What is the “magic” to a successful middle school? That’s what WeAreTeachers HELPLINE member KSH wants to know.
“I understand that kids in this age group are going through a host of physical, developmental, and emotional transitions,” she writes. “They also face many social challenges in this world of social media, reality TV, and cyberbullying. So what is that magic that sets an effective middle school apart from the mediocre ones?”
Here’s what our community of educators had to say.
According to AB, “When I taught middle school, the instructional teams that were the most successful were the teams where all of the teachers were on the same page, consistently applying common rules and consequences.”
ML agrees. “C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y,” she writes. “Other things are important, but this is number one!”
Teacher mastery is high.
Just like teaching at any level, doing the job well requires skill and effort. The magic, according to MS, “is high expectations, consistently enforced rules, and effective engagement strategies.”
GY shares an inspiring tip that has helped her be the best middle school teacher she can be, “I just went to a conference about explicit teaching by Anita Archer. Her book is a must read! It has so many great ideas that can be applied from K-12 on everything from organization to classroom management to lesson planning and delivery.”
Teachers are exactly where they want to be.
JFB tells us the key to a successful middle school is “a staff that enjoys the students and loves teaching that age group!”
It takes a special individual to teach 11- through 14-year-olds. Their energy, quirkiness, and huge range of abilities and interests are not for everyone. It takes a great sense of humor, superhuman organizational skills, and a thick skin. The best middle school teachers are the ones who wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else.
Teachers have compassion for their students.
“When interacting with middle schoolers, it’s easier to talk with them when you remember you were once that age too,” RM reminds us. “Remember when you felt like the world was ending because your crush just found out you were into him or her? Reconnect with that aspect of yourself so you can connect with your students.”
Kids have a sense of belonging.
JR tells us, “I think it’s crucial for kids to feel like they are an important part of the school culture. The best schools are those where the kids and adults work together collaboratively.”
Middle schoolers are just beginning to develop their independence and sense of identity. When they feel their opinions and thoughts matter, they are more invested and take pride in their schools.
Kids thrive in a supportive community.
MEM tells us the key to a successful middle school is “creating a community where all kids feel emotionally safe and free to learn, where they receive kindness, compassion, and caring from the teachers and each other.”
Don’t we all flourish in a positive environment?
The lines of communication are open.
“This is the age group where kids start shutting out adults,” says RM. “I make sure to have chat sessions where students are free to tell stories and share whatever they want. Sometimes when they need to vent. They just need someone to listen without jumping in to tell them what they did wrong. Giving them leading questions so they can stop, think, and come up with their own response is better than being lectured by an adult.”
KR employs a similar tactic. “My school does Rally Circles,” she tells us. “Each day, after the morning announcements, we are given a quote or statement or question to discuss in our rally circles. If there’s something else the kids need to talk about, we have leeway to change our discussions.”