The AMLE Conference in Portland Oregon
By: Elle Bremmer
Way out west in Portland Oregon, the Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE) had their annual conference. Over 60 topics were covered in almost 500 seminars! The idea of AMLE was to improve ideas and teachings in middle school.
We are 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from Robert Gray Middle School. We were asked by our school to attend these seminars and become student reporters and to write an article to summarize what’s happening here on the West Coast.
I attended a few seminars and I will tell you the key ideas of each of them.
The first seminar I attended was called Social Boundaries: Mixing it Up. The idea was to stop bullying and how to break kids out of their social comfort zone. Teachers were asked to create certain models designed specifically for their school or classroom needs. One idea was to assign kids certain tables at lunch and staff would eat with them to make sure they were engaging in conversations and learning a bit about one another. The problem with this idea is that tables and lunches are overcrowded and supervision may be an issue. Schools are also trying to break down the concept of “ageism”. They want to try to have 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to be able to talk to each other freely without fear of being humiliated by someone older than them. But some teachers and principals are against the idea of these diverse lunches. Some teachers think that students can self- regulate lunches and take responsibility themselves. Others believe that there should be student leaders or elected student helpers to help make sure there is no bullying and everyone is able to talk freely and it’s not just one person talking. There is some effectiveness with this idea because 83% of students said that the event helped them make new friends, 79% said that they had more tolerance and openness towards other students, and 78% said that they now feel more comfortable interacting with people who are different than them (i.e.: religion, culture, and race). Teachers also get that most bullying happens when there is no adult supervision, such as restrooms, bus stops, and online. The key idea of this class was to try and open up diversity, tackle bullying, and to create a positive environment at school.
We were also able to get an interview with Thomas Ronk, the leader of the class. We asked him what teachers get out of this class and he said, “To reduce hate, prejudice, stop bullying, and to break up cliques. But mainly, to create a positive environment and to teach kids to be confident.”
The next session I went to was called Future City: Making STEM a Reality. We were only there for a short time but we managed to get a few minutes with the instructor. The STEM project is designed to teach students engineering and teamwork at the same time. Teams are given building materials and they create a futuristic city.
The third session I went to was called Leadership and School Improvement Practices that Accelerate Height Student Growth. The idea behind this seminar was to try and show ideas on how to measure student academic success and setting goals. There were a few highly effective models shown and the instructor gave great examples for academic achievement in the classroom. There were 3 ideas to help kids (and teachers) get that success.
- Limit goals- Focus on one goal at a time and get good at it
- Provide opportunities for collaboration
- Establish important structures and routines
The instructor also emphasized the idea that we build on, not change culture. We also need to stop using rubrics and models that are used around the city, state, or even the country. We need to create our own rubrics designed specifically for one classroom or just that school. He also showed a model for what teachers and principals need to teach kids. These examples were set in a 4-quadrant rubric. In each one of the quadrants was a philosophy we should teach. They were collaboration, creativity, structure, and achievement.
Overall, the conference was very useful to teachers and principals everywhere. It definitely provided great information and tips to make middle school easier for everyone!