By Brenda Vatthauer, Middle School Principal
As we wind down the 2020-21 school year at Hutchinson Middle School, we have many things to reflect on and celebrate this year. We are very busy reshaping the educational plans for next fall. We can all say that this school year has been a year like no other. As educators we have grown in many ways moving in and out of learning model changes, adapting to new safety guidelines, yet providing the best instruction to all of the middle school students. Our middle school students have learned to make transitions, adapt to changes in how they “learn best” and discover new opportunities during this very busy year. We greatly appreciate our parents who have supported learning in many ways and adjusted their schedules to help learning continue. “Thank-you parents!” In the past few weeks, one of our amazing teachers decorated their classroom door with a display in the theme of “Just Keep Swimming.” Students and staff walk by the decorated door each day and it reminds all of us to never give up, even when faced with adversity, changes and challenges.
Celebrations–HMS students are swimming ahead with celebrations from the pandemic year. Yes, there are many celebrations to recognize. We have amazing students who demonstrate respect, resilience and adaptability on a daily basis. Who knew we would be masked all year during “in-person” learning? Students have done an outstanding job wearing their masks properly. Some of you may be familiar with snorkeling gear, where masks fog, the mask is too tight and the mask strap might even break. We have overcome similar experiences with student glasses fogging, masks too tight and/or small and an occasional mask strap failure. Until mask restrictions are lifted in the K-12 school system, we will keep swimming-we have adapted.
Middle school students are very social, yet they have been exceptional at following the safety expectations at school, on the bus and at extracurricular activities. Social distancing was once a term used during middle school “dances.” This year the term became part of our daily vocabulary and students demonstrated (most days) they clearly knew the term. Google Meets have provided opportunities for students to group and meet safely, keeping a social distance. Students have mastered Google Classroom and actively participated in learning, completing assignments, submitting assignments and redoing assignments. Like fins for snorkeling gear, our students have powered through currents to make progress. If we would not have had a pandemic, I don’t know if applications such as Google Meets and “break out rooms” would have been discovered to the depth they have been used this year. Learning new technology has been a celebration.
Throughout the pandemic, more students took advantage of our retake and retesting opportunities. Students developed more skill at self-advocacy, monitoring their own progress, grades and scheduling. Some students were given a nudge (even a snorkel for air to “keep swimming”) as the “comfort” of traditional learning had changed. Students rose to the challenges and should be commended for doing their personal best, and continuing to learn.
The relationships built this year, around the obstacles, will be never forgotten. We may have had to change some of our navigational tools, use a different compass at times, to reach and connect with all students-the distant learners, hybrid learners and in-person learners. Our middle school takes pride in building relationships and will continue to “keep swimming” toward building a strong foundation to support social and emotional learning.
As we “keep swimming” ahead, we are on the count down to the last day of school for the 2020-21 school year. As we reflect, rethink and reshape we have many things to be thankful for. Parents, you have been astonishing to “keep swimming” and keeping the homefront afloat. We know you are balancing student schedules, emails from multiple buildings, messenger notices, and hundreds of details throughout the year from school(s) and doing your personal best. Thank-you! Thank you for supporting your child at Hutchinson Middle School and throughout the district. As summer approaches, know that your efforts have been greatly appreciated. We are all swimming together to finish out the pandemic year. Please take time this summer for rejuvenation for yourself and your family. We appreciate you!