This past Wednesday we worked to determine the five things we wanted our kids to learn through advisory, I realized it was the perfect juxtaposition of something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now. If all of our students were able to get in a room and come up with five things that they wanted their teachers to know, what would those things be? As I mentioned, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while so limiting it to five was tough but I did it (with one bonus at the end!) I don’t believe that these have any particular order of priority so here they are in the order that they fell out of my head…
1. Middle school students want to be seen as capable.
Maybe they can’t achieve everything that is asked of them YET but they certainly want the chance. Our students want to try new things, take risks, and discover their talents and passions. Middle School students know what it means to be appropriately challenged and that’s exactly what they expect. They know and appreciate when a lesson has been well thought out, their needs are being met, and challenges are being offered. Your students want to be engaged, pushed to think outside the box, and challenged to the edge of their comfort zones. Most of all, they want you to know that they are capable of handling this!
2. Middle school students want to be seen as adults and treated that way (most of the time).
They know they aren’t adults yet and they don’t want all of the responsibility but they desperately want to feel like they are viewed as “adults”. The term “child” makes middle school students cringe. Our students want to be treated with respect and dignity. They want to be part of the conversation (see below) and they want to feel like they really are turning into adults. They’re in the the transition age from child to young adult but they’re also in a hurry to skip right to full maturity…growing up is hard, who can blame them?!? We must treat them with the same level of respect that we show our colleagues, family, and friends.
3. Middle school students want to be included in their education.
Choice, independence, freedom, voice…Our students want to be a part of the process, they want input. Middle school students want to work with you, not for you. They want learning to be a team game. Perhaps you’re the coach but in more of the ‘player coach’ sense…not the drill sergeant version where you stand on the sidelines with a whistle barking out orders. Collaborate with each other for your students but also collaborate WITH your students.
4. Middle school students want to be held accountable.
As much as they want to be adults they still know they aren’t quite there yet and they need help. So set high expectations for your students and then hold them accountable! Systems, processes, and clear rules help students meet expectations. Ambiguity, chaos, and unclear expectations lead students down a confusing and dangerous path. Set high targets and hold them accountable to your expectations. Hint: If you include them in the process of setting the goals or laying out expectations (see above) you’ll have much more success!
5. Middle school students want you to know that they are human.
We all have good days and bad; go through highs and lows. Our students want you to know that they are no different. In fact, because of the immense amount of changes happening in their lives they are experiencing even more of a roller coaster ride than most of us. Middle school students want you to be patient, be tolerant, and be understanding with them as they try to manage the mine-field of hormones, emotions, and life changes that they are encountering as pre-teens and young teenagers.
And finally, one last thought with no explanation needed…
Middle school students want to be acknowledged as important, relevant, and intelligent people.
The first thing they want to know is what juxtaposition is?
To be included in the decisions was my biggest concern looking back, I was never involved in the process and that was huge in my failure at academia.