Early adolescence can be an awkward and challenging time for students. Their bodies are changing, their emotions are changing, and perhaps more importantly, their relationships with parents, peers, and school are changing.
No longer young children, middle schoolers don’t require the same level of hand holding they did in elementary school. Yet, they are not quite ready for all the social and academic responsibilities of high school, either. So, they find themselves in an in-between space, known as middle school.
Because middle school is a unique period of intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth, for a student, it is important that their education be flexible enough to offer the structure and guidance students need while also fostering their independence and self-management. In the middle school program at Concordia International School Shanghai, faculty work in partnership with parents to create a school community that is supportive and responsive to the needs of the middle school student, helping to ensure that each one experiences growth and success.
Expanding Student Choice Through Inspiring & Relevant Learning
Concordia Middle School students are presented with greater expectations for independence in their academic and co-curricular pursuits. They choose from diverse elective offerings, music at each grade level, and a wide variety of co-curricular activities. According to Concordia Middle School Principal JJ Akin, “When students have choice their interest and commitment grow too. By providing space for students to try out things they might not have considered, we hope to unlock a hidden interest or passion.”
The Middle School Applied Learning program provides interdisciplinary learning experiences that offer students opportunities to develop creative, critical thinking skills and explore their own academic interests and independence, through engaging courses ranging from Phoenix Podcasting and Robotics to STEAMing Through History and Storytelling for Impact.
Middle school students are also encouraged to explore the school’s wide selection of co-curricular activities, which supplement their knowledge and provide a creative or physical outlets to express themselves.
“Middle school should be time of inspiration and discovery,” says Principal Akin. “We want to see our students get excited about launching a water rocket in science class or be inspired by a project they’re working on in the Maker Space or Coding Lab. We want them to be enthusiastically learning while cooking in the Culinary Arts Lab or competing in an after-school math competition. That excitement is where the real learning takes place.”
Supporting Every Student
Through differentiated instruction and assessment practices, individualized support, as well as robust Learning Support and English Language Learner programs, Concordia Middle School aims to meet every student at his or her level. Led by expert teachers, these support programs build upon the skills students already possess while providing them with strategies to propel them even further.
Working with students individually or in groups, middle school counselors help ensure that each student’s social and emotional needs are met. This is especially true for new and transitioning students, who benefit from school initiatives such as the Middle School Student Ambassador program. Under the supervision of counselors, this student-led program allows students to gain important life skills as well as build a stronger, caring school community by welcoming and supporting new students.
“The Student Ambassador program at Concordia welcomes new students whether they are local to Shanghai or China or they were living overseas,” shares Middle School Counselor Christen Childress. “Our current students help them transition socially and academically so that new students understand what it feels like to belong in a meaningful way.”
Relationships in the Middle School are grounded in layers of support, including daily advisory, careful student placement, and grade-level teams, so teachers can collaborate and build community. In addition to supporting academic success, we believe that fostering the development of the whole child, including their emotional well-being, social connections, and spiritual development, is key to guiding them in the crucial adolescent development of the middle school years.
The Concordia Middle School Advisory program is one way the school builds a sense of belonging among the school community. The program provides a support system designed to bridge the gap between the self-contained elementary classroom and the high school system. Advisory groups are designed to provide each student a place to learn and grow in an environment reflective of the school mission and goals.
“We aim to promote the healthy development of every child,” shares Travis Coverdell, Concordia’s middle school assistant principal. “By mixing grade levels, students are encouraged to develop relationships across the Middle School, not just with their peers but also with teachers, which deepens their connection to their school community.”
Thriving in a Diverse & Complex World
Through the combination of the Applied Learning program and the Common Core State Standards, Concordia Middle School aims to better equip students with relevant 21st Century skills they will need for college readiness and to be successful in future careers.
Engaging students in direct application of skills, theories and models, the middle school curriculum encourages academic vitality by asking students to identify and deepen their passion for a subject, allowing them to discover unique connections between their studies and the real world. The hands-on learning that results from this approach gives Concordia students countless opportunities to develop their critical and analytical thinking, cogent reasoning, problem-solving and effective communication skills.
“We believe strongly that the best way of learning is through experience,” shares Principal Akin. “Our teachers look for ways to extend the learning that takes place in our core programs, which allows students to apply the knowledge and skills that they are learning in a variety of settings.”
A middle schooler’s understanding and curiosity about the world, combined with a desire to figure out their place and role in it, sets the stage for the school to further help them discover who they are and where their interests and passions lie. The middle school approach at Concordia is a purposefully designed program that centers meaningful relationships and academic exploration, enabling students to build a solid foundation for their academic and social-emotional development and preparing them for success in high school and beyond.