Middle School Information

This page has been left for reference but is no longer being updated. For the latest information for Middle School families check our Middle School September Information page.

Sent to Middle School parents on May 8:

Dear Parents,

I hope you and your family are well. It is hard to believe that today completes the fourth week of remote learning.

I want to take the opportunity to thank our families for their support during this difficult and unique time. I have been touched by the care and consideration that families have shown our teaching and school community. This has not been an easy journey for anyone and knowing that we are all in this together has provided our school with much needed strength.

The Middle School continues to strive to provide our students and families with the best remote learning experience possible. The survey you completed two weeks ago gave us a lot of useful information and we responded to this information where possible. We are also aware that every student and family are different and there is not a one-size-fits-all scenario for remote learning. We have adapted our model and support for individual students and families where needed.

You will find a link to our latest parent survey in the email you were sent. We would appreciate you taking the time to fill this out and provide us with specific examples and feedback. It is important that all members of our community are heard through this survey. The deadline for the completion of this survey is Monday, May 11 at 9am. Students and faculty will also be surveyed, similar to last time.

On Wednesday, Premier John Horgan delivered a message regarding British Columbia’s plan to gradually re-open. I want to reassure you that we are monitoring this very closely and already have a working group planning for what may or may not occur in the immediate future, as well as the longer term considerations of what September might look like. As we confirm our plans, we will update our community.

With respect to our current year and specifically our end of year events and ceremonies, these will be different than those in the past and this is especially disappointing for our Grade 8 students who will graduate to the Senior School. We want you to know that we are diligently planning for end of year events and ceremonies and will do our very best to maintain the tradition, importance and enjoyment that these events provide us. I am confident that our teachers and school will honor this time of year in the best way possible. I look at our weekly Chapel and Assembly gatherings as examples of events that bring our community together, put smiles on faces, recognize members of our school community and allow a sense of normalcy. I will communicate with you in the coming weeks as to specific year end arrangements.

Finally, I would like to wish all our Middle School mothers a Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday. I hope you have a lovely day with your family.

Richard Brambley
Director of Middle School


Sent to Middle School parents on April 24:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you have had a good week and that you have seen your child or children become more settled and confident with the remote learning that is taking place.

Going into this journey, we knew that we would need to make some adjustments and we have already started to do this, as I outlined in last Friday’s parent letter. Below I will outline a few more adjustments. We want to ensure that we are supporting our students and their families as best we can.

Survey Update

I would like to thank those who were able to respond to last week’s survey. We had 109 responses and the feedback received has been incredibly helpful in gaining a better understanding of how students and families found the first week. Attached, you have received a bar chart that provides you with an overview of parent responses. We have used this information, including the comments, to help shape our decisions in the changes we might make.

Our adjustments:

Please note, we made three adjustments last week and feel this strengthened our remote learning offering this week. We have three adjustments for next week, all related to the google meet video conferencing. Math Google Meets - We have added a second mandatory google meet for Math in all grades. This addition, as well as the addition of a second Humanities google meet last week, will allow our students a greater amount of contact time with their teachers. We intentionally had less contact time in Week 1, as we knew this was a new experience for students and teachers and wanted to ensure it was a productive and manageable use of students’ time. French Google Meets - We have added a second mandatory google meet for French in Grade 6 and 7. Teachers will use this second meet to review instructions, support questions and allow for smaller break-out groups. If felt successful, we will look to add this to the Grade 8 classes the following week.

Enrichment Lesson Google Meets - Feedback from our students was that they would like to be able to attend more than one subject when these are offered. In the Video Conferencing Schedule the 30 minute google meet opportunity will be split into two 15-minute sessions. This will allow a student to attend two enrichment subjects during the allotted time.

Enrichment Lessons

What also came from the survey is the need for clarification on Enrichment Lessons, which are optional for students. This simply means that students have the choice whether or not to participate in these lessons.

Students in the Middle School normally have 11 lessons in their timetable. It was felt that having students navigate 11 lessons each, ensuring tasks and assignments are complete, and 11 Google Meet responsibilities would be too much. We feel that students should spend approximately 4.5-5 hours a day completing their google classroom lessons and google meet conferences. Our current lesson and google meet allocation fits that model. We therefore made the difficult decision to have some lessons as mandatory, which we call Daily Lessons, and some optional, which we call Enrichment Lessons.

We have encouraged, and will continue to encourage, students, through TAG and assemblies, to attempt Enrichment Lessons when given the opportunity, and I am pleased to report that 84% of our students attempted at least one Enrichment Lesson in Week 1. I would also like to note that students can opt in and out of Enrichment lessons each week. Students can complete an Enrichment Lesson for a certain subject in Week 1 and then return to that subject in Week 4 for example. Students are also welcome to participate in more than one Enrichment Lesson each week and do not have to attend the google meet session in order to complete the lesson for a chosen subject.

I have spoken to the students about this in assembly today and clarified this with them.

Time Commitment

Starting this journey, we knew that the experience would be different for everyone. We are pleased to see through the survey that the required time commitment has not been too heavy or light. That said, we know that for a few students it has been challenging at both ends of the spectrum. Please know that we do not want students to spend more than 5 focused hours on school work per day. This includes google meets and the 30 minute PE activity. It does not include lunch and appropriate breaks. We would expect a student to have completed their school work by approximately 3:30pm, depending on the number and length of their breaks.

If you notice your child spending more time than this on school work each day, please encourage your child to stop and let their teachers know. We will then provide them with the appropriate support and guidance to ensure this is not a regular occurrence.

On-line/Off-line Balance

We appreciate the feedback that there has been a lot of on-line time for students. Our teachers are also finding this balance challenging. Teachers have been guided to continue to seek off-line opportunities for their students and we hope this will be noticeable in the coming days. We also allowed students to collect books and school resources this week, with the hope that this would allow them to turn off the computer, read a book outside or in a comfortable location or complete an assignment using a textbook, pencil and paper. We will continue to seek opportunities where screen time can be reduced. We appreciated that many parents commented that although there is a high amount of screen time, they appreciate that this is difficult to avoid considering the situation we find ourselves in.

Overview

What showed through all the feedback is that there is a significant amount of satisfaction and appreciation for the efforts that the school and teachers are making. We thank you for that. It also showed a wide range of needs and wants by our families, that every student is different in their skill set, comfort level and ability to navigate this remote learning journey, but that as a whole we are on the right track. We are already working closely with students and families that are finding this challenging and will continue to do so. Please know that you can contact us for assistance or clarification and we will always be happy to help.

Helpful Request

It has come to our attention that some students are using their phone during google meet sessions and some are playing video games during the day, inviting others to join them. Could I please ask parents to monitor this closely and if your child is allowed to use their phone during the day, that it is not used during google meet sessions and if they are allowed to play video games, that they do not invite other students to join during normal school hours. Both Ms. Vachon and I have spoken to all the students at our two assemblies to guide them on these expectations.

I want to leave you with an anonymous comment by one of our students from the student survey. We received many comments similar to this from both parents and students. I share the gratitude and appreciation of our teachers that this student recognized.

All of the work that has gone into this has been amazing. Props to all of the teachers for handling this quick change so well.

I hope you have a restful weekend.

Richard Brambley
Director of Middle School


Sent to Middle School parents on April 17:

Dear Parents,

We have completed our first week of remote learning and I am very proud of our students and how they have coped. This has been a new learning journey for all of them and we have a wide range of students with different comfort levels and abilities with the skills required. Our students are now attending video conferences with their teachers and peers, following instructions and guidance through google classroom and completing and posting assignments remotely. To have achieved this in a four-day period is impressive.

I have had the opportunity to visit a large number of video conferences and it has been a joy seeing the students’ faces, watching them engage with their teachers and peers and most importantly having fun. I also ran my first video conference with the Grade 7 class. This was an optional tutorial where I was able to ask students questions and get a better understanding of their needs and how they are coping, but also for the students to ask me questions. I was able to better explain the process and thinking behind the program we have in place. I had 38 of our Grade 7 students attend this optional tutorial, and I hope they left our conference feeling more confident about what is expected of them. I certainly had a better understanding of their early experiences and this was extremely helpful.

We start Week 2 confident that things will continue to improve for our students and that the systems, process and expectations will become easier for all involved. We do have a few changes that I want to alert you to, knowing that we will continue to receive feedback and look to strengthen our offerings where and when possible.

  • In next week’s Video Conferencing Schedule, when students use google meet, we have placed a 10-minute gap between meets. Feedback from students and teachers was that it was difficult to get from one conference to another on time, especially if a teacher ran slightly over time. This will also allow students and teachers a bathroom/drink break if needed.
  • There will be an additional ‘mandatory’ video conference for Humanities for all grades. This will mean that there will be two ‘mandatory’ Humanities conferences and one ‘optional’. We hope this will better support the students as they have a Humanities lesson every day and the connection time with their teacher and peers will better place them to be successful during their google classroom lessons.
  • Mandarin will be placed in the daily lesson schedule for all grades. It is expected that students who take Mandarin complete the one lesson per week and attend the video conference provided by Ms. Zhang. Their timetable and schedule will show this change.
  • In terms of further feedback, all students, parents and faculty will receive a survey from the school asking them their thoughts and impressions on how the first week has gone.

The parent survey can be found as a link in the email you were sent.

We would appreciate you completing this survey by 9pm Sunday, April 19, as it will provide us with useful information on how to best support our community. We are aware that some program adjustments may be needed as we continue with remote learning. Please note that any adjustments that come from the survey responses will not show until the start of Week 3.

On Sunday, April 19, you will receive an email from your child’s Grade Lead teacher providing you with the Week at a Glance document. This will also be sent to all students and will contain the Daily Lesson Schedule, Video Conferencing (google meet) Schedule and lesson overviews.

In the meantime, I hope you and your family enjoy the weekend and that our beautiful weather continues. I look forward to Week 2 of remote learning, knowing that our students will continue to strengthen their understanding and comfort levels.

The students were truly amazing this week considering this was their first week of remote learning.

Best wishes

Richard Brambley
Director of Middle School


Sent to Middle School parents on April 9:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this email finds you and your family in good health. It is hard to believe that it was almost a month ago, March 13, when school broke up for an early Spring Break due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since that time a lot has happened. We have seen society shift to physical distancing, our country’s essential service workers have been challenged, courageous and self-sacrificing in the carrying out of their roles and responsibilities and our school has worked tirelessly to provide our students a remote learning experience with depth and value, that will stretch, support and inspire our Middle School learners. Last Friday, you would have received an update from Mr. Turner which included the SMUS Remote Learning Plan – Community Guide. I hope you have had an opportunity to look over this document.

You were sent an email with five documents attached:

These documents, in addition to the SMUS Remote Learning Plan – Community Guide, should provide you and your child with a better understanding of the expectations, resources and support that we plan to provide while they learn with us remotely. I politely ask you to take a close look at these documents and suggest that you look over all of these documents with your child, so that you jointly gain a better understanding of the information and expectations provided.

Grade Lead:
Aside from today, you will receive a weekly email from your child’s Grade Lead on Sunday evenings. This email will provide you and your child with an overview of the learning for each subject,a lesson schedule and a video conferencing schedule for the coming week. The Grade Leads are as follows:

Grade 6 - Julie Harris - [email protected]
Grade 7 - Richard Brambley - [email protected]
Grade 8 - Susan Vachon - [email protected]

Your child’s designated Grade Lead will oversee the academic, emotional well-being and engagement for all students in their designated grade. As a parent, you are welcome and encouraged to contact your child’s Grade Lead if you have any questions or concerns.

Daily Lessons:
The structure of our day and week will be different from the one we regularly follow at school. We will operate on a five day, Monday to Friday schedule. Students will have four assigned lessons each day and are expected to fully participate and complete the tasks for each of these lessons. Students will also be provided with six enrichment lessons per week in subjects that are not placed in our five day remote learning timetable. Enrichment lessons are not mandatory, but we will strongly encourage students to take advantage of these offerings, especially in subject areas that a student shows an affinity for.

TAG & Attendance:
One area where our structure will remain the same is TAG. Each day will begin with TAG, starting at 9 am. Students will video conference via Google Meet with their TAG teachers. The purpose of this daily conference is many. We hope to maintain the close connections that our students have with their TAG teachers and their fellow TAG classmates. It is also an important time to review the schedule, both academic and conferencing, for the day. It will also allow TAG teachers to assess the needs and well-being of their students, better allowing them to support their students or reach out to teachers that could best help. TAG will be designated between 9-9:30 am, but may take less time depending on the needs of the students and information to disseminate or collect. The TAG teacher will take attendance each morning and communicate this to Ms. Toller.

Video Conferencing:
Each week students will have video conferences they are expected to attend and video conferences that are optional. On your child’s Google Meet Video Conference Schedule, those highlighted in yellow require student attendance. Attendance will be taken at these conferences and students will be given the opportunity to ask questions, discuss the learning that has been taking place and debate relevant topics. Google Meet video conferences require a login nickname. These have been provided in the Google Meet Nickname document.

Google Classroom:
The educational platform that we will use in the Middle School is Google Classroom. All lessons, videos and supporting documents will be posted here. Each subject and class will have a Google Classroom. Students use their email address and password to login. All students are familiar with this process and platform as we use google classroom regularly in the Middle School.

Personal Items at School:
If students have any items at school that are needed in order to complete their remote learning lessons and assignments, then they are welcome to contact Ms. Toller and set up a time to collect them. We would ask that families wait to collect any other personal items that are not required at this time. We will contact families when the school is ready to allow students and families in the building. We thank you for your understanding.

As parents, you have been provided with a lot of information, both in this letter and in the five supporting documents. I have no doubt that this will take some time to digest. What I expect you will find is that your child will be more comfortable and familiar with this than you. Our students are familiar with google classroom through use in their regular lessons, they will likely have experience with video communication with friends or family and they are incredibly resilient and capable.

Although I would much rather be at school with your child, welcoming them as they arrive in the morning, speaking to them in assembly, watching them perform musically or play sports, celebrating their success and helping them when in need, I am excited for the experience that lies ahead. I have every confidence that our students will rise to the occasion and will be better for this.

I wish to end this email with the most important information I can provide; stay safe, stay healthy and continue to support our community. We are stronger together, even when we are apart.

From my family to yours, take care.

Richard Brambley
Director of Middle School


Sent to Middle School families on March 20:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope that this email finds you in good health and in good spirits. Certainly, these are trying times for everyone, please know that SMUS is sending positive thoughts to our entire community.

Our teachers have been very focused this week in their preparation to shift our program to a remote learning environment. We feel most fortunate to have had the week to plan and prepare and we are ready to begin on April 14th should remote learning be required.

Here are key points for you to be aware of are:

  1. Google Classroom will be our platform for delivery. Your child(ren) will be familiar with this learning platform as we use it across a number of subjects and grades.
  2. We will provide a modified lesson schedule that will include mandatory lessons in the core subjects and optional enrichment lessons in the specialist subjects.
  3. Students will be expected to regularly engage with their teachers and school community using the online meeting and collaboration tools we provide.
  4. All classes will have set schedules where teachers will be accessible through Google Meet video conferencing.
  5. Student support services, Learning Support and Counselling, will be available for students to access as and when needed.
  6. On April 9, you will receive an extensive overview of our plans and expectations for remote learning.

It goes without saying that there will be hurdles for us to clear in the weeks ahead and many uncertainties for us as teachers and for our students as learners. However, as we walk down the path towards remote learning, we feel confident in our abilities to deliver the curriculum and are buoyed by our understanding of the capabilities of our students.

This is merely a snapshot of the work that has been done already and we realize that there are still many questions left to be answered. Having said that, please look for a more detailed communication on April 9 which will detail more of our planning, our expectations for our students and our opening schedule for the week of April 14.

Until then, be well and enjoy the Spring Break in the best way possible in our new socially distanced world.

Best wishes,

Richard Brambley
Director of Middle School