This fresh, reader-friendly text presents a comprehensive introduction to the children, the choices, and the challenges of teaching middle school. Writing in the first person, the author, an experienced middle school teacher, examines the full range of middle school topics, from the development and diversity of middle school learners, to the structures, curriculum, and environment of the school itself.
Engaging vignettes and photos of teachers and students bring topics to life, while student work samples, case studies, and articles on MyEducationLab link to topics within each chapter. Boxed NMSA performance standards relate to each chapter's content and videos, and Professional Practice features in all chapters involve scenarios from the lives of teachers and students, followed by multiple choice and constructed response opportunities that mirror Praxis II exams. Introduction to Middle School offers a comprehensive body of knowledge that emphasizes academic rigor while speaking to pre-service teachers in a voice that invites new teachers into this field.
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Meet the Author
Sara Davis Powell is a teacher–from the middle school classroom to teacher preparation as a professor at Belmont Abbey College. She is a young adolescent advocate who writes about middle level teacher preparation, emphasizing a balance of theory and developmentally responsive and academically rigorous practice. Powell's An Introduction to Education: Choosing Your Teaching Path was published by Pearson in 2008 and is the textbook for initial education courses in colleges across the country. She is actively involved in local classrooms and the middle school community through professional development, supervising clinical interns, and conducting research and writing about middle level issues. She is also a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences, where her enthusiasm for middle level education has proven contagious.
Introduction to Middle School models the ideals of middle level education in that it is both academically rigorous and developmentally responsive. It is academically rigorous because it is comprised of a comprehensive body of knowledge concerning middle level philosophy and structure; student development and diversity; curriculum, instruction, assessment, and planning for the classroom; and the creation and maintenance of a positive learning environment. It is developmentally responsive because it approaches these topics without intimidating or boring the reader. As an experienced middle school teacher, I speak to other teachers whether they are teacher candidates completing bachelor's or master's degrees; career changers preparing to take their skills and backgrounds into the middle school classroom; elementary or high school teachers getting ready for the challenges and joys of spending their days with middle schoolers; or teachers who desire to dig deeper into their profession, seeking insights and refreshment. Writing a book allows me only to speak, not converse. My hope is that readers will talk to one another about middle grades education, prompted by my side of the "conversation."
Teachers are my heroes. They make the minute-by-minute decisions on which student success and well-being depend. If knowledge is power, and I believe it is, the more we understand about the nature of adolescence, with both its documented predictability and its absurd volatility, the more prepared we are to make both the relatively insignificant, and the life-changing decisions. Yes, experience is the best teacher. But opportunities to read, reflect, discuss, and speculate will sharpen our focus on, and widen our peripheral vision of, middle grades education and all that is involved in teaching young adolescents. This book provides such opportunities.
The tenets of Turning Points (1989 and 2000), This We Believe (2003), the underpinnings of the National Middle School Association, and the teacher preparation standards of NMSA permeate every page. This strong conceptual foundation focuses us squarely on students and learning. As a unique phase of human development, early adolescence deserves continued concentrated research and study that will further deepen our understanding of how best to meet the needs of the students in our charge. Introduction to Middle School addresses the issues of teaching, and learning with, the marvelous kids of early adolescence in commonsense ways that infuse practicality with theory.
This book is a work of nontraditional scholarship—scholarly by way of knowledge base, and nontraditional by way of personalization. It is written in first person. I believe I best serve teachers, in whatever career stage, by speaking from both a research base and my own and others' experiences in the classroom. I welcome all readers to the adventure of exploring the landscape of middle school.
This book is comprised of 12 chapters. Separating the body of knowledge of middle level education into discrete chapters seems arbitrary, but it is efficient to do so. Given the limits of the written word, I have chosen to organize this book in a traditional way. However, just as multiple ripples on calm water are caused by one single tossed pebble, every aspect of middle level education influences every other aspect. Chapter 1 focuses on the history of middle school and the elements that have given it legitimacy and theoretical grounding. Chapter 2 is an overview of student physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and character development. Chapter 3 looks at the diversity among our students from cultural, to socioeconomic, to learning styles, and beyond. Chapter 4 probes the characteristics of effective middle school teachers. Chapter 5 delves into the structures of people, time, and place, including teaming, flexible schedules, and classroom/school facilities. Chapters 6 through 9 discuss curriculum, instruction, and assessment at the middle level, while Chapter 10 details all levels of planning for instruction. Chapter 11 deals with the important topic of the classroom environment and its management. Chapter 12 addresses family and community involvement, No Child Left Behind legislation, and the critical issues of transitioning into and out of middle grades.
Meet the students and their teachers. The reader will meet ten students and eight teachers, complete with background information, personal details, and pictures. We will follow the growth of the students from sixth through eighth grade. The teachers also grow in their abilities and professionalism as they confront dilemmas in and out of the classroom. This cast of characters will be used to illustrate concepts and pose questions. They may also be used in group discussions as ready-made examples to which scenarios can be applied.
Professional Practice. At the close of Chapters 2 through 11 are mini case studies involving the students and teachers who come to life through this text. While the formats of the Praxis II exams change on a regular basis, the exams consistently ask teacher candidates to respond to scenarios. This is what the Professional Practice sections do. Each scenario is followed by questions and a constructed response item to contemplate, providing excellent preparation for taking certification exams and also for actual teaching in a middle grades classroom.
NMSA Standards. Throughout the book, the Performance-Based Standards for Initial Middle Level Teacher Preparation are boxed for easy reference. The knowledge, dispositions, and performance standards are placed within the context of the topics they address. Elements of all seven standards are found in the text.
Balance. Creating and maintaining balance is a major theme of Introduction to Middle School. Throughout the text, drawings are used to illustrate balance as they stand on strong theoretical and practical foundations. These symbols serve as visual reminders that teachers have the power and the responsibility to maintain balance in its many forms in their classrooms.
Margin notes. The margin notes illustrate concepts and results that readily fit into an equation. Each concept or result is followed by an equal sign, and the elements that comprise the concept or lead to the result are the addends on the other side of the equation. The concepts and results used in the equations of learning do not necessarily address all of the most important features of the chapter, but rather those that lend themselves to the equation scenario.
Activities. Following each chapter are group activities requiring readers to work cooperatively to accomplish particular tasks. Individual activities give readers opportunities to explore middle level concepts in various ways on their own. The Personal Journal section asks readers to reflect on their own experiences.
Internet Resources. Selected Web sites are annotated to provide additional sources of information on topics in each chapter. Most of the sites are quite large with links to other worthwhile Web sites.
Glossary. There is an evolving common vocabulary among educators that allows us to talk about our profession with mutual understanding. In addition, there are words and phrases that have specialized meanings and nuances when used within a middle level education context. Many of these terms are explained in the glossary.