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Middle School Classroom

Pedro Said:

What questions should I ask when observing a teacher in a middle school classroom?

We Answered:

Look particularly at her classroom managment techniques, ask her about what works, what doesn't as this is an area that can trip many new teachers up. Take a camera and photograph her walls and her colleagues walls if possible and collect as many resources as you can.

Frank Said:

Middle School Classroom Guidelines or Rules?

We Answered:

It really depends on where you are in your career and your style in the classroom. I am just about to start my fifth year of teaching, and everything has changed every year. Overall, you need to set guidelines for everything - regardless of where you are in your career - since middle-schoolers aren't capable of remembering simple things like "how do I go get a tissue, do I ask or do I just get up?" That was the biggest thing that I learned in my first year - they need to be told how to do everything at least once.

As for rules, it's really just the basics that we've always had in school. If you have to pick one thing for all of the kids to pay attention to, it's respect. There are several ways to show respect, and if the kids are focused on respecting one another, you, and themselves, they won't cause you any huge problems.

As for consequences, it can really be different for every student. I do a lot of one-on-one conversations about behaviors. If that fails with a student, I get a bit more severe by using my school's hierarchy of discipline. I will admit, there are times when the consequences for one student are nothing like the consequences for another student based on whether or not I've had problems with the student in the past. I'll never punish a student more strictly because of their behavior, but I may punish a student less than the hierarchy prescribes simply because that isn't a normal behavior from that student. My first year was a very tough year, and there were several times when a student openly swore during class and received a detention or office referral based on the offense, but there was a case of one of my star students lashing back at a classmate by yelling "You're starting to f***ing p*** me off!" She had never once caused me a problem that year and I was stunned to hear what she had said. I called her out of the room and discussed it with her - how her classmate had annoyed her and how her reaction was inappropriate for the classroom. She was very apologetic and knew that her response was inappropriate. Rather than write an office referral like I'm sure that I had for another student that year, I sent her to the guidance office for a few minutes to cool down before coming back to class. She never gave me any more problems, and I'm certain that this was handled as well as it could have been handled.

The bottom line for consequences is this: set up a plan for how you are going to handle problems in the classroom and follow it based on the circumstances. If it's a case of a kid that is usally a pain in the neck, follow it strictly. If it's a kid that doesn't give you hassle every day, take it easy on the kid - they'll appreciate it and respect you more in the long run. My plan works like this:
1st offense - verbal correction
2nd offense - conference outside with student
3rd offense - time out of the room
4th offense - call home
5th offense - office referral
Just a note, my state's wellness policy doesn't allow us to detain students during lunch time, so detention isn't an option. Also, sometimes that 4th offense is a great time to have the student call home and explain to his/her parent what they did to warrant a call home - it embarasses the hell out of them in front of their classmates and gets their parents nice and upset that they had to get a call during the middle of the day - this is incredibly effective. As usual, extreme circumstances call for skipping a few steps in the hierarchy - if a kid punches a kid or does something to injure another student, they don't need four chances - they're going to the office.

All in all, it really comes down to you knowing your students and what will work for them. I would suggest sticking to a plan of action rigidly for the first several weeks of school and then when you know which kids are repeat offenders and which aren't, you'll know how to deal with them individually. Heck, sometimes it just comes down to letting a kid know that he's acting like a yutz and he'll cut the proverbial crap.

Byron Said:

Annoying things to do in a middle school classroom?

We Answered:

omg this happened today in LA.
so we were reading this passage about the sport of frog jumping. it was to ourselves and then all of the sudden this kid jake starts making ribbit sounds. then we all started doing it and it was really funny.
so some things you could do could be all dropping your books at the same time (very funny), coughing at the same time, pretend sneezing at the same time.
hope you like :]

Michelle Said:

Do any current female middle school teachers have advice for me?

We Answered:

The first two posters have hit many good points!! They deserve gold stars!

I'm going to weigh in on this, too, even though I am not currently teaching. My last two teaching assignments were in grades 7 - 12 in disciplinary alternative schools, and prior to that, I'd taught junior high (7 - 9) for four years when I was a beginning teacher. Yeah, I've met middle/ junior high schoolers. They can be a lot of fun, but they can also make you just a little crazy. Be sure that your sense of humor is intact. Learn to keep a straight face no matter WHAT happens. It can be a wonderful tool.

Do re-familiarize yourself with your adolescent psychology and development. Hormones are raging in middle school...there's a lot of interpersonal drama going on. It can be very wearing on you as you try to sort it out...and you will be asked to play "Dear Abby" at times. Do that very carefully...better to refer it to the counselor.

Be sure that you have clear and fair expectations and are scrupulously consistent about them. If you make a mistake, admit it, make it right, and go on. If you mistakenly call a student down in public, be sure to apologize both privately and publically. The kids will respect that. You're not there to be a friend, but you don't have to be the enemy, either. You need to establish a working relationship with them.

Remember that respect is a two-way street. At this age, it's a big thing with them. You want to be respected, and so do they. It has to be reciprocal or it doesn't work. You can demand all you want, but you won't get it. You have to earn it. and that starts on day one. You have to show them that they will be respected in your room. Be clear about that in your classroom rules, procedures, etc. If you can, address them as Miss and Mr. most of the time. It's amazing what that can do. For some, it will bother them, and they will ask you not to do it. Others think it's really something. Since you expect them to address you as Mrs. or Miss or Ms., it's only fair that you start off that way. You can always go to their first names or last names (for the boys only) later on.

Girls are probably the worst at this age because of their developmental phase. They can be sweet as anything one minute, and catty and vicious the next. They are competitive about the boys, and many of their dramas are because of them. (If ever there were a case for single-sex schools, middle/junior high school would be the perfect place to implement them across the board!) I would never, ever step into a fight between girls.

Boys tend to be a little goofy, but can also try to challenge you and your authority. A lot depends on how you present yourself. If you are no-nonsense, but fair and can show that you are interested and care about them, you will be okay. If they sense that you are afraid of them, you are sunk from day one.

The biggest thing is to care about the kids and be *real* with them. At this age, they are really attuned to any kind of favoritism, even the hint that you may not like them, or say one thing but do another. You have to remind them periodically that while you may not like the behavior, you still "love" them.

I think a lot depends on where your school is and what kind of students are there. I had a lot of at-risk kids who needed a lot of support--in every way conceivable. I learned a lot by just listening to their conversations as they came into the room or whenever there were a few minutes of "free time" when they talked to each other. Being in the hall is another source of information. Just listen and you will learn a lot about them. You don't have to do anything with the information, but it can help you understand why so-and-so might be having a problem or why some students who were the best of friends this morning are at war this afternoon.

Be ready for any number of things. As a female teacher, you will probably have at least one or two young ladies who will need some assistance with "female matters". I learned to keep a small cosmetic bag in my desk drawer with a few items in it that could be surreptitiously handed to a student in need. I usually invented some sort of "mission" for that student to go on so that she could leave the room (deliver papers or a "package" to another teacher-with a note) without embarrassment. But that kind of thing is up to you and how comfortable you feel about it. I also kept hand sanitizer, funny band-aids, a tiny screwdriver for glasses repair, and a few other "oddments" in my desk that came in handy for those little instances that didn't require a trip to the nurse or the office. You cannot give out any medication, but you can offer a peppermint to someone having a coughing fit.

The big thing is to look on this as an exciting adventure and a great opportunity. Yes, they will challenge you, they will make you want to scream, they will confound you, and they will drive you to utter distraction, but they will also amaze you, cause you great joy, and remind you of all the reasons you became a teacher.

Good luck with your new assignment. Have a great year and a lot of fun!

Rachel Said:

In your experience, what is the best middle school classroom management style?

We Answered:

Humor helps so much when your a teacher. If you get the kids on your side with a few jokes or just acting a little more like them they seem to like you more and listen, but if you do it too much you become too lenient and they never take you seriously. You just need to have fun with the students and make sure they enjoy your class while teaching them at the same time.

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