Red rover, red rover, send Middle School on over! Yes Middle School - that wonderful time in parenthood when your baby becomes a teenager. Stressful you say, you bet it is! Everything begins to change for a student when they enter Middle School - a new building, different rules and expectations, an entire new set of teachers, and most importantly the physical and emotional transformations that begin to take place. Now as I am writing this blog - it just hit me as to all the major changes I went through during that time. Can you imagine how much more stressful it would be for a student if you added a learning difference or two in the mix?
Here at Noble Academy, our Middle School is just like other Middle Schools - athletics, clubs, six class periods, etc. And yet, we are also very different. We are still a little more hands-on when working with our students. We really drill in on the planner system developed because it helps our students to learn organizational skills, to remember to turn things in on time, and to take ownership of what is expected for the full week, academically along with community expectations.
We dedicate time every day to building various skills (25 minutes) through our Skill Building program. Weekly they address executive functioning skills like organization, time management, self-management, overcoming procrastination, habits for success, and planning ahead. Each weekly executive functioning day begins with locker and email clean-outs, tracking grades, and then short lessons that help to demonstrate one of the skills listed above. Skill Building also addresses team building, relationship building, and academic remediation to help get ready for high school. Because of the average class size (8:1), we are able to address some of the areas that our students struggle with outside of just academics. This is important for our students and it is important that they are seen and heard. In fact they can’t hide and they can’t not be an active part of all of their classes.
Brain breaks and energy release time is also necessary for our students. That is why we continue with a dedicated time for recess, as well as two 10 minute breaks to split up the morning and afternoon classes. We go outside - unless it is raining. This provides dedicated time for socialization - something I believe is crucial at any age but definitely during Middle School - a time when you begin to see many things in a different light.
In addition to the Skill Building time, our students experience Specials in six week rotations so they can develop a sense of the different arts available and other notable areas like wellness. Our Middle School Counselor talks with the students about social-emotional and mental health awareness as well as physical. With one class lesson she may address frustrations with a water balloon activity. Another lesson, she may have the class go walking or simply do yoga. This class focuses on helping our students to see that a healthy body along with a healthy mind makes for a great life and a better frame of mind for their academics.
Lastly, when I asked Erin Cawley, Head of Middle School, “What is one thing you believe stands out among others that is done well within our Middle School,” she quickly blurted out communication. Cawley says her staff consistently addresses the importance of learning how to communicate appropriately and respectfully from student to teacher and student to student. She also stated that constantly working with our students on communication skills helps them to build advocacy skills. Our students also begin actively participating in their parent/teacher conferences when entering Middle School. They prepare a presentation for their spring conference where they talk about their learning difference(s) and their learning style, things that went well in their focus area, accommodations they used the most, and a little bit of planning for the future.
So those are just a few things about our Middle School that help our students Build Great Futures for themselves. You know, thinking back to those years I am pretty sure that my main focus weekly was to hit the pavement hard at the last bell of the day to try and make it home in 10 minutes so I could turn the television on to General Hospital. It was extremely important that I didn’t miss a single moment of Luke and Laura’s relationship, especially the wedding! I guess I just called myself out on my age?
Oh well, off to High School next week. Stay tuned!
By Christy Avent, Director of Enrollment Management