Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Caught in the Middle -- and Loving It

Many people burst out laughing when I tell them I teach middle schoolers. "Why on earth would you want to teach those animals?" they ask. My reply, "They are the ones who need good teachers the most."

I remember hating middle school and feeling very uncomfortable with myself as a young adolescent. I struggled with my body image, self-esteem, self-worth, and desire to fit in and be accepted by my peers, as so many teens today do. I have always believed that the middle school years are among the most important and formative for students, as they are so impressionable and vulnerable at this age.

Consequently, I was not the least bit surprised to find a well-written article entitled "Caught in the Middle" in the Education Update newsletter I received in the mail from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, a professional organization I belong to. Arguing that the middle grades seek a bigger stake in school reform debate, the author explains how grades 5-9 are among the most pivotal in students' academic careers. Thus, they must be a key element of school reform. I could not agree more.

Unfortunately, in recent years, middle school reform has not received the kind of attention it deserves; the funding and focus often went to the early elementary grades or high school reform efforts. Middle schoolers truly are caught in the middle. According to the June 2009 National Middle School Association report "Putting Middle Grade Students on the Graduation Path," a sixth grade student who fails to pass language arts or math, attend school at least 80 percent of the time, or have good behavior will have only a 10-20 percent change of graduating high school on time. Wow. So many of my own students' faces describe these statistics perfectly, too many in fact.

Advocates of middle school reform want policy makers to recognize how vital and critical middle schools are in preparing and motivating students for high school work and graduation. These young adolescents have very specific emotional and academic needs, and any effort to improve student performance must include targeted measures for meeting their learning and developmental needs during this crucial time in their lives. Focus areas at this level, educators argue, should include academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, and social equity. We must have high expectations for ALL of our middle school students while treating students fairly and consistently, which is no easy task.

Other key middle school practices such as teacher teaming tend to strengthen these adolescents' learning and personal development. Students can also benefit from having the same guidance counselor all three years of middle school, a practice we feel strongly about at my school.

No matter what specific teaching strategies or school-wide practices are apparent at a given middle school, one thing is certain -- an emphasis on high-quality, rigorous instruction that expects all students to produce high-quality work will help create high-achieving middle schools whose graduates are fully prepared for the volume and diversity of work to come in high school, college, and beyond.

The full article is available at 

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