“Read their mind” is just another way of saying: Every leader needs to understand what’s changing mentally and physically.
When you know what can be expected of a phase, you are able to give kids the right amount of success.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses addressed the nation of Israel and made a passionate plea to “impress” on the hearts of children core truths that relate to God’s character. Some translations use the phrase “teach diligently.”
The phrase can also be translated to mean “to cause to learn.” He wasn’t advocating a lecture-based, Torah literacy program where a teacher’s responsibility ended once the teacher presented the content.
What Moses knew was this: The role of a leader is not to simply present accurate information. The role of a leader is to keep presenting, to keep translating, to keep creating experiences until someone has learned what they need to know.
So, your job is simple.
Know what can be expected of them; and know how they think, so they will hear what you say and know what to do. Middle schoolers don’t think like adults.
Middle schoolers think like an engineer.
Engineers solve problems by connecting concepts so they work together. Middle schoolers personalize abstract concepts by connecting ideas.
Like their physical bodies, there is a “growth spurt” in the brain of a middle schooler. The brain over-produces neurons and synapses similar to the growing brain of a toddler. This period of rapid growth accounts for a middle schooler’s ability to think more abstractly, to understand multiple perspectives, and to think critically about themselves and others. It also means that instructions need to be simple and clear if you hope to be heard.
Like an engineer, they learn best when they personalize an idea by connecting pieces of information. That’s why puzzles, patterns, and codes can be helpful for learning in this phase.
Just remember, when you understand the way a kid’s mind is changing, you stand a far better chance of identifying clues that help you know what they are thinking–conveying a message they can understand and laying a foundation for later learning.
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