Middle Grades Conference Highlights Excellence in Practice

Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier and co-director of PLP Pathways.

On January 27th the Middle Grades Collaborative hosted the 11th annual Middle Grades Conference at the University of Vermont. Educators from across the state, many who had attended the June 2017 Middle Grades Institute at Champlain College, reconvened to share their teacher action research which they conducted during the past fall semester in their classrooms and schools.

Throughout the day, educators presented their work, findings, data, and implications for middle level practice. The pedagogical expertise and collaborative discussions on display were stunning. From my point of view and those I talked with, the overall quality of presentations was superb. Teachers and students (yes, students presented too) from all corners of the state demonstrated why Vermont is such an innovative and forward-thinking educational community. A sampling of projects included: building reading engagement through personalized skill development; integrating ethnography to document change in the Mad River Valley, and developing instructional supports for elementary students moving into a more personalized learning environment. The research, leadership, and dedication demonstrated by these teachers was deeply inspiring. At this time of year, when educators tend to burrow more deeply in their classrooms and experience the “grind”, the Middle Grades Conference was particularly motivating.

In addition to presentations, the Middle Grades Collaborative used a discussion protocol to gather educator and student feedback on how the policy document Middle School is Not a Building could be adapted for today’s changing landscape. Again, these discussions revealed the deep commitment to middle level education that occurs throughout Vermont’s schools and communities.

In closing, we’d like to recognize the Middle Grades Collaborative for their continued support of this outstanding work, the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education as a major factor in the evolution of technology and innovation in education, and Erin Wertlieb of the University of Vermont for her strategic management of the conference. For those educators seeking to participate in Middle Grades Collaborative work, check out the Middle Grades Institute.