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NYC School Chancellor: 'Seventh Grade Matters. A Lot'

NYC School Chancellor: 'Seventh Grade Matters. A Lot'

For any middle school student, focusing on academics and extra curricular activities while undergoing physical and emotional changes can be a challenge. Middle school is one of the most important times in a child's life, especially seventh grade. 

So says Carmen Farina, New York City's School Chancellor in an op-ed on WNYC.org. Farina wrote that she focuses on middle schools, and says it's a "key moment in which to inspire a life-long love of learning and study but to do this well, we must build environments that meet the needs of the whole child —academic, social and emotional."

While peers begin to take on larger than life roles for these tweens, so do key adults. We are essential guides to model healthy relationships. This requires flexibility on our part, a willingness to know when to be firm and when to give them more latitude. This is also a time when we as adults make a fair share of mistakes. But that’s okay. We should let students know when we change our minds and shift to Plan B. It is a powerful statement for students to know we are all learning and growing together — and mistakes happen.

Farina also wrote that most importantly, "these growing adolescents want to be taken seriously by the adults in their lives. They want to be heard, and they want to follow their ideas and interests as they make sense of the world around them."

"For adults this may feel risky or messy. Brain research tells us that the 12-year-old brain is still evolving; the ability to assess risks is not yet fully developed," Farina wrote. "How then can this child accurately predict the consequences of their actions? In all honestly, they can’t. We should provide rich laboratories of learning where they safely test out their ideas, explore options and through their subjects come to see the connection between choices and consequences."

According to Farina, our classrooms "must be a place for the exciting dynamic students crave in middle school, where teachers intentionally tap into their interests and curiosity."

We want to elevate their ability to ask questions and to engage in real-world opportunities, because this is how they come to know who they are and what matters to them. Every day our educators are standing on the front lines with our children. Our job at the department is to support them with professional development, real-world learning opportunities, and mentoring — all the while assessing and demanding accountability.

"These are exciting times. As we learn more from researchers about how young people think and develop, we will be ever more prepared to eagerly embrace those who, after all, are just being 12," Farina concluded.

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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