Re-thinking learning for the 21st Century

Author: Jennifer Bairos (Page 1 of 3)

Dipping my toes into Social Justice + FSL – Where am I now?

Thinking about how to authentically integrate social justice elements into a language program is a necessary, but enormous undertaking. I am gathering ideas, and I am learning so much from educators who are further along on this journey, but I quickly realized I needed to pick one area of focus for the year and start there. I wrote about the evolution of my how might we question in a blog post (The Journey of My How Might We Question), and I landed on:

How might we amplify the theme of identity in the FSL classroom to support LGBTQ+ students as they talk about themselves in order for everyone to feel seen and valued? 

My main goal this year was to teach my students the non-binary pronoun iel and support them as they practised using iel along with other non-binary vocabulary such as family members and adjectives.

@hfransen and I collaborated on creating a slide deck to introduce non-binary pronouns to our students. I tried it with my Grade 7s in the fall and then just this week with my Grade 8s. The student response has been very positive. This week, I heard my students say “I have learned so much in just the first few minutes of our class!” and “This lesson was a big W, Ms Bairos.” That immediate and positive feedback is so motivating and inspiring to me. It tells I am on the right track.

I also noticed some of my grade 7s using non-binary pronouns when they were writing descriptive paragraphs about each other, and when they were writing about themselves.

Movie Talks have also been a really easy, yet powerful, way to incorporate more discussions about identity. Richard Smith is an FSL teacher in Ottawa, and he is compiling a slide deck of movie talks that span a wide variety of topics (Slide Deck: Richard’s Movie Talks). Movie Talks can also be a great way to talk about how we presume gender.

After I blogged about my initial reflections and wonderings connected to social justice in the FSL classroom (read it here), I was invited to present a session on this topic with the Ontario Modern Language Teacher’s Association spring conference, so I am excited to share my learning further with others later this month.

I have learned so much, and I continue to seek out and learn new ideas and perspectives regularly. I’ve compiled many of my “go to” resources in a Google Doc (DEIJ Resources for French Teachers).

Here are a few that are most connected to my how might we question this year:

One of my main takeaways has been that incorporating social justice elements into a classroom does not mean creating new units. There are opportunities to within the content we are already doing in our classrooms and view it with a social justice lens. In a novice language classroom, I have found that some easier entry points are the themes of identity and diversity.

I still wonder how I might go deeper into this work. I have had some lingering timing challenges from the pandemic at my school this year, and I am hopeful they will be resolved next year.  I would like to build in more time and opportunities for student reflection, especially with how they might connect to the Social Justice Standards by Learning for Justice.

In true Cohort 21 fashion, this really feels like it is only the end of the beginning.

Jenn

Book review: Set Boundaries, Find Peace

Just before the holidays (hence the Christmas tree photo), I read Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab. I think like many of us, the pandemic permitted my boundaries between home and work to become so woven together, that it has been difficult to see where the work-me ended and the home-me began.

I love teaching deeply, and I was letting the unwinnable task of trying to  control an uncontrollable environment, consume me. I was terribly worried of failing my students, even though pandemic learning was new territory for everyone.

“…do only what is most important. Sometimes we do things that aren’t important to us but that we believe maintain a particular image of ‘good parent’ or ‘person who has it all together.’ ” Nedra Glover Tawwab.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace is an excellent read for anyone looking to do some work in this area. I loved the connections between boundaries and burnout which was exactly what was happening to me. I especially found it helpful to read about boundaries that can be more than simply saying, “No.” There are many forms of boundaries.

This past fall, I took my work email off my phone . Friends, it as been life-changing. The best way I can describe it is that I physically feel lighter. I absolutely enjoy my work more because I’m not carrying it around with me everywhere I go.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace has practical examples of what you might say to help create boundaries in your own life and how to deal with the natural guilt that comes with setting boundaries with people you love. There is a lot in here for anyone who is looking for more balance in their habits and relationships.

Nedra Glover Tawwab is also an excellent follow on Instagram @nedratawwab.

If you’re interested in reading a book to help your own teacher well-being, this is one I recommend.

Jenn

An Introduction to Gender-Inclusive Language in the French Classroom

As a teacher of a gendered language, one of the urgencies in my classroom this year is creating space for gender-inclusive language. My students are being more open than ever before with their identities, and one of my biggest fears is that they will sit in my classroom, look at the French language, and then decide the language does not include them. To that end, I have become a student myself, learning as much as I can about gender-inclusive language, so my students feel safe and welcome in my classroom. I am very early on in this journey, and here is where I’ve begun.

Classroom Signs

Firstly, I bought this sticker for my laptop from Classroom Yogi. My favourite moment with this sticker so far has been when one student asked to take a picture of it because she and her dad are trying to learn as many different LGBTQ+ flags as possible. 💕

 

Next, I finally got to have a classroom again (yeah!), and these are the new posters I was excited to put up. My students have enjoyed learning how to use the gender-neutral pronoun iel in their work.

French Subject Pronoun Posters (Free on TPT)

LGBTQ+ Posters ($3 on TPT)

La vide des noirs compte Posters (Free on TPT)

Identity Chat Mats

I have started using chat mats more and more in my classroom. Amy Lenord shares on Twitter the different ways you can use chat mats in your language classroom, and this was an easy, safe way for me to introduce the pronoun iel to everyone. I started by giving my students (Grade 7 Core French) a copy of the chat mat and projecting it on the board. I modeled my answers and ask students to share their answers if they were comfortable sharing with the whole class. Then they worked in pairs asking and answering different questions. The next day, we revisited the chat mat again, and this time they wrote sentences on whiteboards.

Here is a shared Google Drive with the Chat Mats inside. (As a note, sometimes they print better as a JPEG rather than a PDF….mystery 🤷‍♀️.)

 

Introducing Adjectives

Inspired by this Tweet from Cécile Lainé, and the learning I’ve been doing from Dr. Kris Knisley, I felt ready to introduce my students to non-binary adjectives. Dr. Knisley has this straightforward handout for educators, but I wanted to narrow my introduction even further for my students in our first lesson. I created this slide deck and this handout for us to start making observations and practising the new language.


Next, my students were given a piece of paper with their own cartoon monster and an opportunity to describe them using non-binary language. I am so proud of their first attempts, and it has really given me a picture of what my next steps might be.

So that’s where I’m at for now. Suggestions and feedback are always welcome. My next step in this area is to look for more authentic ways to use non-binary vocabulary in the classroom, starting with vocabulary for family members.

I honestly feel like I could do a whole post on people to follow who are doing excellent work in the area of teaching social justice in language education. For now, my gratitude goes out to Dr. Kris Knisely who has been a resource to which I often return in my own learning on the intersection of LGBTQ+ communities and the French language.

Jenn

The Journey of My How Might We Question

My How Might We question has already been through a few iterations this year, but I kind of feel like that’s how I know I’m doing it right.

I knew that I wanted to explore social justice education in FSL. I took a few courses about this topic earlier this year, and I know this is an area of interest to my students.  It feels right to find classroom opportunities to weave language learning and social justice together where I can. To that end, my first question was “How might we encourage students to see language learning as the ability to communicate with someone with respect and cultural understanding?”

After our second Face to Face session with Cohort 21, I realized I needed to narrow my focus. I loved my question; however, I knew it was a huge one. This fall, I have had quite a few students come out as non-binary, gender-fluid, or trans, and it has become urgent that I learn alongside my students to help them talk about themselves and show them that there is room for them in a gendered language. My second attempt at a question was How might we amplify the theme of identity in the FSL classroom to support LGBTQ+ students as they talk about themselves and to make connections with others in order for everyone to feel seen and valued? 

I then decided it was too wordy, and my current iteration (and I think my last) is, How might we amplify the theme of identity in the FSL classroom to support LGBTQ+ students as they talk about themselves in order for everyone to feel seen and valued? 

I have found Twitter to be a great resource to help guide me with this learning. Dr. Kris Knisley is doing excellent work in this area and has many resources to share on their website.

I also want to be sure to talk to my students, if they are willing to share. I want to know what questions they have, what feels important to them to learn, and later on, what was helpful and what was missing.

Two of my next steps are to read over this blog post, Gender-Inclusive Language in the French Classroom: How it Looks in 2021, and to explore this Padlet on Gender inclusive language in the languages classroom.

This year, I intentionally introduced the pronoun iel to my students, and some of them have been using it in class already, which is so encouraging to see. It fuels me to keep going, so that they know there is a place in French for them.

Jenn

How do I decide what’s important when everything feels urgent?

In our first face to face session with Cohort 21 this year, we were presented with The Eisenhower Matrix. Since the single biggest pressure on educators at the moment is arguably time (see the post from @bblack The Biggest Issue Facing Educators), how might we best use our precious minutes to to reflect what is urgent and important?

I love a to do list. Fancy notepads and electronic sticky notes bring my heart joy. Yet, although I am an organized person, I have often struggled with how to best use my time. I have often had the feeling that if I could just finish the things on my to do list, everything would be fine, and I could finally begin. Begin what? I’m not sure, but the feeling was there nonetheless.

I once heard author Emma Straub say ““The idea that we will at one point ‘arrive into our lives’ and everything falls into place is a myth.” We are here. This is it.

We must give ourselves permission to have hard days. We are managing deep trauma coming out of a pandemic. That is urgent. That is important.  We also need to recognize that if we’re living in the mindset of simply “what’s next?” we’ll never stop to enjoy what is. The truth is our to do lists will never actually end, so we need to carpe the wonderful moments of our day when they come to us. Even, and maybe especially, amidst the chaotic pace of a school. These moments of joy will not appear on our to do lists, and they cannot be attained only when “everything else” is finished. They almost always appear organically. They are important.

@ddoucet recently wrote about the question “What do you need to say yes to?” and I already have it on a sticky note in my dayplans. Frankly, this week, I need to say yes to my marking because our parent-teacher interviews are coming up, but long term, I need to say yes to helping my students find their French voices in my classroom again. Now that we are back in the classroom after 18 months of remote and hybrid learning, that feels urgent. That feels important. This was a focus of mine back in Season 7, and I am diving back into some of the strategies I used then. One of the new ways I’m hoping to do that is through some DEIJ work in my FSL classroom.

It isn’t always easy. I teach sections of Grade 7 French and Grade 8 French. One grade has settled well. I’ve got them, and we are on a great path for the year. The other grade, well, let’s just say we’re still finding our way.

I am hopeful. It’s amazing what happens when you look through the lens of urgent and important. It’s so easy to see the extra. The unnecessary. The things we have outgrown. It seems a bit easier to notice what we know we can say yes to. To notice moments of joy.

Time will definitely be my biggest pressure point. More than ever before in my career. I know we all feel it, and it comforts me to know we are in this together.

Jenn

Dipping My Toes Into Equitable Classrooms and Social Justice Education in FSL

Like many of us, I am taking a hard, uncomfortable look at my curriculum and the resources in my classroom. What is missing?  What needs to be removed? What work do I still need to do?

In an effort to begin learning what I need to learn, I took two courses over the summer: Designing for Equity from the Global Online Academy and Social Justice from the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages.

GOA states that they are “deliberate amateurs” in this work, and I feel similarly.  I am trying to be intentional, but I am a beginner, and I am making mistakes.

I’m a list person. Lists help me think clearly. I know the deep DEIJ work in our classrooms is messy and very un-list like, but, as a beginning place, I would like to share affirmations I learned about the work I already am doing and new ideas that have me thinking about my next steps.

Designing for Equity (GOA)

Affirmations:

  • Relationship matter. Getting to know your students each year is essential. Tell your students you love them. Make it weird.
  • Teach students to love themselves.  Ask yourself, “How does our curriculum and instruction help students to learn about themselves or others?”
  • Help students identify what they can do in our subject areas.
  • Project Zero Thinking Routines
  • How can we use assessments to empower learners to see/choose their next steps?
  • Include student interests in assessments as much as possible.
  • Stop assessing for deficit.
  • Check in with students regularly. (What did you learn? How did you know? Include a spot for students to identify an actionable next step.)
  • Replacing the term “exceeding expectations” with something else. Try exemplary, exceptional, distinguished. The article Why The Label Exceeds Standards Doesn’t Work helped me solidify my thinking with this idea.
  • What is the power dynamic in your classroom and in what capacity are you willing to share that power with your students? Students deserve great teaching no matter what.

New ideas:

  • What stereotypes exist about French culture? How might we explore these?
  • Look for more opportunities for guest speakers.
  • Reflect on our resources. Who is missing? What new resources do we need to find?
  • What can we do to reduce a student’s cognitive load?
    • Formatting notes: .gifs can be harmful to learners with photosensitivities, italics can be harder to read, highlighted text can be missed by colourblind students (try a call out box instead or use bold text.)
    • Link notes: Try to make links more descriptive. Instead of “click here”, try Video or Resource.
  • Is your physical space welcoming? What classroom decor can you bring into the space? Is there room for student thinking? Is there something that represents your school?
  • Creating a “playlist” as an introduction to a new unit. Example of a Grade 8 French playlist.
  • When preparing for an assessment and a student is feeling anxious or low try, “This is not a quiz about you. This is a quiz about __________ French skill.”
  • The power of specific peer feedback!

Social Justice in the Language Classroom (ACTFL)

Affirmations

  • Language teaching is linked to colonialism. It makes claims about where a language is spoken and is not spoken. It sets the rules for “correct” use of language. We need to eliminate the idea that language learning is an exotic journey.
  • The most important thing we can do is let students express their ideas and engage with each other organically and spontaneously in the target language without fear of attention to their mistakes.

New ideas

  • Global competence: the ability to communicate with someone with respect and cultural understanding in more than one language.
  • Where are the opportunities for action. What can we empower students do, even in the act of reflection:
    • What did you think about ___________?
    • If you have experience with ____________, describe your own perspective.
    • If you don’t have experience with _____________, what do you think would be rewarding about it? Challenging?
    • When did you have to ______________? Why was it important to you?
  • Examining vocabulary lists: Are there stereotypes? Are there assumptions? What is missing? How is this list teaching more than just words?
  • Learning facts and content is essential but not sufficient. Having diverse resources in the room is not sufficient. What will the student action be:
    • Express empathy
    • Recognize their responsibility
    • Make decisions
    • Speak with courage
  • Where are there opportunities to introduce students to more #ownvoices French speakers when discussing a particular topic? For example, the Belgian singer Stromae has spoken about his struggles with anxiety.
  • Classroom decor matters: introduce non-binary French pronouns.
  • For current events, find a newspaper front page in the target language.
  • When thinking of essential questions and final tasks, ask yourself, “What are the important understandings related to social justice that I want students to be able to take with them as they continue their study of this language and culture?”
  • When examining classroom resources:
    • Who benefits from this resource?
    • Who wrote/created this? Why?
    • Who is included/excluded?
    • What is another perspective?
    • Why is this relevant?
    • What are the assumptions?
    • Do students see themselves?
  • Ideas for the language classroom:
    • When discussing hobbies and sports. look at access to sports in Haïti.
    • When exploring the home, compare bedrooms around the world. Là où je dors is great for this.
    • When describing people, teach hair texture and skin colour.
    • When teaching music, explore how it can represent oppression.
    • When discussing family, choose instead to have students share their Circle of Care (French version) .
    • Rather than focusing on “famous people who speak French”, might you include French speakers who are advocates for different social justice issues?
  • When you are showing the target culture, make sure you aren’t always showing it as deficient.  Can you connect a global issue such as environmentalism?

Whew! So much to think about! My head has been swimming all summer. This year, I am able to have a French classroom again, so I started with classroom decor.

One of my main challenges, particularly with social justice teachings in the language classroom, is to be able to dive into these topics at the correct language level for my students. I primarily teach learners who are still novices, and, with limited time to see them, I want to maximize the use of French as much as possible in class. Some teachers give themselves permission to address these topics in English in their classroom, and that doesn’t feel like the right path for me. Others maintain that these issues are too pressing, and we can’t wait for their proficiency level to always match the material available, and that doesn’t feel quite right either. I am hoping to find my own path this year. I want to keep in mind the importance of curriculum and meeting students where they are at and find the opportunities for cultural and social justice learning within that space.

On y va,

Jenn

I Didn’t Want Any Professional Growth This Year But It Happened Anyways

I sit at my remote teaching space at home. My husband is working in the room beside mine. My son is doing remote learning down the hall. In many ways, it feels like time is frozen in April 2020, but in so many other ways, it has been the longest year of our lives.

When I was asked in September to think of a How Might We question/professional development goal for the year, I struggled to settle on one. I still struggle. Part of me was instantly resentful at the question to begin with. How can anyone think we need so much structure around professional growth this year? Why all the check-ins? How can one possibly be a teacher in 2020 and not be growing every single minute of every single day?  Can everyone please just honour this and leave me alone? Am I an awful teacher for even thinking this?

Yet, I know there is benefit to goal-setting and especially to connecting with others who may share points of your journey.  This is what kept me going on my meandering path.

What learning did I want to accomplish this year?

My number one goal for the past year was explore strategies to connect with and engage remote and in-person learners simultaneously.  This goal was very much about surviving this school year. And it came with so. many. questions.

How might we build relationships with remote learners?

How might we engage students in meaningful French language instruction with limited opportunities for authentic oral communication?

I also wondered how my language program was going to be affected by a significant cut the hours of instruction and mask-wearing. How would not being able to see my mouth and facial expressions affect my students’ comprehension?  What could I do to support them with this? How do I decide what curriculum is most important when I have less time to teach it? What gets cut? What needs to be developed? And especially, how to I make sure my students are mentally well while we are managing all of this together? How do they see themselves in my classroom? Is there space for them? Do they feel safe?

See what I mean? So many questions.

Bitmoji Image

 

What did I learn in the process? 

Good enough is good enough. Be okay with letting things go. Celebrate what worked well. Here are a few tools that were big wins in my French classroom this year:

  1. Nearpod: There is a playful PearDeck vs Nearpod rivalry out there, and I landed on the side of Nearpod this year. I loved this tool as a way to engage my roomies and my zoomies at the same time. Sometimes we did lessons live, and sometimes I assigned student-paced lessons. There is a lot here to play with. For example, in one lesson I asked my students to use the Nearpod Draw It feature to highlight all of the examples of the passé composé in a short article.
  2. Hyperdocs: @estewart introduced me to Hyperdocs this year, and I found that my students really loved them. Basically, it’s a thoughtfully curated Slide Deck that students work through for their learning with a certain topic. Hyperdocs are a ton of front-loaded teacher work, but the payoff is totally worth it. Instead of so much direct instruction, students can work at their own pace through their learning, and I can devote my time to supporting students along the way. These are by no means perfect, but this year we made hypderdocs for le passé composé, Exploring France and Belgium, and Exploring Haïti, Martinique and Louisiana.
  3. Flipgrid continued to be a lifesaver, especially for language learning. I posted about my love for that platform here a few years ago.
  4. Independent Reading: Typically, I start each of my classes with high energy chatting and music and some kind of oral communication activity. I noticed early on that this routine wasn’t going to work. I needed a few minutes to get set up in each room, and my students needed a few minutes to mentally transition from their previous class to French. So, to help with this, we began starting class with five minutes of independent reading. I use the AIM digital readers. The language levels work well for my students, and they sometimes lead to fun vocabulary discoveries like this 🙂

There are a few others. Jamboard and Blooket have also been essential tools I know I will continue to use moving forward.

I also can’t talk about my learning this year without talking about how I learned to care for my own mental health. Last summer I started seeing a therapist for anxiety, and it has been immeasurably helpful.  I don’t know that I would have made it through the year without her. Here are a few new routines that have been helping me:

  1. Going for a 10 minute walk during the work day. A year ago, if you had told me that 10 minutes would make a difference, I would have laughed at you. Now, a 10 minute walk is my go to strategy to reset. I really like listening to Morgan Harper Nichols’ podcast as I walk.
  2. Find what went well. I started keeping a journal and every day I write down three things that went well at work to remind me that there is alway something good that came out of the day.

Shout out to Greenspace Health for finding me a great therapist match. If you live in the GTA, they are a free matching service to hook you up with a therapist that will match your insurance and your specific needs. Like a dating service, but for therapy 😂.

What is my big take-away?

There are some days where I’m certain, if my students learned anything, it was entirely by accident. But, I showed up every class. I tried to be present for them, listen to them, and encourage them. I can confidently say that I tried my best and did my not-worst during the most challenging year of my professional career.

As I mentioned above, there are some tech pieces and personal routines that I will carry forward in my teaching practice. I know that I want next to explore more deeply the role of comprehensible input in the language classroom, as well as how I can meaningfully create more opportunities for cultural learning and integrate more BIPOC resources without falling into the second-language classroom traps of stereotyping different groups of people.

I read somewhere last year that enough is a decision, not an amount. And honestly, I think that’s my big takeaway. It’s not easy to explain or describe, but it’s a huge thought-shift for me. The pressure and judgement I have put on myself in the past has no place in a pandemic. It makes me emotional to think about this because I have been so hard on myself this year. There have been many tears. I don’t think you can work in a helping profession without a certain level of emotional investment in your work.  But I try to surround myself with messages and people that remind me that I’m not alone. That this is hard.

Ultimately, I believe that educators in 2020 and 2021 have grown in so many ways. Some of them are clearly evident in the classroom and can be written in a list or checked off in a PD chart. Others are unseen because they are deeply rooted in who we are, what we value, and frankly, how we process trauma while helping others to do the same. And I suppose that’s what made me feel so unsettled about professional growth this year. Because not all of it is visible to the outside world. But I know that work matters just as much.

Jenn

When Ignorance is Bliss

Throughout the summer, I saw a few variations of the tweet, “This coming September, we are all first-year teachers.” I love the sentiment behind this. We are all entering education faced with challenges not one of us has managed before.

Yet, when school year started, and I was back in the classroom, I couldn’t shake the pressure I felt. I have been constantly asking myself questions like:

“Am I prioritizing the right curriculum?”

“Are my remote learners feeling connected? Am I giving them enough attention?”

“Will my students be ready for high school?”

etc etc etc

Last week, I saw this tweet, and it captured how I have been feeling perfectly.

Teaching is strenuous when we are always feeling, “If I could only ______”.  As experienced educators, we no longer have that early teaching blissful ignorance.

My students and I are finding a groove that works for us, and I have to trust that it’s enough. I have to have faith in the fact that I’m not a novice teacher, and that I can use my experience to make the right choices for my students with the circumstances I am given.

Jenn

I Don’t Want To Go To A Meeting Today

I have a meeting today, and I’m not exactly looking forward to it. Not because of the meeting agenda. The conversation planned is important and relevant.

It’s just that I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions at work, and while I know it will eventually settle, when there is one. more. thing. on your schedule, it’s overwhelming. I also probably could easily not go, because it’s kind of optional-ish.

I’m in the middle of trying to grow my teaching practice in two different areas. I’ve been wondering a lot about assessment and also about student well-being; however, my time to do meaningful work between them feels split, and I often feel like I’m doing both of them crappily (yes, I’m making that word up).

I was speaking with @nblair about this at our third Face to Face session on Friday, and she gave me a helpful reframing. She said, “Instead if looking at it as two projects, try to see it as you’re exploring many elements of your teaching practice, right now.”

That reframing gave me permission to feel that baby steps in both of the areas are steps on the same path. Growth is messy and slow. And, importantly, growth doesn’t care about lining up with a school calendar. My goal need not be perfection.

I just want to try and do a little bit better than I did yesterday.

So, I’m going to show up to this meeting. I’m going to show up, because showing up is a baby step. I’m going to show up, because my students deserve it. I’m going to show up because I love my school. I’m going to show up because we can do hard things.

Sometimes I even succeed in this.

Cute shoes help.

Jenn

Middle School Matters by Phyllis L. Fagell

Did you realize that every middle schooler today was born after September 11, 2001?

Their world is completely different than the one in which we grew up. While much has remained the same (“Oh no! There’s the boy I like.” or “I’m not going to try out, because I know I won’t make the team.”), so much is different (“Should I vape with my friends?” or “She posted that picture on Snapchat just to make me jealous!”).

I don’t yet have a middle schooler of my own; however, I have spent the last 15 years teaching middle school. It certainly has its ups and downs, but I firmly believe in the importance of the middle school years in a child’s development. Students in Grades 6 to 8 need adults in their corner as they test boundaries, emerge from childhood, and discover who they are going to be in the next chapters of their lives.

However, if there’s one thing that’s predictable about middle school, it’s that it’s unpredictable! Phyllis L. Fagell is a licensed clinical professional counselor who works actively in schools and in private practice with parents and their children. She wrote Middle School Matters as a guide for parents (and educators) with the key skills we can help foster in our middle schoolers.

I found myself nodding along in the scenarios she described, as I have seen many of them in our day to day life at school. Fagell tackles shifting friendships, bullying, sexual health, anxiety, academics, and more. What I love most about this book is that throughout each chapter, she provides possible conversation starters you can use to speak to your children or students.

Since I teach middle school, my students all head off to high school after they’re finished with me, and then many of them plan to attend college or university. It’s easy for me to get locked into the mindset of preparing them for high school; however, I loved being reminded that the purpose of school isn’t to get into another school. Our purpose as teachers is to prepare them for their career and for their relationships with others as they grow. This resonated quite a bit with me.

I wonder about the middle schoolers who don’t have a supportive home life. How might we help them see their value in this world? How might we guide them during difficult moments in their lives? How might we build our relationships with these students in a meaningful way to be their safe space?

Middle School Matters is also must-read for parents with children middle school. I quite enjoyed it, and I suspect parents of middle school students will glean important insights and tips for all of the ups and downs that come along with this transitional period in their children’s lives.

Jenn

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