Exploring the Middle School Philosophy: A layered approach to meeting the developmental needs of middle level learners (persuasive presentation)

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This presentation was created for KSP 607 (Middle School Philosophies and Practices). Instructions read: “Prepare a persuasive presentation for your future middle school employer outlining in writing …

This presentation was created for KSP 607 (Middle School Philosophies and Practices). Instructions read: “Prepare a persuasive presentation for your future middle school employer outlining in writing improvements that could be made to address the needs of middle school students. If you were given 15 minutes at a leadership committee meeting, what key points would you share to convince them of the merit of your recommendations?”

This product thoroughly shows deep and meaningful knowledge of the development and needs of middle school students. It is artifact 1bB. in my Competency Log (Domain 1: Planning and Preparation / Demonstrating Knowledge of Students). In addition to viewing the slides, please read the presenter notes (when viewing with SlideShare, click on the "NOTES ON SLIDE _" tab under the presentation window) to understand what I would say during this persuasive presentation. The course instructor requested permission to use my presentation as an example of exemplary student work.

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  • I’m so glad that you could join us today! This morning we’ll be talking about what a middle school looks like – or what it can look like if we decide to pursue a conceptual and practical framework that I’ll refer to as the “middle school philosophy.” Our focus, of course, is how we can best meet the needs of our students between the ages of 10 and 15 through the organizational structures and practices of the school environment.
  • We’ll start with an overview of the components of the middle school philosophy and then get into specifics. The first, overarching component is a clear vision for what the most effective middle school looks like. Simply stated, the vision supplies the big picture perspective and reminds teachers, students, parents, staff, and administrators of the school’s potential for success. It is an important part of the “spirit” of the school.Without a doubt, we’ll eventually want to craft our own concise vision and mission statements that reflect the character of our school. Today’s talk will outline the things that should be considered before forming that collective vision.
  • School culture refers to all the things we do to build the kind of environment in which students, teachers/advisors, other educators, parents, and administrators can all be successful in establishing and meeting personal and collective goals. It goes beyond instructional methods or curriculum – culture reflects the subtle or overt attitudes, values, norms, and expectations that are collectively maintained throughout the school community.
  • School practices refer to the things that we do to ensure that the school continues to serve the needs of all students while promoting the well-being of educators and other members of the learning community.
  • At the center of the middle school philosophy, of course, is the student.Before we begin thinking about the various facets of adolescent development, I’d like to broaden our perspective for a moment and briefly acknowledge some other very important variables that affect student development but are for the most part beyond our discussion here.
  • The middle school philosophy celebrates the fact that, far from being an isolated journey or rite of passage, adolescent development emerges from knowledge and experiences constructed through interactions with other students, educators, communities, and environments. Of course, other variables also influence student development including characteristics of the individual (developmental level, health, dispositions, disabilities, resilience, previous experiences, etc.) and ecological factors such as society, culture, religious beliefs and practices, peers outside of school, socioeconomic status, geographic location, parent’s level of education, and so forth. However, our discussion will emphasize the developmental needs of the student and how middle schools, specifically, can meet these needs.
  • Since the needs of the student are at the core of the middle school philosophy, it’s important to begin with a thorough understanding of how middle school students are developing as adolescents and as learners. I’ll also offer some suggestions for addressing these needs. Then we will talk more about the characteristics of middle schools that support and facilitate student development.
  • We’ll be looking at the three main areas of development: physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional. This “snapshot” will give us a better idea of what middle level students are experiencing and help us as educators identify and plan for some of the challenges we face in working with adolescents.
  • Growing pains are real, and physical changes are not precisely coordinated by the brain (which is itself undergoing significant development). Physical features on an individual sometimes don’t seem to match – ears too big, legs disproportionately long,and so forth – but eventually even out. There is often a difference between the growth rate of girls and boys.
  • Here are some ways to address the physical development needs of this age group. [Read through bullets.] Adultswho can channel students’ energy and remain understanding in the face of mood swings, complaints about achiness, or awkward questions can help students navigate the rocky terrain of physical development.
  • The adolescent brain is amazing, and the development of cognitive abilities is really exciting to watch! The brain is busy building new connections between memories and current experiences; repeated stimuli (good or bad) cause the brain to structure processing pathways that will guide thoughts and actions for the rest of the individual’s life. That’s why giving middle level learners plenty of chances to practice desirable behaviors and skills and providing lots of opportunities to make positive choices (and then praising them for it) is so important.
  • Here are a few suggestions for fostering the cognitive development needs of this age group. [Read through bullets.] Here again, teachers/advisors who are familiar with each students’ strengths and needs can provide the structure and support learners require to learn how to focus and organize their approach to increasingly complex tasks, help students succeed in meeting rigorous standards, and encourage students to pursue greater challenges than they might have on their own.
  • You probably know from experience that when you fill a room with 25 eighth graders, it’s like interacting with every emotion known to humans. And that’s in the first five minutes!Adolescents can be unpredictable, even to themselves. They are increasingly focused on peer acceptance and less overtly interested in securing adult approval. But even if they act out, middle level students have a growing understanding of right, wrong, fairness, and justice. They are able to perceive themselves in relation to other people, even those beyond their direct experience (e.g., the larger community, international issues).
  • There are many ways that middle schools can facilitate the social and emotional development of students; here are a few examples. [Non-italicized indicates spoken info that supports text on slide.]Encourage students to explore new identity roles healthy ways. Facilitate increased self-knowledge and resilience characteristics. Focus on learning from mistakes or negative experiences rather than on the mistakes themselves. Teachers/advisors should demonstrate these techniques by not taking themselves too seriously and by sharing how they’ve learned from their own mistakes and misfortunes.Help students learn how to evaluate behavioral options and anticipate consequences before making decisions. Provide them with the tools they need for self-reflection. Reinforce and model respect, empathy, and compassion toward others within the school, the local community, and around the world. Encourage students to listen and learn about others who are different. Sarcasm or hurtful “humor” should not actively discouraged.Teach students how to understand and effectively cope with their emotions(including anger, hurt, jealousy, joy, fear, love, etc.)
  • School practices refer to the things that we do - curriculum, instruction, guidance, assessment, etc. – to meet the needs of students, teachers/advisors, and other participants in the learning community.
  • Here a some practices that effective middle schools employ:[Non-italicized indicates spoken info that supports text on slide.]Active learning – Students are personally engaged with the content on multiple levels (physical, emotional, mental) and in a variety of ways. They are motivated learners who seek out challenges.Multiple learning and teaching approaches – This means facilitating diverse educational opportunities and varied forms of interaction between learners (different group structures) as well as recognizing interdependence and responsibility to the team.Assessment and evaluation are integrated with instruction. Student achievement is both realized and documented through informed implementation.Guidance and support through an advisory system and partnerships with professionals in the community (e.g., health and wellness counselors, substance abuse educators, career planners)Organizational structure - Small learning communities and/or advisory groups to maximize direct contact between teachers/advisors and students and build meaningful, collaborative relationships.
  • To be most effective, however, one cannot implement these practices superficially! [Cite study: IL Middle Grades Network]
  • As I mentioned earlier, school culture refers to all the things we (ideally) do to build an environment where everyone in the school can successfully achieve personal and collective goals. It goes beyond what we say or teach – culture is how we act and don’t act; it’s what we believe and value throughout the school community. Culture can include things like respectfulness, school and individual pride, honesty, neatness, service to others, teamwork, follow-through, positive attitude, and so forth.
  • A positive culture is an essential part of the middle school philosophy and should include:[Non-italicized indicates spoken info that supports text on slide.]High expectations with the guidance and resources necessary to support student successKnowledgeable educators who are trained and genuinely interested in working with adolescentsA safe environment – this refers to all kinds of safety, including physical, emotional, mental, as well as the freedom to express ideas Health, wellness, and safety – acknowledging that healthy individuals form a productive communityCourageous, collaborative leadership that promotes the vision and supports the teachers and parents as they implement school practices, including providing professional development and the resources needed by faculty to fulfill new and existing responsibilitiesAnd, bringing our exploration of middle school philosophy full circle, school culture must be founded upon a…Shared vision focused on fostering the growth of students as learners and people
  • Middle schools are going to be more successful when everyone in the school community is working toward a clear, collective vision for providing the best educational environment for middle level learners. This mission or vision points the way to the core goal - promoting student development - while culture and practices are how we get there. The vision helps teachers, staff, and administrators plan for the resources they will need to reach student achievement and developmental goals. The principal can be the “keeper of the vision” – the person who promotes and champions it, who recognizes and rewards those who embody its spirit, and who reminds the school community about it when commitment is flagging. But everyone must first “buy-into” the vision.
  • Where do you fit into the big picture? Here’s a very quick overview of the way – or ways - you might participate in the middle school context.[Non-italicized indicates spoken info that supports text on slide.]Students are active participants in their own education – they respond well to increasing choice and responsibility.Advisor/teacher serves as an adult advocate for individual students in small, stable groups to foster their development as students and people. Advisor/teacher is a prepared and creative collaborator who seeks to maximize connections between ideas, students, other advisors/teachers, and educational resources.Parents regularly communicate with the advisors about their children and are active participants in the learning community. At home they do their best to extend and support the school’s culture and goals.Administrators are familiar with the school’s successes and challenges through frequent, direct involvement “on the ground” in addition tolong-range planning activities. They provide collaborative planning time and resources for teachers and ensure that a commitment to advisory is evident in the school schedule and budget. Staff and resource professionals (reading specialists, ELL teachers, library media specialists, special education caseworkers, police liaisons, etc.) are integrated with advisors/teachers, working side-by-side to make sure that each student’s needs and goals are met.
  • Today we talked about a lot of things. [Go through bullets.] It seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Yet it makes so much sense. When everyone in the learning community shares a common vision for excellence and willingly does their part to make it reality, middle school students will be prepared to face new challenges in the future – in school and in life. If we honestly commit to the fundamental philosophy and practices of the middle school concept, our students will have the opportunities they need to continue developing as learners, people, and citizens.
  • THANK YOU! I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Transcript

  • 1. Exploring the Middle School Philosophy
    A layered approach to meeting the developmental needs of middle level learners
    Deb White
    KSP 607 - Fall 2008
  • 2. Components of the Middle School Philosophy
    All members of the school community are committed to a coherent, shared vision.
  • 3. Components of the Middle School Philosophy
    School Culture is how we create a learning environment that supports the academic performance, personal development, and social growth of middle level students.
  • 4. Components of the Middle School Philosophy
    School Practices are
    what we do.
  • 5. Components of the Middle School Philosophy
    The Student’s Developmental Needs are central!
  • 6. Student Development is Complex
    Actors:
    (Advisors)
    • Families
    • 9. Administrators
    • 10. Other School Staff
    and Specialists
    • Local Community
    • 11. Global Community
    Interactions among these contribute to
    the development of each student as a learner and person.
    Individual Characteristics
    Ecological Factors
  • 12. Components of the Middle School Philosophy
    The Student’s Developmental Needs are central!
  • 13. Middle School Philosophy:
    Developmental needs of the learner
    Physical
    Cognitive
    Social and Emotional
  • 14. Physical Development
    • Rapid, intense, and sometimes painful growth spurts
    • 15. Physical features develop at uneven rates
    • 16. Hormonal changes; secondary sex characteristics
    • 17. Awkward; balance and coordination are affected
    • 18. Frequently hungry and thirsty
    • 19. Often energetic
  • Physical Development
    Suggestions for Middle Schools
    • Regular physical activity (non-competitive)
    • 20. Good nutrition and hydration are essential.
    • 21. Opportunities to learn about physical changes,
    including sex education
    • Environment in which respect for differences is
    reinforced; no tolerance for harassment
    • Knowledgeable, understanding adults
  • Cognitive Development
    • Increasing capacity for abstract and complex thought
    • 22. Problem-solving and reasoning skills are developing
    • 23. Growing ability to reflect upon one’s thought
    processes (metacognition) and actions
  • 24. Cognitive Development
    Suggestions for Middle Schools
    Middle school students will benefit when their school or teacher:
    • implements an interesting, integrative, challenging , and exploratory
    curriculum that is relevant to students’ lives.
    • provides numerous opportunities and support for students to:
    • 25. Stretch themselves cognitively with unfamiliar ideas or tasks.
    • 26. Transition from mastering concrete information to exploring
    abstract concepts.
    • Practice new organizational, processing, and communication skills.
    • 27. Reflect upon their thoughts and work; use reflections and feedback
    to revise and improve products.
  • 28. Social and Emotional Development
    • Emerging awareness of others
    • 29. Heightened sense of fairness
    • 30. Social consciousness
    • 31. Need to explore personal identities
    • 32. Sudden, intense emotions
  • Social and Emotional Development
    Suggestions for Middle Schools
    An effective middle school will:
    • Encourage students to explore new identity
    roles in healthy ways.
    • Facilitate increased self-knowledge and resilience
    characteristics.
    • Help students learn how to evaluate behavioral options
    and anticipate consequences before making decisions.
    • Reinforce and model respect, empathy, and compassion
    toward others.
    • Teach students how to understand and effectively cope
    with their emotions.
  • 33. Middle School Philosophy: School Practices
    School Practices are
    what we do.
  • 34. School Practices
    • Active learning – Students are personally
    involved and motivated to seek out challenges.
    • Multiple learning and teaching approaches
    that engage all students in a variety of ways.
    • Assessment and evaluation are integrated with
    planning and instruction
    • Guidance and support through an advisory
    system and community partnerships
    • Organizational structure – Small, stable
    learning communities and/or advisory groups
  • 35. School Practices
    Not an à la carte menu!
    • Must be used consciously.
    • 36. Must be comprehensively integrated.
  • Middle School Philosophy: School Culture
    School Culture refers to prevalent values, attitudes, and expectations.
  • 37. School Culture
    • High expectations for students and educators – effort, behavior, products,
    individual growth, and collective progress
    • Knowledgeable educators – trained, enthusiastic, energetic, committed
    • 38. A safe environment
    • 39. Health, wellness, and safety
    • 40. Courageous, collaborative leadership
    • 41. Shared vision focused on
    fostering the growth
    of students as
    learners and people
  • 42. The Unifying Element of the Middle School Philosophy
    All members of the school community are committed to a coherent, shared vision.
    How do we define our learning community to guide school culture and practices in order to meet the needs of middle grade students?
  • 43. What’s your role?
    • Students: active participants in their own education
    • 44. Advisor/teacher: adult advocate for individual students; prepared and creative collaborator
    • 45. Parents: active participants in the learning community; support the school’s vision at home
    • 46. Administrators: collaborative planning time and resources for teachers; time and support for advisory group activities
    • 47. Staff and Resource Professionals: team with teachers/advisors to apply their expertise
  • Middle School Philosophy - Summary
    • Developmental Needs of the Student
    and Recommendations: