As we near the end of the school year, I can honestly say that this has been the most challenging year as an educator. Our school has been in person since August, with additional precautions. Like most other schools, we spent a great deal of last summer preparing and planning for a year that had more questions than answers. There was so much uncertainty for the 2020–21 school year, yet I never felt so prepared to start the year because of the planning and organization. 

We started the year and quickly fell into our new routines of temperature checks, masks, physical distance, cohorts, and plastic dividers. Through the year, the tolerance for all of these changes has dwindled. The good news is—so has our COVID positivity rate. First semester was filled with quarantines and contact tracing. Second semester has been the complete opposite, with almost no cases. Because of this, we have been able to plan a few of our traditional activities, although they will look different than in the past. 

At Fulton Middle School, we have a house system, somewhat like Harry Potter. There are eight houses that are all “Hornet” in a different language and culture. Each house has 20–30 students from each grade level. Once you are in a house, you are part of it throughout your middle level experience. The goal of our house system is to create another opportunity for students to be a part of a support system. Through the typical year, we utilize our advisory time to meet in our house cohort, as well as take part in house days. This time is spent in service to our school, learning skills for success beyond school, and partnering with community organizations to develop relationships and service beyond the walls of our school. 

During our NASSP Virtual Tour on May 14, we look forward to welcoming you to Fulton Middle School for our one and only house day for the year, with our theme of “Future-Ready.” We will be masked, in our cohorts, and physically distanced. There will be less choice than our traditional house days. We will not have the chance to combine grade levels, or grade-level cohorts, but we are so excited to bring a tradition back that we’ve missed so much.

Our day will kick off with a special keynote speaker. Our speaker is top secret at this point, but I know they will provide amazing motivation, inspiration, and excitement! Although the speaker will be virtual, we have no doubt it will be amazing! Last year we were blessed to have Tara Martin teach us how to Cannonball In! We will also end our day celebrating with a local self-taught musical group, the Burney Sisters

The focus for our eighth grade students during the house day will be high school and beyond. Our counselors have planned several sessions with a future-ready focus. Career highlights, post-high school planning, and high school activities will fill the day.

Our sixth and seventh graders will be participating in our student professional development day. Students have had the opportunity to submit presentation proposals around the theme of being future-ready. After the keynote presentation, students will then attend these presentations throughout the remainder of the day. 

Although our house day will not be the same as in years past, one thing I know is that we will take any problem that may arise in stride. Although this year has had its challenges and we may not have accelerated through our curriculum maps as in previous years, we have so many other skills that have grown exponentially in both our students and staff—problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, flexibility, leadership, and creativity, just to name a few. 

Please join us on May 14th as we highlight the heart of Fulton Middle School: our students. We look forward to welcoming you!

This blog is part of NASSP’s Virtual Tour Series. Be sure to visit NASSP’s Facebook page on May 14 at 11:00 a.m. (ET) to participate in the live tour, and join Beth at 9:00 p.m. (ET) on May 16 for a Pau Hana, an informal virtual networking session to ask questions and keep the conversation going. 

About the Author

Beth Houf is principal of Fulton Middle School in Fulton, MO, and co-author of Lead Like a PIRATE: Make Schools Amazing for Students and Staff. She is a 2019 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year. Visit her blog, Lead Like a Pirate, and follow her on Twitter (@BethHouf), Voxer (@BHouf2026), and Instagram (@BHouf).

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