My 5 Least Favorite Words in Education...
are "I'm not good at _". And no, I'm not talking about students saying it.
The "Middle School Model"
When I first learned about the middle school model, I was amazed because it made so much sense. Of course we should talk about our students multiple times of week! Of course we should integrate the subject areas together so students can see real-world application of how science, math, social studies, and ELA fit together in real life. However, after beginning teaching I soon realized that the biggest obstacle to creating integrated units wasn't the time or effort required, but the (unintentional) attitudes that teachers hold about the other subjects students learn in school.
When Students Hear...
teachers say things like, "I'm not good at _", what they see is a successful person in their life who has seemingly little need for the subject they are (supposedly) not good at. For example, many students hear from their parents and teachers that they are not good at math. What the adults in this situation are communicating is that not only is math not that important in their adult life, but not being knowledgeable about math is something that can be explained away by simply saying they're not a "math person". Whether or not the teacher or parent meant to come off this way, students are listening, and they are going to internalize what they think we mean.
Our Next Steps
Stop saying we're not good at science, math, social studies, or ELA. We are functioning adults, so of course we can do and understand these things.
Help the students understand that while it's perfectly fine for some subjects to be more difficult for us than others, we need to keep working to get better.
Work to incorporate other subjects into our lessons. Scientists read, write, do math, and put things in historical context every day.
Show our struggle. Whether we we are searching for the right words to write about a science concept or struggling to remember the formula for finding the diameter of a circle, demonstrate how we work through the problem to find a solution.
The only way for students to stop compartmentalizing their learning is for adults to stop. Last week in excel, the math, science, social studies, and ELA teachers on my team worked with their excel on their math. It was powerful because the students saw that their teachers enjoyed and valued the subject. They also heard (at least in my class) a teacher say "I don't know, but let me ask".
If we continue to work together to build other subjects up, then the students will learn to value collaboration and integration over favoritism and separation. And in my opinion, that's a win for all middle school students.