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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#MSchat 10-24-13 This We Believe – Part 2

Tonight we continued our discussion about key elements of AMLE’s position paper about what makes Great middle schools. Questions centered around assessments used and technology that enhances student engagement.

#MSchat Schedule for September and October

Schedule for #MSchat for Sept and Oct

Chat is Thursdays week at 8 PM EST

Date                   Topic

August 29          No chat for Labor day holiday

Sept 5                How to address Student’s Physical needs

Sept 12              Celebrations in learning

Sept 19              Homework- Flipped Chat event with AMLE

                             and Guest Moderator Dru Tomlin

                            * *  More info coming up shortly  * *

Sept 26              How to address Student’s Emotional needs

Oct 3                  Literacy in Middle School

Oct 10                Parental Involvement

Oct 17                This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents Part 1

Oct 24                This We Believe: Keys to educating Young Adolescents Part 2

Oct 31                No Chat for Halloween

Learning Vocabulary with Metaphors

Today I used the following assignment in my science classroom:

The Learning target for today is to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary through the use of Metaphoric representation.

Part 1: Required- Vocab Metaphors

  • Pick 4 of our vocabulary words from our vocab list
  • Find a “non-scientific” picture that represents the word – Like we did yesterday in class
  • Explain why the picture represents the word

Click here to go to Quizlet to review vocabulary.

Go here to write your Vocabulary Metaphors in your  Kidblog.org.

Mentor Text for a 4

An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting

When I read that definition I began to think about my advisory students who are preparing for the NWEA test.  To help them improve their math scores I am bringing them in the computer lab to review.  I feel like this test is like an ocean current because it is directing the path of education.   The direction of education is currently moving to align more and more with the tests.  Teachers and students are under great ”forces” to be successful.   Ocean currents are controlling the flow of water and tests are controlling education.

Mentor Text for a 3

Title: Vocab Metaphors

Vocabulary word: Front –  the atmospheric phenomenon created at the boundary between two different air masses

This image represents front because the Mickey Mouse character is a boundary between the two different masses of people.  Also the Mickey Mouse looks like he in the atmosphere. This connects to the vocabulary word because “Front” is a boundary between two masses of air.

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The mentor texts are present to model for the students the quality of writing that is expected  in their blog posts. The use of Metaphors to connect to vocabulary was modeled in my classroom yesterday with the help of our wonderful, special education teacher, Mrs Hogan.

Many of my students are struggling to meet the criteria for success on this assignment. It is not that they can’t define the words, or use pictures to connect to the words, but because the students are concrete thinkers. My students struggle with the idea of a metaphor. When they want to be literal in the representation with a picture. Look at the following example for the word “Climate”

                  CLIMATE: the climate in the desert  stays the same all the time.

A picture of a desert climate to be a metaphor for climate? The picture does represent a climate but not metaphorically. I need to figure out how to engage the students at a higher level of thinking to create metaphors instead of literal representation.

As I continued to see literal representation after literal representation, I asked the class to reexamine the “mentor” texts. Ask themselves if they were following the model laid out before them. Many were upset. They acknowledge that the model was not being followed accurately. I stated that “It is okay to make a mistake, it is not okay to leave the mistake uncorrected after realizing it is a mistake.”  Student went back to work and created samples that looked more like this:

Ocean Current: The steady flow of surface ocean water in a prevailing direction.

This image of a highway is like an ocean current because the movement is continuous.

and

Atmosphere – is a mix of gases that surround the Earth. When I think of the atmosphere I think of salad, because salads are always mixed with something, weather it’s salad dressing, fruits and vegetables, etc.

Students need constant reminders of expectations. When expectations are not met teachers need to guide students back to the goal of the learning activity. Teachers need to point the students towards high quality examples of work. Allow the students to assess their own work and give them time to make the necessary changes. Students seem to rush into assignments with the desire of completion. Monitoring needs to occur to make sure learning targets are achieved.