“We don’t really know who or what we are,” one student says.
Teaching middle school is extremely difficult. Students between 11 and 14 are not quite adults, but they’re not children either. It’s as if they’re caught somewhere in this middle where they are plagued by acne and question their parents, religion and social norms. At this stage, I feel it’s partially the schools’ job to teach about purpose and spirituality, so they can walk easily into adulthood.
With each new group of youth I teach, I first try to look into their souls. I try to understand their values and figure out what drives them. Many middle school children value material things because they haven’t fully made sense of the God living within them.
“Most of us claim that we are religious but we don’t know what or why we study certain things,” said Jubri Richardson, one of my eighth-grade students at Possibility Prep Middle School in Largo. “We don’t really know who or what we are. It could help us understand the world better.”
Students engage in certain behaviors because they don’t understand they are connected to the most high. It’s not just the human race, though — everything we see is connected to that same source. Educators should work to empower students to help them find their purpose.
With a concrete goal, students are able to find purpose in the words they speak, the actions they take and the way they see the world. The only way educators can assist in this development is by differentiating instruction for each student. A student’s soul and frame of reference must be taken into account when teaching.
“One of the easiest ways for educators to teach students their purpose is to be completely open and honest with [them],” said Nakisha Yates, a language arts teacher at Possibility Prep. “We can use our lives as an example for them to master theirs.”
A little courage, compassion, creativity and a slight deviation from the curriculum will help students find something in themselves that may propel them to a productive future. Educators must not be afraid to teach the “whole” child.