Dear Middle School Families,
I hope this finds you enjoying the end of summer as much as possible given the many and varied challenges we are facing collectively and individually. As always, I am grateful for the sense of connection, care, and shared commitment to our students that we have at Norwood, and I look forward to seeing the middle schoolers soon, even though we will be starting school online. Here are a few important details ahead of the information that will be posted to HawksNest next week.
The Middle School will continue to be a place – for now, a virtual place – where students and families are known, respected, and valued as their authentic selves, and where communication and feedback are prioritized. To that end:
- Advisors will contact each advisee’s family for a short conference between August 24 and Back-to-School Night, September 17, and will connect directly with their advisees during Orientation (see below).
- Once classes have started, advisors and all teachers will regularly conference 1:1 with students and will encourage collaboration and connection within each advisory/class cohort and across the whole grade through a variety of assignments and activities.
- Grade-level chats for parents will continue in a virtual form, hosted by myself and other members of the Middle School Student Support Team; schedule coming soon.
IDENTITY AND ANTI-RACISM
Related to being known and valued, and thanks to the leadership of Aafia Talib, Travis Wooden, and a whole middle school planning group, we are preparing to expand anti-racism work into advisory, service learning, and life skills this year.
- Students in all middle school grades will begin the first quarter focused on the theme “Understanding and Growing into My Identities.”
- Later in the year, focus will include the ways we can respond to and work against racism.
- Throughout the year, these activities will be connected to school-wide curricular work led by Billy Vargas. More communication about this essential teaching and learning is forthcoming.
ORIENTATION AND MATERIALS PICK-UP
As noted in Matthew’s letter, students will be invited to participate in an outdoor, safely distanced Orientation on Norwood’s spacious campus before school starts.
- The goal is for students to connect in person with classmates and their advisor and/or a few teachers while picking up books, other materials, and tablet computers. (Click here for the list of additional family-provided school supplies each student must have.)
- Any student who cannot attend Orientation will have an opportunity to connect with their advisor virtually and will meet their classmates virtually on the first day of school; their supplies will be available for pick-up after their grade’s Orientation meeting time.
- The precise Orientation schedule will be shared on HawksNest next week, but here are the dates for each grade (morning sessions, approximately 90 minutes, ending by 12:30):
5th Grade – Monday, August 31
6th Grade – Tuesday, September 1
7th Grade – Wednesday, September 2
8th Grade – Thursday, September 3
Every middle school student will receive a Norwood computer tablet during Orientation.
- All 5th graders will receive in-depth training for their computer tablets during the school day beginning on the first day of school. Before school starts, they will receive brief, virtual training so they know how to join their online classes on the first day.
- New-to-Norwood students in other grades will be invited to introductory virtual training sessions before school starts and will then continue in-depth training with the rest of their grade beginning on the first day of school.
- Training dates and details will be posted on HawksNest at the end of next week.
- Key software and platforms for middle schoolers include:
- HawksNest – for information about class syllabi, assignments, and assessments.
- OneNote – for creating and submitting individual and collaborative assignments, creating and sharing class notes and projects, and viewing teacher feedback and instruction.
- Outlook Email and Calendar – for communication and class meeting invitations.
- Zoom and Teams – for online class meetings.
- Additional tools and online resources related to specific subjects.
As explained in this summer’s Town Hall meetings, the middle school Distance Learning schedule will mirror the schedule for on-campus learning.
- Students will begin each day at home at 8:05 a.m. and finish at 3:35 p.m. (2:35 p.m. on Friday).
- Every day will include a 50-minute lunch/recess break and other flex/study breaks, and teachers will be mindful to incorporate movement and brain breaks into their online class periods.
- Each middle school student will receive their own schedule on Monday, August 31.
- As teachers send invites to online class sessions, those will appear in students’ Outlook Calendars.
INSTRUCTION, ASSIGNMENTS, AND ASSESSMENT
In the spring and throughout the summer, teachers have researched and received training in best practices for online instruction. You and your middle school student can expect:
- Varied instructional techniques.
- Clearly communicated step-by-step instructions.
- Time for students to work on assignments during class.
- Multiple low-stakes assessments throughout each unit of study, and timely feedback.
- Limited homework outside of class time while we are following Distance Learning.
- Required attendance at advisory, PE/Athletics, visual arts, and performing arts classes.
- Support as needed during study and flex periods from the student’s advisor, teachers, learning specialist Brittany Young, and counselor Laura Prosen.
I will end where I started, with our commitment to ensuring students at Norwood are KNOWN, which seems especially important in this period where so much is unknown. Thank you in advance for your partnership and involvement in the months ahead! Working together, we will uphold our founder Frances Marsh’s vision for a “happy place of learning” no matter where that place may be.