Middle School Update

March 3, 2016

MEW: Reflections

As expected, MEW has been a hard but great week. I must admit that I did not grow up in a charismatic faith and I find some of the focus on the Holy Spirit in Asian churches to be outside of my comfort zone. However, over the last several years I have also become much more sensitive to the spiritual battle that we are engaged in. I always feel a great heaviness of heart during the weeks we set aside to focus on God, like this one. I love the services and anticipate great things, but it's still a struggle to get through each day of the week.

Tuesday was a rough morning for me, and as I took a few minutes to pray before school, I was just asking God for strength for the day. I was remembering verses, like "his strength is made perfect in weakness," and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Then, last night, I was talking with a few of the 8th grade girls after the evening service. They're worried and stressed about high school, friendships, relationships with God, and the list goes on. I was able to share my own struggle from earlier this week with the girls. This is part of the beauty of the "puzzle" that God puts together; my own struggle becomes an encouragement to students that they aren't the only ones going through hard times.

So what were the blessings that came from this week? I think that a lot of them will not be seen for years to come. However, I did witness some honest sharing by students. Staff were encouraged that we have a vital part in God's mission. Many kids got a new perspective on decision making. I'm excited to see the commitments our students are willing to make next week as we wrap up our study of integrity. Let's continue to be in prayer for God to do his work in our hearts and those of our students.

2 Corinthians 4:16

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”

Curriculum Updates

Everyone has been doing a fantastic job of working on curriculum updates. I'm excited to see your enthusiasm for working together. We still need to finish up the things we've started, and then tackle our Bible curriculum for grades 6-8. We have set aside some student-free days next school year to work on curriculum, so don't feel that everything has to be done immediately. I'm pleased with the progress we have made so far.

Important Dates

March 4: No School

March 8: NJHS at 2:30; Follow a chapel schedule, but have A block during the "chapel" block; HS will follow a chapel schedule with NHS during their chapel block; please sign up to provide snacks

March 8: Combined Staff, 4:00

March 11: 6th grade field trip

March 14: MS Concert

March 16: End of Q3

March 18: PTO International Food Fair and Jr. for Hire

March 21: Grades due by 8 AM

March 23: 1/2 day for students; parent-teacher conferences from 2-6; BBQ lunch for MS Teachers!

March 26-April 2: Mid-Semester Break

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From Kids 4 Kids with the Blue Sky Choir

Top 10 Active Learning Structures: Brainstorm

I enjoy having my students work together to brainstorm about a topic, but I’ve learned recently that new research gives guidance for the most effective way to do brainstorming. When I was at Singapore American School for a conference last October, one of the keynote speakers talked about myths behind our modern concept of brainstorming. The idea of getting groups to brainstorm was popularized in 1948 by Alex Osborne in his book Your Creative Power. The traditional method of brainstorming, conceived by Osborne, is to have a group work together to try to generate as many ideas as they can about a topic or problem. The basic rule for working together to brainstorm is that all ideas are welcome and none are to be criticized. As the group works together to share ideas, it is supposed to generate better thoughts than what one individual could do alone.

However, many studies have disproven this common approach to brainstorming. Here are a few tips to improve the quality of brainstorming in your classroom:

· Studies have found that people do better sharing their ideas in a group when they have first had some time to think about the problem on their own. Before asking your students to brainstorm, give them time to consider the question and write down a few thoughts.

· Studies have also found that criticism and debate improve the brainstorming process significantly! When ideas are challenged, they improve. The level of creativity signiciantly rises when there are questions and debate. Therefore, an essential step to the brainstorming process is to get students to examine ideas both critically and respectfully.

· Once the brainstorming session is done, giving students time on their own to again reflect on the solution to the problem often produces the best results of all. Creatvity has been sparked by debate, and after the time in the group, students come up with more fully-developed ideas.

To conclude, brainstorming is an excellent way to get students improving their ideas and thought processes, but the current model of how its usually done needs to be improved, or it’s not very effective. By adding in some think time at the beginning and end and encouraging crtical thinking and questioning while discussing ideas, brainstorming is a highly effective tool for the classroom. If this topic interests you, here is an excellent article from The New Yorker that summarizes some of the research to which I’ve referred.

Susan Allen

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