The Friday Forecast

Office of the Principal; Friday April 4, 2014

Quote for the Week!

"The most dangerous phrase in the language is we've always done it this way.” ~ Grace Hopper

The Week Ahead

Gold Week Schedule 6-2-3-4-5-1 / MAP Testing, Science Benchmark Testing, Poetry Month

Monday (7th) - World Health Day, Data Team Fishbowl (10:00am - 11:45am), Career Video (during Enrichment, Channel 5), School Board Meeting (7pm, Irmo High)

Tuesday (8th) - G40 Student Government Meeting (7:30am), Principal's Appreciation Breakfast (8:30am, LMES), PBIS Set Evaluation (10:30am), Junior Leadership Program (during Enrichment), Admin Meeting (1:30pm), SIC Mtg (5:30pm), PTSO Meeting (7:00pm)

Wednesday (9th) - Monthly Magnet Meeting (Spring Hill HS, 1:00pm)

Thursday (10th) - National Sibling Day, Spring Pictures (Staff Development Room), Ground Maintenance (Move cars off the curbs), Junior Leadership Program (during Enrichment), All Teachers on Duty (Dismissal)

Friday (11th) - National Day of Silence (Against Bullying), All Teachers on Duty (Dismissal)

Tasks to Complete This Week!

1. Science teachers, participate in Data Team Fishbowl.

2. Read FF and plan highly engaging lessons for all classes.

3. Review MAP results with students. Put into place interventions for your bubble kids. Utilize AM/Lunch/PM time slots. We have 29 days until spring PASS testing.

4. Attend and participate in Tuesday's District Leadership Meetings (if assigned)

5. Make sure all of your grades are updated in PowerSchool. Continue to contact all parents of students who are failing.

6. Check the google meeting calendar for IEP, 504, and special review meetings

7. All teachers on duty (Thursday and Friday) at dismissal.

Upcoming Major Events

Data Team FishBowl #2

Monday, April 7th, 10:15-11:45am

Irmo Middle School Staff Development Rool

April 7th, Irmo Middle will participate in our second Data Team FishBowl. Again, we will be visited by Melissa Biggerstaff, Christina Melton, and Reggie Dean for our Fishbowl exercise. 7th Grade Science will be inside the fishbowl. 8th Grade Science will be on the outside of the fishbowl. The fishbowl exercise will be held in the staff development room. All teachers were given handouts to help us prepare to shine during our January PD workshop. Mr. Hutto and I visited Data Teams on 1/9/14 to answer any questions and assist with the preparations for these visits. We will again be participating in a conference call with Mrs. Biggerstaff (Tuesday April 1st) to help us prepare. Below are the updated "final" readiness documents. If you have any questions, see me or Mr. Hutto! Next week, Mr. Hutto and I will visit the data teams involved to answer any questions and assist in the readiness process.

New Link Readiness Materials - Important Information!!!

Expeditionary Learning Summer Institute at IMS

Monday, June 9th, 8:30am to Wednesday, June 11th, 3:30pm

The Center for Advanced Technical Studies (Multi-Purpose Room)

Because of the make-up day from the snow, our EL Summer Institute will be 2.5 days (beginning on June 9th) instead of three. We will only work until 11:45 on 6/11/14.

March/April Staff Birthdays

Marilyn Constante, March 31st

January Cisco, April 1st

Cheryl Harrison, April 6th

Richard Geiger, April 7th

Jennifer Cook, April 8th

Elizabeth Magee, April 8th

Deborah Ware, April 9th

Willette Wise, April 11th

Marcelle Boland, April 14th

Sandra Dupree, April 16th

Nancy Robbs, April 16th

Calvin Eargle, April 21st

Natasha Smiley, April 27th

Susan Day, April 28th

Please join me in wishing these staff members a happy birthday.

Duty Roster for the Week

Duty Roster

Monday - I Group

Tuesday - R Group

Wednesday - M Group

Thursday - O Group; All Teachers at Dismissal

Friday - M Group; All Teachers at Dismissal

Nuts and Bolts

Attendance (Staff)

Teacher and staff absences have gotten so much better in the last few weeks. Thank so much to everyone for making the concerted effort to be here every day. We can tell the difference in the hallways and classrooms. Keep in mind the need for everyone to be present everyday day next week. We want the next five days leading up to spring break to be productive and purposeful. Also remember, any leave requests for Friday April 11th (day preceding a multi-day holiday) must be approved in writing by the principal and Dr. Angela Bain.

Bell Schedule (14-15)

The schedule for next year is inserted here. Teachers will have additional planning for next year. To improve structure and reduce tardiness and traffic patterns, we will be clustering students based on the location of their core academic teachers. They will still travel to exploratory classes. Mr. Hutto is putting the finishing touches on those assignments. Relax, room changes are minimal to non-existent and are only intended to cluster kids for movement reasons.

Duty Supervision Reminder

Several weeks ago, there was an incident during enrichment time where two students got into an altercation that was recorded via an electronic device. The recording went on for about two minutes before any staff intervention. This should never happen. I always tell parents that students are always a few feet away from assistance. When on duty, let's break up the staff conversation groups, circulate among the kids, keep your eyes/ears open and take immediate action when an incident arises and avoid all negligent situations.

Electronic Contracts

Human Resources will send all electronic contracts to teachers on Thursday April 10th. Be on the lookout for your contract.

EOY Exam Schedule (Reminder)

The exam schedule for the last week of school is as follows:

May 29th . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ELA (1), Science

May 30th . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ELA (2), Science

June 2nd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Math, Social Studies

June 3rd . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Math, Social Studies

June 4th . Half-Day for Students . Exploratory Classes (Special Schedule)

June 5th . . Half-Day for Students . . .Make-up Exams (Special Schedule)

June 6th . . Half-Day for Students . . .Make-up Exams (Special Schedule)

Student Dress Code

As the weather warms up a little, we will see an increase in students violating the dress code. I want all enrichment classes to review the following expectations:

1. Getting to class on time (Tardy Policy)

2. Dress Code

3. Class Behavior

8th Grade Pilot Plan for Reducing Tardies

Ms. McCray and the 8th grade team want to communicate a "pilot" plan of action in order to reduce tardies. As you all know, tardies are the major source of discipline referrals in Educator's Handbook. We need everyone to encourage all students to be inside the classroom when the tardy bell rings. This does not include rushing through the door as the bell is ringing. Lock your door when the tardy bell rings. If students are late, they will need to come by my office to get a pass to class. Ms. McCray will be looking to see who acquires frequent tardies. When a pattern is recognized, she will communicate with parents about shadowing their child so that we can assist in getting them to class in a timely fashion.

Magnet Minute

Magnet Minute:

In this week's edition of the Magnet Minute, the focus is on SHOUT-OUTS! Transformation into a magnet school with a themed curriculum requires out-of-the-box thinking and risk-taking. Making relevant connections between our theme and the SC standards for social studies and science and the state adopted standards (math/ELA) is not easy - but as teachers in a magnet school, we must passionately believe that this type of thematic instruction increases relevance and interest for students -and thus directly increases engagement and achievement. In that spirit, check out some of the excellent work of two of your colleagues:

SHOUT-OUT to Ms. Jensen!

During a recent meeting, the parent of one of Ms. Jensen's students explained that her son was deeply engrossed in analyzing data for a social injustice project in his math class. She said that he was challenged to grapple with correlational studies in order to figure out the connections between factors. Specifically, this young scholar was evaluating the connections between literacy rates and poverty rates in South Carolina - and then making assumptions about these factors on both local and global scales. The parent explained that her student had become passionate (and even a bit obsessed) with finding studies about literacy rates because of the "a-ha!" moments he was having regarding this example of social injustice right here in our community!

SHOUT-OUT to Ms. O'Reilly!

The amazing work done by our visual arts students throughout the year is no secret, but recently Ms. O'Reilly has reached around the globe (literally) to help make social injustice real for her students. Connecting with USC students from an organization called GlobeMed, our visual arts students are currently building paper-mache latrines - which they will decorate with various images as a component of their study on the inequities in plumbing and restroom facilities (and the devastating effects of these inequities regarding public health) in rural communities in India. GlobeMed leaders are serving as "field experts" by working side-by-side with our students. The latrines will be featured at the annual GlobeMed banquet at the end of April. In addition to this work, Ms. O'Reilly has also partnered with Karen refugees from Burma. These ladies are teaching our students about sustainable income through involving them in a greeting-card design/production project. While designing the cards, their sponsor has shared their remarkable story of war, survival, and the joys and hardships of a "fresh start." Next year, all interested teachers and students at iAM will have the opportunity to connect with both the GlobeMed organization and the Karen refugees - who have willingly and excitedly signed on as official iAM partners.

Next year, our official "year one" of thematic integration in terms of grant accountability, means that we will all be charged with making relevant global connections in all units, for all students, in all courses throughout the day. iAM students' experiences in an International Magnet school must look and feel different from the experiences of students in other middle schools in our district, community, and state. Use the next several months to continue drawing ideas from colleagues (our building is filled with creative "experts"!) and researching relevant global connections that authenticate your specific content. This type of instruction will yield results...just ask Ms. Jensen and Ms. O'Reilly!

SPED Exchange

Spring IEPs

Please find this to be the final update and reminder before we go on Spring Break. Annual IEP season begins the day we return from Spring Break –April 21, and will run through to the end of the school year. Please check your calendars for dates and locations of your meetings. As these last 7 weeks progress, please let Leisa know of any conflicts you encounter, or of any planned absences. Additionally, if you are absent the day of a scheduled meeting, if at all possible, please try to let Leisa know so that an appropriate replacement can be attempted.

Co-teaching considerations for 2014-2015

As we begin to work towards the end of this year and start to plan for next year, we are again going to have co-teaching classrooms in both ELA and Math. Among the many positives of this teaching model, they not only provide additional supports for our special education students, but they also allow these students to learn the academic content in their least restrictive environment. If you are currently a teacher in this model, we appreciate your willingness and continued work, and hope you will again participate next year. Students who are in your co-taught class are being appropriately served and benefit from both you and the special education teacher together. For ELA and Math teachers who are not currently teaching in this model, please consider doing so for this next school year. Of course, participating would not mean each of your classes would be modeled this way; instead, it would then allow for closer examination at the schedule to see which of your classes this could be implemented. If you have any questions, please ask one of the special education teachers. Thank you for your initial consideration of this important service for our special education students!

Guidance Corner

Right now, students across the nation are embarking upon a series of standardized tests following intense days and weeks of test preparation accompanied by anxiety and worry from both parents and educators. Many of these test participants are reluctant learners with a wide diversity of learning potential, social and emotional challenges, strengths, cultures and interests. Among these young learners, there are many who put themselves to bed in the evening, get themselves up and ready for school, and do not have breakfast, arranged homework times or adult support to guide their school days.

Researchers from many higher education institutions are sharing the knowledge that "how" we are currently teaching and "testing" is the exact opposite of how the brain is wired to learn. Dr. John Medina, developmental molecular biologist with the University of Washington School Of Medicine speaks of brain rules, principles for how the brain naturally learns, processes and retrieves information. We did not have this research 30 years ago, but we do now. We are discovering that we are not wired to sit for long periods of time learning in sedentary positions, as many traditional schools and classrooms require. Emotion drives attention and learning. As biological beings, we are wired to pay close attention to every stimulus in our environment. The brain always processes meaning before detail.

Testing vs. Stressing

To formulate our response to these discoveries, here are some of the questions that we should be asking ourselves during testing season:

  • Have we created meaningful associations in our testing environment?
  • If a child or adolescent does not perform well on a test, why not?
  • Do we know and understand where the errors were?
  • Was there anxiety in simply taking the test that immobilized the parts of the brain that think, problem solve and discern with logic and fluidity?

Many of our students are walking through our classroom doors in a chronic survival mode, where everyday stress is a waking part of their lives. We know that stress shuts down learning -- there is a definitive cognitive collapse. Perceived stress is as individual as our thumbprints, and its direct impact on the our brain's limbic system directly affects our ability to learn and remember.

Placing emotional connections into the content being taught helps to alleviate the stress response in children and adults. When we weave emotion into the content standards through stories, our own enthusiasm increases as well as that of our students.

For the very first time in the history of this test-taking movement in education, I am intimately involved. Last week, I found myself rushing through fifth grade instruction, neglecting the personal and emotional comments and questions from 11- year -olds in a way that should have demonstrated a "felt presence." I felt pressured to make sure that we spent every minute re-teaching, reviewing and testing their endurance for academic mastery. Then I remembered that the brain is a social organ, and within the context of relationships and felt connections, we learn through the brain-compatible strategies of questions, discussions, reflection, story-telling and modeling.

6 Brain-Compatible Strategies

Connections and relationships created between students and educators are game changers for academic success. What can we do when reviewing and re-teaching to prepare our students emotionally? How can we stimulate an environment where creative thinking, self-efficacy and problem solving are brought to life? I suggest:

  1. We can engage our students by helping them see their own expertise in so many areas within their own cultures and lives. Share with students that these tests are important, but they do not define their personhood or intelligence.
  2. We can encourage and notice every small effort or action that is positive, no matter how insignificant. Create a sheet for positive, on-target behaviors that you notice in each student, and send it home every day during the weeks of test prep and testing.
  3. Share your concerns and stories that invite empathy, letting students know that "you are not alone in your thinking and feelings." This strategy is extremely effective when the dialogue is respectful and neutral with regard to tone and disposition. For example, you might say, "I know how nervous you must have felt before the first part of the test yesterday, as I remember taking my college entrance test, and my hands were so sweaty I could hardly grip the pencil."
  4. We can weave the tested material into stories where we create context and patterns, because our brains are wired for storytelling. For example, if I am teaching persuasive writing passages, I can create my own passage in an area of student interest, and model a story of how I came up with the topic. Or you might compare the topic sentence to the boss of a company like Hershey, while equating the details of the paragraph in the story to the employees in the chocolate factory.
  5. We can take brain breaks, pulling up casual and mutually inclusive class discussions for a few minutes on a popular topic, or read a story of interest together. We can get up and move, practice some deep breaths, or listen to music for five minutes.
  6. We can encourage our students to write out their sadness or worries on small sheets of paper to be tossed in a basket before an assignment or test.Research reports that when we write out any worry or concern before a test, we create space and cognitive capacity in the working memory.

Remember, emotions are contagious, and how we feel at any given moment can be subconsciously mirrored by our students. Be aware of your moods and feelings, and of how these directly impact the dispositions and overall enthusiasm of your students. We are wired to model behaviors even subconsciously, and with awareness, we can shift our perspective, our emotions and our behaviors.

Taken from

Closing Thoughts

This week's Friday Forecast contains a calendar to guide our week ahead and events on the horizon. This week, everyone must have a laser like focus on facilitating highly engaged lessons as we head into spring break.

We all know that teaching elementary level students can be fun. They have energy and a fascination with the world that only comes from the innocence of childhood. High school students, on the other hand, have a higher cognitive ability and can understand complex concepts. Nonetheless, what does a teacher do when students are too young to think like adults but are trying their hardest to escape childhood? This is the question that we all face on a daily basis. The awkward age that ranges from around 11 until 15 is a challenge for even the best of teachers, but there is hope. Here are some teacher-tested tips that will help you work with your students’ strengths and minimize their struggles. Here are nine tips for engaging middle school students.

1. Get Physical - Kids at that difficult middle school age are often brimming with energy, even in inappropriate moments. To harness that energy in a constructive way, try using physical games that include a language element. The physical exertion will tame the middle schoolers’ energy enough so they can sit and listen and the language tie in will ensure you don’t feel like you are wasting valuable classroom time. See "The Highly Engaged Classroom by Marzano and Pickering for specific strategies."

2. Encourage Talking - Talking can be a high priority for kids in the middle school age group, especially for girls. Though second language students may not be as chattery as native speakers, kids will still benefit from a chance to talk in class. Make sure your lesson plans always include questions for discussion. You may need to give specific questions for your students to cover rather than giving simple directions to simply discuss, but you will find that middle schoolers have opinions and they appreciate a chance to share them.

3. Be Creative - Even though kids in the middle school age range are trying to mature out of their childhoods, being a kid is still a large portion of who they are, and encouraging creative expression through artistic elements will add an element of fun to your classroom they are sure to appreciate.

4. Be Concrete - Preteens experience a lot of brain development, but in middle school most students think in very concrete terms. They often cannot understand intangible concepts, so the more concrete examples you give during your instruction, the more effective your teaching will be. If you are trying to teach something abstract, try to explain it in as concrete terms as you can to help your students understand, and give lots of chances for students to put theoretical knowledge to practical use.

5. Use Object Lessons - Preteens experience a lot of brain development, but in middle school most students think in very concrete terms. They often cannot understand intangible concepts, so the more concrete examples you give during your instruction, the more effective your teaching will be. If you are trying to teach something abstract, try to explain it in as concrete terms as you can to help your students understand, and give lots of chances for students to put theoretical knowledge to practical use.

6. Be Flexible - Not every traditional or even successful lesson plan will work well with middle school students. Be flexible and willing to change up even the lessons that have worked for you in the past. Because your middle school students have different needs than children or adult students, you should always be willing to tailor your plans to meet those needs.

7. Celebrate Success - Everyone wants to feel as though he is successful at his work, and middle school students are no exception. Celebrating the small victories and accomplishments of your students will help them feel motivated and will inspire them to deepen their linguistic educations.

8. Engage Curiosity - Middle school students are like children in that they are learning how the world works.Encourage your students to satisfy their curiosity about language as they learn. Allowing your students to ask any questions, and not berating them for it, will help your students get excited about learning. Then use this excitement to show them that they can be successful language learners.

9. Give and Require RESPECT - The more you give your students respect, the more likely they are to return the gesture. Avoid talking down to middle school students, listen when you ask their opinions and talk to them like they deserve respect, and you will find your students are more responsive and engaged in class.

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It is my hope that the calendar entries, required readings, reminders, and videos below will allow you to plan accordingly, engage your students, and develop new ideas and strategies for maximizing your performance in order to get us across the finish line with better results than last year (see targets below).

Let's stand by each other, remain #IrmoSTRONG, and meet/exceed our performance goals.

Robert S. Jackson, Ed.S., Principal

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