The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains

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9781610485852: The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains

This book is a must read for anyone in close proximity to middle schoolers. Using actual events from the lives of real teenagers, the authors (a middle school principal and a child neuropsychologist) combine perspectives to provide an engaging, light-hearted journey into the adventures and misadventures of newly-minted teens. First, the authors put to rest some long-standing misconceptions about teenage behavior. However bizarre they appear to adults, teenagers’ emotional reactions and their behaviors can no longer be explained solely by raging hormones. Using the stories as a backdrop, the authors provide emerging findings from developmental psychology and the neurosciences to explain why young teens do the things they do. The developing brain of a young teenager produces thoughts and feelings that are vastly different from an adult. Knowing this helps us to appreciate and accept the unique challenges they face.

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About the Author:

Richard M. Marshall, Ed.D., Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Division of Education, University of South Florida Polytechnic and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, USF College of Medicine. He is the founder and co-director of the USFP Applied Neuroscience & Cognitive Electrophysiology Lab.

Sharon Neuman is the principal of Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, an accredited math, science, and technology magnet school. Mrs. Neuman has received the Commissioner's Outstanding Principal award, her school was one of six schools in the nation highlighted in the National Association of Secondary School Principals (N.A.S.S.P.) decade study on leadership titled Leadership for Highly Successful Middle Level Schools and most recently she was recognized as one of three principals in the state for the Innovative Principal of the Year by the Florida Council of Instructional Technology Leaders.

Review:

Who would eat the heart of a frog pickled in formaldehyde? A middle school boy, of course, after pilfering the amphibian organ from a dissection tray in his life science class.
That story, one of many anecdotes Sharon Neuman has collected during 17 years as principal at Lakeland's Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, illustrates the sometimes inexplicable behavior of middle-school students.
Neuman and co-author Richard Marshall strive to help parents and educators understand why middle-schoolers do what they do in their just-published book, The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains....

Neuman and Marshall, an associate professor of education at the University of South Florida Polytechnic, hope to promote empathy and understanding of oft-maligned early adolescents with the 130-page book. They state their premise with one declarative sentence in chapter 2: "Middle school students have gotten a bad rap." (The Ledger (Lakeland, FL))

Reading The Middle School Mind reminded this reviewer of starting out as a teacher in the 1970s and of the middle-school kids and that often awkward time in their lives. The discussions in this text are practical in nature, covering such topics as the adolescent brain, identity formation, and the kinds of predicaments middle-school students often get themselves into. The most enjoyable chapters are those that review the emotional and social struggles young people face during early adolescence. However, the most insightful chapter is "The Gifted Teen's Adventurous Nature." It contains some interesting and thoughtful perspectives about the "bottom line" and the gifted student. Marshall (Univ. of South Florida Polytechnic) and Neuman (principal, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy) share with readers some intriguing thoughts on puberty and brain development. The appendix contains some interesting lists of "developmental characteristics" of middle-school students from intellectual to moral to physical and emotional. Summing Up: Recommended. (CHOICE)

“Today, more than ever, the challenges and opportunities facing adolescents in our society and those with whom they interact are daunting, to say the least. Steeped in everyday scenarios, co-authors Marshall and Neuman offer a compelling balance of insight and practicality relative to the exploding compendium of brain research and its causal impact on learning and behavior during this unique developmental period that make their book a must-read for parents and practitioners alike.” (David Lewis, Associate Superintendent)

“Powerful information that is easy to read (and sometimes hard to swallow), this book strikes a nerve with anyone who has ever been affiliated with an adolescent. Authors Marshall (a psychologist) and Neuman (a middle school principal) peel away the mysteries and enigmas characteristic of this age. They offer practical, palatable suggestions for those struggling with this most challenging phase of the human experience. A must read!” (Dr. Sherrie Nickell, Superintendent)

“Anyone who has spent time working in a middle school will nod and smile and maybe tear up a bit while reading The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains. Sharon Neuman uses her experience and expertise as a middle school principal to clearly and in an interesting manner mesh descriptions of young adolescents with Dr. Richard Marshall’s technical information about brain development. The juxtaposition of the anecdotal view of middle schoolers and the brain research is fascinating and useful. Middle school principals, teachers and parents will find this work to be a valuable resource.” (John R. Nori, Director, Program Development National Association of Secondary School Principals)

"A fun and informative journey into the illusive teen mind. Neuman and Dr. Marshall reintroduce the "sense" into what often seems to be nonsensical adolescent behavior. If you want to communicate and connect with an adolescent in your life, this is your guide." (Kent Healy, co-author of Cool Stuff They Should Teach in School and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens)

“As a teacher, I often tell my students about the method to my madness for using certain strategies in my classroom. The Middle School Mind made me realize that my students may not have a method but certainly a reason for their madness in the classroom and halls of middle school. Sharon Neuman and Richard Marshall describe stories that share common threads with episodes in my own classroom and explain why middle schoolers are so often Einsteins in class but lack the same genius in life. I felt my students' growing pains as I read this book, and I have grown as a teacher because of the wisdom and knowledge in this extraordinary book!” (Lisa Rosa, Middle School Teacher and Parent)

“The Middle School Mind is a perfect balance of scientific research and easy-to-relate-to anecdotes of life with teenagers. As a parent of four and teacher of middle-schoolers I see this book as a valuable resource for fostering a smooth transition for our youth into adulthood.” (Michelle DiGioia, Middle School Teacher and Parent)

“You know a middle schooler? You wondered why young people in middle school act the way they do? This realistic analysis of what happens to the middle school mind and body and why they do the things they do should be required reading for parents and teachers of middle schoolers—for anyone who is related to, works with, or knows a middle schooler. For parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers and others who work with middle school young people, this is a guide to what’s going on in their heads and bodies. Make some young person’s life happier by reading this book and understanding why they behave as they do, how long it will last, and what you can do to help. This blend of science, experience, and the opinions of the students themselves will reward you with more positive life experiences with middle school young people.” (Dr. Pat Wentz, Dr., Professor of Educational Leadership, University of West Florida)

“Thoughtful and humorous. Marshall and Neuman guide readers through this challenging time in a person’s life in a relevant yet entertaining manner.” (Punam Saxena, Parent)

“This book is an absolute must for any parent, teacher, counselor, or anyone who aspires to understand the adolescent brain and how puberty impacts the turmoil of the middle school years.

As recipients of often contradictory adolescent behaviors, we all are challenged to better understand and cope with the adolescent in their highly personal middle school social whirlwind. But we also must struggle with our own emotional reactions to our experience with adolescents who sometimes seem to behave in ways that are truly incomprehensible. The basic fundamentals of adolescent development and personal stories reflected in this volume will help even the most confused parent or teacher better understand that what they are observing is often not atypical and that there are ways to productively engage the middle schooler.

As a child neuropsychologist, I think the basic fundamentals of adolescent brain-behavior relations are easily presented and integrated in this book. The personal experiences of adolescents shared in this book bring light to our understanding and pave the way toward more productive interactions. These accounts ‘tell it like it is,’ often with well-expressed jolts of the sharp reality experienced by middle schoolers.

This book should be at the top of the list of gifts for anyone who has or works with adolescents!” (Dr. George W. Hynd, Provost & Executive Vice President, The College of Charleston)

“This book offers understanding and encouragement for us all. There is well articulated insight, indeed wisdom, organized in an efficient manner. Authors Marshall and Neuman provide us with clear and concise interpretations and explanations. They remind us that Juliet was just 13!” (Dr. Richard Frates, Pediatrician)

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