A Note for Parents and Teachers of Middle School Students

I start with this:

I am not a parent of a middle school child.

I never have been.

I’m not a parent at all actually.

...well...just to my fur babies.

But I think that is a bit different. :-)

I have, however, taught middle school chorus in the public school setting in three states in different geographical regions of our great union for 27 years so I have got some understanding of what makes this very unique age group tick.

As some have said to me over the years, the middle school aged child is in my “wheelhouse”.

When I was in middle school, I never could have imagined that I would want to go back and teach this age group on purpose when I was an adult.

First of all, middle school is just awful.

When you are a middle school student, you’re still a child, but you think you aren’t.  Some middle school children look 25 years old. Some look 7 years old.

I’ve got both in my classroom right now.

Most haven’t figured out any of their true passions yet.  The children who have been blessed with a lot of material things sometimes think they are better than the ones who don’t have material things.

The parents of the children who have earned the way for themselves often think they should fight hard for their children who may or may not have the work ethic and gifts their parents have. The parents who aren’t as fortunate may often feel as though the voice they have for their children doesn’t matter or won’t be heard.

Some of those parents don’t even speak the same language we speak as their native one.

Whatever the situation…

...the child is what matters.

Rich.  Poor. White.  Black. Brown. Yellow.  Red. “Legal” or not. Straight, gay, or somewhere in between.

We…as teachers of children in the public school setting have to step up and share what we see in the individual young human who is before us.

Sometimes the parent wants to hear us and sometimes they aren’t able or ready.

When a parent emails me, calls me or asks for a meeting with me, I know I have to be prepared.

I teach over 300 children. I have classes as large as 84.

It does not matter.

It is critical that I am ready for that meeting...or to answer the email of the parent who is, for whatever reason, unable, unwilling or unaware of where their child is on their journey even when I have supplied lots of data and information to the parent.

The parent of this child will often look for every reason not to accept where their child is.  I’ve seen it time and time again both personally and professionally. This parent is going to look outside themselves for the solution for a variety of reasons.  Perhaps it is because the parent is overbooked or wants to solve the pain of their child as quickly as they know how to do.

Or perhaps they simply don't know how to solve the issues they are experiencing with their middle school child...That is where those of us who've taught this age group may be able to help. 

But you know what you see.  You know what you experience, and you deal with this age group daily.

And it is our job to tell the story about our experience with the middle school child who has lost his way.

We must tell it in a nonjudgmental way.  We must deliver information in the most diplomatic way we can muster.

And when we see that they don’t hear us, we sometimes have to really “go in”.

It’s not easy.  It isn’t something we want to do.  For myself personally, I always hope they won’t make me say the truth about their child out loud because I am so certain they already know and are in tremendous pain over it, but they aren’t able or ready to accept it.

But sometimes, we have to...for the parent...and more importantly, for the child.

Often, the parent will cry.

And we need to be ready to see and receive their humanity.

We are all there first and foremost to help the child.

I’ve seen so many parents who work so hard for their children.  They sacrifice so much.

So, when I’m sitting across from that parent...as I’ve done many countless times...who has copied several administrators above me....often times before they’ve spoken to me... in order to shake the chain in hopes of getting some instant result which likely will not serve their child, I just say to myself…

This parent is trying to advocate for their child.  It’s what they should do. It’s what they are supposed to do.

And what I am supposed to do is tell them about their child in the most honest and non-judgmental way I can manage.

So, it’s what I try my best to do each time.

It’s what I’ll keep doing.

In my career, I’ve seen parents ruin the careers of educators who’ve dedicated their entire lives to the profession of helping children in the interest of helping their own child not accept responsibility for their actions...news reporters and all.

But at the end of the day when I place my head on the pillow, I know that I have to be honest for the good of the children because they deserve it...even if the parent is unable or unwilling to hear it or receive it.

As I have said to so many parents..."I hope you will hear me.  My aim is to help, but ultimately, you are the person who has to live with your child for the rest of your life.  My time with your child is finished at the end of this school year."

So, we will get up Monday morning and help these children who are placed in our lives for a reason because, whether we’ve taught for 27 years, 27 months, 27 days, 27 hours or 27 minutes, in our hearts, we know what we see.

Have a great week!

In my TpT Store, The Middle School New Chorus Teacher Starter Pack contains lots of other links to posts and YouTube links I've created about classroom management along with the first three lessons of S-Cubed Sight Singing Program for Beginners, and it is, hands down, the best value in my store if you are a chorus teacher who wants to try S-Cubed.