Middle School at MECS

Middle School at MECS

Thursday, 6 November 2014  | Jacqui - Director of Teaching and Learning
Last Thursday evening, small groups of parents were challenged to find ten things they had in common. After several minutes of intense chatter in the packed PUMP room, we had a variety of responses. The first was obvious given the focus of the evening: “We all have a child starting Year 7 at MECS next year”. We then heard of a shared love of a glass of wine, each group member being born in Australia, and even strong opinions on the topic of Australian Rules Football. One group’s answer was typical of what a younger teenager would come up with; the parent, who doubles as a Middle School teacher, in the group may have influenced it. She announced, “None of us are Astronauts!”

Every one of the adults gathered together at last week’s Year 7 Information Evening have an understanding of the characteristics of children in these transition years. Whether we are a parent or a teacher of these young people, we all have the privilege of being in community with them. For the Middle School teachers at MECS, it is a joyful and rewarding challenge to work alongside our Years 7-9 students. It seems we learn just as much from them as they learn from us. One of the best advocates for Middle School education I have come across is Rick Wormeli. He writes,
“In transition from child to adult, these morphing humans are amazing doers and thinkers. Their comments can be profound, pithy, honest, absurd, and juvenile, all at the same time. They reveal developing wisdom, deep understanding, free spirit, and a generation of thinkers in the making. They are a far cry from the inept persona some journalists assign to this stage of human development.”

If you spend time with our Middle School teachers, you will quickly discover the insight they have into working with these young teens. All teachers have stories of students who have shown wisdom beyond their years as they discuss world issues; only to have the same students struggle to regain their composure after a classmate passes gas. They will stand up for injustices and rally to raise funds for a worthy cause, and then walk out of the room and laugh at a classmate who trips over. We do not judge them for their inconsistencies; adults are sometimes no better. We recognise that they are in the midst of a significant stage of their lives. We guide and nurture them, and are advocates for them. “Our classes are full of humans in the making and we have a front row seat as coaches and referees. Never, however, do we use student indiscretions and confusions to paint the whole picture of the charges before us” (The Collected Writings (so far) of Rick Wormeli, 2013).

At MECS this year, the Middle School teaching team have dedicated over ten after-school sessions to further developing our understanding of the characteristics and learning needs of this particular age group. The book we have been using as a guide is ‘This We Believe In Action: Implementing Successful Middle Level Schools’. This book has come out of over forty years of active research in the middle grades led by the Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE).  They conclude that an education for this age group must be: developmentally responsive, challenging, empowering and equitable. A number of professional learning opportunities have arisen out of this study, including a Mental First Aid training day held for all MECS staff during the most recent Workbreak. 

As a response to our new learning, and to other key factors such as the ongoing roll-out of the Australian Curriculum, there are some exciting additions and tweaks to the Middle School Curriculum. From the beginning of 2015, Health will be introduced as a subject from Years 7-10. This will be closely linked with our Physical Education and Sport program. We are currently fine-tuning the overall program for this subject. Topics will include: transitions and changes, identity and positive relationships, online knowledge and safety, self care and developing healthy habits, mental health and resiliency, sources of support, and contributing to the health and well-being of our communities. Our Health and PE teachers are looking forward to exploring these issues with students, and encouraging them to seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom in these areas of their life.

The subject ‘Core Studies’ in Middle School will be renamed ‘Cultural Studies’. Some aspects of this subject will stay the same while others will change. Cycle A will have a focus on History, Civics and Citizenship, and Information Literacy. Cycle B will concentrate on Geography, Economics and Business, and Media. These curriculum changes will be developed and established over the next few years. These adapted units will look at the effects of the various disciplines on culture, and how they shape/have shaped the way we interact as communities. The traditional Cycle A Production will no longer be part of the C.S. program. I know this is sad news for many people who have enjoyed this annual performance. However, plans are already underway to ‘re-imagine’ Performing Arts in the Middle School as it is incorporated into our existing Drama program. It is anticipated that we will still have a performance evening to look forward to each year.

Lastly, we have some changes to leadership in the Middle School. After many years of inspiring and faithful leadership, Sue has decided to step down from Middle School Coordinator. Sue is an outstanding leader and support for the teachers in her team. Next year, she will continue with leadership responsibilities in the area of pastoral care of students. We are excited and pleased that Brad has accepted the role as our new Middle School Coordinator. Please keep both Brad and Sue in your prayers as they make these transitions. I would also encourage you to regularly pray for God’s provision and protection over our Middle School staff and students, as we seek to serve and glorify him in this place. 

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