Tips for working with Middle School Students

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Swetha, Mar 11, 2014.

  1. Swetha

    Swetha Rookie

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    Mar 11, 2014

    Hi everyone,

    I'm a college student who volunteers in a middle school after-school program once a week.

    I'm really, really struggling with the balance between being an authority figure and creating relationships with the kids. During homework time, I try to enforce that kids do the homework and not use cell phones, but it's really hard when the tutor that works with me doesn't. I'm upset because I feel like they won't like me if I'm too firm with them. I've been feeling really down because I'm not sure if I'll be a good teacher because I'm struggling to create this balance. When I'm just having fun with the kids, I do great with them and they like me, but during homework time, I feel like I'm a bad cop. I love, love, love the kids but I feel like I'm not doing a good job at creating relationships with them.

    Also, are there any tips for working with middle school students who are not working? (screaming, running, etc.) The program coordinators are in different rooms at different times so they're not always with us in the room.

    Thanks!! Any advice is much appreciated.
     
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  3. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Fanatic

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    Mar 11, 2014

    I know this might be hard to hear, but you must do what is best for middle school students, and not worry about whether they like you. They may or may not like you, but if they see you are willing to not be the adult and stand up for what is right, they will walk all over an adult like that. Middle school is very tough as they are really testing their boundaries. They might not be your buddy, but they do respect the following things:

    1. Fairness
    2. Consistency
    3. A teacher who can remain calm
    4. A teacher who makes an attempt to make learning fun.


    As soon as you forget about trying to be liked by middle school students is when success can begin.
     
  4. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Mar 11, 2014

    Is there any way the kids could help make a rules list for homework time (with your guidance)? Or, could you and the other tutor agree on some basic rules and then post them somewhere? Would it work to collect phones in a basket at the start of the lesson or when you see them, to be given back at the end of homework time? Just some ideas. I would guess that phones aren't allowed during lessons at their middle school, so it shouldn't be that foreign of an idea to not have them out during homework time.

    I've also found it to be really helpful to establish a relationship with them... it sounds like you already do this, but it's worth mentioning again. It's a lot easier to say, "hey! put that phone away," and not be met with attitude or other bad behaviors if you have had positive interactions with them at other times. I'm not saying to be their friend, but asking how their day is or how a test went and acting genuinely interested in the answer can go a long way.
     
  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Mar 11, 2014

    Agree with readingrules. They may not act like it, but students actually really crave knowing the boundaries that they can and cannot cross and being held accountable for them. I read an article that delineated the process of a student checking to see if the teacher is upholding their end of the contract which is to keep the classroom a safe place for everyone. They will test the boundaries to see if you keep your word, and the first time that you don't hold them accountable, they won't trust you. They'll say they "like you" because you're nice, but deep down, they know you're not serious about maintaining the classroom.

    If you hold them accountable, they will shout from the mountain tops if they don't get their way or claim that you're mean and a horrible teacher, but they will actually respect you more when you fairly hold them to the rules. It's hard to see at first but over a few years, you see a pattern that students seem to like the "nice" teachers first because they can do anything they want in that classroom.

    They don't like them so much later on in the year when they frazzle the teacher by continuing to push to boundaries to the brink of her sanity and she snaps and becomes authoritarian. In addition they don't like her so much when certain students continue to break the rules and disrupt the class day after day and they can't get work done.
     
  6. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Mar 12, 2014

    You are a college student, these are middle school students. They are not your friends, they do not need to like you. You can be firm in your rules but still have fun. Know when the "fun" has gone too far and you need to bring it back again.
     
  7. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Mar 12, 2014

    I so disagree with the "they don't need to like you" comments. I'd love to know where they started and if there's any research to back them up. I think middle school kids absolutely need to like you. In middle school I needed that more than anything else a teacher could offer me. I hated going to school every day. The students were awful. Those teachers who actually treated me like a human being and not just an object to be managed made my life at school tolerable.

    To the TC, if you are truly liked by them, and they don't just say so to encourage you to be a push over, you can use that to your advantage. When students violate rules for me I can simply ask them what I did to them to deserve to be disrespected. Middle schoolers aren't biologically self-centered so by asking them questions like that you force them to challenge their own actions. Invariably they can't answer and almost always recognize they are the one causing the problem. I can then point out that their behavior is selfish as it is disruptive to the other students who are trying to work. The last thing they want to be known as is selfish so this tends to do the job of redirecting the behavior without much fuss and frustration.

    And, they still like you.
     
  8. Loveslabs

    Loveslabs Companion

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    Mar 12, 2014

    I am currently living with a middle school creature, so I am going to follow this post.

    My two cents.....Middle school is a weird stage . To me it is like the kids are being pulled in all directions with a wide range of expectations. They aren't kids, but they aren't adults. Yet, we are puzzled when they don't act like adults and become upset when they act like kids. We become upset if they act too adult like. They can't win!

    I think they need to know and understand your expectations. They need to know you are there for them and won't easily give up on them. Don't try to force/create a relationship with them. Let it happen on its own by talking and working with them. Most of all, don't forget you have to have a sense of humor when working with kids, or they will make you crazy.
     
  9. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Mar 12, 2014

    I would say that it does matter that they like you as well, but they will actually like you MORE when you hold them accountable and show yourself to be true to your word when you have good classroom management even if they don't act like it.

    Also I think going out of your way to get them to like you will have the opposite effect. If they sense desperation they will know they have power over you, and won't respect you as much. Keep your distance, but be friendly, and let rapport build naturally.

    Following those four things readingrules posted will lead you to being a well-liked, well-respected teacher.
     
  10. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Mar 12, 2014

    Don't assume they know what a good choice is, but do know they are developmentally capable of having a moral compass. They will need lots of guidance. I find "demanding" expectations almost never works. If you can calmly explain the expectations and why they are there, they are far more likely to buy in. This is much more mature and they want to be treated that way. Ex: "You will walk and not run." turns into "I understand that you want to run, but we must walk so that we don't disturb the work of others. Please walk."
     

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