Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Middle School Returns!

I thought I was done!  My four kids went through Culbreth Middle School  many years ago and I praised the Lord when the last one got her little certificate saying she was promoted.  (I actually didn't praise the Lord, but it sounds good in this blog.  I was extremely happy, though.)    Middle school was rough--so bad that I pulled one of mine out after bullying by bigger kids, and persecution by a teacher. He attended a charter school for his 7th grade year, then I pulled him out of that in 8th grade to go BACK to Culbreth.  Obviously, I was confused--maybe it's ALL middle schools, charter or not, that are war zones.  One terrible year, a girl at Culbreth left my oldest kid's class to go commit suicide in the bathroom.  That was bad, to say the least.  So......I really was grateful that my Culbreth days were over....or so I thought.

I couldn't and still can't predict the future--a definite weakness of mine.  Tonight, I sat through a Culbreth new family orientation with my mentee, Alana!   It was exciting!  It's the same building, but with very few familiar faces--which is good. No PTSD flashbacks.  Alana and I toured the school, looked in the old art room (Vicki and Andorra did actually have a wonderful art teacher there) and learned about schedules, teams, and lockers.  I'm hopeful, Alana is nervous.

  The best part of the evening actually didn't take place at Culbreth.  Alana and I headed over to Lincoln Center and attended a Blue Ribbon Mentor workshop ("Welcome to Middle School").  There were two great parts--the first was in teaching the kids to introduce themselves with complete sentences, clear articulation, projected voice, and more content than they ever had to say before.  Intuitively, Graig and Sophia provided a script with fill-ins.  Those of you who are speech pathologists will appreciate this.  It was a wonderful group language lesson complete with positive feedback, language modeling, and scaffolding.  All of the kids had to do this, introducing themselves to a packed room.  Kids had to tell their complete name, where they attended school, how long they had been in the mentor program, their strengths, and what they aspire to do.  They were then encouraged to practice this in public, and told that they would be repeatedly asked to practice the same skill again.  Kids took notes!

The second part of the workshop was to supply the children with visual symbols, paired with language, about three essential keys to success in middle school.  Again, scaffolding was provided, and positive feedback to all responses was given.  The students took notes.  I loved the visuals supports, and the structured lesson. (again, I am a speech pathologist, and do appreciate when others use multi-sensory teaching.)

The first image provided by Graig was this:

Meaning 100% of homework needs to be turned in.  I'm not sure that 6th graders really understand the grading system and the consequences of a 'zero' for missing assignments.  This was explained.

The second image provided to the
children was a question mark.
Graig clearly explained (and used the                                              ?
visual) that teachers give better grades
to those who ask questions. He clearly
instructed the kids to ask a question in
every class. 

 The third image was a light bulb.
Kids need to be engaged in the learning
process and have ideas.

I really appreciate all of the people at the Blue Ribbon program and can now reinforce these principles, and use the same images when speaking with my mentee about her school work and effort!    Maybe I can even use these with my students at Ephesus to engage and motivate them more!  I'm looking forward to more Blue Ribbon activities, but am especially looking forward to traveling through the middle school experience with Alana.  I never thought I would actually look forward to 6th grade again, but I am!

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