Posted in Education, Sixth Grade, Teaching

The Sixth Grade Program at Cardigan

One of my professional goals for this year is to document the sixth grade program I’ve created and developed over the past nine years.  I want to get it all written down to see if it makes sense.  Are we utilizing the most effective program possible for our sixth grade boys?  Are we missing anything?  Is our rationale sound or are we just crazy?  Scratch that last question, I know I’m crazy so there is no need to ponder that one.

I want to have a living document that details what we do in the sixth grade and why we do it.  This way, I can pass it around to other teachers and educators to receive feedback on our program.  What else could or should we be doing to help support and challenge our students in a safe and caring manner?

The following two paragraphs are the introduction and rationale portions of my work in progress.  I wrote them yesterday afternoon and wanted to let them sit overnight before I reflected on them and made any revisions or changes.  I welcome any and all feedback on these two paragraphs.

Introduction

The sixth grade program at Cardigan is unique to the other grades because of the grand developmental differences between middle school boys.  Students who attend Cardigan Mountain School starting in the sixth grade and then graduating at the close of their ninth grade year, receive a much more meaningful and rich experience.  They grow together and in turn a family atmosphere and spirit is created within that group of four-year boys.  It’s very challenging to be a sixth grade student at Cardigan, especially when some of our students come from other countries.  To successfully complete the sixth grade program at Cardigan is a badge of honor and rite of passage of sorts.

Rationale

Brain-based research on how learning really happens reveals that students learn best when they are engaged and motivated and feel safe, challenged, and supported.  The sixth grade program has greatly evolved over the years due to this research.  We are always trying to find new and innovative ways to inspire and effectively educate and prepare our boys for meaningful lives in a global society.

Reflection

I’m not sure how I feel about the introduction paragraph.  It seems a bit too focused on just how different the sixth grade is compared to the other grades.  While that is true, I want the focus to be on the program itself and why we do what we do.

Introduction 1.2

Going through the adolescent stage of development is like being on a roller coaster without a seat belt.  When you flip upside down, you will fall out of your seat unless you are holding on with everything you’ve got.  Each benchmark within adolescence brings new turns, curves, and flips.  Working with adolescent boys is like trying to dodge raindrops.  You can’t avoid the inevitable.  Craziness and chaos will ensue.  But heck, that’s why  middle school teachers work with this age group.  We’re a little crazy too because we remember what it was like to be a teenager or pre-teen.

At Cardigan, we make it our mission to help mold young boys into compassionate and mindful young men.  It’s a wild and sometimes frustrating journey, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Boys who attend sixth grade at Cardigan begin this adventure earlier than most as it is the youngest and smallest grade at our school.  Because of this, we have created a very unique  program that will help our boys foster a family spirit and connection that they can carry with them throughout their time at Cardigan to help provide them with some safety features on the bumpy roller coaster of adolescence.

Reflection 1.2

Oh, I like that much better.  Wow, I’m so glad I took the time to reflect on this prior to adding more to my document.  This new opening will give my piece a more cohesive feel.

No, what about the rationale section?  I really like this paragraph because I feel as though I succinctly explain why we do what we do in the classroom.  We base every decision on data and what’s best for our boys.  To effectively educate our students we need to engage them in the content.  Understanding the neuroscience of learning is pivotal to what we do in the sixth grade.  After learning about the brain and how our students learn, the sixth grade program drastically changed.  We invited choice, engagement, and challenge into our curriculum.  This section says all of this in a much more simplistic manner.

Well, now that I have two very strong sections, I feel as though I can effectively organize and craft the rest of my piece around this foundation.  A house without some sort of foundation will begin to lilt and settle almost instantly.  Within a short period of time, other, more serious, structural damage will begin to take hold.  Without an effective opening to my document, I worried that the meat of my message would lack meaning and power.  Now I feel as though I have that.  Yah for reflection!

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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