Teaching in Middle Schools
One of the most important aspects of teaching in middle schools is recognizing the specific characteristics of adolescents. Children in mid-adolescence face rapid changes in their bodies and minds that can make them appear, at first glance, to be difficult to work with. But there's a lot to appreciate about this stage of adolescence, too. Middle school teachers should keep the following tips in mind as they prepare to teach adolescents:
It's All about Relationship
Middle school students are asking one question: "Do you like me?" If they think you do, they'll be more likely to listen to what you have to say. If they believe you don't, you can bet that you're going to have a hard time getting through to them. It pays to be intentional about building positive relationships with your middle school students.
Remember that the goal is not to befriend your students. You'll gain their respect just by treating them respectfully and being consistent. Attempting to become their friends or confidants, or sharing too much information about yourself, actually works against establishing relationships with your students that are built on mutual respect.
Vary Your Teaching Methods
Don't presume that your middle school students are "too old" for cooperative learning activities or hands-on projects. These learning experiences are just as valid with middle schoolers as they are with younger students.
Construct a Flexible View of Your Students
Middle school students are changing all the time. Don’t box your students in with labels like "needy" or "accelerated learner." Even well-intended, complimentary labels can make middle school students feel invisible to the adults around them.
Communicate with Your Students' Parents
Make a point of communicating with your students' parents regularly, through classroom newsletters, e-mails, and phone calls. Many middle school parents tend to take a "hands off" approach, believing they need to protect their children's independence. However, involved parents – at any age – are still key to facilitating students' successes.
Make Use of Online Grade-Reporting Systems
If your middle school is participating in an online grade-reporting system, such as Infinite Campus, make a point of updating it regularly so that students and parents can check on their progress. Be sure that parents know how to access the program, and their children's passwords as well.
Collaborate with Other Teachers
As a middle school teacher, you may be teaching several different subjects to large numbers of students. Reduce your workload by collaborating on lesson plans and projects with your colleagues.
Connect with Other Professionals in Your School Building
In addition, make sure that you take the time to get to know your school's guidance counselors, administrative staff, support staff, and even the school nurse. Working together with these professionals will enable you to best meet your students' overall needs.
Finally, middle school is a critical time in the lives of adolescents. Be attentive about meeting their needs, and take your teaching expertise beyond lesson planning and classroom management!
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