September 11

By the third week of school with the routine of a new year established, a calmness often follows. I have seen it this year on teachers’ and students’ faces, and I have heard it in conversations with parents, along with the excitement of returning to school.

Once we know the day-to-day schedule, we budget our time and get organized, so we can create action plans that will help us be successful. Even better, we begin to build on last year's learning and experiences, so this year IS different than the last. But while we might crave a routine, we also can be lulled into a bit of complacency.

The brain is surprised when an outcome occurs that it was not expecting. We all carry predictions and expectations based on our histories, but while being surprised is too intense, the brain does desire variety as it connects to prior experiences. Often the greatest learning, the most memorable experiences, begins with something known with something new, the unknown, added. 

A personal example was when I was a basketball coach. Each week of a fairly long season there was a routine of practices on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (and often Saturdays) with games on Tuesdays and Fridays. This was the schedule for the length of the season, so while everyone knew it, what helped make it exciting were the different opponents and locations each week: the opportunities to demonstrate what we had worked on in practice (known) and the (unknown) hoped-for outcome of a win. To emphasize this example, the only seasons where this was not as enjoyable was when we struggled to compete, when we did not win very often. Unfortunately, there was no unknown; we pretty much knew what the outcome of the games would be at the end of the week. This made it very challenging for us to get motivated.

My example relates to many aspects of school: If the band or choir does not have a concert, the routines get monotonous. If the science class only has direct instruction without labs, learning slows. If there is only one unit that month for a social studies course, one drawing for an art class, the same food for lunch every day, we become less engaged, we do not care as much, and we end up not being very productive.

Fortunately I do not see this as teachers work very hard to create valuable learning opportunities. Unfortunately though, I have seen variations of it. I have seen it when a student does not see herself being successful in class and decides that the potential failure is not worth an initial effort. I have heard it when peers make inappropriate comments to another student, and the student misplaces value into those words and becomes so frustrated he cannot function or think clearly. And I have felt it as a father who wanted my son to be heard when he struggled with math. It did not need to be fixed; it just needed to have some action that demonstrated that we were heard and that working together would make this class better for him.

The routines have arrived at Spectrum Middle School. Have you felt them yet? Has your child? Can we partner with you to help them be positive so we can have variety and can grow our knowns with our unknowns? It is a new year that all begin like previous ones, but what can be different this year is we all can be responsive and collaborate when the challenges occur. We can think positively first, knowing that collectively we can figure anything out. 

This year’s district theme is about connections. Arthur Aufderheide says, “All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge.” Please join my staff and me in the knowledge that when we connect our pasts, this wonderful, new present, we will create a fabulous school year. 


Weeks at a Glance

  • September 8: Student/Family Handbook acknowledgement due (LINK)
  • September 11 - 15: Fastbridge testing completed in Literature
  • September 15: Picture Day - for those that never had their picture taken
  • September 18: Professional Development Day - no school
  • September 20: Academic Eligibility Warning for student-athletes
  • September 21: First WIN Meeting
  • September 25 - 29: Homecoming Week