Bearcat Brief

January 15

Notes from Niki

I have been working on NEE "Master scoring" and had to watch some really terrible examples of teaching and lesson structure. It really makes me appreciate the high level of professionalism and engagement that I see in our classrooms. Thank you for your continued hard work!

A few items for the good of the group:

  • I am going to try to get new Bearcat Time lists out by Monday. Please forward me what you have done as a grade-level so I can get everyone on the master list so the office can find who they need during this time.
  • January 22 is Blue and White Night at the Deli. We are needing two workers to help from 4-6 and another two from 6-8. Please let me know by this Friday if you are willing to help. It's a fun night to see all of the GCR1 families rolling through there, unfortunately, that is my first night of class for the semester so I can't do it. I am happy to provide an extra jean day for each 2-hour shift worked.
  • What seems like the busiest week of the year, Hermann Tournament week, is the last week of January. There are still evenings that need coverage in the concession stand down here. If you haven't had a concession stand duty or have time to make up from snow days (classified staff), please consider signing up.
  • Look at the article below, from We Are Teachers, and see if you recognize any of your co-workers. Not all of the 18 teacher personalities are represented in our staff meetings, but a few are. This is all for fun, no accusations!

Professional Reading/ Resources:

Four Principles for Giving Feedback to Students

In this article in Middle School Journal, Alison Koenka (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Eric Anderman (The Ohio State University) describe how teachers in two different classrooms handled a discussion with their seventh graders as they read Lois Lowry’s novel, The Giver. Each teacher asked the same question – “What do you think is the theme of this book?” – and in both classes there were lots of hands in the air and the teachers called on one student. But then the classes diverged:

- In the first, the student who was called on shared an enthusiastic comment about the book’s theme of memory. The teacher nodded and said, “Yes, anyone else?” The student slumped back in his seat and no other students offered to contribute.

- In the second class, the teacher responded, “Yes, memory is certainly an important theme. Now, let’s enrich that response further by also explaining what makes it so important, and supporting our arguments with specific examples from the book.” The student who responded sat up a little straighter and flipped through her book looking for examples. Other students were eager to join the discussion.

The key difference, say Koenka and Anderman, was “specific, student-centered information delivered to students about their performance in a motivation-building way.” The authors suggest four characteristics of the most effective feedback:

Specific – Written comments on students’ work (spelling out why it was good and what could be improved or extended) have a far more positive impact on motivation and performance than grades or generic praise (“Good work”). With formative assessments, there’s an argument for giving comments and no grades.

Task-focused, self-referenced, with identifying next steps – Feedback should target specific features of students’ performance, refer to their own previous performance, and identify what needs to be done next. These components are especially important for middle-school students, say Koenka and Anderman, because they make the feedback informational rather than controlling, supporting early adolescents’ “burgeoning need for autonomy.” The informational approach also encourages the development of self-efficacy – confidence in one’s own ability to complete tasks successfully. Commenting on students’ writing using track changes and comment boxes is a great way to give focused, self-referenced, and a next-step focus. Providing comments via video livestreaming is even more effective.

Not norm-referenced – Comparing students’ performance to that of their peers is especially damaging for middle-school students because of their heightened sensitivity to the opinions of their contemporaries. A teacher’s comments, however well-meaning, about the “best lab report in the class” or a “terrific class average” are not helpful to students who didn’t do so well. And counterintuitively, praise isn’t good for students who are singled out because it may set them up for ostracism and communicate that it’s all about outperforming others rather than the intrinsic benefits of learning.

Not about personal characteristics – The trap with comments like “You’re a natural writer” and “You were born to be a scientist” is that the traits are seen by students as innate and unchangeable. This encourages a fixed versus a growth mindset, definitely not helpful to improving performance. Students may react positively in the moment, but it will sap their motivation and willingness to take risks and deal with more-challenging work down the road. Koenka and Anderman say that fixed-mindset thinking is especially unhelpful to middle-school students since they are just forming their adult identities.

“Personalized Feedback as a Strategy for Improving Motivation and Performance Among Middle-School Students” by Alison Koenka and Eric Anderman in Middle School Journal, November 2019 (Vol. 50, #5, pp. 15-22),; the authors can be reached at and

Upcoming Events


January 16- PBIS Training in Columbia

January 16- 7th and 8th Grade Boys’ Basketball @ Union, 5:30

January 17- 7/8 PLC Group A

January 20- No School, Marting Luther King Day

January 21- 7th and 8th Grade Boys’ Basketball @ New Haven, 5:30

January 22- Blue and White Night at the Deli

January 23- 4-6th PLC Meetings

January 23- 7th and 8th Grade Boys’ Basketball vs. Washington, 5:30

January 24- 7/8 PLC Group B

January 24- Courtwarming

January 25- Blue and White Night, 5:00 @Hermann Hill

January 25-26: Building use for 5th and 6th-grade Basketball Tournament

January 26- 28- Powerful Learning Conference @ Lake of the Ozarks

January 27- Professional Development Day for Teachers

January 27-Feb 1- Hermann Tournament (MS gym used 27-30)

January 27-30- 7th Grade Boys' Basketball Tournament @ Sullivan

January 27-30- 8th Grade Boys' Basketball Tournament @ St. Clair

January 31- 7/8 Grade PLC Group A


February 3-8 School Counselor Appreciation Week

February 4- PBIS Leadership Team Meeting, 3:20 in Conference Room

February 5- End of Mid-Quarter 3

February 6- 4-6th Grade PLC's

February 7- Grades Due, 8:00 .m

February 7- 7/8 PLC Group B

February 7- No Tardy Party

February 8-9: Building use for 5th and 6th-grade Basketball Tournament

February 11- Faculty Meeting, 7:20 a.m.

February 11- Freshmen Orientation @ HHS, 6:00

February 13- Intruder Drill, 1:00 pm

February 13- Board of Education Meeting, 6:00

February 14- Valentine's Day

February 14- 7/8 PLC Group A

February 17- No School, President's Day

February 19- PLC Leadership Team Training in Jefferson City

February 20- PBIS Leadership Training in Columbia

February 20- 4-6 PLC Meetings

February 21- 7/8 PLC Group B