Connecting In Middle School —
Self-Identity and Ownership
The middle school years are complex. Teaching adolescents during this critical time in their development can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding. This school year I joined the Mountain Sky staff in the capacity of a 7th and 8th grade teacher. I was asked to help develop a new exploratory program in entrepreneurship for the school. My first love was business, and my 2nd was education, so taking on this new challenge seemed like a perfect fit for me! I have degrees in both, and have over eight years of experience in both fields. What an opportunity!
I taught 7th grade the first semester (Fall 2017), and I am now teaching 8th grade until May 2018. We decided to create four, semester-long courses for the exploratory program. There are two teachers teaching these four courses, so collaboration is key to our success. I mention this because there is a lot of talk in education about the importance of a Professional Learning Community (PLC). Now, there is a PLC-like set up and then there is what I call, a “true PLC.” Communication, feedback, and reflection are at the heart of this process. In December we decided the current format and courses developed would not work moving forward. The new structure is a work in progress. More to come on that later.
Beginnings — Self-Concept
Meeting each new group of students starts with the usual rules, expectations, and so forth. Then, I have each student create a self-concept. This is a great way to learn more about each student. While students are designing these, I walk around, ask questions, ask for clarification on certain parts, and use the time to get to know each student. Getting to know your students helps you build a stronger foundation for learning in the classroom. The self-concepts allow you to take a look at how students see themselves. Some students share with you their likes and dislikes. Others use color and adjectives to give you insight into who they are. Then, you have some students who are unsure of what to do or what to put on the paper. Working with these students allows me to explore why the student is struggling with the activity, and see if he/she is struggling with self-identity. Again, the adolescent years are tricky to navigate for both students and teachers. Allowing a student to feel comfortable in expressing who he/she is, is important to their growth and development. For some students who are not ready to “share” with me and the class, I let them know it is okay. It is completely okay to not want to share anything. I feel like this is important to note because sometimes we MAKE students do things when they are not ready or comfortable. Making a student feel safe in the classroom is more important than the activity. It also lets the student know that I will not push him/her past their boundaries. They are there for a reason, and I want each student to know I respect that choice. Letting go of the activity can be hard for some teachers. When you put it in perspective, you realize sometimes it is more important to build respect and acknowledgement of boundaries. The “activity” or “lesson” can be put on the back burner for later. This knowledge I gain as a teacher of where each student is with their self-confidence, self-identity, and readiness to share with the world who he/she is can be instrumental to furthering their growth. It also gives me flags where they are needed, and reminders of how and when to tread lightly.
Here are some examples of our self-concepts:
Continue to Roxanne's Blog for more on Self-Identity and Ownership on Medium.
To learn more about Roxanne Brown's 7th and 8th Grade Entrepreneur students classroom reflections, you can also follow her on Twitter.