On reflection, after reading the article ‘Understanding the young adolescent’ it seems most apparent that if we are to be effective teachers we must understand and have empathy for middle school students and the multitude of changes, social, physical, cognitive and emotional, that they undergo; in order to provide a school environment that is conducive to learning we need to ensure we meet the specific needs of our students.
The article clearly and logically describes the changes middle school students endure and although some of the issues of change are common knowledge, such as the physical changes that occur in both females and males I was unaware that muscle growth, especially in boys can cause problems in terms of endurance and effort in sports; likewise the fact that their tail bone, whilst fusing, can cause discomfort while sitting; this needs to be taken into consideration when asking students to sit all day.
The area of cognitive development is particularly enlightening in that it provides an overview of the cognitive processes that take place in adolescents, including the transition from concrete to formal thought processes. It is interesting to find out that although most students should have reached a ‘concrete operational stage’ by the end of middle school, in fact on average, only one third of students actually attain solid formal thought processes, and that there is variation not only between students but also between subject domains for a particular student.
It seems that middle school students are most conducive to learning for they are wild with curiosity and egocentrism and believe that everyone else is as interested in them and in what they have to say and what they think, so why not appeal to that curiosity and be interested in what they believe and capitalize on their cognitive development to the fullest.
Social development is multifaceted and pertains to family, peers, community and media; all of these factors impact on the adolescent’s development in a major way. In an effort to achieve independence the adolescent will often negate parental control in favor of acquiring peer approval, which is their “primary source of new standards and models of behaviour” (p.25), while at the same time feeling immensely aware of society around them, eager to solve the world’s problems;
last but not least is media, which has a very strong influence over adolescents in terms of fitting in, being one of the crowd and being persuaded to often do what they really do not want to. Emotional behaviour of middle school students, such as mood swings and behaviour issues are understandable when we consider the stress and frustrations they suffer in their search for identity and development of a “public image that is congruent with the inner self” (p.28); students from minority groups have even more issues to cope with, for they also have to find their ethnic identity too.
This article has shed light on many issues facing middle school students, many of which we are all aware but perhaps do not take time to consider when dealing with our students. I think we need to stop, take stock, and adapt our teaching to meet the specific and individual needs of these students.