When it comes to the topic of teaching middle school, most of us will readily agree that physical, cognitive and neural changes play a major role in the principles and methods of instruction. In order to have a successful educational system, it is determining factor that middle school teachers understand those transformations and are able to respond to them efficiently. In other words, teaching early adolescents goes beyond specific methods of instruction of a given subject, it requires an array of information about developmental topics and the broadening of one’s clinical skills (Brown and Knowles, 2007, p.13).
Adolescents’ sleeping patterns, physical and cognitive development and socio-emotional regulation are variables that will interfere in their academic results. In addition, the developmental differences between male and female and the difference in time, might even increase conflicts in the classroom environment. The cognitive transition explained by Brown and Knowles (2007) might also result in classroom disparities since students might move from concrete to formal thought at different paces. Therefore, it is imperative that teachers cognitively challenge early adolescents in order to optimize learning during this period of brain growth (33).
It is unquestionable the impact of physical, cognitive and neural changes in the personal and academic life of a young adolescent; however, one should also pay close attention to the socio-emotional aspect of those changes, and how teachers and parents could help their students/children learn to regulate themselves. As in early childhood development, early adolescents might have a hard time regulating their emotions due to those drastic changes. Another interesting point in common is that both infants and young adolescents face intense brain growth through brain connections and pruning. That said, one might infer that the socio-emotional component of development in early adolescence is as important as in early childhood. In other words, parents and teachers should “be there” for their child/ student. They should make efforts to truly understand the early adolescents’ conflicts and not diminish their degree of importance. Parents and teachers should promote a safe learning and exploring environment, welcoming their children back to either delight in their new discoveries or comfort them.
The concept of secure attachment developed in the early years is certainly extended to adolescence and adult life, and should also be well known and practiced by middle school teachers (Circle of Security, 2015). An example of the consideration of the socio-emotional aspect of development in the early adolescents’ lives is given through the story of Rimm in our text book, “[…] this year a teacher liked me. She told me I was good at writing, math, and music and that I had a good personality. Her confidence made me feel different, but in a good way. I started making friends and felt smart and better about myself (Brown and Knowles, 2007, p.23).” The teacher mentioned clearly comforted the student when he needed to have his “cup filled”. After that, one can clearly see the circle of security restarting again, where the student can finally “go out” and safely explore and feel good about himself. To conclude, I believe that equal importance should be given to all the major physical, cognitive, neural and socio-emotional changes in early adolescents’ lives since they affect academic performance, and that teachers should be well prepared to respond to them in an academic and clinical way. All of that certainly makes “teaching middle school a tricky business”.
Brown, Dave F, and Trudy Knowles. “Understanding the Young Adolescent’s Physical and Cognitive Growth.” What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. 290. Print.
“Circle of Security.” Circle of Security. 19 Dec. 1998. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://circleofsecurity.net/resources/handout/>.