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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Welcome, Brave Middle School teachers! Introduce yourself...

Welcome, Brave Middle School teachers! Introduce yourself...

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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156 Replies 5468 Views
Hey, all you brave tween teachers out there! Welcome to the Edutopia discussion forum. Please introduce yourself a little before exploring our other discussions. I am your moderator, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, middle school teacher by day and author/blogger at night. I was a California Regional Teacher of the Year in 2004, a Writing Project Fellow at the University of California at Irvine, and am a member of the Teacher Leaders Network. I'm a frequent contributor to Teacher Magazine and a staff blogger here at Edutopia. I also blog at www.tweenteacher.com. I currently teach 7th and 8th Grade Language Arts as well as 7th/8th Speech & Debate/Podcasting. Multiple-intelligences, differentiated instruction, Writer’s Workshop, student collaboration, student choice, and fluid grouping define much of my classroom instruction. I look forward to talking about all of these topics and more here in the middle school forum. So please comment a little about who you are, what you're about as a teacher, and what brought you to Edutopia and our middle school forum. For me, it's all about learning from each of you. So challenge yourself to participate in the forum: comment, advise, criticize. Allow the Middle School forum here at Edutopia to be your brain spa of sorts. I look forward to meeting you all. -Heather Wolpert-Gawron

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Harriet Moulton's picture

I am a middle school media specialist in a magnet school for the arts in Jacksonville, Florida. I taught English at the magnet arts high school before switching to the library and opening the library at the new middle school ten years ago. It has been a challenging and rewarding time working with middle school students. I am especially interested in helping the teachers continue to integrate technology in their classrooms. In this time of budget shortfalls having enough technology and the right kinds of technology is a big challenge. I am also working with kids every day trying to help them deal with the huge amounts of information available to them and to evaluate and synthesize this information in a meaningful way. Our curriculum includes the standard academic subjects as well as the arts. We try to integrate the arts throughout the curriculum in addition to the specialized arts classes in five art areas. Our students come from all over the city (a large urban/suburban school district). They come from all socio-economic groups and many different backgrounds. They are united in their love of the arts and being with so many talented young people is really exciting for me.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger 2014

Isn't is so strange to hear some people criticize internet usage as requiring little critical-thinking skills? As I read your words like "evaluate and synthesize this information in a meaningful way," I can't help but wish you were everyone's media specialist.

So glad you shared, and thanks for letting us know you're in on the discussions!
-Heather WG

Shelly ODell's picture
Shelly ODell
5-8 Choir Director/K-8 Arts Dept. Head at Benton County School of the Arts

Hello! I am currently in my 5th year of teaching at the middle school level and 8th year in my total teaching experience. I thought middle school music/choir would be the last age level I would teach, but now I cannot see myself teaching any other age. I love it!

I love to help my fellow middle school teachers integrate the arts into their classes as well as bringing their subjects into my choir class. Maybe middle school arts integration could be a new discussion thread?

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger 2014

Isn't middle school great? They're nuts right? I always thought musical theater and history and ELA would make a great integrated match, but I also remember integrating art and math when I taught elementary. Integration in general is one of those skills from which we middle school teachers should take a tip from our elementary brethren.

Thanks for commenting! Hope to see you again in a discussion thread!
-Heather WG

ScienceMann's picture
ScienceMann
8th Grade science teacher. Fresno California

I am an 8th grade science teacher at Kastner Int. School in Fresno CA. My kidz are awesome, burt a challenge. Every day is a new set of challenges. My love of the sciences keeps me going. This year, we have implemented a new program - Time to Teach. It is improving the atmosphere at school and increasing our teaching time.

I look forward to sharing ideas and learning from the experiences of others.

-ScienceMann

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger 2014

I want more info on this program. If you see it's improving things, please share. What is the philosophy? How's it implemented? Pros? cons?

Welcome to the forum, ScienceMann!
-Heather WG

Madelyn Farr's picture
Madelyn Farr
Dance teacher in urban public middle school

Hi all. I teach dance full-time in a public urban middle school for a second year. Yes, this experience is most definitely not for the faint of heart; hence, my reference to our warrior status. I am very interested in learning from my peers, and I am particularly interested in hearing from those who are experienced in running a reasonably productive performing arts classroom, specifically dance and drama.

I have both the thrill and the dread of designing my own curriculum, and I would voraciously sponge any and all observations about your experiences. My classes, 6th - 8th, are mostly too large, combining
'regular ed' kids with the 'special need' students who are otherwise in separate special ed classrooms. With all of the ensuing chaos...

My Michael Jackson unit was pretty successful as we recreated sections of his best-known choreographies. I'm now interested in introducing musical theatre, perhaps recreating scenes of classic Broadway. FYI, I've discovered that middle schoolers love to imitate their celebrated
dancing role models.

Your ideas will be most appreciated! And thanks to Heather for this forum.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger 2014

Earlier in my career, I was a teacher by day and a director at a children's theater by night. I directed K-12 musical theater and Shakespeare, bringing my teaching expertise into the drama arena. Years later, I began a drama class at my middle school which blossomed into a cross-curricular, schoolwide program. I totally understand the challenges and the beauty of being a theater teacher, and I applaud you for bringing the arts to so many diverse students.

I found that the more subjects you weave into your program, the better. I loved teaching musical theater because it brought History and Social Studies into the drama classroom. Having the students design their own Playbills and Actor Bios brought in ELA. And by reaching out to local bookstore storytimes and public libraries, we even used our abilities to greater serve our communities.

The arts are vital in our schools. Sometimes they are a "dumping ground" for individuals with no other elective to go to, and in so doing, a program can be choked off by not feeding it the talented students it needs to thrive. But at times, you also find that those kids who get thrown in there discover the arts themselves.

Integrate and you will find the rigor. Open your class to those who have no knowledge of the arts (as you have done) and you will find that talent is everywhere.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, and welcome to the middle school forum.
-Heather WG

Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Hello! Well, I happen to absolutely LOVE what I do! I consider myself blessed to do what I love rather than do something I just tolerate. I've been teaching for 7 years. Before that, I had a few "jobs" that could have been careers. They just didn't make my heart sing. So, I got my graduate degree with Special Ed cert and have been teaching ever since.

My new motto: I'm only as good a teacher as my lowest performing student. I just believe that I have to try to always reach ALL of my students and push them to their fullest potential. So much of their growth at this age can't be measured on a high stakes test. I see my students - and all the students I work with - grow and mature. It's wonderful. Yet, at times, these successes don't translate into AYP. I think the "powers that be" sometimes forget about the child.

In addition to teaching Special Ed & MG, I also direct the school plays and have formed a Student Council this year. It's great! The kids are so into extra-curricular activities. It gives them an opportunity to shine. Our school is inclusive so I co-teach with the classroom teachers in Literacy and Math for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. On one hand, I get to help ALL children, providing strategies to help more children advance in the curriculum. On the other hand, I run around a lot and am never in one place for very long. It's a balance. This is a new initiative (2nd year at my school) so it's a work-in-progress.

I love teaching middle school. When I decided to teach, I wanted middle school age. People thought I was crazy. Other teachers advised me to start with the younger grades. Still, I wanted the middle school but took their advice. As it turns out, the school I chose, a K-5 school, was converting to a K-8 school and adding grades. So, it turns out I got my wish after all!

I see the potential in all students. I tend not to dwell on their challenges or shortcomings, rather on their strengths and potential. I often tell students that it's not that they "can't" do it; it's that they may not be able do it "yet". And I'm their "yet"!

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger 2014

[quote]When I decided to teach, I wanted middle school age. People thought I was crazy. Other teachers advised me to start with the younger grades. Still, I wanted the middle school but took their advice. As it turns out, the school I chose, a K-5 school, was converting to a K-8 school and adding grades. So, it turns out I got my wish after all!
I see the potential in all students. I tend not to dwell on their challenges or shortcomings, rather on their strengths and potential. I often tell students that it's not that they "can't" do it; it's that they may not be able do it "yet". And I'm their "yet"![/quote]

You are crazy...as are we all here in the middle school forum. So welcome fellow asylum resident. Your attitude is inspirational. How else will we tap into a student's potential if we don't believe that they have that potential within.

Welcome.
-Heather WG

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