What’s Happening in AVID?

AVID, a program to help students prepare for college, is an elective offered in 7th and 8th grade. In AVID, students learn organizational skills, reading, writing, and math skills, attend college tour field trips and participate in tutorials with college-age tutors for additional school support.

DSC_0487On August 29th AVID students hosted their first school-wide binder check.  Teachers in each class, with the help of an 8th-grade AVID assistant, checked to make sure all students at Sussman had an organized binder with subject dividers, no trash in their backpack, and a completed Pioneer Passport. AVID wanted to be sure every student was ready and organized for their day.  The first check was such a great success AVID is already planning its second school-wide check!

DSC_0489AVID’s first field trip is planned for the middle of October.  Both the 7th and 8th graders will be visiting CSU Fullerton.   There the students will take a tour of the entire campus led by a tour guide.  Students will have the opportunity to learn what is needed to attend CSU Fullerton and ask any questions they may have about the school.  The AVID students are looking forward to an educational and informative trip.


By Ciali P. AVID 8th grader,  Maria M. AVID 8th Grader, and Cindy Espeseth AVID 8th Grade Teacher


How to Get it Done!

I hear a lot of excuses in middle school.  Kids are always quick to tell me why they can’t do their homework, why they can’t work on an assignment, or work with another kid.  I often say “Don’t give me an excuse as to why you can’t do something.  Give me an excuse as to why you can get something done”.  What I think these excuses really are is a way to stop yourself from getting the work done.  I thought it might be nice to look at some of those excuses and find a way to stop it in it’s tracks.

  • “I don’t know where to begin.”–Look for ways to break the assignment down into parts.  Probably, the best way is to look for what needs to be done first.  Then concentrate on second and all of the other parts until the assignment is completed.
  • “There are too many distractions.”–There will always be kids trying to distract other kids.  The trick is to remind yourself that the job, or the assignment, must get done.  Thinking about the bad grade, detention, or other punishment is a good way to stay on task and not let the distractions stop you from getting your work done.
  • “This is easy.”–Many students have told me how easy and quick an assignment will be only to find that they do not get it done in time.  By putting off the work, the work rarely gets done.  It is much better to think of all the free time you will have once the assignment is done and what you will be able to do with that time.
  • “This is boring.”–As I am constantly saying in class, some activities and assignments are going to be boring.  But they still have to get done.  I try to teach all of my students to get into the habit of doing the work first then finding a way to reward themselves.
  • “I don’t think I can do it.”–How do you know until you try?  I am constantly telling students in class, done is better than perfect.  The first step is to complete the task.  If, indeed, you can do the assignment or task then a person can go back and perfect the assignment.  If not, well, you completed the assignment.

A person  must learn the signs of procrastination and learn to ignore them.

Do You Have Good Character?

Showing character is a full time job.  At school, at home, where ever you are, whatever you do. If you are looking for ways to show off your good character read the questions below.  How many yeses do you have?


  • Do you stand up for your beliefs?
  • Do you follow your conscience?
  • Do you build and guard your reputation?
  • Do you tell the truth?
  • Do you keep your promises?
  • Do you return what you borrow?
  • Do you stand up for and protect your family, friends, school and country?
  • Do you keep a secret?


  • Do you treat others the way you want to be treated?
  • Do you value and honor all people?
  • Do you take good care of property you are allowed to use?
  • Do you listen to others and try to understand their points of view?
  • Do you solve problems without anger and without violence?
  • Do you use good manners?


  • Do you accept responsibility for your actions?
  • Do you think before you act?
  • Do you do your best EVERYDAY?
  • Are you prepared?
  • Do you work hard?
  • Do you take charge of your own life?
  • Are you a positive person?


  • Are you fair?
  • Do you treat people equally?
  • Are you open minded?


  • Are you kind, loving, and considerate?
  • Are you thankful and express gratitude for what people do for you?
  • Do you forgive others for their shortcomings?
  • Do you help people in need?


  • Do you care about and pursue the common good?
  • Do you volunteer to help your school be better, cleaner, and safer?
  • Do you protect the environment?
  • Do you play by the rules?
  • Do you obey your parents, teachers, and coaches?

MyScript Calculator

I was doing research on Socratic the other day when I found the app, MyScript Calculator.  The app seems pretty cool.  A person types math equations onto his/her phone’s screen, and it solves them.  This sounds like a great way to check to see if a person’s math is correct.  The bad part of this app is it does not show a person how to solve the equation. Photomath integrates camera support, but, again, that’s just math. WolframAlpha is unarguably a fantastic tool for quickly finding relevant answers and information. Compared to Socratic it’s not quite as simple, though, as it targets an older audience. One has to research the problem themselves in WolframAlpha, as opposed to just snapping a picture and seeing what comes up. I use WolframAlpha quite a lot, and I think that the benefits to the individual that come from research outweigh any potential convenience in an educational capacity, but that’s a matter of opinion.

I am pretty interested in this app.  Check it out and comment below telling me what you think.


A-G Requirements


Students must take certain classes if they expect to go to college directly after High School.  Below is the list sometimes known as the A-G Requirements.  Click here for more information.

a) History/Social Science
Two years of History/Social Science, including one year of world history, cultures and geography; and one year of U.S. history or one half-year of U.S. history and one half-year of Civics or American government.
b) English
Four years of college-preparatory English that include frequent and regular writing and reading of classic and modern literature. No more than one year of ESL-type courses can be used to meet this requirement.
c) Mathematics
Three years of college-preparatory mathematics that include the topics covered in elementary and advanced Algebra and two- and three-dimensional Geometry. Geometry must be completed by all applicants. Approved integrated math courses may be used to fulfill part or the entire requirement, as may math courses taken in the seventh and eighth grades that your high school accepts as equivalent to its own math courses.
d) Laboratory Science
Two years of laboratory science providing fundamental knowledge in at least two of these three foundational subjects: Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Advanced laboratory science classes that have Biology, Chemistry, or Physics as prerequisites and offer substantial additional material may be used to fulfill this requirement, as can the final two years of an approved three-year integrated science program that provides rigorous coverage of at least two of the three foundational subjects.
e) Language Other Than English
Two years of the same language other than English. Courses should emphasize speaking and understanding and include instruction in grammar, vocabulary, reading, composition and culture. Courses in languages other than English taken in the seventh and eighth grades may be used to fulfill part of this requirement if your high school accepts them as equivalent to its own courses.
f) Visual and Performing Arts (V P A)
One year or two semesters from a single V P A discipline: dance, drama/theater, music, or visual art.
g) College-Preparatory Electives
One year (two semesters), in addition to those required in “a-f” above, chosen from the following areas: visual and performing arts (non-introductory-level courses), History, Social Science, English, advanced Mathematics, laboratory Science and language other than English (a third year in the language used for the “e” requirement or two years of another language).



STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  You may have heard of this acronym a lot lately, it is very popular.  Students who study STEM are more likely to find a job, are in higher demand, and typically receive higher pay than their counterparts.

Unfortunately, STEM is still a collection of male dominated fields.  To help combat that there are many programs at Sussman that encourage girls to join these fields.


The Femineer program, created by Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Engineering, was devised to inspire girls to explore and work in STEM fields. Girls at Sussman Middle School work on projects after-school and then show off those projects at STEM fairs at  Cal Poly Pomona.  Click  here for more information.

STEAMworks Summer Session

STEAMworks which stands for Science, Technolgy, Engineering, Art, and Math, is a summer enrichment program for students all throughout Downey. Summer classes are located at Price, Lewis, Unsworth Elementary Schools and Sussman Middle School. Students have the opportunity to spend time working on projects in the related fields mentioned above.



Project Lead the Way is a series of classes offered at Sussman Middle School that focus on the STEM fields.  Students at Sussman have a variety of classes to choose from like Medical Detectives, Green Architecture, and Automation and Robotics class.  These classes are offered for one semester.

If you hare any questions or need further information, please comment below.


What Grade Will You Receive?

Grade Distribution

Collaboration-tutorials 40%

Technique-binder checks, Cornell Notes, learning logs, etc. 30%

Participation-Grade checks, presentations, etc. 30%

Types of Assignments
Below are listed the types of assignments I give and how many points they are worth.  When making up missing assignments a student would be wise to make-up the assignments worth the most points first.

Tutorials – 25 points
Essays – 20 points
Projects – 20 points
Binder Checks/Pioneer Passport Checks – 10 points
Cornell Notes- 5 points
Learning Logs- 5 points
Grade Checks-5 points

Grading Scale
A = Outstanding Level of Performance (90-100%)

  • Indicates that the pupil has done excellent work and has mastered the course and/or assignment objectives, consistently does excellent work with skill and thoroughness; and consistently has applied knowledge gained to new situations.

B = High Level of Performance (80-89%)

  • Indicates that the pupil has done above average work, mastered almost all of the course and/or assignment objectives; and has applied knowledge gained to new situations.

C = Satisfactory Level of Performance (70-79%)

  • Indicates that the pupil has done average work and has mastered many of the objectives of the course and/or assignment.

D = Needs Improvement in Performance (60-69%)

  • Indicates that the pupil has done below average work and has mastered few of the objectives of the course and/or assignment.

F = Unsatisfactory Level of Performance (59% and below)

  • Indicates that the pupil’s work fell below a level of acceptance for the course and/or assignment and was unsatisfactory.

How To Do Well In School

There are many different ways to do well in school.  Here are a few suggestions.

    1. Before the School Year/Semester/Trimester Starts Create Goals.  Ask yourself what types of grades you want and be clear on what you are willing to do to get them.  Be realistic.  If you say to yourself you want A’s but you are not willing to do homework than you must understand that you will not receive A’s.  Other goals you may want to set are Better citizenship grades, Student of the Month, Scholarship, and/or CJSF.
    2. Use You Pioneer Passport.  Not only should you write you homework in your Pioneer Passport you should also include tests and projects.  It is also a good idea to add extra events like play practice, club events, field trips, and sports practice so that you can manage your time better.  It is possible to do homework before it is due especially when you have practice and will be unable to complete it the night before it is due.
    3. Create Habits.  Do your homework in the same place at the same time everyday.  Study your worst subject 5 minutes everyday once you complete your homework.  Clean your binder out once a week on the same day.  Hole punch your papers and file them as soon as you get them.  Create good habits and practice them every single day.
    4. Do Every Single Assignment.  Grades are about the accumulation of points.  Be sure to do every assignment so that you can get the most points possible.  It is never okay not to do an assignment even the extra-credit.
    5. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Do you Work.  Be sure to do work as soon as you get it.  Waiting til the last minute makes turning in assignments more difficult.
    6. Find a Study Buddy.  Be sure to write the names and phone numbers of at least two people in each of your classes.  If you are absent, get confused, need to talk about class assignments, or recopy notes you can ask your study buddy.  It is okay to pick your friends but be sure they are people you can rely on.
    7. Take Advantage of Sussman.  There are many opportunities at Sussman for students who need extra-help.  After-Math is offered Mondays, Tuesday, and Thursdays.  Many teachers open their classrooms before-school, after-school and at lunch.  Mrs. Espeseth is in her room almost everyday before school starting at 7:00 am, lunch, and after-school until at least 3:00 pm.  And Saturday School is always a great option to get extra help.

Can you think of other suggestions?  Write them in the comment section.