Friday, October 24, 2003

Good things happening at South Middle School

Today is Parent-Teacher Conference Day at Joplin South Middle School. The conferences began last night after school. I met with six parents. As usual, it's the parents of the students who are making A's and B's who were the ones who showed up to talk about their children, with one exception.

It's not as if there is not a concerted effort to get in touch with the parents of students who are failing or who are near-failing. At South, teachers are required to call the parents of students who are failing or who are making D's. Plus, an automated dialing system is used to contact all parents with phones.
I haven't seen many parents this morning, but that has given me the opportunity to catch up on work. I've caught up on grading papers, typed and printed the extra-credit plan for my communication arts classes, and for the last several minutes I have been looking into ways in which I can use blogs with my two eighth grade multi-media classes.

Blogs seem to have taken off at my former school, but I haven't run into anyone at South who has one. Hopefully, that can be changed, as long as it can be done in a constructive, educational fashion.

The CA students who have really taken to the extra credit plan for the second quarter. Stealing a page from Mrs. Renee Jones, the language arts teacher at Diamond Middle School, where I worked until this year, I am offering the writing of a novel as one way in which students can receive extra credit points.

I don't expect students to write a 400-page epic, but if they are able to show steady progress throughout the quarter, and maybe throughout the second semester, as well, then they will receive the extra credit. And, who knows, there may be one or two who make it all the way.

The students do not have to write a novel as their extra credit project. They have the option of writing a two or three-act play, writing a book of poetry, tripling the number of Accelerated Reader points they earn for reading books, then taking and passing tests on them, or a combination of reading AR books and non-AR books (which I must approve).

I give the CA students writing prompts at the beginning of the hour nearly every day. Yesterday's prompt was "What are you planning to do over the three-day weekend?" Two of my students indicating they planned to get started on writing their novels. That's the kind of response that makes a teacher feel good.

I'm already in the process of reading a novella by Kristin Carter, one of the top students in my first/second hour CA block. She has written a book featuring further adventures of characters from Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. She knows what makes the characters tick, and she has gone to the trouble of even putting photos from the movies into her book. Kristin is a transfer from Raytown, a suburb of Kansas City, and is already very active in both academic and athletic pursuits here.

Planning is also continuing on the revamping of the South Middle School website. The third and fourth-hour multi-media classes are designing the webpages. During the first quarter, they designed their own webpages which, within a few days, will be available for viewing at the South website.
The advanced CA class (fifth/sixth hour block) will do the news writing and sports writing for the website. Lindsay Hamm, Autumn Mauller, Sarah McDonough, and Rachel Ryan have been named to the editorial board and spent most of sixth hour yesterday making assignments.

We are hoping to have news on the South website by a week from Monday or Tuesday.

The multi-media classes will also be taking digital photos for the site. During the past week, the classes, one of which has 24 students, and the other 30, have been sharing one digital camera. It has been a little awkward. I will pick up four more cameras from the district administration office Monday, then we will probably drive everyone crazy with our photography.

Forms have been e-mailed to the faculty and staff for our Meet the Faculty page. We have already had about a dozen returned.

Our first priorities will be constructing the home page, news page, sports page, faculty page, and links pages for students and teachers. After that, we hope to have a homework hotline page ready by second semester to help students who were absent, parents who want to see what their children are supposed to be doing and students who simply forget what their assignments are.

I didn't get to see it last night, but I understand that South was featured prominently on Channel 12's news report. Mr. Ron Mitchell, our principal, came up with an idea for a Wall of Fame, which will feature photos and short biographies of people who attended South Middle School, then went on to become successful.

The Wall is not limited to people who are doctors, lawyers, astronauts, or professional athletes, but people who have gone on to be successful in their communities from all walks of life. Channel 12 reporter Kent Faddis interviewed several students yesterday afternoon. I hope some of them were featured in the report.

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