Tonight was my 8th Back to School Night at Union Middle School. Every year is a bit different, but truly just more of the same. Our (amazing, national champion) cheerleaders perform for the first few minutes. Our Home & School Club (HSC) president follows with an introduction and shared how our HSC supports our school and students. The principal then closes the introduction and sends the parents on their way.
While we followed the same format tonight, I decided to change up my portion of the night. Instead of sharing slides full of text with the yearly updates, I decided instead to talk to our parent community about what it's like to be in middle school and how we can all work together to support our students.
Below is my speech from tonight, each paragraph tied to a slide shown on the overhead screen. I've included the slides below as well. Thanks for reading!
I am Todd Feinberg, your principal.
Normally, this is the time of the night where I talk for a good ten to fifteen minutes. I discuss our SBAC scores (which were very good - Math scores went up a lot!), our Chromebook 1:1 initiative, our school mission and vision, among many other things. All of these topics are available on the slides link and will be sent out later tonight as well.
Instead, I’d like to talk about Union Middle School and maybe even middle school in general.
Middle School is hard. It is hard for our students. It is hard for our staff. It is hard for you, our parent community.
To me, a middle school experience can be perfectly described by the following gif:
(Notice how she gets up every single time)
Seeing how challenging the academic and social scene of middle school can be, I hope you agree with me about what Middle School should be.
It’s where students and teachers can grow and take risks.
Where students learn and are excited to learn each and every day.
A place where kids get a bit of time and freedom to figure things out… to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
When I talk with my staff -- and let me once again say that this is the best staff I’ll ever work with -- we talk nonstop about how to best support our students.
We discuss how they need to be the ones our students can count on, someone who our students can rely on.
After all, I don’t just want our staff to cultivate, to grow our students’ academic gifts, but also encourage their inner kindness as well.
And if you don’t follow our teachers on twitter, please do. You can follow them, follow the school account @goteamums or the school hashtag #teamUMS. On Twitter, you’ll see how we celebrate the positives of Union Middle School, how we make these positives so loud.
And our parents… As I’ve shared before, our parent community is a huge part of our school’s success.
For those 6th grade parents in the crowd… from your emails and texts, I can definitely sense the anxiety about middle school that we share. Please don’t worry about The Wrong; try to be excited about everything that is Going Right.
Know that there are times where you think you are helping your student… but please consider that what they may truly need is something else altogether…
Parents - We encourage our students to share their appreciation with their teachers. Please consider doing the same as well, perhaps together as a family?
And for all of us as a school community…
Please join our staff in reminding our students that they need not solve all of the world’s problems they’re presented with. Please encourage them to just be themselves. Tell them it’s going to be ok.
Remind them that they matter to you, to us.
Encourage them to share their ideas, no matter how silly.
Try to be the example you want for your student. I’ve found that teenagers don’t always listen to our words but they do watch and mimic our actions.
Encourage them to try hard, always give their best.
And I promise you… I will try to make this middle school adventure for you and for them the best possible experience I can. You can text me via the Remind App. Many of you do. A lot. Late at night. Often. And while we have over 1000 students, please know that we care very deeply about how to best support your 1.
I promise to best support your student both here at UMS and beyond.
And yes, there are times we may disagree. That’s ok. Just know that I make decisions that are very well-vetted and with much care and compassion for our kids and school community. Not some of the time... all of the time.
And above all else, always remember that tomorrow is another day to enjoy, to start anew.
Welcome to Union Middle School. Enjoy your night. Follow your student’s schedule. If you need a new schedule, stop by the office for a copy. Thank you.
(All images attributed where possible; most taken from Imgur/Reddit/Twitter)