Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Turning Points 2000: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Turning Points 2000: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt

Who Are My Students and Why Does It Matter? Using Service-Learning to Teach Children Impacted by Poverty

Before my first practicum in the middle grades education program at the University of Georgia, I had never experienced or devoted much thought to the effects of poverty on a community. I certainly had never imagined how a child's learning and behaviors could be altered based on his or her socioeconomic status.

- Courtney Saxon Jackson, fourth grade teacher

Service-learning has impacted the very core of who I am as an educator.

- Mary Reagin, middle school math teacher

This article will focus on instruction, what Turning Points 2000: Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century calls "the daily bread of classroom life" (Jackson & Davis, 2000, p. 63). Instruction includes all the tools, strategies, lessons, and activities teachers and students use to learn. To be effective, however, instruction must mesh seamlessly with the curriculum, with the assessments students will use to demonstrate what they have learned, and with the students themselves: their needs, interests, and concerns.

This article will also connect directly to the overarching goal that guides Turning Points 2000-ensuring success for every student. Success is defined as fulfilling the book's comprehensive vision of a 15-year-old who has been well served in the middle grades and, as a result, is an intellectually reflective, healthy, caring, and ethical citizen en route to a lifetime of meaningful work.

Powerful instruction that makes learning both meaningful and motivating is critical to fulfilling that vision. The story outlined in this article features two beginning teachers who are committed to student success and draw on the knowledge and experiences gained during their teacher preparation program to enact compelling and innovative instructional practices. Those practices tie directly to state standards and connect to the communities in which they teach and to students' needs and interests. Two teacher educators-Kathy Thompson and Gayle Andrews-will tell the story of these novice teachers, describing the preservice program and related experiences that provided the foundation for their current and creative approach to instruction in their public school classrooms.


Courtney Saxon Jackson and Mary Reagin entered the University of Georgia's middle grades education program as part of a cohort of 50 students in August of 2007. Since the program uses the course prefix EDMS in the UGA bulletin, most preservice teacher candidates and faculty in the program refer to it using that prefix. The EDMS program at UGA is grounded in National Middle School Association's initial level teacher preparation standards and the Georgia Framework for Accomplished Teaching (NMSA, 1997; Georgia Systemic Teacher Education Program, 2006).

Candidates in the program choose two content area specializations from language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Courtney chose social studies and language arts, and Mary chose science and math. EDMS candidates take courses in arts and sciences related to their two areas (e.g., English, history, physics, and mathematics). They also take content pedagogy courses within the college of education-courses that combine knowledge of specific content with how to teach that content effectively with and for young adolescents.

The EDMS program centers on a series of three methods courses, each with an associated field experience or internship. The candidates spend more than 830 hours working with young adolescents and their teachers in grades 4-8 in elementary and middle schools in 10 school districts.

A conceptual framework (Pate & Thompson, 2004) and related essential questions (Andrews & Thompson, 2007) guide the program's vision for who preservice teachers, such as Courtney and Mary, should be as educators of young adolescents (see Figure 1). …

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