An annotated list of current events & issues related to the middle level
Be sure to check back each week for a new article of interest.
This week's featured article is:
5 edtech trends to watch
We live in a hyperconnected culture in which technology opens the door for a more personalized existence and bridges the gap between place and space.
We customize our smartphones with our favorite apps. We collaborate with peers across the globe in a matter of seconds, and we rarely -- if ever -- turn off our devices.
Our lives are immersed in technology, and it’s changing how we live, teach and learn. The sage on the stage no longer conducts learning; it’s available to many at the touch of a screen.
It’s a very exciting -- sometimes frightening -- time to be an educator, and, according to Jason Ohler, a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska and self-proclaimed “student of the future,” a time on the cusp of extreme change driven in part by five technological trends.
Virtual Classrooms Can Be as Unequal as Real Ones
When massive open online courses, or MOOCs, exploded in popularity in the early 2010s, educators were particularly excited about the courses’ potential to give disadvantaged students equal access to a quality education. But a bevy of recent research has shown that online learning has largely fallen short of that goal. The same factors that have held back low-income or minority students in physical classrooms also plague virtual ones. Studies have found that online-learning resources had trouble attracting low-income students—or, in the case of school-age children, their parents—and that those who did participate in online classes performed more poorly than their peers.
The Atlantic 9/25/16
Is Your Kid's Backpack Too Heavy?
When Dr. Preeti Parikh was in school, her friends and parents were concerned by the heavy weight on her shoulders – literally, the weight of her backpack.
"Oh my god, what do you have rocks in here?" her parents would ask her. She never paid much attention to the back pain she was experiencing, but now the New York-based pediatrician is on a mission to educate families about the dangers of improper backpack use, which can affect posture, cause back pain and muscle sprains, and also spur more serious health situations. If a child feels numbness or tingling, for instance, this could even mean a pinched nerve.
The Hidden Curriculum of Middle School
Two years ago our school underwent a reorganization to create a designated middle school. Previously the school was split into two parts: Lower School which included Montessori sixth grade and Upper School which was grades 7 through 12. Administrators recognized the differences in the middle grades and a new principal was hired to oversee the Middle School, which is now grades 6–8. I was fortunate to join the faculty during the transition/planning year and have loved every minute of my time here.
For these teachers, summer break was a chance to become students
Early in the summer, just after schools closed in Loudoun County, Virginia, Kelly Hoover took a trip to Montpelier. The 18th-century Virginia estate was once home to President James Madison and his wife, Dolley; now, it’s a national landmark where visitors such as Hoover can walk the halls of the Madisons’ restored mansion and learn how archaeologists are uncovering more of the estate’s history...
The Washington Post 9/5/16
Five Questions New Teachers Should Ask (and Schools Should Be Able to Answer)
My first year as a teacher began with a three-day new-teacher training that was essentially an Education 101 crash course. It included tips on writing lesson plans, how to use a K-W-L (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart and “thinking maps,” and the completion of intimidating forms marking my official transition to adulthood—the W-2, a medical release, and even a life insurance policy. Overwhelmed, my head spun with questions: "When will I see my classroom? What happens if I get sick? When do I get paid?" Remembering my initial frustrations, I try to welcome new staff members by meeting their logistical needs first. Of course, once they’ve successfully logged on to the school network and obtained a copier code, there are some bigger issues to address.
Education Week 8/17/16
10 Tips for Family Engagement This School Year
I once sat in a parent meeting at my school with one mom in attendance. One. The school had over 500 students. Fast forward a few years and we teachers were herding the droves of families out the door well after the activity night had ended. Before you say, “But my parents . . . ” know that it can be accomplished in the toughest neighborhoods. I’ve seen it happen.
Resolutions for the new school year
With the new academic year almost upon us, four education leaders weigh in about their most important guiding principles for the 2016-17. Read what they said.
Smart Brief 8/8/16
School districts take steps to comply with new anti-hazing law that applies to 7th to 12th graders
A new state law aimed at ending hazing that went into effect July 25 extends the consequences of hazing down to 7th to 12th graders.
The law was drafted in the wake of an alleged incident at Conestoga High School where football players were accused of sodomizing a freshman player with a broomstick. Previously, the state anti-hazing law applied only to college students not those in secondary schools.
MainLine Media News 8/3/16
Beyond the Genius Bar: Cultivating Leadership With a Student-Led Tech Team
You’ve probably heard of the student-led “Genius Bar”, which is generally a team of student leaders that provide technical support for the technology devices and programs in their schools. What a great way to utilize and develop student knowledge and skills, right? I couldn’t agree more.
How principals can support teacher leaders: Lessons from Glenn O. Swing Elementary School
More than 25 years ago, the late Phil Schlechty made a brilliant observation in Schools for the 21st century: Leadership imperatives for educational reform (Jossey-Bass, 1990). If school improvement is to be sustained over time, he noted, teachers must be seen as “inventors” and principals must become leaders of leaders, who “create conditions” in which teachers thrive. If they do so, students can thrive too. And reforms can go beyond being flashes in the pan.
Center for Quality Teaching 7/14/16
How Concept Maps Help Deepen Learning
Some of the most helpful teaching advice I’ve ever come across is buried in an old educational psychology textbook by David Ausubel. In it he states that we could reduce all the complexities of teaching and learning to one simple principle:
The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly (Ausubel, 1968).
Self-Evaluation: Looking Back to Go Forward
At the end of the school year I feel, as my students say, "some type of way." I experience a swirling mix of conflicting emotions. I am anxious as we race against time to frantically complete our final projects of the year. Pride swells within me as I think about the achievements and progress my students displayed over the past months. An inescapable feeling of regret inevitably follows at this point as thoughts of what I could have done better to meet the needs of particular students enter my mind. All of these emotions are topped off by additional feelings of nostalgia as I reminisce about all of my eighth grade students that are moving on to high school next year. How can I possibly make sense of all of these emotions happening at once?
Reid Middle School earns 'Spotlight School' designation
Reid Middle School capped off its school year with a renewed designation as a "Spotlight School," accredited by the New England League of Middle Schools.
Members of the NELMS Spotlight School Team, along with Pittsfield Public School officials, Reid staff and students were on hand for a June 2 ceremony held in the school's library. The announcement included the fact that Reid is among 34 schools in the New England region to earn this distinction for its efforts to improve school climate and culture, and commitment to helping all students succeed.
The Berkshire Eagle 6/21/16
BAMS' Raccio recognized as rising star
Gabriella Raccio, a teacher at Brattleboro Area Middle School, was honored with the Rising Star in Middle Level Education Award by the Vermont Association for Middle Level Education at the annual Scholar Leader Awards Banquet at Norwich University on June 1.
Brattleboro Reformer 6/14/16
Not That Teacher Anymore
Recently I started a deep “spring cleaning” in my classroom. My district is getting ready to start a major building project, and in a couple of years, my entire school will be moving into new facilities. While that’s happening, we’re also moving toward one-to-one computing, and I’m using Google Classroom. My goal is to develop a paperless classroom in the next year or so. With all these changes going on, it makes sense to get rid of things…
Center for Teaching Quality 6/8/16
3 End-of-Year Reflection Strategies for Students
Research shows that reflection is an essential part of learning. That means that we need time to think about -- and talk about -- the ways we have processed and applied new information, concepts, and ideas. Unfortunately, including routine reflection time and activities in our curriculum can be an afterthought for many of us teachers…
Teach Students to Write Strong Paragraphs
Lately I have become obsessed with the beauty and utility of paragraph responses.
When students are struggling to write clear, coherent essays or aren’t explaining their evidence enough, often what it boils down to is this: they need help in writing stronger paragraphs.
Whether you are preparing them for writing on standardized tests, trying to strengthen their fundamental writing skills, or looking for a more meaningful way to assess their reading comprehension, teaching students how to build clear, coherent paragraphs is a good use of everyone’s time.
Middle Web Smart Briefs 4/12/16
Kahoot App Brings Urgency of a Quiz Show to the Classroom
Kahoot, an online quiz system from Norway that is fast gaining market share in schools across the United States, plays out like a television game show spliced with a video game.
Cast in the role of game host, teachers introduce a multiple-choice quiz — on, say, plant life or English grammar. Using the Kahoot platform, they project one quiz question at a time onto a whiteboard or screen at the front of their classrooms.
3 ways to involve students in your ed-tech PD
If you’re not including your students in teachers’ PD, you’re missing a key opportunity
Whenever I’m invited to a school or district to talk with teachers about using technology, I’ll ask the principal or superintendent if I can meet with a group of students to prepare first. Often, my request is met with a puzzled reply: “You realize that we want you to come talk to our teachers, right? Why do you want to talk to the kids?” My experience is that involving students in both staff development planning and during workshops can lead to a much more successful implementation.
eSchool News 4/11/16
Sixth-graders explore science of the forest in Cambria’s Strawberry Canyon
It was a watershed moment for Santa Lucia Middle School students: planting Monterey pine trees Monday in Cambria’s Strawberry Canyon.
There’s a double meaning there, because the students in Danielle Narzisi’s sixth-grade class have been learning about the Santa Lucia Creek watershed as part of their environmental education class at the Cambria middle school.
San Luis Obispo Tribune 3/23/16
Sixth-graders explore science of the forest in Cambria’s Strawberry Canyon
It’s a dreary, rainy, Seattle Monday morning, but the spinning disco ball in our room is casting snowball light spots around the room and the lasers are putting on their show. It’s barely 8:45 am and our room is abuzz with activity. School doesn’t start for another 20 minutes, but my students are already diving deep into their work.
Tcher's Voice 3/16/16
Rutland Middle School students hold mock legislative session
The red brick building on Library Avenue in Rutland doubled as Montpelier's Golden Dome on Thursday morning.
In the culmination of a two-week long civics project, Rutland Middle School eighth-graders debated such topics as raising the minimum wage, expanding school choice, guaranteeing paid sick leave and a casino in Chittenden County at a mock legislative session held in the school's auditorium.
Rutland Herald 3/4/16
Teen mental health risk increases with food insecurity
Adolescents living in households with limited or uncertain availability of nutritious food are more than twice as likely as other kids to have emotional problems or conduct problems, according to a new study.
“These findings add to our growing understanding of food insecurity and its implications, and demonstrate that food insecurity is an independent risk factor for mental health problems among adolescents,” said lead author Dr. Elizabeth Poole-Di Salvo of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.
Dover Doin's: Teachers don't get enough recognition
[PLEASE NOTE] Halfway down the article is a bit about NELMS
Recently, we all learned of an award presented to Kim Lyndes, of the Dover Middle School. It came from the New England League of Middle Schools. Kim was named Principal of the Year. We guess that a naming by your peers must be very satisfying, so let’s take a look at what else DMS has received from their peers.
3 ways to infuse 21st-century skills into instruction
All teachers seek to prepare students for life after high school. These days that means equipping them with the skills it will take to survive in the 21st century workplace, while also covering other curriculum requirements. What concrete examples of 21st century workplace skills like communication, self-management, collaboration, motivation and inquiry do you focus on in your classroom? As an interesting parallel, how do your examples compare with these actual comments from employees and their supervisors who participated in the Arizona K12 Center’s Lesson2Life professional development?
Why Introverted Teachers Are Burning Out
Jayson Jones was my favorite person to call when I needed a substitute for my high-school English classes. Jayson was an aspiring teacher who was extremely popular with the students and related especially well with many of the at-risk kids. One day, I walked into the classroom at lunchtime, and he was sitting alone in the dark, listening to music. “Oh, an introvert?” I said. “I had no idea.” He smiled and responded, “Absolutely. I do this every day to recharge.” Unfortunately for me and thousands of future students, Jayson has left the classroom for the workshop: He’s refurbishing furniture instead of teaching and says that his “introversion definitely played a part.
The Atlantic 1/25/16
Taunton middle schools search for the ticket to good behavior
In between a poetry lesson on Paul Revere’s ride in Nora Sweeney’s Grade 5 class, the vocabulary and grammar lessons in Lori Nixon’s Grade 6 class and learning about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and the Civil Rights movement in Christine Dever’s Grade 7 English Language Arts class, red paper tickets are left on students’ desks in each classroom.
Not just left, but placed, purposefully, as part of a new program at each of the city’s three middle schools.
Taunton Daily Gazette 1/15/16