Stuck in the middle again. I go back to middle school Monday when my twins start sixth grade.

I am going back to middle school.

It's back to middle school for me Monday, when my twins begin sixth grade. I am not looking forward to it.

It's back to middle school for me Monday, when my twins begin sixth grade. I am not looking forward to it.

My twins begin sixth grade Monday, going to the same middle school that my older two children attended.

I found middle school the weak link in my children’s k-12 education, which opened with a fantastic elementary school and concluded with a strong high school experience.

Middle school was another story, in part because their school went through a series of principals in six years, each bringing a short-lived flurry of changes that destabilized the school and the teachers.

The school boasted some wonderful teachers, but the overall experience was a disappointment and the atmosphere off putting.

Parents often felt they were entering a prison under lock down when they visited the school during the day, half expecting to be checked for  contraband themselves.

I know that many people argue that middle school is of small importance because the students themselves are so addled by hormones that they can’t concentrate.

As a result, middle schools have long been seen as holding pens until the young teens and their hormones simmer down.

Whenever I voice any misgivings about middle schools, advocates sent me scolding messages that the problem is not with the fundamental model, but with how poorly districts have put it into practice, not fully funding it or not faithfully adhering to the principles.

There is a national effort to improve middle schools, but the results remain unimpressive, suggesting to me that the concept itself is flawed.

Anything that is this hard to repair may not be worth fixing, sort of like my beloved canary yellow Mustang that ended up costing me more to fix than it was worth. Looking at a second camshaft in less than a year, my mechanic counseled me it was time to move to a new model.

I hated to see old “Yeller” go to the scrap heap, but my new car was more reliable, safer and far less costly to maintain.

I suggest that we ought to consider new models for educating adolescents, including k-8 schools that offer the nurturing environment of elementary school to children for these critical adolescent years.

The average middle school in Georgia houses nearly 900 students. While educators complain that parents step back in middle school, the research suggests they are also pushed back a bit.
Parental involvement is strongly influenced by a school’s treatment and view of the parents and by whether teachers believe parents can make a contribution.

The problem is that teachers dealing with 150 students a day in a big, impersonal middle school can’t really connect with them. When their children don’t bond with teachers or the school, neither do the parents.

One of the selling points of middle schools is the team concept in which a group of teachers have the same collection of students every day, and the classrooms are often located in the same wing of the building.

As one middle school manual explains: “This middle school team approach allows teachers to more closely ‘follow the child,’ i.e., develop stronger ties with individual students and therefore better able to monitor their progress and offer quick feedback and assistance…which in turn allows students and teachers to establish the stronger connections.”

But I never saw this team approach in action. Yes, my children were on a color-coded team, but beyond scheduling, the team didn’t seen to serve any other function in their daily lives or interactions.

I remember my first meeting with my child’s “team.” It was clear that the teachers had never had a single conversation about my daughter. This didn’t surprise me as she was a good student who would not have created a need for too many huddles.

But the teachers couldn’t even answer my basic questions about her schedule or her classes: How does the school assign students to elective classes? No one had any idea. How do band and chorus work? Again, no clue.

Later, a friend who teaches middle school counseled me that her colleagues concentrate their efforts on the kids who are drowning, that a student who does well, shows up and turns in her homework is probably going to be considered a gift and left to her own devices.

I understand the focus on students who are struggling, given what is at stake in middle schools today.

In its report “The Forgotten Middle,” ACT researchers concluded: “Our research shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school.”

But I also think that it is disheartening to drop off your children at a building that resembles a Russian prison and hope that somebody notices them.

126 comments Add your comment

Is Neal Boortz right?

July 31st, 2010
1:54 am

I doubt few if any teachers use school supplies to consciously indoctrinate their class in the tenants of Marxism, but does he have a point about what nefarious message may be sent, as he writes in his Saturday AJC article?

“Wait just a minute here! Why am I putting my stuff into that box? My daddy took me to Walmart and bought that stuff for me! It’s mine! You can’t take it away from me!

You think?

As your child sits in stunned silence, the teacher tells him and his classmates that these supplies now belong to all of the class. What was once private property has been seized and transformed into everyone’s property. The teacher says it shall be so, and so it shall be. The teacher’s demands amount to a virtual government mandate. There is no due process. No rule of law. No property rights. In school the teacher is the law. It’s time for some school supply redistribution.

As Karl Marx said (with some license): “From each according to their ability to purchase school supplies, to each according to their need for those school supplies.”

Writer Gal

July 31st, 2010
2:39 am

I just read through that ACT report, “The Forgotten Middle.” Interesting. But did you notice this? Near the end of the article, they gave the stats regarding their sample group, ethnicity, race, etc. What was predominantly noteworthy to me (and I was searching through the report exactly for this) is the regions of the US used for the study. There were four: the East, Midwest, Southwest, and West. The Southeast (and the North) were not included in the study. This, I feel is because the Southeast is far worse than the stats they report. The underacheivement nature of the educational system as a whole in states like Georgia and its surrounding neighbor states is so very terrible. Our schools are horrible here in Whitfield County. This is why we have removed our child from public school and I will be homeschooling this year instead. This child is profoundly gifted and would be entering the fourth grade after skipping the second and entering the third. As you say, clueless teachers and left to one’s own devices. I know I have to take the proverbial “bull by the horns” to insure my children’s success in life. I can’t hope for the “best” in northwest Georgia–the best simply does not exist. It would be interesting to see what the breakdown was for middle schoolers here in the Southeast by ACT. Beyond horrible, I would assume.

36 years in education

July 31st, 2010
6:14 am

Two of my three children were on teams that really “watched and cared” about every child. They knew my children better than I did. My daughter didn’t have this same experience. She had a “rock and rolling” good time in middle school and I don’t know if she retained anything that she learned.

NWGA teacher

July 31st, 2010
6:41 am

My child had an excellent middle school experience (also in Whitfield County). She loved the school, and her teachers seemed to know her well. It is a fairly small school. I’m far more concerned with the prospect of her large high school (and that notorious math program).

LSH

July 31st, 2010
7:18 am

One of the main problems with the implementation of middle school is the issue of ability tracking. Current PC protocols will not allow the teachers to track the students at this age. As a result, the teams spend all of their time working with a small handful of children and the average and gifted children are really left to their own. The teachers are not stupid or uncaring; their butts are tied to a small handful of underperforming students- who usually come with underperforming parents. Meeting are held often and the teachers struggle to develop strategies to work with a small handful of students or parents. Throw in an extremely high number of non academic specials that take time away from teaching and planning- think: “Career Day, Red Ribbon Week, Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week, Guest Speakers and performers, etc, etc, etc…. you have a recipe for very little learning going on.

Middle School Mom

July 31st, 2010
7:50 am

The whole concept of the team approach is kind of out the window this year. Most middle schools (at least in 8th grade) are going to curriculum areas, and doing away with teams. This presents less of a scheduling dilemma. I do not know how we are going to keep up with “who is drowning,” when we don’t have weekly team meetings to discuss our concerns…but we’ll figure it out. I agree with the poster above about underperforming students with underperforming parents. Most of the time this is true, but not always. At the “hormone hotel,” you just never know what you’re going to get…often great parents end up with very rebellious kids who see no value in education. The kids think one day they’ll wake up and be either a professional athlete, rap star, or a motivated student. Ah, with school starting in about a week, it’s time to dust off my wand and gather the pixie dust….

Jim Snell

July 31st, 2010
7:51 am

Ask a middle school teacher why they chose to teach at that level. If he/she does not immediately respond with a positive comment then there is a problem. Teachers who do not genuinely identify with the uniqueness of middle school students will probably not successfully connect with them. I can’t remember who said it but the quote that “students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” is perhaps more true for middle school students than any other grade level. Beyond this, dedicated teachers must work in a building where administrators know how to support their efforts (minimize classroom interruptions, avoid temptation to jump on board with the latest staff dev. fad, etc.). An administrator who doesn’t get it can destroy the efforts of an otherwise effective teacher at any level.

oldtimer

July 31st, 2010
7:52 am

After 30 tears of teaching 4-8, I believe the old way in Dekalb was reat. k-7 and 8-12. I loved grade 8 at Tucker and 7th grade in ele. was great. later as we converted to MS model you could not keep teachers in grades 7 or 8. I also believed we lowered expectations, a lot. In my last 3 years in Clayton County we lowered expectations even more. The one thing I disliked the most was the changes in social studies education. I taught 180 or more and saw them every other day. It took two weeks to learn all the names.
You are so right..Middle Schools are a weak link..But then so was Jr. High……

Julie

July 31st, 2010
7:53 am

I taught middle school and found it to be a both challenging and rewarding group of children to work with. Several things I wish: 6th grade remained in the elementary school and 9th grade remained in the middle school. These are truly ages that need the “most attention” Looking at discipline records and academic success, these two transition years suffer and I believe the students are trying to grow up too fast. Our middle school takes a very hands on approach, that being said, we only have one middle school in the county and everyone knows everyone. Morgan County. These are the years for parents to really be involved in their school.

Middle school

July 31st, 2010
8:05 am

My children’s experience in middle school was fine, but I thought that those parents who didn’t enjoy school themselves would have been highly intimidated havintg to meet with four teachers at a time. I would deliberately circumvent scheduled meetings in order to address a single subject with a single teacher more quickly. It saved loads of time for everyone involved.

Dunwoody Mom

July 31st, 2010
8:15 am

As a student of the old “traditional” K-7 for ES (actually in early DCSS, Kindergarten was not provided) and 8-12 for HS and now as a parent of the ES, MS, HS model, I have to agree that these MS years seem “lost” to me as well and my children attend(ed) a good MS where there were academic “teams”. These are tough years emotionally and physically for children. There is a world of difference between a 6th grader and an 8th grader. I wish they would go back to the old model.

Jim Snell

July 31st, 2010
8:25 am

Ask an educator why they chose to teach at the middle school level. If he/she does not immediately respond with a positive comment then there is a problem. I cannot remember who said it, but the quote that “students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care” may be more applicable at the middle school level than any other. Beyond this, dedicated educators must work with building level administrators who understand that their primary responsibility is to support the efforts of teachers to reach their students. Administrators at any level must minimize interruptions that take time away from classroom instruction, reduce the load of administrative paperwork, and resist the latest staff development fads for starters. (apologies if this comment shows twice…my 1st attempt seems to have gotten lost in the blog filter)

Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

July 31st, 2010
8:33 am

Twins in middle school!! Oh, we’ll say a prayer for ya!

Mother knows best!

July 31st, 2010
8:35 am

Middle schools in GA are too large…in Gwinnett a small middle school is around 1200 students, but most are 2,000-3,000. That’s ridiculous! In the Midwest (best schools in the country) a typical middle school is 600 students. However, I still yanked my child out of the Midwest MS and placed in a gr 7-12 private college prep. Best decision ever!

Teacher&mom

July 31st, 2010
9:06 am

Ah… middle school. I taught at the middle school level for 12 years and my youngest will be in the 8th grade this year. People often ask me ask me what I miss about middle school. I don’t miss the constant “silliness” and drama that seems to go hand-in-hand with this age. If you want to develop a teacher’s discipline and classroom management skills, place them in a middle school classroom for a couple of years. It’s like being thrown in the deep in of the pool to learn how to swim ☺

Children First

July 31st, 2010
9:09 am

40 years ago, when I was a tween, elementary school went through 6th grade. My “junior high” — an antiquated term — was grades 7,8,9. High school was 10,11,12. 40 years later, and being the parent of a 16 year old, this model seems to make so much more sense. At my son’s middle school, 6th grade was the most turbulent year, and the kids would have done much better without being in a school environment made up of three “hormonal” groups of 6,7, and 8. We benefitted from 9th grade in a smaller environment, and high school was a pleasure. Not everything from the “old days” was a mistake!

Teacher&mom

July 31st, 2010
9:13 am

I agree with other posters that 6th grade belongs in elementary school. At our local middle school, reading is no longer taught as a separate subject. It is combined with the English/LARTS standards. One of my biggest complaints about middle school is the huge decrease in the number of books they read each year. The focus shifts from reading to grammar and literature. I understand why there is a shift but many middle schoolers still need a reading class.

Teacher&mom

July 31st, 2010
9:32 am

Here’s my idea of an ideal middle school:
1-Grades 7-8 (possibly 9th)
2-Small classes (no more than 20) that are grouped by ability levels.
3-Small teams of two teachers (at least in the 7th grade)
4-PE every day! You have no idea how important MOVEMENT is to this group and what a difference it makes in helping them settle and focus during class.
5-Loop students in 7th and 8th grade (same team of teachers for 2 years in a row)
6-More cultural and educational field trips (start exposing them to colleges, technical schools, etc before they reach high school).
7-Allow high achieving students to earn high school credit. (Math and physical science credit could easily be earned in middle school)
8-Provide some type of program for students who don’t pass the 8th grade CRCT (especially those who have a long history of failing the CRCT). Acknowledge that their chances of survival in a regular high school program are slim and they would be better served by offering them an alternative route that will eventually lead to a technical diploma.

Teaching in FL is worse

July 31st, 2010
9:53 am

Thanks to my fellow posters for not letting the Boortz fan highjack the blog.

I taught in middle school off and on for 7 years. I have never felt anyone who worked there saw it as a “holding cell” for kids. As a matter of fact, we saw it as crucial since that is when their personalities and independence are starting to form.

I’m sorry your experience was not good, but it is not an indicator for all middle schools is GA.

As a disclaimer, I will say I went back down to elementary school because I felt that discipline was less…”complicated.”

Teaching in FL is worse

July 31st, 2010
9:54 am

BTW, the model in Japan is 1-6, 7-9. 10-12.

Teacher&mom

July 31st, 2010
9:57 am

@Jim Snell..I’ve heard that quote used many times in middle school staff meetings :) I loved teaching at the middle school level and will probably return in a few years (after my youngest graduates high school). Middle school is challenging and exhausting. Teaching at the high school level is SO MUCH EASIER. I don’t have lunch duty, hall duty, after-school bus duty, etc. The number of parent conferences drops dramatically at the high school level. The maturity level of high school students makes my job so much easier. The pressure that comes from preparing students for the EOCT is nothing like the pressure that comes with the CRCT. Oh how I DO. NOT. MISS. the CRCT :)

This next observation always gets me in hot water at the high school but here goes….at the high school where I work, the most well-rounded, successful teachers are those that were also successful at the middle school level. I think every high school teacher should be required to teach at least a year or two at the middle school level. If you can successfully (emphasis on successfully) teach at the middle school level, you’ve got what it takes to be an outstanding high school teacher.

J.B. STONER

July 31st, 2010
10:28 am

YALL WANNA KNOW WHAT I THINK??

CHECK BACK TODAY AND SEE WHAT I SAY !!!!!!!!!!!!

Concerned 1

July 31st, 2010
10:33 am

Thank you for these comments. A relative is going to Middle School this year and APS is piloting their transformation at her school. She is gifted and excells on violin and in ballet. She also made straight A’s in elementary school. Her school was not targeted for a CRCT probe and made distinguished AYP. Why do they keep using our kids as guinea pigs? I will find a second job to send her to private school if this tampering hurts her education. I just can’t see more emphasis on drilling kids in 6th grade for tests. Why can’t school be pleasant?
I hope the teachers are caring people, that will make a difference. Her parents are also very responsible and are active in the PTA and school programs despite their work schedules. Enough said.

ScienceTeacher671

July 31st, 2010
10:43 am

I agree with those who say the elementary 1-6, Jr. high 7-9, and high school 10-12 model worked best, particularly when you had subject-certified rather than “middle grades certified” teachers in those schools.

In my opinion, 6th graders don’t quite have the maturity needed to be thrown into the great hormonal pool of middle school, and do better as “the big kids” in elementary school, and 9th graders do better with the additional structure of the junior high.

I also agree with Teacher&mom that there should be some sort of special program for those 8th graders who can’t pass the CRCT. Throwing them into high school, especially with Georgia’s single-track diploma, is a recipe for failure.

Iggy

July 31st, 2010
11:01 am

Most 6th graders are NOT ready for middle school, with 7 classes, 2-minute locker breaks, and near complete responsibilty for being the conduit of information between the teachers and the parents. My son, and like many boys especially, was not developmentally prepared when he started 6th grade. It didn’t seem the school takes that much into account. Unlike the elementary schools, where there are packets going home to parents on a weekly basis, and teachers closely communicating directly with parents, most of the work never comes home (it remains in their class “portfolios”) and teachers very rarely communicate with parents. So parents are left decoding an 11-year-olds interpretations of what is happening in his classrooms. I recognize that part of the reason for the reduced personal communication is that the teachers now have up to 100+ students vs 20-30, but why place 10-11 year-olds in a situation where teacher-parent communication drops to near zero, yet the demands on student organization and study skills are so much higher?
Just keep them in 6th grade, put the 9th graders with 7th and 8th, and you will have more neurodevelopmentally homogeneous groupings. Everyone will be more serene.

Atlanta mom

July 31st, 2010
11:08 am

Bless the middle school teachers. I can’t imagine anyone doing that willingly! It takes a very special person.

Atlanta mom

July 31st, 2010
11:09 am

As for PE everyday in middle school–bring it on. And bring it back to elementary schools as well.

Legal vs ethical

July 31st, 2010
11:12 am

Developmentally, I also am leary of putting 9th graders in with 12th graders. I have heard the hope was to gradually introduce students (and parents) to the idea of driving, working, etc. via that first 9th grade year. However, I think what has happened is that the younger kids get lost in the high school and the teachers have trouble making the jump from 18/19 year old issues to 14/15 year old issues. It’s too broad a canyon to jump. Also, just when kids and parents have “figured out” MS, it’s time to leave. It’s hard to support the school as a parent when you are not there long enough to really make an impact. How about k-5, 6-9 and 10-12?

Really amazed

July 31st, 2010
11:23 am

Why would you send these two precious gems to a school that you know is and has preformed poorly in the passed, willingly?? You only get one chance with them This isn’t your yellow car.

Really amazed

July 31st, 2010
11:39 am

I meant, Maureen why would you send these two precious gems to a school that you have found in the past as the weak link in your other children’s education? You only get one chance to educate them. This isn’t your yellow car. Please don’t respond you believe in public education. This apparently just isn’t so for any of you. I very rarely see anything positive about public school written in any of these blogs. The only time I do is for some of the traditional ones like Walton. The new math itself puts everyone over the edge. This is where the top math students start getting lost, fast MIDDLE SCHOOL. It happened to my nephew, top notch student in 6th grade. Got a d in math but somehow report card time it was a B. Give me a break!

TW

July 31st, 2010
11:52 am

My oldest went to middle school in east Cobb and IT WAS AWESOME!

Those communities who use the school correctly for their kid’s education are able to activate the magic of public schooling.

Go Raiders!

Teacher, Too

July 31st, 2010
12:28 pm

This will be my 22nd year teaching middle school. I love it. I wouldn’t drop down to elementary, nor would I jump to high school. I totally agree with the other bloggers who have suggested moving 6th grade back to elementary and dropping 9th grade to middle (or junior high).

I have always thought that 9th graders do not need to be around seniors.

My best advice for parents with middle schoolers? Keep the lines of communication open with the teachers. Don’t helicopter, but do e-mail when you have questions or concerns. Also, as John Rosemond commented in one of his columns, keep an open mind and give teachers the benefit of the doubt. I’ve had parents tell me that their children don’t lie. Yes, they do. Kids lie. Please love your children enoughto allow them to accept the consequences of their behavior.

If schoolwork is late, don’t e-mail, call, or send a note. Usually, due dates are given in advance (at least in my class, they are). Unless there is a legitimate emergency, let the child suffer the consequence of the teacher’s late work policy. If an emergency does happen, then let the teacher know. I try to be flexible with legitimate emergencies, as do most of my colleagues.

Use the resources that schools/ teachers provide. My school provides agenda books for students. I put the class agenda on the white board and on my blog every day. Students are responsible for copying it into their agenda. Check your child’s agenda to see what he/she is doing in class. If the agenda is empty, as a parent, you might want to give a consequence. As a back up, check the teacher’s blog. I know I post upcoming due dates and test dates, as well as class/homework assignments. It’s a rich source of information, and it eliminates you having to call,e-mail, or send a note asking for make-up work, if you know that the assignments are posted on the teacher’s blog.

FInally, check your child’s grades often. Many school districts have links for parents to check their children’sgrades.I know there are some teachers who do not update their gradebooks as often as they are supposed to (my school requires updates at least once a week, but there are teachers who do not do this). However, many teachers do, myself included. Check the gradebook. Ask to see the work if there is a low score- if your child says that his/her teacher did not give back the paper– ask the teacher. I don’t keep student work. If it’s graded, I give it back, with the exception of major essays. Those go in the writing portfolio. But, students may take those essays home as long as they return them to the portfolio.

Bottome line– use the resources that you have available to you as a parent. You can’t imagine how many parents will call and complain, “You didn’t let me know.Now my child can’t bring his/her grade up to passing.” Umm, why are you just now noticing? If I keep the blog and gradebook up-to-date and have sent home at least one progress report (I actually send a minimum of two each quarter), why aren’t you checking on your child’s progress? And, please, don’t ask for extra credit at the end of the quarter (at the last minute) when your child hasn’t done the required work throughout the grading period.

Having said all this, I can’t wait to see my students next week. It’s going to be a great year. Maureen, I hope this is a great year for your twins.

Nothing We Can Do

July 31st, 2010
12:33 pm

I’ve taught a both middle and high and found that I preferred high school. I really like being able to teach to a higher level, with that being said, I once taught on a two-man team in the 6th grade and those students became like family. They are 30 now, but they will always be my little 12 year olds.

MS Man

July 31st, 2010
12:53 pm

As a middle school educator, I have mixed feelings about what we do and don’t do well with our tweeners. There are many challenges with having 10-16 year olds in the same building (albeit most are 11-14) and at differing levels of ability, maturity, and motivation. I don’t think the structure of the buildings has so much to do with it as the demands that the principal and the district put on academic success and rigor. The MS model does ask that you educate the whole child, and some places spend more time on the child and less on the academics to the detriment of kids. I love the awkwardness, the exploration, the social ineptitude and the craziness that is a middle schooler as I equally enjoy watching them grow to be able to think abstractly, to clarify who they are as a person, and to establish an identity. I tell parents at my school that there are three things they need to do to make middle school successful for themselves and their kids. 1.) Stay involved in your child’s academic and social life. Your kid will naturally push you away because they are teens, but stay involved and stay a step ahead by contacting teachers and knowing all your kids friends in person and on facebook. 2.) Listen more than talk or question. Middle Schoolers are very wary of adults who address them directly, but share a lot when you just let them talk. Another good trick is to car pool kids places and just listen as you are driving. You will learn a ton. 3.) Set limits and stick to them. You are not your kid’s best friend, you are their parent.

Good luck, Maureen.

Really Amazed

July 31st, 2010
12:55 pm

You probably shouldn’t worry about the twins because at least you seem like the type of parent that will supplement were needed. Might want to start with a great math tutor. I also never said their weren’t any good public schools. I am just stating that I very rarely see positive blogs about these schools. I know the whole education thing starts with the parents!!

Mom and substitute teacher

July 31st, 2010
1:25 pm

Middle schools in Gwinnett are way too big. Sixth graders would do better to have one more year in elementary, away from the “hormonal” 7th and 8th graders. Unlike many posters here, I think middle school should be just 7th and 8th grade. Moving 6th back to elementary would help reduce the size of the middle schools and would hopefully help middle schools be able to better serve the unique needs of the 7th and 8th graders. They are at what is probably the most difficult age of their lives, and don’t have that much in common with either 6th graders or 9th graders developmentally.

A lot of maturing takes place in 9th grade. I think the older students are positive role models for them. Ninth grade is also a year for students to find out more about what they really like. They have many opportunities to become more involved with sports, music, art, and foreign languages, as well as the academic areas. They have 10th through 12th to persue that interest more intensely and perhaps find that spark that sets them on their career path, whether that involves college or not. By the time a student reaches 9th grade, the vast majority of them are ready for the extra responsibilities and the extra opportunities that come with high school. It would be sad to hold them back.

yes teaching in fla is worse, yes!

July 31st, 2010
1:40 pm

Yes let’s go back and forth and back and forth on in an endless cycle of dysfunction, and let’s not even entertain questions of whether the entire educational bureaucracy is fundamentally flawed and in major need of being dismantled for the common good.

How dare the AJC even provide a forum for someone like Boortz to ever question the public education system, when it’s working so wonderfully, with so much integrity, and so little waste.

Online Reader

July 31st, 2010
1:51 pm

Maureen: “Teacher, too” hit the nail on the head. If you follow her suggestions you and your children should do well with middle school. You might want to think about printing her post, it will come in handy for reference later. I found middle school to be the time when so many parents start enabling their children. Due to a lack of planning kids will get their after school activities in and not get homework done. THEN the parents send a note to the teacher telling them that their child had a concert or a game and was unable to do their homework or outright lie and say their child was sick and couldn’t get the assignment done, even though they were seen at the event the night before.

"profoundly gifted"

July 31st, 2010
2:04 pm

writer gal, i speak for all teachers who won’t have the pleasure of working with your diving gift: THANK YOU!!!!!!! now we can spend time teaching the non-profoundly gifted teachers instead of catering to your li’l angel’s every precious whim. as far as middle school goes, i agree that the benefits of a team approach are cancelled by the crushing number of students each teacher must deal with on a daily basis.

"profoundly gifted"

July 31st, 2010
2:07 pm

make that “divine gift,” not diving gift. need an edit function for this blog…

Georgia Teacher

July 31st, 2010
2:08 pm

You have just outlined the reasons that many people stretch for private school in middle school years, even if they use the public schools for other years. Precisely because kids are going through such big physical changes, they need a high level of structure and a lot of caring, to come out the other end as future scholars/athletes/artists/whatever, rather than just older, bigger 5th graders intellectually. Don’t pull back on involvement–your children may think they are adult, but they are not. I’ve so often heard “Well, he’ll just have to learn…”, when teachers are annoyed at older children. But kids never learn just by “having” to learn–it’s our job, as parents and teachers, to guide them and teach them at every step of the way. Pick the best teachers for your kids and agitate till you get them: have family meetings to mull over what happened during the week; enjoy your kids’ whackiness; and never lose focus that the main job of a school is to educate children. Don’t settle for less!

Really amazed

July 31st, 2010
2:14 pm

Georgia Teacher, can I sign you up to be my children’s teacher if we come back to public?????!!!! You sound perfect! We need more like you.

atlanta123

July 31st, 2010
2:18 pm

I happen to teach in a college-prep middle school here in the Atlanta area, and I can tell you that we have only 7th and 8th graders here and we keep class size below 20. It works amazingly well. Our teachers (the majority of whom LOVE our students) can keep a close eye on all students and catch problems before they become insurmountable. In addition, we have very supportive parents who realize that middle school is indeed time for their children to begin to take on more responsibility, and most of them realize that that will involve some mistakes and even “failures.” The parents’ reaction to the set-backs determines (in most cases) whether or not the child learns from them and moves on or is completely disabled by it. I cannot wait to meet my new batch of students in 2 weeks. I’ve had a restful summer break (thank you antiquated, agricultural school system) and am ready to get back to the task of educating, nurturing, and learning from my great students!

SALLYB

July 31st, 2010
2:19 pm

I am speaking as a long time Middle School Teacher……Who is the genius who thought it was a good idea to corral all of these confused students with their insecurities and raging hormones for 8 +/- hours in one building WITHOUT the benefit of older , more mature teens as roll models????
How much better it would be to have grades 1-7 or 8 and 8 or 9 through 12.

@Maureen, your mediocre/less than positive experience with your children in Middle School is quite common. There are moves throughout the country to do away with Middle Schools, but my guess is GA will be among the last to recognize its inherent difficulties.

catlady

July 31st, 2010
2:31 pm

When we were K-7, 8-12, our 8th grade girls kept ending up pregnant in large numbers by the junior and senior boys. Now k-5, 6-8, 9-12, they get pregnant by their classmates AND the older boys. I always LIKEd having 6 and 7 at the elementary school. They provided good leadership for the other kids. Of course, that was 20 years ago.

SALLYB

July 31st, 2010
2:32 pm

One of the major problems : students that have been passed along in elementary school…and the numbers are shocking..arrive in middle school still reading/writing at 3rd and 4th grade levels. AND students with special needs arrive only to be mainstreamed in to classes in which they cannot function well. AND students who speak little or no English are also mainstreamed into regular classes. This situation just does not lend itself to optimum teaching or optimum learning.

Legend of Len Barker

July 31st, 2010
2:50 pm

And the rural model of education was (K) 1-8, 9-12. A lot of counties experimented with the 10-12 model in the early 1970s, but I think it had more to do with figuring out how they could get the most use out of former segregated schools than anything else

There are times when I feel sixth graders don’t belong in middle school, but from my experiences it’s been moreso because of a physical standpoint; some of these kids are tiny. Sixth graders tend to be more irresponsible than eighth graders, but I didn’t see a huge overall difference.

Perhaps it’s a geography thing. We’ve spent about 30 years with the K-5 and 6-8 (with the rural schools being K-8 until the state forced us to close the three remaining ones in 1994). We’ve also used the team approach since 1993. It works for us and sometimes can be quite useful. If one student is bothering another, it’s easier to limit their contact.

Maureen, please don’t judge the team approach totally by your experience. Perhaps it’s because my school had 700 students, but I could have answered any of the questions you asked your child’s team. And I wasn’t a classroom teacher.

Sometimes the smarter kids did get lost in the shuffle of trying to bring everyone up to speed, but I blame CRCT and NCLB for that more than anything. Neither cared nearly as much about excelling than they cared about not failing. There are no bonus points for percentage of students who exceeded the standards.

Time to grow

July 31st, 2010
2:52 pm

Stop babying middle school students and put them in junior high schools—the middle school concept has failed miserably. the u.s. education system is a laughingstock around the world and a big reason is low expectations from students in all grades, especially the “tender” years of 6-8th grade. Change something–what these geniuses are doing now doesn’t work.

Karen

July 31st, 2010
3:15 pm

I have taught middle school for 5 years. Not because I grew up wanting to teach middle school (I am an accountant turned teacher), but because I enjoy this age group of kids and think that I understand them more than the average person. Why? Because my middle school years were awful…..oh wait a minute….they were great….but on Mondays it was bad……when friends liked me, it was better…..when I made cheerleading …….when I didn’t get the grades I wanted……when my friends mom passed……when my mom couldn’t afford milk…..ummmmmm wait……I can’t remember if I like my middle grades years or not.

Do you get the picture here? Middle School aged kids are dealing with a lot more than we will ever know. If I thought my middle grades years were confusing, imagine what kids deal with today. I teach severly at risk students in a “not so great” area where over half are raised by siblings or grandparents and who have no money at all. My greatest challenge is not “getting them to learn”……they are some of the SMARTEST kids I have ever come across. My greatest challenge is getting them to know that I care about them outside of school and that they can trust me, that I will understand if they stayed up taking care of their 1 year old baby brother and pulled momma off the streets to put her in bed. I care that they didn’t quite get that homework done and I give them time in school to do it. I give time in school for everything they need so that they don’t have to RELY on anyone “out there” to be able to handle it with them.

As soon as they trust me and realize that I will work with them, they usually will get it done! However, this means I have spent a lot of my planning time, my time after school, my own money for supplies, etc., gas money for a kids momma to get him to school (I am not lying) because he didn’t want to miss standardized testing…….So, this leaves no home life for me……well, maybe a little bit :)

I say this to make the point that in my area of the state, there are things that work. I have found them. My math CRCT scores have been above 70% every year in these low income areas. I will keep improving my strategies until 100% of my students exceed CRCT every year. (Although, I am not a teacher who believes that a child’s academic knowledge should be defined by one test grade). In other areas of GA., other methods may work better. School Systems (who are usually run by people who have never taught or haven’t visited a classroom in a looooong time) always want to jump on the “newest model”. I say……let US…..THE TEACHERS…..who care…..decide on what can work for the kids in the area that we teach! And I say….PARENTS……please know that one of the greatest things you can ever do in life is to be involved with your child so much so in their middle grades years that they might actually get annoyed with you! If you do this……you won’t have to worry so much about them in high school and they might actually become your friend in those years!

Thanks!

catlady

July 31st, 2010
3:44 pm

I’d be interested to hear how big your middle schools are. Ours are 550-650 students–wwaaayy too big to me. We don’t save money by “saving money” in education!

My kids had good to okay experiences in middle school. In Athens, while I was in grad school, the two older ones did well and had excellent teachers; unfortunately the teachers had very little support for discipline, and I was disappointed and angry about that. My younger daughter had middle school here in the mtns. She did very well and the level of instruction was okay to very good.

Sorry to say, one of the “saving graces’ for my kids was the gifted classes they had. It wasn’t the classes themselves, but the chance to be around other similarly bright kids who were a little more competitive academically and whose parents were more supportive.

On the “not getting attention unless your kid is in trouble”–that is true. But, nonetheless, I went to the conference days and made sure from day 1 that my children’s teachers knew who I was and that I was interested. When they would say, “But we don’t need to see you” I would say, “Well, I wanted to hear directly from you that there are no issues I need to address at home.” I would also ask if there was anything they needed–anything I could be a pest to the administration or CO to advocate for. Finally, I would share things that my child had told about that happened in class–things that were especially interesting or engaging or difficult. I know that kind of feedback has always helped me!