Read With You Presents: Marla Thompson
Listen to the podcast here.
Recently retired, taught for 30 years, general ed, special ed, elementary for 10 years, 20 years in middle school
Middle school is a interesting time in a students life. Social issues become extremely important to them. This creates a struggle for students trying to find who they are, and a struggle for the parents. They want to be children and adults at the same time as they try to figure out who they are.
Elementary is more lenient and forgiving for students, teachers are generally more flexible. In middle school, teachers have 120-200 students a day, so the one on one has gone away. Teachers don’t have as much opportunity to be lenient, to be flexible and to be merciful. Students often reel with that because they’ve come from a background where they didn’t have to produce so much on their own.
Elementary teachers see a broader picture of the child and can better understand their strengths.
Middle school teachers are under a different obligation when it comes to grading. The expectation is different. The requirements for students are different and vary from class to class.
“My number one job is not to teach English or Math. My number one job is to teach responsibility.” Most kids are lacking this as they enter middle school. They need to understand consequences for their actions and take responsibility for themselves.
Parents can make sure kids are writing in an agenda, staying on top of assignments. Most school districts have parent portals so that parents can be on top of what the students need to do.
Middle schoolers get embarrassed easily. They don’t like to go to teachers and ask when they need extra help. Students need to be willing to ask teachers for help. If there is a problem, and the parent sees a problem, they need to contact the teacher right away so that they can correct the problem before they have dug too deep a hole.
Study buddies are a great idea- connecting with someone in the class in case you don’t understand the homework, etc.
Parents that are on top of teachers daily are not viewed as proactive as much as they are seen as too involved. Parents need to be involved with students but not shield them from consequences.
“Of course you don’t want your child to totally fail, but you also have to allow them to hurt a little bit...They have to understand that they blew it sometimes…”
Often children don’t share everything at this age.
Parents kind of have to have a fine line: figuring out how their student is doing without nagging, and knowing what is going on in class without contacting the teacher daily.
“Middle school is a chance for the students to figure out what kind of student they’re going to be the rest of their lives. It gives them the opportunity to figure out how to study, how to do well in certain classes. It also teaches them their weaknesses as well as their strengths.”
Parents as well as students need to set the stage so that children can succeed in high school.
Students need to learn responsibility. Parents need to allow students to be themselves. Realize that some classes they will do well in and some not as well. Students need to learn to enjoy school. Teachers are there to be their mentors and their guides.
Give feedback to teachers; it helps them become better teachers.