I live in the elementary world where students walk in straight lines and our hallways are considered the "Quiet Zones." Today, I had the grand opportunity to spend a couple of hours at the Middle School where the hallways are anything but Quiet Zones and there are no militant lines of students moving from point A to point B. It truly was an enlightening experience.
So, I had a couple of minutes and stopped by the Library to see what was going on. The Library Media Specialist was conducting a class with her students on how to use a database accurately while sitting in the front two rows of library using brand new Dell computers. There were a couple of boys in the back, that were not with that group, but working independently finishing up some project work.
It's neat to see some of the old students I had in fifth grade and many ran up to me to say hello, which of course interrupted the lessons in the Library. After the greetings, I spent a couple of minutes trying to get a feel for what the students were working on.
I watched one of the students in the back of the room work on a project about "Email Safety." Apparently he was charged with listing key points of what was considered safe. He went to Google, typed in "email safety," and directly went to the very first link, and clicked. He found a sentence or two from that Internet site and retyped it in his word document. All of this done within a matter of seconds.
Now granted, I have no idea what the objective of the lesson was or the expectations of his work, but this is where our students are at. Give them independent time to work on a project and they will quickly, without much thought, copy and paste or regurgitate the information without a second glance. By the way, he never left the first page of his search results for "email safety."
So after having the amazing opportunity to see students at the next level, I am asking myself some questions about what I should be doing now with my fifth graders.
1. What skills should my fifth graders take with them to the Middle School?
2. What am I doing well to prepare my students for the Middle School?
3. What can I improve on to help them be more prepared?
Ultimately, students are very resilient and tend to deal with the transition from the elementary to the middle school much easier than the parents. However, I was granted a glimpse into their world but for an hour or two and it was quite amazing. There was a tremendous amount of energy and excitement, hustle and bustle that simply makes for a dramatic difference from the Elementary World that I am familiar with. Not bad, just different. This is not to say that energy and excitement is missing from our elementary school, on the contrary. However, those of you that deal with Middle School students know better than I that these students are very active in a way very different from elementary students.
At this point, I am simply asking the question: "What do we need to do at the Elementary level to prepare students for Middle School that we are not already doing?"
I spent this last weekend buried in UStream presentations given at the EduCon Conference and had wonderful conversations with like minded educators who grapple with these challenges everyday. It has been powerful to see those educators who have discovered ways to manage the challenges, much of it by trial and error. I look forward to the challenge and will consistently reflect on what I can do to better prepare my students and my children for the world in which they are entering.
Wish me luck.