she needs the help of her Grandmother for guidance and Maui for strength. Just like our students need teachers to guide and our legislative bodies to pass laws that empower our students to be successful. Our students and their needs must be the guides. Educators need to work with legislators to help them focus on our students needs or they will focus too much on their ego (Maui) or on their own misguided instincts (Heihei).

It is time for us to return the heart of education where it should be. Our society needs to value the educational system and educators. The Kakamora are allowed too much voice currently. We can’t let them dominate the educational landscape and control the heart of education with their blame and punish attitude. As educators we have to be stedfast in guiding our students to the heart with consistent encouragement. Time for legislators to listen to our students voice and drop their egos and misguided instincts.