16 Characteristics

I hear at least some variation every time I tell someone that I’m a middle school teacher:

“Wow, that’s a tough age!”

“You must be so patient.”

“I hated middle school when I was a kid.”

I respond with some variation:

“Yes, they’re crazy…”

“Yeah, I need a vacation…”

“I know, they’re little brats…”

Of course I always conclude:

“…BUT I totally love ‘em!”

It’s not just my friends. Middle schools have a bad rep nationwide. Check out The New York Times series The Critical Years, or the Fordham Institute’s Mayhem in the Middle, or The Middle School Mess by education writer Peter Meyer.

How to clean up the “middle school mess” is a problem many education people are talking about. The National Middle School Association (NMSA) published This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents in which the essential 16 characteristics of middle schools are listed and explained.

Despite middle school’s blemished reputation, I know there are some really effective programs out there that do work in middle level education – programs that exemplify some of these 16 characteristics. My mission is two-fold. I want to find and critically examine authentic, working examples that embody the 16 characteristics. And I want to inspire and enhance my own teaching practice by considering ways to apply these examples in my own work with middle school students.


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