robertogreco + middleschool   54

Here's What Teens Say They Need
"Educators are trained to provide students with the help they need to thrive both academically and socially. We even have the firsthand knowledge and experience of having been teenagers ourselves. It's important, however, to recognize that our experiences may be, and most likely are, very different from what our students experience today. For that reason, we must ask students about their experiences and use their perspectives to inform our approach to teaching and leading. I recently interviewed over 40 teens in grades 6 through 12 and asked them, "What do you need from schools to feel supported both academically and socially?" I share their responses, both honest and illuminating, here.

Finding #1: Teens want explicit proof that the adults in their lives know them as individuals.

Teachers who take the time to learn about their students as individuals send a clear message that they care about them. Students say the best teachers " really care … and actually want to help the students rather than just stand up and give a lesson," (11th grader). "I know I learn better with teachers I like, teachers I feel I can trust," (9th grader). Recommendations related to this finding include the following:

• Teens want teachers to know about their learning styles, their interests, and what causes them stress. Differentiation and flexibility are key components of classrooms where students feel like the adults in their lives have their best interests at heart.

• Teens want teachers to work together as a team; they want adults to talk to each other about the amount of work that is expected in each class. "We have seven or eight hours of school, then after-school sports, and then we have three hours of homework" (9th grader). Teens want schools to intentionally create and maintain structures that lead to a more balanced workload.

• Face-to-face communication is the most powerful way to build relationships. Teens want adults to initiate regular check-ins with them.

• Teachers must demonstrate they believe in their students. "Don't stereotype kids … keep an open mind," (9th grader).

Finding #2: Teens want easily accessible resources.

Students said knowing where and when to find help was a key component in feeling supported. One senior said being able to "get connected with who you need and having a lot of resources" was one way his school helped him succeed. The following recommendations are related to this finding:

• Schools should have designated and well-advertised physical spaces for students to go to when they need help. Teens appreciate help centers that are staffed with adults who can assist before, during, and after school hours with homework, friend issues, and other problems.

• Schools should build time into the schedule for students to meet with teachers outside of regular class time.

• Teachers should provide online resources for all classes so that students who need additional support can access the information. This was especially important for students when they had been absent from class.

• Adults should step in when they see students struggling if the teens do not initiate the conversation. "I'm really bad about going to an adult and saying, 'I need help with this' because it feels like I'm asking too much," (7th grader).

Finding #3: Teens demand authentic, meaningful work.

Teens are savvy. They know when an assignment is busy work. "They [teachers] should give you more important homework that actually focuses on the topic," (8th grader). Recommendations related to this finding include the following:

• Problem-based learning makes a greater impact on depth and retention of learning. Teens want more hands-on activities and assignments where they can explore creative endeavors.

• Work should employ multiple strategies and allow for individuality. Teens want teachers to spend time exploring the different strategies so that they can feel confident about deciding which strategies to use and when.

• Classrooms need to be interactive and teacher lecture needs to be kept to a minimum; otherwise, "they're just saying things at you," (11th grader).

• Teenagers want adults to focus less on grades. "Instead of focusing on the process of learning, they [teachers] only care about the execution and grade you receive about it," (9th grader).

Finding #4: Teenagers crave human interaction.

Between schoolwork and busy schedules, "there's not a lot of time hang out with your friends," say several 9th graders. Recommendations related to this finding include the following:

• Teens want more time for collaboration and group work with their peers.

• Social media means teens have many friends online, but younger teens say they struggle to socialize with those same friends face-to-face and want schools to teach them this skill.

• Schools should create structured opportunities for teens to socialize with the entire school community and to "bond" with students outside their typical social groups.

Finding #5: Teens want the opportunity to fail.

"Kids have to learn how to do it themselves. When we go out into the real world, we're not going to have adults there helping us. We're going to have to do it ourselves," (7th grader). The following recommendations are related to this finding:

• Adults should create safe spaces, activities, and opportunities that allow teens to work through a process independently.

• Adults should avoid stepping in too soon, or too often, to assist struggling students, because teens need the time and practice to learn to work together.

Whether the thoughts of my students or your own inform your practice, remember: if we're really doing what's best for teens, then we need to listen to their voices. Just asking teens, "how can I help?" or "what do you need from me?" is the first step in determining what teens need from schools.
teens  youth  2019  jodymarberry  relationships  respect  teaching  howweteach  authenticity  work  learning  howwelearn  social  socialmedia  failure  howwlearn  education  schools  middleschool  highschool 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Michael Ian Black on Twitter: "Getting a lot of grief from teachers for my earlier take on k-12 education. I meant no offense to teachers, who I think, by and large, do their best. My criticisms have to do with the whole dang public education apparatus, w
"Getting a lot of grief from teachers for my earlier take on k-12 education. I meant no offense to teachers, who I think, by and large, do their best. My criticisms have to do with the whole dang public education apparatus, which feels hopelessly outmoded and moribund.

I advocate an new model of education which focuses on two things: creativity and critical thinking. That's it. All else would be in service of those two skills. Why? Because the history of public education has been about readying workers to work in predictable industries.

Those predictable industries no long exist or are undergoing radical transformation. What cuts across all industries in this new economy are creativity and critical thinking. If you have those two skills, you can do anything.

Those skills also happen to be the most fun things to work on. "Draw something." "What do you think about you drew?" We're not grading you, we're asking your opinion. What works about this? What doesn't work? Exactly how tasks are approached in the workplace.

Also, why are we gearing everything to the tests? The tests are snapshots, rarely illuminating, and often overweighted. As testing has increased, childhood depression and anxiety has risen with it. For what? An extra hundredth on your GPA?

To what end? Why are moving these kids through the production line? My kids are in high school and I promise they aren't excited about anything they're doing. They can tolerate it. They like lunch. But they're mostly just moving through the day.

Wouldn't it better if they were excited to attend school because school was where they did all the cool shit they want to do? Play video games and read cool books and study music and, yeah, maybe write a paper about that cool video game, and maybe learn a little coding.

You want to play guitar? Great. Here's a guitar. Here's how music relates to math. Here's how math relates to science. How's the song coming? Take an hour for lunch. You want to leave early today? Leave early. Treat kids the way you want to be treated, excite them...

Connect them with experts in the fields they're studying. Develop mentorships, make sure they take a hike every day. Make school the place you wish you could have hung out when you were their age. Teachers can be guides, a support system, one-on-one counselors. it can work."

[previous thread: https://twitter.com/michaelianblack/status/955470909669892098

"Been thinking a lot about k-12 education since last night. (I mean, before that too, but I hadn't written about it on Twitter.) My conclusion: it's total shit.

I'm going to make some points that are probably obvious to most people but they're worth saying. First, the average education destroys children's natural inquisitiveness. "This rock is cool!" "Great. Memorize everything about its composition. then I'm going to test you on it."

Second, the grading system is meaningless. A good grade denotes mastery of a subject about as much as having shiny teeth means you eat a healthy diet.

Third, kids are bored because school is boring because the way things are taught is boring. It's not the teacher's fault. It's a system that values compliance over creativity. It teaches kids how to regurgitate instead of how to think.

Why isn't school fun? Why doesn't it look more like kindergarten all the way through high school? Why isn't it student-driven instead of administration-driven? After they know how to read and perform basic math why can't they pursue subjects about which they show interest?

If a kid likes to read, why can't she spend her time with other kids who love literature? If she likes science, why not spent her time doing science? Why funnel everybody through the same stupid curriculum that has no real-world application?

The goal of k-12 education should to nurture kids towards an excitement of lifetime learning instead of towards getting into a college they can't afford. Anybody who wants to learn something can learn it. But they need to want to learn. School kills desire to learn.

Would any adult choose to go back to k-12 schooling? No fucking way. For most people, it's an endless drudge. Why not preserve childhood as a time of exploration and joy? Who is well-served by this system?

We know k-12 education doesn't work well. Kids hate it. Parents hate it. Teachers hate it. Employers hate it. Everybody hates it. So why do we keep it? Why are we inflicting so much misery on ourselves?"]

[And a thread prior to that: https://twitter.com/michaelianblack/status/955263135254016006

"One of my life's great stress-reducing realizations is that I don't care about my kids' grades.

Not only do I not care about their grades, I honestly think I'd be fine with it if they decide to drop out before graduating. The way we educate kids is 100% garbage. (Maybe 75% garbage.)

Here's the only thing school needs to teach kids: reading, how to construct a coherent thought, and basic math. After that, kids should be free to pursue whatever interests them, supplemented with broad exposure to the humanities.

There should be more: art, music, game playing, movie watching, physical activity. Schooling through high school should bear more than a passing resemblance to kindergarten. The way we do things is stultifying and soul-crushing.

Everything I value as an adult was treated as extracurricular and slightly distasteful by the school administration. The arts had no "practical value," but somehow trigonometry did. It made no sense.

When I decided to become an actor, I was told (and believed) I would never make a dime. I took that trade-off to do what I wanted in exchange for little to no pay. But a funny thing happened. The gig economy of the actor became the gig economy of the entire country.

So I found myself much more comfortable in uncertainty as traditional occupational structures began falling by the wayside. I felt like I had the flexibility and creativity to tackle unfamiliar jobs with minimal training because I believed in my own adaptability.

The kids I see these days can do anything on a computer. They are good collaborators and their egos seem more in check than mine. They'll do fine in the coming years, but I'd like to see their kids the beneficiaries of this new kind of schooling, a student-directed schooling.

That draws from the expertise of the faculty to augment studies, but also to be able to access the world's great minds on your narrow question. Slow, non-grade work that moves towards a defining and meaningful goal/solution. Applied education. Seems like a better way to handled"]
michaelianblack  schools  education  grades  grading  homework  schooling  learning  children  parenting  teaching  unschooling  deschooling  2018  self-directed  self-directedlearning  howwelearn  freedom  autonomy  creativity  misery  sfsh  criticalthinking  middleschool  highschool  teachers  howweteach  schooliness  oppression  publicschools  childhood 
january 2018 by robertogreco
NewSchool
"NewSchool

• state-approved alternative school
• all-day school (secondary education)
• ethical, socio-critical, ecological and sustainable orientated
• inter-year groups
• interdisciplinary
• individualized project plans
• based on students’ needs
• cooking and eating together
• located in an entrepreneurial environment
• very realistic approach
• strong bonds with experts / between experts and NewSchool
• co-operations with companies, institutes, academies ecc.
• social engagement “social service”
• stays in nature on a regular basis

Listen, laugh and learn!

Especially during puberty, for many students going to school means trying to avoid schoolwork and commitments, or trying to escape all the “shoulds” they hear from parents and teachers. It seems like the only goal is getting to the next grade. We founded our school to give young people a chance of a fulfilled, enjoyable school experience that helps them to feel equipped for and to be curious about life.

Our school is a laboratory, a studio where Talents are given the chance to experiment. Each Talent will explore their strengths and find out what drives them. This is done through listening, cooperating, approaching challenges in a curious way, and following unique paths. Emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills are essential for us at the NewSchool. Everyone learns from everyone else.

That’s why we go out into the real world. We experience nature, visit businesses, and go wherever the action is. We also gain new inspiration through communicating with experts (e.g. via Skype) from all over the world. Entrepreneurs, artists, managers, artisans – all of these experts are welcome at our school, no matter their ethnicity or religion. They provide information and support, or give us an insight about what their real life is like.

In cooperation with teachers, coaches, and experts, Talents develop projects, which they can pursue in a creative, engaged, interdisciplinary way working in inter-year groups. Young people and adults work together equally throughout the process, one that inspires them rather than constricting their ideas. We do learn by doing. It is our actions that spur our desire to engage with issues, groups of people, nature, and ethical questions. Talents get to know their strengths in close collaboration with others, then continue to develop them with passion.

We want to discover new things together, and to be bold in adjusting learning methods to meet today’s changed circumstances. Together, we grow to meet challenges, trust life, and allow learning to begin with the needs of the student. Old school was the past – the future is NewSchool.

NewSchool – It’s my way!"
germany  berlin  schools  education  sfsh  webdev  interdisciplinary  alternative  lcproject  openstudioproject  community  experientiallearning  place-based  middleschool  webdesign  place-basededucation  place-basedlearning  place-basedpedagogy 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Student Enthusiasm Falls as High School Graduation Nears | Gallup
"In fact, older students are engaged with school at much lower rates than younger students, according to the 2016 Gallup Student Poll survey of fifth- through 12th-grade students from about 3,000 schools that opted to participate in the survey.

Of students surveyed, fifth-graders are most engaged, and 11th-graders are least engaged. The low engagement for older students relative to younger students should concern leaders, as education scholars have found that engagement is linked to students' success in school.

Gallup defines the engagement of students as students' involvement and enthusiasm with school. About half of U.S. public school students surveyed (49%) are engaged with school. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of all surveyed fifth-grade students are engaged, and only about one-third of surveyed students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades are engaged.

The "School Engagement Cliff"

The "school engagement cliff" poses a challenge for school leaders, with the starkest engagement differences occurring during the middle school years. There is a 13-percentage-point difference in engagement between sixth and seventh grade and a nine-point difference between seventh and eighth grade, with engagement declining as grade level for students increases."
sfsh  engagement  schools  education  learning  2017  btsn  data  middleschool 
june 2017 by robertogreco
NOMAD
"Inquiry-Based Mobile Education

NOMAD is a mobile middle school where students drive their own learning using the resources of cities in which they live. Students work with community members and experts, engage in local issues, and explore the spaces of the Bay Area. Our converted school bus classroom is our mobile learning lab. The Depot, our home base, maker lab, and community hub.

NOMAD is centered around meaningful, inquiry-based experiences curated to provide a cross-curricular academic program in collaboration with students through thematic arcs. Each arc is comprised of phases of learning that correspond to the exploration of the topic from a variety of angles, the proposal of individual or small-group projects, and the completion and presentation of those projects to the NOMAD community. NOMAD's arc topics will vary by semester and emphasize real tools, working with real experts, and saying yes to as many ideas as possible."



"THE BUS(ES)

The NOMAD school bus is the cornerstone of the NOMAD learning experience. This mobile classroom will function as the learning lab for students as we take advantage of full mobility, driving ourselves where inquiry and exploration take us.

We just completed an Indiegogo campaign and successfully raised funds for our first bus!! We aimed to raise $25k to buy and retrofit an old school bus and are extatic to report we've already purchased a bus - the banner picture is our actual bus. Check out our campaign at https://igg.me/at/NOMAD-Education to see how it went!

The end vision for NOMAD is a fleet of buses segregated by subject matter. Each bus will have an allocated Guide (educator) who specializes in a specific set of core skills. At full enrollment, NOMAD will have 3 buses/cohorts:

1. Humanities - this bus will focus on English language arts, history, and social studies.
2. STEM - this bus will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
3. Arts and Making - this bus will focus on written, visual, sound, music, mixed media and theatrical arts as well as building, prototyping and making.

Students will explore thematic arc topics on each of the buses throughout the week allowing them to work closely with each of our Guides (educators) and alongside all attending students."



"A Maker's Dream

The Depot, located at Folsom and 22nd, is a gorgeous 1,400 SF workshop and maker lab. We've completed the build out on our new space, The Depot will house a full wood shop, 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC routers, and digital and physical arts labs. We couldn't be happier with the results!

While the bus may be the soul of nomad, The Depot is the heart. More than just a workshop, this space allows the full student body to meet and participate in group events, social emotional learning opportunities, and large group projects. The Depot is our home - the place we start our day and come back to to warm up and reground after a day on the road."



"Experiential, Meaningful, Nimble

MOBILITY + COMMUNITY = IMPACT
NOMAD believes students have the power to enact real change. Our curriculum and projects are intended to educate and empower students to create change in their own communities. Being fully mobile allows us to participate in our communities and take advantage of all the learning potential of our entire city. By talking to our neighbors, asking questions, and collaborating with organizations and fellow city residents of all ages, we find ways to give back to the community in the projects we undertake. During the Fall 2016 semester, NOMAD students designed the Burlingame city flag with input from members of the community, requests from City Council, and research from historians and librarians. In the past, students have designed tiny homes for the homeless, volunteered with local non-profits, and created apps to prevent bullying. We are replacing the prescriptive nature of most classroom projects with meaningful, real-world impact.

PROJECTS
Learning by doing is crucial to the NOMAD experience. Projects are inspired by our exploration and multi-disciplinary study of the current thematic arc topic. Teachers explicitly teach and model effective project management strategies, guiding students through the process of proposing, planning, executing, and presenting on a project until they are prepared to produce on their own. NOMAD students complete a range of independent, small group, and whole group projects over the course of their time with us, and they are required to complete one project for each subject area per year. Students and teachers curate documentation, assessment, and portfolios of each child's work for all subjects and arcs.

CORE SKILLS
At NOMAD, we believe that core skills aren't the end goal but rather are necessary tools to create the projects of our dreams and to deeply explore the world. We define core skills as the academic basics that enable successful communication and computation required to thrive in today's world. We teach core skills through mini lessons, short but frequent skills practice, a variety of tried and true resources like NEWSELA, Howard Zinn Education Project, and Big History Project. Our educator(s) are experienced in implementing, modifying, and creating curriculum to meet the diverse needs of our mixed aged, mixed ability classes.

SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Cornerstone to the learning experience at NOMAD is social-emotional development. Educators have 1:1 conferences with each child, set goals and track progress collaboratively, and have regular transparent conversations about building and sustaining relationships. We incorporate elements of council circles, restorative practices, self-awareness, reflection, and mindfulness. Open, progressive conversations about race, class, gender, and sexual orientation are paramount to our comprehensive program.

PERSONALIZATION
Each student learns differently and has unique interests and needs - personalizing education is key. To ensure that every child is deeply known and receives 1:1 academic and lifeskills mentorship, we limit our class sizes to 8 students.

EXPERTS
Because we aren't limited to a traditional classroom, we can visit professionals, experts, and influential thinkers in their natural habitats. Whether that means driving to Sacramento to sit in on federal court sessions or walking down the street to watch a local print-maker in action, we learn more by visiting members of our community in their offices, workshops and labs, not reading about them or bringing them into our classroom."



"Connect The Dots.

Each school year is defined by the exploration of an initially narrow seeming topic. Through inquiry, exploration and creation, students will discover unending depth and connection.

INQUIRE
Inquiry is driven by the initial thoughts, questions, and feelings the topic of study inspires. Through simulations, experiences, stories, and theories, we co-create a map of what we want to explore, questions that need answered, and ideas we hope to pursue. Inquiry is the foundation of our program; we created a mobile school to enable our curiosity.

EXPLORE
Following the map of our inquiry, NOMAD classes venture out into our city or surrounding cities to take advantage of the resources and untapped learning potential that is all around us. While in the community, students begin answering their initial questions and find interconnectedness in all that we learn. We pull from primary and secondary texts, literature, problems to solve, discussion, online resources, game play, and experiences to learn about and around our topic.

CREATE
After inquiry and exploring the arc topic, project ideas begin to emerge. Students pitch personal and small-group projects, identify experts and mentors they would like to consult, and work strategically to bring their ideas to fruition. Teachers become project managers who help students find their place in their work, tackle obstacles, and leverage strengths to reach a point of culmination. Their work is shared with the larger community through NOMAD culminating events held a few times per school year."



"Mobility Done Two Ways

NOMAD offers two unique ways to get on the bus -- full-time and custom-schooling.

FULL-TIME
Full-time students will attend NOMAD Monday-Friday, participating in the full curriculum. These students will belong to one of two 8-student troops (think homeroom) led by a guide (educator). They will move through the curriculum both as individual troops and as a larger group with all NOMAD students.

Two days a week will be dedicated to the Humanities curriculum, two days to the STEM curriculum and one day to Maker and Physical Arts.

CUSTOM-SCHOOL
Custom-schoolers (also called home-schoolers or indie-schoolers) are able to get their NOMADic experience a la carte. They can choose to do 2, 3 or 4 days a week. For the 2 day option, custom-schoolers can choose between the Humanities curriculum or STEM curriculum. The 3 day option allows students to add on the Maker and Physical Arts curriculum. The 4 day option allows for Humanities and STEM participation.

For the 2017/2018 school year, Monday - Thursday will be dedicated to Humanities, Tuesdays and Thursdays to STEM and Fridays to Maker and Physical Arts.

THE TWO TOGETHER
The full-time and custom-schoolers will be moving through the curriculum together. The only difference between the two groups of students will simply be the number of days they attend."
schools  sanfrancisco  mobile  neo-nomads  nomadic  middleschool  homeschool  christieseyfert  lisabishop  taylorcuffaro  brightworks  sfsh  education  cityasclassroom  learning  inquiry  community  personalization 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Wonder Years: Creating a Middle School Launching Pad - Urban Planning and Design - architecture and design
"As a way of summarizing our findings, we created 10 “rules of the road” that we are continually referring to as a check on our design:

1. The range of growth between 6th and 8th grade is vast, but they’re all still just children.
2. Our children are transforming every day, so our school should too.
3. Retaining the benefits of grade-affiliation is crucial in the move toward project—and discipline-based work.
4. Middle school is the “starting point,” when you begin to become who you will be (as an adult).
5. Let’s leverage technology to provide two-way conversation, and have a ‘push-out’ / ‘pull-in’ dynamic.
6. We still need places for quiet and spaces for personal, sometimes sensitive conversations.
7. Aim to create a facility that encourages parents to “let go.”
8. Access to nature is a “need to have,” not a “nice to have.”
9. A happy faculty means happy students.
10. And, make it MAGIC.

Now here’s a deep-dive into what we discovered for each of the stakeholder groups:

6th Grade

Profile

We found that 6th graders need their own lane before they fully merge into the greater middle school community. This is their first taste of independence—their world just expanded! Although they experience massive change in maturity level from September to June, they still need space to play, both outdoors and in. This is a time to celebrate their imaginations because they are not yet self-conscious about risk-taking. Additionally, 6th graders still need help with organization, study skills and daily prep.

Design Strategies

We believe there should be a 6th grade-centric space that can close and open to the larger school. The design of the space will highlight creativity, provide ample areas to pin up/showcase work, minimize distractions, offer direct connection to the outdoors and create a space for play (maybe designed by kids). Overall, the 6th grade space will be a cozy, home-like atmosphere with bright colors.

7th Grade

Profile

Seventh graders are beginning to build awareness of the outside world and a desire to make a difference. Social life takes on a new importance, and they are ready to expand their world. With that said, they are still easily distracted, as well as awkward and insecure; they feel “stuck in the middle.” Seventh graders tend to have a strong connection to teachers, and while they are ready to make more of their own choices, creativity now feels risky. They are just beginning to attack “maker” activities.

Design Strategies

To cater to the needs of a 7th grader, the middle school environment needs hangout spaces, as well as distributed spaces for quiet group work/focus work. It’s critical to have visual and physical access to shared areas with 8th graders to provide exposure to mentorship. In terms of play, 7th graders need a connection to outdoors, age-appropriate play opportunities and access to “maker” space. The classroom should provide choice and flexibility with furniture, such as fidget chairs, that students can move on their own.

8th Grade

Profile

Eighth graders tend to be curious and intellectual, but not yet jaded. They are learning to think critically for the first time and handle ambiguity. They are ready to take on leadership roles and are increasingly interested in the “real world” and their place in it. As pre-teens who feel torn between childhood and adulthood, the social life of an 8th grader has started to expand beyond the school.

Design Strategies

Flexible classrooms will allow 8th grade students to toggle between learning modes, a learning style that hints at upper school culture. This age group needs central flex space for showcasing, broadcasting, making and talking about work, as well as places to sit and reflect.

Faculty

Profile

Middle school faculty are intensely dedicated to their students. Teachers are challenged to find private space to have sensitive conversations with students, parents, and colleagues, and they get stressed when limitations of space get in the way of delivering active education. They are always looking for moments of calm and focus.

Design Strategies

Middle school faculty need one-on-one meeting spaces, private phone space, “behind the scenes” teacher areas, tutoring/teaching bars, teacher-only bathrooms, access to beauty and nature to reduce stress, and places to sit and reflect.

Parents

Profile

Middle school parents are learning to let go. They don’t yet know how to handle their kids’ growing independence, so they need reassurance and communication from the school. They need to feel wowed and inspired by DE facilities, tech presence and student work. Additionally, children are embarrassed by parents’ presence on campus, and helicopter parents can be a distraction to both students and teachers.

Design Strategies

To fulfill the needs of both parents and students, the middle school should have a large lobby space with transparency to student work, but limited access to classrooms. The lobby will serve as an exhibit space for student projects and could feature a tech space as public face of school. The building should look fun, cool and tech-forward with two-way broadcasting.

What’s Next
We are currently in the process of interpreting and integrating these strategies into the design of the new middle school. Under the guidance of Dr. Rodney De Jarnett, Dwight-Englewood’s Head of School, we will be looking to create an environment where, in Dr. De Jarnett’s words, “our children, faculty, and parents will walk in and immediately feel something special.” Stay tuned for a design update in the coming months."
middleschool  sfsh  schools  schooldesign  2016  parenting  independence  quiet  children  education  learning  organization  studyskills  markthaler 
january 2017 by robertogreco
How Diverse Literature Can Make Middle School Easier - The Atlantic
"I remember walking into my classroom for the first time, bare walls and all, and spending hours poring over the existing curriculum with my new team. I remember a smile spreading across my coworker’s face as I pushed Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese to become one of our new texts. This was the kind of material we wanted students to know about early on.

We’ve continued to add more texts to each year’s plan that better reflect the myriad identities that file into our classrooms every September.

We choose writing from all over the world, stories that speak about gender and sexual orientation, and texts that touch on race and socioeconomic status. We can’t always cover every cultural identifier during the semester, but we try our best. And we make it a point to include our students in that process.

At the end of the year, students rate the three major texts and various short pieces they’ve read on a scale from one to five; when our department meets at the end of a semester, we try to change at least one text for the next year. Though we’ve consistently kept American Born Chinese on our syllabus, no text is sacred to us, regardless of prestige. Two years ago, we chopped To Kill a Mockingbird from our reading list in response to negative feedback from students of color.

During the annual survey, we also ask students for books they’ve enjoyed reading in their free time. As a result, we’ve added things like Every Day by David Levithan to our syllabus. The goal is for students to understand reading as an opportunity for enjoyment, not merely an obligation.

That enjoyment—seeing themselves and becoming familiar with identities deemed Other—is more than an escape. Students of color live in an especially reactionary world, one that is frequently unreceptive to their attempts to push back against injustice. Students who are gender-fluid or non-conforming still have to gel with a cissexist society. For an hour and 20 minutes a day, my fellow teachers and I have a chance to help them sort through the static and find a sense of place.

In a typical year, eighth-graders read several pieces about identity, both fiction and nonfiction. For the past two years, the fall curriculum has started with Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, moved to excerpts from Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, and lands on a short personal essay by Alice Walker titled “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self.”

Then we take a deep dive into what we call the “identity unit.”

On Day 1, students answer two questions in a writing exercise: When someone meets you, what is the first thing that you think they notice about you? What are some things you wish someone knew about you when they first met you? The students break into pairs, sharing some or all of the bullet-point lists they’ve created with each other.

Next, I have students read a modified version of anthropologist Edward T. Hall’s article, “Iceberg Theory of Culture.” In 1976, Hall theorized we all have two significant layers: how we present to others—racial and gender presentation, etc.— and what’s “below the surface”—learning differences, morals, ethics, etc.

Students are asked to process these topics in different ways, sometimes physically. I’ll pose statements like “I think about my race on a daily basis,” or “I have been judged based on perceived socio-economic status,” and students will then move around the room to show where they fall on a spectrum, “agree” on one end, “disagree” on the other. We’ll usually have some class discussion afterward, and I’ll ask them to free-write a paragraph based on the topic.

I recently reached out to one of my former students, Darcy, who now attends Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. She told me by email she still remembered the activity, a full three years later.

“Discussing our identities for the first time felt foreign, strange, and perhaps awkward,” she wrote to me. “However, the conversation about identity became more fluid with each new discussion. I appreciate that the iceberg concept was introduced to me at a young age because the activity forced me to communicate with myself in-depth, something that I know is hard even for adults.”

Once the class has discussed the iceberg and various identifiers, the students turn the lens inward. They spend some time brainstorming all the aspects of their identities, mulling over how much these elements contribute to their self-perception and how the rest of the world sees them.

To drive home these concepts, I have them visually create their own interpretation of the iceberg to depict their identity. In the last few years, I’ve seen students create models to speak for them—an advent calendar, for example, that featured “white” under a box labeled “race,” revealing “multiracial” once a tab was lifted. The student sought to show how important his multiracial Asian ethnicity was to his sense of self, though everyone else perceived him as white. Another student drew a cross-section of an apple, listing her presentational identifiers on the outside and her morals and ethics in deeper layers inside.

Most of the work we do around identity is geared toward beginning the long process of understanding these shifting concepts in society. These are issues my students will grapple with for as long as they live around other people. But already, I can see the impact of this work as students move on from my class. Again, I turned to Darcy to get a read on whether this material resonates.

“In middle school, I think many aspects of what I thought my identity to be were subconsciously influenced by my family. I wouldn’t say that pieces of my identity are necessarily easier to process now, but as I’ve matured I can identify independently,” she wrote. “I understand and appreciate that there is much more to a person’s character than what appears at the tip of the iceberg—a lesson produced by the discussions in my middle school English classroom.”"
noahcho  education  middleschool  cv  teaching  howweteach  literature  identity  2015  teachingenglish  english  pedagogy  preteens  adolescence  fiveparagraphessays 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Messaging App Jott Is Blowing Up Among Junior High And High Schoolers | TechCrunch
"As Facebook and YikYak try to grow a younger audience, a startup that taps into one of the key attribute of teen users – no money for data plans – is blowing up.

Jott, a messaging app that works without a data plan or WiFi connection, has caught on among junior high and high school students, according to co-founder Jared Allgood. He says the app more than doubled to half a million active users in March, up from 150,000 active users previous.

Allgood told TechCrunch that the app continues to gain momentum, adding 15,000 to 20,000 users a day. That’s consistent with numbers from App Annie. The app started ranking steadily in the top 75 on iOS for social networking in the U.S. in mid-April.

The reason? Teens who don’t have a data plan that will allow them to text are using their iPods and iPads to message each other on a closed network within a 100-foot area within school limits.

About 88 percent of 13-17-year-olds have a cell or smartphone, according to the latest numbers from Pew Research. However, not all of them get a data plan or a way to access the Internet during school hours, leaving many of them without a way to non-stop text each other throughout the day.

Text messages usually travel by way of your phone to the nearest cell tower. Then they get routed to other cell towers to reach the person you are texting. However, Jott can send messages from one device to another without any cell service as long as those texting are within close enough proximity to each other.

It does this by using something called a mesh network that operates on Bluetooth low energy or using a router that can reach within 100 feet of each user. It’s the same way FireChat, a group messaging app, does this, but Jott can also message individuals within your network.

And that ability to easily message peers directly within a network is the key. While apps such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram rank at the top for social networks among teens, texting reigns supreme. According to Niche data, about 87 percent of teens text daily, compared to 61 percent of those who say they use Facebook, the next most popular choice.

It’s tough to know why texting is the preferred method. What is out there is mostly anecdotal. Perhaps texting is simply the easiest form of direct messaging to one’s friends? Whatever the reason. They do a lot of it. More than adults. Girls send, on average, about 3,952 text messages a month, and boys send closer to 2,815 text messages a month, according to the Pew study.

What we do know is that teens who own a smartphone text a lot more than those who don’t. “Fully 2 in 5 heavy texters (41%) and a third (33%) of medium texters own a smartphone, compared with just under 1 in 5 (19%) of lighter texters,” a Pew study from 2012 found.

This may be why Jott has caught on so fast, particularly among junior high schoolers who are less likely to have a smartphone than older teens. Jott provides a way for those without a smartphone or the data plan needed to text to still message with their friends."
jott  messaging  internet  dataplans  2015  teens  youth  middleschool  highschool  mesh  meshnetworks  communication  firechat 
june 2015 by robertogreco
What's Your Favorite Slang Word? From Swag to On Fleek, Tweens Explain the Changing English Language - The Atlantic
"This is the first episode in a new series from The Atlantic, where we ask tweens for their thoughts on everything from middle-school jargon to what it's like growing up in the digital age. We interviewed students at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C., who shared some of their favorite slang words with us: swag, on fleek, and werk (with an "e"). "Sometimes slang words come out of famous videos or Vines," Max, a seventh-grade student, says. "It's social media," says Ricardo, another seventh-grader."

[Also on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvSDh0OQ6Zs ]
kids  language  vine  english  slang  2015  teens  youth  middleschool  tweens 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Defies Measurement on Vimeo
"DEFIES MEASUREMENT strengthens the discussion about public education by exploring why it is so important to address the social and emotional needs of every student, and what happens when the wrong people make decisions for schools.

For information on how to screen this film for others and for resources to learn more and take action, visit defiesmeasurement.com

By downloading this film, you are agreeing to the 3 terms listed below:

1) I will only use portions of Defies Measurement or the whole film for educational purposes and I will NOT edit or change the film in any way. (Educational purposes = viewing a portion or complete version of the film for an individual, private or public event, free of charge or as a fundraiser)

2) I will post a photo or comment about the film and/or screening on the Defies Measurement Facebook page

3) I will spread the word about the film to others via social media and word of mouth. Follow us @defymeasurement #defiesmeasurement"

[See also:
https://www.shineonpro.com/
https://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/115791029088/defies-measurement-via-will-richardsondefies ]
testing  standardizedtesting  nclb  rttt  schools  education  middleschool  chipmanmiddleschool  lindadarling-hammond  alfiekohn  martinmalström  socialemotionallearning  poverty  iq  assessment  policy  howweteach  howelearn  learning  competition  politics  arneduncan  jebbush  measurement  quantification  inequality  finland  us  edreform  tcsnmy  community  experientiallearning  communitycircles  morningmeetings  documentary  film  terrielkin  engagement  meaningmaking  howwelearn  teaching  sylviakahn  regret  sellingout  georgewbush  susankovalik  lauriemclachlan-fry  joanduvall-flynn  government  howardgardner  economics  anthonycody  privatization  lobbying  gatesfoundation  marknaison  billgates  davidkirp  broadfoundation  charitableindustrialcomplex  commoncore  waltonfamily  teachforamerica  tfa  mercedesschneider  dianeravitch  davidberliner  publischools  anationatrisk  joelklein  condoleezzarice  tonywagner  business  markets  freemarket  neworleans  jasonfrance  naomiklein  shockdoctrine  karranharper-royal  julianvasquezheilig  sarahstickle  ronjohnson  alanskoskopf  soci 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Being 12: The Year Everything Changes - WNYC
"It's no secret that being 12 years old can be tough. At 12, kids shed layers, test new roles and transform before our eyes as they explore what kind of adult they want to be. Their brains and bodies change at alarming rates. At the same time, school gets harder. In New York City, academic performance in seventh grade largely sets a student's path in high school.

New Yorkers this age often start commuting to school alone. For girls, it may be the year they buy their first bra or get their period. For everyone, it's an age for plugging in to the digital world, and tuning out adults more and more. Some may also have jobs or look after younger siblings. Friendships shift. Romantic feelings may blossom. The stakes get higher in so many ways. WNYC’s series, Being 12, brings to life the array of faces, voices and perspectives of these young New Yorkers.

See what they look like. Hear what they have to say. They are the city’s future. We think you should get to know them better."

[See also:
http://beingtwelve.tumblr.com/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/nbc-young-new-yorkers-open-about-tweenage-years/

“Being 12: The Year Everything Changes”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3Gxgv6-H3E

“What Romance Is Like in Middle School”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2HH72_AeCw

“If You Give a 12-Year-Old a Phone....”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzQ469WS9C8

and the many specific articles and episodes linked within the collection post. Examples:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/being-12-most-awkward-exhilarating-essential-year-our-lives/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/being-12-year-everything-changes-kids-schools-and-marketing/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/top-12-things-about-being-12/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/first-person-new-yorkers-being-12/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/meet-teachers-crazy-enough-teach-middle-school/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/being-12-when-relationships-reign-supreme/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/cutting-through-distractions-with-care/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/kids-and-technology/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/12-year-old-brain-peer-pressure/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/chancellor-seventh-grade-matters-lot/
http://www.wnyc.org/story/opinion-power-students-teaching-students/ ]
children  adolescence  12  age12  via:lizette  wnyc  radio  interviews  middleschool  nyc  technology  socialmedia  schools  education  learning  behavior  gender  teaching  youth  video  documentary  projectideas  classideas 
march 2015 by robertogreco
I Am Not My Internet Personality -- The Cut
"The gap between public and private personae used to be the exclusive concern of entertainers, but now anybody who wants to can live Martin. Plenty of prestige bloggery has been devoted to analyzing the phenomenon of "social-media happiness fraud," which we've somehow elevated to Russian-novel levels of agony: Those people posing in bikinis? Don't feel too envious of them, we've been told, for they are dead inside, too.

The ability to "research" people this way has already been catastrophic for casual dating, as we've all been forced to reduce other human beings to a series of forensic clues so as not to be murdered or have a boring two hours at a restaurant. While certainly expedient, the newish convention of deciding whether you like somebody before you have ever been in their physical presence is both depressing and a teensy bit unfair. Doing it to people we are already in actual relationships with is bananas and horrible. I've had to defend friends to the friends I'm trying to set them up with by saying things like "She's not like this in person." It is possible to excessively photograph your cat and be lovely to spend time with. It would be cool if we could just maybe start giving people the benefit of the doubt on this.

I get the impulse to see what the people we're currently having sex with, or wish we were, are up to. But maybe don't! Just a thought. Because — surprise! — sometimes, the stuff people do online is fake. We all suck at it, because ultimately, it is pretty dumb. You know that job where you teach people to be good at social media? Not real! Doesn't exist. There is no being good at social media, because it is a horror show. Being popular online is like being popular in middle school: Congratulations, you're the king of the worst."



"And I know what you're saying to yourself: "Well, the obvious solution here is just to be who you are on the internet and in real life." Oh, is it? Is that the obvious solution, analogue genius? Because I don't know how to do that, and I don't think you do, either.

If you do, please tell me, but just know that our interaction will vary based on your method of contact — so choose whether you'd like to speak to "phone me," "email me," "Facebook me," or that scary voice from The Exorcist."
julieannesmolinski  socialmedia  middleschool  2015  behavior  presentationofself  presonality  internet  online  web 
march 2015 by robertogreco
I Start the Year with Nothing
"When students make the rules, classroom community soars."

"Middle school is a scary thing for our students—it’s the first time since kindergarten that they’ve been forced into classes with strangers. Every year, as my new students wander in, toss their bags and find a seat, I take stock of the amazing collection of visibly different ways the age 12 can look on a human, and I wonder if I have the tools to bring those kids together.

My colleagues sometimes think, because I’m an artist, that I’ll have colorful bulletin boards in my room, but each year I leave my room bare and unadorned. I start the year with nothing but a giant piece of paper and a marker. And I ask one question: “If you could do anything you wanted in school this year, what would it be?”

This year was the same as usual. The response was silence. I tried again, “Anything? Come on! You’re the boss this year.”

Nothing. I sat on the floor. “Come here, please, and sit where I can see everyone.” Without my help, the students formed a circle, bending their heads around their neighbors, making sure they could see each other, sliding back to make space.

“She can’t see this guy! Move over!” The energy changed.

“Please,” I interjected.

“Huh?”

“Move over, please.”

“Oh, sorry. Move over—please.”

“Thank you,” we both said simultaneously and laughed.

“I don’t feel like writing. Can somebody else do that for me?” I said and tossed the marker to a kid sitting near the back. I took his spot on the floor, forcing him forward with my decision. He took charge right away, flaunting his power. I reminded him to pose the question again, “If you could do anything you wanted in school this year, what would it be?”—and this time the answers poured forth.

“I wanna be the teacher!” Hysterical laughter.

“Write it down,” I directed the new “teacher.” He did, but his spelling wasn’t great and he knew it. He seemed a little scared, and his bravado was fading.

The kids yelled at him, hoping to be recognized: “I want to grade the papers!” “Sit at the teacher’s desk!” “Field trips! Oh yeah, Hershey Park!” “No, I wanna go to the beach!” The new teacher couldn’t keep up with the rest of the kids, “his” students. When he was about to give up, I suggested he get help. A zillion “Ooh, ooh, me! Pick ME!” shouts later, he realized he not only needed a writer but some crowd control, too. I told him, again, to ask for help. He picked two others the class decided to name “bouncers.” At my prompting, the new teacher asked the question again, “Okay, what do you guys want to do this year?”

The bouncers insisted on manners and, amazingly, the class proceeded without me until their paper was filled with ideas: a homey classroom with real furniture, plants, lamps, painted walls, beanbags, FOOD!, a drinking fountain in the classroom, a fridge, students running the class, teaching, grading, deciding what to learn, field trips, parties, FUN! FREEDOM! POWER!

Eventually, the students started to get tired and a little bummed out. Their lists seemed ridiculous and impossible. It was time for me to step back in as facilitator.

“Nice job,” I said, but they were quiet. Then they accused me of lying to them. Their eyes followed me as I stepped to a cabinet and removed a roll of paper. I asked someone to go in my desk and find me some tape, and, suddenly, the energy was on the upswing. They couldn’t believe I had let someone in my desk! I used the tape to hang up a wish list created by one of my classes from the previous year.

“This is the wish list from last year’s class. Everything that’s crossed out, they did.” Next came a barrage of, “They did THAT? REALLY?” I assured them it was true, and then someone asked, “Well, HOW did they do that?”

It was my opening: “What do you think you’d need to do in order to be able to do that?” I asked, and the ideas poured out. I drew a T-chart on the board with the words “want” and “how to get what we want,” and the students dissected the process behind one of the other class’s projects.

I continued the conversation all morning, building the ground rules by which our class would function over the course of the coming year. By the time we finished, my colleagues were well into their second subject, but we’d done something as or more important—we had successfully set the foundation for a democratic classroom.

We had determined the structure and process of future weekly class meetings. We, as a class, decided to insist on making time for these meetings, which would follow a pattern: 10 minutes of gripes/complaints, 20 minutes for planning something from their wish list, and 10 minutes of sharing and compliments.

By the end of the month, my classroom was decorated and beautiful and homey and productive. Eventually, we had a full library (run by students) and a publishing center (run by parents). We made birdhouses in geometry and painted them and sold them for $20 each to fund a whale-watching trip. We groomed and rode horses at a farm. We painted a 40-foot mural in the cafeteria promoting our favorite books, and we made a video for new students and English language learners showing them around the building and introducing them to the faces of the nurse, the principal and the teachers. We invited the members of our ever-changing community to share food and culture and professional expertise with us. We built, painted, constructed and invented. We learned academics, respect, tolerance and the meaning of democracy in action. Our classroom was a place where all things were possible, including bridging differences in race, culture, language and financial resources.

By the end of the year, we could barely remember what it was like to feel like strangers, and we knew that, although we might have started the year with nothing, we’d learned to create everything together."

[See also:http://www.tolerance.org/student-voice

"When invested and empowered, students can be equal partners in creating a productive and meaningful learning environment. This toolkit provides an inventory to allow you to reflect on how student voices and input are integrated into your classroom and school community.

Given the opportunity, students can be equal partners in creating a productive and meaningful learning environment. This classroom and school inventory provides the tools necessary to assess how student voice and input are integrated into the culture and community and includes suggestions for how to improve student empowerment and investment.

Essential Question

1. How does involving student voice, input and agency in the classroom change the learning process for students and teachers?

In the classroom

• Are students involved in decorating the classroom?
• Do you have a process for establishing joint expectations about classroom norms and values?
• Are students allowed to express their expectations of the teacher?
• Is there a process for shared decision-making about consequences when agreed-upon classroom expectations or guidelines are broken?
• Do students lead some of the lessons in your classroom?
• Do you solicit student feedback on your lessons?
• Do you assign student roles and responsibilities in the classroom?
• Do you hold classroom meetings to discuss concerns, news, events and changes?

In our school community:

• Are students involved in decorating the hallways or other common spaces?
• Are there opportunities for students to lead schoolwide meetings or assemblies?
• How are students involved in setting the general guidelines for conduct at the school?
• Do student representatives sit on any adult-led school committees?
• If there is a student government association, how does that group collect concerns, ideas or feedback from their peers?
• If there is a student government association, how do those elected leaders share the concerns of their peers with school leadership? ]
rules  howweteach  tcsnmy  nancybarnoreynolds  2014  studentvoice  empowerment  cv  education  teaching  students  middleschool  classroom  classrooms 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Teacher Tom: Figuring Out Those Damned ATMs
"We're so often amazed that kids figure out new technology faster and better than adults. Let me tell you why: because they play with it. In fact, that's why young children learn everything faster and better than adults. Play, not swiping fingers across screens, is what's in their DNA, it's in all of our DNA, but we've unlearned it as we've gotten older. We worry that we're going to break something or look foolish or somehow do it "wrong," so we resort to instruction manuals and tutorials and our kids to show us the way.

Why do we stop engaging new things through play as we get older? I don't know the full answer, but part it must lie in how we're taught to learn as we get older. In our society, the younger children are, the more likely it is that they are allowed the time and space to play, to explore, to discover, to make mistakes, both inside and outside the classroom. This is why most young kids tell us they like school: learning is pleasurable, exciting, and interesting when we pursue it though play. Yet as we get older, the opportunities to play become increasingly rare until by the time we hit middle school, it's pretty much all about instruction manuals and tutorials and getting the "right" answer. That's why in traditional schools, the older kids get, the more likely they are to report they hate school.

The fact that young children "take to" screen-based technology shouldn't surprise us. They also take to rocks and sticks and cardboard boxes and water and other people. We're not so impressed by that, however, because we too have mastered those things, years ago, as we freely played.

Education "reformers" have it backwards. They look at middle schools and high schools and see children struggling, hating school, so they are seeking to make our preschools and elementary schools more like middle school and high school to get them "ready." It should be the other way around: we should be trying to make the middle school and high school experience more like what we find in early years. It's not our job to make kids school ready, it's our job to make schools ready for kids. If we do that, I'll bet we'll find that even adults can figure out those damned ATMs."
2014  tomhobson  edtech  technology  education  schools  unschooling  deschooling  howweteach  play  howwelearn  learning  children  digitalnatives  middleschool  highschool  cv  school  schooling  schooliness  edreform  preschool 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Middle School: Not So Bad - Hilary Conklin - The Atlantic
"Yes, it’s true that young adolescents are navigating profound and often complex changes—new bodies, new brain capabilities, and new social realms. But as a former public middle-school teacher who once taught more than 100 young adolescents each day, I have seen firsthand that middle schools can be constructive, happy places. When there are teachers who understand young adolescents and are prepared to teach them, smaller schools and classes that facilitate meaningful relationships, and an intellectually challenging, engaging, and relevant curriculum, middle school can be some of the most inspiring and enlightening years of a young person’s—or teacher’s—life."



"We seem to be at a crossroads, sometimes defaulting to old stereotypes, at other times, embracing more creative possibilities. Glass’s This American Life episode included the perspective that “you're sort of wasting your time trying to teach middle school students anything,” but juxtaposed it with the generous outlook that, “kids that age are fun, interesting, and self-reflective.” A middle school teacher quoted in Gootman’s Times series captured the range of views about teaching in middle schools: “Middle school is like Scotch. At first you try to get it down. Then you get used to it. Then it’s all you order.”

Given the bad rap middle school gets, it’s not surprising that very few future teachers have the goal of working with young adolescents. Research studies have shown that three-quarters of teachers enrolled in secondary teacher education programs (certifying them to teach in grades 6 through 12) preferred teaching at the high-school level to middle-school level. In my work training novice teachers, I see how their stereotypical views of middle school shape their beliefs that not only is it undesirable to teach young adolescents, but that it is actually difficult to accomplish anything intellectually meaningful during the middle school years. And yet, when I have these future educators conduct interviews with young adolescents to learn more about middle schools students’ views on the world, the novice teachers are often astonished to find that kids at this age are capable thinkers who are deeply interested in learning more about—and contributing to—the world around them.

So couldn’t we tell the middle school story differently? Perhaps we should enlist Patterson’s Rafe Katchadorian—I’m confident that he would have the ingenuity to give middle school a whole new narrative."
middleschool  education  teaching  howweteach  smallschools  school  learning  adolescence  relevance  via:lukeneff  2014  hilaryconklin  jamespatterson  iraglass 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Is significant school reform needed or not?: an open letter to Diane Ravitch (and like-minded educators) | Granted, and...
"A perhaps unseen lesson as to why SES correlates so well with achievement. Diane, these problems are of long standing (and you know this as a historian of education). Indeed, these weaknesses also exist in private and charter schools. Some of the most boring and fear-inducing teaching I have ever seen is in prep schools where only innate ability, student willingness to delay gratification and trust adults keeps it going. So, our problems cannot be caused solely by poverty and nasty manipulators of public schooling for personal gain or politics.

Indeed, in my view the only way to make sense of the long-established connection between student SES and school achievement scores is to conclude that most schools are not very effective. That explains much of the data in education, to my eye.

I love teaching, and I greatly admire teachers. I have spent the last 30+ years with them and in schools. Yet, we must face the truth, the “brutal facts,” as Collins termed it: many teachers are just not currently capable of engaging and deeply educating the kids in front of them, especially in the upper grades. Why can’t we admit this? I can admit it happily, because I think good teachers are tired of being brought down by weak teachers and policies that support them. And I’m in this for the kids, not the adults. Kids simply deserve better and no one lobbies primarily for their interests."
grantwiggins  dianeravitch  education  charterschools  criticism  2013  policy  provety  teacherquality  privateschools  teaching  learning  highschool  middleschool  johnhattie  schoolreform  reform  publicschools 
october 2013 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Re-thinking the Middle School
Middle School often begins with the definite division of learning into so-called "content areas," an idea pushed firmly into law in the past twenty years with the myth of the "highly qualified teacher." Of course being a "highly qualified teacher" is not about subject/content knowledge, as anyone who has attended a university lecture can testify, it is about being a leading learner for a group of kids. But this "qualification" mentality - "subject area" mentality - is exactly the opposite of what kids, especially 12-14-year-olds, need. They need a holistic view of learning which encourages them to build bridges across knowledge areas, and across areas of the brain. 

Middle School also introduces an absurdly false concept of "adult responsibility" which tells kids that the adults in the school are clueless.We insist that every middle school kid "act like an adult" when it suits us, but never when it suits them, and if you have any memory at all, you know that every middle school kid knows this. "You're old enough to be responsible for yourself," counts when it comes to being marked "late" for class, but not if you are ever out of direct line of sight for a seated librarian. It counts when you get a grade but not when you ask to do something. It counts when they charge you adult admission to a theatre, but not when you want to see a film about high school. Of course it counts if you commit a crime, not if you want a drink.And Middle School starts with violating all sense of teenage time and space. The adolescent brain struggles with contemporary temporal standards - actually - most humans do, but 13-year-olds haven't yet been fully beaten into submission.



"First of all, teens need ownership, they need to believe that spaces and programs are "their's" not "our's." Is that really such a foreign concept?"



"Second, teens need comfort."



"Finally, adolescents need a curriculum which engages. If you read that National Geographic article you will learn all about adolescent decision making, and, you'll realize that every kid in that Middle School is making perfectly logical decisions about what you, the teacher and administrator, are offering.

This is a microeconomic decision. For anything we do, there is an opportunity cost. Even the decision to pay attention to the teacher for five minutes has to be weighed against the other things you might be doing during that five minutes - daydreaming about the boy/girlfriend, wondering who'll get into the NCAA tournament, imagining tonight's soccer game, considering a more interesting subject. If what you are "selling" isn't understood as worth that five minutes, your students would have to be fools to listen to you. And they are not fools.

In a favorite school moment, a math teacher walked up to a school librarian and complained, "This kid drives me crazy, he'd rather go to Saturday School than come to my class." The librarian looked at the teacher and said, "Well, you have to think about that."

Indeed. As I once wrote in a short story, "They all say I "make bad decisions." Everybody says that. But they're wrong about that too. I make decisions they don't like, but they're not bad." Keep in mind, there are two sides to decision-making, and "reasonable alternatives" lead to better decisions.

So if you offer adolescents project-based learning which connects with their passions, you may suddenly find a bunch of kids lined up and ready to work. If you offer them pointless arithmetic, or books no one really wants to read, they will - they should - make other choices.

The time to change is now. Every year, in almost every place, 5th graders doing great work turn into sullen, unhappy 6th graders who fail those high-stakes tests. That's not genetics, and its not hormones, that is "us," with our high-school-styled, classroom-changing, grim-corridoring, bell-ringing, subject-divided, planner-driven, recess-missing Middle Schools.

So before another school year begins, if you are in the business of Middle School, there is probably damn little that you are doing that shouldn't be changed. And there are really no good excuses for not making those changes."
2013  irasocol  middleschool  tcsnmy  cv  education  schools  schooling  schooliness  policy  adolescence 
october 2013 by robertogreco
What I Learned in my First Week of Running a School | ThinkThankThunk
[Highlighting 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, and 13]

"1. Competency-based education is really attractive to a certain group of parents and students; those that know their kid needs a real CV to compete coming out of the gate.

2. No one has any idea what a project is.

3. If you start a project without an external audience in mind, it’s probably going to be sucky.

4. If you start a project with a genuinely interesting question, it’s probably going to be legit. (How different are the proteins in blue, green, & brown eyes? vs. the much crappier: How does DNA make proteins?)

5. Middle school students can’t drive.

6. There’s an astonishingly small number of students who gravitate towards (and are properly served by) book-first learning. BIG is operating at 10% of students really flourishing this way. <implications implied implicitly>

7. Blurred Lines is a fun tune, but wildly inappropriate.

8. Ripping off Piet Mondrian for your logo makes you look like a fop, and minimizes time in Illustrator.

9. Writing competencies should be individualized to the student and needs to map back to at least 3 curriculum standards, or you’re just never going to stay at a good pace (just below Grueling/Meager Rations.)

10. No one talks about grades at BIG. It just doesn’t come up.

11. Keep a Google Doc for every student that has all of the crazy good ideas that pop up. You won’t remember everything, and the kids won’t either.

12. The context upon which you can hang content has a surprisingly wide latitude for most students.

13. Symposium time is necessary. (When 5-10 students get together to share progress, failures, successes, and ideas with each other)

14. We really need a mascot and colors. Currently we’re The Fighting Whalephants."
competency  competency-basededucation  middleschool  projects  projectbasedlearning  teaching  education  learning  schools  bigideasgroup  bigideasschool  shawncornally  2013  audience  parents  context  content  reflection  sharing  standards  pbl 
july 2013 by robertogreco
5by5 | Back to Work #93: 67 Points of Articulation
"This week, Dan and Merlin continue their purging personal odyssey through the state of Florida. Isolation, education, and a parting admonition not to throw your cap in the air."

[See also: "Vocational Wheel" http://5by5.tv/b2w/7 ]
growingup  peakingearly  graduation  florida  children  adolescence  knowitalls  middleschool  highschool  vocationaltraining  teaching  schools  obedience  moving  isolation  learning  writing  fiveparagraphessays  2012  education  danbenjamin  merlnmann  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Waldo Jaquith - Five things you never knew about me.
"Elementary and middle school were an absolute mystery to me. I had no idea of where I should be at any given time, how I could find out, or even what day of the week that it was or how to find that out. Once I was abruptly switched from one grade to another — like, first to fifth or something — and then switched back weeks or months later; explanation was neither granted nor did it occur to me to ask. You know the dream where you’re in school but you’re late to class and there’s a test and you didn’t study and didn’t bring your homework? Welcome to my childhood, right up to the sense of dreaming."

"I became a licensed ham radio operator in middle school, but never once did anything with it. Not only could I not afford a rig, but I got internet access, and, really, I only wanted to become a ham to access the internet via packet radio."
waldojaquith  school  memory  memories  childhood  middleschool  from delicious
august 2012 by robertogreco
Middle School | This American Life
"This week, at the suggestion of a 14-year-old listener, we bring you stories from the awkward, confusing, hormonally charged world of middle school. Including a teacher who transforms peer pressure into a force for good, and reports from the frontlines of the middle school dance."
adolescence  thisamericanlife  middleschool  2011  teaching  learning  school  peerpressure  from delicious
october 2011 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: Schools that matter
"People who've heard me talk about middle schools have probably heard me say something like, "this age group has a million legitimate things to worry about every day, and none of them are in our curriculum."

I say this repeatedly because (a) I believe it to be true - that the evolutionary purpose of adolescence is unrelated to our program of schooling - and that (b) those who misunderstand this drive kids between, say, 12 and 25 crazy - and not in good ways - with special damage happening to the 12-16-year-old group, many of whom lose complete interest in what we call "education" and never really return…"
teens  schools  middleschool  teaching  learning  education  2011  irasocol  neuroscience  teenagebrain  unschooling  deschooling  attention  society  capitalism  industrialrevolution  adolescence  youth  tcsnmy  lcproject  maxweber  alisongopnik  laurencesteinberg  from delicious
october 2011 by robertogreco
Doc’s Sunrise Rants » Ask Doc Part XI
"How do you get through the teenaged years without strangling them? Was the change in their attitude gradual or did it just seem to come out of them all at once.…"<br />
<br />
"The first thing I did was act shocked, and then I tried to remember being 11, 13, 15…<br />
<br />
Stay consistent. Be fair. Practice grace. Stand firm. Don’t take their crap, but try to understand all the turmoil they feel inside. Keep them busy.<br />
<br />
My girls, overnight, went from sweet willing children to screeching banshees who cried about everything. And I had more than one of them doing it at the same time. Ugh. The boys went from willing little workers to slovenly lazy eating machines who forgot everything I said three seconds after I said it and wanted to sleep 20 hours a day.<br />
<br />
The changes were not gradual. They were angels one day, and demons the next.<br />
<br />
Sometimes I screamed at them. Usually I used guilt.<br />
<br />
It’s a wonder someone didn’t strangle me."
teens  parenting  adolescence  toshare  middleyears  middleschool  children  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
Born to Learn ~ Why does society see adolescence as a threat?
"About a century ago, psychologists concluded that adolescence was an aberration, so formal schooling was effectively designed to neutralise its impact. While scientific understanding of adolescence has since progressed, formal schooling has not. Recent generations of young people have missed out on the natural struggle of adolescence; they’ve been deprived of the strength that comes from knowing they’re not frightened of taking difficult decisions, and if necessary, picking up the pieces when things go wrong."
middleschool  tcsnmy  lcproject  adolescence  history  independence  decisionmaking  learning  youth  parenting  cv  society  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  adulthood  risk  risktaking  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: The Age of Reason
"at 11, is considered…to be adult because he is alleged to have acted badly…how good must  [he] be to be considered an adult?…

…imagine now that you are btwn age 10 & 25. If you are you're in a bizarre never-never land where your age will always be used against you, but rarely get you anything…

Let's start by correcting juvenile justice laws…while we're doing that, let's make sure that we are moving kids toward freedom, that Middle School looks more open, more chaotic, than elementary school. That High School looks, & is, more open still. That, like adults, kids aren't badgered for being 5 minutes late, or for forgetting something. That, like adults, kids have the freedom to sit, stand, or walk around - freedom to use the toilet, freedom to eat & drink in most places. That, like adults, kids have the freedom to control their own learning.

If we are training our kids to be adults, lets first not make them adults for wrong reasons…then, lets show them what it actually means."
youth  teens  adolescence  adulthood  adults  criminalization  juveniles  juvenilejustice  justice  education  middleschool  highschool  law  legal  irasocol  democracy  democratic  learning  behavior  control  agediscrimination  inconsistency  2011  murder  reason  change  reform  lcproject  tcsnmy  classideas  unschooling  deschooling  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco
Kid Politics | This American Life
"What if, say, the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983 had been decided, not by Ronald Reagan, but by a bunch of middle-schoolers? And what if every rule at your high school had been determined, not by teachers and administrators, but entirely by teenagers? This week, stories about whether, when it comes to governing, kids do any better than grown-ups."

"ACT THREE. MINOR AUTHORITIES.Jyllian Gunther visits The Brooklyn Free School, where there are no courses, no tests and no homework, and where the kids decide everything about how the school is run, including discipline. Jyllian is a filmmaker, working on a documentary called Growing Small. (16 minutes)"

[See also: http://bzeines.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/the-sound-of-democracy/ ]
education  democracy  democratic  schools  freeschools  thisamericanlife  brooklyn  brooklynfreeschool  unschooling  deschooling  history  children  middleschool  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
Chaos Theory at Play in the Middle School: A Redeeming Vision | Santa Fe Leadership Center
"…rarely do I make it to the end of day & look back at a purposeful, sustained march…In spite of ability to adapt to unexpected & turn surprise into teachable moment, teachers…are often uncomfortable w/ change & uncertainty…there may be something inherent about middle schoolers that requires, even dictates, a more flexible, free flowing style of management…There is probably no age group in a greater state of flux & transformation…In some ways, life in MS may mirror…world of quantum physics.…random events that seem to defy pattern & determinism…relationships btwn students, teacher & parents give meaning to our action…in seemingly endless series of encounters…saving grace, redeeming motif that makes it all worth it is the quality of the relationships & one’s ability to alter & affect life in MS by the humanity, kindness & humor one brings to each new crisis/encounter/situation."

[Linkrot workaround: http://santafelead.org/464/ ]
middleschool  cv  teaching  learning  quantumphysics  chaostheory  predictablity  messiness  tomrosenbluth  relationships  tcsnmy  lcproject  slowlearning  slow  flexibility  growth  adolescence  pedagogy  flow  structure  planning  education  unpredictability  humor  grace  kindness  connectivism  connections  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
Education Research Report: Middle school is when the right friends may matter most
"The study's findings clearly show that in the middle school years "a great deal of learning is taking place that is not being attended to," said Dishion, director of the Child and Family Center and professor of school psychology. "Puberty is taking place. The brain is changing rapidly. Kids' brains are almost wired to be reading the social world to see how they fit in, and the school is the arena for it."

These transitional years may be pivotal, Dishion said. In a previous longitudinal study, he said, he and colleagues looked at the impacts of peer relationships of young people at ages 13, 15 and 17 to look for predictive indicators of life adjustments at age 24. Those influences at age 13 -- going back to middle school -- were the most influential, he noted. While instruction is school is vitally important, he said, it may be that more eyes should be looking at shifting peer relationships."
socialemotionallearning  learning  education  tcsnmy  middleschool  peers  teaching  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  adolescence  socialemotional  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: A Middle School that Works [Project-based everything, individually crafted, team focused, individual education plans for all, "extra" curricular]
"The middle school is really just junior high school continued, & that was always a bad idea. Kids stumble through a bizarrely carved up yet age-dependent curriculum, & nothing could be less appropriate. There is no age range w/ a greater range of individual skills no matter the birth date, & there is no age range where getting kids interested in school is harder…kids 11-14 have a million things, really important things, to learn - about themselves, society, life, their bodies, & almost none of those things are taught in schools.

Meanwhile, the grades, subject areas, sports teams, honor rolls - even corridors - of middle school are essentially designed (a) to encourage bullying, & (b) to make kids see school as worthless & irrelevant.

…divide Middle School Grades into 9 large, & 3 "mini" project-based experiences…which kids choose. Completely interdisciplinary…

Kids would pick three 10-week experiences & 1 shorter experience each year, and that is what they would do all day."
irasocol  education  progressive  tcsnmy  lcproject  cv  teaching  projectbasedlearning  student-centered  projects  middleschool  juniorhigh  gamechanging  change  realreform  learning  adolescence  schools  schooldesign  individualized  teams  collaboration  collaborative  pbl  from delicious
january 2011 by robertogreco
A View from the Middle: A View from the Middle ... of Norway - Middle School Journal
"In the short time I have been in Norway, I have visited several schools and have observed a number of practices commonly associated with effective education for young adolescents. Schools typically practice looping in ungdomsskoler, and teachers often have a great deal of control over the daily schedule and instructional groupings. I have seen teachers working together in teams and students engaged in cooperative learning, and recent national reforms have put greater emphasis on curriculum integration."
norway  middleschool  tcsnmy  looping  education  teaching  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
A View from the Middle: Exploration and Discovery in the Middle Grades Curriculum - Middle School Journal
"The most powerful engine for exploration and discovery in middle grades schools is neither top-down state policies nor school-wide curriculum frameworks; it is the grassroots efforts of creative, committed middle grades educators who approach exploration as an attitude—a curricular stance—and not as a curricular add-on. The middle grades literature is rich with examples of educators who create curricula and instructional plans that equally embrace exploration and academic rigor. These educators think differently about curriculum, instruction, and assessment. They allow students to play with ideas and pursue answers to such important questions as: What am I good at doing? and What do I enjoy doing? When educators enact these principles across the curriculum, they help to fulfill the vision for developmentally responsive middle grades programs."
middleschool  tcsnmy  curriculum  exploration  discovery  self-actualization  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
How Should Schools Handle Cyberbullying? - NYTimes.com
"Schools these days are confronted w/ complex questions on whether & how to deal w/ cyberbullying, an imprecise label for online activities ranging from barrages of teasing texts to sexually harassing group sites...
bullying  middleschool  education  parenting  teaching  discipline  learning  online  internet  texting  tcsnmy  schools  administration  cyberbullying 
july 2010 by robertogreco
SpeEdChange: A Half-Dozen Things Your Middle School Should be "Teaching"
"My experience in school from the age of, say 11 or 12, to 14 often leads me to the conclusion that the best "middle school" would be almost no school at all. Kids have so much to learn during this period of their lives, but almost none of "that" is academic. They need to learn how to function as independent "adults." They need to learn their bodies. They need to discover the world. They need to pursue passions of all kinds. They need to learn how to hurt and how to recover. And they need to begin to imagine their future.
irasocol  middleschool  education  adolescence  tcsnmy  whatmatters  teaching  learning  unschooling  deschooling  classideas  change  curriculum  self  cv  choice  handson  projectbasedlearning  control  communication  topost  toshare  pbl 
june 2010 by robertogreco
The 21st Century Classroom – Alfie Kohn — Open Education
"It is interesting to note that for many children, middle & high school becomes the place where school is no longer enjoyable. It is, of course, at that time that students traditionally have been subject to a shift from student-centered classroom to teacher-centered, content-driven academic approach. The result is that school, instead of being a place where students look forward to going each day because it features an exciting atmosphere where learning new things is enjoyable, becomes a chore at best, a problem at worst. At the very age when students most resist compliance & teacher-centered approaches, too many teachers, &, by default, too many schools insist on employing such a format. Because of the sophistication needed educationally, there is no doubt that 21st century classrooms demand shift from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’ approach. That move is a requirement to produce the type of student that will excel in creative, technologically-rich world we face."
21stcenturylearning  professionaldevelopment  administration  pedagogy  learning  education  leadership  teaching  tcsnmy  lcproject  middleschool  progressive  student-centered  teacherasmasterlearner  schools  schooling  highschool  traditional  alfiekohn 
may 2010 by robertogreco
TeachPaperless: An Example of Jing Used to Comment on Student Work Online
"Have been using Jing for about three weeks now as my primary form of commenting on student work. Here's a recent example that uses Jing's 'pause' ability to quickly jump between the student's work and online sources and resources."
jing  writing  teaching  feedback  annotation  assessment  commenting  education  editing  screencapture  screencasting  middleschool 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Island Pacific School | Boarding Home Stay | Vancouver Private School
"Middle school years play an important role in shaping a student's formative educational experience. It's a time when lasting values, habits, and identities are formed. It's also a time for students to discover and challenge themselves in ways they may not have imagined possible.
vancouver  britishcolumbia  schools  tcsnmy  middleschool  bc 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Zinn Education Project
"The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change."
howardzinn  democracy  education  middleschool  primarysources  socialstudies  activism  highschool  progressive  learning  technology  teaching  history  tcsnmy  americanhistory  lessonplans  us  sfsh 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Can These Parents Be Saved: The Growing Backlash Against Over-Parenting - TIME
"certain amount of hovering is understandable when it comes to young children, but...concerned when it persists through middle & high school..."Stealth Fighter Parents," who no longer hover constantly but can be counted on for a surgical strike...Among the most powerful weapons in war against helicopter brigade is explosion of websites where parents can confide, confess & affirm their sense that lowering expectations is not same as letting your children down..."People feel there's somehow a secret formula for parenting & if we just read enough books & spend enough money & drive ourselves hard enough, we'll find it & all will be O.K. Can you think of anything more sinister, since every child is so different, every family is different? Parents need to block out sound & fury from media & other parents, find formula that fits family best."...Finally, there is the gift of humility...We can fuss & fret & shuttle & shelter, but in the end, what we do may not matter as much as we think."
parenting  education  learning  children  highschool  middleschool  teaching  helicopterparenting  overparenting  simplicity  carlhonoré  unschooling  deschooling  tcsnmy  lcproject  helicopterparents 
november 2009 by robertogreco
How parents can help teens succeed « Joanne Jacobs
"To help teens succeed in school, parents’ role starts at home, concludes a new book, Families, Schools and the Adolescent. "For example, while helping with homework makes a difference for elementary students, it has little impact for middle and high schoolers, concludes Nancy Hill, a Harvard researcher.
education  schools  parenting  achievement  teens  tcsnmy  middleschool  highschool  homework  learning 
november 2009 by robertogreco
When Reading Becomes Work
"The authors of the Kaiser report attribute the decline in elective reading to greater amounts of homework; reading is viewed as work, so leisure becomes an escape from work. It's worth asking, then, what happens in these late elementary and middle school years to turn reading into labor — and one answer must surely be the prominence of textbooks. In most schools, education becomes divided along subject lines, and these subjects are taught through comprehensive (and extremely expensive) textbooks.

The rituals of textbook use are so familiar as to be part of the American landscape...Yet textbooks typically fail to provide the most basic conditions for readerly engagement. They are great vehicles for generating corporate profits, but poor ones for creating readers. They fail young readers on four dimensions of reading — authorship, form, venue, and duration."
reading  textbooks  education  teaching  tcsnmy  pleasure  adolescence  middleschool 
september 2009 by robertogreco
Our Courts - Homepage
"Our Courts is web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy. Our Courts is the vision of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is concerned that students are not getting the information and tools they need for civic participation, and that civics teachers need better materials and support.

Current resources on the site include: quality online lesson plans and links to teaching resources and each branch of government in your state. These resources, written and compiled by classroom teachers, are practical solutions to classroom needs. For students, we have interactive features like Civics in Action, and Talk to the Justice, where students can tell each other and Justice O’Connor about their opinions and their civic participation."
government  civics  education  law  socialstudies  games  courts  middleschool  tcsnmy  seriousgames 
august 2009 by robertogreco
NMSA Research Summary - Student Achievement and the Middle School Concept (2006)
"Most of the research conducted on middle schools focuses on one of the six programmatic components of a successful middle school for young adolescents. For example, a multitude of studies exist on the effects of interdisciplinary teaming. Additionally, there is a significant body of research on advisory programs, student grouping, and developmentally appropriate approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment...Lee and Smith (1993) conducted one of the first studies to use a large-scale sample to address the link between the implementation of middle school components and student achievement. Their study examined the effects of school restructuring on achievement and engagement of middle grades students. The study found that the following elements needed to be present in a middle school for it to be considered restructured in a way that was faithful to the middle school concept: reduced or eliminated departmental structure, heterogeneously grouped instruction, and team teaching."
tcsnmy  middleschool  interdisciplinary  research  teaching  learning  education  assessment  lcproject 
august 2009 by robertogreco
Labyrinth
"Lure of the Labyrinth is a digital game for middle-school pre-algebra students. It includes a wealth of intriguing math-based puzzles wrapped into an exciting narrative game in which students work to find their lost pet - and save the world from monsters! Linked to both national and state mathematics standards, the game gives students a chance to actually think like mathematicians."
math  tcsnmy  games  gaming  prealgebra  pre-algebra  middleschool  interactive  online  seriousgames  learning  edtech 
march 2009 by robertogreco
Breakwater Middle School Approach to Learning
"What is an "integrated approach" to learning?

An integrated approach explores the same theme, question, or topic simultaneously in all academic subjects. The theme’s central concepts and a variety of skills are developed as students read, write, conduct experiments, collect, analyze, and report on data - all in pursuit of answers to essential questions related to the theme under study. Skills and concepts are each presented and practiced in several different ways, providing students of all learning styles multiple opportunities to develop their understanding."

[Update: This was from the old website. See the Wayback machine for the content: http://web.archive.org/web/20100921100609/http://breakwaterschool.org/68_approach.htm AND http://web.archive.org/web/20100921105458/http://breakwaterschool.org/68_curriculum.htm AND http://web.archive.org/web/20100921105341/http://breakwaterschool.org/68_expeditions.htm AND http://web.archive.org/web/20100921105436/http://breakwaterschool.org/68_schedule.htm AND (especially, considering it was the source page of the quote above) http://web.archive.org/web/20100921105303/http://breakwaterschool.org/68_faq.htm ]

"The program expects to have 12-16 students in 2008-2009; don’t middle school students need a bigger social arena?

Some students may want a larger social peer group. Quality, not quantity, of social relationships fosters growth for young people. The establishment of a healthy student culture is a central component of our curriculum. Young adolescence is a time for students to make mistakes and try various identities in a safe and supportive environment.

We are also investigating ways to build relationships with other small middle schools and home-school co-ops for the purposes of social, academic, and athletic interactions.

Is this a program for “alternative” students who cannot flourish in the mainstream?

The Breakwater Middle School program is based on current research and best practices for middle school education. For some who do not flourish under fluorescent lights all day doing seat-work with paper and pencil, this program may be a welcome alternative. For some who are hungry for learning and can work independently as well as cooperatively, this program supports their needs. For those who want a middle school experience that is challenging both academically and personally, and who are eager to engage, this program is a good match. This program is not necessarily appropriate for students who need remedial support, or who need extensive support in order to behave appropriately.

Is this program an experiment?

No. These methods and pedagogy are based in sound research and education theory. The program design fits squarely within the National Association of Middle Schools standards and the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) recommendations for middle school, and is consistent in every way with what they advocate as exemplary practice for young adolescent learners.

[…]

If students work together in mixed grade groupings, will they do the same thing over and over from 6th to 8th grade?

No. The integrated themes will largely arise from student interests and questions, and thus will vary from year to year. Activities and learning experiences are also differentiated according to a student’s abilities and needs.

How will 8th graders be challenged differently than 6th graders?

One of the benefits of cooperative learning is that students can and do learn best from each other. Eighth graders will have extra challenges such as assuming leadership on a school committee, being part of an advisory council, etc. We are also planning special rites of passage for every grade, but 8th grade in particular. They may include traveling to a foreign country, an adventurous outdoor experience, and producing a significant creative and intellectual project."
tcsnmy  education  schools  curriculum  middleschool  progressive  studentdirected  integrative  learning  maine  portland  lcproject 
january 2009 by robertogreco
About the Zinn Education Project | The Zinn Education Project
"The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the use of A People’s History of the United States in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The goal is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. The empowering potential of studying U.S. history is often lost in a textbook-driven trivial pursuit of names and dates. Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States emphasizes the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history. Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions and therefore students’ own choices and actions also matter. We believe that through taking a more engaging and more honest look at the past, we can help equip students with the analytical tools to make sense of — and improve — the world today."
howardzinn  education  history  socialstudies  middleschool  highschool  teaching  learning  tcsnmy  society  civics 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Sandra Day O'Connor: Game Designer | Game | Life from Wired.com
"detailed a project she is spearheading called Our Courts, which she described as an "online, interactive civic education project for seventh- and eighth-graders" that familiarizes students with the legal system"
sandradayoconnor  law  legal  games  gaming  learning  education  seriousgames  play  middleschool  classideas  government  us  socialstudies 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Why Nerds are Unpopular
"School is strange, artificial thing, half sterile, half feral...Teenage kids used to have more active role in society. In pre-industrial times, they were all apprentices ...weren't left to create own societies....were junior members of adult societies."
schools  society  education  teens  youth  apprenticeships  learning  nerds  culture  popularity  bullying  adolescence  paulgraham  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  middleschool  highschool  academics  childhood  children  via:preoccupations 
march 2008 by robertogreco
For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills - New York Times
"Tough on Teachers: This is the third article in a series that looks at changing theories of how middle school should be taught."
middleschool  education  schools  students  teaching  children  teens  youth  learning 
march 2007 by robertogreco

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