The fact that many structures of model middle schools are being tossed by the wayside in these tough economic times makes it even more crucial for teachers to pursue graduate studies in middle level programs. We all know that in education, we're riding a pendulum that swings back and forth. Ideas come and go, but even if they have different names, the philosophies behind them are usually the same.
In the middle level program at CMU (and hopefully in all!), a teacher will first learn about the distinct needs and characteristics of these "kids in the middle." These sweet darling are undergoing such dramatic changes physically, cognitively, and emotionally. It is imperative to understand them in order to best help them grow into democratic life-long learners.
The second important part of a middle level program is the structures that best suit the needs of these kids. Teaming, flexible scheduling, advisory, parent communication and contact are all crucial elements. Teaching in a school that does not already employ these structures makes it even more important that we have qualified and knowledgeable staff who can advocate for them, and who have the desire to implement them in the toughest circumstances.
In order to understand middle level kids, we need to understand the diversities that enter our classrooms. These kids are diverse in every way-from their rate of their development to ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversities. The middle level program will help teachers understand these differences and then go on to model the instructional strategies that will allow teachers to meet the needs of all students, in spite of their diverse natures and backgrounds.
Understanding curriculum that best meets the needs of middle level students is the next step in the journey to becoming a highly effective middle school teacher through the program at CMU. The National Middle School Association advocates for a curriculum that is integrated, rigorous, and incorporates student voice. This type of curriculum is best planned in collaborative teams, but even teachers who find themselves still working in isolation can implement the elements of effective curriculum within their own classroom.
Becoming a middle level specialist through an endorsement or masters program will enhance the practice of teachers at every level. It will change the way you teach. Maybe more importantly, as many middle schools do away with teaming and common planning time, flexible scheduling, and the other components that make a model middle school, it will make you an advocate to maintain instruction and programs that research shows are best for middle level students.