On the first day of school, when I led our first middle school assembly, I made the pronouncement that, even though we would give each student a schedule on the first day of school, there would be few days that we follow it just as written. Expect the unexpected! Be prepared for variation! Be flexible and stay tuned!
We are committed to having time to fit in all the aspects of education that other schools say they have no time for. We leave space in the schedule for teachers to work together to design parts of the program that help foster social-emotional growth, multi and interdisciplinary work, and creative endeavors that take time.
On our official schedule, one of these set aside times falls on the fourth day of our eight day schedule. On the student schedules it is call “Intensive Studies.” A visitor would be greeted with a furrowed brow by using that term to inquire about the program though. We really refer to the day as Day D.
The run down for this particular day: Students began at 8:15am sharp, meeting either to gather for the first time in the new instrument ensemble, or, if they do not play an instrument yet, to be in a group to try either guitar, the keyboard or a woodwind instrument.
After a short break, the whole middle school arrived in the Middle School Learning Commons (MSLC) to break into three mixed age groups and rotate through three Festival Español activities designed by the Spanish teachers. The activities were playful, and required listening or speaking Spanish.
Next, everyone was off to the beautiful field for three hours of collaborative, physically active, team building activities. The slideshow gives some idea of the creative range and challenges that the students faced. Teachers had a chance to see the students in action– and their role was as a facilitator only. One of the best parts of this day is that teachers get to see the students collaborate and problem solve, skills they will be using all year.
We grilled burgers and had a picnic lunch, and concluded this part of the day with a giant tug-of-war; an old game that takes organization to get a good result.
After the sun and intensity of the morning, we headed inside. Students lounged on the floor and listened while I read the first chapters of a sequel to the fairy tale, Rumpelstilskin. We’ll gradually finish the book in read-alouds at the end of some of the busy days to come.
The end of the day brought an advisory time so that students could write a reflection about how today’s activities were a metaphor for the year. We asked the students to write about how physical and intellectual challenges compare, to describe their most productive learning environment, and to write about what it is like to work with classmates who they don’t know as well, yet. With personal writing, students begin to make connections between the busy day and the future school year.
One of the greatest sources of pride for me in our middle school is that every teacher knows every kid– even if they don’t teach them in a class. We want to foster an environment where all students see all middle school teachers as adults who care about them and who have a hand in shaping a strong program for them. Today was but one example of how we build this climate– and a very good start.
Enjoy the photos!