Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Blog – Screens, Conferences, Spirit Week, and Socials

Winter Blog – Screens, Conferences, Spirit Week, and Socials


For five years now, the MS has issued tech devices to each of its students. With every student equipped to access the world through his or her fingertips on iPads, we began exploring fresh ways to provide skill development, broader perspectives, knowledge, daily assignments, and tests. We excitedly created rubrics for new projects. We purchased apps and online textbooks. We developed Google sites.

Though we established expectations and rules for the use of these devices, even having parents and students sign user agreements, we quickly realized that Pandora’s box was open. Along with all the positive attributes are broken screens, tech issues, lost files, snap-chats, mimes, and games. The interactions that characterize a group of learners in a classroom are less genuine, focused, and meaningful, and the same is true in the pod before school.

Screens are addictive and exceedingly demanding. While making notes or working on a project, notifications keep popping up in the corner of the screen. A friend or mom sends a message that cannot easily be ignored. An addiction to a game or social site distracts you from being in the moment.

The pendulum swings, and we are learning as educators to more intentionally direct and limit the use of the devices at school, creating more device free activities and ensuring that we issue hard copies of textbooks. In seventh grade, we are experimenting with having students leave their iPads at home for study, research, and Google site access. The increased engagement is wonderful to behold.

We believe that technology is a tool, one more of many, that supports curricular design and delivery rather than being the impetus and starting point for such design. The cart was getting ahead of the horse. There is no blame. All of us are learning how to optimally live with our personal devices at hand.


On February 2 and 3, the second set of formal conferences is scheduled. These are short but potentially meaningful meetings with two of your student’s teachers. The primary objective is for students to witness and participate in a meeting where there is collaborative dialogue around goals, strategies and problem solving. Being the focus of teachers and parents together in one place offers students an opportunity to practice representing themselves, as they will increasingly be called upon to do in their lives. 

Please, please know that if you have questions or concerns of an academic, social or emotional nature, do not wait for formal conferences to address them. Teachers are available to you. Leave a voice or email message and set a time to meet with a particular teacher or several teachers as the issue dictates. Do not be shy. We are all on the same team. 

Spirit Week

Spirit week is set for February 6-10 and is a student-led fundraising and fun-raising week of activities that include dress days, silly contests, and sweet-treat sales. We hope to include a faculty-student basketball game in the mix. Do not be alarmed if your student leaves the house with crazy hair designs and costumes during that week. The proceeds from contests, sweet treats and coin war go to the MS service account in support of our work at St. Elizabeth’s, Martin’s, Meridian, Porter Place, Cochiti, and Peru. Each year, we raise close to $2000 on behalf of our work in the community.


The Island social, originally scheduled for February 10 was somehow not scheduled for that date. Now it is February 24. That is why we did not schedule a social in January. The two other socials of the second half of the school year are scheduled for March 10 and May 5.

These three socials are MS socials organized by teachers or parents for SMA MS students only. They are not formal or fancy. They are casual and low-key. For that reason, please respect the following:

1.   For the Island social, parents are asked to come into the building to sign in their child upon arrival and sign out their child when retrieving them. For socials at SMA, parents may drop off and pick up students in carpool fashion in front of Bishop Evans.

2. On behalf of the chaperones, please be prompt for pick up.

3. Limousine delivery and retrieval of students does not match philosophically with the mission and values of St. Mary’s Academy. Your respect of this is appreciated – no limousine delivery or retrieval. These are fun, casual middle school events.

4. Please, no after-parties. A small group slumber party or hanging out afterward with a good friend is reasonable.

5. For many good reasons, this is an event for SMA Middle School students only. Students attending schools other than St. Mary’s Academy are not allowed to attend.