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Two Days in the Life of the GSL Middle School

Posted on October 2nd, 2015

Two Days in the Life of the GSL Middle School

Dear Parents,

I hope that you are enjoying this cool weather as much as I am.  After months and months of heat and humidity, I’m hopeful that we’ve finally made it to what I believe is one of the best months to live in Memphis.

I’ve decided to try something completely different this month. Instead of the typical blog that includes lots of writing and a picture or two, I’ve decided to share an IMovie that tries to capture the essence of life in the middle school at GSL.  For any of you whose middle school student’s responses to questions about their day is filled with one word or one sentence answers (i.e. “it was okay,” “things are good,” “I enjoyed lunch,” “recess is fun,” etc), this is an opportunity to learn more about what happens between 7:45am-3:10pm.   

Before I talk about some of the specifics in the movie (and I use that term lightly…this video won’t be winning any Oscars or Emmys), I’d like to share some of the disclaimers first: 

1.  This is an amateur video.  I’d love to say that I’m great at taking pictures and making movies, but I’d be lying if I did.  You’ll notice immediately that taking a clear picture is one of my limitations as a photographer (and the IPhone 4 camera wasn’t particularly helpful).  They say that pictures are worth 1000 words, but, given the quality of these, they are probably worth between 200-300 words each.

2.  These pictures were taken in no particular order, without advanced notice to teachers or students, and with no agenda whatsoever.  I didn’t ask teachers to share specific lessons or ask students to do specific things. You’ll see, in true middle school fashion, that some students posed for pictures and others tried to avoid them.  This is not intended to promote the great work that happens on a daily basis at GSL. While you certainly see great things happening, its clearly “raw” footage.    

3.  This video doesn’t capture something that truly defines a great middle school: noise. You are treated to the inspiring sounds of Five for Fighting’s “Chances” and McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” but the sound and fury of daily middle school life is wholly different.  For those of us who know and love middle school and middle school kids, the combination of laughter, talking, lockers opening & closing, etc. is something that defines middle school life outside of the classroom. 

4.  The video does capture, unfortunately, one of the other main aspects of the middle school day and the middle school child: perpetual motion.  You shouldn’t be surprised if your middle schooler comes home tired because they are “on” the entire day, moving from place to place between classrooms and buildings.  They go “all out” at recess and during PE, and they rarely are sitting still in class (that is the BEST sign of a great middle school). 

Limitations of the photographer and videographer aside, “Two Days in the Life of the GSL Middle School” epitomizes much of the philosophy and culture of 5th-8th grade at GSL.  Here are some of the specifics that I’d like to note:

-Teachers are going to great lengths to help your child get organized and continually improve at the “executive function” part of school.  In addition to the planners you see at home, many have larger versions displayed on their walls.  They also provide areas for individual students to save materials and stay organized.

-The interactive, multi-layered approach to teaching is evident throughout the movie. In science, for example, students learned about the parts of a cell from the textbook & teacher instruction, constructed a cell using dough, food coloring and paints, and looked at live cells under a microscope.  In math, you’ll notice students responding to “Captain Forsyth” and you’ll see a picture of Mrs. Norris’ math café, where students can work out problems in a more informal setting.  In English, you’ll see students watching “To Kill A Mockingbird” after they’ve read the novel as a class and dissected the themes of the book.

-You’ve probably heard about the important connection between physical activity/moving and learning.  There are lots of examples of our students in different settings that exemplify these best practices.  While many of us remember school as a place of desks in rows and lots of sitting, research suggests that middle school students learn better when they are allowed to move.  We have lots of “21st-century” furniture that help us meet these student needs.  Don’t be alarmed if you see your child standing, leaning back on a chair, and sitting or laying on the ground…that’s actually a great thing. 

-We care deeply about helping your child develop tangible skills to take with them to high school.  Students are intentionally working out problems at the front of the class, leading prayer and announcements at lunch, and learning how to properly construct a notecards. While students will never remember all of the information that they’ve learned, the skills will go into the “toolbox” that students bring with them to high school.  Lukers are known as strong writers, leaders, and confident public speakers.  It’s not surprising given the emphasis placed on the development of these traits. 

-Middle school teachers are actively promoting Mr. Kvande’s emphasis on creativity.  The colonial cereal box, selfie biography, meter project, and upstander letters are great examples of creativity in action.  

-More than anything, the video highlights the things that make middle school at GSL memorable and leave a lasting impact with graduates.  It’s the time and energy put into decorating lockers, the conversations at break and lunch with friends that feel like family, and the not easily quantifiable impact of experiencing some of life’s most challenging years in a safe, nurturing environment.   

So sit back, relax, and enjoy. (click here to view the video) Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for watching.  I hope that you and your families have a wonderful weekend and an exciting fall break in a few days.

Most Sincerely,

Mike Boyer
Head of Middle School

Tuesday chapel is an essential part of the middle school week.  The positive relationship between the church and the school is one of the things that make GSL special.  As exciting as it might be, students were not actively laying the new roof for the church sanctuary.  Father Richard talked about how sound bounces, and explained that when wood is more dense, the sound bounces off more easily.  Students had the opportunity to feel the density of the new wood.

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