2015-05-29 / Community

Memorial Middle School

Megan Welter, Principal Steve Chabot, Assistant Principalpal

The focus of the 2014-2015 school year at Memorial Middle School continues to be on improving student achievement by engaging students in meaningful, challenging learning experiences. As in previous years, we consider the “3 R’s,” relationship, rigor and relevance, as we develop these learning experiences. Our work to incorporate Restorative Justice Practices into all aspects of our school community can be seen in the Community Circles that take place in our advisory program and in our classes. The purpose of the Community Circle is to have students address a problem or consider an idea through the use of a structuredd conversation that involves all members off the learning community. Students take turns answering a question. These questions can include content questions, reflections on current events and issues, or questions related to improving school or classroom climate. At the end of the discussion, particularly when considering a question of school/classroom climate, the members of the Community Circle identify a set of agreements and a plan for how to proceed. The solutions that have been crafted in these Community Circles have resulted in substantive changes and improvements while fostering students’sense of ownership for their learning community. Because the students are accustomed to using the Community Circle, similar practices are used to resolve conflicts, allowing students to truly address a problem and agree upon a solution. Our school-wide shift to a proficiency-base learning system is another way we have encouraged students to reflect upon their learning, recognizing and taking responsibility for the areas on which they must continue to focus. Though our classrooms appear very much like those we remember from our youth, closer inspection reveals subtle but significant differences. When teachers introduce a concept or a skill, they also clearly explain the essential learning target (ELT) associated with that concept or skill. They also provide students with a set of smaller targets or objectives that represent what the student must be able to demonstrate on the way to showing mastery of this larger skill. This translates into very impressive conversations with students! When I talk to students about their learning, they are able to tell me very specifically what they know and what they continue to improve upon. Students are able to talk about their present understandings relative to the larger, more complex target. When students can accurately reflect upon what they know and what they do not yet know, they feel a greater sense of control of their learning – a greater sense of efficacy. Teachers recognize the need for students to have time to reflect and to evaluate what they know and what they do not yet know, and they have consistently included this time in their lessons. In addition, our teachers continue to collaborate with one another to incorporate experiences that require students to apply their learning in a variety of settings. This year, our students have visited museums, attended plays, studied their environment and the natural resources in the area, met veterans, conducted experiments and engaged in myriad other learning experiences. Memorial students have also been active members of the community. We have continued to benefit from our partnership with Unum, as a number of our students have worked with mentors building relationships and getting help on homework. Unum employees have come to Memorial each week to work with other students, tutoring them in math. Our students and families have also given back to the community through a number of initiatives from clothing drives and a school supplies collection, to the“Stuff the Bus” campaign where students collected non-perishable food items that were loaded onto a bus that collected food donations around the city for the local food pantry. These are other examples of valuable lessons students learn outside of the traditional classroom setting. As a part of these different learning experiences, teachers offer students a variety of means to demonstrate what they understand. Students are researching and writing, directing and producing, and designing and building to demonstrate their mastery of different targets. In Social Studies classes, students learned about globalization and considered the factors that allow modern-day slavery to continue to exist in the 21st Century. Students developed a logo and a message to persuade people to consider how

they could work together to change this practice. In another class, students were able to act as doctors investigating an outbreak, looking for clues about how this illness spread. Whether the students wrote, directed and produced a movie or researched and debated a position, they have been able to show high-levels of learning. This variety allows students to show what they know and what they can do in a manner that allows for a great deal of personalization, which is very appealing to most middle schoolers! This personalization allows us to engage all learners in rigorous and challenging tasks. In addition, the teachers and staff at Memorial continue to be committed to fostering relationships with our students, allowing us to know them and what is important to them. Our teachers know that a strong student-teacher connection helps students trust that when a teacher challenges him/ her with difficult material, the teacher will create the conditions that allow the student to succeed. By balancing encouragement and reassurance with challenging curriculum and focused instruction, we will continue to see improved achievement for all of our students.

Return to top