Welcome to Middle School Science with Ms. Younger
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My last fifteen years of teaching experiences have led me to a deeper understanding of what my craft is about. Herein is the essence of my understanding of good teaching.
I believe it is a teacher's responsibility to establish a personal rapport before learning begins. The emotional load a learner carries correlates directly to their ability to learn. Enjoyment stimulates learning and teaching, most especially in children. When student's and teacher's minds are open and their hearts are excited, knowledge is gained with less effort. It is the teacher's enthusiasm and skill that set the tone for a productive and positive environment. One of the fundamental obligations of the teacher is to demonstrate civility and graciousness...especially at the most trying moments. In addition, it is the teacher's role to foster the discipline that is needed for learning. Every child can learn. The teacher must take responsibility for the learning environment and for addressing the needs of every child.
Instruction is inspiring when it is current and connects to the children's lives. I strive to lay a foundation of understanding and then make connections to the human world, their world. When students are taught to recognize systems and patterns it leads to discovery and understanding. Genetics connects to evolution, cells to chemistry, and ecological processes to human use, all of which beg for deeper exploration. Instruction must be dynamic, alive, and show the inter-relatedness of phenomena.
A student's learning is optimized in a classroom with high standards and well-defined structure. Although initially more teacher-centered in my approach to instruction, moving into the younger grades has led me to discover that an ideal classroom is a student-centered, collaborative environment supported by a strong understanding of content. Although content needs to be taught and may be passed on directly, if something has a logical structure, we don't have to explain it. We can let them discover it. The teacher then guides the students to make connections between their current understanding and their new discoveries.
"Teaching is a civic - meaning moral - undertaking". An appreciation for life, the students own life as well as the lives of all living things is a message that is implicit in my instruction.
Grading policy: For middle school, I use the total point scale. This scale simply assigns a point value for each assignment (large assignments come with rubrics that break down point values). The student's total points earned are converted to a percentage for a letter grade at the end of each quarter. Students can easily determine the true ‘weight' of an assignment by its point value which then allows them to see which assignments I hold most important.
No single assignment will be worth so much that it alone may lower a student's average by more than one letter grade. Most assignments allow for improved mastery throughout the unit and a resulting improved grade.
A word about homework: When I do assign homework, it is usually an important part of an upcoming assessment or an opportunity for enrichment. Fridays? Get dirty! Play in mud. Climb trees. Build forts. No screen time during daylight hours! I will give an assignment probably 2 days a week requiring 10 to 30 minutes depending on the grade level. If your child is putting excessive time into my class outside of class time, please let me know. If they are not working hard during class time, I will let you know!
Student progress: Your child should be able to discuss with you what they are learning in class. As they create their own Main Lesson Book they may bring home their work and share their progress at any time. You will receive feedback from me on your child's progress six times per year. The intention of the progress report is to provide both parents and student with information and time to work out any areas of concern before the student closes out their quarterly grade.
Classroom Rules: Follow the rules of civility.
Rules of Civility: The following 'rules' are taken from Stephen L. Carter's, Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, Basic Books, New York, NY, 1998. Mr. Carter is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale.
1. Our duty to be civil toward others does not depend on whether we like them or not.
2. Civility requires that we sacrifice for strangers, not just for people we happen to know.
3. Civility has two parts: generosity, even when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk.
4. Civility creates not merely a negative duty not to do harm, but affirmative duty to do good.
5. Civility requires a commitment to live a common moral life, so we should try to follow the norms of the community if the norms are not actually immoral.
6. We must come into the presence of our fellow human beings with a sense of awe and gratitude.
7. Civility assumes that we will disagree; it requires us not to mask our differences but to resolve them respectfully.
8. Civility requires that we listen to others with knowledge of the possibility that they are right and we are wrong.
9. Civility requires that we express ourselves in ways that demonstrate our respects for others.
10. Civility requires resistance to the dominance of social life by the values of the marketplace. Thus, the basic principles of civility - generosity and trust - should apply as fully in the market and in politics as in every other human activity.