Teaming Concept: a Remedy against the Factory Model in the School System

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   The teaming concept, when applied to the schools’ structural design could be seen as a “remedy” against the factory model or the traditional departmentalized school structure. In order to effectively answer to the unique needs of young adolescents, many middle schools have been shifting their organizational structure from departmentalized and deterministic into a more holistic and contingent structure (Brown and Knowles, 2007, 226).  Having a Business Management academic background makes me realize that while the corporate world has been successfully changing their organizational structures from the factory model into a holistic-team oriented approach, implementing successful teaming in schools might take great time and efforts. If the schools’ objective is to prepare citizens with a well-rounded education, there must be a shift from the industrial era paradigm into the knowledge era paradigm. In other words, teaming is not only necessary in order to answer to young adolescents’ needs, but also to prepare them to join a job market that is each day more focused on selling knowledge and innovation rather than manufactured products.

          Common planning time is much needed so that the teachers team can become more cohesive and synchronized. According to Manning and Bucher (2012), one of the benchmarks for effective teams tells that, “Teachers should have compatible personalities and good interpersonal skills” (134). I strongly believe that teachers will work better in groups and get to know each other’s thoughts if they have the time to work and plan together. In that way, they’ll be more competent when managing disagreements such as different point of views. They’ll also be more aware of their individual educational philosophies and better able to compromise in order to achieve long term goals. Teams would work together by sharing their thoughts, brainstorming ways to approach the chosen theme, defining ways to assess their students, and last but not least, including the students in the process of integrating the curriculum. In addition, teachers would work in looping in which a core group of teachers and students remain together for several years. Looping is an effective way to promote personalized instruction, facilitate the students’ transition from elementary to middle school and reduce anxiety since students will already know their teachers’ expectations when a new school year begins (Manning and Bucher, 2012, 135). Since there is interaction among individuals with different perspectives, common time planning instruction will certainly present challenges. I believe that one of the main challenges would be teachers who are not willing to give up all the autonomy they have when they are isolated in their classrooms and can freely plan their instruction (Manning and Bucher, 2012, 136). In order to overcome that challenge, teachers should be willing to compromise some of their views so that the entire group can benefit. If we want to teach cooperation to our students, we should be the first ones to model cooperation by willing to make common time planning succeed.

References:

Brown, Dave F, and Trudy Knowles. What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. 290. Print.

Manning, M. Lee., and Katherine T. Bucher. Teaching in the Middle School. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.

Integrating listening skills into Spanish classes

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  Integrating listening skills into Spanish classes is essential so that listening and comprehension in Spanish language can be achieved. I have been successfully using some strategies such as getting to know my students and letting them know me. For instance, they enjoy when I share cultural aspects and funny stories related to my trips to Spanish speaking countries. Dr. Vega (2012) in her article: “Active listening: Seven ways to help students listen, not just Hear”, affirms that “students are more likely to listen to someone they view as three-dimensional- as opposed to a talking head”.  Another way to improve listening skills is through activities that integrate speaking and listening comprehension. In this activity, each student will read a debatable prompt. The prompts are chosen beforehand based on the students’ general interests, after reading it out loud, the student will express his point of view. When he is finished, other students will be able to agree or disagree using learned vocabulary and Spanish grammatical structures learned. When one student wants to talk, he’ll raise his hand and wait until the current student is finished talking. My role is to facilitate the debate, indicating who is next in case of confusion, teaching new vocabulary and asking additional questions related to the topic being discussed. One of the most interesting aspects of this activity is that in order to be able to engage in the debate in Spanish, the students must actively listen to the others, make sense of what they are saying and then respond to them.

References:

Artze-Vega, Isis. “Active Listening: Seven Ways to Help Students Listen, Not Just Hear.” Faculty Focus. N.p., 01 Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2015. <http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/active-listening-seven-ways-to-improve-students-listening-skills/&gt;.

Case Study 2-1: Young Adolescents’ Physical, Neural and Cognitive Changes

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   Jason certainly is going through a lot of physical, neural and cognitive changes that might be causing him to feel emotionally unregulated. The need for peer acceptance, the fact that he does not want peers knowing that he excels academically, the skin problems, and the growth spurt might result in mood swings. In other words, Jason is able to better regulate his emotions in some situations but not in all situations. I’d recommend having him monitored by parents, teachers and the school counselor in order to make sure there is no substance abused or depression diagnose. According to Manning and Bucher (2012) depression can also be manifested through irritability, negativity, sarcasm, criticism and somatic symptoms in adolescents that are not cognitively mature (35). Therefore, Jason’s parents and teachers should definitely schedule a counseling session with the school’s counselor since he might be exhibiting signs of depression. The counselor could also address Jason’s need of peer acceptance and “fitting in”.

   As for the difficulties on grasping abstract math concepts, I would recommend that teachers vary their techniques, provide extra resource, simplify the steps of a problem, adjust the complexity of the assignments or even give the student an entire different placement. Another interesting point emphasized by Wormeli (2001) is that teachers should constantly look for more professional training (63). That makes sense since we are living in a rapidly changing world that “obligates” people, including young adolescents, to rapidly change as well. As a consequence, teens have been feeling more stressed and unbalanced. The fact that he is doing well in science and social studies and is declining just in math, might be a sign that he is not cognitively ready for abstract thinking or for certain types of abstract thinking such as in algebra. Parents and teachers should monitor his overall progress and adjust the ways he is able to learn. Not being able to grasp abstract concepts might also be stressful to Jason! Few months ago he was just fine and all of a sudden he can’t solve algebra questions. It is equally important that parents, teachers and the counselor are in frequent contact and define a date for the evaluation of Jason’s progress. The progress evaluation meeting would be “Student-Led” (Brown and Knowles, 2007, 201), in order words, Jason should not only be there, but also actively participate in the discussion about his own progress. Based on the conversation, parents, teachers, school counselor and Jason should either change strategies or celebrate his achievements.

The plan would be composed of the following steps:

  1. Jason would meet with the school counselor once a week in order to discuss peer pressure, rule out substance abuse and depression and discuss Jason’s perspectives on all the changes that his body is going through and how that might affect his academic performance.
  2. As Jason decline academically just in math, the math teacher would help Jason through the general adjustment of the subject complexity such as breaking a math problem down, varying his teaching techniques and simplifying steps of an algebra question.
  3. Parents, teachers, counselor and Jason would meet again in 6 weeks to discuss Jason’s progress.

   My plan was very similar to the suggestions given by the text. However, although I should’ve, I did not address the matter of incorporating topics such as peer pressure, substance use and growth spurts in their advisory programs (Manning and Bucher, 2012, 49). Also, I believe that I considered points that the suggestions given by the text did not consider such as depression, stress and include Jason in his own progress evaluation meeting. Brown and Knowles (2007) emphasize the importance of Student-Led conferences since it put young adolescents in a position of responsibility for their academic growth (200).

References:

Brown, Dave F, and Trudy Knowles. What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. 290. Print.

Manning, M. Lee., and Katherine T. Bucher. Teaching in the Middle School. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.

Wormeli, Rick. Meet me in the Middle: Becoming an Accomplished Middle-level Teacher. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, 2001. Print.

Teaching Middle School: a tricky business

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   Being a middle school teacher is a challenging and rewarding experience. It requires that teachers are responsive to young adolescents’ physical, neural, cognitive and socio-emotional changes, which in turn, should result in professionals that go beyond their subject matter into actually broadening their clinical skills. Manning and Bucher (2012) corroborate that thought explaining that excellence in teaching depends on how the teachers understand middle schoolers’ uniqueness and how they answer to their needs (28). Middle school educational experiences should reflect young adolescents’ development so that academic requirements could be accommodated according their particular needs and student learning outcomes optimized due to challenging and relevant content. For instance, sleeping patterns, growth spurt, cognitive development and socio-emotional regulation are factors that if not properly addressed, will interfere in middle schoolers’ academic results.

    Besides being knowledgeable about young adolescents’ needs, it is important that teachers are aware of such needs in light of the contemporary issues teens face (Manning and Bucher, 2012, 28). Therefore, the ability to reflectively listen to the students and acknowledge their difficulties and frustrations, will help them learn how to regulate their own emotions while going through this period of drastic changes. I strongly agree with Manning and Bucher (2012) that motivational support is as important as effective curriculum and instruction (28); in other words, by developing a trustworthy and caring relationship with young adolescents and a positive school climate, they’ll feel that the school is a safe place to learn. Brown and Knowles (2007) also agree that community members and teachers can exert strong influence on young adolescents (45). Therefore, guiding them to further maturity through the development of good interpersonal relationships will also improve academic learning.

References:

Brown, Dave F, and Trudy Knowles. What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. 290. Print.

Manning, M. Lee., and Katherine T. Bucher. Teaching in the Middle School. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.

Educational “ Re-engineering”: Implementing The Middle School Concept- EDU 680

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Besides being seen as new implementations to improve middle schoolers achievement, “The middle school concept” should be seen as a deep change in personal paradigms that will result in changes in the schools’ culture. In other words, the actual “change” starts within the school staff and then spreads into the school as an organization. That can be a daunting task since it “forces” professionals to leave their comfort zone, tapping into unknown areas. That’s how I perceive some of the staff at Oakwood School, they feel they are getting into an unknown territory and they are not sure it is going to be feasible. For instance the sixth grade teacher sees the Turning Points, Great Transitions and This We Believe recommendations as “too much”, while the guidance counselor believes that they can be a good middle school without putting into practice “all” the recommendations (21).  In order to really be a middle school, Oakwood should develop family-community partnerships, interdisciplinary teams, challenging and student-centered curriculum and assessments that promote active learning. The school should also be developmentally responsive with regards to scheduling; promoting young adolescents’ wellness and nurturing relationships between teachers and students (Manning and Bucher, 2012, 7-15).

 I believe that the Oakwood School leaders should start this educational “re-engineering” by implementing changes in the organizational culture, that is, the staff should be on the same page and they aren’t. A good way to start changing their organizational culture would be through meetings with all the school staff, so that the team can determine where “they are” in terms of educational excellence and “where they want to be” and then start brainstorming solutions. Oakwood School seems to be focused on long-term goals (three year plan), they should also have short-term goals (6 months plan) so that they can efficiently speed up the process. “The idea would be to avoid change just for the sake of change and to avoid making too many changes at one time” (21), I agree with Oakwood School that the school staff needs time to internalize all those changes but, there are many resources that can help teachers and school administration to truly get on board. For instance,  brainstorming sessions structured by the Ishikawa Diagram would help them identify possible causes for the problems the school is facing.

 Manning and Bucher (2012) affirm that “The student centered emphasis of the middle school lends itself to the promotion of inclusion” (18).  Although Oakwood School decides to start focusing on the development of exploratory programs on the third year, they don’t mention anything about curriculum and how it would be designed. I would suggest that the team consider implementing a student-designed curriculum using the Curriculum Integration Model explained by Brown and Knowles (2007). The authors emphasize that a curriculum that follows the Curriculum Integration Model is developed by teachers and students together. It also takes into consideration the students’ concerns and questions rather than the demands of standardized achievement tests (131). In that way, the students are learning based on what is significant in their lives, they are also learning the principles of democracy and most importantly they feel motivated to learn.

I agree with the 3 year plan, except that I’d recommend that exploratory programs would also be developed on the first year. Effective middle schools answer to the needs of its young adolescents and implementing exploratory programs is an urgent matter since they motivate students to learn and help them develop skills that are fundamental for high school, college and real life.

References:

Brown, Dave F, and Trudy Knowles. What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know. 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. 290. Print.

Manning, M. Lee., and Katherine T. Bucher. Teaching in the Middle School. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012. Print.

Socio-Emotional Needs during Early Adolescence

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        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”.

References:

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/&gt;.