Differences between middle school and high school

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by muxziem, Apr 13, 2016.

  1. muxziem

    muxziem Rookie

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    Apr 13, 2016

    I will be entering a secondary master's and credential program next year, which will enable me to teach either middle school or high school once I finish. The highest grade level with which I have ever worked is seventh, but I am potentially very interested in teaching high school.

    What are the most significant differences between middle school and high school? I have never worked with HS students, so I am very curious. I imagine that much of them have to do with HS students being older and more cognitively developed. How is behavior management different?
     
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  3. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    High school here is 9 - 12. 9th graders act a lot like 8th graders. But they have more freedom (no one walks them to classes, they mix with students of all ages in the halls and in some classes, they can sit where they want at lunch). This extra freedom is sometimes too much to handle for even the best of students. Drugs are much more available due to the freedom. It is easier to walk over and meet a friend behind a building than it is in middle school. Violence is more intense. Instead of fist fights we see weapons too.

    By tenth grade most students have learned that you do not automatically get passed along if you fail your classes, as you do in middle school. They have matured a bit more. Upperclassmen act very entitled.

    As a teacher, and only based on what middle school teachers have shared with me, the expectations are a bit easier to meet. If a student fails it is the student's fault. You do not have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops to give the student what he earned. Contact the parents, note your available tutoring times and you're done. You don't have to eat lunch in the cafeteria with the kids.

    But, comparing my schedule to friends of mine, HS teachers have more after school responsibilities. Awards ceremonies are at night. Prom needs chaperoning and teachers to set up/decorate. Graduation is mandatory. Sports games need ticket takers and people to watch the gates. Every teacher is expected to either be a coach or lead a club.
     
  4. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    Apr 18, 2016

    I have taught both MS and HS and the differences are pretty huge. Even between 6-8th and 9-12 there are huge differences. For me, 6th graders were way too squirmy and baby-ish, although they were adorable at times. 8th graders have attitude but can be fun if you know how to manage it. I loved the freedom to work on projects we had at the middle school with less pressure for "academic rigor"/testing, etc, but this will vary by school/district.

    At the HS level, each class can be completely different. Freshmen need a ton of hand-holding and structure to succeed, not unlike 8th graders. Sophomores have it a bit more figured out overall but aren't too big for their britches yet-- I actually really love sophomores! Juniors are under a ton of pressure from all sides. I haven't taught a class of just juniors yet, but a lot of teachers say they are the "best" to teach because they are fully feeling the pressure of college admissions looming in the near future.

    This year has been my first time teaching senior classes and it has been a challenge, but exciting. I had to adjust since most of my experience has been with younger students, but once I got used to them and they got used to me, it has been really fun and rewarding working with seniors. Classroom management with seniors is, I think, about finding a balance between not treating them like babies, but letting them know they will be treated with respect if they can show respect.
     
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  5. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Apr 18, 2016

    In middle school a kid can fail a subject and still advance to the next grade level, there really isn't any consequence for failing a subject, other than their GPA goes down.
    In high school, if they fail a class, they will have to retake it. A lot of freshmen don't understand this and fail a lot of classes (my own daughter did that), but by the time they get to be 10th grade they can see their transcripts and see how they're already behind. This knowledge alone can motivate them to pay attention in class and do their work.

    In middle school they're so much younger, their hormones can be raging and a lot of behavior issues stem from them. From what I've seen 6th grade is not too hard, they're still young (in a lot of areas 6th grade is elementary, in others it's middle school), 7th grade can be challenging or easy, depending on the group of kids, and 8th the same. They can be more mature, but they can also have a lot more behavior problems, arrogance stemming from being the oldest in middle school and not really being mature.

    In high school 9th graders can be challenging, because they're just middle schoolers who are a couple of months older, but this year I haven't had a rough time with them overall. Sophomores are overall great and juniors are even better in my opinion. Seniors can be awesome, they're finally mature and have a goal they're working towards (that's not too far) but a lot of them shut down either because they're so close they think they don't have to work hard, but I've also seen a lot who are just scared to death to graduate and enter the real world and they're often self-sabotage.

    I think you should spend some times in each grade subbing and then you can figure out what you prefer.
     
  6. muxziem

    muxziem Rookie

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    Apr 19, 2016

    How will my student teaching experience affect job opportunities? If I student teach at the middle school level, will I have a harder time getting a high school job if I want one (or vice versa)? I know that a secondary credential qualifies me for both at least in my state, but I am curious.
     
  7. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I student taught in middle school and then I subbed a semester in middle school. Then I started subbing at alt. ed. high schools for about a year and a half, and had no problem getting a job at alt. ed. high school. I think I could have gotten a job at middle school, I would have had to rewrite my resume and cover letter a little to really push my experience with subbing and student teaching. If you have experience in both, you can use either one.
     
  8. Mr.Literature

    Mr.Literature Companion

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    I love teaching my 8th graders. I've spoken to a literacy specialist who works at a nearby high school and I asked her the same thing. She said that she misses the way the kids are in middle school. They can be goofy and funny and in high school apparently the lose some of that. I'm sure this is going to be a question that varies by location. I did work a morning program at my school that included 6th graders though and I realized I would not want to teach them. They feel too much like elementary to me. Too much energy and not mature enough. At the end of the day if I have to teach them, I will, but I enjoy the balance of maturity and goofiness from my 8th graders.
     
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  9. Tulipteacher

    Tulipteacher Companion

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    Jun 4, 2016

    High school--I have to wake them up.
    Middle school (and 1st semester freshmen)--I have to calm them down.
     
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  10. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I taught high school for 20+ years, and I've been an assistant principal at a middle school (6-8) for one year. The differences are substantial!

    (Warning: mass generalizations ahead...lol)
    High school kids are learning to be so much more comfortable in their own skin. They don't worry about trying to please everyone... just their own little cliques. The frontal lobe more fully develops, and the hormones start to settle, so they have a little more impulse control and can more fully understand the consequences of their actions. They challenge you, but not just for the sake of taking a stand... there is usually a true and earnest lack of understanding or appreciation or acceptance of a societal norm. They want and demand logical explanations beyond "because I said so" or "because that's the way it's always been done." That's not good enough for them, and if that's all you've got, even when you're trying to explain "why do we have to learn this" you'll struggle with them mightily. Their outside problems are sometimes so much more "grown-up" than you can imagine... bills to pay, threats of being kicked out/homeless, legal issues (DWIs, assault). Sometimes you have to put the curriculum on hold and teach them how to be an adult. If you don't, there's a good chance no one will. Your power of influence on them if they like and respect you is ENORMOUS.

    Middle school kids are a squirrelly bag of hormones and impulses! They are still very much like children... I assumed (ha!) that because 6-8 is secondary, they would be like little high schoolers. Nope. Nope. Nope. They are much more like elementary aged children intellectually and emotionally, even in the 8th grade. They honestly can not control those impulses, but rarely, do they mean their actions to really have a serious negative outcome. They need very specific instructions and expectations. Assume they have no social training... no matter what kind of home lives they have. The hormones have short-wired any and all lessons their well-meaning parents have taught them. They demand fairness, and it's hard for them to learn that fair and equal are not the same thing. They are SOCIALLY BRUTAL to one another! Boys and girls gossip about each other non-stop and viciously! I would say 75% of the discipline issues I deal with involve "he said/she said" nonsense. You and mom and dad can explain until you're blue in the face that "it doesn't matter what that person says" and "you're never going to be able to stop people from talking about you," etc., and they don't care. To them, these insults are akin to physically attacks. And they often respond physically in reaction. On the plus side, they are still very loving and kind when an adult opens up to them. They like you to mother/father them, even if they insist they don't, and they need you to specifically teach them organization and time management. The more black and white the rules and expectations, the better it is for them. They are trying to manage so much on their own... the last thing they need is ambiguity from you.

    Experience in either, though, will help you with the other!
     
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  11. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    Jun 25, 2016

    This is perfect! Quite accurate!
     
  12. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    ,
     
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  13. Mr.Literature

    Mr.Literature Companion

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    My 8th graders are young adults and for that reason, they hate being treated like babies. Or rather, being made to feel like babies. They want to be treated like adults. But they still want their hands held a lot of the time. And that's okay. They are at this super weird time in their lives and the transition can be hard. I had this brilliant girl who always got 100s on everything and all of a sudden at the end of the year she stopped doing her work. She was mourning the loss of all the "parents" (teachers) she had in middle school. This was a migrant student who was already mourning the loss of her father. They are kids at the end of the day and that's what you need to remind yourself. Even if some of them are close to 6 feet tall or have full on beards! I had one like that this year lol

    Another thing the 8th graders value more than anything is honesty. I don't give them a bunch of BS. I tell them why it's important for them to get out of my intensive class. It isn't about loving all books. It's about being able to comprehend things later on in life and getting that diploma.

    But at the end of the day, what these kids are searching for more than anything? Validation. That they have done a good job. That they are a cool kid. That they are going to go places. I had a boy who was failing every class the last semester. I talked to him. He cried to me that all his mother tells him is that he is a failure. This wasn't news to me. I knew something was up and I was constantly having Pep talks with this kid. Well, he went from scoring a 2 on his state test which is below grade level, to a 4! Which is above grade level in Florida. These kids need to know you are there for them, that you love them, and that you want them to succeed.


    Oh and final tip! Lol accept the fact that the hormones will make them little pervs and innocent words in the texts you read could turn into giggle fests. As long as you are okay with that, you're good.

    Oh! And I forgot! Accept the inevitable girl drama that will exist. The boys at my school are okay for the most part. Not much bullying goes on between them. But the girls are another story. They are vicious to one another. So there will be many days that you'll be dealing with tears, and "Can I go to my counselor?"
     
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  14. GPC0321

    GPC0321 Companion

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    High school students are so interesting to me. I've only taught high school, but the differences between the grade levels are noticeable.
    Freshmen are still very much "kids" and are usually suffering an identity crisis when they hit high school. They've got more freedom but aren't necessarily ready to handle it. They've gone from being the top dogs of their middle school to the bottom of the totem pole at high school. Their hormones are just off the chain, and they don't know how to handle it. They are, however, a little easier to intimidate, especially first semester, because they're half scared to death of high school. For ours in our small school system, they've gone to the same school K-8, so it's a big change coming over to the high school with new administrators and teachers and students from the other feeder schools.

    Sophomores are much more settled. They're getting their driver's license during this age and are starting to resemble little adults a bit more. Some are still quite immature, some are becoming much more mature, and generally speaking they're a fun age. They're happy that they aren't Freshmen any more and by second semester with Junior year staring them in the face, they are really starting to realize that the choices they make could have a big impact on their futures. This is also the year that students who are determined to drop out will (16 is our age limit in NC). Others who kind of wish they could drop out will stick it out because they want that driver's license.

    Juniors are probably the most chill group. They've got the most challenging academic year, and are beginning to feel the pressure of what they're going to do after high school. A lot of them have jobs and cars and responsibilities. They're long past the silliness of Freshman year. They are taking the ACT and SAT and are planning the prom. They are aware of their class ranking as graduation nears and marshals are named. A lot of them are also taking several college courses through our community college (either online or going to the campus), so that adds academic rigor and puts them in an environment with high expectations and accountability. For many of them, their Junior year is their last "full" year of high school. They'll either graduate early if they've met their requirements, or will have a semester Senior year with only one or two classes.

    Teaching Seniors is so different from teaching Freshman it almost seems like a completely different job. They are young adults. Some of them, if they've struggled through high school, are 19-20 years old. Some of them might have children of their own. Some might have been in trouble with the law and be on probation. Some are the only "adults" in their households and have siblings to care for. Some will walk across the stage with an associate's degree in addition to their diploma. Many walk the stage having signed athletic contracts with major universities, or having signed with a branch of the military. Many still act like kids because they have that safety net of parents and school, but you can see a shift in them. Many are unsure of their futures and what will become of them once they leave. I guess, much like when they were Freshmen, there is a bit of an identity crisis for some of these young folks. They're leaving the world they've known for 18-20 years behind. They are both excited and scared. (Okay, I feel like I'm giving a speech at graduation now, LOL!)

    Anyway, it's interesting to watch them grow up through these phases of adolescence into adulthood.
     
  15. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jun 26, 2016

    My degree is secondary (9-12 with 7-8 in my subject). I did student teaching in high school, but have taught most of my 23 years in middle school. High school was more about management of my subject, and middle school is more about management of my classroom. 8th and 9th graders are similar.

    You're fighting puberty in middle school. Nobody wins that fight.
     

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