Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dear Families in the Middle,

This week, I shared a brief article with our Hudson Middle School staff called Milestones of Caring. There were several insights I gained from reading what the authors had to say about the importance of developing a strong "ethos" of caring in these middle years.

* A successful middle level education depends on building successful, empathetic relationships among ALL members of the learning community.
* A focus on CARING helps us transform indifference, ignorance, and disdain into curiosity, interconnectedness, and conceptual understanding.
* The impact of CARING is powerful enough to turn mere superficial platitudes into ambitious action and genuine concern for multiple perspectives.
* An "expansion of caring" is critical during unstable, emergent and ever-shifting developmental stages and begins with "bold and ambitious questions," and does not come in predictable, organized or even intentional bursts, but often arrives with serendipitous and chaotic surprise in our lives.
* A sense of caring disrupts our certainty and our complacency and grows from "intentional reflection" on an experience, an observation, an event, an interchange, or an idea.

The authors suggest we adults contemplate how we became caring people. What memories evoke recollections of caring for us? As parents and educators, we take on many roles - trailblazers, advocates, teammates, questioners, visionaries, guides, and inspirers. "Critical" and courageous conversations in these roles, where we listen to others, process and consider ideas different from our own, and acknowledge our biases and assumptions help us and the children with whom we work develop the strong sense of CARE critical to our HMS Mission:

HMS Learners understand, challenge and support each other to be caring, capable and creative contributors.

Special thanks to our parent chaperones for our sixth grade MN Zoo trips this past week. While visiting the bear exhibit with students, one of the chaperones shared a MN Zoo volunteer asked that she relay back to our Hudson Middle School learning community what a GREAT group of kids we have! She said staff and volunteers noticed how respectful and kind they were during their visit to the zoo. Thank you to our students, staff and families for leaving such a positive impression!

With a grateful heart,

Mrs. Ann Mitchell

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Dear Families in the Middle,

Thankful for students and staff who take risks, lead by example, and look for opportunities! Read on for HMS examples...

We honored 18 students - six from each grade - for leading others in the Habit of Mind: Questioning and Posing Problems! This is one of my favorite Habits of Mind because I believe authentic curiosity opens minds AND hearts to new ways of thinking, alternate perspectives, and a revised view of the world. In my experience, people who are unafraid to ask questions and pose challenges are also ready to seek new learning and change in life. If we're going to solve problems in our world, these folks are the ones who will help us get started! Kudos to these students for showing the rest of us how to question thoughtfully and pose problems to help us clarify, explore, and make sense of life!

Thank you to our Parents - You're going to want to join our November 21 Parent Group Network Meeting Monday evening at 6:30 P.M. Seventh grade teachers, Mrs. Swanson and Ms. Rolstad and a few seventh grade students will share a couple of innovative and engaging teaching and learning ideas in action at HMS! A status report of our fall fundraiser will also be shared.

Thankful for our Veterans - for their generous gift of time, service and skill to safeguard our freedom. Special thanks to 38 veterans who took time last Friday to visit with our students and respond to interview questions about their experience in the military. We were honored by your presence among us!

Thank you to our Construction Crew: The space between our offices and the gymnasium looks much larger now that work has begun to remove the storm drain and prepare for footings and foundations. Students have also been busy imagining and researching ideas for furnishing the new and existing spaces in ways supportive of collaboration and personal learning needs. Here are a couple of examples from Ms. Mueller's Health Class, after hearing an article, "Sitting is the new Smoking!" Student Ideas: Evgenia Roth, Gabriel Stolz

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dear Families in the Middle,

Here in the middle, we recognize the communication dynamic between parent and child changes a bit. Between the extremes of NOT talking and talking all the time is that wonderful place of meaningful conversation between parent and child. I recently read an article with fabulous suggestions for questions and reminders for those conversations we long to have with our child. Here are a few questions the author suggests to replace "How was school today?"

  1. Tell me about a moment today when you felt excited about what you were learning.
  2. Think about what you learned and did in school today. What’s something you’d like to know more about? What’s a question you have that came from your learning today?
  3. Tell me about a moment when you felt care and respect from a classmate or teacher. 
  4. Tell me about an enjoyable conversation you had with someone. 
  5. What was challenging about your day?
  6. What do you appreciate about your day?
  7. What did you learn about yourself today?
  8. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  9. What question do you wish I’d ask you about your day?

Tips for Asking Questions

According to the author of the article, "how and when we ask these questions makes a big difference in the information we receive from our kids. First, you don’t want to ask all of these questions on the same day. You might ask one or two. After a while, you’ll figure out which ones elicit the most meaningful responses. You’ll want to ask during a time when you have the ability to focus so that your child feels they have your full attention." Dinner and driving in the car are optimal times for these conversations.

More Suggestions

To help keep conversations positive and powerful:
  • Don’t interrupt. This is a good rule for any conversation, but especially if you want to get a lot of information from someone.
  • Ask for more. Simply say, “I’d love to hear more about that...” Or, “Can you expand on that a little?”
  • Ask about feelings. After a child describes an experience, ask, “How did you feel in that moment? What did you notice about your feelings?”
  • Validate feelings. Whatever your kid feels is normal and okay. Let them know that. Feelings are okay. Talk about how to express those feelings in ways that help others know how to help. 
  • Thank them for sharing with you. Always appreciate their honesty and willingness to share the highlights and bright spots, as well as the difficult moments. This will fuel their confidence in telling you more.
Source: Elena Aguilar, 15 Questions to replace "How was school today?,Edutopia, October 27, 2016. 

On a related note...thank you for the many ways you model, teach and re-teach kindness and respectfulness in moments of disappointment, stress and frustration. Staying calm, asking questions and listening attentively helps us understand another perspective and respond thoughtfully. 


Friday, November 4, 2016

Dear Families in the Middle,

The beautiful weather makes the realization that it's November even more perplexing! How quickly the autumn days pass on the calendar, and yet how slowly the warm and sunny autumn days are leaving us (thankfully!).

During the month of November we are grateful for many opportunities:
* Construction begins on our two story addition of twelve classrooms and an additional gymnasium. Please be watchful of the signs and safety regulations on our school grounds.

* A Team of 20 of us traveled to Chaska Middle School East (Eastern Carver County School District) to observe a personalized learning environment, learn from educators, and interview students about the approach.

* Next Friday, November 11th, is Veterans' Day. We will be honoring our veterans with a special ceremony (7th and 8th grade) in our gymnasium at 9 AM. Following the ceremony, veterans will be sharing their stories and journeys with students in smaller advisory groups in each house (6th, 7th and 8th grade) during 4th hour (10 - 10:40). Students have prepared questions for these special interviews. We look forward to honoring and learning from our veterans.