In Scholastic Instructor: Lessons from the Teacher of the Year

Rebecca Mieliwocki on teaching as a team sport, making sense of middle schoolers, and the art of subversive teaching published in Scholastic Instructor:

Rebecca’s 5 Tips for Teaching Middle Schoolers

1. Give them responsibility.
I have student “employees”—a host, a plant manager, a teacher’s assistant, a tech director, and a librarian. The students run our daily agenda: what we’re doing that day, what the homework is, our learning goal. They take care of details so we can focus on learning.

2. Involve students in the data.
Share data and have students help set learning targets. I’ll tell a student, “You’re nearing grade level, but not quite there. How do you feel about that?” And they’ll say, “I can do it,” or “Can I go further?” or “That looks hard for me.” Set a plan together. 

3. Make learning exciting.
We do team challenges, like having different teams race to read the most books. We did a March Madness challenge with teams of five reading sports books. Each student had to read a book and pass it to a team member. The first team to finish won basketball tickets. 

4. Reach out to parents.
Every Friday, I call one parent at random. Whatever was going on with that student, even if he or she had been a “super twerp”
all week, I find something good to share. And let me tell you, the word gets out. You call home one time and a hundred kids know about it.

5. Have an open-door policy.
Have an open mind, an open door, and an open heart to collaboration. Tell your colleagues, “I’m here to learn. I’m here to help kids learn. Let’s do this together. Let’s help each other be better teachers, because when we do it feels good and it works.”

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