August 2012 • Volume 16 • Number 1 • Page 8
Executive Director's Note
William D. Waidelich, Ed.D., Executive Director
Last year in Middle Ground, I asked the question "Do you believe?" I challenged you to make a year where you renewed your focus on This We Believe by dedicating yourself to becoming the best middle grades educator you can be and an active advocate for all young adolescents.
As schools begin to open this month, I will explore how students and teachers are engaged in active, purposeful learning—one of the 16 research-based characteristics of This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents, the Association for Middle Level Education's vision for successful schools for 10- to 15-year-olds.
Successful middle grades schools are characterized by the active engagement of students and teachers. So what does active learning look like in your school? How do students play an active role in their own learning? How is technology integrated in core subjects to engage students in accessing content and communicating and collaborating with others? How do you demonstrate to students that you are still a learner?
Young adolescents are at a unique stage in their intellectual and cognitive development. They are beginning to think abstractly and can see the world beyond the classroom. Whether it is cognitive, social, moral, or physical learning, we need to be developmentally responsive to our students' individual needs by providing an active learning environment.
Using active learning strategies will create a dynamic classroom environment that may look and feel different than a "traditional" classroom. Your students will be challenged to think, explore, and utilize their brains as they become responsible for their own learning and you become a facilitator of great learning activities. As they develop the ability to hypothesize, organize information into useful and meaningful constructs, and grasp longterm cause and effect relationships, students demonstrate they are ready for and should play a major role in their own education.
John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children in his book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Medina's rule #4 is "Attention: We don't pay attention to boring things." He states that our most common communication mistake is "relating too much information with not enough time devoted to connecting the dots.
Medina will be the keynote speaker on Thursday, November 8 during the 39th Annual Conference for Middle Level Education, November 8–10, 2012, in Portland, Oregon. In this session you will learn about the neurological underpinnings of attention and discover how important previous experiences, memory, culture, emotions, threats, and gender are to keeping young minds engaged. You will find out how to not only understand your students better but also how to raise student achievement. More information can be found at: www.amle.org/annual.
Again, I challenge you to make the 2012–2013 school year the year you renew your focus on This We Believe. If you believe, your students will be rewarded with more than just high test scores; they will learn how to learn. Visit www.amle.org/twb for more information.
Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from New Hampshire and the first private citizen selected for space flight, who was killed in the Challenger space shuttle explosion, summed it up best when she said, "I touch the future ... I teach."
Copyright © 2012 Assocation for Middle Level Education