ELA Period F
The State of Foreign Affairs at Monument Valley Regional Middle School
Even as this school year comes to a close, student and teachers at Monument Valley Regional Middle School (MVRMS) call for a better connection between students and teachers.
Eighth grade student at MVRMS, Maya says, “I feel like the teachers who are a little more harsh or aggressive make it harder to feel comfortable around (them)”. Another eighth grader at MVRMS feels similarly, Kate noted that, “the teachers who, I like their personality more, I’m going to be more engaged in their class”.
These students speak for the majority of the student body when they say that their relationships with their teachers vary. Most students say that they don’t really care about school. This fact is worsened by students ignoring classes they don’t feel engaged in.
“Most of the time, I don’t really care” says 13 year old Conner when asked about his relationships with his teachers. He went on to say, “On some occasions I’ll end up being like close with them, not like close, but I’m happy to go to their class” Many of the students in the eighth grade feel the same way, and this has simply been the way it is and the way it continues to be.
As the student’s general feelings become more evident, the teachers are speaking up to fill in their side of the story. Mr. Heck, an eighth grade English teacher at MVRMS, says that he keeps things pretty light, “I try to make my students laugh and feel comfortable laughing in school and in class and from that I think that it allows me to be serious and get work done”
“It should be a working relationship, but I want them to know that I care.” said Mr. Erickson, an eighth grade math teacher at MVRMS. This method has proven to work very well with the eighth graders this year. Kate said that, “it’s like my first year doing really well in math because this is our first year with a really awesome math teacher.” This student went on to say that it was her first year doing poorly in a class that she usually excels in. In that particular class, she also has a bad relationship with the teacher. This pattern doesn’t stop with Kate.
How do students relationships with their teachers affect academics?
Students are continuing to vouch for the fact that their relationships with their core teachers directly affect their academics. “If you don’t have a really good relationship with the teacher, then you feel like you can’t ask them questions and then you wouldn’t learn as much as maybe you would like to”, says Lenah an eighth grade student at MVRMS.
Lenah is not alone with this view, but there is one who takes on a different perspective. Connersays that when he feels comfortable in a class he feels, “loose” and that it’s easy to not pay attention. Maya shares some of these feelings, but has a different take on it. She says, “With the teachers I’m more comfortable with I’m more relaxed and so I feel like I do better in the classes where I'm not as stressed.”
“Without feeling like you have a connection with a teacher, it becomes much more difficult to get anything out of that class.” Says Mr. Heck, backing up the majority of the students’ opinions.
What makes a healthy relationship between a student and a teacher?
But how do we fix this problem, does anyone have the key into the perfect student/teacher relationship? Mr. Doren, the Principal at MVRMS says that “you have to build relationships with a whole range of kids, diverse kids… you have to spend the time to get to know the kids and to learn how to connect to the kids.”
“Everything comes from a relationship”, says Ms. Cassella, the Clinician at MVRMS, “And there has to be a level of trust in that”. Students and teachers alike agree that kids in eighth grade need a trust level, whether most people realize it or not.
Perhaps it's the connections that teachers make, and the level of trust that they build that come together to get the student engaged. Mr. Erickson says,“The more engaged you are, the more engaged you are personally, the more likely you are to work at things that are difficult, and if you’re working at things that are difficult, the more educated you’re going to be.”
Tolerating Differences in a Middle School Community
“Children do well when they can. When they don’t do well it is not because they lack the will to do so, but the skill to be able to,” Lynn Casella, clinician in the TLC room at Monument Valley Regional Middle School, speaks on why some children are being moved into these “TLC” programs.
TLC translates to Therapeutic Learning Classroom. Jake Pinkston explains, “It serves kids who have difficulties expressing emotions and stresses in their life. The classroom addresses academic responsibilities and emotional needs.”
Pinkston is the lead teacher in the TLC classroom at Monument Valley Regional Middle School. He and several other adults work with students who may have challenges such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant disorder, and other complications that may interfere with the students academic progress. Sometimes these issues can lead to academic and disciplinary issues as well.
In addition to the teachers assigned to work with these students, often they may be paired with paraprofessionals. These adults shadow the child daily and assist them with work and keeping them in a good state of mind.
The students attend classes within the student body outside of the program and at the same learning level as classmates and are required to attend all of their classes.
When students have behavioral issues every problem is addressed first by the lead teacher, Pinkston, and then if necessary referred to Vice, if it is a more serious matter. Miles Wheat, Vice Principal at MVRMS, indicated that things are handled the same way he would handle them with any other student. However he also stated that there has been situations where it wasn't handled according to code of conduct remembering that many students in TLC do have other challenges that may have contributed to their behavior. although “relationship repair” and making things “right” with another person is always the goal of his interventions.
The TLC program at MVRMS runs on a point and level system and a token economy system to help the students meet behavioral goals. The students sit with staff and develop five goals they should work on daily; each goal is worth up to 5 points. The sheet is carried around to classes with the student and they work towards earning a total of two hundred points daily. The points can be taken away if certain unwanted behaviors are made. The points earned on what's called a “trailer slip” can soon be turned into goods or services rewarding the students for their effort. The students are required to earn a certain amount of points daily in order to be successful for the day.
Students not a part of the program often say it's not fair that they get rewarded for what we do everyday. One student expresses that “the students outside the program can easily do the things our issues prevent us from being able to, and that's not fair to us, is it?”
“Fair does not always mean equal.” Pinkston explains. Although for the average student looking from the outside in, it is still sometimes hard to understand. Miles Wheat, the Vice Principal says, “Most students don’t know the full story and wouldn’t sign up for the problems these kids deal with daily.”