Don’t blame the parents or the students! Blame social media surrounding our middle school students with the belief that every opinion is important and demanding of immediate attention. The village needs to directly teach children and their parents to stop this or else the students will not deserve an excellent Teacher Evaluation when applying to colleges.
In case the parents don’t know, over 700 universities accept the Common Application. Its Teacher Evaluation will be important and students really don’t know who in their senior year they will be asking to complete it. Acting like jerks in ninth grade study hall may prevent students from getting the kind of recommendation they need. I described this in detail in books for parents and a book for teachers. If you want the whole explanation and create a paradigm shift with your community, consider using these books: Seventh Grade Guide Sixth Grade Guide Teacher Dialogues
But if you just want the 10 minute explanation it goes like this. Pick a time to have a heart-to-heart talk with your class. Explain that their speaking out, whining, and interrupting, is becoming a habit that must now be broken in middle school because their high school teachers will be judging them and evaluating them. Even if they think they will grow up when they are juniors – their senior teachers may have had them in a study hall or lunch room duty when they were freshmen. Even if they are marked as being good – they are in column 5 of 7 – and not the best candidates. The margin is very slender. Show them the four areas indicated with the arrows that concern you. Tell them that they have a great future, but not if they don’t have the social skills desired by adults writing and reading the college applications.
This usually stops students and parents. I tell them that I will do my job by reminding them with the words, “social skills alert” meaning their lack of appropriate social skills is a problem. I call their parents and tell them that I am doing this to help them and ask for their help. I assure the students and their parents that this is so important that I am willing to assign detentions and work with their parents to get them back on track.
As for Spanish class, I have created three musical videos to demonstrate these skills. The first is how to treat a new student in class. The second is how to write an email to a teacher, and the third is the most important, asking if now is a good time before just talking at the teacher with different requests.
As I write these words in March, I see many teachers writing about classroom management beginning to unravel. Point systems are all about external validation that quickly loses its attraction and the external rewards need to be upped as time goes on. There is no magic bullet that will last the year. External rewards only last so long.
But internal validation is something else. It’s about catching their vision of who they want to be and showing how developing self-discipline will get them there. Connect with your students by sharing this information with them and their parents and relating their behavior choices to their future ability to have the things they want and the lifestyle they deserve.