Highlights of Exemplary Practices Aligned with the 18 Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools
Characteristic #1: Educators respect and value young adolescents.
Brambleton Middle School embraces a mantra of CLIMB: Create, Lead, Inspire, Motivate, and Believe with integrity, courage, kindness, and responsibility. This guides all that they offer students in their school. Brambleton has developed a close-knit community focusing on team building and encouraging students to find and develop answers to real world problems. The robust curriculum and exploratory offerings engage students actively in the learning process, and the counseling and daily advisory program (Den Time) offer needed supports with attention to adult advocacy for all students. Scaffolded learning and tiered interventions further help students to embrace where they are and how to move to the next level. Faculty is fully engaged in targeted professional development that enhances the goals and objectives of the school, and they have a sound grounding in young adolescent development. Each year the Brambleton staff has a Bear Brigade to welcome rising 6th graders to the middle school. During this time, they go to each rising 6th grader’s house to deliver a t-shirt to the student and to begin a meaningful connection with incoming students and their families.
Characteristic #3: Every student’s academic and personal development is guided by an adult advocate.
Brambleton Middle School has a daily advisory program called Den Time, which meets for 25 minutes each day. During this time staff members are able to connect in non-academic ways with students, fostering a sense of community and connection through individual and group check-ins. SEL is addressed during this time as students learn to develop healthy identities and self-confidence through goal setting, developing strategies to manage feelings, show empathy, develop positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. It is directly related to the school mantra CLIMB (Create, Lead, Inspire, Motivate, and Believe with integrity, courage, kindness, and responsibility). All Den Time teachers have been trained in circles strategies from Restorative Practices, and this helps ensure that students believe they have a trusted adult and group of peers with whom they can connect.
Characteristic #6: The school engages families as valued partners.
Brambleton Middle School students engage in student-led conferences that help them assume responsibility for their own learning and provides families an opportunity to have in-depth discussions with their child about his/her learning and academic successes and areas for growth. In addition, it enables families to begin to engage with the school in meaningful ways as they partner with their child to develop goals to further academic and social success.
In addition to SLC, Brambleton works closely with their PTSA to sponsor community events designed to support a positive culture among students, families, and staff. Examples include the Bear Bash, Bingo Nights, Grandparents Breakfast, Veterans Day breakfast, and the 8th grade dance.
Characteristic #10: Health, wellness, and social-emotional competence are supported in curricula, school-wide programs, and related policies.
Brambleton Middle School has developed a Unified Mental Health Team which includes counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and administrators. They prioritize students developing healthy identities and self-confidence where they learn to successfully set and achieve goals, manage feelings, show empathy, and make responsible decisions.
Restorative Practices is an initiative that has been embedded in the school culture, and it helps students learn to reflect on behavior, have productive conversations about feelings, and resolve conflicts in ways that help them learn alternative behaviors. Brambleton has a wide variety of clubs and after-school activities that are tailored to the indicated interests of their students. Students who cannot find an existing club or activity that is of interest to them are encouraged to start their own club with an adult sponsor. This provides student voice and choice in their learning.
Characteristic #18: Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationships.
Brambleton Middle School is organized through a master schedule based on houses and teams, providing a sense of community and advocacy for all students. Each grade level House has a dean, a secretary and counselors that move with the students throughout their time at the school. Within each house there are four interdisciplinary teams. Team teachers meet bi-weekly with the dean and counselors in their House to discuss student supports and team building activities for the whole group. The staff are members of Collaborative Learning Teams and Interdisciplinary Teams. These school-based communities for staff meet weekly and allow teachers to engage in meaningful conversations focused on instructional improvement and student achievement. Administrators have developed a walkthrough tool to gather evidence of instructional practices during classroom visits. Information provided from this tool helps identify school success and strengths, as well as determine professional development needs.