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Stuck in the Middle: Engagement in Learning and Socializing

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Stuck in the Middle: Engagement in Learning and Socializing
by Kal Russell - Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 8:22 AM

Stuck in the Middle: Engagement in Learning and Socializing

The first week of school is one of the most exciting times of the year.  Getting students re-connected is extremely important for their success and well-being.   We do two things right away for our students.  First of all, we try to engage them in their learning.  Secondly, and equally important, we give students the opportunity to learn to successfully socialize, interact with people and develop healthy relationships.  School provides the structures and routines for these two important pieces of growth to take place for children in a safe and caring environment.

In September, middle school students are especially excited about the opportunity to hang out with their peers and develop new friendships.  During class time the main job is to engage in the learning, this can include time to work, collaborate and interact with friends and classmates. Recess, on the other hand, gives us time to socialize, engage in unstructured play and connect with others in a relaxed atmosphere.  That is why we try to offer students a variety of opportunities at recess to meet up with their friends.  That being said, almost all our students head to the same location to start recess: their safe place.  I often think we should play the Friends theme song, ‘I’ll be there for you,’ over the loudspeakers as our students storm out to their spot to meet up with their friends.

At NSMS, students can hang out on the playground tossing a frisbee or football, play soccer, basketball or tag, climb the Hawksnest, swing, do cartwheels or just walk around and talk with friends.  Students can also visit the Learning Commons to read, play board games or build a puzzle.  Tuesday and Thursday you can ‘game it up’ in the computer lab.  If you are looking for a more structured activity you can join intramurals with Mr. Chambers or volunteer in the canteen with Mr. Hartley and Ms. Johnson.  There are also various clubs to join;  it won’t be long before the stage is filled with Mrs. Chambers dancers.  We also have Mrs. Tamburino stationed at the office to help, support and interact with students who need a different type of adult connection.  

At recess, I like to circulate around the playground and talk with students.  The new school year means that there is a whole new group of grade 6 students that I need to get to know.   The first week I am asking many students very simple questions like: “What is your name?” and “What school did you go to last year?”  I am surprised at how many of them have had siblings at NSMS over the past five years.

Last Wednesday I asked one of our new grade 6 students his name.  After he replied I said, “You must be Shredder’s brother.”  It was a rhetorical statement because I could immediately see the resemblance in his face and kind eyes.  “We use to call your sister “Shredder” because she would often come to the office at recess to help with shredding paper and as a point guard, on the grade 8 basketball team, she was great at shredding up the other team's defense with her quickness and ball handling.”  We exchange pleasantries for a few more minutes before I headed out to meet my next student.  

By Friday I was wandering the playground, so pleased with how students were playing and connecting when I had to return to my office.  As I entered  I noticed a young student carefully and purposefully placing paper in the shredder.  I smiled at Mrs. Tamburino and said, “It looks like we have a new “Shredder.”

Mrs. Tamburino replied, just loud enough for the young man to hear, “No.”  She then added with  a smile, “This is Shredder 2.0!”

At North Saanich Middle School, a successful return to school includes finding your comfort zone at recess.  The classroom routines provide us all with the structures to help us maintain balance, engage our minds and make our lives purposeful, but recess gives us time to socialize, hang with friends or shred.  If you ask me what my favorite part of the day is, you will get the same answer I would have given you when I was in middle school.  Recess!  Oh, yah, I am still in middle school and I am still excited about meeting new friends!

Welcome back to school and Go Hawks!