I recently spoke with Marinette Middle School Principal, Michael Whisler, about his philosophy regarding education, particularly at the middle school age, and he excitedly shared the following resource:
We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents is the foundational document of the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), formerly National Middle School Association.
Suffice it to say, Mr. Whisler allowed me to borrow the book and now I’d like to share some of the main points taken from the text itself. Enjoy 😉
The Association patient experiences young adolescents providing vision, knowledge, resources to all who serve in order to develop healthy, productive, and ethical citizens.
Every day, millions of divers, rapidly changing 10 to 15-year-olds make critical and complex life choices form the attitudes, values, and dispositions that will direct their behavior as adults. They deserve an education that will enhance their healthy growth as lifelong learners, ethical and democratic citizens, and increasingly competent, self-sufficient individuals who are optimistic about the future and prepared to succeed in our ever-changing world.
Intellectual means much more increasing competent in the academic content of the curriculum. We must endeavor to stimulate the child a love for learning, an attitude of inquiry, a passion for truth and beauty, a questioning mind. The learning of right answers is not enough beyond answers alone, we must help children ask the right questions, and discover their answers through creative thinking, reasoning, judging, and understanding.
Thriving now and in the future requires becoming a lifelong learner and demands more than a basic understanding, writing, and mathematics.
Rapid physical changes make early adolescence a crucial period for developing healthy personal habits.
Schools have a responsibility to assist students in dealing with major societal issues.
Major goals of Middle-Level education:
- Become actively aware of the larger world, asking significant and relevant questions about the world and wrestling with big ideas and questions for which there may not be one right answer.
- Be able to think rationally critically and express thoughts clearly.
- Read deeply to independently gather, assess, and interpret information from a variety of sources read avidly for enjoyment and lifelong learning.
- Use digital tools to explore, communicate, and collaborate with the world and learn from the rich and varied resources available. Be a good steward of the earth and its resources and a wise and intelligent consumer of the wide array of goods and services available.
- Understand and use the major concepts, skills, and tools of inquiry the areas of health and physical education, language arts, world languages, mathematics, natural and physical sciences, and the social sciences. Explore music, art, and careers, and recognize their importance to personal growth and learning.
- Develop his or her strengths, particular skills, talents, or interests and have an emerging understanding of his or her potential contributions to society and to personal fulfillment.
- Recognize, articulate, and make responsible, ethical decisions concerning his or her own health and wellness needs.
- Respect and value the diverse ways people look, speak, think, and act within the immediate community and around the world.
- Develop the interpersonal and social skills needed to learn, work, and play with others harmoniously and confidently.
- Assume responsibility for his or her own actions and be cognizant of and ready to accept obligations for the welfare of others.
- Understand local, national, and global civic responsibilities and demonstrate active citizenship through participation in endeavors that serve and benefit those large communities.
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
- Educators value young adolescents and are prepared to teach them. (Value young adolescents)
- Students and teachers are engaged in active, purposeful learning. (Active learning)
- Curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and relevant. (Challenging curriculum)
- Educators use multiple learning and teaching approaches. (Multiple learning approaches)
- Varied and ongoing assessments advance learning as well as measure it. (Varied assessments)
Leadership and Organization
- A shared vision developed by all stakeholders guides every decision. (Shared vision)
- Leaders are committed to and knowledgeable about this age group, educational research, and best practices. (Committed leaders)
- Leaders demonstrate courage and collaboration. (Courageous and collaborative leaders)
- Ongoing professional development reflects best educational practices. (Professional development)
- Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationships. (Organizational structures)
Culture and Community
- The school environment is inviting, safe, inclusive, and supportive of all. (School environment)
- Every student’s academic and personal development is guided by an adult advocate. (Adult advocate)
- Comprehensive guidance and support services meet the needs of young adolescents. (Guidance services)
- Health and wellness are supported in curricula, schoolwide programs, and related policies. (Health and wellness)
- The school actively involves families in the education of their children. (Family involvement)
- The school includes community and business partners. (Community and business)
- Having students grapple with and master advanced concepts and skills require teachers to stretch themselves, moving well beyond “covering material.”
- Exploration is an attitude and approach, not a classification of content.
- All educators must become proficient in using technology and integrating it throughout the curriculum.
- Means of assessing student progress should serve a learning function, helping students clarify understandings and providing information on which to base judgments.
- Assessment should emphasize individual progress rather than comparison with other students and not rely on extrinsic motivation.
- Effective leaders challenge and change practices that do not serve students best interests and confront issues, not in line with the vision.
- Effective interdisciplinary teams lead to improved student achievement, increased parental contacts, and enhanced school climate, and positive student attitudes.
- Keeping a team of teachers and staff together for two or three years provides opportunities for teachers to establish sustained relationships with students and parents.
- Advocacy is an attitude of caring the translates into actions, big and small.
- Successful middle grades schools provide continuity of caring and support that extends throughout the entire middle-level experience.
- A coordinated health program concentrates on those areas of students lives that either enhance or interfere with learning.
- Research studies clearly link the involvement of family and other adults in the community with higher levels of student achievement.
- Our call to action requires a recommitment to the philosophy of middle-level education by some and a newfound commitment by others. The vision described in this we believe: Keys to educating young adolescents advocates for what research shows is right for young adolescents. Not what might be current practice, expedient, or readily accomplished. Thoroughly preparing all young adolescents to succeed in a demanding and evolving global culture makes the transformation and improvement of middle-level education and imperative. We ask you to join in this vital effort by
- Becoming personally familiar with the contents of this position statement, studying it sufficiently so that you have a clear understanding of its advocacy and can articulate it to others.
- Engaging one or two colleagues and discussion about this position paper, sharing views, clarifying thinking, and considering the implications of putting it more fully into practice.
- Exploring with faculty and administrators specific ways to use this we believe: Keys to educating young adolescents is an integral part of your school’s collaborative professional development opportunities.
- Assessing the degree to which your school currently implements the 16 characteristics of a developmentally responsive school.
- Developing a focused school improvement plan aimed at the full implementation of the recommended characteristics.
- Engaging pertinent stakeholders – boards of education, district office personnel, and parents – in learning experiences that will increase their knowledge and understanding of the academic and developmental needs of middle grades students.