Head of Middle School Susan Palmer writes about the importance of the student-teacher relationship in Middle School.
“Mrs. Woody, how do fish mate?
This query from two seventh graders, fielded by Head Librarian Donna Woody, sums up many of the qualities we value in the Middle School. Humor and curiosity immediately come to mind, because, after all, it makes you laugh to hear such a funny question. Also, they really wanted to know the answer!
Underlying this question and many others is a comfort level and connection that plays out every day here in the Middle School. Students like and respect their teachers. Conversely, teachers like and respect their students. They connect both personally and academically across all grade levels, and these connections forge greater learning and growth opportunities for all students.
Monday mornings are filled with news of what happened over the weekend. Did you see a movie? Did you have a game? What did you think about that news story? Teachers and students develop relationships based on the details of their lives. One fifth grader loves white chocolate. An eighth grader is designing a green initiative to promote responsible use of our earth’s resources. Another group of teachers and students loves a certain television show. And what about those Rangers? Everybody has something to share, and the teachers consistently engage with each student, solidifying relationships that emphasize inclusion.
At an age when students seek to know themselves, teachers model respectful and friendly interactions. They are non-judgmental and demonstrate a wide tolerance for a variety of personal preferences. Often, one result of these informal interactions is that students want to work hard for the teachers with whom they feel connected. Although we wish for all students to develop inner motivation and drive, the first step may be to seek approval through hard work.
In the Middle School, all learning begins with relationships, and we consciously seek to initiate and maintain positive ones. But what about the mating fish above? After Mrs. Woody answered the question, first saying that the answer wasn’t very exciting, she said, “Okay, now you two can go back to work!” And they did, productively and happily. That’s life in the Middle School.