I had the pleasure of visiting some Marshall Simonds Middle School classes on Tuesday morning. As a former seventh grade science teacher, it was great to be back experiencing the unique energy that is middle school. If we could only find a way to tap this cauldron of hormonal power, we would end our dependance on foreign petroleum.
The health of schools can be measured in many ways – large and small. When possible, I attempt to look through the eyes of students. I had a small experience while at MSMS that was a clear indicator of the health of a middle school.
We discuss the three new R’s of school as rigor, relevance, relationships (Wagner). At no level are the relationships in this equation more critical than in middle school. In fact, the entire structure of MSMS – teams and flexible scheduling as examples – is purposefully designed to foster relationships.
Back to the experience…Mr. Connors and I were enjoying Ms. Jennifer Arcabascio’s grade 6 math tic-tack-toe challenge, when three seventh grade students came into the classroom unannounced. The students were on their way to lunch and wanted to “visit” with their grade six math teacher and to celebrate that they were no longer in sixth grade. The students were expertly (positively) redirected and sent back on their way.
To me, this 20 second interaction was a snapshot of trust. Obviously, we cannot stop at relationship. We need to have rigor and relevance. During the tumultuous years of middle school, however, students will learn more math if they trust their teacher.