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Teaching Middle School is Never Easy, But It Helps to Know How to Help Students Learn

Resources like the Middle School Matters Field Guide are critical in helping teachers improve their practice.

Article by Abby Hoak-Morton February 23, 2017 //   4 minute read

When I decided to become a teacher, I knew I wanted to help students succeed, but I also knew that I needed help to become effective.  I wasn’t an education major, and I hadn’t participated in a teacher preparation program.  I had only vague notions about how to be a great teacher.

I decided to work for a charter school that was known for being very supportive of its teachers and that provided weekly coaching and professional development. I was lucky that I immediately had the support of a coach and a principal who helped me become an effective teacher.

Looking back, I was very reliant on my coach and principal for help. I realize now that I had no idea how to help myself—had I not been getting the support I critically needed, I would have failed miserably in helping my students to learn.

I admit that in a moment of desperation I visited a variety of teacher websites looking for lesson-planning help when other support wasn’t immediately available. And although these popular sites may have had cute classroom decorations, I had no way of knowing what resources were based in rigorous research or tied to any measures of quality.

Some of the tools may have been great – but some of them likely were not so great. In law school, I was able to research and find answers to any question related to the law on reputable and rigorous websites, but when I was teaching I was shocked to find that similar resources did not exist for educators.

For this reason, resources like the Middle School Matters (MSM) Field Guide and tools are critical in helping teachers improve their practice. When I learned about Middle School Matters, I immediately wished that I had known about this incredible suite of tools when I was teaching.

MSM is not a curriculum - -it isn’t telling you what book to read or lesson plan to follow. Instead, the MSM resources give teachers research-based instructional practices, performance management strategies, and support tools that will lead to better student outcomes, no matter what curriculum or program a teacher is using in a given subject.

Every practice recommended on www.greatmiddleschools.org is based on rigorous research and has been refined in real classrooms. Teachers can access this free material at any time.

For example, as a new teacher I struggled to implement non-fiction reading practices into my 6th grade social studies classroom.  I was so focused on my own content area that it took me a while to realize that social studies is the perfect place to help students fall in love with non-fiction reading. It wasn’t until we began to read a novel on the Holocaust in class that I realized that I hadn’t been teaching reading at all.

My students had read every day in class, but I wasn’t improving their reading practices. My coach and principal stepped in to help me improve in this area which benefitted my students, but many teachers don’t have that same support. Even in districts where this support is offered, teachers still need great resources that they can access independently.

The MSM resources help to fill this need. MSM includes great tools, including a Field Guide, videos, and coaching, all available to any teacher for free – something I am thrilled that so many teachers can access no matter where they teach.