Today, we follow-up a previous post about school goals with a further examination of the challenges faced by today's students.
"Being in middle school is just like a bird being kicked out of the nest by its mother," says a middle school student named Raechelle, as quoted by Elissa Gootman of The New York Times in an article titled "Trying to Find Solutions in Chaotic Middle Schools." According to the author, middle school students all over the country, but particularly in cities, face unique challenges during these critical developmental years. As a response, education officials are experimenting more aggressively with various models to help students succeed.
For example, schools in New York have grouped students according to their interests such as business or art. Another New York school has reportedly seen some progress when their students were all assigned laptops, helping combat distraction. Officials in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York opted to simply close middle schools and combine them with elementary schools. In order to increase concentration, one district in Columbia, South Carolina has even started to separate students by gender.
Part of the challenge for students and teachers is dealing with rapid developmental change. The author quotes Sue Swaim of the National Middle School Association as saying, "These kids go through more change in their lives than at any other time except the first three years." Middle school is a confusing world when children become aware of the opposite sex, the viciousness of cliques, and more subtle forms of bullying. These factors may help explain low standardized scores among this age group. Yet teachers and administrators often feel as if all their efforts are inadequate. "It's the roughest, toughest, hardest thing to teach," says one discouraged teacher.
We deeply believe in the mentor model at QWERTY. That's why there are times during a tutoring session when it may be appropriate to veer away from the academic or skill-focused session, and help a student by modeling helpful and adaptive responses to the challenging world surrounding him/her. Students learn from deeply committed mentors who can address many of the issues with which schools struggle. When students receive more individual instruction, leaving the nest and learning to fly becomes less scary and a lot more empowering.
Have a mentoring experience that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear it.