Classroom Concepts - Middle School
- How is the middle school philosophy applied in District 25?
While each developmental stage in children has unique characteristics, the changes that take place in children between the ages of ten and fourteen - changes that are physical, emotional, social, and intellectual - are particularly dramatic. The challenge of educators is to meet the unique needs of these young people, who not only experience rapid change, but also differ widely in their maturity. These students need educational programs different from those in the elementary schools they have left and the high schools they will soon enter, and they need a school atmosphere that fosters personal growth. District 25's middle schools strive to meet the needs of this important age group. The district includes two middle schools - South Middle School and Thomas Middle School - that serve the district's sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.
- "Schools within a school"
Making the school child-centered is an important goal of our middle schools, and the creation of small learning communities within the larger school is an important characteristic as well. South and Thomas Middle Schools have used this "schools within a school" approach for over a decade, with students at each grade level - sixth, seventh, and eighth - divided into two teams. Each team is made up of teachers who specialize in the major academic subjects and a group of students who are the teachers' sole teaching responsibility. The teachers on each team, who meet daily, work together to implement the curriculum, meet the needs of the students on the team, and work with other school personnel such as social workers, resource center staff, and teachers of fine arts. The team approach enhances positive attitudes toward learning, promotes a sense of belonging, and helps build positive relationships among students and between adults and students. Organizing middle school students into teams puts a structure in place that provides security and best meets the needs of our students
- A strong core academic program with opportunities for exploration
Offering a strong core academic program for all students is essential in a middle school, with the major subject areas identified as math, science, literacy, and social studies. These four subject areas make up the core curriculum at South and Thomas Middle Schools, and each team of teachers includes specialists in these areas. While South and Thomas place appropriate emphasis on these core subjects, they also encourage students to explore other curricular areas, including world language and fine arts, both of which take place all three years. With the specialization that takes place in high school and college, middle school may be the last time students are exposed to some of these subjects. All sixth graders at South and Thomas Middle Schools take six-week courses in Art, Music, Drama, STEM, Communication Media Arts, and Digital Arts and Design. Students make choices in those areas during seventh and eighth grade
- Opportunities for success
The instructional program in a middle school is designed to ensure that all students have opportunities for success in school. Middle schools encourage cooperative learning and other school experiences that involve all students and help them succeed. The middle school concept encourages heterogeneous grouping of students for most classes, although both middle schools also offer advanced courses in math and language arts. The instructional programs at South and Thomas have been designed to include a variety of types of learning experiences so that students with many different learning styles can benefit from the programs.
- Guidance and counseling for all students
Advising and counseling middle-school-age children is an important task for the middle school. Young adolescents experience many changes and need and want to have significant adults outside the family provide them with a sense of consistency and security. Both South and Thomas Middle Schools have an advisor/advisee program, designed to provide all students in the schools an opportunity to meet regularly with a small, cohesive group led by a teacher who serves as an advisor to the group. Advisory groups discuss a variety of issues important to the age group, and, in addition, the teacher/advisor is available to assist students as needed.
- Ties between the school and parents/community
Communication between the school and the family and the involvement of parents and the community are important aspects of the middle school philosophy. South and Thomas Middle Schools have always tried to maintain close ties with parents; the team teachers carefully and constantly monitor student progress and communicate with parents. Each school year, team teachers conference with the parents of students on their team, and they communicate as appropriate between conferences.
- Good health and physical fitness
Good health and physical fitness are important for all students, especially as they affect academic performance. South and Thomas place appropriate emphasis on physical fitness, with students participating in physical education classes each school day. South and Thomas Middle Schools both have wellness and substance-abuse educational programs as part of their Health curriculum to encourage students to make healthy lifestyle choices.
- Right in the middle
Children ten to fourteen years old have special needs. They are not simply older, larger versions of elementary school children, nor are they smaller, "junior" versions of high school students. Middle schools are child-centered, recognize the unique nature of these children, and address their unique needs. District 25's South and Thomas Middle Schools strive to meet the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs of all of their students. It has often been said that junior high school students have been "caught in the middle." We hope that by placing them in a middle school environment, they will now be "right in the middle."