Advice needed about middle school....m

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Registered: 04-07-2003
Advice needed about middle school....m
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Thu, 08-05-2004 - 11:16pm
I am going from Early Childhood (a few years ago) to elem. school (last year), and now to middle school this year. I teach special ed. but will be working a lot in the gen. ed. setting (Inclusion). What advice do you have for me when working with middle schoolers???


Melissa

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Registered: 08-26-2000
Fri, 08-06-2004 - 1:42pm
I typed a nice long reply to this, and then my computer "encountered a problem". POS.

Anyway - I've taught middle school special ed - mostly resource and some inclusion - for longer than I want to think about.

Probably the most important thing to know is not to embarrass them in front of their peers. If they need to be corrected, and it can't be handled by a simple head shake or "the look" or a "shhhhh", then ask them to step outside of a minute so you can chat.

I keep the lines of communication open with their parents. Most of the parents are going through a time with them, too, but at least we try to stay on the same page.

Most are looking for where they fit in the world between childhood and adulthood. They may not want to look like they are listening, asking for advice, or actually taking advice, but you have a lot of influence at this age - especially with your actions.

I don't take them personally. I almost always try to remember that "the source" is a 13 year old boy or whatever. They like to make comments about my shoes. I choose my shoes for comfort since I am on my feet most of the day, and not to impress 13 and 14 year olds (who think you need $100 shoes to be someone). I tell them exactly that - my shoes work for me, and I'm not trying to impress 13 year olds.

Some of them like to stand and talk to me while I'm on lunch duty, and some would die if I even sent a knowing glance in their direction (especially since I'm a SPECIAL ED teacher). I try to respect their wishes there.

Humor is also your ally. A few years ago, one of my students was mad at me for whatever reason, and as her way of having the last word, she mumbled something about "...with your old out of shape self". Everyone in the class waited to see how I would react, and I laughed. Couldn't argue with the 'out of shape' part, though I would have to take issue with the 'old' part. I could have gotten all insulted, written her up for disrespect, stomped off to the office, and had her put in afterschool detention. But we went on with class. It was a lesson to them that an insult doesn't mean you have to come back with your claws out. It wasn't the reaction that that child expected, and "with my old out of shape self" has become somewhat of a class joke. Don't underestimate humor.

Look hard for the positives, and use positives way more than you use negatives.

I often remember back to my own miserable middle school years. Was this age the highlight of ANYONE'S school career? Helps me understand some of what my students are going through.

That's about all I can think of for now.

Karen

 


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Registered: 10-06-1997
Fri, 08-06-2004 - 5:53pm
I don't know that I have a ton of advice, since last year was my first back at this age (I'd done three years in a 8-9 JH, then 7 in an elementary)except to not take things personally. Kids this age can be positively hateful, to each other, to adults, to themselves. I just got a peek at my class lists for next year and was amazed at some of the kids that chose to return to choir. Who knows what their motivation is, but I would have sworn those kids hated my class and me.

I would definitely agree with trying not to embarrass kids at this age - avoiding a power struggle in front of the students is key. That is a tough thing for me to manage- sarcasm just slips right out when kids say snotty things. My proudest moment is NOT replying "better fat than stupid" which slipped right to the end of my tongue when a girl insulted me on the last day of school. Thankfully, I controlled myself - I have never said anything horrible like that, but little digs slip out, sometimes. I try to mutter them under my breath.... I am going to need a lot of self-control this year. That same girl is signed up for choir again - after being kicked out for horrible behavior mid-year last year.... I am starting to have nightmares about her already!

Cara

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Registered: 03-26-2003
Sun, 08-08-2004 - 8:21am
Use prayer daily...no, honestly I've been teaching middle school for eight years now and I really enjoy it. I find you're either going to love it or hate it. It's such a weird age and we have the middle child syndrome here. They aren't the babies nor are they on the threshold of adulthoood. I think what is most surprising that when you look at middle school kids and reflect back on your own middle school - there is such a difference. Kids today at a much younger age have to deal with so many obstacles. Their hormones are raging. One minute they are up and the next they are down. Everything, no matter how small, can become a drama. I say approach it with a sense of humor and just realize as in all things - you'll have good days and have bad days. Best of luck to you!

D

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Registered: 06-04-2003
Tue, 08-10-2004 - 12:57pm
This pains me to say ladies, cause I love you all so much, but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY disagree. If the original poster is going to encounter the kind of students that I have had to deal with, I think she had better take all insults and negative behavior very seriously. Look..

I understand their behavior very much so. I was them once upon a time. However, if you are with VOLATILE students like I have been who have threatend bodily harm to me on a daily basis because I wouldn't let them sleep in class. Or students who have brought their "gang banger" friends up to the school to "jump" a kid who teased them in class. I say take what they do very seriously. It really does depend on the type of students you get. The thing that works with all levels is having rules in your classroom and making sure they suffer the consequence for breaking them. Now..

As far as not embarrassing them. I would agree. However, you must warn them, if you don't want to be embarrassed, then don't force my hand. I will talk to them privately and let them know that. Don't you dare sit in my class and tease and pick on anyone. If I catch you doing that, it will be extremely hard for me to be quiet about YOUR progress. You can't have it both ways. NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU ALL ARE THINKING, YOU'RE THE TEACHER YOU SHOULDN'T RESORT TO THIS TYPE OF TACTIC. Hey, whatever works. Usually, just mentioning that I may disclose their grade to others usually keeps them in check. I am not suggesting you do this, but hey when the adminstration does not support me, I do what I can to make sure my classroom is a successful one.

We are the ones held responsible when THEY are not learning. So, if I am responsible, then I am going to make the student responsible. So...

Again, it depends on the type of students you have. Yes,they are going to be hard-headed and rude and they think they are grown and smart mouthed.Expect it, but don't ACCEPT IT.

Like the ladies said, document, keep parent communication open, pray and use humor. But..

MAKE SURE THEY KNOW WHO IS IN CHARGE. Don't let them get away with direspecting you, themselves or others. We allow children to be this way and then want to complain about it.We can't have it both ways. Here's a little tidbit....

During summer school I was teaching 5th and 6th grade. The students were in line pushing and shoving, arguing and threatening with each other. I told them to stop. I reminded them of the school policy and let them know that I would make their parents aware of their actions. I also explained to them that if they wanted to be treated like intelligent young ladies and young men, then they must first act as such. So, everyone got in line except for this one girl who said: "Why you always telling us to stop? That's the way we are, noone else has ever said anything to us." I turned to her and said, "Yes, dear you are right, noone has told you the truth, so you think what you are doing is okay and it is not. The first time someone gets hurt, you are going to want me to do something about it. Wrong is wrong and your other teachers have let you get away with it, but I am not."

So, don't take everything too lightly or you will NEVER be able to have an effective learning environment. Truth is, I got more effort out of those students than any other teacher had in that school. Why, BECAUSE I EXPECTED MORE OF THEM.

Good luck, pray hard, stay positive, document, keep parents and adminstrators informed and VENT TO US EVERYDAY.

Love ya bunches,

GT33

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Registered: 08-23-1997
Tue, 08-10-2004 - 1:47pm
I'm kinda surprised to hear that revealing your students' grades keeps them in line. It seems to me that some kids, especially tough kids don't want to be seen as smart. Do you work in an urban environment?

Last year I worked in an urban/suburban area where the kids ranged from very rich to very poor. These high schoolers had filthy mouths and no one seemed to care. They were disresepectful without consequences. It was awful. I know not all teenagers are like this b/c I have worked in other schools. I remember having a conversation once with the guy that ran the TV studio in school. He was complaining about it. He seemed to think all kids were like this and I know they are not. It's one of the reasons I left my school. As the librarian, I had nothing to threaten them with. I know if I wrote them up they'd just get a slap on the wrist and be right back the next day with more of the same cr*p. How is the administration in your school? Are there consequences for bad behavior?

Here's to a better year for all of us!

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Registered: 08-26-2000
Tue, 08-10-2004 - 11:19pm
Just to clarify, because I don't want people to think I let them say whatever comes into their heads and that swinging from the lights is perfectly acceptable.

Threats are always acknowledged and/or reported. Harrassment and teasing of other students is not tolerated. Pushing and shoving is not accepted. Big time profanity is not acceptable. An sh-word slipping out occassionally from a kid is not going to get me to stop class for long, but throwing your books and saying "get out of my 'f-ing' face" will. Some stupid insult from a 13 year old about my shoes or whatever is going to go in one ear and out the other - isn't that what we tell them to do? Ignore!

I am lucky to have an administration that DOES support me, and this makes a HUGE difference. But I handle what I can without involving them.

I've never had anything good come from embarrassing a student maliciously. Mine wouldn't give a rat's tail about their average - especially in front of their friends, and I know my administration wouldn't care much for that, either.

Our state gives a high stakes test at the end of 8th grade. If they don't pass the Language Arts and Math parts, they don't go to high school. Just for the record, I teach 8th grade resource, and had 5 kids take the test last year. All 5 of my 8th graders - including one who was mildly mentally disabled did well enough to go on to high school as either an 8.5 or a 9.0 student. I pushed them as far as I could.

It is a balancing act between between reacting too much and not reacting enough. Find the balance, and you've got it made!

Karen





 


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Registered: 03-24-2003
Thu, 08-12-2004 - 2:34pm

Great discussion group! I think everyone has some great points and unique perspectives.

Sherry

 

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Registered: 06-04-2003
Sat, 08-14-2004 - 11:00am
Oh yeah there are consequences ON PAPER. But nothing is enforced. Even if it is enforced, some of these students spent all year in detention and being suspended. If I were an adminstrator, I would make sure that after a second suspension, that parent would be made fully aware of the fact that they would have to find other accomondations for their child, because our school isn't the place for you. This is what I would do. But...

My school adminstrators just shuffle these kids around to different classes and just put them in detention all year. The kids think it's a joke so they MESS up on purpose just to get put out of the room. The admin. CLAIMS they have a new system, but we will see. Anywhoo...

As far as keeping them in check about disclosing their grades, OH YEAH, it works. They may not study or do any real work, but they sure don't want their friends to know the real truth. You know kids are cruel. They compare each other all the time and if you are failing, man they will pounce on you. It's a double edged sword. If you are a smart and hardworking, they are jealous and tease you, and if you are failing, they still tease you.

Take care and remember what I said. Take insults and excessive negative behavior seriously. If you don't, you will be unhappy.

GT33

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Registered: 06-04-2003
Sat, 08-14-2004 - 11:24am
Well, having support admin. is key or you are dead in the water. However...

One thing I have noticed (this kinda touches on a post I made a few weeks ago) the teachers in my particular school have allowed way too much. They don't expect more from these kids, but get mad when they act a certain way. I mean....

Take walking down the hall for instance, every class except mine and two other teachers, RAN AND SCREAMED in the hall. It was disgusting!! When classes are changing, it is the worst. Or when teachers are walking their kids to specials, it sounds a HOT MESS. But..

When my class passed in the hall, you hardly ever knew it. WHY?? Because we went over the rules EVERY SINGLE DAY. They endured a consquence for breaking a rule everyday. Plus, I would make them go back and do it over and over again IF they even thought about being noisy in the hall. Now the school and classroom policies strictly state that students must pass in the halls, quickly, quietly, and respectfully. But..

Most the of the teachers didn't require this of the students, so their students were always buck wild and then they were SO AMAZED at why my kids didn't do that. IT'S BECAUSE I REQUIRED EXCELLENCE OUT OF THEM AT ALL TIMES. Again, if my job is going to be evaluated on their behavior, then they are going get in CHECK. Anywhoo....

Many of the teachers I am speaking of didn't even report the OVER THE TOP things that these students did. Probably because they felt noone would do anything. But still I say keep a paper trial. For example....

One particular student who has failed 3 times mind you, made EXTREMELY EXPLICIT sexual remarks to a young female student. Her mother made complaints to everyone. They put him in detention, but didn't suspend him or refer him to the social worker or pscyhiatrist. Now, it is PAINFULLY obvious that this child is a special needs child, we have sent home TONS OF forms for mom to sign to get him some help, SHE WON'T DO IT. So...

This kid comes back into class a week later and continues to cause a problem. Now here is where the mom should have been more adamant(sp) about this issue. So, after that, the teacher stopped reporting this childs "negative" behavior because nothing was done. I understand the desire to throw in the towel, but for a child this "disturbed" I would make a fuss until somebody did something. I would have also encouraged the parent to make a more active stance. So...

This issue and others is why the kids are just OUT OF CONTROL on the middle school side. I told you what the SummerSchool admin. did to me. That's indicative of what's been going on in that school and why this is our DO OR DIE year. If we don't tighten up and expect more and follow all policies, I will be yet again looking for a job next year. I was going to anyway, but I still don't want to see the school close.

Alright, this is getting too long. Anyone else have some thoughts??

GT33

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Registered: 03-24-2003
Sun, 08-15-2004 - 4:27pm

Support and respect are the keys and too often we don't get enough of either.

Sherry

 

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