Principal's Blog

  • Why Do We Care About Social-Emotional Learning?

    Let me share with you a generic exchange that may take place between a middle school student and principal.

    Principal: Why did you push him?

    Student: Because he made me mad!

    Principal: Does that meet our expectations at school?

    Student: No, it isn’t safe, but he made me mad!

    The student knows that the expectations is to keep his/her hands to self and not push, but the emotions of the situation were overwhelming. The student did not have the social-emotional learning toolkit to handle the intense emotions and react in a different way. In addition to content, we also teach students deeper learning skills, such as communication and collaboration as global learners. These skills require explicit instruction. This is where Second Step, our social-emotional learning program comes in. 

    Second Step is a research-based program that focuses on growth mindset, emotion management, and social connectedness. “The Second Step Middle School Program draws from the latest research to help students handle strong emotions, make and follow through on good decisions, and create strong friendships while avoiding or de-escalating peer conflict”(www.secondstep.org linked here). Social-emotional learning and experiences provide opportunities to strengthen the school community, while decreasing negative incidents that could lead to bullying. 

    Here is what some teachers have shared about Social-Emotional Learning and the Second Step Program:

    Mr. Cantone, World Language Teacher: Social-emotional learning is important for creating a classroom environment conducive to learning. SEL provides students with tools to maintain a happy, relaxed state of mind.

    Ms. Lazaro, PE Teacher: Most of what we do involves social learning, because of the numbers of students that we have in the gym at a time and the activities that we do. The groups vary in sizes, but there is always social/emotional learning going on in our environment. Without social and emotional learning the students would not be able to complete our every day routines, teaching, and skills.

    Another teacher notes that, “We spend a lot of time explaining emotions and correct responses to situations.We also provide examples of how interactions should look and what kind, respectful responses or actions are.” 

    If you would like to learn more about the Second Step Program, experience a sample lesson, and hear what students think about social-emotional learning, be sure to join us for the Parent Connection on December 3rd at 6:30.

    Principal's Blog
  • Why Middle School is Awesome

    For the first blog post, we wanted to share why we love middle school. I am going to start with my background with middle school. I began my teaching career in middle school and then found my way into high school teaching 9th grade. As an administrator, I spent three years as a high school assistant principal before becoming a middle school principal for the 2017-2018 school year. Honestly, I was nervous about the move. I had been several years away from middle school and had trepidation about the level change. After my first day with the students and staff, all of that nervousness and trepidation melted away. In the words of one of our new teachers this year, “it felt like home.” Middle school is no doubt a special (and sometimes challenging) time, but those of us who work in middle school are meant for it and love it.

    I asked the staff to share some of their favorite characteristics about middle schoolers and here is what they said. They are impressionable, curious, independent, hormonal, diligent, caring, kind, silly, eager, energetic, erratic, everchanging, honest, excited, inquisitive, complex, social, and they have a sense of humor. Ms. Keys (7th/8th-grade art teacher) added, “Every student is so unique it reminds me of a quote from Shrek, "Ogres are like onions. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers." But replace Ogres with middle schoolers. Each student has so many different layers. Middle school is that critical time where they are trying to figure out their own layers that make them who they are as an individual.  While at the same time teachers are building those relationships, peeling back the layers to form those unique bonds with our students.”

    These characteristics of adolescent development make middle school a unique learning environment that differs from elementary and high school. During middle school, we provide opportunities for students to exert their independence and curiosity in a structured environment. We also focus on building empathy, which is developing during adolescence. We do this by focusing on community with “One Strong Tribe”, building relationships meaningfully between and among staff, students, and parents, working with students on understanding how their choices affect others (positively and negatively), and providing community service opportunities in partnership with the PTO. Mr. Mullins (8th-grade social studies teacher) explains that there is a lot of change during the middle school years, “[Students] are growing physically, mentally, and academically at a rapid pace in their 3 short years in middle school...I love the middle school age because there is so much growth between when they enter and when they leave our school.”  Mrs. Cabezas (6th-grade social studies teacher) explains, “Students and teachers in middle school are still willing to get excited and be silly.  We get to talk about real topics and help each other learn about empathy and perspectives.”

    When people learn that I am a middle school principal, I often hear in response “you must be a saint” or “I can’t even imagine.” And I always respond, “I love it and middle schoolers are awesome.” We wanted you to know that we love middle school and we love your middle schoolers. Every day with middle schoolers brings a new day. We look forward to embracing the adventure with you.

    Principal's Blog
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