Healthy meals press conference on Aug. 31, 2017 at Bellows Spring Elementary School.

Feeding Young Minds

Fueling students with proper nutrition is one way the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is empowering every child to achieve through equitable access to healthy foods. This school year HCPSS will better serve our youngest learners by expanding our Let’s Rethink Lunch Healthy Meals Program and offering fresh salad bar options at every elementary school.

Let’s Rethink Lunch gives students access to a wider range of high quality, healthy and delicious options for school meals. Last year, Bollman Bridge, Laurel Woods and Talbott Springs elementary schools had great success as pilot schools.

Studies show that healthy eating boosts students’ focus and cognitive function. We can increase school connectedness by reinforcing the high value we place on our students’ health and well-being. We also believe nutritious school meals will encourage students to develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Let’s Rethink Lunch demonstrates our Office of Food and Nutrition Services’ commitment to providing well-balanced, nutritional meals for all students. Recent recognitions include HCPSS’ “A+” on the 2016 School Food Environment Grades report from Healthy School Food Maryland, and HCPSS schools’ HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms awards from the United States Department of Agriculture.

I’m thankful for the Horizon Foundation’s partnership in launching the Let’s Rethink Lunch pilot, and for our county and community leaders’ support of the program’s expansion this year.

I invite you to watch this video to see the positive impact of this innovative program, which links together nutrition, education, physical activity and living a healthy lifestyle.

Lexi Hack and her friends and family

Grateful for My Life-Changing Surgeries

Picture of Lexi Hack and her dogLexi Hack is a senior at Glenelg High School. She completed her fifth, and hopefully last, surgery for the correction of her leg alignment this past April. Here she shares her medical journey and work with the Save-A-Limb Fund nonprofit.

As a baby and toddler, I sat and crawled in a “W” position with my legs behind me. My parents noticed something was not right with my legs when I was about 2 years old. They told me how they took me to two doctors in Florida, where I was born, and two doctors in Maryland, where we moved when I was about 4. All the doctors said I was fine, I’d grow out of it, and there was nothing to do as it was normal for kids under 8 to be a little “bow legged.” I would complain that I had a lot of knee pain, my back would hurt, and I couldn’t run like the other kids. I was then seen by another doctor around the time I was 8. She said I did, in fact, have knee problems and performed surgery on both knees. This did not fix the pain, help me walk straight or run while playing sports. I went through years of physical therapy and acupuncture to try and reduce the pain, but nothing seemed to help.

As I entered middle school and then high school, I found I no longer could play my favorite sport, field hockey, as I would trip because my knees would hit each other. I was sent to another knee doctor who said “give up field hockey. You’ll never be able to play.” I was devastated. I bawled my eyes out in his office. He just walked out and that was that. Then, through a friend of my mom’s, we found Dr. John Herzenberg at Sinai Hospital. He told me he could make me have straight legs! My pain would diminish considerably, if not 100 percent. My hope for a new life was about to begin.

He needed me to have a special study done before he would do the surgery. This is standard practice because he needs to know the exact alignment of my bones. The cost for the study was more than my family could afford. Insurance wouldn’t pay for it, so we didn’t know what to do. Herzenberg found a way to help through the Save-A-Limb Fund at Sinai Hospital. It’s a fund designed to help people who do not have the financial resources to handle expenses not covered by insurance. It helps with testing, walkers, prosthetics, research and so much more.  WE WERE ECSTATIC!!

Now that all of the surgeries are completed and successful, I have made it my goal to repay Save-A-Limb, which allowed me to have these life-changing surgeries. My Faith in the Flowers T-shirts are available at The Maryland Store and Bowman’s Home & Garden, both in Westminster, MD. Also, the Save-A-Limb Fund Fest is on September 24 at Oregon Ridge Park. There are different choices for mileage bike rides and walks, along with games and food for the whole family. I would love to see you all there! For more information, you can visit my Save-A-Limb Fund Fest team page.

Guest posts do not constitute promotion or endorsement by HCPSS of any outside person’s or organization’s causes, ideas, websites, products or services.

Picture of Esther Lawson-John

Amplifying Student Voice for Excellence with Equity

Picture of John KrownappleJohn Krownapple, the coordinator for Cultural Proficiency, first joined the HCPSS community as an Oakland Mills High School student. He has worked in the HCPSS for 20 years, previously in roles including an elementary teacher, Social Studies/English Language Arts resource teacher and professional development facilitator. In his current role, he coordinates systemwide efforts to support schools working toward excellence with equity through professional learning and organizational development. Here Krownapple blogs about partnering with students in the process to ensure inclusion and equity.

In the below video, recent graduate Esther Lawson-John advocates for educators to tap into the power of Student Voice as a means of improving schools for all students. If you are new to the concept of Student Voice, you might be wondering: What exactly is it? How does it work? What are its benefits? If you’re familiar with the concept, you might be asking: How can we amplify Student Voice in ways that help us work together to shape inclusive, equitable and democratic communities, schools and classrooms? Let’s explore these questions.

Over the past few years, Student Voice has emerged as a popular term in conversations about excellence in education. A quick Google search will show school districts around the world heralding Student Voice as a pillar of school reform. However, it is not a new concept. As far back as 1916, educational reformer John Dewey wrote about Student Voice as a necessary part of the educational process in a democracy.

It’s helpful to think about “voice” as expression. Educators, parents and adults can’t “give” students a voice; students already have a voice. The question is: Are we listening? Or do we tacitly believe some variation of the old dictum that “children (or in this case, students) should be seen and not heard”?

To join the movement to amplify Student Voice, we can adjust our thinking and realize that students have something valuable to say, and that by sharing their experiences, these young adults-in-training can help us become more effective educators. As adults, we can use our power to issue invitations and listen. In these ways, we can “turn up the volume.” We can choose to amplify Student Voice. We can choose to listen and learn.

Now, let’s consider “voice” metaphorically. If voice is power, then Student Voice represents educators and students sharing power. It represents student choice and involvement in decisions that affect their experience within the classroom. It represents democracy in our schools. It represents the choice of teachers and administrators to lead with students.

Research over the past decade has clearly linked Student Voice to academic motivation and achievement. Students who believe they have a voice in school are seven times more likely to be motivated to learn than students who do not believe they have a voice, according to the 2016 School Voice Report developed by the Quaglia Institute for School Voice and Aspirations (QISA). QISA research also suggests that students who feel they have voice are more likely to experience self-worth, engagement and purpose.

In June, the HCPSS held a two-day Cultural Proficiency professional learning conference with the theme “Student Voice: An Instrument for Inclusion and Equity.” The event featured keynote presentations and breakout sessions that highlighted promising practices across the district and facilitated discussions about how to turn up the volume when it comes to Student Voice.

During many sessions, students led professional learning alongside their teachers. Lawson-John co-led a keynote presentation with HCPSS Leadership Development Coordinator Charlene Allen. Both educators and students in attendance responded enthusiastically to Lawson-John’s presentation. “Give that student a TED Talk,” tweeted one audience member.

It may be possible for us, adults to use our power to give her a TED Talk or a similar platform, but nobody can give Lawson-John a voice. She already has one. And what an incredibly powerful voice it is, especially when amplified.

Additional Diversity and Inclusion Resources:

Picture of Kory Williams with family, and HCPSS and McDaniel staff at T4T signing.

What T4T Means to Me and My Family

Picture of Kory WillamsKory Williams, a 2016 graduate of Reservoir High School, is part of the first cohort of Teachers for Tomorrow (T4T) scholarship winners. While at Reservoir, Williams was a champion sprinter and hurdler, and taught sports fundamentals to youth through the Howard County Recreation and Parks department. Here he blogs about why T4T is such an incredible opportunity for him and his family.

In March, 10 students and I signed our contracts completing the process of obtaining our T4T scholarships. This scholarship was a great opportunity for me to help not only kids in the future obtain knowledge in the class but also my mom. How does it help my mom? It helps by relieving the financial burden of her having to single-handedly put another one of her children through
college. That is not the only reason I wanted to receive this scholarship though. Another big reason was in the 12 years I was in school, I never had one African-American male teacher in the classroom with me. I have had African-American males in the school that helped to mentor me but never had one in the classroom, and I wish to change that.

What I’m excited about with this scholarship is being able to receive a free education with a guaranteed job when I leave school. The bigger reason is to be able to follow my passion of teaching others and helping them increase their knowledge. Throughout high school I helped tutor my sister and cousins, and I loved helping them improve their grades in a variety of subjects. While tutoring them, I wanted to do it more and more each time, and this scholarship gives me the opportunity to do so.

Why McDaniel? Other than receiving the scholarship, McDaniel is close to home and with my brother and me both at school, it’s only my mom and my sisters left back home. So with me being close, I can come back home whenever my mom or sisters need me. Also McDaniel is a small private school. With it being small, I can focus on my books and classes more, and with it being private, it means that it is prestigious. Finally McDaniel’s teaching and science programs are well known and with a biology major and education minor, it helps with receiving my degree.

Picture of Lucero Espinal in graduation cap and gown.

How T4T is Helping Me Achieve My Dreams

Lucero Espinal, a 2016 graduate of Oakland Mills High School, is part of the first cohort of Teachers for Tomorrow (T4T) scholarship winners. This fall, Espinal plans to build upon her experiences in the Howard County Public School System while attending McDaniel College, where she will prepare for a career in education and increase her community involvement. Here she blogs about how T4T is helping her pursue her dreams.

It was 5 in the morning on a cold January day when I realized I wanted to go to college. I was in the 6th grade and was preparing the night before for my second quarterly assessments. The day of the assessments was a day unlike any other. Instead of waking up to the cumbia music, which my mom played on the radio, it was the sound of fists pounding on the door. My father often left his car keys inside the house and would wait at the door for my mom to let him in, but that day it wasn’t my father. It was the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who were at the door. My mom could not speak English very well, so she called for my older sister to help translate. It turned out that my father had a warrant for deportation, and they were searching for him. As they looked through the rooms of our townhouse in the early hours of the morning, my sister was comforting my mom in the living room while I stood off to the side feeling numb.

It was not until that morning that I realized how much my family depended on my dad. At the time my mom was not working in order to focus on caring after her health because she was pregnant, which meant that my father took over the bills. He left a week later after the incident, and my mom took over the role of both parents. My older sister was starting high school while I was starting middle school, which meant there were more expenses. I was worried about how I could help my mom since both my sister and I were too young to get a job. Then, I remembered something that my parents frequently instilled in us since we were little. Although my parents did not receive a proper education in Mexico, they wanted us to do our best in school, so that in the future we could be “someone” in life. It was due to this reason why my parents decided to move our family to Howard County for better opportunities when I was in first grade.

After the incident, I put more effort in school, which led to teachers moving me into more advanced classes. While my drive for school continued, I couldn’t help but notice how different the atmosphere of my classes was compared to one another. Before I was transferred, there was a handful of Hispanic/Latino students in my classroom. After the change I realized I was the only one. This brought back a memory from when my family first moved to Columbia, and I was confused at how in Prince George’s County I was one of many, then in Howard County, I stuck out from the rest. It continued to bother me as I began to notice more how I was unable to connect with the students in my classes because of the difference in culture, which continued throughout high school.

It was near the end of my junior year when I became aware that if I wanted to see change then I would have to take the first step toward it. I was tutoring and mentoring students in my community as a way to help motivate them to continue going to school, but I knew that it was not enough. I was occupied starting the college process, which filled up my time. I knew that I wanted to continue going to school, yet I did not know what I wanted to do. My family was already struggling to send my older sister to community college, and I could not allow them to pay for my education while I was undecided on what I wanted to do. Then in the fall of my senior year, I received in the mail a flier about a new program called Teachers for Tomorrow, which would become the greatest gift I could ever receive.

After graduating, I realized that all the years I have spent in the Howard County Public School System have taught me a valuable lesson. Despite all the obstacles you need to face in order to obtain your education, there is no greater reward you will receive than knowledge, because as long as you are willing to keep learning, you are unstoppable. It is for these reasons why I am excited to be a part of the Teachers for Tomorrow program. I hope that through education I can help more students achieve their goals and be a support for them like my teachers have done for me these past years. The program is a blessing for not only allowing me to have the opportunity to continue reaching out in my community, but also to help me obtain a college degree in what I am most passionate about. I look forward to the years to come and the new faces I will meet this fall at McDaniel College.

PIcture of Martin Wang

What Volunteering Has Given Me

Martin Wang is a junior at Glenelg High School. He volunteers for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, hosted by MakingChange in Laurel. If he’s not helping others with taxes, he’s usually playing soccer as a member of the Glenelg varsity team. Here Wang reflects on his volunteering experiences that led to his recent county recognition.

This past month I was named 2016 Howard County Youth Volunteer of the Year for the time I spent at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. At VITA, we serve low-income families seeking tax preparation assistance free of charge. Working at VITA is extremely rewarding and for me, it’s a little odd being congratulated and rewarded for doing something so enjoyable. Nonetheless, this recognition is an enormous honor.

My sister, who is two years older than me and a VITA veteran, was the one who suggested that I spend time working with VITA. I was a little apprehensive at first. Understandably, I was worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy my time punching in numbers into tax preparation software for four hours. When I get bored, I lose focus and I would be doing a disservice to our clients as they looked for help completing their taxes. However, as cliché as it sounds, over time volunteering has become a major part of my life. I couldn’t imagine my winter seasons without it. The satisfaction that serving those who truly require assistance brings is unparalleled. The “warm fuzzies” are what drive me and the other volunteers at VITA to continue doing what we do.

Volunteering at VITA has taught me a number of skills that a classroom environment never could. It’s taught me to be more courteous, patient and understanding. It’s allowed me to step out of the bubble that I live in and become involved in the lives of others in more need than me, and it’s made me open to aspects of my community that I’ve never been exposed to. I was taught to display compassion and work with passion, and I hope more youth become involved in volunteering. It truly is a rewarding experience, with lessons to learn and experiences to share.

I would like to thank the people at VITA and its host organization, MakingChange, for giving me the opportunity to serve the Howard County community. In particular, I want to thank Mr. Mike Couch, Mrs. Michelle Moore and Mr. Jeffrey Clark for their leadership in the VITA program, both past and present.

Tips to Keep Teens Safe on Prom Night

Picture of Joan WebbAfter eight years at the Maryland State Department of Education, Joan Webb Scornaienchi became the executive director of HC DrugFree in 2009. She has spent much of her career working in higher education and early on, she served as a drug and alcohol prevention specialist. Here Scornaienchi provides prom safety tips.

Prom season is upon us. Excitement and worry are in the air! While teens are busy making plans with their friends, many parents are volunteering with their Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the PTA Council of Howard County to plan adult-supervised safe alternatives to private post-prom parties.

Tips for parents: Please talk to your teens about their plans for prom night and encourage them to attend their PTA-sponsored after prom events instead of private parties where alcohol or drugs may be available. Remember, not all teens want to drink or use drugs, but they may not be able to handle the pressure from friends or their dates. Remember too that your child may not know their prom date as well as they think, so talk to them about basic date safety (e.g., being alone in a vehicle with someone they hardly know, how alcohol/drug use can lead to loss of inhibitions, trusting their instincts to stay safe, etc.). Know where your teen is all evening/night.

Let your teen know what your expectations are with respect to alcohol, drugs, driving, dates, parties and curfew. If you tell your teen there will be consequences for unacceptable behaviors, be sure you follow through. Teens in several Howard County focus groups surprised HC DrugFree staff by saying when parents set consequences and do not follow through. According to your teens, they want and need to know they can trust your word for little things (such as coming in 10 minutes late), so they know you can be trusted with bigger issues. If you say it, mean it, and follow through. By the way, HC DrugFree staff never used the word consequences in any teen focus group, yet, teens used it in every setting. Some teens clearly said parents “lie” by not following through. That was tough for staff to hear, but the good news is that your kids said they want you to be their safe place and need you to protect them.

Be sure your child can contact you or another responsible adult (grandparent, neighbor, family friend, etc.) to go get them if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. If you’ve attended an HC DrugFree event, then you know I encourage all families to have a secret code/phrase for youth to use, so parents know their children need immediate help. The example I like to use is if your son never feeds the family dog, and he calls home to say he forgot to feed the dog, then you would know he needs help or is feeling pressured by his friends. Tell your son that he has to come home NOW, and you are on your way to get him. Drop everything and go. No debate. No questions (until later when you are alone with him). Parents need to assume the phone is on speaker, and friends can hear the conversation or read their texts. Even if your child is somewhere he shouldn’t be, be grateful he called you. Practice the code. Ideally, this code should begin when your child is very young, but it’s never too late.

Above all, please don’t be the adult who buys alcohol for teens, hosts parties with drugs and/or alcohol, or allows other adults to put any of our children in danger.

HC DrugFree is committed to keeping Howard County teens safe during this 2016 prom season and throughout the year. Please visit our website at www.hcdrugfree.org, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, email us at Info@hcdrugfree.org or call 443-325-0040.

The Evolution of Alpha Achievers

dbarrettAfter a 30 year career as a computer programmer and manager in the information technology sector, David H. Barrett became a mathematics teacher in the HCPSS, currently with Homewood Center. Barrett has been an active member of the community, sitting on several boards and active in multiple organizations. As co-founder of the Howard County program, Barrett writes about the origins and evolution of the local Alpha Achievers, a nationally recognized program promoting character growth and academic excellence for African-American males.

Co-founded by three men of the Howard County Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Alpha Achievers program was established in 1997 at Oakland Mills High School. The men sensed a need to provide support to African-American high school males who had broken free of the negative stereotypes so often associated with them. Using the fraternity’s informal partnership already in place at Oakland Mills as an entry point, the men presented to the principal, Marshall Peterson, the idea of an academic club that would be a cadre of young scholars setting an example of academic excellence for themselves as well as the school community. It was decided that the minimum GPA for membership would be 3.0 and that each member would commit to 21 hours per year of community service.

Mr. Peterson recruited Oakland Mills history teacher, Mr. Vincent James, to be the group’s advisor. We started with the 18 young men who met the 3.0 GPA requirement. The program was quite simple.  Once a month, we featured a professional African-American male who would tell his story, field questions and encourage the young men to continue their pursuit of excellence.

That summer a few of the young men contacted Mr. James. They wanted him to know that while they appreciated what the Alphas had done for them, they wanted to take over the program and run it themselves and let the Alpha men be community advisors. That was a welcome development because it was what we had hoped would happen. We just did not think it would be so soon. But the young men got busy and by the time school started had developed by-laws, policies and procedures to guide the fledgling organization. In the interim the Alphas found money in their budget to fund some modest outings, including field trips to see a Romare Bearden exhibit at the Smithsonian, two August Wilson plays and an author reading. The goal was to give them a cultural grounding they had not experienced in the HCPSS. Many had not ever seen a play by an African-American playwright or an art exhibit by an African-American artist. The young men decided the program should promote character growth, develop leadership skills and encourage members to become full citizens of the school and the community. A formal induction ceremony was designed to welcome the group’s new members. In the ceremony the young men light one candle for each of the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles of Kwanzaa). The principles are a guide to healthy living and social responsibility to community. At the conclusion of the ceremony, all of the Achievers recite the declaration, Determination.

By 2001, the ranks of the Oakland Mills group had grown to 45, and Long Reach with 25 members became the second school to have the program. By 2010 all 12 high schools had an Achievers chapter and in 2013 membership reached a little more than 400. The Oakland Mills group had begun to attract students from Latino and Asian communities who proclaimed it the only organization that welcomed them for who they were. This is nowhere more apparent than in their rising to positions of leadership. The Achievers experience inspired them to look more deeply into their own heritages.

The Alpha Achievers have made two 12-day trips to Ghana, West Africa for an educational and cultural experience during which time they visited the tombs of W.E.B. DuBois and Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. They also visited the slave dungeons at Elmina and Cape Coast, and spent time with people of the Ashanti ethnic group and a Wilde Lake High School graduate and his family who live in Accra, Ghana.

The Alpha Achievers are a conspicuous presence in the HCPSS and beyond. They have been recognized and honored by the HCPSS, MSDE, the Eastern Region of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Horizon Foundation, the Local Children’s Board and the Waring-Mitchell Law Society. It is estimated that since its inception, the group has delivered nearly 70,000 hours of community service.

Learning French Through Lunch

Thomas enjoying pizza in Syracuse, Italy.

Thomas enjoying pizza in Syracuse, Italy.

Thomas Regnante is a junior at Centennial High School and an award winning food blogger. He is the co-founder, with his brother Charles, of the 2 Dudes Who Love Food blog. For over four and a half years, Thomas has written restaurant reviews, created how-to-cook videos and participated in food philanthropy. In 2014, Baltimore Magazine recognized 2 Dudes Who Love Food as the Best Food Blog. In this post, Thomas discusses a visit to the Petit Louis Bistro restaurant in connection to Ms. Doff’s French class and world language experiences at school.

Arranged by my high school French teacher Madame Doff, Petit Louis welcomed my French class for a 3-course lunch to introduce us to French cuisine. During the course of two days, Petit Louis served lunch to over 200 French students from Centennial High School. It was a fantastic experience!

At Petit Louis, my classmates and I were given an opportunity to use French outside of the classroom. My friends and I were able to apply what we learned in French class to speak in French to the waiters. Having this experience made me and my friends excited to know that we could use our knowledge in the real world. I was able to say what I wanted to eat and drink in French, and the waiters comprehended what I was saying. Although we speak in French class all the time, it felt nice knowing that I could use French outside the classroom in the community.

As a food blogger, I know the importance of the culinary arts. That’s why it was so cool to realize how intertwined and connected the cuisine of a country is to that of a country’s language and culture. This realization is especially crucial considering that students aren’t just learning about the language in a world language class, but also about the culture, cuisine and atmosphere that the language is spoken in. So it is essential that students have a better understanding of the French cuisine to improve their French linguistic skills and learn more about French culture.

Check out my original blog post about Petit Louis.

Middle School Boys Talking in the Media Center

Tips to Get the Most out of Middle School

PIcutre of D.J. Figueroa


D.J. Figueroa is a 7th grade student at Harper’s Choice Middle School, who attended Clemens Crossing Elementary School. He is the oldest child in his family with three siblings. DJ has a passion for technology and is currently planning to apply to M.I.T. for college.

To most 5th graders, their idea of middle school isn’t the same as reality. Some people think it’s too big of a step forward, thinking that they will suffer and not be able to get through the year, or even a quarter. I was one of those people. I was worried that I would have too much homework and that I would be late to class a lot from a jammed locker. Even though I had my doubts, I got through my first year of middle school just fine. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be the same for you, as each school is slightly different, but I can say one thing: Middle school is not as big of a change as you might think. Sure, you have lockers, more classes, bells, online grades and such, but that’s just part of it. In my personal opinion, middle school is just like any normal transition from one grade to another. Here are some things to help with your journey into middle school.

Be organized. In middle school, it’s extremely important to keep your binder organized. Personally, I’ve seen a few of my classmates with unorganized binders. Once, during some free time we had, there was one person who had a “mountain” of papers in their binder, and they had to get a teacher to sort all of the papers out. This student got lucky because most teachers will not be able to do that with you. Your free time is precious because it can be used to catch up on your work. Besides, who wants to have to waste their free time on sorting papers? I know I wouldn’t. In order to stay organized, put papers in the right place in your binder, right when you receive them. It sounds minor, but if you don’t bother to put papers where they go, it will be a pain to deal with later on in the school year.

Be on time. No matter what class you are heading to, you should always make sure to be on time. At most schools, you have a three-minute time period to get from one class to another, which should be plenty of time. For example, at my school, if you don’t make it to class in that three-minute window, you will receive an infraction. The two biggest challenges in arriving on time is how far your classes are from each other and how long it takes for you to get your items out of your locker. If your classes are far apart, consider taking what you need for both classes together to save time between them. If you are late because of your locker most of the time, make sure it is nice and organized, so you can just grab and go to your next class on time.

Get involved with extracurricular activities. Find out what programs are at your school, and join the ones that interest you. There are multiple activities to take advantage of throughout your school day, so there is likely something for everyone. Extracurricular activities are a good way for learning more about the topics you are interested in, and they help develop your talents. Most, if not all programs, are free, so you should join one! However, if you miss a certain class for that activity, you are still responsible learning the material as well as any work that was expected during that lesson, so just choose wisely.

Middle school has been a great experience for me. I learned a lot, and I got along just fine. The classes are more challenging, but they can be a lot more fun. I found it pretty nice that I got to change rooms throughout the day. Although having a schedule is new, it only took me roughly a week to remember my schedule without actually looking at it. Some schools even allow you to use your devices, such as a DS or cell phone during lunch. So while you have more responsibility and higher expectations in middle school, there are also greater rewards.