Keeping Middle School Students Focused: What Teachers Can Do

Pushpa Chandel

Principal, The Modern School, Mumbai

“Handholding showing compassion while setting up high standards can keep students focused.”

“Middle school students” this brings the faces of children between age of 8 to 14 years in front of eyes. As the name suggests it is a transition phase of students from elementary (protected area) to growth and independence. Such transition coincides with several major developmental changes. Some may be in the throes of puberty, they become more self-aware and self-conscious, peer relationship become more nuanced and their thinking is growing more critical more complex. At the time adolescents are often in slump when it comes to academic motivation and performance.

Students experience major changes in middle school with new and multiple teachers, modified classroom, opportunities with specialised extracurricular activities even different groups of friends. Researchers have studied the effect of school transition and found that same changes can be experienced differently by all students.

Teaching middle school students is not an easy task. At these age students are full of new ideas to experiment, want their independence and but they are still too young to be left alone entirely. It becomes extremely important for teachers to learn the magic that work for motivating these socially and biologically flustered young mind. The role of teacher becomes not limited to teaching but becoming friend, mentor to guide them softly. This could only be done once teacher is able to establish a good repo with student. It does not mean praising all the time or neglecting the mistakes but it’s allowing them to explore the world with guidance and correcting them by making them realize what went wrong. This makes a healthy and good relationship between teacher and student.

Building positive relationship with students plays a major role to make students focused and growth oriented. This is the stage students starts doubting on their potential and tries to find out their place and importance in their teacher’s eyes. If a teacher is able to show them their importance and faith in their potential major problem is solved. Effective teachers are those who develop relationship with students that are emotionally close, safe and trusting who provides access to instrumental help and who foster more general ethos of community and caring classroom.

The effect of expectation is most, pronounced at the beginning of any new task or topic and applies to classroom situation too. In the middle school age students bubble with energy and take the challenges with open mind and as they proceed, they try to get guidance to overcome the hurdles and achieve what they could. Here, teachers play a major role because students start believing what they hear repeatedly from their teachers. So it becomes very important that students hear a positive voice full of belief and conviction that they can do it, they can achieve and perform better before their self-doubt starts to creep in.

The way students think about them at middle school age goes long way and have a big impact on the way they behave in any condition at that time or further in their life. Any students who scores high or low should be treated equally with respects and hope, if they find themselves in a positive light, then they are able to create and follow growth mind-set. Teachers need to believe that students can improve by working hard and learning from their mistakes. It can be fostered by having them reflect on their processes, focus less on their natural ability and developing their self-task.

While setting up expectation from student one needs to be cautious about ability of the student. We all must except one thing that all students are unique in its own way and everyone potential differs so before setting high expectations teachers need to spend time on understanding students limitation or the area where students requires help. It will help teachers to put realistic type of expectation in front of student in stepwise manner; it means one after the other. That’s how students will be guided to work hard to push their boundaries to widen its horizon. This will further help students to build their confidence, understand their strength and evolve with positive mind-set. Once the confidence and positivity is built in students then sky would be the limit, they will not hesitate in taking any challenge and will not fear in asking doubts too. Teachers also get confidence and satisfaction of their job. Hence teachers has to take utmost care of putting realistic expectation, if the expectation are unrealistic that is far exceed a child’s ability this can lead to a downturn in academic performance of the child and the impact could be seen in further part of life. Moreover excessive expectation can be a source of stress and anxiety of students.

“Goldilocks rules apply – too little or too much and it is not good.”

If expectation laid down is pitched at the right level which are challenging and realistic, they can help students to improve their performance and academic achievement.

Pushpa Chandel

Principal, The Modern School, Mumbai