Tag Archives: middle school

Why I Should Not Be a Principal

As much as I’ve contemplated pressing encouragement of colleagues regarding some apparent potential to grow into a principal, I request a pass. I wholeheartedly respect my administrators and my administrator friends. Their duty is never easy. I admire their cool heads in tough times. I appreciate their ability to put out fires with students, parents, and yes, staff, including ones I start myself.

I do not want to nor could I…do that. Period.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see higher bimonthly payroll deposits. I would love to be able to know all of the students at my middle school; right now, I only get to know the eighth graders really well. I would love to have a stronger, more revered voice when it comes to public perception of education, policy-making, and educator evaluation. I would enjoy the position to be able to leverage community support for my colleagues than I have now.

Oh. Wait. I can have all those things now. Thanks to Seth Godin’s Linchpin, I can! A powerful and relatively quick read, Linchpin offers strong suggestions of leadership “among the ranks.” And, that’s where I am most effective. In the ranks. Working directly with the kids, while working collaboratively with my able administrators to make our world in the middle a more positive and productive place where students can learn and succeed. I appreciate the nod, but I prefer to stay here in the fox hole, where it’s wet, cold and sometimes downright messy. Sometimes, it’s just the place to do the most effective leadership triage.

So if you’re like me and just not ready to jump the ranks quite yet, here’s to your inner linchpin!


How Do You Teach Passion?

One of the (many) things that has consistently baffled me about me is my level of passion.  Why do I get so dang worked up about a political commercial?  Why do I train for triathlons, even though I am clearly not (repeat three times) what most would define as a true triathlete? Why does (insert Disney flick here) get me every single time?


It’s the reason I come to work in my middle school every day. With a smile on my face. Happy doing something I truly love.


how do I share this with my students on these April-soon-to-be-May-soon-to-be-summer days? How do I get my students as fired up as I am about learning this late in the game? How do I get them excited about learning new things? Expanding their brains? Trying (and sometimes failing) new endeavors?  How?


Digging through my ever-expanding bag o’ tricks, I decided to pull out the Love and Logic gems from years back when we were trying to raise healthy, responsible children in my home. If it worked for them, it certainly can’t hurt with my “family” at school? Right?

It might be a long shot, but for now, I am determined to spend the remaining days of this school year sharing my continued passion for learning, passion for learner success and passion for developing positive, accountable young adults as they leave my little, middle world and venture into the bigger world of high school and beyond.

Keep the Passion!

Life After Bullying, Part II: The Bully | Bullying Education

Via Scoop.itThe Middle Road

Children who do not learn how to interact appropriately with others before they reach the end of elementary school will continue to bully their way through middle school. As they reach this age …
Via www.bullyingeducation.org


Online Learning Trends: Hybrid Students | All things related to educational technology

Via Scoop.it – Purpose-Driven Technology Integration Online Learning Trends: Hybrid Students – As more and more students are opting for getting a degree online, some…Via edteck-lms.org

Purpose-Driven Tech Integration: Beyond Bells and Whistles

Hi. My name is Kaye, and I am an “Early Adopter.”

As much as I’d hate to admit it, I have a problem. Whenever a new technology tool, website, gizmo, gadget, widget, whatchamacallit that comes along, I have to try it out.

Sometimes, this leads to quiet evenings spent alone when I could be out socializing with my friends. Sometimes it means burnt pizza in the oven. Sometimes it means the undeniable, “here we go again” eye rolls I get from my 8th graders.

Technology integration, for me, has become a necessary step along my professional development journey as an educator. It has taken me some time to get over all the fears that accompanied exploring new territories.  Will it be blocked?  Is it developmentally appropriate? Is it better than what I’m doing now? What if the kids know more than I do about this? 

Growth doesn’t come sans pain.  Pain from the limitations of our network. Pain from colleagues wondering why on Earth I have need for such “bells and whistles” when I should simply teach grammar and writing (because we all know there’s no room on the Internet for coherent writers, right?).

Pain from knowing there are limitations for me to plan for a sub with all this Internet-based learning. Pain from my own doubts about whether this is really the right thing to do for my students.

After years of continuously honing my “early adopter” skill set, I have come to this simple conclusion: If I can’t beat ’em, I’ll join ’em. Kids today have levels of connectivity that we could never have even dreamed of in the past ten years! I’ve got some learning to do of my own if I’m going to meet them where they’re at so let’s go.

When integrating technology into your classroom, it may help by starting with these considerations:

  1. Is this a tool, another path, of covering the content in your class, as determined by your common core standards?
  2. Is this technology developmentally appropriate for your students?
  3. Will this tool help students understand the essential skills you are attempting to cover?
  4. Does your school have the means to offer this tool to students who have no access outside of school?
  5. What is the “risk factor” involved with students trying out this new technology tool?
You definitely need a “yes” for the first four questions and a long, reflective pause for the last one before integrating technology.  Having a Facebook page for your class just for the sake of having a Facebook page doesn’t help the students carry out much.  Using Google Docs and wikis and digital poster-making sites are merely “bells and whistles” unless there is something academically sound to them. And this, my friend, is easy enough to.
Take one example from my classroom:  Every year, my students must give demonstration speeches, something they annually bemoan with uncanny precision.  I have very simple criteria laid out on my assessment rubric:
  • The demonstration speech must be five minutes in length. (Students know the bullseye is five; the inner circles on the target are four to six.)
  • A visual must go with their speech (typically a poster of a diagram, steps in the process, materials/ingredients needed, history/background).
  • They must be prepared, with all materials, on the day the speech is to be delivered.
That’s pretty much it.  Now, for the past ten years that I’ve taught demonstration speaking skills, I’ve required notecards, students present in front of the class “live,” and a stopwatch…all tools.
Knowing how much my students dread speeches and knowing how inquisitive and eager they are to try new things, I dug out some different, more web-based tools like www.glogster.com, YouTube, animoto, and PhotoStory3 (we had this free download readily available for our kids, so I went with programs we had. Why not?).
We approached it like this:  Some of my students ride the bus to school. Some get dropped off. Some walk. Some skateboard, ride bike and skip, for all I know. The bottom line is they all got to school.  The bottom line for mastering the essential skill of completing an effective demonstration speech is doing it.  The types of tools students choose to use was something I chose to let go  of, as long as they met the assessment criteria. Putting the power of exploration and educated risk-taking was liberating, to say the least.
Like it or not, we live in a day and age of educator accountability. We need to account for our students’ learning.  And, like it or not, the way we have gone about business with our kids isn’t cutting it anymore.  Engaged students achieve more.  When given a task, a variety of tools, and an openness about taking educated risks, our students will fully immerse themselves into the project (or content) and come out winners.
The kids will deliver their speeches.  They will have done it their way. They will meet the criteria and experience success.
And those winners’ bells and whistles are the type this “early adopter” loves to hear!

One Small Step: Bullying Intervention

I was bullied as a kid.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, I was a bully, too. That was over 25 years ago.  Today, bullying takes a much nastier and more serious tone.

USA Today print issue

Far too often we hear of the Marjorie Raymonds – http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20111130/quebec-teen-bullying-suicide-111130/, and the Asher Browns – http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20019163-10391704.html.

What tragedy. What waste. What can schools do? Our school in the Midwest is not immune to bullying. No school is. We battle it as teachers; we torment over it as parents. It reaches beyond our brick and mortar. It lurks out in a cyber world that few of us understand. What can we do for our Generation Ys?

We need to somehow reach the kids.  Students like those at Waukee High School can make us all proud in their efforts:

At the middle school level, though, we first need to “get it” from our students’ perspective. Using Google Forms, we put together a brief survey to help us address the perceptions of our students about our school climate. I would be happy to share the link with you; just ask!

This small window into the minds of our students will help us gauge how they feel about our school…and then take steps toward improvements.  School must be a safe place. School must be a positive place. It must be a place to learn, to grow, to develop personal and social skills to cope with the cruelties that can exist outside in the real world. It is our hope to reach the summit – together – for our kids.

     One small step…is a step forward.

Motivating Adolescents to Succeed

As I write this, I find myself taking a mental reprieve from the typical, weekend tasks required of a middle level English teacher…editing and grading papers. As I set aside an abysmally small collection of student writings, I ask myself the question I ask myself almost daily, “How the heck do I get these kids to care about their education?” And, moreover, “How the heck do I get them to care about ENGLISH 8?” Possibilities fall anywhere on the continuum from frightening them with the fears of being prepared for high school and beyond to dazzling them with the latest high-tech gadgets and gizmos of the digital world. As differentiated as my students are in ability and socioeconomic status, I need the answers to my questions to be simple and one-size-fits-all. And, I need the answers by tomorrow.

Then, it dawned on me: what motivates us as adults is really no different from what motivates our middle level learners. So, I dug deep into my fitness journals from years past to find pieces of motivation that once moved me when I attempted to lose over 100 pounds on my own. Maybe I could apply the same principles to my ENGLISH 8 students. Here’s the skinny. Maybe it can work for you:

1. I was happy (fat and happy) and really didn’t see the need to lose weight until I faced the fear of potential health hazards. TRANSLATION: Students really don’t/won’t care until they actually see what failure could do to their immediate futures. I need to show them…now.

2. I needed small changes; it would have been too overwhelming to incorporate drastic alterations into my “pleasingly plump and content” lifestyle. TRANSLATION: Outline student success. Celebrate small victories. Make a big deal about turning in an everyday, ordinary assignments. Success breeds success, and they may want more. If nothing else, bombard them with consistent (however, sincere) flattery.

3. I needed to know I wasn’t alone. Reading about and listening to others who struggled with their weight helped me apply their techniques to my own life. TRANSLATION: Engage mentors, former students who, somewhere along the line of their educational growth, realized that positive study choices and responsible behaviors led them closer to their post high school goals.

4. I needed to know that when I slipped up on my nutrition choices or exercise routine, I could always get back on the train without derailing it. TRANSLATION: Offer do-overs. Understand their situations (i.e. no computers at home, split homes, poverty) and offer them alternative solutions to complete their work, meet deadlines, and correct their mistakes. Don’t let them believe it’s a “one and done” situation. Students often close the door all too quickly on these scenarios.

5. Walk the talk. I tended to follow, and align myself with, those who lived a healthy lifestyle and made positive contributions to their own health and fitness. TRANSLATION: Be open and human. When giving deadlines, respect my students by giving feedback in a timely manner. They need to know I care and that I hold myself to the same expectations to which I hold them.

Simple enough. At least it’s a start. That’s said, I have papers to grade and get back for Monday morning writing conferences.

Keep the Magic!