Students face lots of changes when they leave elementary school and enter middle school. In many cases, they go from having just one teacher in elementary school to having one for each subject in middle school. They may need to navigate a larger campus and juggle a larger workload, and they're likely to meet many new students. On top of these changes, middle school students experience preadolescence, so as they physically and psychologically mature, they may face issues like peer pressure, body-image insecurity and bullying. To ease anxiety, teachers can lead group discussions to help students make a smooth transition to middle school.
The first step to establishing a successful school career is to set goals. When discussing goal setting with students, the group will want to define what it means to set goals and talk about why it's important. Then, the teacher can outline the best strategies for achieving aspirations.
Students should know that when they're setting goals, they should first choose something that's concrete, measurable and realistic --- such as earning at least a 'B' in every subject. Next, students should outline a plan for achieving this goal -- for example, finishing homework as soon as they get home from school. Students may want to consider potential challenges in achieving this goal and ways of coping. Finally, students should set a time-frame and deadline for accomplishing their goals.
Students will have a hard time mastering their goals if they can't manage their time wisely. There's a lot happening in middle school -- academics, clubs, sports, theater productions and school dances. Teachers will want to discuss time management with students. The group should discuss ways of combating stress and procrastination (such as scheduling a specific time to complete assignments). If students have school-issued agendas or plan books, teachers may want to go over how to fill them out. The group may also want to talk about decision-making and priorities (for example: doing homework before watching TV or using the Internet), as well as the importance of scheduling down-time for relaxation.
Studies have shown that bullying peaks in late childhood and early adolescence, so discussions about bullying are especially relevant in middle school. According to Amy Milsom and Laura L. Gallo in "Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention," a 2001 Nansel and Associates study found that 30 percent of students were frequently involved in bullying, either as a bully or a victim. When discussing this issue with students, teachers should note that there's another important role in the situation besides the bully and the victim: the bystander. The bystander stands outside the situation and can either watch silently or intervene appropriately. Bystanders can stand up for the victim and denounce bullying, and in this way, bystanders have more power than they often realize.
Middle school students may struggle to have healthy self-esteem, especially if they've been bullied. In this discussion, the group should start by defining self-esteem ("the way you feel about yourself"). They can then discuss why a student would have low self-esteem and what the student could do to feel better about himself. They should also discuss the importance of being kind in order to encourage everyone's positive self-esteem. The teacher could then ask students to take pride in their talents by listing them and volunteering to share them with the class.
- GoodCharacter.com: Teaching Guide: Setting & Achieving Goals
- Education World: Goal Setting 101: The Process in Action
- PBS Kids: Time Management: You Vs. The Clock
- Middle School Journal; Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention; Amy Milsom & Laura L. Gallo; January 2006
- Scholastic; Self Esteem in Middle School; Sandra Blair
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