Thursday, January 10, 2013

Through an 8th Grader's Eyes

 We took our 8th Grade picture for the yearbook today.  I figured it was a good excuse to touch base with them and see how things were going.  I joined them at their lunch tables today, telling them I needed help with my blog (only one student asked, "What's a blog?").  I posed only one question to them:

"In the eyes of an 8th grader, how could we improve our schools?"

Today was a 1PM Early Dismissal for our district, and "8th Grade Lunch" was following by nothing but a race to the buses, so I knew I wasn't asking at the best possible time.  However, I was both surprised and impressed with the responses.  Yes, "better school lunches," "shorter classes" and "nap time" all surfaced as responses, but take a look at some of the other things our 8th graders had to say:
  • More time to study in class
  • More time for bigger projects 
  • Give us more independence
  • Less talking by teachers
  • Study halls for all kids so we can get help from teachers
  • More choices in the classes we take
  • More Exploratory classes 
  • More art classes - and photography
  • Classes that go further and do more
  • Rewards for getting good grades
  • Get rid of Standards Based Grading because it is to hard
  • Get graded for our homework
  • New math textbooks
  • Outside recess for 7th & 8th graders
  • More modern technology
  • More digital stuff so we don't lose papers
  • Laptops because some kids don't have computers at home, or share with brothers and sisters
  • Shorter school days (which led to) some countries go longer (and) some some schools go all year
  • More choices for sports
  • More time to be with our friends
  • Let us take our bags to class so we don't need to go to our locker
  • Bigger library
  • More security
Perhaps the response that best illustrates why we need to purposefully and intentionally listen to kids came in one of my last conversations.  After thinking for a moment, a young man stated, "Well, you know, when I want to learn how to do something at home, my dad and I go to youtube.  We should do more things like that."  We often hear how kids have changed over the years.  Personally, I don't think kids are all that different than they were a generation ago.  However, the world today's kids live in is much different.  They way the learn is much different.  The question is, are schools keeping up?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Welcome Back

I spent some time yesterday attempting to get organized in preparation for our first day back following winter break.  Today I'll begin to focus a little more intently on the "To Do List."  However, as I excitedly prepare to get the ball rolling again, I'm always conscious of a few things in returning from break:

  1. While we lack a great deal of diversity at Solon Middle School, I do realize that it isn't "Christmas Break" for all.  For some, it is simply "Winter Break." 
  2. While our poverty level is extremely low, in comparison to other schools, we do have families that struggle throughout the year - especially during the holidays.  We do have children who find little, or nothing, under the tree - if, in fact, there is a tree. 
  3. While we sometimes feel that the school day is chaotic, and somewhat unstructured, I know that some children went home to little, or no, structure and supervision.  Some will come back longing to be 'reprogrammed' into a schedule and routine, while some will come back unwillingly from the comfort and protection that home has provided. 
  4. While many of our children kept in contact with friends through activities, texting, e-mail or play dates, for some the phone did not ring.
  5. While we will have kids come back smiling, with unbelievable stories - stories of travels, gifts and laughter, we will also have students some back silent.  For some, the their holidays were simply tragic - for whatever reason.   
The point is, while we can assume that everyone around us had a great break, that is simply not the case.  We need to be there for all kids as they walk back in the door.  We need to listen to all kids - especially the ones without an amazing story to tell.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!
Let's make 2013 a GREAT year!

Like many others, I've turned the calendar to the new year with promises to eat better, exercise more, and procrastinate less, among other things.  I do fully intend to continue improving in those areas in the coming year.  However, my resolutions for 2013 are focused on building and maintaining relationships.   While these are consistent with my goals for the school year, the changing of the calendar provides a good excuse to reflect, refocus and add a wrinkle or two.

In 2013 I will be present in my conversations.  If we are talking in person, on the phone, or digitally - you will have my full attention.   

In 2013 I will give myself to others.  I will think of not what I can gain, but what I can give to a conversation, relationship or a group.  I will seek ways to 'give back' to my students, my colleagues, my school and my community, 

In 2013 I will seek to make an impact on ALL others.  I will consciously seek out the students, staff, parents and community members I might not normally communicate with.  I will be an active participant in all meetings, groups or organizations.

I look forward to the excitement, the challenges, the changes of a new year.  Let's MAKE it a great one.