A Day in the Life of a Middle Schooler

They say not to judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes. While reading Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney for #DBC50Summer, I chose three different implementations of the book. Two of them I have failed at miserably, but the third? Epic.

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Five Positive Phone Calls per Week

I started this with every intention of completing it every week throughout the year. My thought was if I called 5 families per week, I’d end up calling about half of the student body during the year. In the first week, I called five families. These five were new families to our school – three were new 7th graders and two were in the 6th grade. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. The second week I called five more parents, two 8th graders, and three 6th graders.

Then I found myself so busy that I didn’t take the time to call. It’s not an excuse. I should have made the time. What concerned me the most was that when I thought of making the calls, it felt like a chore. It became something I was going to do to check a box on a list of things to do. This was never the intention and the feeling of “checking a box” was not in the spirit of what Kids Deserve It is all about, so I pulled back on this implementation. When I see a student going above and beyond, I still make the contact. I want to brag on these kiddos! I never want these conversations to feel forced or like I’m fulfilling an obligation. That will come through on the other end of the call, which will completely defeat the purpose of making the call in the first place. It should always be genuine.

Ride Each Bus

One of my favorite parts of the day is being in the car line with my daughters right before they begin their school day. We have some insanely fun car line karaoke together. I’ve got to be honest, there’s not much out there that makes me want to miss out on this time with them.

When I created this implementation, it was about three weeks before our lives got turned upside down by a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. We are managing quite well; I have a superhero in a 5 year old’s body. We are still figuring everything out, so bus rides in the afternoon are out of the question right now.

With both of those things in mind, I put my heart and soul into my third implementation. Here’s what I learned.

Shadowing Students

Spending a day in the life of a middle schooler is eye-opening and exhilarating. But spending a week in their shoes… exhausting.

Eighth Grade

I purposefully chose students based on course load. My first student to shadow was one of our eighth graders enrolled in all advanced courses. She is currently taking, as an 8th grader, World History, English 1, Math 1, and Earth & Environmental Science. She also had PE and Chorus. From my day with her, I learned that it is super difficult to jump from one 57 minute class to another with only 3 minutes in between. While my body got me from class to class in the allotted time, my brain couldn’t make the transition to be ready for the next subject area.

I learned that the good stuff happens at lunch. By planting myself squarely in the middle of the 8th grade tables, I was able to listen to conversations all around me. I quickly found out who was dating who, who was making poor life choices, and which best friends were in a squabble. I learned that some of our students use the restroom less than teachers do. Upon arriving at school, many of them use the restroom, then use it again around lunch, and try to make a sprint to the facilities before loading the buses. The time between classes isn’t enough to do their business if the three or four stalls are full, so the 8th graders usually don’t even bother. Finally, I learned that assigned seats in 8th grade are ridiculous. In the classes where students were allowed to choose their seats, they chose wisely. Allow them to sit where they’d like and you’ve won more than half the battle of the day.

Seventh Grade

My seventh grade student is what many would consider to be an “average” student. He gets his work done in a timely manner and usually does well on the completed assignments. He was quiet and rarely participated in class. He didn’t speak to many students. What bothered me the most about my day with this student is the lack of interactions between him and anyone else. He was acknowledged by teachers with a quick “hey”, but no one ever really talked to him. I realize this is just one day & could very much be an anomaly, but it made me pause to think about which students I unintentionally overlook day-to-day. How am I reaching my introverted students? How can I better serve them, appreciating their individual needs while still getting to know them & forming a relationship of the same caliber as my outgoing, talkative students? I need to do better at this.

Sixth Grade

Our sixth grade is very different from 7th and 8th grade. Our 6th graders are on teams, so they only have two teachers rather than the four of our older students. This is a change to our school this year and I believe it’s highly beneficial to our students! Our 6th graders are forming deeper relationships, and from what I could see, they are having a rich experience in their first year of middle school. This is a great transition year and I feel like the teaming aspect is giving community and pride. That hall of teachers also has a very strong PLC as they are able to discuss both content and grade level specifics.

Also – 6th grade was so much fun! We played games, had flexible seating, and I found a couple pretty awesome books on desks of those teachers!

 

Physical Education is Where It’s At

My favorite part of my time spent shadowing students was the PE classes! Even now, months after the shadowing, students come ask me when I’m going to play with them again in PE. I think I impressed them with my dodgeball abilities, haha!

I challenge you to spend one planning period in January participating in a physical education class. Or during recess, jump into their kickball game. This informal time is so important to relationship building. Sure you’re missing that valuable planning. But trust me, your return on investment is exponential!

If you can’t find the time to shadow students due to scheduling conflicts, definitely jump into lunch and PE! But do not, and I repeat, do NOT try to make it educational. That’s the only time these kids have to themselves, so don’t taint it. You’re on their turf at that point; respect it and enjoy it!

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