Tag Archives: middle school

This American Life covers Middle School

NPR’s classic show, This American Life, did an entire hour on the american middle school experience this past week. wow. so fantastic. you can listen to the whole thing, or to the individual segments listed below, by clicking though to the show’s page.

Host Ira Glass interviews a 14-year old named Annie, who emailed us asking if we would do a show about middle school. She explains why exactly the middle school years can be so daunting. (4 1/2 minutes)

In an effort to understand the physical and emotional changes middle school kids experience, Ira speaks with reporter Linda Perlstein, who wrote a book called Not Much Just Chillin’ about a year she spent following five middle schoolers. Then we hear from producer Alex Blumberg, who was a middle school teacher in Chicago for four years before getting into radio. Alex’s takeaway? We shouldn’t even try teaching kids at this age. Marion Strok, principal of a successful Chicago school, disagrees. (6 1/2 minutes)
marko comment: this is a great segment. and, i recommend that book (not much just chillin’).

We sent several correspondents straight to the epicenters of middle school awkwardness: School dances. Producers Lisa Pollak and Brian Reed, plus reporters Eric Mennel, Rob Wildeboer and Claire Holman spoke with kids across the country during the nervous moments leading up to the dances. And Lisa even ventured inside, to the dance itself. (9 1/2 minutes)
marko comment: a fascinating bit.

When Domingo Martinez was growing up in a Mexican-American family in Texas, Domingo’s two middle school aged sisters found a unique way of coping with feelings of inferiority. This story comes from Martinez’s memoir The Boy Kings of Texas, which Lyons Press will publish in July 2012. (11 1/2 minutes)
marko comment: this is the one section i think you can completely skip. the producers could have easily found a literary piece to read that had more application and implication.

We realized that there are already reporters on the ground, embedded inside middle schools: The kids who report the daily announcements, sometimes on video with full newscast sets. Producer Jonathan Menjivar wondered what would happen if instead of announcing sports scores and the daily cafeteria menu, the kids reported what’s really on their minds. Students at Parkville Middle School outside Baltimore, and their journalism teacher Ms. Davis, agreed to try out this experiment. (7 1/2 minutes)
marko: this section is fine, but if you need to cut somewhere, it’s not as helpful as some of the others.

Producer Sarah Koenig reports on a kid we’ll call Leo, whose family recently moved away from Rochester, NY, leaving behind all of Leo’s friends and stranding him in a new—and in his opinion, much worse—middle school. (10 minutes)
marko: you gotta listen to this one.

Ira speaks with Shannon Grande, a teacher at Rise Academy in Newark, about a seventh grader who had all sorts of problems with behavior and hygiene and schoolwork. In order to help turn him around, Grande had to harness the power of peer pressure for good. This story came from Elizabeth Green, who’s writing about Rise Academy for a book and for a reporting project on the schools called Gotham Schools. (7 minutes)
marko: some helpful stuff in here.

(big thanks to kevin libick for pointing this out to me!)

young teens and present vs. future

this is a great little synopsis of a new study on young teens and their thinking about the future. the findings resonate so much with my observational contact with middle schoolers.

a couple key bits:

According to popular stereotype, young teenagers are shortsighted, leaving them prone to poor judgment and risky decision-making when it comes to issues like taking drugs and having sex. Now a new study confirms that teens 16 and younger do think about the future less than adults, but explains that the reasons may have less to do with impulsivity and more to do with a desire to do something exciting.

…the study found that teens are shortsighted more due to immaturity in the brain systems that govern sensation seeking than to immaturity in the brain systems responsible for self-control.

Brain systems governing sensation seeking are very active between the ages of 10 and 16, while brain systems governing self-control continue to mature beyond age 16.

(ht to ypulse)

things that didn’t exist when we were in middle school

scott rubin and i need a little help from you for our middle school ministry book. in the “middle school culture” chapter, we have a list of things that didn’t exist when we were in middle school (well, at least when i was in middle school, in the mid-70s). here’s what we have:

– Cell phones
– The internet (meaning, websites and buying stuff online and everything else that is so completely normal today)
– Text Messages
– IM
– Hybrid Cars
– Social Networking
– “Friends with benefits”
– “Bi-Curious”
– Cable TV
– Digital Video Recording (or TiVo)
– Mp3s and downloadable music
– DVDs
– Hi-Def
– Satellite Radio
– Xboxes and Wiis and other amazing gaming systems (“Pong” was introduced when I, Marko, was a young teen, and “Space Invaders” had just showed up in the commons of a local community college).
– Email
– Spam (the email variety – we had the stuff in the can, made of humans).
– Any kind of camera, video or still, that didn’t need developing.
– Cordless phones
– In-ear headphones
– Ringtones
– Call waiting
– iChat or other video conferencing
– snowboards and wakeboards
– rollerblades
– an African American president and a female Secretary of State
– Airport Security (and National Security levels, and Terrorist threats)
– Internet porn
– snowboards and wakeboards
– rollerblades
– Starbucks
– Viagra
– Plastic Pop Bottles
– X Games
– Energy Drinks
– Home Theaters (?)
– The Simpsons, Spongebob, American Idol and a host of other dependable TV staples
– Reality TV
– Crack Cocaine
– Minivans
– Disposable Cameras
– Disposable Contacts
– Abortion Pill
– Doppler Radar
– Space Shuttle
– USA Today
– Paintball and Airsoft
– Laser Tag
– iPods
– MTV (could be in the “started and faded away” list…)
– DNA fingerprinting
– Artificial Heart
– Fantasy Sports Teams (which are still lame)
– Cloning animals
– The SuperBowl as a kind of National Holiday (I’m reaching)
– Cutting (?)
– “Walkman” came & went — remember that!
– Suitcases with wheels on the bottom (seriously …. Nobody had em!)
– most piercings… Besides ears…
– McDonalds Playlands

this second list is things that didn’t exist when we were in middle school, then came on the scene in a major way, and have already faded:

– Fax machines
– CDs (seriously – who buys CDs anymore? They’re the betamax cartridge of this generation.)
– Video tapes
– Internet chat rooms
– Really, we could put email on this list, since teenagers don’t use email anymore, except to communicate with parents or teachers.
– Music videos played on MTV
– The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
– The Walkman (pre-mp3 cassette and CD players)

what are we missing?? would love to hear as many additional ideas as you have…