My middle school philosophy is grounded in the idea of teamwork. I use the graphic of a triangle to describe the education of a child: one leg of the triangle represents the student, one leg of the triangle represents the parents and the last leg represents the teacher and school.
Each leg of the triangle has the same goal: to have the student be successful. For this to happen, the legs have to be joined together to form a triangle. At times, the triangle is an equilateral triangle with all sides the same length, with the same amount of responsibility. Other times, our triangle becomes an isosceles triangle, with two sides the same length, distributing the responsibility differently. The key to reaching the goal is that all of the sides remain connected throughout the process.
When students reach middle school, they are experiencing one of the most rapid changes in their growth. All middle school students experience this change at their own rate- often at very different rates than their friends. One part of these changes is in their patterns of learning and thinking. They begin to question why things are the way they are and question their trust in adults. These students are in search of their self identity, and it is formed in part by their interactions with trusted peers and adults.
Things I know about middle school aged children:
Every student wants to believe in themselves as a successful person
Every student wants to be liked and respected
Every student wants to do and learn things that are worthwhile
Every Child wants physical exercise and the freedom to move
Middle school students want life to be just
When I place the middle school child into the triangle model it becomes an isosceles triangle with the parents and the teachers needing to put forth extra energies to help the child reach their goal.
As a teacher, I need to keep in the front of my mind the idea that these are middle school children and I am an adult and a professional. As a professional, I remember that middle school aged children often overreact to ridicule, embarrassment and rejection (and the one negative statement made to a child will make a far greater impact than the ten positive statements). I need to understand that the middle school student is testing and exploring boundaries and the comments they make and the things they do are all part of the exploration and shouldn’t be taken personally. I need to remember that good kids sometimes make bad choices, but it doesn’t make them a bad kid. I also need to reinforce this when bad choices are made so that the student can learn from the experience.
As a teacher I need to tap into the creativity of middle school students and provide them with curriculum that is exploratory and challenging. I need to guide the students to be able to see the purpose in learning and should allow the students to be involved in the organization of the learning and assessment process. I need to provide a variety of learning approaches and they need to be flexible for the students.
Middle school students are at a stage where they enjoy taking risks. The school should provide programs and policies that promote health, wellness and safety.
Middle school students have mood swings that vary from extreme highs to extreme lows. As an adult working with these youth, I need to have the energy to deal with all of the moods.
Middle school students have lots of questions they want to ask a caring adult. I need to be part of programs that encourage a positive, (appropriately) intimate relationship between each student and a caring adult that can and will advocate for the student.
As important as I may feel as a teacher of adolescence, I need to remember that I am a part of the students lives for a short period of time. Because the parents of these students often have no clue what has happened to their child and/or how to deal with it, I as a professional need to communicate with parents about the normal behaviors of their teenager. I may be able to provide resources to parents, or help in establishing parent networks that provide some alternate communication opportunities for the parents of other students.
I have chosen to be part of the crazy middle school years.
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly. - Buckminster Fuller
Life is a succession of lessons, which must be lived to be understood. -Ralph Waldo Emerson