Monday, September 11, 2017

We attended back-to-school night last Wednesday- it's hard to believe that it's our 7th back-to-school night by now. Here are some impressions from it.

Speed Dating Format

Both my husband and I thought that this "speed dating" format did not work well - each teacher was given only 12 minutes to cover a variety of topics. A teacher who does both language and social studies got a whopping 25 minutes to cover hers. There was no time given for questions, which was a little disappointing. I see us scheduling meetings with some of Smarty's teachers at some point to get a bit more information and get to know them better.

Language and History

This year, Smarty has a new teacher for language and history who is new to school and relatively young, teaching only 6 years. Smarty likes her a lot - she has cool books in her classroom, and she seems so far to be able to maintain a relative order in middle school chaos. She even managed to make the first social studies' unit of maps sound exciting. This year, Smarty will be learning more about Middle Ages across different continents and cultures, learning to read and comprehend Shakespearean English, and strengthening her skills as a writer. There is a lot to look forward to in this curriculum.


Smarty will have three different electives this year, and they all sound promising. Currently, she is doing music, and working on a ukulele duet with a partner. Then she is going to have environmental advocacy - it's hard yet to say how this will look like, I am kind of glad that she is not in the first group for this as some kinks need to be worked out. Also, she will be doing an exploratory art led by our 6th grade science and math teacher. She said in her one slide overview that she is hoping to get kids to see connections between arts and other STEAM letters and let them branch out into different directions to pick what they want to do in art.


Smarty adores her new math teacher so far. In fact, it's almost frightening, because she absolutely rejects any idea of some sort of differentiation or change for math. My husband and I discussed it at length, and we feel that we still need to insist on a full assessment and having a plan for her. It will be too sad if she has to take a summer school class between 8th and 9th grade, simply because her school does not provide any sort of advanced program in math, while, in reality, she already knows the material at least 2 years ahead.

Maker Lab

Sadly, Smarty is not as excited about Maker's Lab classes as some of her classmates. She is not interested in Robotics or programming even though she is perfectly able to do Robotics labs in Maker Lab class. Maybe she feels that way, because this class tends to be extremely loud and chaotic, and that level of activity tires her out and makes her grumpy. Anyway, the program for this year sounds quite intriguing - one term for Robotics and sensors, another term for Makey Makey projects, and the third term for aero engineering. Hopefully, she will warm up to the program once it gets going.


A new science teacher was my favorite new teacher, perhaps because when we introduced ourselves as Smarty's parents, her face lit up and she exclaimed, "I just love your daughter. She reminds me so much of my own daughter when she was that age." This year's science curriculum sounds ambitious, but Smarty also has science almost daily, so it should be doable. What we like is that the teacher is focused on teaching kids to organize their science notebooks - something that Smarty sorely needs. We are hoping that she finally gets science education that she deserves.

Your Turn

What are your students learning this year?

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

12 minutes is definitely not much time. Do you have patent teacher conferences coming up?

Ticia said...

It's really hard in junior high to give each teacher enough time once you get into several teachers in a 2 hour period. I don't envy the schools that schedule nightmare.