One of my favorite conversations from the Ohio Middle School Association conference was with a teacher who was at this conference for the first time. He and I discussed many issues related to middle school, but part that struck me the most was his comment on how much stopping and reflecting on middle school education and our own practice was something that should be done more often. Many teachers on the survey reported that they don’t talk to teachers in other buildings except at conferences such as this.
One of the sessions that tickled my interest was a presentation on incorporating Turning Points and This We Believe into a limited budget. Two creative approaches centered around planned assemblies where the school aides and paraprofessional personnel were in the assembly with the kids and the teams were in their team rooms planning. The second approach was to petition the state for “waivers”. This retired principal had exercised a clause in the school code that allowed districts to waive instructional time for cause. He organized four of these days, two per semester and that gave the teams two whole days a semester to plan ahead and organize their curriculum. Rather than just giving the students a “day off,” he brought in community groups like the YMCA to organize activities and events during the day in the building.
Another school used teaming to improve discipline. Their teams created a team discipline plan under the supervision of the Assistant Principal which incorporated a check system. Each student gets a discipline card. Each team rule infraction earned a graduation in discipline starting with warnings and increasing to referrals to the Assistant Principal and Team discipline interventions. They found their Assistant Principal had more time for doing other AP things and less of his time was spent on student discipline. Their teams have daily team meetings.
Lastly, a few quotes from the two days. Betty Hollas spoke on collegiality of staff being second only to curriculum as the most important factor in student achievement.
“Negative attitudes are like passive smoke, it’ll slowly kill ya.”
“Sign seen in Alaska: Pick your ruts carefully. You will be in them for the next 8 months.
“You can catch an emotion like you can catch a cold.”