Friday, March 1, 2013

Middle Grades Students: Building Character

Relationships can be difficult, especially in the classroom. As a new teacher, I am often trying to paddle my way through the sea of emotions that are felt by middle grades children. Girls, especially, can be difficult at times. And rightfully so. They struggle every day with various hormonal changes that were not apparent just a few months previously.

I feel that middle grades teachers have a deeper calling in some ways, because they have to be understanding of those changes, and work with them, not against them. This does not mean that these brooding young girls get there way. It only means that as teachers we must continue to treat them as individuals, and respect the changes that are apparently developing.

Yesterday, I tackled this problem head on when one young girl became increasingly sassy with me. I will tell this story, but I have changed the student's name.

 The students and I were all in the computer lab, watching and listening to a presentation by another student. I quietly asked "Kimberly" to come closer so that she could support her fellow student, and be a good listener. She responded with a quick argument stating that she had already seen the presentation before, and that she was not interested. I quickly retorted back that it didn't matter to me whether she had or not, she better scoot up and look interested. Again, she got sassy with me. I began to argue back with her, and I stopped. She did scoot forward, but began mumbling under her breathe. I quickly gave her a disapproving look, and then dropped it for the moment. I was fuming inside, but I tried not to let it show.

After everyone had presented their presentations, I had all the students stand around me. With a firm and commanding tone, I offered a quick lesson on what it means to be a good listener, and be supportive of others. I reminded them of the fact that I always work to respect and value them as individuals by listening and helping them in any way that I can. As a result, I expect the same from them, and for them to show that to their classmates. Now, I will tell you, I did not say this in a "pre-school" teacher voice. No, I laid into them, not wavering for a moment.

The following day this same young lady, "Kimberly" came into my classroom and brought me this note:

I understand sometimes I may be bad;
and I'm sorry if you ever got mad,
I don't mean to talk back;
Sometimes I just get off track.

What I'm trying to say is I'm not the greatest kid ever,
And that you may see me as clever,
but underneath it all; I'm really really small.

Sometimes I'm left alone in the dark,
And it really hurts me so,
Like a child being left in the park,
And sometimes I don't really know.

Please forgive me for what I said,
You are no longer blue but instead red,
I'll try and be more prominent to you,
and be more respectful, too!

(P.S. I did poetry because you said you like poetry)

Oh! Those sweet moments that make teaching so rewarding! I was stunned that she took the time to write me a poem. That is why I love middle grades so much. As teachers, we get those opportunities to really change and mold young adolescents by demonstrating what it truly means to be the best person we can be to ourselves and others.

I will end with this quote because I think as teachers we must remember that our students are not our enemies. Yes, we have to be firm and disciplined with them, but always through our desire to see them succeed and become better people.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.

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