1. Don’t treat them like babies — they are young adolescents

2. Don’t treat them like adults — they are still young children 

3. Be nice to them, say “Please” and “Thank You” — it might be the only time they hear it from an adult role model (this is the age that gets difficult for many parents)

4. Give them respect — it’s a two way street, you get what you give

5. Don’t take a lot of what they say personally, it’s usually hormones or something else that makes them act that way towards you

6. Tell a joke, be a little self-deprecating once in a while, smile a lot and just try to relax around them — they can smell fear and will use it against you

7. Accept them for who they are — squirrely behavior and all, it really is age related

8. Remember that you’re there to learn as well, so let them teach you how to work with them — listen more than you talk

9. If you’re having a particularly rough time with them, find something – anything — that gives you the courage, strength and power to go on — don’t give up on the age just because a few bad apples are in the bunch (and don’t let the bad apples know how you really think about them)

10. Take a deep breath before you speak and never speak in anger — this is the age you will be tested the most

11. Anger, sarcasm, intimidation and antagonizing doesn’t work — it only builds resentment and shuts them down

12. Middle schoolers are very huggy and touchy-feely. Learn to overlook the hugs unless it becomes sexual in content (you’ll learn the difference soon enough). Then intercede.

13. Do NOT let any other teacher convince you that your students are (insert negative label here) — every student should feel they have something positive to share and bring to the classroom

14. Assume they aren’t always going to be truthful, but give them the benefit of the doubt once or twice — this becomes internal pressure to “do the right thing” since you’ve given them a reason to be trusted (and if they still end up lying to you? measure the weight of the lie against the need to punish them and punish accordingly)

15. Pick your battles carefully — and build your army of support from the other students — who will begin to see you as less of a disciplinary threat and respect you, while the misbehaving student starts to be seen as foolish to the rest of the class

This is a very tough age for many teachers. You really, really need to enjoy working with this age group in order to be successful. I’ve worked with high school students, middle and elementary. This is definitely the age where I work best.

Good luck!

-Written Ms. B