Why it’s important to contextualise learning in Middle School

Twelve to 14-year-olds are on an extreme learning curve at this stage in their life. It ranks only next to toddlerhood for this sort of growth. At this time in their lives, they need reasons for why they’re doing things, they’re fighting for independence and hormones are messing with (albeit sometimes controlling) their emotions and often hijacking large chunks of their attention span, especially as they consider relationships. On top of this, they need to work out where their interests, skills and future career pathways may lie as they stand on the brink of adulthood. They desperately want to take control without yet knowing or having all the skills to do this well. So, like letting them cook the family dinner, allowing them to have a go anyway, is the best way to help them grow despite the mess that might ensue or a longer wait or a result that is not quite cordon bleu – yet.

If the independence wars and hormones take over, it hijacks their ability to stick out the oftentimes tedious and sometimes arduous journey of their academic careers. Interestingly, some students can find their ‘intellectual feet’ in teenagerhood. I have seen students who have struggled through primary school and then for a variety of reasons, gain academic momentum and prowess as they progress through each year in Middle School on the journey to Senior School. How do they do this? What is the secret recipe? Like in KungFu Panda – the secret ingredient is actually about believing in themselves and having the support and encouragement of a few important ‘others’ in their life. And, then letting them have a go, with their support team in the background.

There are many things we do at Glasshouse Christian College which intentionally assist our Middle Schoolers on this journey. The selection of the subjects offered are important, but also the decisions about subject organisation, the policies around assessments and homework and then there are many other things that we put in place for our students.

Here are a few of these things that we have done at Glasshouse Christian College this term, that highlight the intentionality of helping our Middle Schoolers:

NAPLAN – this may seem surprising to mention this but the test conditions help our students. The best preparation for future tests are tests. Like a muscle, it also needs to be exercised. As well, being able to make visible the progress from previous years is important as students reflect on how far they have come. Lastly, it is important to value learning in the foundational areas of numeracy and literacy, these two academic skills underpin all endeavours.

Inflatables – While having a ball of fun, Year 7 students were made to consider the importance of overcoming obstacles. Those fears they have about all sorts of things that can weigh them down and prevent them from doing things. We all have these, no matter what age. The key skill is learning that stepping outside of their comfort zone is the key to growth. Once students have that ‘proud moment’ and reflect on how they gave something difficult a go, when they overcome their trepidation, a life lesson has been learnt. The inflatable activities gave opportunity to teach this lesson.

Excursions – while we can learn many things from textbooks, Youtube videos and the like, first-hand experience is the best teacher. From the Year 7 and 8 Geography excursions, the Year 9 Indigenous speakers incursion and the tree planting activities coming up next week these are authentic learning opportunities for our students as they interact with the real world.

Victims of Domestic Violence fundraiser – Middle Schoolers have a lot going on. It’s understandable that they may not be thinking of others – yet. However, once this has been brought to their attention, they are keen and love to help those who need a hand. Students raised over $600.00 last week in a fundraiser organised by the student leaders. The money will be used to buy comfort items that can be placed in packs and given to shelters for people who unexpectedly find they need to use these facilities.

Support  – Sometimes really tough things happen for people at this age. These may be the obvious ones such as the loss of a family member or ill health and sometimes it can be due to a long period of friendship troubles or other concerns. The level of difficulty for them cannot be determined by us but should be gauged by their own judgement. Some of the above things we do at Glasshouse Christian College are ‘preventative’ ways to help students as they move through the teenage years and also for when they face tough times but intervention is also sometimes needed. The Pastoral Care teachers and the College pastors can be helpful for students but the College also has an onsite psychologist on Fridays who can be booked through the front Administration.

Academic Reports – Term two is almost over. Semester reports will be available in the third week of the holidays. These should provide more formal feedback on your child’s progress. Enjoy the break with your children and then Glasshouse Christian College Middle School will be onto more ‘learning by stealth’ opportunities for Term 3.

Camps – Year 8s have been on camp this week. (See photos below). It is always good to see students not only do things outside of their comfort zone but also work on building important relationships within a safe and supervised setting. Yes, sometimes they can exclude or be nasty, however, in the outdoor education ‘classroom’, these things are usually picked up and relationships are honed and improved. There is enormous growth observed in a Middle Schoolers after camp week. They gain self-confidence and friendships notably improve. In particular, the shy students become more included and the academic pecking order disappears as they learn to appreciate each other for who they are.

Jacqualina Vreeling, Head of Middle School

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