All Articles Tagged "middle school"

Side Eye: Middle Schooler Sends Misspelled Fan Letter to A$AP Rocky

December 4th, 2013 - By Rich
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Call me cynical, but this middle school student’s fan letter is proof our schools are failing. As part of a school assignment where all the kids in a class at North Carolina’s Chestnut Grove Middle School had to send a letter to someone they admired. Who did young Graceson pick? A$AP Rocky. And he outlined all the rapper’s accomplishments in the letter:

Dear A$AP,

Hi I am Graceson Reeves I am probably your number one fan. I am writing this fan letter for a grade. Were doing a project at CGMS also because I love you’r music. I live in a small town called King in NC witch is probably a place were you will never visit. So lets talk about me.

My name is Graceson Scott Reeves. I love writting and listening to music. My favorite song in the world is wild for the night. I really wish you would send me your CD because I have looked for it but I cant find it. So that would be greatly apprisheated.

I know your song F!@#$%& Problems went gold. I know your 25 years old. I know you use to move a lot. I also know you use to sell drugs. I know your labels are RCA Sony and Polo Grounds. I also know you were arested for beating a man in a clothing store.

Sincerely, Graceson

The letter didn’t make it to A$AP, but it did find its way into the hands of a vigilant postal worker who posted the letter on Instagram with the caption, “Got some mail for @asvpxrocky at the Mishka office from a middle schooler. I can ignore most of the grammatical errors but dude didn’t even put the $ on the envelope.”

No, @raythedestroyer, we should not ignore these egregious grammar and spelling errors, never mind the fact that A$AP probably isn’t the best role model. Little Graceson needs to stop listening to this too-grown music and focus on his schooling.

Portland Principal Calls Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Racist

November 22nd, 2013 - By Rich
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With all the recent incidents of teachers being crazy and racist, it’s nice to see school systems getting serious about training white teachers to deal with and really understand their students of color. Principal Verenice Gutierrez has enrolled all the teachers at her Portland middle school in cultural sensitivity training, but not everyone’s happy. Especially when it seemed she put the lowly peanut butter and jelly sandwich on trial for racism.

According to a Portland Tribune piece,

“Verenice Gutierrez picks up on the subtle language of racism every day.

Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year.

“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” says Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, a diverse school of 500 students in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood.

“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”

Gutierrez brought this up to point out white privilege, saying white instructors aren’t going to think about cultural differences between students; they just assume everyone eats PB&J. This particular example’s getting a lot of people upset, though, with The College Fix sarcastically saying she’s making people “aware of the evil of PB&J” (and you can only imagine what people are saying in the comments).

First off, these teachers need the week-long “Courageous Conversations” program she ran that taught teachers how best to work with students of color–and to understand their own white privilege. Time and time again, we see people not wanting to confront their own white privilege, as if it’s a surprise they might benefit from racism.

As for the sandwich example? That’s a little trickier. It’s common for teachers to have children write an essay on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to show them how to clearly give instructions and understand the sequence of events. Gutierrez is right that not every kid eats PB&J at home, but any child who’s lived in the United States for at least a short amount of time has seen the sandwich. Frankly, Gutierrez isn’t giving her students who are immigrants or first-generation Americans enough credit for how much they really are bonding with their American classmates. 

Gutierrez’s school is a very ethnically diverse one, where a full 50 percent of the students are Latino, 15 percent are black and 9 percent are Asian. Eighty-five percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. It’s entirely possible that a kid can eat a PB&J as part of the free lunch program and go home to a delicious meal of traditional Somali or Latin foods.   The difference is how much time that kid actually spends eating that sandwich and it actually is important that teachers understand that. For a lot of cultures, sandwiches are primarily quick snacks or street food. That multiculturalism is what really needs to be explored and celebrated. Actually bringing that lesson to the lunchroom is important; I remember getting teased as a kid for the things I brought to school for lunch.

So here’s the lesson plan I would propose: everyone write about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and then talk about the sandwich-like food they may eat at home.

Where do you fall on the sandwich debate?

Sweet Football Team Lets Special Needs Player Score His First Ever Touchdown

November 6th, 2013 - By Rich
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Sports keep kids healthy, teach them valuable lessons about teamwork and build self-esteem. Those are obviously a lesson the kids on the Olivet Middle School football team in Olivet, Michigan took to heart. The boys planned–with absolutely no help from the coaches–to not score any touchdowns until they could set up Kevin, their special needs teammate to do it. Kevin’s parents were so happy their son’s teammates were so kind and we know the team member’s parents are plenty proud of their kind, thoughtful boyss

You Gon’ Learn Today: Substitute Teacher Goes In and Cusses Out Class

October 16th, 2013 - By Rich
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Being a teacher is hard work. Being a substitute? I’d argue it’s harder because the kids try to get over on you whenever they can. Ms. Ford, a sub at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge, had just a little too much and went in on her sixth grade class.

Her speech, which was of course caught on camera, was full of the kinds of words that would get kids in detention. For example:

“I sit up here and I say best believe ya’ll really don’t know who ya’ll f**king with…You really don’t know. Don’t let the hair, the glasses, the height or the shoe size fool you. I will get gutter with you. When I was in college and when I was in high school, I was a muthaf**king beast.”

Hear the rest of what Ms. Ford had to say to her class. Needless to say, she’s lost her job. What’s going on with these teachers? Another teacher in Michigan was just put on paid leave after her in-class tirade went viral.

Did This Underground Railroad Field Trip Go Too Far?

September 23rd, 2013 - By Rich
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Last year, seventh graders at a Connecticut middle school went on a field trip that left a lot of parents very upset. Students from Hartford Magnet Trinity College visited Nature’s Classroom and chose to do the program’s Underground Railroad program. The Huffington Post reported parents went to the school saying their children were traumatized when their black students had to play the role of slaves trying to escape, were told not to look white teachers or students in the eye, called the N-word and chased through the woods. In August of this year, parents filed a complaint with the Department of Education. The school has brought its seventh graders on this trip for the last five years.

James and Sandra Baker said their child was so upset by the activity and the treatment she, as a “slave” received, that she sometimes couldn’t tell if the program leaders were joking. It’s definitely understandable a parent would be upset about their child being called a racial slur, even in the name of education. A statement from Nature’s Classroom says they were unaware of the children being called the n-word and had they known, it would’ve resulted in immediate dismissal for that program worker. They say their program, while very different for a lot of students, serves and important purpose:

Our goal is to introduce students to some of the complexities and difficulties surrounding slavery, understand the courage it took to run, the courage it took to assist those running, and to draw connections between discrimination and prejudice then and discrimination and prejudice today.

No parent wants their child to be traumatized, but programs like this shouldn’t be gotten rid of altogether. They do serve and important function and put things into context for kids who might use field trips as a chance to fool around now that they’re out of the classroom. I had an important and, honestly, life-changing experience as a high school student doing the Anytown program where one of the activities split kids into groups based on race. The counselors we’d spent a week coming to trust acted as “oppressors”. We had a long, emotional discussion about internalized racism and stereotype threat, and our counselors then armed us with tools to go out into the world where bigotry wasn’t simulated. I gained a deeper understanding of myself and my world and the experience was invaluable. I know my fellow Anytowners would say the same.

Nature’s Classroom said it will be reviewing its Underground Railroad program and making changes. I’m glad they didn’t cave to pressure and get rid of the program completely; it may not have been executed well or it may have been ruined by a select few workers, but these are the kind of programs that really wake children up to the reality of prejudice.

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Does Your Child’s School Need a School Shooting Drill?

August 21st, 2013 - By Rich
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After the Sandy Hook tragedy, parents, students and educators were, understandably, pretty shaken up. Liberty Middle School in West Orange, New Jersey, wanted to make sure they weren’t caught unawares if, heaven forbid, Sandy Hook happened at their school. That’s why police staged a school shooting simulation with students this week, reports ABC. The test run, with its victims covered in “blood”, reminds us just what a different world we’re living in.

Local police took the school through a full school shooting drill that included four gunmen inside the school, the sound of gunshots, hurt victims and frantic parents outside the school. The Department of Homeland Security footed the $140,000 cost of the simulation in order to find out what law enforcement officials still have to work on when it comes to responding to school shootings. Those running yesterday’s drill said some radio procedures needed to be revised.

When we were coming up, it was just fire drills. And for students, drills were a fun interruption during the day that got you out of a little extra class, an extra recess, almost. But in a scary world were school shootings are, unfortunately, a lot more common than they once were, we’re glad Homeland Security went through the process of figuring out how best to respond. Schools need a plan of action, and we hope the tragedy at Sandy Hook as well as Liberty Middle School’s simulation will help kids develop that plan as more kids head back to school today.

Do you know how your school would react in the event of a school shooting or other emergency? How would you feel about your kids being the guinea pigs for this kind of simulation?

7 Ways to Survive Middle School

August 20th, 2013 - By Rich
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The middle school years present unique challenges for parents and their daughters. These are arguably some of the most tumultuous years in a young girl’s life. I’ve learned that with an open heart and open mind, these times of transition can also be some of the most triumphant.

Here are seven key ways I survived my daughter’s journey through middle school.


1. Pick the Right School. It is okay to be selective. My daughter spent her sixth and seventh grade years in a middle school that was not right for her. The class sizes were too large, there was very little administrative oversight and the teachers did not do a good job of keeping the lines of communication open with parents. For her eighth grade year, we decided to change her to a middle school with smaller class sizes and a real focus on academic achievement. After the change, she began to flourish. Take your time and find an environment best suited for your girl.

2. Connect Her With a Mentor. There are numerous research studies that extol the benefits of mentor engagement during the middle school years. This is the stage in life where your child will start to become reliant on voices and opinions other than yours. They are now listening more closely to the advice of their peers and are more susceptible to messages in the media. My daughter had a perception that I wouldn’t understand no matter how much I tried to make her comfortable. A mentor is someone who can listen to her without judgment, bias or authority, but still guide her on the path she should go. Mentors are not replacements for parents, but they do make wonderful partners to help ensure your child is getting the positive messages they need. A mentor can be a great intermediary when trying to keep the lines of communication open.

3. Keep Her Active. If your tween is already active, then you are ahead of the game. Keep her in sports, dance  or pursuing  other interests. You may notice your daughter has lost some of that brazen confidence she exuded as a younger girl. Activities outside of academics will  help maintain her self-confidence and avoid the pitfalls of bullying and cliques. My daughter took karate and was part of a comedy troupe. Both were excellent activities and well worth the investment.

4. Encourage Her to Stay Drama Free. Girls at the middle school level are not only competitive, but are also very impressionable. It’s not easy to stay out of the chaos, but the more you can help your child steer clear of social problems,  the better off she’ll be.  Talk to your daughter about how to use proper judgment when building associations. Encourage her to explore friendships and connections that will help build her up, not tear her down. Ensure that she can assert her self without being aggressive. This is more challenging for some girls than others, but if you work on those skills now, it will benefit her as she enters the next phase of her life.

5. Celebrate Her Uniqueness. With so much pressure for our daughters to conform in middle school, an attitude shift is to be expected. However, keep a close eye on your daughter for any behavior too unlike her established personality. If she’s sullen or depressed, it could be more than just teenage mood swings and indicative of something going on at school that requires your attention.  My daughter went through a rough patch because she didn’t always fit in with the in-crowd. It took some time, but in the eighth grade she began to really appreciate how unique she is and what an asset it is to be original. She may not always fit in, but teachers take notice of her willingness to stand out from the pack and she’s rewarded for it.

6.    Don’t Be Blindsided by Rebellion.  One of the most challenging things about middle school is this is when it becomes very clear that she’s not your compliant little baby anymore. Rebellion is going to happen, so when it does, don’t let it throw you off your game. It hurt to go through power struggles with my daughter, but I always kept my focus on what was most beneficial to her in the long-term versus getting bogged down in rebellion fueled by her desire to get her own way. This was the phase where I began to teach her that her choices are hers to make, but the consequences for her actions are mine to determine. Let’s just say, we now see eye to eye more often than not.  
7.    Continue to Monitor Academic Progress. When our kids are in elementary school, we check their homework and help them study for their spelling test and math tests. In middle school, a lot of parents stop being so hands on. This is not the time to back down because they still need you. Continue to monitor their academic progress by checking their homework, looking over test scores and having a general idea of how they are doing in class. I monitor my daughter’s grades online on a weekly basis. This is a time for more independence, but we should still conduct some oversight so that our expectations of academic performance are clear. As parents, it is our job to expect excellence from our daughters because they are extraordinary and capable of nothing less.

Girl Kicked Off Football Team Because Teammates Will “Lust After Her”

June 25th, 2013 - By Rich
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Maddy Paige started as her school’s defensive end in the 2012 football season, but now administrators at Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove, Georgia, say she won’t be allowed to tryout next year. Why? Because as a girl, she should play “girl sports”.

More and more girls across the country have started playing football with the boys in middle and high school, so it’s not as though this 11-year-old is alone. But at the end of the school year, the athletic department contacted her parents and said she couldn’t try out for the team the following year. Maddy told NBC affiliate 11Alive, “It’s like taking my dream and throwing it in the trash.” An email from Strong Rock’s athletic director Phil Roberts said, “Our official policy is that middle school girls play girl sports and middle school boys play boy sports.”

Maddy’s parents have sat down with the school, hoping to change what they call a discriminatory and backwards policy; ability should be more important that gender, they argue. The school told her parents that part of why Maddy couldn’t play on next year’s team is that the boys would start “lusting after her” and have “impure thoughts”. According to mom Cassy Blythe, “The boys were going to start having locker room talk that would be inappropriate for a female to hear, even though she had a separate locker room from the boys.” Blythe said (rightly so) that explanation was “absolutely ridiculous.”

11Alive’s reporter asked, “Was there any explanation as to why football would inflame the boys’ lust more than just walking around the halls?” The answer, of course, is no, pointing out how silly the entire thing is. Whether or not Maddy is on the field or anywhere else in the school, there will be a boy (or girl) that will “lust after her”. That’s what adolescence is about. It would be better for the coach to use having a girl on the team as a chance to teach boys how handle their attraction to a teammate and, more importantly, how to treat girls as equals. Good luck to Maddy; we hope she’s in the starting lineup next fall.

What do you think about girls playing football on a team with boys?

New Jersey Middle School Bans Strapless Dresses from School Dance

April 25th, 2013 - By Rich
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Spring means middle and high schoolers across the country are gearing up for formal dances. Getting ready for the dance is half the fun but students at Readington Middle School in New Jersey can’t get gussied up the way they want; the principal has banned strapless dresses, reported ABC News. The principal’s reason? Strapless dresses “are a distraction to the boys.”

Principal Sharon Moffat sent the letter home to parents earlier this month. The letter contained a dance dress code for both boys and girls but girls certainly bore the brunt of the restrictions. It stated, “Young gentleman are encouraged to wear collared shirts and trousers. Young ladies should wear a skirt, dress with straps or a dressy pants outfit.” Plenty of parents weren’t pleased. One parent, Charlotte Nijenhuis, talked to Principal Moffat who replied strapless dresses were too much of a distraction for the boys and that they’re age-inappropriate. Nijenhuis called the comment sexist and spoke to the superintendent of the district. She supported the principal. Another parent who spoke to ABC said, “[The principal’s] categorizing all these children unfairly. She’s saying the boys don’t know how to handle themselves.”

A message from the superintendent’s office stated the dress code for the dance was in line with the existing dress code for all schools across the board, but one parent interviewed said her older daughter wore a strapless dress to the same dance six years ago. She’s dismayed she couldn’t send her younger daughter to the dance in the same dress. Parents are leading the charge to petition the school to change the dress code. However, one brave student said she was going to the dance in the strapless she bought, no matter what.

Principal Moffat is dead wrong. It’s sad this needs to be said again, but it’s important to teach boys they can’t take advantage of someone no matter what they wear and both boys and girls need to know not to label someone based on their clothes. Of course, girls shouldn’t look too sexy at too young an age but insisting on sleeves and straps sends the messages girls are responsible for (and should be ashamed by) any sexist treatment they receive and boys can freely give that treatment.

Brooklyn Teacher Calls Black Student Monkey

April 22nd, 2013 - By Rich
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Middle school is hard enough with the amount a kid can get picked on by his peers. So imagine how a shy 12-year-old must have felt when her teacher called her a monkey in front of the entire class. According to ABC affiliate Pix11 it felt terrible; the girl’s mother feels she will most likely have to go to counseling.

Deborah Perkins is calling for the suspension of the teacher of who cruelly reprimanded her seventh grade daughter. When the girl, whose identity is being withheld, was caught whispering during an announcement, the teacher asked her if she was a monkey. Said Perkins, “[My daughter] was already shaking and surprised at that question. She became defensive and was forced to answer, ‘I am a monkey.'” The teacher is white.

Perkins has sat down with the assistant principal and the teacher, who apologized, but it isn’t enough. She calls the incident racist and humiliating and feels the offending teacher should be dealth with more severely. Perkins enlisted the help of community activist Tony Herbert to get the teacher removed from her position.