The middle level years are important in building students' social and emotional skills, as well as developing their abilities to communicate, work with others, be creative, and problem solve. By instilling these skills in our young students we give them the opportunities to express themselves and explore their interests in order to prepare them for the next stage of their lives.
As we approach our break, students and faculty alike are filled to the brim with excitement (and holiday cookies!)
The new year offers the potential for a fresh start. Traditionally, the new year provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the past, look towards the future, and contemplate ways to become a better version of ourself.
I asked our middle school students what their new year’s resolutions were. We might consider junior high school students to be “young,” but their resolutions were quite insightful and sincere.
Some of my favorite responses include:
“spend more time in nature,”
“expand my culinary skills,”
and “get better at initiating relationships.”
On behalf of the middle school team, I wish you and yours a peaceful and joyful break. See ya in 2017!
The middle school participated in a “Thankful Meal” on Tuesday, November 22nd. Each house hosted a turkey meal (with all the fixings,) where students and teachers worked together to prep, set-up, and clean. As a House, the middle schoolers sat down to eat with their peers and teachers.
Before digging into our meal, we encouraged students to consider what they were thankful for, offering crayons for them to express their thoughts on our makeshift tablecloths.
I would like to spend some time reflecting on some of the things that I personally have to be grateful for.
I am thankful to work in a school that puts students first. I have built wonderful relationships with the eclectic group of children I am lucky enough to call my students. They help to remind me everyday why I became a teacher.
I am thankful to work with faculty and staff who understand that we are growing together as a team. We all have our idiosyncrasies, and we may not always see eye to eye on every aspect of our craft, but we are a united team that works tirelessly to provide a safe, respectful and engaged learning environment for our students AND for each other.
I am thankful for an administration that keeps me humble. With each new initiative that is introduced, I am encouraged to go outside of my comfort zone and fine tune my methods.
I am thankful to live and work in a beautiful place, where I am greeted every morning by the White Mountains. My daily drive across state lines is the most peaceful commute I’ve ever had, and it offers time for much needed contemplation.
And, of course, I am thankful for my family. I am lucky enough to share a hallway at Hazen with my charismatic husband. This year, we welcomed our beautiful son into the world and I hardly remember what life was like without him.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to consider what you are thankful for… it's a beautiful life and we ought to appreciate it.
On Wednesday, a group of 8th graders collected all of the trash, recycling, and compost from the day. On Thursday, a seventh grade class helped sort it all out in order to collect data on how much we’re throwing away, how much we’re recapturing, and how well we’re following Vermont’s guidelines. With the help of Central Vermont Waste Management staff, we’ll crunch the numbers and prepare a report for the school and community.
Personalized Learning Plans have been one of my favorite initiatives and targets of professional development over the past two years. Hazen has been fortunate to have some wonderful mentors in this process, such as Peoples Academy and Main Street Middle School in Montpelier, as well as our invaluable partnership with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. Today, I would like to share some of the ways we implement them long before students start to think of college or career.
At Hazen, we have realized that the earlier the realization of self, and the establishment of who students are as learners, the better off their high school experience will be. Some may think that seventh grade may be too early to ask students to think about what they want to do after high school, but on the contrary, the earlier students establish self-awareness, the better they achieve in high school and beyond.
While some middle school students may know what they want to be when they grown up (I certainly did not), others may need the extra catalyst in exploration. Do I prefer math and science, or am I an English Language Arts/Social Studies-type student? Or, Do I learn better by listening, or by reading? What about students who may wonder why they’re the only one who would prefer working by themselves, as opposed to working with their peers on a group project.
Personalized Learning Plans at the middle level primarily focus on these explorations, rather than a twelve-year-old wondering What kind of doctor do I want to be?
Some basics that parents may want to know about their students’ Personalized Learning Plans...
1. The actual "PLP" is a private Google site, meaning only people who have permission to access it may view it. After some intensive work last summer at the Middle Grades Institute, a team of teachers designed the layout of the page using Hazen's academic structure as well integrating ample research and some tried and true models.
2. At the middle level, PLPs are designed to bring self awareness to students, in both academic proclivities and general interest, as well as establishing goal-setting strategies. I have designed a "playlist" of tasks that the whole middle school follows, focused on identity and interests at this point in the school year. As students get more comfortable adding to their PLPs, they will begin to add evidence of proficiency in each of the subjects.
3. Every student’s PLP site can be accessed from any google browser he or she is signed into. Each student should also have a folder in their google drive called "PLP", where some items have been worked on prior to being published on the actual site/ If you have a middle level student, you can ask them to view their PLP and the work they have done thus far.
We've already written a brief biography, crafted some goals and brainstormed steps to achieve them, and have allowed students to personalize the site to aid in buy-in. The long-term goal in this process is that students will learn to gain initiative to add to their own site independently, perhaps as they feel they have reached another milestone on their way to a long-term goal. Students are at different paces already, but are supported by teachers and a self-paced structure.
Thank you to students who have turned in signed Ipad contracts and completed all of the digital digital citizenship lessons. Once you have met these requirements, you are able to bring your Ipad home. We are lucky to have these powerful tools for creativity and collaboration in the classroom, and happy to see you take full responsibility for and ownership of them. Below is a copy of the notice you will receive along with a few additional pieces of gear on the day you take your Ipad home. Feel free to contact any of your teachers with questions or concerns.
Your friendly, neighborhood long term substitute here. Mr. Nichols is my name. At the moment I’m sitting at a desk. It is relatively cluttered, but that is besides the point.
The point here is this: I would like to bring some clarity and understanding to Grades in the Middle Level. To start, I’m going to introduce some terms.
Proficiencies - As you might know, the great state of Vermont has mandated that its schools shift to models of Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements. Each academic department has their own proficiencies. These are often stated “I Can” sentences, for example, “I can comprehend, interpret, analyze, and evaluate a wide range and level of complex literary and informational texts.”
Learning Scales - E.L.O.’s are broken down further into Learning Scales. Learning Scales are the first place that something like grades appear as they categorize students as “Getting Started,” “Making Progress,” “I Can Do This,” and “ Transfer.” Each of these categories are assigned numbers from one to four.
Ok, Proficiencies, E.L.O’s and Learning Scales. Great. Good. Now I’ll make this more complicated.
There are two types of assessments used at Hazen, Summative and Formative. Both use E.L.O.’s and Learning Scales but they are separately averaged. Again, they are separately averaged. Why? Well…
Formative assessments are treated as practice. Activities intended to be assessed as formative, are designed for students to become familiar with the skill or concept being taught. These activities are deliberately introduced as low consequence. It should allow and encourage students to experiment, risk failure and grow.
Summative Assessments are intended to serve as main events. They are snapshots of a student’s ability or performance at any one point in time. As such they are used by students and teachers as evidence that a certain E.L.O. has or hasn’t been met.
Now for two confusing matters.
Apart from how they are averaged, Formative and Summative assessments ideally mirror one another. This follows the athletic mantra of “Practice like you Play.”
Academic Habits - Academic Habits are another means of assessment and are used to determine extracurricular eligibility. So they are important. Academic Habits are broken down into four categories, each of which are evaluated on scales ranging from one to four. As evidence of Academic Habits, students and teachers draw on both formative and summative assessments, as well as in class behavior. They are reported every two weeks.
Alright, so now that you know everything about assessment at Hazen, this is what I will leave you with - to start the school year the middle school teachers did not assess anything as summative. This was done for a variety of reasons. One result is that the most recent progress report, a report intended to relate a glimpse of student summative assessments to date, likely had very little data to draw from, if any.
That’s it. I’ve got to tend to some other matters of significant urgency. I’ve spilt my coffee.
This week in Math class, we took some time to look at how mistakes can actually help us learn! We learned about growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset and began to see how this affects our learning. Here are two great videos to watch:
After watching the videos and then making a few mistakes in Math class, students reflected on their learning. Here is what they had to say:
“I stopped myself from getting frustrated when I made a mistake and started thinking of ways to improvise.”
“When I make a mistake I am now determined to get the right answer and try other ways to solve the problem. Now I know what to do if I get a problem wrong. Also now I know not to rush a math problem.”
“You should never be afraid to ask someone in class for help.”
“It’s different from the other math classes because I look at the questions I’m doing and I push myself more.”
“I now ask for help and when I get help I learn off my mistakes. I know the answer because I got pointers.”
Students are understanding that by thinking deeply about the topics we are learning about help everyone learn more. Believing in yourself is a key to learning! I hope that this helps all students know and understand that we are here to help them grow and learn, which may mean trying and trying again!