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from the head of middle school

Posted November 21, 2011.

from the head of middle school

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I gave up childish ways (1 Corinthians 13 v 11)

As a father of young children myself, I am frequently conflicted in my thinking: hoping that the wonderful innocence of childhood endures as long as possible, yet also dealing with the fact that as my children are increasingly aware of the world around them and in particular are starting to read, the questions they will ask will require answers that are truthful yet also worded in a way that does not cause unnecessary distress. My children desperately want to learn.  Previously understood reality is constantly evolving…

The transition from childhood to adulthood gains significant pace once students reach Year 5. Indeed at no other time in one’s life does change, both physical and emotional, occur as rapidly as it does in the middle years of schooling.  It is observing and having the ability to in some way influence the change that is occurring in their lives at such rapid pace that makes my job as a teacher of middle years students so rewarding.

Skilful educators consistently present their students with problems that they are capable of solving, yet which are also deliberately provocative and which require students to grow their own range of skills in order to do so.   The 2011 Middle School production of Aladdin provided a significant number of our community with such a challenge last term.  Although the events of production week were action-packed and at times frantic, it was evident to me as I watched each performance (from the technical run and dress rehearsals until the last night) just how much learning was taking place.  After weeks of rehearsal at school, essentially at this time, the show is handed over to the students.  Placing students on the stage and asking them to perform before a critical (but supportive) audience forces them to take decisions about how they are going to act when on stage and also about what they are going to do to ensure that they are as well prepared as possible.   Noticeably, students in the cast were reflecting on their own performances, asking for specific help if they felt they needed it, organising additional rehearsals in their own time, and were having enormous amounts of fun doing so!

Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University in California was a recent visitor to the school.  She describes successful individuals as those who “love learning, seek challenges, value effort and persist in the face of obstacles”.  She describes a “growth mindset”, where individuals see their intelligence and talents as quanlities that can constantly be increased and developed. As a result, individuals with such a mindset welcome challenges, because they view them as an opportunity to make progress and to learn.

As our students in the Middle School continue to move rapidly along their pathway to adulthood and give up their childish ways, it is our great privilege as educators to be influential in their development and to provide them with the appropriate challenges and support so that they never stop wanting to learn.