Mariane Fisher, IMLEA PRESIDENT
Asst. Principal, Jeffersonville High School
It’s All about the Base
by Dr. Mariane Carlton Fisher
At no other time in the life cycle are the chances of finding one’s self and losing one’s self so closely aligned. -Erik Erikson
March is Middle Level Education Month. Time to celebrate those wonderfully challenging, often unnerving, but always energizing students who populate our middle level schools.
In contemplating this critical transitional experience, I ran across these words from the Association for Middle Level Education: “It’s far too easy to forget that students entering the middle grades are only five or six years removed from their first days of school and students leaving are only a few short years away from the rigors of college and career.” Add to this the fact that at no other time in their lives are these students changing so rapidly and significantly—physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively.
Those of us who work with these young adolescents must always be aware of the dichotomy of these years: these students want independence but they want desperately to form relationships with peers and adults; these students want freedom but they want desperately to have structure where they can take risks and experience failure in a safe and trusting environment; these students want autonomy but they want desperately to explore options in an engaging and motivational classroom with a caring teacher.
The mission of the Indiana Middle Level Education Association is to ensure that this stage of a student’s school experience meets the needs of the young adolescent. All who play a role in these students’ lives must be united in their efforts to do whatever it takes to bridge those years between elementary and high school in such a way that these students leave middle school prepared to build a repertoires of skills and behaviors that will ensure that they are college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school.
In the midst of this ground-breaking work, however, prepare for the tears; prepare for the jeers; prepare for the jabs; prepare for their sometimes frantic need to belong.
Remember that years and years ago, even Charles Dickens was thinking about middle school education. Remember what he wrote? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” All right, granted: Dickens was not writing about middle level students; but suffice it to say that the turmoil of the middle level has nothing on the French Revolution. Or least it often seems to be so.
So, during March, proclaim the wonders of the middle level—and then again in April—and May—and all throughout the year; because those of you who teach and work with these unique students are a very special group of people. There are no others quite like you. There are only those who say, “How do you do it?” And they pray for your sanity while you thank the powers that be that your heart and soul have become one with the tireless efforts to ensure that these students succeed…to create schools of curious delight, to create nerdfighters crusading for justice in an unjust world, to create the potential to fulfill dreams and aspirations that can change time and space.
Davon Ford, an 8th grader, wrote recently:
“I am a picture/waiting to be drawn….”
Wow! Hand me the sidewalk chalk, please!
-Mariane Fisher: firstname.lastname@example.org