Junior High is killing me!

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by Ms.SLS, Oct 20, 2011.

  1. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Oct 20, 2011

    In my previous life, I taught high school. This is my first year teaching junior high, and I almost feel like I'm starting all over again!
    I'm not a push-over teacher by any means, but I'm not getting through to a couple of my more squirrely classes.

    So far I have...
    Made calls home.
    Made THEM call home
    Student conferences
    Lunch detention
    allow for group work
    allow for talking time (on topic)
    have activities with movement
    make them line up at the door
    bell ringer activity

    Basically, everything I can think of, but still, they interupt, laugh at EVERYTHING, and in general, are driving me crazy. I know part of it is the age, but I also know the more seasoned Jr. High teachers here aren't having the same kinds of issues.

    What am I missing?
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Oct 20, 2011

    You're missing experience with middle school.

    I, too switched from high school to middle school.

    I moved from teaching juniors and seniors to teaching seventh graders. OMG! I didn't know what I had done. I agreed to take the job because it was the only thing available in my district after my high school job was eliminated.

    Seemed like there was very little room for error in middle school. They are such a interesting mixture of little kid, teenager, and lunatic that there is no way to be fully prepared for middle school.

    I'll have to say that I got better at it each year, although it wasn't until about 5 years that I really, truly learned to ENJOY them. Part of the trick is to learn to roll with it. Trying to change them and mold them into what I want them to be is not the answer. It's much easier to embrace their eccentricities and work within those parameters.

    I've been exclusively middle school (mostly 7th grade) for 17 years, and I absolutely LOVE middle school. Now, I don't always LIKE it very much.

    I am very, very routine-driven in my room. They work best with structure, and lots of it. My daily routines vary very little, and then only when forced by factors out of my control.

    For two days this week my super-squirrelly class was AMAZING. They were personable, curious, and well-behaved. They did everything I needed them to do, and we had a lot of fun. Today? Not so much. They were rude and surly. We plodded through inferior quality work. I fussed a lot. Not sure which group I'll see tomorrow. Maybe neither.

    I wouldn't surrender just yet. Give it sometimes and see what you think. I do believe that some people aren't "middle school people", but I do think some people give up on them too soon.
     
  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Oct 20, 2011

    Middle school kids are in a transitional period in life. I sometimes compare them to two year olds to give people a little insight into the kind of transition they're in. People understand that the tantrum throwing, independence asserting behavior of the average two year old is because they're transitioning from babyhood to childhood. They know what they want to say, but they haven't developed the vocabulary to express themselves. They can understand what they want to do, but haven't developed the dexterity to do what they want to do. It's a very frustrating place to be.

    Middle schoolers are in a similar transitional period. They're transitioning from childhood to young adulthood. They can see and understand the adult world (most of it, anyway), but they haven't developed the maturity to handle it. They're at the very beginning of developing that maturity, but they're not there yet. It's a frustrating place to be.

    Approach your students with the same understanding that we approach a 2 year old having a tempter tantrum. Laugh with them. Treat them with kindness. Listen to what they have to say (you'll be surprised at the insight your average 7th grader has). As soon as they realize that you respect them and like them, they'll be the most fun, loyal bunch of kids you've ever taught.

    (And, in the interest of full disclosure, 7th grade is my absolute favorite age group ever. I'm a bit biased.)
     
  5. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Oct 20, 2011

    I do like them and enjoy them, I just feel like they're over the top behaviorally - but then maybe I'm just not used to it yet?

    I'll try to be better about my routines. For the first time in my life I had to lay down pencil sharpening rules... haha
     
  6. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Oct 21, 2011

    I moved from 7th grade to high school this year. At the beginning, I was amazed at how calm the high school students were! They weren't constantly out of their seats, they didn't tap their pencils on the tables, they didn't try to eat the lab supplies. I can do things with the high schoolers that I could never do with 7th graders, such as give them multi-step directions. (Put your tests and answer sheets in 2 piles when you are finished, then get out a laptop and go to this website. My 7th graders would have gotten stuck at the 2 piles thing.) High schoolers can re-enter the room after going to the bathroom without announcing to everyone that they have returned!

    I know the difference isn't me, because I didn't change what I do. But I find classroom management is much easier in high school. You'll just have to find ways to give instructions that work for 7th graders, since what you did with the high schoolers isn't working. One step at a time, with modeling at every step, worked best for me. With 7th grade, I even modeled how to carry lab supplies and how to wash their hands at the sink. High school students can do both of those things without much instruction.
     
  7. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Oct 21, 2011

    Ok yes! This is totally what I have been working on. So theoretically, when I get better at simplifying expectations and instructions, they will get better?

    Its also nice to know that some of this stuff is normal for the age (the bathroom thing??) And its not just me.
     
  8. KateL

    KateL Habitué

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    Oct 21, 2011

    Yes, you have to be very explicit with instructions and not allow any wiggle room. It helps to also demonstrate what NOT following directions looks like, because sometimes the students don't realize how ridiculous they are being until they see an adult doing the same things.

    However, when 7th graders know exactly what you want and they are capable of giving that to you, they can do amazing things! I did love my 7th graders, but they were wearing me out, and I'm glad that I moved to high school. I hope that you can make middle school work for you!
     
  9. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Oct 21, 2011

    I suggest graphing. I started a whole thread here about graphing behavior. I have found with middle school that they don't always understand that what they are doing is wrong in some way. Spend some time graphing whatever behaviors you don't like, then show them. They will want to "beat" their "score"--which means less interruptions. Try it!
     
  10. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Oct 21, 2011

    I remember that post, and actually did it for the week. Except, some of my more problematic students decided it would be fun to see who could get the worst score, sooo, it created more issues with those individuals. I love the idea though and it did help my less ridiculous classes.
     
  11. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Oct 22, 2011

    Another great tip is to write the directions on the board so that you don't have to continue to repeat yourself and they can refer to the multiple steps as needed.
     
  12. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Oct 22, 2011

    I don't have any advice as this is my first year in middle school
    (7/8) bu this

    is the best description I have ever seen! :lol:
     
  13. GAteacher87

    GAteacher87 Companion

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    Oct 22, 2011

    Haha @ pencil sharpening rules! I am a first-time middle school teacher also (with 6th graders) and there are definitely some simple rules/routines that I would think they'd already have down, but they don't! And they can't sharpen their pencils with my pencil sharpener to save their little sweet lives. hahaha I feel your pain, but again, I do think the best advice is to roll with it and understand that they aren't going to be perfect. Have established rules and routines, but also know that they are at such a transitional stage in their lives that sometimes it's hard to be the teacher because you don't know what they can be expected to do. I'm learning, too, so any advice seasoned middle school teachers have would be GREAT. :)
     
  14. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Oct 23, 2011

    For the first few weeks of school, I didn't have a working pencil sharpener. You would have thought I had purposely gone out of my way to make their lives horrible... :)
     
  15. maya5250

    maya5250 Comrade

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    Oct 23, 2011

    I also didn't realize my first year about how explicit that I had to be and had to have a routine for everything. I also award students with a smile stamp if they got one or zero redirects. Then they can collect five stamps to receive a no homework pass (less homework for me to grade :)

    This is my second year teaching sixth grade
     
  16. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    Oct 23, 2011

    I have loved this post! As you can see, I am an Early Childhood teacher, but my own children are High School Sophomore, 6th grade and 2nd grade. So they all like to point out how crazy they are acting and how they are like "mom's little kids at school". They are though, it is soooo funny. My 6th grader even went through a week where he fell down (splat) almost as much as my growing early preschoolers! Crazy! Now, I feel totally more balanced as a parent, knowing this is normal....and they will grow out of it!

    Whew!

    Hahahaha...."little kid, teenager and lunatic!". Love it!
     
  17. brians1024

    brians1024 Rookie

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    Nov 3, 2011

    SLS, I hope these replies have helped you.

    It has been interesting reading through the posts.

    Great analogy of like having to go through those terrible twos again.:lol:
     

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