I've had it wrong for too long.
All this time I've been thinking that Middle School teachers are tough. Bootcamp drill sergeant tough. I've occassionally used the tough-love approach over the years with my 6th-graders, thinking that such an approach prepares them for moving to Middle School. I've lectured. I've guilt-tripped. I've gone all Teacher-on-the-Ledge (which is not a pretty look for any of us, by the way). And boy have I been wrong to use such tactics.
I learned at a professional development session yesterday that Middle School teachers must (yes, MUST) nurture their students. Because of where 12 through 14 year-olds are in their social, moral, and intellectual development, they need nurturing. They need teachers who will challenge them academically (because they can do higher-order thinking). They need teachers who will present them with opportunities to discuss and debate moral issues (because they can grapple with real-life issues if properly scaffolded). They need teachers who will listen, counsel, and be role models (because they are in the process of defining who they want to ultimately be).
Middle Schoolers are in the most transitional and foundational period of their entire lives. All the more reason for tough-love tactics to be replaced with a more nurturing approach. My goal for the rest of this school year is to be just that: more nurturing. Don't get me wrong. There are times when tough love is exactly what the doctor ordered, but to best meet the unique developmental needs of Middle Schoolers, a little love (actual LOVE) goes a long way.
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