Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Middle School Journal




Perceptions of middle level learners vary, and unfortunately, some are deficit-oriented, labeling young adolescents as “hormonal” and “erratic” without a deep understanding of their emotional and physical development or the knowledge and skills that they bring to a classroom. In this paper, we provide empirical evidence for this deficit narrative—including the marginalization of middle level learners—from interviews conducted with teacher candidates in elementary, middle, secondary, and K-12 programs in two different states. Three themes around perceptions of teaching middle grades students are shared: adult needs and interests, resistance to student agency, and challenging the deficit narrative. We posit that developing a broader understanding of young adolescents might inform and inspire teacher candidates to choose to become middle school teachers. Thus, we encourage an asset approach to recruitment of middle level teacher candidates entering teacher preparation programs, and we offer recommendations for middle level recruitment into teacher education programs with an explicitly asset lens.


This is the authors' preprint (submitted version) of an article published in Middle School Journal by Taylor & Francis and the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) on November 2, 2021, available online:


0000-0002-3175-0547 (Beck), 0000-0002-2326-3984 (Hinton)

Original Publication Citation

Lunsmann, C., Beck, J., Hinton, K., & Perry, B. (2021, 2021/10/20). Middle level teacher recruitment: Challenging deficit narratives. Middle School Journal, 1-27.