Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do You Remember Middle School?

I do. I remember it as a horrible place. I was teased and taunted mercilessly, humiliated numerous times a day (oh, but don't worry, I got my own back quite a bit. Heh heh heh). I also remember that - as a sixth grader, a lowly peon sixth grader - the only option for after school activities was the academic team or (at the end of the year) the sixth grade play. I've commented many times on how lucky my son is to be attending a magnet middle school program. But just in case you don't understand how lucky he is, let me give you the list of after-school programs he has signed up for this year:

Monday - Aviation. Club activities description: Flight simulation, aeronautical engineering principles, history of flight.

Tuesday - Science Olympiad. Club activities description: Competes against other schools in engineering projects, building aquifers/bridges, science experiments, etc.

Thursday - Robotics. Club activities description: Competes against other schools in robot challenges (design and build robots to carry-out predetermined tasks/abilities). Mainly uses Lego Mindstorms(TM) robots, but also some building of robots from scratch.

How stinkin' cool is THAT?!?! He also had many, many other choices. Unfortunately, clubs only meet on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he had to choose only three. On the one hand, this is too bad, because there were lots of things to choose from that he really wanted to do. On the other hand, this is good because it keeps the kids from piling on so many extracurricular activities that they get burned out.

The best thing about this school? Jamie is engaged and eager to go to class each day. No foot dragging, no complaints that he's bored. Every day he comes home excited and babbling about all the cool stuff they did that day (his words! School is cool!). This is quite a switch from the guy who was constantly bored or, when asked what he did that day, said "nothing". He's already started (without any prompting from me) a project that isn't due until the middle of next month! Is this my child? What have they done with my Jamie?

Another great thing about his school - not only are all the grades available for parents to check 24/7 online, but they send home progress reports at 3 week intervals. Students are expected to maintain a "76" or higher average in each class. At the first progress report, the student gets a warning if s/he is not up to that level. At the next progress report, if there has been a positive change in their average, as long as they continue to improve, they can stay in the program. BUT - if they don't improve or if they continue to struggle and don't have a "76" average by the time report cards come out, they are removed from the magnet program and placed into regular middle school classes. Lest you think this is harsh, the students have plenty of opportunity for help. All teachers offer tutoring, free of charge, before school and during lunch. Students only have to ask for help. However, if the student doesn't want to work for the privilege of staying in the program, they are gone. The key is the student's willingness to work for it.

And don't fear for Jamie's ability to stay in the program; I can gladly report that his progress report shows he has straight A's! It seems the school's integrated approach was what he was needing all along. I haven't posted on here exactly what his integrated approach projects are for each nine weeks, because I haven't figured out how to post the information (it's on the school's website) without revealing the school's name. No offense to any of my readers, but I know durn good and well that I don't personally know each and every person who happens to cruise by here. I don't want to reveal to the entire world where my son goes to school, and the integrated project sheets only happen to mention the school name about a hundred times - each. So, if I know you and you are interested in seeing what exactly is meant by the integrated projects I keep referring to, drop me an e-mail or a comment in my comment box, and I'll be glad to e-mail you a link to the pages (each project has it's own "wheel" to explain it. Each nine weeks is a new project. Each grade level does different projects). Forgive my paranoia, but I'd like to keep some anonymity!

UPDATE: I just noticed something when e-mailing the integrated project info to Becca. Next nine weeks, Jamie gets to build and race a solar-powered car! That's it! I want to go back to middle school!


Becca said...

OMG! I am so jealous. It's like he's learning to be a Mythbuster! I'd be very curious to see the curriculum.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

EXACTLY! BTW - we watch it all the time! I'm e-mailing you the link as we speak.

Jessi said...

I'm so glad that you all have a school you love. I love Brynna's school, but I get sick to my stomach all the time thinking about what could happen next year. Yay for Jamie!!

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Oh, I hear you. I hear you loud and clear. But I can say that it rarely (if ever) is as bad as you fear. I'm sure Brynna will be fine in Kindergarten. She sounds like a little crackerjack to me, and will keep everyone else in line! :-)

Becca said...

I wanna go back to middle school, too. I wanna build a solar car.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

I'm just wondering how big this solar car is going to be... Are we talking "matchbox car", "wooden BoyScouts derby car", "soapbox derby car" or bigger?

Suze said...

That's so great! Middle school was awful for me, too. I hope he continues to enjoy it.