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Dedicated to Teachers

What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know: new challenges

Researchers Dave Brown and Trudy Knowles have updated their bestselling classic What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know with more student voices, as well as timely new research, strategies, and models that illuminate the philosophies and practices that best serve the needs of young adolescents. In a special blog series Dr. Brown writes about what’s changed since the previous edition of the book.

Written by Co-author Dave F. Brown, Ed. D.

With our newest edition of What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know, Trudy Knowles and I address the changing landscape of educational expectations over the past five years. As if teaching adolescents is not challenging enough, middle school teachers have been attacked by pundits claiming that nothing significant occurs in middle schools, and the Federal Department of Education insists on basing teachers’ evaluations on students’ test scores.

Despite the absurdity of Race to the Top policies, young adolescents, kids between the ages of 10 and 15, are... young adolescents! In the interviews we conducted for this new edition, students reveal several essential messages. Over and over they tell us what they want from teachers and their schools—and not one of them wants to be judged merely by academic talents! Here’s Alex: “One of the biggest challenges of our age is school and the mixture of social life and grades. The most important thing is finding the balance between the two, and we are at the age where we are figuring out where our balance is.” Maia adds this apt description: “This awkward phase from child to adult is difficult mentally, emotionally, and socially, which ultimately leaves us as the tired and cranky ‘young adults’ that we are said to be.”

We provide essential facts teachers should know to meet students’ needs. We have divided the two chapters on development in the earlier edition into four smaller chapters to better emphasize the unique characteristics of this age. We particularly address how technology affects students—both cognitively and socially—and how teachers can use technology to their advantage. There’s a greater focus and new slant on the identity challenges that young adolescents face, and we address the ever present challenge of bullying. New in this edition are suggestions in the margins for practical classroom applications teachers can use to address students’ developmental changes.

If your school proudly proclaims itself a “middle school,” what occurs within those walls must meet young adolescents’ needs. Chapters 6 and 7 describe the specific school traits that reflect true middle-level environments—including the effects of the new Schools to Watch Program. Recent research from across the U. S. demonstrates that schools implementing several components of true middle schools have more satisfied students—socially, psychologically, and academically. We describe how the middle school movement began as a holistic movement based on young adolescents’ needs and continues to be the model of progressive education. Another essential new component of the book is a comprehensive section on how teachers can address crises that students may continue to experience throughout their lives.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are knocking on your door; and with little direction, you and your colleagues are asking, “How do we address new content standards and provide our students with additional curricula and experiences to ensure they will be able to think?” Paul George, one of the most experienced and respected proponents of the middle-level movement reminds us, “Advocates of the middle school concept see less value in a national- or state-dominated curriculum, preferring one that begins with the needs and interests of students.”  With that philosophy in mind, we dive into the world of curriculum integration with new student questions that drove the learning in one classroom throughout an academic year and describe recent studies that support this method of learning as superior to the CCSS. In the last two chapters we provide the latest research on neuroscience as well as practical strategies for ensuring genuine learning rather than “covering content.” No learning can be genuinely meaningful for young adolescents until they take responsibility for their own assessment, and we share the latest thinking on how teachers can encourage these reflective processes.

The critical purpose of this third edition is summarized in our new epilogue: “Young adolescents are vibrant, alive, curious, energetic, and exciting to be around. They need a school environment that responds to these qualities. Too often their schools are dull, detached, sometimes even cruel places. They need teachers who love the excitement of young adolescence and want to guide teens in their journey through the middle level years.” Please join us in identifying the processes that lead to the success of genuine middle schools by sharing our new edition in your professional circles.

To learn more about the third edition and to read a sample chapter, click here: What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know

Topics: Dave Brown, Reading, Teaching-General, What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know, Writing, Math, Middle School, Trudy Knowles

Date Published: 09/05/14

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