Jon's Bi-weekly Update 11-16-18

posted Nov 19, 2018, 12:34 PM by Cynthia Friedman
Dear Middle School Family,

Thanks to all of you who participated in Family Conferences. It's always a pleasure to connect with families and sit around the table together to talk about how things are going. Please don't hesitate to contact Carrie or myself if you have questions, concerns, of if you'd just like to check in. We're happy to schedule time to meet and talk. We're in this together!

Humanities
The last two weeks have been pretty heavy in the back of Building B. While I was preparing to dive into the Reconstruction era following the US Civil War, I realized our students simply didn't have a deep enough understanding of the Reality of slavery in the birth and construction of the United States. 

We spent the two weeks up to parent conferences watching the first couple of episodes of the original Roots series from the 1970s. It's one of the most chilling, yet safe, introductions to the horrors of American Slavery that I've seen. Slavery is an institution that half the country at the time was willing to kill other Americans (and risk being killed) to maintain. An entire culture was built on the framework of institutionalized racism and cruelty. The South fought for their right to enslave Black people, and only Black people, with their lives.

Think about that reality for a second.

When the Civil War ended, and the Union remained intact, the culture of hatred did not simply evaporate into goodwill and new-found united patriotism. Quite the contrary. A whole new (legalized) system of racism and oppression was established nation-wide, and continues to evolve to this day, despite the progress we feel like we've made. 

We still have a lot of progress to make as a Nation 'for the People, by the People' if we're going to get anywhere near achieving "Liberty and Justice for All." We the People have a lot of work to do. Work is where we're headed as a middle school community. We're going to continue our study of who we are as a Nation, as a hopeful work in progress. 

Come Spring, we will engage in Service Learning Projects in our local community to exercise our civic duty in service of the Greater Good, to support our positive evolution as a Nation. It's good, important work. It's what progress looks like.

Communications
Holy sentence structure, Batman! We have been deeply workshopping, in small groups and as a whole class, how to write a Powerful Assertion. A Powerful Assertion is the spring the slender creek of sentences flows from to carve a Meaningful Paragraph.

The process we've been engaging in has been sincerely enlightening for me. Using the Article of the Week, the students start by writing what they think is the Powerful Assertion the AOW is making. Then they work in their table-groups to choose and revise one Best Sentence. Then each group writes their Best Sentence on the whiteboard and as a class, we revise their collective attempts into the most Powerful Assertion we can come up with. Then we strategize how to complete the paragraph based on the Powerful Assertion we've come up with, so they can complete it on their own. 

The strategic process I'm leading our students through for writing Meaningful Paragraphs is time-consuming. And absolutely invaluable. Together, the students are internalizing the editorial decisions that every writer has to make to write well. Soon, I'll be able to step back from the process for most of the students, and will still be able to work with smaller groups of folks who need more guidance through the process.

The students are already making leaps and bounds with their writing.

Electives Volunteer Opportunity!
We'll be changing up Electives after Winter Break. This is a really fun volunteer opportunity if you have some consistent flexibility in your daily schedule. We teach Electives on Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday from 1:25-2:10pm, or on Fridays from 11:20am-1:05pm. The commitment is from when we get back in January until Spring Break. You must be able to commit to come every week. We don't have subs for Electives.

We're going to sign up for Electives the week for Winter Break, so please let me know if you would like to lead one. Yoga, Computer Programming, Sewing, Knitting, Juggling... If you love doing something, please share it with our students!

Maizzy and I love the work we get to do. Thank you for sharing your children with us. We grow together!

Best,
Jon and Maizzy
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