Bullying and overall climate in schools/communities

One of the feeds I read weekly is Substantial Disruption, a blog regarding bullying.

“Even so, bullying — relentless, unreasoning, indiscriminate — is likely to remain every family’s school-years nightmare.”

As a parent, I am thankful my children are well adjusted and happy. However, as an educator, I understand the tables can turn at any time. Each day is a full of new challenges and struggles for friendship only mount.

As we return to school, my hope is that we, as educators and parents, re-commit and re-embrace our charge to create a safe and caring school environment for all students. Even more, may our efforts impact the out-of-school environments that are created by our students too.

According to a recent article by the USA Today, “many experts say there’s no substitute for a clear, vigorously enforced school policy on bullying, supplanted by periodic training of the entire staff, from guidance counselors to teachers and lunchroom workers.” As I read that quote, I reflected on the ever pressing issue and need for re-doubled efforts each day. It is not enough to have a well designed and implemented policy and periodic training. It takes open eyes and ears each day.

When educators take a position of “what if this where my child” a renewed commitment takes place within an emotional response. May we, as an educational community, fight to support students’ social and emotional development each day AND ensure a safe environment for our students.  As a person once said, “these are our children, we will suffer from or benefit by whatever they become.” Let’s continue to help all students take a stand against bullying and unkind behaviors.

Blue Ribbon Project

Grade 6 students have been engaged in a “Blue Ribbon” campaign aimed at reinforcing self-worth as well as recognizing and acknowledging other people. The effort was lead by Ms. Tere and the Grade 6 Team based on the video clip “Who I Am Makes A Difference” included here:

Teachers modeled “choosing a person who has made a difference in one’s life” in a grade level assembly and followed up the assembly by going back to individual classrooms and each homeroom teacher gave individual student a Blue Ribbon and publicly told the student what the student did to make a difference in the class/school.

The Blue Ribbons read, “I make a difference”!  What a great way to model recognizing individual differences and teaching students to say “thank you” to those who have made a difference in their lives.

Sex Education Talks

Thank you parents and Values Committee. Overwhelmingly, the feedback has been positive regarding our move to Adriana Urdiain. The topics of each session seemed to provide the right mix of information, sensitivity, and advice to engage students and parents. More importantly, the sessions provided a great opportunity and “open door” for parents and children to talk about physical and emotional development.

Replacing “pencil and paper” semester exams in Grade 6

ASFM has decided to pilot a new exam structure for Grade 6 students. Traditional “pencil and paper” final exams are being replaced by cross-curricular activities and a final product for the five core subjects (Spanish, English, Socials, Science, Math). While elements of short answer and multiple choice questions will be a part of the new exam structure, the new structure will attempt to reflect real-world application of what Grade 6 students have learned over the course of the first semester.

We began by asking ourselves if traditional paper and pencil exams were the best way for Grade 6 students to demonstrate their understanding. A Middle School Exam Task Force was assembled to consider the issue. What resulted from the Task Force (including gathering information from educators in US and International schools around the world) was a reccomendation to the Campus La Huasteca administration that for Grade 6 students, paper and pencil exams were not the best method of assessment. A more authentic method for students to demonstrate what they have learned over the semester was recommended. As a result, a “final project” exam, which requires students to demonstrate their understanding through answering the big questions for the semester (assimilating and sifting through all that we have studied and formulating it into a response) provides a more valid assessment of their learning.

What does this mean for students? Grade 6 students will come to school during exam week on the same schedule as Grade 7 and Grade 8 students (Mon. – Fri., Dec. 14-18, 8:15-10:45). Students will continue working on content that aligns to material covered during the new exam format. Students will need to study at home, as normal, following teacher direction and guidance for preparing to present their understanding of the material covered over the first sememster.

For your information, here is a brief overview of what will be covered in each subject area. Again, the format will be in an interdisciplanary, but some information will be asssessed in a “stand alone” format. For exmaple, the written portion of the math exam.

English
The English section of the final exam will have three parts. Reading comprehension, narrative writing and expository writing.
Reading: Students will be reading and analyzing a nonfiction piece of writing, answering comprehensions questions and writing in response to the reading.
Narrative Writing: The students will be creating a narrative of the life and times of a person who lived among the time of the fossils found from their social studies dig activity. The students will be demonstrating the understanding of how skilled they are in the writing process, and how strong they are in the 6+1 traits of writing and how well they can analyze another’s perspective.
Expository Writing: This section of the writing assessment will coincide with the social studies exam. The students will be writing detailed explanations and theories about their work done with the social studies dig, emphasizing the use of evidence as supporting details.

Español
Fundamentación – Como parte del curso de Español 6, se busca resaltar la importancia de los textos narrativos, en este caso de las leyendas como marco atractivo, de fantasía para explicar la realidad. Con esto se pretende que el alumno pueda contextualizar este tipo de relatos en una época y lugar determinado, como medio para fomentar la integración de los conocimientos y costumbres originarios de una cultura.
Este proyecto, como método alternativo de evaluación, fomenta la capacidad creadora del alumno, despierta su imaginación y su búsqueda de respuestas nuevas.
Objetivos – Que el alumno logre:
1. Comprender la estructura del género literario leyenda.
2. Relacionar la leyenda con las características de una cultura.
3. Elaborar creativamente producciones de leyenda.
4. Respetar sus producciones y las de sus compañeros.

Math
The science problem students choose to investigate must be one that involves quantitative data. Their teacher will help guide them to a question that will be appropriate for their project. This use of math in their science lab will be known as the “application portion” of the exam and will count as 30% of their final exam grade, the other 70% being their grade on the “written portion” of the math exam, given the first Monday of review week.
Mathematicians and scientists alike are responsible for organizing their work in a way that others can follow what they have done and build upon their work. Thus this portion of the assessment not only focuses on the student’s ability to make correct arithmetic calculations, but also to organize their data and calculations, and to create a graph(s) that accurately display their results.

Science
The students will be demonstrating the skills learned over the past semester to design and carry out a scientific experiment. The experiment will be a further investigation of one of the topics studied in class; the students will be working on it individually. The students will chose the topic, create the procedure, bring in the materials and carry out the experiment in class. The experiment will take us through the entire scientific method and will test a specific variable. Some work will be expected to be done at home, especially if it can’t be done in the classroom.

Socials:
The students will be participating in an archaeological dig simulation. From this experience, students will infer what it would be like to be an archaeologist. Students will use their findings to hypothesize about the civilization they have “discovered.” Students will write field notes interpreting their findings. They will use their background knowledge from the semester to support their hypothesis. Students will present this information in a medium of choice which may include dramatic arts, fine arts, music, writing, or multi-media.

ASFM MS Gets WWW (Week Without Walls)

For the past few years we have been trying to build on the success of our well-established Grade 8 learning trip. Fortunately, it looks like we will finally be able to see each of our three middle school grade levels take an extended learning field trip. Our Middle School Week Without Walls (WWW) will be during the second semester (parents have received exact dates and specific info.).

Congratulations to our Team Leaders, Ms. Belden, Mr. Rucki, Ms. Brey, and Ms. Bowley and all the teachers for their willingness to conduct the trips and for all the planning and execution needed to successfully offer such a wonderful experience for our middle school students.

Grade 6 Dec. Exams

We have been conducting an in-depth analysis of our Final Exam process in the Middle School. As a result, we will be initiating an alternate exam program for all Grade 6 students this semester. The exam week schedule in December will remain the same (Mon. – Fri. Dec. 14-18, 8:15 am – 10:45 am). However, Grade 6 students will not be taking “paper and pencil” tests in the Gym. Rather, all Grade 6 students will be engaged in an interdisciplinary hands-on exam experience in regular classrooms. Grade 6 students will still be tested on their understanding of the first semester material, however the “exams” will be in classrooms and will be through a more performance based and authentic assessment.