Monday, January 30, 2012

Vision of MY Middle School

Welcome to MY Middle School, where the office staff greets you with your own iPad to help you record your thoughts from your visit today. A couple of students in the office shake your hand and welcome you to their school as you head over the the media center.

In the media center, students are browsing not only print materials and periodicals for their leisure reading, but also borrowing personal reading devices and mp3 players to read and listen to electronic books and podcasts. Groups of students work together on their projects, adding to their group wikis and creating documents that they share through Google docs.

In a math class, students are using interactive white boards to work with their classmates, using student-created presentations while a teacher provides one-on-one remediation and refocusing. Students move through student-created and teacher-created centers, using manipulatives, online math tools, watching videos of math instruction. Two students work on their online advanced math course.

In a social studies class, students are Skyping with an archaeologist in Asia who is sharing his latest findings. In another classroom, the teacher is leading a Socratic seminar with students who will then record their thoughts about seminar-style instruction and the seminar topic in their class VoiceThread project.

In a language arts class, students gather to blog about the latest young adult novel that they have read, posting their thoughts on their Edublog sites and commenting on their classmates’ posts. Students are creating digital storytelling projects, listening to one another’s ideas, modeling cooperative and collaborative learning. Students can access their electronic portfolios from anywhere on campus in order to add and delete documents, files, and presentations.

In a science class, students record their findings on a weather experiment and create a video instructing other middle schoolers how to carry out similar experiments. A group of students approaches the teacher about staying after school one day to continue their work on various experiments they have brainstormed to do. The teacher is very open to their ideas and they mutually agree to use an online tool to post their ideas and plan their project and set a time to come together to meet.

As you move through the hallways, students greet you and one another with smiles. Students appear excited about learning, moving from classroom to classroom to media center to outdoor learning spaces with confidence and enthusiasm.

Certified staff, many with advanced degrees and National Board Certification, meets in grade level and interdisciplinary teams and departments, as well as with guidance, media and instructional resource staff to plan lesson, dissagregate data, share professional resources, read journals, conduct action research, and create reports and presentations for district and state conferences and presentations.

A small group of teachers meets in their team room conferencing calling with a parent who is out of town to discuss his child’s projects posted on the teacher Blackboard site and grades posted on SPAN. Another two teachers are working together to learn reading strategies through the district’s online professional development program.

As you head through another building, you see students working with robotic technology to create their own masterpieces. You hear native speakers providing interactive lessons with students learning to speak a new language. You run into the school resource officer who welcomes you to campus and thanks you for taking the time to be a part of our school community.

You hear the sounds of an energized and active instrumental and vocal music program as you walk back across the campus. You see drama students using mini-video cameras to record their skits in an outdoor learning space.

And as you head back to the front of campus to end your visit at MY Middle School, you have a warm feeling, confirming the strong, compassionate academic and social program that is afforded to every middle schooler, teacher, and parent that graces the doors.

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