My middle school students perform better than my high school students. Primarily because the school counselors are more involved and pay closer attention to student progress. I also think that parents are also more connected and involved with middle schoolers. Many parents leave their high school students to work independently, rarely ever checking in and that is a slippery slope.
For middle school students' virtual office hours work well. I require them to come to my virtual office at least once a month to discuss progress and pacing. If I see that they are behind or their grades are slipping, I send them a virtual invitation that requires them to see me before the scheduled monthly meeting. During the virtual office, we can chat about anything, sometimes they tell me more than I need to know. A couple of years ago a 7th grader explained to me that he and his mom were living in a car and parking in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot at night sleep. I was so glad he felt that he could tell me their "secret" as mom did not want anyone to know. I was able to get them resources and the student completed all of his classes on time with great grades.
I also try to connect with my middle school students on REMIND. I send random messages especially when I see good grades, extra effort, etc. I also send reminders on how to use the guided notes, and how to take notes in Math class. Basically, it's constant communication. Students do not always respond but at least they know that I am available for anything. I have a 7th-grade student that sends me a "Hi Mrs. McGhee" almost every morning, this student just wants to feel connected to someone while working at home alone. I always have an "inspirational" quote ready to send back to her.
I have attended "study hall" sessions with students who were 'afraid' to go alone.
If I see a student struggling with science I usually find a fun science video that explains the subject they are having difficulty with and send them the link. I find that middle school students are more receptive to this than high schoolers.
Postcards home are also another way to connect. How many middle schoolers receive "fun" mail, that is not email?
Interested to hear what others are doing, as I am always looking for ways to connect with students.
Berks County Intermediate Unit
Sent: 02-07-2023 01:57 PM
From: Mary Lou McCaslin
Subject: Questions from the Inbox: Smoothing the Middle School to High School transition
A question I received in the community mailbox recently went like this:
Dear Mary Lou,
Sometimes it feels like Edgenuity is optimized for high schoolers, and my middle schoolers have a hard time staying engaged. Do you have any recommendations for working with these younger kids to help them get the most out of Edgenuity?
And speaking as someone who used to be a virtual administrator for students in this age group, I can totally see this person's struggle. I think that a big part of middle school growth and development really bridges the gap from direct instruction needed to fully independent learning. Students amid adolescence are starting to be able to figure things out on their own, but they still deeply crave a structured play-by-play a lot of the time.
Do you agree? What is your experience with middle school as it pertains to online learning? Do you have any stories or tips that you could share?
Mary Lou McCaslin
Community Engagement Specialist