Straight from the Teacher’s Mouth: Tweens Biggest Challenges at School

Email this to someoneShare on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Google+0Share on Tumblr

  Getting back into school after a long holiday break can be a challenge for both teens and their parents. It’s important to remember that school can be challenging for a whole variety of reasons, and that teens are often doing the best they can under a lot of pressure. This week we are reposting an Archives Post from December 2013, where two teachers talk about some of the biggest challenges teens face at school today.

17 Francisco Osorio Flickr

Tweens face many challenges as they transition from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school.  The opinions of friends and peers become much more important to kids.  Tweens and teens also have increasing choices about the extra activities, clubs, sports or hobbies they might like to pursue.  At the same time, youth have more unsupervised free time and more access to social media – two factors that can lead to face-to-face or cyber bullying.

To get the inside perspective about the challenges facing young teens of today, we interviewed two middle school teachers, Danielle Kenitz and Jessica Bergeron.

Danielle has been teaching for 6 years and currently teaches middle school Social Studies for an online charter school.  She has coached 8th grade volleyball and also serves as a homeroom or advisory teacher for students.

Jessica teaches 7th grade Latin and has been teaching for 9 years.  She has previously taught English, Creative Writing and Composition.  She also is a member of her school’s Leadership Advisory Team and serves as secretary for her district’s Continuing Education Unit committee.

How has middle school changed since you were a student? 

Jessica:  I think middle school students have more pressures and distractions today than when I was a student.  The use of cell phones, social media, etc. has caused students to lose focus on their studies.  Also, the ease of access to information has caused students to stop thinking for themselves and to rely on someone else’s thoughts on a subject.  At the same time, technology has enhanced the way students are able to learn.  For example, my students make vocabulary flashcards on an app on their phones or iPods.  By using an app, they are more organized and are able to practice their vocabulary words more frequently.

Danielle: It could be because I am on the other end of things now, but it seems like students have it so much easier now. I think teachers work so hard to be flexible for their students.  School now-a-days is more than just memorizing and repeating information.  Many more students have the opportunity to dig in and learn in a variety of ways.

Bullying is a hot topic.  How big a problem do you think bullying is in middle school?  Why?

Danielle: I think bullying is a huge issue for Middle School students.  I teach for an open enrollment online charter school – our students come all over from the state of Minnesota.  When I started five years ago, I maybe had one or two students mention bullying to me.  This year and last year – dozens of students have said that they wanted to try online school this year because the bullying was so bad at their local school.

Jessica: Bullying is a big problem in middle school.  Unfortunately, kids have become so sneaky about it that school personnel and parents don’t often know it’s going on.  The use of social media allows kids to bully their peers much more easily.  A kid may write something or even say something that they may not perceive as very hurtful to another, when it is.  Kids who are being bullied are often ashamed to tell an adult, which can escalate the behaviors even more.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for middle school students?

Danielle: Middle school students’ biggest challenge is finding balance in their life.  Balance between needing help and working independently.  Balance between family and friends.  Balance between school and social life.  Balance between sports and friends.  Balance between different groups of friends and different interests.  A lot of students struggle with finding balance between the different aspects of their life and finding good people who will support them.

Jessica: The biggest challenge for middle school students is trying to juggle school with all of the other activities they are involved in.  It is hard for a middle school student to prioritize everything they want to do.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with parents?

Jessica: As a parent of a middle schooler, be supportive, listen to your child (even when they think everything is “stupid”), and help your child learn the skills necessary to be successful in high school and beyond.  All too often, parents of my students do everything for their child (including turning in their work, asking questions the students should be asking, etc.)  As harsh as it sounds, middle school is the best time to let your child make mistakes.  Your job is to guide him or her to discover how to not make those mistakes again.

Danielle: Be available to your students.  Set a standard with them that they can come to you with anything and you will always listen.  That doesn’t mean there doesn’t have to be consequences later, but you will always be open to them and listen to their story and their side of things.  Be there for your students as they work to navigate the tough years of middle school and always be willing to lend a listening ear.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • How has middle school changed since you were a student?

  • What do you think is the biggest challenge middle school kids face?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Interview with Danielle Kenitz and Jessica Bergeron

KenitzDanielle has been teaching for 6 years and currently teaches middle school Social Studies for an online charter school.  She has coached 8th grade volleyball and also serves as a homeroom or advisory teacher for students.

 

 

Jessica BJessica teaches 7th grade Latin and has been teaching for 9 years.  She has previously taught English, Creative Writing and Composition.  She also is a member of her school’s Leadership Advisory Team and serves as secretary for her district’s Continuing Education Unit committee.