Meet in the Middle: Revamping Past Practices for Our Students’ Future Success

Session notes from “Meet in the Middle,” led by Jessica Cabeen, Garrett Dukette, Carmen Maring, and Todd L. Brist.

What were the speakers’ main messages?

Working in the middle level is obviously very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging. As middle-level leaders, we need to look for ways to utilize best and promising practices from our network, thus we have to “meet in the middle” to support, encourage, and challenge each other to make our schools the very best for our staff and students.

What was the speaker’s best quote?

One of the best things you can ask a parent is to tell you about their kid in “a million words or less.” It sounds absurd, but if you ask, listen, and prompt, it will show that you have a genuine interest in the child and the relationship with the family.

What were the top ideas from the session?

This session was four mini sessions.

  • Learning to Lead in the Age of Technology–How do I communicate messages with kids that they will actually hear? Tik Tok! Also, make meaningful connections with content and figure out how to connect the content and the messaging. 
  • Building Relationships with Students in Unique Ways–The connections you make with students will last a lifetime, so make it count! You can build relationships in three ways: 1) be vulnerable and authentic, 2) create opportunities for student voice and leadership, and 3) have fun…the job is stressful enough!
  • Enhancing Staff Development Through Personalized, Relevant Learning–We need to revolutionize staff development (use different skills and strategies to move past the traditional/what we do now) and consider how to shift our practices to align our purpose, autonomy, and mastery in order to create engagement. With an accumulation of a million small things (individual efforts), we can move the needle and level up. 
  • Creating Platforms to Share Learning with Families–We often assume our families don’t want to be involved, but their involvement is a necessary variable in the student success equation. Through two-way communication, outreach, and a review of current practices, you can create platforms to share learning with families. 

What is one strategy that you will implement immediately?

The 3-Minute Brainstorm: Ask yourself three very important questions when considering how to build more unique relationships with my students:

  • How can I be more vulnerable and authentic with my students?
  • How can I create endless opportunities for student voice and leadership?
  • How can I (and the students) have more fun?

What is one strategy that will help you with instructional leadership?

The 3-Minute Pause: a strategy for enhancing staff development through personalized, relevant learning:

  • Appreciate–What do I appreciate currently, or what opportunities do I appreciate?
  • Ask–What do I want to know more about? Who can help me learn more about it?
  • Apply–What will I try, or what action steps will I take?

What is one idea you want to learn more about?

What are resources you will check out?

I can’t wait to tell my teachers about this idea:

Garrett Dukette turned a wall outside his office into a mural of words that reflect growth mindset, perseverance, and grit, a great way to take a plain brick wall and turn it into an inspiring reflection of norms and expectations.

Notes by Todd L. Brist, Watertown Middle School, Watertown, South Dakota.