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Rationale for Teaching
Middle schooling (grades 6-9) is a crucial time in the lives of the young people that I teach (Main & Pendergast 2017, p. 47-48), there is a lot going on at the same time as their education. Students go through a wealth of physical, psychosocial, emotional and cognitive changes (puberty), that is only matched by the development that occurs in the first two years of life (Pendergast 2017, p. 4). During this period, my students will form values and dispositions that will direct their attitudes and behaviours through to adulthood and into the future (Main & Pendergast 2017, p. 47-48).
The students that I encounter within a middle school context are complex, unique and diverse individuals, each having learning and personal needs that needs meeting. They are adolescents and are going through the journey of adolescence (Main 2017), Meaning they are still developing. Diversity in gender, culture and ability are seen and I acknowledge that this is where the one size fits all approach, does not work. I feel that using this type of approach in the classroom only leads to student disengagement. Pendergast (2017), notes that disengagement in many cases is a product of not meeting these desired learning needs. Learning needs are to be met for the students to be successful and include how they learn and learning difficulties they possess. All students have the right to success through both a meaningful and differentiated curriculum and it is my role as teacher to facilitate this to provide equity in opportunity for student success. I need to differentiate student needs to cater for all in my class (Main 2017, p.97).
When my students enter the middle school years of their education journey, there is an apparent focus on subject matter, rather than the student-learner as seen in primary school (Pendergast 2017, p. 7). The way that we expect students to learn changes and at this time there are increased expectations, new relationships and academic diversity are experienced (students at different levels of knowledge and ability in all subjects).
Middle school reform is a response to claims that the middle years of young people’s learning either slows down, stops or even seems to go backwards (termed disengagement), at a time when learning should be progressing (Stringer 1998, p. 6 as cited in Chadbourne & Pendergast 2005). The middle school reform is the transition period for young people moving from primary school to high school (Chadbourne & Pendergast 2005). This reform is necessary due to unfamiliar structure, forming new relationships, different focus of learning and unique learning needs (Chadbourne & Pendergast 2005. It seeks to address students’ learning in a way that meets their complex, unique and diverse learning and personal needs in a meaningful, relevant way. Thus, enabling students to feel safe, wanted and included in their learning environments. Motivation and engagement are important, this is why a specific meaningful curriculum presented using a middle school approach is needed to build students in preparation for success for themselves and the world.
(Main, K 2017, ‘Catering for Individual Students’ in DL Pendergast, K Main & NM Bahr (3rd Edition), Teaching Middle Year: Rethinking Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, pp. 80-97)
Digitally Annotated by Andrei Apostol
This theme acknowledged that the students we work within a middle school setting are complex, unique and diverse needs, they are adolescence (still developing). It looked at the complexities of the transition to Middle schooling from primary school and the change from the focus of the child learner in primary and the secondary school focus of subject matter. It also noted that just because students are orientated to Middle school doesn’t necessarily mean they have transitioned fully either, schools and teacher need to assist, positively with this transition. Key approaches explored include differentiation, personal learning methodology and maturation.
Damien Walker is currently studying a Bachelor of Education, Food and Textiles Technologies at University of South Australia. This is him engaging with readings and questions throughout his teaching journey to gain professional insight and knowledge.