What are the Students Asking?

Many students in the middle school year (six through ninth grades) seem to figit a lot, grow anxious in the classroom and in some cases easily become misdirected during classroom instruction.  After surveying many students for the reasons why, there were a variety of reasons.  A good percentage of them have a hard time making a connection with what is being taught to them making statements like Why do I have to learn about history?  Or I can’t see how knowing how to identify the hypotenuse in a right triangle is going to make my life better?  Or in ELA, how do I benefit from reading the books Monster, Night, The Secret Garden, or Anne Frank?  Or in science, what do I care if my heart has four distinct chambers?  When you are taught these things for the first time and it happens to be the first-time hearing of these things, it’s human nature to try and make a connection to these tidbits of information and if this does not happen in a reasonable amount of time there is a tendency to let that information slip pass the conscientious mind.

Reasons to Teach:

There are many good reasons to become a teacher and many teachers have a subject area that inspires them to teach.  Examples are:

  • many history teachers consider themselves historians, people that can make a connection with the events of the past and bring to light how those events are relevant today.
  • Math teachers may have a vision that “emphasizes conceptual understanding, problem solving, making connections across representations and mathematical concepts, and engaging in reasoning and argumentation (in other words, engaging students in the Standards for Mathematical Practice) (Felton, 2004).
  • ELA may like to read and communicate through writing and discussion. Many love the creativeness in fiction, and poetry.
  • Science teachers may “encourage students to explore the natural world around them and learn new and evolving scientific theories” (All Education Schools, n.d.) like finding a cure for cancer.   through asking questions and discovering solutions.  Wouldn’t be great if students were inspired enough in all the the subjects they take to consistently ask questions?

Perhaps this is the Great Disconnect:

Even if teachers have a passion for their specialty and education in general, much goes into making a good teacher.  They are tasked to be at a certain level of mastery not only in the subjects they teach but in teaching in general; it is truly a challenging discipline but rewarding at the same time.  But to appreciate these qualities in a good teacher also means to be mature enough to understand the relevance of their specialties.

Visions of Life at Middle School Age:

Teenagers are challenged with many decisions in middle school that starts to prepare them for the rest of their lives.  Some are ready to mature socially and academically, so they use the scaffolding they must build on academic progressions and social acceptance.  Others get confused about the process, they don’t understand the concept of scaffolding and building on themselves.  Perhaps they are more immature than many of their classmates, perhaps they have learning disabilities, perhaps they are trying their best but lack the guidance they need to navigate through these crucial years or the faith that someone beside them knows what’s best for them.

Disruptions in the classrooms:

Those that are disconnected from the educational process from the list of reason above and the many more not listed and or considered, they sometimes lash out with aggressive behavior that seems to be intended to disrupt others from learning and they do this in many ways.

  • Side conversations- one of the biggest distractions in the classrooms because they are continual.  Some students have a propensity to talk during class, they are geared that way.  From basic observation one can see that if a student is not engaged in the lesson or loses interest in what is academically going on in class, they look to entertain themselves in other ways.  Some will put their heads on the desk and nap, which is not a desired outcome, however, this type of disengagement is not disruptive to the rest of the class.  Side conversations, leaning over or even sometimes, yelling across the classroom at a fellow classmate can be a major distraction.
  • A few of the students in the focus group A have ADHD.  They tend to be Inattentive and they wander “off task, lacks persistence, and have difficulty sustaining focus” (National Institute for Mental Health).  They are not defiant, in fact, many times they don’t realize they are disengaged from the classroom activities.  They will engage in conversations with others no matter what is going on in the classroom.  Yet there are others in the same classrooms that do the same once they become disinterested in what the teacher has planned for them.  It spread like a epidemic, the side side conversations can easily distract those students who are actually trying to pay attention in class.
  • Chronic Attention Seekers- “Some students misbehave because they are trying to attract teacher attention. Surprisingly, many students who value adult attention don’t really care if it is positive (praise) or negative attention (reprimands)–they just want attention!” (Intervention Central, n.d.).  This kind of behavior can baffle the minds of teachers and students as well.  Most of us like some sort of attention from time to time, but the chronic attention seeker wants to be the center of attention no matter what it takes and can change the climate in a classroom in a split second.  Is sending that student(s) out of the classroom when this happens the solution, even if it is happening every day?  It is easy for the teacher to fall into a vicious cycle “reprimand trap” where the student misbehaves, the teacher negatively intervenes, the student loves the attention, the teacher escalates into deeper negative reinforcement, the student loves it even more and this continue indefinitely because even thou the class and day have ended this behavior pattern can ignited and repeated day in and day out.  Students talk, and that teacher will more than likely get the same behavior from other chronic attention seekers, even if the student is not in his/her classes.

These two classroom distractions can cause the most damage to a positive learning environment, they can be prevalent every day causing the teacher(s) to alter their lesson plans in many ways.  Some teachers can forge through these classroom disruptions but somehow the lessons become altered, shunted, or shortened to accommodate for the extra-curricular activities or the lack of control of the learning environment.

The Issue:

Positive learning environment: sustaining a positive learning environment especially for those with diagnosed learning disabilities so that all students can benefit and perhaps develop an interest in learning and taking responsibilities for their academic performance.

 

 

References

All Education Schools (n.d.) Discover the Joy of Science Teacher Careers. Retrieved on June 17, 2018. From: https://www.alleducationschools.com/teaching-careers/science-teacher/

Felton, M. (June 23, 2014)Why Teach Mathematics? National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. from: https://www.nctm.org/Publications/Mathematics-Teaching-in-Middle-School/Blog/Why-Teach-Mathematics_/

Intervention Central (n.d.) Breaking the Attention-Seeking Habit: The Power of Random Positive Teacher Attention. Retrieved on June 17, 2018. From: http://www.interventioncentral.org/behavioral-interventions/challenging-students/breaking-attention-seeking-habit-power-random-positive

National Institute for Mental Health

Main Photo: Mathedup (n.d.) https://www.mathedup.co.uk/creating-a-positive-learning-environment/

Teach, Make a Difference (n.d.) Teaching English and Language Arts. Retrieved on June 4, 2018. from: https://teach.com/become/what-can-i-teach/ela/