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Topic: Navigating Middle School--Q&A session with JPS staff
Date: October 9
Time: 6:30 pm
Location: JPS Media Center

PTA Meeting and Navigating Middle School Q & A with Staff
October 9, 2018

Roughly 30-35 people attended this presentation.

Principal Rathke was acknowledged with flowers and a card for National Principal Appreciation Month.

Principal Rathke said that there have been big increases in parent engagement and that middle school is a challenging time of great growth for students.

The question and answer section began with a panel of teachers and staff:

  1. How do we make the most of conferences?
    The first conferences were goal setting. It is a best practice for kids and 75% of families participated. Second set of conferences are drop in. Meet the teachers, ask about social and emotional issues, not grades. Parents need to model positive interactions with teachers.
  2. What access will students have to chromebooks (checking portal)?
    Teachers share the carts, sometimes on alternate days. The goal is to check grades at school once/week.
  3. What is the best way for a parent to communicate with a teacher?
    Email, phone or text. Teachers try to respond within 24 hours. Be patient, understand that there may be 2 sides to every story.
  4. What is the best time for a student to communicate with a teacher?
    Before school, after school, during lunch. Not during instruction time.
  5. How can I help my student with math homework?
    Be positive. Ask your student to double check their notes. Do some internet research (e.g. Kahn Academy) for tips. Suggest that the student email the teacher.
  6. What happens in crew?
    The general schedule is that on Mondays and Wednesdays, the group has a greeting (to acknowledge every student by name), shares an interest, experience or feeling, and participates in an activity. On Wednesdays, that activity is usually an academic check in. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there may be a social/emotional learning activity or goal setting. The crew leader is a student’s advocate.
  7. How do teachers help students become comfortable with technology?
    There are digital citizenship lessons and activities in crew.
  8. What should I do if a student is misusing social media?
    Attempt to limit screen time or phone use at home. Have access to your student’s accounts and passwords. The school can share articles on this topic. Talk with the school, they will try to help investigate if there is a problem. The school has a no phone policy in classes and lunch.
  9. What if a child is having a hard time adjusting at school?
    Reassure them. Help them be more organized. Encourage them to get enough sleep. Talk to them. Tell them other kids may also be struggling. If it is a serious issue, talk to the school counselors or staff.
  10. If a student has anxiety, how can the school help?
    Let the school know. There are strategies that staff can suggest or incorporate. Let student know when a test is coming up, help them study, talk to the teacher.
  11. How does a student retake a test or complete missing assignments?
    It depends on the assignment. Math generally doesn’t accept late homework, but retakes may be allowed on an essay. The school grading policy does not allow for extra credit. Generally homework is 20% of the grade, learning targets are 80%. A retake can be taken during lunch, before school, after school, sometimes during class in special cases. It’s important to talk to the teacher about it.
  12. What tools are used to manage disruptive students?
    First, a good relationship with the students is important. Teachers may also use nonverbal cues or an explicit (verbal) request. For more serious issues there is the TAB (Take a Break) approach either in or out of the room. The teacher may call for a dean or admin for intervention. The student may go to the Rhino room to calm down. There is a restorative circle process to discuss solutions. Staff can also discuss options during team meetings.
  13. How much homework should there be each night?
    Math generally has 20 minutes of homework/night.
    Students are expected to read 30 minutes/night.
    Other classes may have less.
    The school is trying to emphasize that students use their planners and write down assignments to stay organized.
  14. Why was the order of movement and lunch reversed this year?
    Middle schoolers are generally very ramped up after outside activity time and it was very difficult to calm them down in the transition to 5th hour. By having lunch after movement, it gives kids a chance to sit down and relax before 5th hour. Students are given three different opportunities to cut movement short and go in to eat if they need more time. 5th hour has also incorporated a mindful moment to help students focus.
  15. How can I help my student fit in?
    After school Community Education activities where they will find others with shared interests. Sign up for clubs and groups in school. Ask a teacher to pair them with another student in a work group.
  16. How do teachers differentiate?
    It is different for all classes. Standards based grading allows teachers to adjust based on skills. Leveled readings build on previous skills (this is called scaffolding).
  17. What changes have there been to the STEM program?
    The makerspace has grown, all students have an experience in this room. 3D printers were added this year. Arts Integration allows for creativity in the makerspace.
  18. How many staff are outside at movement time?
    Approximately 7-10 adults. There may be disagreements at movement but staff is very present and involved. Staff talks with students at the beginning of the year about behavior expectations.
  19. What can students do if they feel bullied?
    First define bullying, which is more about an imbalance of power. If it is two peers having a disagreement, you can tell a teacher and possibly work through some solutions via conflict resolution. If it is true power differential, the school will change the interactions of those students (change schedules, etc).

Sign up to donate food for teacher meals during conferences. Signup links are in Around the Horn.
The next PTA meeting is 11/13 when we will have a speaker discuss Navigating Media & Technology.

September 11, 2018

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February 12, 2019

March 12, 2019

April 16, 2019

May 7, 2019

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