Saturday, November 15, 2014

Middle School Mayhem: Part 1 - Front Street

I have always gotten along with kids. Whether it be working for a daycare, Upward Bound in college, or leading children's musicals at church, I tend to bond well with kids. Someone once told me I had the Santa Claus effect after I sat down in public and two little kids just came over and started standing with me. I had not noticed until she pointed it out, and it has resonated with me ever since. I guess you can call me "The Kid Whisperer."

I have been at my current school for three years, although the first year I was only there part time working with the teachers as a TIS. I was scared stiff the first day I actually took over as the Computer Tech teacher, because the word cloud describing Middle School kept me on my toes. My bag of tricks worked, and I had 100% participation in my classes. Although student behavior was excellent, I WORKED HARD AT MAINTAINING it.

My first tip towards mastering classroom management is something I like to call "Not Putting Kids On Front Street." Middle School Kids are driven mostly by peer pressure and acceptance. In elementary school, kids are in highly controlled environments where they spend the majority of their day with the same group of students. High school students start developing their individual personalities, and it is generally accepted that there are different groups of kid within the same building. Middle school is the toughest age, because elementary school kids are now moving and existing in a mixture of new faces and social settings. Throw in the imbalance of hormones, and you have a recipe for disaster. Think about a time when you walked into a room of people you did not know. Did you walk right into the center of the room confidently? Did you quickly scan the room for familiar faces and make a beeline towards someone you felt comfortable with? Did you slide into the room and awkwardly try to establish a rapport with someone you were drawn to? Did you even walk in at all?

My job is to be teacher, mediator, and moderator. I am the "Julie" of this vessel. (Julie - quick reference to The Love Boat. Activities Director) I am the match directly in the middle of kindling. I am the one that can ignite a huge wildfire if I am not careful. If I call out to a student in front of all of their peers to admonish their behavior, I am putting the kid on Front Street. I have now taken this poor soul, who has worked tirelessly to evade public humiliation at the hands of the other kids, and put a spotlight on their every imperfection. Cue the Fight or Flight response. I must find a way to redirect their behavior without putting a target on their back. Unless this student is causing physical danger to themselves or another student, I will lose the trust of the student if I make a spectacle of whatever they are doing. If I get into a confrontation with a student, it is a lose-lose battle.

A good teacher will call the student aside to address their behavior. A great teacher will have set up protocols before the first behavior has ever taken place to ensure the ability to address future behaviors without disrupting their teaching flow. These protocols are easy to establish, and I will be discussing a few in my next Middle School Mayhem segment.

Don't put kids on Front Street!

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