“The middle school is not and cannot be just a physical place in which teachers instruct students on material they will be tested on and presumably will need in the future. The middle school is the prime environment in which youth come of age, the stage on which they act out new roles as maturing social beings on their way to adulthood. It is not a teaching factory, but a laboratory of living—a growing place as much as a formal learning place. Parents and all citizens should realize that what the teachers and schools teach young adolescents about themselves as persons and learners has a far more lasting impact than all the content covered put together.”
Many of us who have attended MAMLE conferences or the Middle Level Education Institute over the years have heard and met Dr. John Lounsbury, a founding father of middle level education. He has revised a 2009 article entitled, “Deferred but Not Deterred: A Middle School Manifesto,”” for NASSP’s Middle Level Leader this month. He wants us to think long and hard about the ramifications of narrowing the curriculum in pursuit of looking for the perfect measure of learning.
Encouraging us to do a “close reading” of his article, he states. “To most effectively study the above article, I suggest it be attacked and analyzed, sentence by sentence, one paragraph at a time. Each of the above paragraphs contains a number of assertions and opinions. Are they reasonable? Fair? To what degree do you agree with the positions taken? “
Finally he urges us to act, “… as committed middle level leaders, we must be proactive in as many ways as possible to help parents, the public, and the profession understand how middle level schools fulfill their critical role of helping youth become well-rounded, responsible, and contributing members of our society.”
Dr. Lounsbury, always the teacher, even suggests some ways for educators to reflect on his thoughts and then to take action. This article would serve as a powerful catalyst for a end-of-the-year faculty reflection on what they stand for as a school and where they might go in the future as they embrace new initiatives. Big topics in Maine include customizing learning, proficiency-based learning, and addressing the Common Core—Dr. Lounsbury would urge us not to forget “…students’ success, both in future schooling and in life itself, will depend not so much on what courses have been passed, grades earned, and test scores recorded, but rather on what skills, dispositions, and habits of mind have been developed during these middle level years.“