Seasoned middle school teachers share five tips.


Middle school students’ emotions go up, down, and all over the place during normal school weeks. So the week before spring break can be especially intense. Here are coping tips from seasoned teachers.

1. Remember not all kids are happy to go on break.

“Many kids get very sad. They will not see their friends for nine days,” says Tammie Pursley, who teaches social studies and AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — an elective for first-generation college goers. She teaches at Mesa Public School’s Powell Junior High, where more than 60 percent of students qualify for federally-funded free or reduced-cost lunches.

Pursley, who has taught for 21 years, says she keeps an eye out for students who are more withdrawn and finds help for them before they leave for break.

“It could be that school is their safe place. Home may not have enough food — or security — for that nine days,” she explains.

2. Plan, plan, plan.

The week before break is not the time to wing it with lesson plans. Have them written out — down to the last detail.

Pursley also likes group projects that allow students to connect with peers they will be away from during break. She also chooses not to be a stickler about grades and deadlines that week because students are going through all kinds of emotions.

“They need time with their peers,” she says.

3. Adhere to routines.

The week before spring break is not the time to change the seating chart or have a class party.

“Lots of structure. Strictly adhere to routines,” advises Nikki Johnson, an eighth-grade English Language Arts teacher at Altadeña Middle School in the Kyrene School District. There is plenty of time for fun over spring break, so don’t let that last week be a waste.

4. No major project deadlines.

Johnson, who has been teaching 19 years, says she learned early on not to have students turn in major papers or projects the week before a break. Not because the kids can’t handle it — it is just too much grading all at once.

“You don’t want to end up grading 115 papers,” she says.

5. Make sure kids have a book.

Pursley says she always makes sure her middle school students take a library book home to read over break.

“We have had them check out a book of their choice … and have a book talk presentation after we get back,” she says.

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