Marriage in the Middle: The Art and Craft of Teaching Early Adolescents.Nathaniel's post-graduation note was as simple as he himself was complex. "Thank you for believing in me when no one else did." He had been a student in my classes during his middle level years. Now, as I prepared for a new term of teaching preservice teachers who were perennially frustrated frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: when they discovered there was no one formula for effective teaching, his-note reaffirmed that teaching is a marriage of art and craft.--P.W-B W-B Welch-Berlekamp (equation) .
Teachers are more than technicians or managers. They are morally engaged role models who consciously and ethically guide young adolescents' educational choices (Beyer, 1989). Many characteristics distinguish the art and craft of effective teaching (see Figure 1). Although most of these characteristics may be applicable to all grade levels, given the varied social, psychological, and cognitive developmental levels of transescents (that is, early adolescents in the middle school years, ages 10-14), several characteristics and strategies are particular to teaching in the middle level.
Effective Teaching Characteristics
* democratic: student-invested, student-centered
* compassionate com·pas·sion·ate
1. Feeling or showing compassion; sympathetic. See Synonyms at humane.
2. Granted to an individual because of an emergency or other unusual circumstances:
* celebratory of differences
* broad spectrumed--sees student as part of larger constellation Constellation, ship
Constellation (kŏnstĭlā`shən), U.S. frigate, launched in 1797. It was named by President Washington for the constellation of 15 stars in the U.S. flag of that time. , and embraces family culture and traditions
* collegial col·le·gi·al
a. Characterized by or having power and authority vested equally among colleagues: "He . . . and collaborative
* actively passive--teacher as aggressive listener
* honest and open
* hopeful in belief of adolescents
* respectful re·spect·ful
Showing or marked by proper respect.
re·spectful·ly adv. of adolescents' rights to be at once both children and young adults
* protective against humiliation
* nurturing of community rather than competition
* knowledgeable of discipline and of adolescents
* an advocate for students and their families
* an agent for change
* a champion of children's daydreams
* a believer in one's own values
* employ varied instructional methodology
* offer exploratory experiences
* set a fast pace, while remaining adaptable
* challenge, while remaining attainable
* differentiate by acknowledging a wide range of cognitive and developmental levels
* reflect differing learning styles and multiple intelligences
* use authentic assessment Authentic assessment is an umbrella concept that refers to the measurement of "intellectual accomplishments that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful," as compared to multiple choice standardized tests.
* be exciting and interesting
* attend to learning in a business-like way
* value thinking
* scaffold scaffold
Temporary platform used to elevate and support workers and materials during work on a structure or machine. It consists of one or more wooden planks and is supported by either a timber or a tubular steel or aluminum frame; bamboo is used in parts of Asia. learning
* address highest standards
* hone critical thinking skills
* foster a view of knowledge as an evolutionary process, rather than as a static body
* encourage risk-taking
* Instill in·still
To pour in drop by drop.
instil·lation n. and engender en·gen·der
v. en·gen·dered, en·gen·der·ing, en·gen·ders
1. To bring into existence; give rise to: "Every cloud engenders not a storm" a democratic classroom: To embrace and celebrate different cultural and social heritages, students should be given opportunities within a structure to: make decisions regarding the classroom and the school, make choices regarding activities that connect them to the larger community, and participate as moral, contributing members of society (Beane, 1993). This attitude demands that the teacher vigilantly monitor and assess when to step in and when to remain in the background. Young people need to be able to make mistakes in a positive, supportive environment that frees them from embarrassment.
* Exercise collegial and collaborative relationships: Adolescents must feel safe in order to take risks. They can only do so when their adult role models present examples of stability, continuity, and collegiality col·le·gi·al·i·ty
1. Shared power and authority vested among colleagues.
2. Roman Catholic Church The doctrine that bishops collectively share collegiate power. . Staff's social interactions present a model for the students' own place in the work world at a time when students' lives are developmentally in flux, when home situations may be unstable, and when peer relationships are not always reliable. Children benefit from seeing that people can disagree, yet still be collegial and respectful towards each other. They need to welcome others' contributions, perspectives, and ways of making sense of the world (Manning, 1994).
As teachers develop the skills of brainstorming and building on each others' ideas, the artificial boundaries between disciplines begin to blur blur (blur) indistinctness, clouding, or fogging.
spectacle blur the indistinct vision with spectacles occurring after removal of contact lenses, especially non–gas-permeable lenses; it is ; both students and teachers will begin to share knowledge. Such collaborative relationships will soon beget be·get
tr.v. be·got , be·got·ten or be·got, be·get·ting, be·gets
1. To father; sire.
2. To cause to exist or occur; produce: Violence begets more violence. new inspirations. And where once teachers merely acknowledged each other, they now prize the others as valuable team members, an important example to transescents (Barth, 1991).
* Champion kids: Support their right to be a child at one moment and a young adult the next (Elkind, 1981).
Seventh-grader Jessica, looking 25 in a silk blouse, skirt, heels and nylons, came to my desk and said, "My tooth just fell out," and handed it to me.--P.W-B.
Although young adolescents may dress and act older as they move away from their parents into the wider world, teachers must protect the "child within" while respecting the "emerging adult." During middle school years, children often find it difficult to believe in themselves, and so they may feel awkward and out of place. Effective teachers watch for cues telling them when to step forward and offer support as they ease students into new experiences appropriate to their developmental abilities.
* Believe in your own values and knowledge: In varied ways, young people continually ask adults to set limits and to define the boundaries within which they may explore the world; they then test those limits and boundaries, as is developmentally appropriate. Teachers who are unsure of their own beliefs and moral convictions, and of their relationships with students and colleagues, will take such student testing personally. On the other hand, teachers who constantly reflect on the business of the classroom and on the individual interchange with students, and who constantly critique and learn from their own experiences (Cohen cohen
(Hebrew: “priest”) Jewish priest descended from Zadok (a descendant of Aaron), priest at the First Temple of Jerusalem. The biblical priesthood was hereditary and male. , 1999), will both cause and allow the students to challenge more deeply and richly the emerging issues in their own lives. Teachers who are secure in their own values provide a safe haven 1. Designated area(s) to which noncombatants of the United States Government's responsibility and commercial vehicles and materiel may be evacuated during a domestic or other valid emergency.
2. for adolescents who have questions about their thoughts on stereotypes, abusive Tending to deceive; practicing abuse; prone to ill-treat by coarse, insulting words or harmful acts. Using ill treatment; injurious, improper, hurtful, offensive, reproachful. life styles, drug use, gang involvement, and other topics. More often, adolescents seek an attentive at·ten·tive
1. Giving care or attention; watchful: attentive to detail.
2. Marked by or offering devoted and assiduous attention to the pleasure or comfort of others. , thoughtful adult who, instead of offering advice, will listen as they work through their problems.
* Foster adolescents' daydreams: Teachers "in the middle" are the presenters of possibilities, the purveyors of hope. Yet these are not the short-sighted dreams of professional basketball careers and lottery jackpots, but rather "hopeful images" that provoke action (Simon, 1992). When asked, students often have no concept of how to realize their dreams. To nurture NURTURE. The act of taking care of children and educating them: the right to the nurture of children generally belongs to the father till the child shall arrive at the age of fourteen years, and not longer. Till then, he is guardian by nurture. Co. Litt. 38 b. the dream is to:
-- believe in the child
-- present possibilities
-- provide an opportunity to develop the action plan
-- assist the family in gaining access to heretofore unknown resources
-- help students negotiate systems that can be daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin and complex.
* Sustain a fierce commitment to teaching: A teacher's commitment to the art of teaching, as well as to the business of learning, underscores the belief that the students' best interests are at heart. The students' welfare is furthered by a rigorous adherence to high standards and developmentally appropriate instructional practices that help students meet the standards, accompanied by an unflagging belief in the potential and accomplishment of each individual. Middle school students often later remember the teacher who believed in them when no one else did, who sustained the effort to challenge them to succeed when it would have been easier to give up, and who provided a rich, challenging, and focused environment for learning when others thought them unteachable.
* Celebrate differences: Collectively, students represent a constellation of people, traditions, values, and cultures. Although young adolescents must remain engaged in the natural and critical process of separating from their parents, the family and school can be successfully brought together as partners (e.g., school parent rooms, individual mentoring, student-family projects in the community, committee participation, and the concept of parents as experts) (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1995).
The following items (see Figure 1) are critical middle level strategies:
* Employ varied instructional methodologies: Having a wide repertoire of strategies from which to choose helps the teacher accommodate transescents' varied developmental needs and learning preferences. Examples of effective strategies are:
-- problem-based learning problem-based learning Medical education An instruction strategy in which groups of students are presented with clinical problems without prior study or lectures. See Cooperative learning. (Delisle, 1997)
-- heterogeneous grouping (Cohen, 1994)
-- circles of learning (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1994)
-- student-oriented curricula (Alexander, 1995)
-- reflective inquiry (Shermis, 1992)
-- open-ended questioning A closed-ended question is a form of question, which normally can be answered with a simple "yes/no" dichotomous question, a specific simple piece of information, or a selection from multiple choices (multiple-choice question), if one excludes such non-answer responses as dodging a (Freedman freed·man
A man who has been freed from slavery.
pl -men History a man freed from slavery
Noun 1. , 1994)
-- interdisciplinary (Post, Humphreys, Ellis, & Buggey, 1997; Vars, 1993) and integrative instruction (Brazee & Capelluti, 1995)
-- simulations (Lounsbury, 1992)
-- learning centers and learning activity packages (George & Alexander, 1993).
* Offer exploratory experiences: Students benefit from experiencing a wide range of learning opportunities, and they need to be encouraged to take risks and try things at which they may not be adept (National Middle School Association, 1995). Students must be encouraged to expand their world by taking advantage of opportunities beyond their own or their peers' experiences. Modular classes, mini-courses, activity blocks (Compton & Hawn, 1993), varied arts experiences, foreign languages (taught in six-week blocks), role-playing (both in dramatic presentations and in the classroom), leadership opportunities, and career exploration can serve this important developmental function.
* Be flexible: Flexibility is also an art, dependent on discipline expertise and craft options. Because of transescents' uneven developmental fluctuations, be prepared to "read" the mood of a given class and shift to alternative plans at a moment's notice.
* Develop a process approach: A view of knowledge as an evolutionary process, rather than as a static body, is essential (Ladson-Billings, 1994). Building on students' interests and challenging them to test their ideas through actual problems, activities, and projects helps them to actively construct knowledge, rather than passively acquire information (Brooks & Brooks, 1993). This approach supports the development of self-determination, relevance, and agency.
* Differentiate: The individual characteristics of students, including their learning styles and multiple intelligences, determine which methodology is best for achieving an assigned task. The use of tiered assignments, menus that represent varied cognitive styles Cognitive style is a term used in cognitive psychology to describe the way individuals think, perceive and remember information, or their preferred approach to using such information to solve problems. , grading rubrics, flexible groupings, challenge activities, learning contracts, and mastery learning Mastery Learning is an instructional method that presumes all children can learn if they are provided with the appropriate learning conditions. Specifically, mastery learning is a method whereby students are not advanced to a subsequent learning objective until they demonstrate in the heterogeneous classroom help to structure choices and encourage student self-reflection into personal weakness and strengths (George, Lawrence, & Bushnell, 1998). Such choices provide developmentally appropriate opportunities that address the disparate shift in transescent thinking from concrete operational to abstract.
"I believe that when science and art thus join hands the most commanding motive for human action will be reached; the most genuine springs of human conduct aroused and the best service that human nature is capable of guaranteed." (Dewey, as cited in Dworkin, 1959, p. 32)
The middle level teacher/artist strives to liberate (Liberate Technologies, San Mateo, CA) A software company that specialized in the information appliance field. Formerly Network Computer, Inc. (NCI), a spin-off from Oracle in 1996, it changed its name in 1999. change and growth within each child, rather than maintaining the lowest common standard. Dynamic teaching, built on student-teacher mutual trust and respect (as illustrated in Figure 2), is driven by a vision and belief in the power of both education and of the individual. It is characterized by the healthy interchange of art that nurtures a community of competence, care, and compassion, and of craft whose pedagogy is responsive, fluid, and driven by possibility. If only one characteristic represented the effective middle level teacher, it would be hope--unfailing and undaunted.
[Figure 2 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
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New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Teachers College Press.
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A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects. classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD, is a membership-based nonprofit organization founded in 1943. It has more than 175,000 members in 135 countries, including superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and .
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1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.
2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture. education in middle level schools. Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
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In 1913, law professor Dr. .
National Middle School Association. (1995). This we believe. Columbus, OH: Author.
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Vars, G. F. (1993). Interdisciplinary teaching Interdisiplinary teaching is a method, or set of methods, used to teach a unit across different curricular disciplines. For example, the seventh grade Language Arts, Science and Social Studies teachers might work together to form an interdiscipinary unit on rivers. : Why and how (2nd ed.). Columbus, OH: National Middle School Association.
Pat Williams-Boyd is Assistant Professor and Kaia Skaggs is Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education, Eastern Michigan University Eastern Michigan University, mainly at Ypsilanti, Mich.; coeducational; founded 1849 as a normal school, became Eastern Michigan College in 1956, gained university status in 1959. , Ypsilanti. Lynn Ayres is Teacher, East Middle School, Ypsilanti, Michigan “Ypsilanti” redirects here. For other uses, see Ypsilanti (disambiguation).
Ypsilanti (Ǐp'-sǐ-lǎn-tē) (IPA pronunciation: [ˌɪp sɪ 'læn ti] .