Teaching to the middle

This latest piece of the New York Times' series on middle schools finds this: There's no clear-cut formula for discerning who can handle the hormone-crazed kids in America's middle schools. But one Bronx principal has the right idea. Middle school teachers, he said, must "have a huge sense of humor and a small ego." That sums it up pretty well. But, of course, the usual suspects disagree. They think middle school teachers need--what else?--more ed school coursework and special "credentialing." Here's a better idea: Find those who naturally relate well to pre-teens; give these future teachers a solid, core academic education; and see what happens. It seems to work for Corinne Kaufman. The 45-year-old math teacher knows her material, and how to handle juvenile prankishness. When a student called her "fat lady," for example, she "calmly turned around ... [and retorted], ‘voluptuous.'" She then gave her students a vocabulary lesson they won't forget. We'd just as soon forget the whole middle school concept but until that day comes, hire more Corinnes, and let 'em do their thing.

"For Teachers, Middle School Is Test of Wills," by Elissa Gootman, New York Times, March 17, 2007

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