What drives a middle school curriculum?
Why does deep skill development not dictate the middle school curriculum? Why are we stuck trying to force middle schoolers to absorb information when they could be practicing thinking and interacting skills? We do we insist the middle school day be broken into 50 minute chunks that ask them to transition to different environments and systems instead of allowing them to settle in to spaces that allow variation of activity without demanding navigation skills? Why do we squander the energetic good will, bravery, and creative potential of this age group for the sake of teaching them that mind-numbing data absorption is the predominant function of the educational system? What would middle school feel and look like if it honored the inherent strengths of our students, made them feel proud of their instincts for justice, ownership, and interdependence, and helped them hone those compulsions into practical, life skills? How good could middle school really feel?
These are the questions that lie at the heart of this Blog. Understanding our misconceptions of the 10-14 year old mind is the key to serving them better. And understanding the vision of world- and their place in it- that we project upon them through our educating institutions, is the key to changing how we educate them. And besides, anyone who has stepped out of the traditional paradigm and begun to engage with these people on terms that are natural to them know the great source of inspiration, hope, and entertainment they can be. Yes, I want middle schoolers to like school more- who doesn’t?- but as much as that, I want middle school teachers to like middle schoolers more!
When we think about educating students in the middle years- grades 5-8- we are beset with concern about the preparation they come to us with and the preparation with which we should send them off. These are valid concerns; as educators, we all want to be part of a system that prepares young people for a successful life, so we want to work within a continuous program designed to meet their needs. Unfortunately, this system is skewed towards the upper and lower ends- grades 1-4 and 9-12- and the students in the middle are neglected. While I would argue that our understanding of the intellectual and emotional needs of those two groups- thus the educational program perceived to best fit them- could evlove, that is not my field of expertise. So lets talk here about what can drive the middle school curriculum- through a series of philosophical postulations (posts- get it?) and practical suggestions. Join me because Life is a collaborative meritocracy: we get rewarded for what we do together!