Mr. Thygesen's Message -- Looking Back

I’m excited to get back on the “blog”, and appreciate you allowing me to wax about school and the future of our kids.

While there is much to talk about in the coming months, I wanted to look back on our first 6 months of the school year and praise the resilience of our kids. Watching our students grow academically and socially during the first semester was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of my professional career.

Back in August, while the days were still long and the sun high in the sky, our students entered school with trepidation: They were coming into the 2021-2022 year with both academic and social emotional gaps bequeathed to them by the lockdown. The absence of play and face-to-face interactions during the Covid lockdown most significantly, and negatively, affected our kids, as both are vital to establishing social development, conflict resolution, and confidence. The pandemic removed this most important aspect of their lives, and the result here and nationally was a student body more prone to mental health needs, lagging academically, and lacking the skills needed to resolve conflicts and foster positive relationships.

We felt this effect when the year started. Noisier classes, frequent petty conflicts, and high stress levels negatively impacted our culture at PRA. We were prepared for this, and we spent a lot of time reviewing our routines and rituals to create a more consistent and safe learning environment. We also increased our focus on culture and climate: We installed a trophy case and emphasized “The PRA Way” to build school spirit and a respectful environment. We began broadcasting our announcements to better connect our middle school, and we practiced patience and kindness with each other and emphasized gratitude for being together.

What started out as a challenging semester ended with one of the most joyful and supportive middle school communities that I have ever known. It is a testament to our staff and you, our parent community, that we were able to overcome what was a tumultuous and depressing time in our history and make PRA a home away from home. I’m excited for the second half of our year, as our calendar is replete with school events, testing, and end-of-year activities. The pandemic is fading, and we’ll soon be out of its grips for the long haul.

Let’s work together to have a wonderful and productive final 4 months of this memorable school year.


8th Grade Pictures

One of our favorite new traditions is our 8th Grade Continuation Pictures that we include in our continuation slide show (May 25th). It is our privilege in middle school to watch your kids grow and mature into young adults, and their formal pictures represent their move into the next stage of their lives. Over the coming weeks, please take a picture of your student in formal wear so they can submit them, along with a baby or toddler photo, to their Access teacher for our end-of-year slideshow.

If you have any questions, please contact me, Steve Thygesen ([email protected]), or Karen Wojahn [email protected].

There’s no need to hire an official photographer for your child’s photo - a good phone shot in the backyard will suffice.

Please have your pictures completed and submitted by April 30th. Thank you.


Digital Citizenship and Screenagers

We are going to begin a 7-week series on digital citizenship in Access beginning on February 24th and running through April 14th. We’ll be using curriculum from Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.com) with the grade level titles listed below. After completing 5 weeks of lessons, we’ll be inviting you, parents and guardians, to join us for a virtual screening of “Screenagers”, and “Next Chapter” followed by discussion time in an online format.

The objective of “digital citizenship” is to help students understand the impact that being online has on their mental health, productivity, and personal safety, with the goal of helping them find the right balance of digital consumption in their lives. I’m inviting you to follow along with the lessons so you can engage in conversations with your students at home. I also hope that you can join us for our community viewings of the Screenagers movies listed below. I’ll send more information with links in the coming weeks.


6th Grade

Finding Balance in the Digital World (Week 1)

Don’t Feed the Phish (Week 2)

Who Are You Online (Week 3)

Chatting Safely Online (Week 4)

Digital Drama Unplugged (Week 5)


7th Grade

My Media Use: A Personal Challenge (Week 1)

Big, Big Data (Week 2)

The Power of Digital Footprints (Week 3)

My Social Media Life (Week 4)

Upstanders and Allies: Taking Action Against Cyberbullying (Week 5)


8th Grade

Digital Media and Your Brain (Week 1)

Being Aware of What You Share (Week 2)

Social Media and Digital Footprints: Our Responsibilities (Week 3)

Sexting and Relationships (Week 4)

This Just In! (Week 5)


Timeline:

2/24 Common Sense Media (SM) Week 1

3/03 CSM Week 2

3/10 CSM Week 3

3/17 CSM Week 4

3/31 CSM Week 5

4/07 Screenagers Community Viewing starting at 1:45pm online

4/14 Screenagers: Next Chapter Community Viewing starting at 1:45 online