Latest Middle School Posts

January 31, 2014

Principles of the Principal Make All the Difference

For this installment of the Middle School Head’s Blog, I have decided to share with you eleven bits of wisdom that I reflect upon and utilize in my work with the students, faculty, and parents every day. These Principles of the Principal—gathered over my thirty-eight years as a middle school educator—have helped influence the way I approach life, both personally and professionally.

  • ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH
  • Before you say, act or do something, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? (Another variation to this is to use the mnemonic device T.H.I.N.K– Is it: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind?)
  • Violence is any mean word, look, or act that hurts a person’s body, feelings, or things.
  • The Four R’s: RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, RISK, RELATIONSHIPS
     
  • A wise old owl, sat in an oak,
    The more he saw, the less he spoke,
    The less he spoke, the more he heard,
    Now wasn’t he a wise old bird.”

         - English nursery rhyme
     
  • “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but the thread of it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. Whatever befalls the earth befalls also the children of the earth.”

         - Chief Seattle
    ...
    » read more
November 15, 2013

Excellent Approaches to Academics Make All the Difference

“Student-Centered Learning”, “Differentiation”, “Collaboration”, “Arts Integration” - these are some of the words that may come to mind when you think of academics in the Middle School at Indian Creek School. While all of that is true… there is so much more. Add to your list: “Problem-Based Learning”, “Technology Integration”, “E-Books”, “Flipped Lessons”, and “Online Classes”.  

We are a middle school that prides itself on being a blend of traditional and forward-thinking teaching and learning.” These were the opening remarks about our academic program from Associate Head of Middle School, Jennifer Malachowski, at our recent Open House. 

So what do these academic approaches actually look like in real practice? Following are examples of each:

Student-Centered Learning

Student-centered learning occurs when student generated interest and direct input drives the direction of the learning experience. A recent assignment by Ms. Matulevich, our computer instructor, utilized this approach. Students were asked to produce a story that could be the basis for a video project. They created a PowerPoint with the intention of “selling” their story to their classmates, who then voted for their favorite story. The stories with the most votes were selected to be made into a movie. Within small groups, students were responsible for writing a script in addition to learning how to properly operate a video camera and to edit a movie. These groups were also responsible for bringing in props, scouting locations, and coming up with creative ideas to enhance the professionalism of their movies. 

Differentiation

Basically, with “differentiation,” a teacher... » read more

September 24, 2013

The First Three Weeks Make All the Difference

Themes that drive our Middle School are strong academics, providing a safe environment – both physically and emotionally, building connections, and ultimately helping students move toward self-management where the students take personal responsibility and pride in their education, work and social interactions. We want our students to form strong connections academically, socially, and emotionally. The building of these themes in our Middle School is very purposeful, especially during the first three weeks for the sixth grade. Right from the very beginning at the new student orientation at the end of August, we strive to have the students embrace our most basic mantras: “Always tell the truth,” and before communicating in any form, think to oneself “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”                                                                                     

One of my favorite times in our Middle School is the introductory first three weeks of school for our sixth grade students. During week one, sixth graders learn to navigate their way to all of their classes and evolve from being a desk-oriented lower school student to that of a locker-oriented middle school student while managing their myriad textbooks, e-books, notebooks and supplies. They are trained to utilize Haiku, our learning management system, which is a lifeline to... » read more

March 20, 2013

Take the Time to Observe the Ants: A True Story (and lesson to consider when dealing with our kids)

Upon returning from our trip to Ohio, my wife and I were picked up at the airport by our daughters and delivered home. Worn out from the day of travel, having sorted the mail and piled dirty clothes by the laundry machine, I was ready to crash into bed. Our daughter Liz yelled to me that there were ants all over our kitchen counter. I rushed down stairs, started swatting ants, had everyone who was home come into the kitchen and immediately emptied the cabinets of their contents. After spraying the now empty cabinets, I finally went to bed.

In the morning, I went down stairs for breakfast. I was faced once again with kitchen counters covered with ants. I swatted the ants, quickly found and set some ant traps, and rushed out the door so that I could get to school on time.

Well, the battle of the kitchen counter went on for a couple of days. My rushing about swatting ants and spraying under the counter was not successful in dealing with this situation. It finally dawned on me to stop and look at the problem with fresh eyes and a different attitude. Was there any real imminent danger? Were my repeated behaviors changing the situation? The answer, of course, was no, to both questions.

This time I sat on a kitchen stool and calmly watched the ants. Just watched and observed. The ants were of course well organized. I was finally able to see the real source of the problem. The ants were actually traveling along the counter, down a corner to the floor and then along the baseboards to the basement wall where they entered the house. With this information, the solution was simple. I took care of the problem at its real source and have not had any issues with ants since.

This lesson has meaning for me as I work with our... » read more

January 09, 2013

So your child wants an iPhone…. Things to consider and discuss even if they already have one.

Over the holiday break, I was listening to a radio talk show. The topic was students and electronic devices. I really appreciated the thoughtful approach one parent took when opening the world of electronic communication for her 13 year old son. I went to the web and found a copy of the letter (contract) that this parent had her son sign upon his receiving an iPhone. This letter really does a good job of communicating good old family values and child responsibility. 

Enjoy!

Visit http://abcnews.go.com/US/massachusetts-mom-son-sign-18-point-agreement-iphone/story?id=18094401 to see a video clip related to this letter.

 

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well-rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership. I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to ... » read more

December 04, 2012

The Spirit of Good Citizenship is Alive and Well

Service and citizenship have always been core values at Indian Creek School. School founders Anne Chambers and Tracy Coleman instilled this into the ethos of our school right from the very beginning. They learned these valuable lessons from their grandfather, Col. George E. Ijams. Growing up next door to their grandfather, he taught them four things about involvement and citizenship: 

  • When you get involved in something, always do as much as you can, because most people will only do as much as they have to.
  • Be nice.  It doesn’t cost anything and it makes you feel better in the long run.
  • Be supportive. You can’t always be in charge; paint posters, hand out the flyers, decorate, collect, clean up.  Do what has to be done. 
  • Be positive. It is better to believe that people are good, even if you are sometimes unpleasantly surprised, than to believe that everyone is bad, because then you will find reasons to believe it. 

Since the beginning of this school year:

  • The Middle School Students donated over $150 to the American Red Cross for victims of hurricane Sandy. Money was collected from students who participated in the Free Shoe Day. 
  • A number of Middle School students volunteer each week during their Study Hall to help with the writing program for our second grade students.
  • The Middle School students produced, at home and at school, over 700 bag lunches for those in need.
  • Under the direction of the Evergreen Campus Diversity Coordinator, Debbie Bostick, the Middle School Diversity Club volunteered to write supportive and uplifting notes that will be placed in the pockets of donated coats for those in need.
  • Our commitment for Middle School students to volunteer at the Light House shelter continues for a second year. During the first marking period, all 8th Grade advisories spent a volunteer day at the Light House shelter organizing the... » read more
November 01, 2012

Building of a Great Middle School Faculty

The building of a great Middle School faculty is very purposeful work. The review of resumes for an advertised position is certainly the first step when searching for teacher candidates. Not only do I look for strong academic backgrounds and experience in specific subject areas, but it is also necessary to identify candidates who are advocates for and have a love of working with young adolescents.

The first question that I traditionally ask a candidate during the interview process is “Do you camp?” I have found that this question opens the door to a discussion about the candidate’s enthusiasm to work with the child beyond the classroom walls and the bigger goal of working with the whole child. The question actually refers back to the days (30 years ago) when we were just beginning to build our outdoor education program and residential experiences in the Middle School. At that time, it wasn’t always easy to find fellow teachers who would join me on these types of trips. Our present Middle School faculty members, in addition to joining me on these trips, are trained as outdoor educational leaders and are certified as Initiative and Confidence Course Facilitators (*ICCF).

Last spring, I hired... » read more

October 03, 2012

Surrounded by my Kids and Tradition

As I sit here in my office, I am surrounded by an Indian Creek School tradition. The signatures of all eighth graders from 1985 through 2011 are on display on the 27 bandanas that were autographed by the students during our annual 8th grade camping trips to Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center in Parkton, MD. Originally, I had wanted just to commemorate a really good camping trip with a great bunch of students. At that time, I had the kids sign a bandana that I happened to be using on the trip and then hung it in my science classroom. The following year, the next group of eighth graders, upon completing their trip to GVOLC said, “Don’t we get to sign a bandana?” I realized at that time that a new tradition was beginning. After fifteen years of collecting these bandanas, I ran out of space for displaying them in my office. With the help of a talented woman from a local fabric store, I was able to stitch the bandanas into a quilt. Now, 13 years after completing that quilt, it is just about time to make a second quilt.

As I reflect back over my 32 years here at the CREEK and glance over the 1350 plus signatures, these students will always be my middle schoolers. When alumni come back to visit me, we go to their bandana, find their name and have a great time catching up on their classmates and sharing stories of their time in middle school. For the past 27 years, each CREEKER middle school alumnus has left his/her name in writing on a bandana, and each one has also left an imprint in my memory... » read more

More recent posts

November 15, 2013

Excellent Approaches to Academics Make All the Difference

“Student-Centered Learning”, “Differentiation”, “Collaboration”, “Arts Integration” - these are some of the words that may come to mind when you think of academics in the Middle School at Indian Creek School. While all of that is true… there is so much... » read more
September 24, 2013

The First Three Weeks Make All the Difference

Themes that drive our Middle School are strong academics, providing a safe environment – both physically and emotionally, building connections, and ultimately helping students move toward self-management where the students take personal responsibility and pride in their education, work and social... » read more
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