Social Development Issues in Middle School
If we do not allow for socialization time, we are depriving our students of growth opportunities. Kids are going to talk, pass notes, gather in groups, and so on. If we don’t give them time for such activities, they will take the time from us. Showing that we understand socialization needs should be part of our visible attitude toward our students. Social validation is important.
Issue #1- Young adolescents have a very strong need to be part of a social group
Giving students “free time” during the school day allows for informal socialization. Students who are part of advisory groups often feel a bond of trust, or at least a sense that they know the others in the group. Clubs give students chances to get to know others with similar interests. At a minimum, we should adhere to the Turning Points tenet that calls for us to create small learning communities. This translates into teams, the basic organizational foundation of middle school.
Issue #2- There are young adolescents who feel like targets
Caissy (1994) tells us that kids often pick on others as a way of diverting attention away from themselves, their differences, or their insecurities. Regardless of the reasons, it happens. As educators, we need to do what we can to stifle this activity. Be sensitive to the kids who seem to be the outcasts and never say things like “stop picking on Sam” in front of Sam or other kids who aren’t involved. This will just make things worse for unfortunate Sam as students chide him because the teacher has come to his rescue. Instead, we need to find interests and activities that Sam does well and capitalize on them. Identify kids with similar interests/skills and arrange for Sam to get together with them. We should also encourage Sam not to react to teasing. Then it will no longer be fun for the perpetrators and it will lessen the occurrences. As strange as it may seem, some kids who become “targets” actually thrive on it in a perverse way. Attention, even though it’s negative, gives a sense of identity.
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