Students entering middle school are experiencing a tremendous amount of change. Just a few months ago, they had only one or two teachers. Now they may have seven or eight. Their bodies are growing and developing every day. Added to the equation are the hormones and emotions that accompany the physical changes. This all can create the perfect storm for unrest at home and at school. Although they are beginning to look like adults, middle school students still need parental and adult guidance and assistance. Here are a few tips for parents and caregivers as they navigate the middle school years.
Require an Assignment Notebook
Many schools give students an assignment notebook or planner at the beginning of the school year. Parents can require their student to record all homework assignments in the planner and then check it.
Read Course Syllabi
Parents should read each course syllabus. This will provide you with information about classroom policies and expectations and will provide a timeline for major projects and assignments.
Parents should check to see that homework assignments are being completed in a timely fashion. If students would spend a little time every day on each class, that will save a great deal of stress and time the night before an assignment is due.
Designate a Study Time and Place
Work with your student to pick a time and place where schoolwork should be completed each day. If students do not have a homework assignment, they should read. Study areas should be as free from distractions as possible and should have available a study survival kit.
Create a Study Survival Kit
This kit should contain pens, pencils, paper scissors, and any other supplies necessary for completing assignments. Having all of these materials in one place will keep students from wasting time looking for them.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communicate with your student’s teachers by phone or e-mail. Introduce yourself to them at back to school nights and other school activities. Let them know to contact you if ever they have a question or concern. Also communicate with your middle school student. Although they are growing up and peer relationships take a higher priority than family relationships, it is important the students know that you are available to talk to them and listen when they need it.
(Reprinted with permission, American School Counselor Association)
Common Philosophy and Purpose
Schools today are faced with increased expectations regarding student achievement and at the same time are working with more limited budgets and students arriving to school with a wider range of understanding of socially acceptable behaviors. Insubordination, truancy, disruptive behavior, disrespect, drugs/alcohol, and violent behaviors exist in every school and every community. Inappropriate behaviors contribute to loss of instructional time, lower student achievement, increased risk of dropping out, and greater demands on teachers and administrators reducing time spent on instruction and instructional leadership.
Traditionally, school discipline has been focused on reacting to student misbehavior and imposing punishment-based consequences such as loss of privileges, detention, in-school suspension and out of school suspensions. For some students this method of punishment is effective, at least in the short term, and their behavior improves. For others, the student continues to be unresponsive to our requests and the behavior continues and at times, worsens, increasing our use of exclusionary practices.
Research has shown that students do not learn productive behaviors through the sole use of “negative” consequences nor are they born with good or bad behaviors. Rather, teaching behavioral expectations and recognizing students for following them is a much more positive and effective approach to helping them acquire the skills needed to being a productive student. Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) is based on the belief that behavior is learned and behavior skills are acquired in the same way as academic skills through direct instruction, practice, and feedback on what is being done well and what skills need improvement.
What is Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS)?
Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports is a systems approach for establishing the social culture and individualized behavioral supports needed for schools to be effective learning environments for ALL students. PBIS is not a prescribed curriculum or program but is a decision making framework that guides selection, integration, and implementation of the best evidence-based academic and behavioral practices for improving important academic and behavior outcomes for all students. (Sugai and Horner, www.PBIS.org)
The goals of PBIS are to:
- Build/enhance student relationships, positive school climate, and environments
- Be proactive by preventing problem behaviors from occurring
- Teach and reinforce appropriate/productive behaviors thereby increasing teaching and learning time
- Improve staff’s ability to effectively and consistently address problem behaviors
- Help students develop productive and meaningful social skill behaviors
Research has shown that “Implementation of school-wide positive behavior support leads to increased academic engaged time and enhanced academic outcomes.
(Algozzine & Algozzine, 2007; Horner et al., 2009; Lassen, Steele, & Sailor, 2006)
A Role for Parents
Parent involvement in all aspects of their child’s educational planning is often the key to the success of the child. When parents are actively involved in the educational activities of their children, the children are more successful in school. This is particularly true when there are behavioral concerns. Parent communication with the school and participation in school activities can provide academic and behavioral support as well as help develop a healthy school climate.
How can parents help?
- Work to develop a positive school climate.
- Participate on the leadership team.
- Help teach your children the importance of school-wide expectations at home, at school, and in the community.
- Volunteer in school activities.
- Support with teaching of and reinforcement of expectation in home and community settings.
- Help with school efforts to advertise the program to the community.
- Work to gather community resources (earn funds, canvas local merchants for participation) for creating and maintaining the program.
- Take part in the instruction and reinforcement systems if our child is part of a classroom or individual intervention program.
Celebrate your child’s successes.