more on the crisis in middle school education

there’s been a good deal of press lately about the questions being asked on the validity or effectiveness of the middle school model. i blogged about it here and here.

now, this article from the new york times brings up another related problem: middle school teachers are burning out at a substantially higher rate than their elementary or high school counterparts.

a snippet:

Faced with increasingly well-documented slumps in learning at a critical age, educators in New York and across the nation are struggling to rethink middle school, particularly in cities, where the challenges of adolescent volatility, spiking violence and lagging academic performance are more acute.

As they do so, they are running up against a key problem: a teaching corps marked by high turnover, and often lacking expertise in both subject matter and the topography of the adolescent mind.

and, a bit on the retention issue:

In Philadelphia, researchers found that 34.2 percent of new middle school teachers in one representative year quit after their first year, compared with 21.1 percent of elementary school teachers and 26.3 percent of high school teachers.

i’m sure there are equivilencies in youth ministry. middle school youth workers don’t often last long. it takes a special breed (as the article says of teachers). this is why i would rather be with a group of middle school youth workers than just about any other group of people on earth: they’re my tribe, my homies.

i loved this quote from the article:

“Middle school is like Scotch,” she reflected in the teachers’ lounge one afternoon. “At first you try to get it down. Then you get used to it. Then it’s all you order.”

(ht to steve case)

6 thoughts on “more on the crisis in middle school education”

  1. I have found that most people I know (including myself ’til recently) try to stay away from middle school. My husband just started at a new church, so I have been going to all the youth activities and came home the other night after jr. high youth group thinking, “this might be my nitch” I loved spending time with them. I have lead jr. high girls small groups before and struggled at first, but ended up loving it. I think God might be gearing me to work with the middle schoolers.

  2. it’s ironic that you misspelled education in the title.

    i misspell things all the time… i just thought it was funny… sorry.

    interesting article. I wonder if the folks addressing these problems are looking at all of education. because the whole things is broken. (or is that brokin?)

  3. riddle – you haven’t heard of the movement to re-think education? they’re calling it “eduction” (like “reduction”). surprised you’re so out of the loop.

  4. Yes, middle school work of any kind is a calling. I have taught in the public schools in Houston, Texas for 12 years. The last 10 of those years are in Middle School. I have taught in the lowest performing school full of the roughest and toughest kids and in the highest performing school full of the richest and most stuck up kids.
    I had fun at both. It is a challenge to teach the one that can;t read past a 3rd grade level in the same class with the on that reads on a college level. I am continualy amazed at the diversity of students that I see. I have a 7th grade class with a kid that is 4′-5″ tall and right next to him is a kid his same age that is 6′-1″ tall.
    BTW I teach Technology education (Shop) classes, so I teach mostly boys. 176 boys and 7 girls to be exact. Almost every moment of every day is a teachable moment.

    And yes, “Middle school is like Scotch,” she reflected in the teachers’ lounge one afternoon. “At first you try to get it down. Then you get used to it. Then it’s all you order.”

    Make mine a Crown, and make it only Crown.

  5. I have always said that middle school workers and pastors are self admittedly warped. It takes a special person to choose to work with junior highers and middle school students and love it. It is a calling and a passion that others don’t seem to understand, and we can’t expect them to.

    Since I am not a scotch kind of person I think I would compare the quote to blue cheese dressing or sauerkraut. Never eat them together that would be just plain bad (unless it is for an event then it would be funny).

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