George Lucas Educational Foundation

Any Middle School Teachers with Their Own Tweens Out There?

Any Middle School Teachers with Their Own Tweens Out There?

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So, as a parent of a preschooler who has just entered the California school system, I'm finally able to see the public schools from the other side of the teacher's desk. Sometimes it's very illuminating to see what I want from the school that I didn't even know I would need as a parent. Sometimes it gives me an advantage as a parent as well to see through the lens of a teacher. I love talking to the teachers, laughing, sharing our commonalities. After all, there's something rather similar between the tantrums of a toddler and the eye-rolling of a middle schooler, is there not? But it gets me thinking about what's it's going to be like to have my own middle schooler one day as a middle school teacher. So I want to hear from my fellow Edutopians out there who currently have tweens or have had tweens of your own. What's it like on the other side of my middle school teacher desk? What, from a parent's perspective, works and what doesn't in our current public schools? What do tweens need in their schools to be successful in their homes? Thanks for the proactive advice, fellow middle school teachers/parents! -Your faithful moderator, Heather Wolpert-Gawron

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TeacherReality's picture

I am a parent of three teenagers and a former Middle School teacher. When my kids were in their tween phase, I had to quickly become educated about what it was like in their world, especially their school life. As a parent, I was disapointed to learn that my kids' teachers were, more often than not, inaccessible. I was surprised about this as I taught middle school for 3 years and I was always communicating with parents and students. Parents need to know that teachers care enough to return calls right away and be avaliable.

I also found that my kids would often come home to tell me about things that happened in class or on campus and that the teachers and adults on campus weren't proactive enough. Given how hostile school environments can be nowadays, I was disappointed to learn this.

On the other hand, I loved it when my kids would bring home projects that brought out their own individual talents. So many of my kids' teachers would give them a project that had several choices in how they could complete it. Many times, my kids would take the artistic route and spend hours and hours on projects because they were able to use their own individual talents (art, music, technology, writing, etc).

If I were a middle school teacher again, I would offer more projects much like the projects my kids came home with. I would also be sure to convey to them that I was the type of teacher they can feel safe about going to to report a problem or issue that they have going on in their school lives. Too many teachers let slide the rude comments, abusive language and hostile actions by students towards others. I have found that kids really do need teachers to watch their backs.

I loved your comment about the similarities beteen the tantrums of a toddler and the eye-rolling of a middle schooler. Amen to that. What helped ME get through the tween stage was to use a lot of humor and to spend a lot of fun times with my kids (I dragged 'em everywhere with me!)

Thanks to all you wonderful Middle School Teachers for helping kids get through such a delicate time in life! I know you care and I know how hard your job is. God bless!

Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

My son will be heading off to high school next year - and I'm thrilled (and relieved!) to say that it's to his first choice! In our district, students can apply to up to 5 schools of your choice. Then sit and wait to see if your child gets accepted. Nerve wracking to say the least!

One thing that can get tricky for me is turning of the "teaching mode" and turning on the "mom mode". Of course, I'm always a mom but being a teaching in the same district, my mind is usually switched to "teacher". I know what it's like. I have the habit of seeing all of my son's complaints through a "teacher's lense". After all, I hear the same stuff from the kids I teach!

It also happens when I'm talking to his teachers. Sometimes I opt not to let them know I'm a teacher. It can be enlightening to hear their comments when they are talking to someone "outside" the system. I'm happy with my son's school so that's a good thing.

It can be challenging when you butt heads with your child's teacher - especially when you don't agree with her teaching practices as an educator, not just a mother! I don't want to seem "high and mighty" but, then again, you're talking about my kid. And I know a thing or two about education so I'm backing up what I'm saying.

I guess in the end I make a concerted effort to always be Mom, use my knowledge to help not hinder, and be there to pick up the pieces.


Cheri Dobbs's picture
Cheri Dobbs
Middle School Media Specialist and Coordinator of Library Services PreK3-12

My daughter is in the 7th grade in my building. She's been here since PreK3, but it was certainly an adjustment for both of us when she entered the Middle School last year! There's a constant push-pull between us -- she wants me when she wants me. It's convenient to have mom around when she needs something, but I'm expected to ignore her otherwise. She absolutely does not want any special treatment, and, in fact, tends to go to the extreme of not letting me help her or give her advice on how to approach projects and things because she doesn't want it to appear as if she got more help than others. :-)

Sometimes it's tough to turn off the teacher self and just be the mom self when it comes to projects, homework and all the other school stuff that we talk about at home. I've had to work really hard to back off and let her do what's she's going to do. She asked me to not be "all teacher-y" with her friends, which I can usually manage. It's cool that I know all of her friends and know what's going on at school. Sometimes I know too much, and I have to watch what I talk about at home. I'm also the assistant leader of her Girl Scout troop, so that's another layer of involvement to manage.

I've been a middle school teacher for 15 years, and that really did nothing to prepare me for living with my own 7th grader. Holy cow! What a year! There were times when I didn't think we'd live through it, but we've come out well on the other side....for now!

Regina Brinker's picture
Regina Brinker
Middle school science teacher, Livermore, California

I not only had my son in my 7th grade life science class, but he had to go through the pregnancy and STD lessons with me. I did give him the choice of changing teachers at the start of the year, but that would have caused too many changes in his schedule.

It was actually fun for me to have him in class. The group had, luckily, lots of nice, bright kids who I had the year before. Many are my son's friends, so they knew our relationship. No one made a big deal out of this. He got a lot of sympathy (and candy) from his friends when they found out that the family life unit with me as a teacher. The year went well.

My older daughters were also at the same middle schools with me, but I didn't have them in class. As a parent, I much appreciated being able to glimpse into the mysterious world of middle school. This is the age where many kids report that "nothing" went on at school (even if a helicopter landed to evacuate an injured student. True story) Being a teacher at the school, I could at least get a start on conversations. I also saw how their friends acted at school. This made parenting easier.

My kids liked being able to store their lunch in my classroom, use the microwave, and have a dry and warm place to eat lunch. When they quickly need office supplies or a paper signed, they could run to my room. They've liked these things.

I've had one or two instances where there was a bullying problem with one of my kids. It was a huge help to know that staff was watching out and had their back.

I make a point of politely ignoring my children at school. Middle school kids are typically a self-conscious bunch to begin with, so I will walk past my children without a word. Sometimes we have a secret wave, but nothing that is obvious. Most students don't know that I have a son at school. I don't mention this in class, wanting to protect his privacy.

All in all, being at the same school with my children was a fun and meaningful experience.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

Thanks to everyone for your specific memories. Thankfully, middle school remains in the distant future for my own kid, and I have a few more years to hopefully gather advice from my online friends here at Edutopia.
I'm loving this thread!

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

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