Cougar News

Week of 9/14/20 - 9/18/20

Letter from Principal Nelson

Smallville-


One week in! Well, 4 days actually, but hopefully enough time for you and our student to get a snapshot as to what remote learning looks like. By now you and yours are realizing that any and everything needed for online survival can be located in BLEND and that the interphase and lessons provided are more user friendly than last year. That’s because we came into this year knowing what the task at hand was and were able to properly prepare.


The feedback from you guys has been great, but the feedback from the students has been off the charts! Kids enjoy seeing their friends and meeting new people, and the word most often used to describe the activities they participate in is “fun.” That was our goal; to help kids get back to being kids again.


Fun for a student at Small Middle School is a bit different than it is for other students around town. For a class to qualify as fun the teacher has to be able to build relationships (check), the lessons need to be engaging (check), and the activities should be rigorous (check) and allow for collaboration (double check). We are glad to see so many kids logging in and smiling and sharing with one another and will keep working hard to ensure that they always see the connection between how you learn and what you learn.


AISD Instructional Model Survey:


AISD has sent the survey out to all AISD families to gather their preferences for learning (on campus or remote) for October. Our only goal in regards to what your choice is to make sure you are basing it solely on the health of your family and loved ones and not for fear of missing out on education. We want you to choose what is best for you and your family and hope that y’all can see that the remote learning environment our teachers have created can be just as rigorous, engaging, and social as a typical classroom.


In regards to returning to campus in October, do know that 100% of instruction will still be delivered online and students will still follow the remote schedule we have now, only in a classroom instead of home. We will not be able to have transitions and students will spend the majority of their day in a learning group (pod, cohort) with time built in for breaks. The learning groups will consist of 8-10 students and have a teacher or instructional aide there for support, but the lessons and delivery of instruction will still be administered remotely. Learning groups will be made up of clusters of students who live together, ride the bus together, or carpool with one another to make it easier to track whom a particular student has been in contact with in case of infection. This is also why there will be no transitions nor large gatherings; we need to be able to inform all possible contacts if there is an outbreak. While not ideal and not similar to the middle school experience we typically provide, it does allow us to track a student’s whereabouts and contacts made throughout the day.


Please let us know what we can do to improve the online learning experience for your family. Do know that the Zoom sessions will get shorter this week and that most of the kinks we experienced during week one have been worked out to provide a much smoother second week.


Matthew Nelson

Principal

Small Middle School

(512) 841-6705

@smallprincipal

matthew.m.nelson@austinisd.org

www.smallmiddleschool.org

Bell Schedule

Remember we are now on the Virtual Learning Bell Schedule.


Update your Contact Info

Did you know that parents can update their email preferences by signing into their Parent Cloud Account my.austinisd.org -------> Parent Self Serve------->Student-------->Edit Contact Info and Notifications (See below).


Make sure your Contact info is always up to date!

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Grades - Blend vs. Teams

There has been quite the chatter about Grades and assignments this past week. So I thought I would get to the bottom of it.


First some Terminology...


TEAMS: TEAMS is now called Frontline SIS (I think to not confuse it with Microsoft Teams) it is the program the district uses to keep track of all our data. When you register each year, you are filling out the information we see in TEAMS to be able to contact you or know your preferences for your student. It is also where the attendance is taken, and grades are inputted. It is what feeds the parent self serve in the parent cloud (my.austinisd.org). TEAMS is the official gradebook of record and where TEA looks for mastery of any subject.


BLEND: BLEND is a learning positioning system that allows teachers to provide instructional support, class calendars, assignments and resources for students in a safe online environment. It is the program every teacher in AISD is using to administer their classes.


So, the question is... How do I see my students Grades? How do I know if they have completed their assignments? The best answer has been given by one of our teachers.


She said:


"This new online learning stuff is growing everyone’s tech skills. We hope that you will carve ten minutes each evening to sit with your student, looking at BLEND together, and discuss the day. If you review BLEND together, we have found a few things happen:


  1. You get a better answer when you ask, “What did you do/learn today?”
  2. Students feel more at ease to ask for help or give an authentic answer if they are stuck if you discover a missing assignment together rather than the conversation starting with the parent demanding to know why something wasn’t turned in.
  3. Everyone gets better at BLEND!


The TEAMS grade book is the grade book of record with the district and state. Many teachers encountered issues last year with the grade transfer from the BLEND grade book to TEAMS. To be safe and the avoid headache of double the work, many teachers only use TEAMS. Again, if you are not sure something is turned in, have that evening discussion while looking at BLEND together. If something doesn’t look right, double check the due date then allot for time to grade, and encourage your child to email the teacher. You can always follow up with the teacher but give them the chance to take on some of that responsibility."


To Summarize, You can go into your parent Blend Account and click the View Grades Button on the dashboard and you will find some assignments and grades, but not all and not all the teachers will be grading in Blend. The best place to look at assignments is with your student in Blend, but for the official grades, you should look in TEAMS.


Here are some resources that will help:



I hope this clarifies some things for you all, and if there is something else you need me to investigate and get to the bottom of, please email me at jennifer.newell@austinisd.org or fill out the feedback form at the bottom of this newsletter.

Clubs

Our Club list is growing. Click here to see what clubs we are offering this year and how to join.

Discipline Matrix

Ever wonder how Small handles Discipline? Click here to read our Discipline Matrix

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Distance Learning Attendance

Attendance will be taken very differently this year, but is still so important. Please take a moment to watch the Attendance video below to learn more.


If you have any questions, contact our new attendance clerk Bettina Schmitz at 512-841-6702 Icela.schmitz@austinisd.org

Attendance Video - English

Attendance Video - Spanish

We need volunteers to join our CAC Committee


What is the Campus Advisory Council (CAC)?
The Campus Advisory Council is a committee of parents, students, business and community representatives, teachers, principals, and other campus staff. The formation of CACs is required by state law (Texas Education Code, §11.251). Specific functions of CACs include providing review and comment on:

  • Campus Educational Program
  • Campus Performance
  • Campus Improvement Plan
  • Campus Staff Development Plan
  • Campus-Level Waiver Requests to the State
  • Campus Budget

What is the mission of the CAC?
The mission of the CAC is to promote excellence in education for all students through broad-based representation. CACs provide valuable input to principals, who ultimately have decision-making responsibility for their campuses.


What if I’m interested in serving on the Small Campus Advisory Council?
Click here to complete a membership application. All applications will be considered by the CAC Membership Subcommittee and applicants will be notified of their status. AISD recognizes and supports the concept of balanced representation in regard to filling vacancies on district advisory bodies. To this end, every effort is made to appoint members who represent the diversity of our community.

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Our amazing Librarian Ms. Sylvia is go good at recommending books and fostering the kids love of reading, that she has a whole blog about it!

Check out this weeks Living Room Library from Ms. Sylvia.

Speaking of Acronyms

You might have noticed at the bottom of each newsletter there is an option to give feedback. One of our incoming 6th grade parents took advantage of that and dropped us a note. They requested an Acronym Cheat Sheet. They said that there is a lot of terminology that is new to them and could we please explain it. We thought that was a great idea, so we put one together.


Click the button below to go check it out. If you don't see an acronym you have been wondering about on the list, feel free to email jennifer.newell@austinsd.org and we will add it!

Missing Vaccination Record

Hello Cougar Parents,


I hope everyone had a great first virtual week and I miss seeing everyone.


We still have 200 students that our records indicate are missing one or more required vaccination. If you have not already, please email or fax in your child’s current vaccination record. You can check on Teams and Blend if you child is up to date. If your child is a seventh grader you are more than likely missing Tdap and MCV (meningitis) which is given typically after age 10 or 11. Your child might be up to date on all their shots especially if they go in for checkups yearly but we just are missing records. Please get these to me as soon as possible so that your child will not be excluded from school. The district will start to unenroll students (even from virtual classes) starting on October 2nd, if they are not up to date of vaccines. Records can be emailed to me at becky.jenschke@austinisd.org or faxed directly to me at 512-841-6745. A picture of a current vaccination card emailed to me will work. Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing everyone soon.


On another note, if your child will need to keep daily medications or emergency medications in the health room when they come back to campus please complete the appropriate paperwork and forms. On the AISD website Student Health Service page, https://www.austinisd.org/student-health, you can find all the health forms along with other general health information. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.



Thanks,


Becky Jenschke

Small Middle School Health Room

512-841-6716

Gifted and Talented

Christie Manners
Christie.manners@austinisd.org

To nominate your student for the 20-21 year for Gifted and Talented. Please click on the following link to complete the form and give permission for your child to enter the candidacy process.


GT Nomination Google Form - English


GT Nomination Google Form - Spanish (coming soon!)


If you do not have online access, paper forms available in English and Spanish are available in the front office. Please use the online link above if at all possible.


Click here for the GT Newsletter

Looking for something extra for your kids to do?

This program is not associated with Small Middle School, but looks like it might be fun.
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Green Academy Blog

Did you know the Green Academy has a blog? Check it out!