"Long after they've forgotten what you taught them, they will remember how you treated them."
-author unknown

Friday, December 16, 2011

5 Ways to Help Your Young Adolescent Be Successful in Middle School

An article with the same title is posted in the usual spot to the right.  I have heard the experts talk (and write) about the developmental difficulties that go along with being a young adolescent.  While I believe they are right, what about the job of parenting a young adolescent?  Not exactly a walk in the park.  We always love them, but don't always like the way they behave or treat us.  Below I'll summarize the key points this article makes to help those of us that are smack dab in the middle school roller-coaster with our kids.

1. Have a candid conversation with your child about expectations for the year and what works and does not work for their success.
Be frank with your child about your expectations for them.  After all, if they don't know the target, they can't hit it.  Inquire about their expectations for themselves.  Goal setting can be an off shoot of this conversation.  Setting reasonable, achievable and measurable goals is a life long skill that they are quite capable of completing successfully.  Revisit these goals often!

2.  Talk to your child every day!
 I know that sometimes they don't seem to listen.  I know that sometimes they seem like they don't want to talk.  However, they are listening and they do want you to start conversations about what is going on in their lives.   

3.  Contact school regularly (phone, email, visit web sites).
It is very important to keep in touch with school regularly.  Don't wait for a call if things aren't going well.  As mentioned above, there are numerous communication avenues.  Phone calls, emails, interaction through our website and the good old-fashioned conference.  Sometimes just knowing that you are in regular contact with school helps students.  Infinite Campus (IC) is a crucial element to tracking your child's progress.  24/7 access to grades and assignments is the ultimate in convenience.  Please contact school if you are having trouble accessing IC.   

4.  Encourage involvement in non-academic activities.
There are many non-academic pursuits out there, some related to school, some not.  Students' spend many hours and brain cells on their academic tasks each day.  It can be beneficial to have opportunities for exercise and social interactions outside of the school day. Athletics, Drama, Rec Club, my son has recently taken up archery.  It has had a calming effect on him.  Often these pursuits cause cognitive challenges that can enhance their learning in school.    

5.  Let them explore independence (safely). 
'Tis the age for seeking independence.  It is a delicate balance between holding them back and letting them go.  Too much on either end can lead to difficulties.  Every child is different and needs different boundaries from their parents.  This is an area where the conversation is really important, as is reflection.  Parents don't always get it right, but don't stop asking questions and reflecting upon your parental decisions.

I hope this entry did not come across too much like an advice column.  My intent was to combine some research with life experience, both as a parent of an 8th grader and as someone who has spent a few years working with this age group.  Feedback welcome!  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ever wonder why we have the schedule we do?

Scheduling is never an easy thing.  However, it is important to have the structures in place to support good teaching and learning.  The staff worked hard last spring to overhaul last year's schedule.  It worked and while no schedule is perfect, we are so much better off.  Why are we better off?

1. Our instructional blocks are longer.  65 minutes that does not include transition time.  2.  Grade level teachers have common planning time everyday.  This is a big deal, allowing our staff to collaborate, improve instruction, examine data and provide common experiences across pods.  3.  Intervention times exist for students on a daily basis (30 - 60 minutes).  Students not below standard get to have some enrichment activities (student blog, technology explorations, etc).  4.  There is an advisory period at the beginning and end of every day allowing for more contact with a trusted and caring adult.

If you are able to read the associated research article posted on the right-hand "nav. bar," you'll see several types of schedules mentioned.  We have a combination of a block schedule and alternate day schedule.  Our Unified Arts classes rotate (alternate), but not our core classes.  Our core classes are longer (blocks) to provide more instructional time.

While no two middle school schedules are alike, they generally have guidelines to provide structures to enhance learning.  Gone are the days of the 45 to 50 minute periods that happen 7 times per day.  Longer instructional blocks allow for cooperative learning strategies and for students to go further in depth with topics.  Learning isn't as rushed with these longer blocks.

We meet early in the spring to review the master schedule and to make any necessary changes.  We hope to make only a few changes this coming year.  Parental input is always welcome!


Friday, December 2, 2011

OHMS' 7/8 Looping Structure

Many of you already know, but if you don't, OHMS has a grade 7/8 looping structure in place.  This is our first year and initial reviews are very positive.  So what does this mean?  This years' seventh graders will have the same teachers next year.

Why do we have this structure in place?  There are a number of reasons for looping.  Some are explained in the "Research on Looping" link on the right hand navigation bar.  Middle schoolers are special kids with specific developmental and social needs.   We know this already, especially you the parents.  One of the major tenets of the "middle school philosophy" is to have adult advocates for all of our students.  There is also a greater understanding of the importance of a healthy rapport/relationship between teacher and student.  This takes time to develop, as is with any relationship.  It almost seems a shame to have to start this process all over again each year.  Teachers can save time in the fall picking up where they left off in the spring.  Knowledge of each student's strengths, weaknesses and learning styles is essential for ensuring student's success.  Now teachers will have this knowledge for two years.  Think of the possibilities!

Why not loop 6-8?  Some schools do have this structure.  My son's school does.  However, we have realized that the 5/6 transition is a huge move for our kids.  Our current 6th grade team has a particular skill set and are able to provide a smooth and more effective transition.  Having the same 6th grade team also allows an ease of conversation with Carrie Ricker School and their 5th grade team.

Does looping always work?  Of course nothing always works.  There are options if you or your child feel that looping with the same teachers may not be in the student's best interest.  While we generally wish not to interrupt the benefits of looping, please contact the school if you would like to discuss options that are different than looping.

Looping is only one of a number of ways that OHMS tries to meet the specific developmental needs of your child.  This entry is an attempt to help parents understand why we loop.  Please take a minute to read the posted article about looping.  I think it will add some clarity.  Feel free to call or email if you'd like to have further conversations about this or any other topic related to OHMS and the education we deliver.