While many passion initiatives take place outside of the classroom, Dahl said in-class apps can make learning much more exciting and meaningful for tweens whose thirst for connection can greatly influence their learning.
In lower secondary schools, this means that post-primary learning change should not be limited to having one main class and six periods with teachers of different subjects. The way the curriculum is taught must also meet the social needs of middle school students, according to 8th-grade social studies teacher Sarah LeDuff, who was teaching at Downtown College Prep Alum Rock Middle School in San Jose when I visited her class in the spring. .
“Their thirst for relationships is not just with each other, but they also crave mentorship and adult relationships,” said LeDuff, who is also a middle school teacher of the year in California. “It’s just these vessels of emotion all over the place that are beautiful and complicated.
In order to align the curriculum with the emotional and social needs of middle school students, LeDuff ensures that her classroom is welcoming in climate, design, and instruction. Students enter class to music, such as Pharell’s “Just a Cloud Away,” whose lyrics can create a soundtrack for a child’s day. The partially lit fluorescent lights in her bungalow are offset by a garland of soft exterior bulbs. Students sit in groups of four desks – they are not lined up in rows – and there is a small potted plant in the middle of each group.
“Her class is very welcoming,” said student Brianna Gonzalez. “Once you walk into his room it’s very relaxed and there are beanbags and sofas and everything. You feel like you are in a safe place.
Listen to the change of mind podcast to listen to a day in the life of Sarah LeDuff’s classroom
LeDuff wants students to let their guard down in order to let the learning in. After remote learning, which was followed by a return to school buildings, students had a lot of anxiety, which can hinder learning. She wanted to make room for well-being, and that included ending the mistreatment of each other.
“I want my students to take academic risks, whether it’s working on their public speaking, standing up and performing a poem they’ve written, participating in a debate,” said LeDuff. “These are very vulnerable things. If I don’t make them feel safe on the outside, it’s extremely difficult to tap into the creativity they need for authentic learning.
Students like Ivan Martinez noticed these differences with LeDuff. He said the other classes felt “plain” and joyless and that “once you walk in, the vibe is different. It’s like you walk in and sit there for over an hour or so. that you just listen to what the teacher says.”
One aspect of adolescence is that the call for autonomy grows stronger on the part of the child. At home, it may come across as conflict or a desire to be left alone.
“They want freedom,” Dahl said of children in this early teenage period. He said parents can be proactive about how children gain freedom by asking them to demonstrate their good judgment to prove they are ready for more independence. And while this transition to greater independence can be confusing for parents wondering about their role in their child’s life — especially as friends grow in importance — Dahl says adults still matter.
“It’s a myth that parents become useless and it’s all about peers,” he said, adding that there is always room for warm and supportive environments with high standards and boundaries. . “Combining that with attention that feels like honoring their values and their desire to be independent is really, really important. This is very important in early adolescence, no less important.
When it comes to schoolwork, middle school students are expected to be self-sufficient as they receive less attention from adults than during their elementary school years as class sizes increase and students go from class to class with different teachers. But there is also a way to buttress self-reliance lessons for students. For Sarah LeDuff, it’s about teaching students how to stand up for themselves and reflect on themselves. And in order to underpin student autonomy, the curriculum must be designed for these opportunities. One area she changed was the way she grades.
“I’ve really reworked my grading system to value student input so that grades aren’t just something that happens to you; your teacher is not just your assessor who decides whether you did your job well or poorly, but grades are something we co-create together,” LeDuff said. At the end of each term, she does self-reflection rubrics with each student and they have teacher-student conferences to discuss priorities like classroom contributions, collaboration, or reading skills. One of the rubrics is self-representation, so the student will reflect on their own work, rate themselves, and present why they feel like they got that mark – with evidence.
“They’ll be thinking things like, ‘Are they coming to me and asking me for feedback? Do they ask for help when they need it from me and their peers? “, LeDuff said. “And they will reflect on their ability to do these things and they will give themselves a score.
LeDuff knows she also has areas for improvement. So she will survey the class to ask what she thinks can be improved, then share them with the students and look for ways to implement those changes.