Thinking about middle school is thinking about transitions and growth milestones. Fifth graders graduate from their elementary school as ‘grown ups’. They represent their school proudly because they have reached an important milestone but transitioning from such a familiar environment to middle school can be a challenging time. In 6th grade, students may feel anxious about entire new routines, apprehensive about making new friends or missing the ones they had to leave behind, concerned about their ability to respond to the expectations of an increased number of teachers, and worried about their physical changes. In addition, and according to a Pew Research Center conducted in 2019, 45% of all U.S. teens say that they use their phones and are on the internet almost all the time as a pastime and stay connected. The need for online teaching this school year, most likely has increased this percentage and therefore, the concerns from educators and parents about the amount of screen time and the proper use of technology by pre- adolescent youth and adolescent youth.
In this article, we highlight the value of a holistic teaching and learning approach that includes understanding digital responsibility to support the social-emotional development growth and academic progress of middle school students. We also encourage you to learn more about digital citizenship by attending an upcoming webinar that will be facilitated by Dr. Scharbach, principal of St. Frances de Sales Academy.
Developing Habits that Support Growing Adolescents
In her webinar, Dr. Eutsay distinguishes between acknowledging students’ maturity during middle school and a deeper understanding of this social-emotional and cognitive growth. This deeper understanding fosters students’ maturity ‘with excellence.’
Middle school students who are at a crossroad with their social development at a transitional age, bring their own worldview and experiences into the classroom. Teachers who recognize the “myriad layers that shape these students’ worldview and behavior” (Eutsay*, 2021) can turn these developmental challenges into opportunities that will benefit students during their middle school years and beyond.
This holistic approach values the importance of the whole and the interdependency of its parts and engages students through their social, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. More specifically, an effective teaching plan considers that,