Helping Teachers Make a Difference in the Lives of Their Students

Eighth Grade Freedom

Today I wanted to talk about a parent meeting I had today. I received an email letting me know that there was a meeting scheduled for our team today, because the progress reports had arrived in the mail. We are required to notify parents by mail within the first few weeks of a trimester if their child is in danger of failing, and these parents had received such a letter.

I arrived at the meeting along with the other members of the team, and basically, the child was not turning in his homework, so the parents wanted to know what could be done to help the child get back on track.

We talked about normal strategies – check the website, which has the homework updated daily, have the child write down the homework in the agenda, and have it signed by the teachers, and for the parents to email the teachers any time they had a concern about a homework assignment.

Then the parents said something that we had heard so often in the past, and unfortunately, it’s probably one of the biggest mistakes that parents of 8th grade students make. They told us that, now that their child was in 8th grade, they wanted to give him some liberties when it came to school. They wanted to let  the child take responsibility for his education, to the point that the parents weren’t even going to ask about homework or upcoming assignments like they did all through 7th grade.

We all cringed.

Over 20 years of experience with 8th graders has taught us many lessons about the 8th grade child. Probably the most important lesson is that 8th graders cannot be given such liberties or responsibility. Students at this age have so many distractions that their education is not that high on their list of priorities. They are too busy thinking about girls or boys or what they are wearing or what people are saying about them, Facebook, Myspace, the new song by the hot band… you know what I mean. Turning in homework is not what they have on their mind. There are exceptions, of course. There are those student who so very responsible at this age, that they are ready to run their own company. The rule, however, is that 8th graders need to be watched and held accountable by parents. The child won’t like it at all. They’ll complain and make a big fuss about lack of freedom and wanting their independence, but parents cannot let up. Someday, the child will thank them.

Some day the moment will come when they will realize the importance of their education, and they’ll re-prioritize what’s in their life, and their education will reach the top of the list. That will happen probably in 10th or 11th grade, but until then, I always tell the parents of my students to stay on them. Keep checking their homework. Look into their binders. Verify that they are doing their class work. Get to know their friends. It will pay off in the end.

Today’s Tip for New Teachers – Include your hobbies or passion into your lessons. If you are into horses or sewing or hot rod cars, try and incorporate that into your lessons.  For example, I have always liked writing poems. I can also play the piano and guitar, so what I’ve done is write little silly songs about my content – history. I just finished writing a rap about the events leading up to the American Revolution. It was a little hokey and undignified, but the kids loved it. It made the lesson stand out in their minds. What happens is that the passion you feel about a hobby shows in your lesson, and that excitement is contagious. The kids will get excited about the lesson. Plus, you will enjoy it a lot more as well.

Don’t forget to stop by the site – SuccessInTheClassroom.com. Find more tips and practical strategies to have more success in the classroom.

By the way, if you’re interested in seeing my rap video – Go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g54kspj5KiE

Until next time, this is Sam. Here’s to lots more Success in the Classroom!

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