School & District Management Blog

In the Middle

A career changer and former high school teacher, Hanne Denney is starting a new position this fall as a special education teacher—and department chairperson—at Southern Middle School in Anne Arundel County, Md. In this opinion blog, she’ll share her thoughts on middle school pedagogy, career change, and the teaching life. (In the Middle ceased publishing in July 2009.)

Education Opinion The Education of a Teacher
Direction: Write a six-word sentence, a mini-memoir, of your teacher life.
Hanne Denney, July 11, 2008
1 min read
Education Opinion So what are you doing about it?
I spent a year with middle school students. I taught an 8th grade science and social studies class first quarter then moved to a 7th grade language arts class. I also led a 6th grade advisory class all year. So I directly interacted with all three classes.
Hanne Denney, July 6, 2008
2 min read
Education Opinion Hearing Voices
I hear so many voices every day. I hear students calling loudly to friends in the hall, and students whispering confidentially to me in class when they need help. I hear teachers complain and celebrate. I hear administrators express exhaustion, and in the next breath, explain plans for the move to excellence. Sometimes I hear myself in the cacophony, but it’s all too rare.
Hanne Denney, April 25, 2008
1 min read
Education Opinion The Power of Written Language
I'm sorry I haven't contributed anything worthwhile to the Teacher Blogs recently. All the immediate concerns of special education take up each day, and suddenly a couple of weeks have gone by and I haven't had time to step back and look at the big picture. I have a little time now, so let me look.
Hanne Denney, March 12, 2008
2 min read
Education Opinion Best and Better
I've been working with middle school students for five months now. We're at the end of the second quarter. It is evaluation time. As a classroom teacher I assess student academic progress and assign a grade. This is done with my co-teacher. We look at scores on tests and quizzes, award points for homework turned in, and measure class participation. Standard procedure for every teacher.
Hanne Denney, January 24, 2008
3 min read
Education Opinion The Teacher or the Self?
New Year's is, of course, a time to reflect on Self. Formal resolutions aren't required, but time to look back and the willingness to look ahead are. Last year I wrote about using a notebook to keep track of all my "to-do's". That system has worked well for me. Everyone at my new school knows that I carry a red notebook -- and if they ask me to do something, they ask me to write it in the notebook. That way they know I'll see it again, and remember to actually do the task. I'm spending time today looking through that notebook to identify any tasks that I did not complete. I want to take care of those things early in the new year.
Hanne Denney, December 31, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Slumpish
I have been sluggish recently. Like a slug, in a slump, for about the last month. I am slumpish. I think my mind is trying to go into hibernation. Each day has become a long list of to-do’s and meetings. Each day’s class follows the same routine. My lunch is boring. I climb into bed the same time each night, and rise around the same time. I don’t want to do much at home. I’m in an early winter cave. No creativity.
Hanne Denney, December 9, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Blessings and Demons
I had an unexpected blessing a couple of weeks ago. My home computer was broken. I shouldn’t use the passive tense – actually I tripped on the power cord and yanked it onto the floor. For some reason, it won’t work anymore.
Hanne Denney, November 19, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Spiral Pass
The day after my last posting, I was asked to cover another teacher's class for 45 minutes. She was absent, and no substitute teacher was available. I agreed easily, because I am a team player. I actually like going into another teacher's class. Since I only teach one class of one subject of one grade, it's a way for me to meet more students in my new school.
Hanne Denney, October 29, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion The Pebble in the Pond
The first quarter is almost over. The teachers now know which students are "problems" or "challenges" or "high-flyers" -- the ones who will need a lot of teacher time to handle attitude issues. One of our school administrators said to me (with a very loud sigh), "I guess the honeymoon's over". She was referring to discipline. The teachers use positive reinforcement techniques, with praise for a job well done, and reward slips given out generously. But the teachers also use progressive dscipline, meaning that there is a tier of response to behavior. First we try talking to the student privately about their behavior, to remind them of the rules and give them opportunity to change. After three in-class behavior interventions (verbal warnings, calls home, detention) the misbehvior becomes an out-of-classroom problem.
Hanne Denney, October 24, 2007
3 min read
Education Opinion Team Effort
Today was a rare opportunity. The Special Education office for my district brought together all core academic department chairs for secondary education. The leaders of Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts- and Special Education -- spent the day talking about the challenges of team teaching. Since I am new to my school this year, I was really happy to have a structured setting in which to develop a colleagial relationship with my fellow DC's.
Hanne Denney, October 10, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Steps to Learning
I am still trying to figure out middle school. It IS different from high school. Many of you are thinking, Duh! I'm still figuring out the steps to learning for early adolescents.
Hanne Denney, September 30, 2007
3 min read
Education Opinion Celebrate and Embrace
I just took two days off from school. My husband and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary - 25 years! I have been married more than half my life. It has passed so quickly, and usually happily. It's the only thing I've done for that long - except for mothering.
Hanne Denney, September 25, 2007
2 min read
Education Opinion Human Interest Story
School's in full swing, yet I feel as though I'm just getting started. I am organizing files, reading the materials for class, trying to remember all my student's names. I'm also trying to remember all the faculty and staff names at my new school - Southern Middle School in Lothian, Maryland. Lothian is a rural/suburban community. The school is surrounded by beautiful open farm land, although housing developments continue to be a cash crop for our community. A good portion of our students live in mobile home parks. Some of our families live in expansive waterfront communities with all the privileges of boats and piers. The economic diversity is interesting, as you can never assume a student has a computer at home, or has travelled to the ocean, or has parents who read fluently. You can't assume there are pencils at home to bring to school. I can't assume a student had study time on Sunday afternoon, because the family may be out on their boat until late. I'm learning never to assume.
Hanne Denney, September 16, 2007
3 min read