Update on Inclusivity and Tech Talk Wrap

Posted by Greg Chalfin on 12/4/2018

Happy December! I hope you’re all having a great week, and the second trimester is off to a flying start. Last week, I was at the National Association of Independent School’s (NAIS) People of Color Conference in Nashville, Tenn. The conference attracted more than 6,000 educators from independent schools across the country, and it was a wonderful forum to connect with other educators and learn about initiatives to help make Stanley an even stronger, more inclusive place than it already is. Middle School P.E. teacher Donna Meallet, K-1-2 Learning Resource teacher Anna Casey, and I were in attendance, and we look forward to bringing back a variety of different resources and ideas that we gathered from the conference.


To the end of inclusivity, one quick note for you as we head into the holidays is in regard to “Secret Santa” type gift exchanges. While we love the spirit of giving that students show during this time of year, having students conduct “Secret Santa” gift exchanges at school can lead to exclusivity and hurt feelings. Homerooms may be conducting these type of gift exchanges within homeroom, setting parameters around appropriate spending and gifts to purchase. If your children would like to do these kinds of gift exchanges with small groups of friends, feel free to do so, but please have your children conduct them off-campus and not during the school day. Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter as head into the final weeks of the year. Your students also heard this message in assembly yesterday.


In addition, on Sunday night, we had a wonderful community discussion with parents about the book iGen: Why Today’s Super Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us by Dr. Jean Twenge. It was great to see so many of you turn out for the discussion last night, and there were a number of wonderful takeaways from the discussion. For those of you who couldn't make it, here are some of the takeaways from the evening:


  • Stanley has a wonderful foundation in place to help students work thoughtfully with technology, in part through its prohibition of cell phones during the school day.
  • It’s important that we model responsible technological behavior for our students; they are always watching us and taking cues from our lead.
  • Encourage your children to put the phone down and limit their screentime. There are many ways to do this, including through parental controls in the most recent iPhone update.
  • Education here at school and direct conversation at home with your children about these topics can be immensely beneficial.
  • When your children can have in-person interaction, as opposed to screen interaction (e.g.: FaceTime), encourage it.
  • Set boundaries for your children about how much time they can use their phones and devices (e.g: not allowing for phones and devices to be in bedrooms when children are sleeping).


These topics are not easy or immediately solvable, and we are all working together to figure out answers to a changing world. With that said, one tenet that can be used to move forward can come from the comment of a parent: “If you feel bad and you have a pint of ice cream, there’s an end. There’s no end to Instagram or Facebook.” We must provide the limits for our children to help them stay healthy and be present. Thank you for your partnership in doing so.


On an entirely separate note, for 8th grade families, please submit any transcript requests that you may have for your child’s high school applications to Barb Lesnoski at barb.lesnoski@stanleybps.org as soon as possible. It helps Barb to have these requests well in advance, so she can get the transcript requests out in a timely manner.


Finally, a reminder that this Friday is a half day. Students should plan to be picked up on Rampart Way at 12:15 pm, or if they are planning to go to the Town Center, they should be sure to take their backpacks with them and be picked up from there.


We have continued to have a wonderful year here in the middle school, and students are coming together in their new sections and are doing wonderful work as we wind down the semester in less than three weeks. Below, I’ve provided some curriculum updates about the wonderful learning and community building happening in our classrooms.


In the 6th grade, Julie’s humanities students have been learning about different types of government through a gummi bear activity. This is leading to an in-depth study of the U.S. Constitution, which has already started in earnest. In science, Kelly’s students have started their study of earth science, examining the layers of the earth and moving shortly into a study of plate tectonics. In Spanish, Molly’s students finished reading the book Capybara Con Botas, and they are moving into a new acting unit in practicing their use of verbs. Additionally, in math, Nat’s students are wrapping up a data analysis unit and will be doing a big project shortly to apply the skills of mean, median, mode, and range. Angelina’s work in the Learning Center has been instrumental in supporting students with this. In Chat Room, Stephanie’s students are examining the difference between assertive, aggressive, and passive behavior and communication styles. Students are using role play to discover the most effective form of communication and identify the pitfalls of the aggressive and passive styles. Finally, in Visual Art, Jairo has started the trimester by working with students on perspective sceneries, helping them learn how to bring depth from the page and use a focal point.


In the 7th grade, Kathy’s Language Arts students have been working on an outline for a compare and contrast essay about the book and film, The Giver. Kelly and Grace’s science classes have continued their work on chemistry and chemical reactions, working through equations and chemical reactions through interactive, hands-on experiments. In Social Studies, Mike’s students have started their exploration of the Civil Rights movement, beginning by looking at a Civil Rights timeline with a focus on Reconstruction after the Civil War in the weeks to come. In Spanish, Molly and Anna’s students have been working on creating stories in the present tense and developing their reading comprehension skills. In math, Art’s students have started the trimester with algebraic puzzles, working with “perfect riddles” to try to both solve and create them. This week, they are building on that knowledge toward work with more traditional algebraic expressions. In the Learning Center, Susan’s students have been working on getting support with essay planning and reviewing their vocabulary for science. Finally, Laura’s drama students have kicked off the new trimester by working on their improvisation skills and how to act as an ensemble, responding to each other’s actions on stage. Students will be working all trimester on their drama skills toward a One-Act festival on Wednesday, February 13th. Please mark your calendars and look forward to this great event!  


In the 8th grade, David’s Language Arts students are wrapping up The Power of One, acting out scenes from the end of book to highlight themes of friendship and growing up. They are also continuing their creative writing project based on the work of Harris Burdick and are reading the wonderful short story The Gift of the Magi this week. In science, Grace’s students are beginning work on systems of the body and will be learning about the respiratory system soon. Last week, they engaged in a chicken wing dissection as part of their work around the skeletal-muscular system. Mike’s Social Studies students have started their novel study of Parallel Journeys, which will carry them through to Winter Break. Anna’s Spanish students have been working on creating stories as a class, practicing the incorporation of the present tense within their work. In math, Ted’s students are graphing linear functions toward understanding slope and intercepts and will have another quiz later this week. In the Learning Center, students have worked on application of vocabulary for Language Arts and are using organizational K-W-L charts to ensure understanding for their exploration of Parallel Journeys. They are also working on figuring out their “success strategies” to draw upon when they are struggling during the coming trimester. Finally, the 8th grade arts students are starting the second trimester well. Students in the 8th grade musical are just starting to work with their lines and are excited about their production, and a handful of students are wrapping up creating their two-minute documentaries this month.


Across all grade levels, Donna’s P.E. students have started their basketball unit and will be moving into fencing soon. Bulldog basketball teams have also started their game schedules with first games happening last week and this week for all teams. It’s been an amazing start to the season!


The year is flying by, and so much wonderful learning is happening within the middle school. If you haven't already, please do check out our blog at this link. There are many great updates about what is happening here in the middle school, including our recent assembly with Jeremy Vasquez, an activist and artist who shared some of his powerful poetry and story with our students on Monday.


I want to thank all of you for your immense support. It’s an honor to be part of such a thriving, thoughtful community. Happy holidays, and I look forward to being in touch again soon!