This article is compliments of The Art of Education.
Let’s face it, middle school is rough. If you’re a middle school art teacher you understand moments of challenge, triumph, and weirdness can exist simultaneously. Being a middle school art teacher is not meant for everyone, and that’s okay!
If you’ve found yourself struggling with your middle school students, keep these 10 tips in mind.
1. Treat Them Like Adults
Middle school students are longing for independence. Give them more responsibility. They don’t need you to distribute paint or label their clay projects anymore. Show them you think they are responsible and let them start doing these tasks independently. At the same time, keep in mind that too many new tasks can still be overwhelming. Instead, gradually give them more responsibilities.
2. Treat Them Like Babies
Wait. Didn’t I just say to treat your students like adults? I did. But when middle schoolers act like babies, treat them like babies. I always tell my students if they can’t handle something, I will lower it to a level they can handle. For example, I recently had a group of 8th graders who struggled with independence and expected to be told what and how to think. In response, I took a 3rd-grade art lesson from my archives and taught this lesson just as I would to a group of 3rd graders. My 8th graders were not happy and showed me they could handle a more advanced approach.
3. Be Unpredictable
Routines are important in the middle school setting, but for the sake of excitement, throw in a curve ball everyone once in a while! This might be as simple as holding art class outside, playing silent ball, or even leaving unexpected, silly notes around the room. Make it interesting and your students will stay engaged!
4. Befriend the “Bad” Kids
It’s no question that one of the most challenging things about middle schoolers is their behavior. The best strategy to build a strong relationship with challenging students is to take an interest in the things they do outside the classroom. This might be talking about a specific band, TV show, sports team, or just asking what they did over the weekend.
I have a group of students that would be considered troublemakers in other classes, but you’d never see it in my room. When I see them at my gym, I shoot a few hoops with them and go on my way. A simple action like this helps to build and strengthen relationships.
5. Don’t Forget About the “Good” Kids
It often seems that the troublemakers overshadow those students that are constantly doing the right thing. Don’t forget about the “good” kids! Much of our day is spent managing behaviors, but remember to acknowledge the kids that are behaving because they truly do notice. One way of doing this is by dropping them a quick thank you note.
This could be as simple as creating an Artist Trading Card with a note of appreciation on the back.