Educators' Perspectives

The Middle School Child

Tanuja Viswanath – Coordinator English Department
Shriya Rao – English Language Facilitator
Head Start Educational Academy

In middle school, the child goes through a tremendous phase of exploration and growth. The middle school child can be compared to many things: a sapling on its way to becoming a large banyan tree; a building that has its foundation, but is yet to be completed; a vase on the potter’s wheel, being moulded still, even as this piece is being written. The common thread is that of significant and tangible change, and outstanding potential.

These are the years that a child truly develops their character and problem-solving skills. The child in middle school not only has an understanding of what is right and wrong, but has developed an inherent sense of justice. While exploring ideas in the classroom related to topics like sustainability, migration, and the refugee crisis, we time and again see that children believe in and want to create a better world. While they may not yet grasp moral and ethical subtleties, they are able to see bias for what it is. And they often find solutions, ranging from the idealistic to the practical for how the world can be safer, cleaner, and kinder.

The middle school child is curious and caring, exploring relationships with friends and social structures of rising prominence. The child is building support systems and ideas of self at this age. In addition to falling in a precarious position between ‘too young for this’ and ‘too old for that,’ the child must also manage prominent changes in their academic structure and demands. After being in a mixed-age group Montessori environment, the structure of middle school helps the child to organize and absorb the content of their subjects. They throw themselves wholeheartedly into Mathematics and English, Physics and History, Geography and Music, developing a close bond with their teachers who introduce them to an array of new subjects. They are most happy being generalists and do not adhere to the adults’ ethos of narrowing learning further and further into sub-disciplines. Their creative minds are ripe and everything can be turned into an art project––learning mathematics through origami, or science through a diorama. The middle school child is constantly surprising their teachers with their creative potential and unabashed questions.

Their social world is extremely important to them. This is a period where the child learns to engage with the world around them, their peers and teachers, in a deep and meaningful manner. They are incredibly affectionate towards their teachers, but are beginning to learn how to be rebellious as well, and question the purpose of things around them. These are the years that set the stage for the wild upheaval of teenage life and early adulthood. The big question at this age is “Who am I?”, and this is most vividly expressed through a child’s varied ideas about the world and interests that continue to emerge through their growing years. In this transition period from childhood to adolescence, we as teachers continue to get inspired and learn to present the world to the child in new ways.