On November 7th, 8th, and 9th, Northgate sent a team of teachers and administrators to the Association for Middle Level Education’s National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. This conference offers more than 300 sessions addressing issues vital to middle school educators. Featuring two keynote speakers, each day of the conference kicked off with the thoughts and expertise of Baruti Kafele and Jessica Lahey. Baruti Kafele engaged the audience of more than 4,000 middle level educators as he talked about instructional leadership and how to “walk your why” every day. Both captivating and realistic, Mr. Kafele gave advice on how to strive for continuous improvement in our schools and focused on ensuring that everyone in leadership is perceived as someone who can make everyone around him or her better. Mrs. Lahey, author of the book “The Gift of Failure,” spoke about the mistakes we make as parents and educators in an effort to help our students succeed. According to Mrs. Lahey, by motivating students using extrinsic rewards and encouraging students to focus on things such as points and grades, we are undermining motivation and long-term learning. While both speakers presented well-researched and essential perspectives to consider, these two sessions were just the beginning of a lot of critical lessons to learn about students in the middle grades. The Northgate team was also able to learn from expert educators in important areas such as trauma based teaching and learning, culture building, safety and learning, technology in the classroom, and formative assessment.
In addition to learning new ways to improve the experience for Northgate students, the team from Northgate presented a 60 minute session on how our advisory program has positively impacted our middle school students over the past year. The focus of the presentation was centered on finding ways to connect with students and provide advocacy for them as they navigate the sometimes treacherous middle grades. At Northgate, students are “drafted” into an advisory based on an interest survey completed in 6th grade. Teachers spend a lot of time considering which faculty advisor will best fit the needs of each incoming 7th and 8th grader. Once in an advisory, the group becomes somewhat of a family at school. Students and their advisors work to check in each Monday to discuss the weekend happenings and review current events. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, each team works together to develop the essential social and emotional skills our students will need to navigate successful futures. Wednesdays are dedicated to goal setting, peer tutoring, and grade monitoring, and Fridays are full of fun! In addition to all of these important tasks, the middle school team works to improve school culture by embarking on multiple school wide projects such as service learning, door and hallway decorating, mindfulness, spreading positivity, and kindness.
The faculty at Northgate understands that a well rounded education consists of much more than general subjects such as Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Teaching students vital soft skills to prepare them for a global society is an important piece of the Northgate curriculum, and the middle level team is proud to have been invited to speak on behalf of the amazing things that are happening every day at Northgate.