Friday, May 24, 2013

2012-2013 School Year In Review

Yesterday (Thursday, 5/23/13), we said goodbye to our students.  To the 7th graders, we said goodbye for the summer.  To the 8th graders, we said goodbye forever ... at least as DSMS students.  Never again will we all be in the same place at the same time.

Earlier today (Friday, 5/24/13), I said goodbye to the DSMS staff.  Most will return, but some have said goodbye forever.  It's likely, our staff will never again all be in the same place at the same time.

The students, staff, parents, and community of Desert Shadows Middle School are a family.  We support each other.  We bring out the best in each other.  There is a positive energy and buzz on our campus that I have never before experienced in my 16 years as a public school educator.  I couldn't be more proud of what we have built ... together.

To our staff - thank you for your passion, dedication, and hard-work.  Thank you for loving and supporting our students.

To our students - thank you for your energy, honesty, and effort.  Thank you for giving us the real you.  We are here because we believe in you.  I know you would run through walls for us.

To our parents - thank you for your trust.  Your kids are amazing.  We are blessed to be an extension of your values during the school day.

This has been an unbelievably positive and successful school year.  Earlier today, we celebrated our successes in the final staff meeting of the year.  But, please know we all walked away committed to even greater success next year.  We have an all-star staff ... and we added new teachers for next year that make us even more impressive. 

Stay tuned ... the best is yet to come. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Middle School Philosophy

Last week (March 13th through March 16th), I had the absolute pleasure of chaperoning the annual DSMS 8th grade field trip to Washington, D.C.  Marci Olsen and Jeff Abbott, both phenomenal DSMS teachers, spent countless hours preparing a trip that students will remember for the rest of their lives.  The trip will help inspire a love of history and appreciation for our nation that will grow within our kids into adulthood.  We slammed 3 weeks worth of vacation into 3 days, and it couldn't have been a more impressive trip.  The photo above includes 80 DSMS 8th graders in front of the White House on a very cold Friday morning.  When we arrived at the White House, there was a high school group from another state enjoying the view with us.  One of the high-schoolers was wearing a Superman cape.  Our DSMS kids found that amusing, so they invited him into our picture.  You can see him posing in the front.  Fantastic.

Later today, I leave with the DSMS chorus, band and orchestra on a 3-day trip to California to participate in competitions and workshops.  While there, we plan to enjoy some down time at Disneyland.  I will chaperone a similar trip with the DSMS National Junior Honor Society next month. Speaking of the DSMS NJHS, they will take a mini-field trip to a local retirement community tomorrow to participate in a talent show to entertain and honor the adults who reside within the home as part of their community outreach program.  Last month, all DSMS 8th graders went on a trip to the Renaissance Festival.  Yesterday, all DSMS students participated in an on campus assembly called FMA Live!, which is a hip-hop dance program designed to inspire students to enjoy learning Newton's three Laws of Motion.

Middle-level students must be engaged in the learning process.  The more opportunities we can provide to help them "live" and "experience" the learning process, the more likely they are to succeed academically.  Even better, the more inspired they are during the learning process, the more likely they are to investigate learning opportunities in their free time outside of school.  When that occurs, learning gains are exponential.  That's the goal, and it's probably not going to happen if we only read from the text and hand out worksheets.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Students Run Lunch Intramural Tournaments

One of the reasons middle school students are so fun to work with is that they are old enough to begin taking on new responsibilities.  Many have developed skill-sets that can translate into real-world application.  As educators, we have a responsibility to tap into their intellectual and social growth, providing them opportunities to succeed.

At DSMS, students (under the guidance of DSMS duty aide extraordinaire, Joel Newbury) organize lunch intramural tournaments each quarter.  During the 1st quarter, students organized, promoted, and successfully ran a dodge ball tournament during 7th and 8th grade lunches.  The bleachers were filled with spectators as students participated in dodge ball games, met new friends, enjoyed physical activity, and bonded as a campus.  The winning team earned an opportunity to play one final game against DSMS teachers!  Can you imagine being 12 years old and getting to hit your teacher in the face with a dodge ball ... consequence free?  Awesome!

The dodge ball tournament was beneficial for our students and campus in many ways.  One of the most important benefits was that students were given opportunities to facilitate, organize, manage, and market a complicated event, from beginning to end.  The students will use those skills in whatever industry they decide to pursue later in life.  We couldn't be more proud.

Within the next few days, the 2nd quarter lunch intramural tournament will begin.  The sport - volleyball!  The student leaders organizing the tournament are going to try online team registration for this tournament.  Well-played.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Modeling Expected Behavior

I'm always amazed at the impressive behaviors we get from our DSMS students.  They are respectful, kind, compassionate, caring, and understanding.  We are very lucky and grateful to have the opportunity to work with our kids every day.

Last night, DSMS hosted a community meeting regarding the possibility of closing 3 elementary schools, including Sandpiper Elementary School, one of 5 current PVUSD elementary schools that feed into DSMS.  I would imagine there are few educational scenarios that could be more emotional and personal than the possibility of closing a school.  During the meeting last night, Sandpiper parents had the opportunity to make public comments to the PVUSD Superintendent and his Cabinet.  Given the emotion involved in this process, I anticipated the event might include some awkward moments.

I could not have been more impressed with the Sandpiper parents, who reinforced what I have long known about the families in our community.  They were reflective, articulate, and understanding.  They were unbelievably professional while commenting on a scenario that couldn't be more personal.  They were aware of the opposing perspective and kind in the way they voiced their disagreement.

As I sat in the back of the room observing, I couldn't help but draw the connection between the impressive behavior of the parents and the way their children carry themselves at school each day.  Through a very difficult process, the Sandpiper parents were teaching their children how to appropriately advocate for what they want.  They were modeling expected behavior and it was a valuable lesson for parents in all communities.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Assistance

On Monday of this week, DSMS Counselor, Susan O'daniel, learned of an opportunity to assist families impacted by Hurricane Sandy by collecting new socks and gently used blankets, sweaters, and jackets.  The only problem ... the items needed to be collected, packed, and shipped the following day.  Mrs. O'daniel jumped into action and recruited her Pathways Leadership class to assist.  Click the link below for a quick video showing what they were able to accomplish in just over 24 hours.

DSMS Hurricane Sandy Assistance Video

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interesting Enrollment Trends

Every now and then, I run across school data that I find incredibly intriguing.  In reviewing DSMS student enrollment numbers earlier today, I discovered some trends I thought you might find interesting.

In the last 3 school years, the total student enrollment at DSMS is as follows:

2010/2011 - 703 students
2011/2012 - 705 students
2012/2013 - 685 students

Total student enrollment consists of students who reside within the DSMS homeschool boundaries plus any open enrollment and transfer students who choose to attend.  In the last 3 years, the homeschool vs. open enrollment figures are as follows:

2010/2011 - 525 homeschool / 160 open enrollment or transfer
2011/2012 - 490 homeschool / 215 open enrollment or transfer
2012/2013 - 456 homeschool / 229 open enrollment or transfer

We have known for years that the number of middle school-aged students (and children in general) in our DSMS community has been steadily declining.  We have anticipated a drop in total enrollment for a while.  Instead, our total enrollment has stayed fairly static.  The reason is the increase in the percentage of open enrollment/transfer students each year.  As students in our homeschool boundaries has decreased, the number of open enrollment and transfer students has increased dramatically:

2010/2011 - 22.75% of total student enrollment was open enrolled or transfer
2011/2012 - 30.5% of total student enrollment was open enrolled or transfer
2012/2013 - 33.4% of total student enrollment is open enrolled or transfer

I'm guessing the trend will continue into next year.  I wouldn't be surprised if we open next school year with an open enrollment/transfer population between 37%-40%.

What does it mean?  I'm not sure yet.

I hope it means we offer a product that families find exciting.
I hope it means we offer opportunities other schools don't or can't.
I hope it means families believe in our mission and vision as passionately as we do.

Regardless of what the trends mean, we will continue to do whatever we can to help raise happy, productive, intelligent and respectful young men and women.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I believe great schools create an environment in which students invest in the school academically, socially, and emotionally.  If we're doing our jobs right, DSMS should become part of the identity of our students.  "My name is Brock.  I'm 12 years old.  I love my mom, dad, and two sisters.  I play hockey and piano.  I'm earning straight A's at Desert Shadows Middle School."

That's the goal.

The only way we accomplish the goal is to invest in each of our kids academically, socially, and emotionally.  We must strive for strong personal connections with our students through engaging yet rigorous academic and elective programs.

Last week provided evidence that progress was made towards the goal.  As I walked throughout campus, student faces were lit with smiles and excitement and they participated in project based learning.  7th grade students practiced marching drills in social studies as they prepared for the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg.  The campus came alive after school with all-star basketball (boys) and softball (girls).  The cafeteria was filled with students and family members on Tuesday evening during another unbelievable chorus concert.

This week brings much of the same with home basketball and softball games after school on Monday (10/15) and Wednesday (10/17), as well as our first after school dance of the school year on Friday (10/19).

I can't help but notice and take pride in the way our community invests in DSMS.  Thank you.