This quarter, while taking a course on adolescent development, I have the privilege of expanding my experience to working with middle school students. I work two days a week at a local middle school in a 7th grade science class as well as a 7th grade social studies class.
As someone who had already taught elementary school children and plans to stay at that age level I was somewhat hesitant to work with students who are much older and who also are often labeled as being in their “awkward stage” or rebellious.
My first day on the job seemed to go exactly how I expected it to in that I had many students who were greatly appreciative of my help and a select few who seemed to immediately hate me. One student in particular made it very clear that she did not want, nor need, my help and even went as far to say I was not allowed to “tell her what to do” when I was telling the students to have a good lunch as they left the classroom.
Immediately, I left that day feeling discouraged and unsure as to how a student can 1. Treat an adult that way 2. Not want help and 3. Go out of her way to be angry and unhappy when there are multiple students and teachers around who would love to help her and want what is best for her.
I spoke with another volunteer who works in that room every day who also happens to be a coach at the school and is highly respected among students because I also noticed she treated him in a disrespectful way. He brought something to the surface and was able to assure me that although what she says seems very personal, she doesn’t really mean it.
He was able to speak with me about how she normally behaves and you just need to “ignore” it in the sense that if you allow that to form your opinion on her and choose to steer clear of her that that is what she is looking for. I was informed of some things that were going on at home for her and how she is often left in a way that makes he feel as though people in her life do not care and she then finds control in trying to push people away – even though she may really need them.
As an elementary school teacher I always had students who happily spouted things to me – even when I am sure their parents kept some things private (haha). This allowed me to be aware of home situations or know what was bothering them right away and allowed me to support them in a better way. With these middle school kids they are a lot more private and aren’t as willing to share their problems with others so it is important that you look for what could be causing their behaviors rather than making assumptions based on how they treat you.
For all you educators out there – for elementary aged kiddos or older what are some situations that you have personal dealt with where you have had to dig deeper into a situation and work more with a particular student to make sure they are feeling loved and valued in your classroom?