Whether you are a veteran or new teacher there is one unanimous thought that links both types of teacher together when it comes to middle school students: they are an interesting group. They’re either coming (6th grade), not sure where they are at (7th grade), or getting ready to go (8th grade). Add this on top of raging hormones, sassy attitudes, and testing of boundaries, middle school students are the most versatile, challenging, but unique group you could ever choose to teach.
Speaking from personal experience, they are my absolute favorite group to teach. They’re done with their crying/throwing up on you stage (for the most part) that you may experience with elementary students, but still need you without losing their “cool” image as high school students. So, as middle school students, you get the best of both worlds and are the primary mentor in ensuring everything for them goes smoothly.
A big mistake that middle school teachers often commit to is that they have to make sure all these kids pass the big standardized test. Now don’t take my comment as me saying that the test is not important. It is. It has its purpose which is to assess your students on what they learned the entire year in their classroom on a set of standards that you may or may not be able to completely cover in the one hundred something days you’re actually in the classroom. Remember that doesn’t include the last minute assemblies, fire drills, days off, vacations, etc. All of these assorted activities can take away time in your classroom and it may make you feel more tempted to cut corners and just focus on making sure your students pass the test.
But, your job is to prepare them for their future academic and career endeavors, which, believe it or not, does not meaning taking tests for the rest of their lives. They need to learn how to “read between the lines”, take out a mortgage, and build strong, healthy relationships with others. This is where finding out the nuances within your students’ personalities is really important. Getting your students to learn based on their own needs and interests as well as build a cohesive and conducive learning environment should be your first goal.
This is an important lesson for all teachers to learn. There is such thing as too much positive reinforcement. Students should always feel appreciated and know that their efforts matter. However, just because a student brings a pencil to school should not be a big deal. Or that a student completes their homework two days in a row after not doing it for the whole year shouldn’t matter.
Creating an incentive system (funny money, star charts, academic points, etc.) with clear academic and/or behavioral goals that students can work towards can really add a great presence within your classroom. This goes for consequences as well. Making those behaviors and academic slights knows as unacceptable in your class (i.e. taking earnable incentives away) is just as important as the content that you will teach.
If you keep these two tips in mind, you’re school year is going to be smoother then you would have thought of. Hope it helps!
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