Please help us welcome guest blogger Tobin Bakkedahl! Tobin is a School Counselor at Whittier Middle School, SD School Counseling Association Past-President and Self-Proclaimed Lover of Middle School Level Education. He works with LSS Mentoring and is a great advocate for all of his students. Whether you are mentoring a middle schooler, have one in your house or can look back at your own middle school experience, take a moment to read this post!
The land of middle school is a fun, exciting and often traumatic time of human development. The following is a short list of whimsical observations and tips that might just help you understand (or remember) what it is like.
While working in a middle school you often have the choice to laugh or cry in regards to the ridiculousness happening around you. Your resiliency really does depend on how you view the endless number of comedic sketches that go on. If you are unable to find the humor in working with middle school students you may want to consult your counselor.
So you think you can dance…
There is nothing better than strolling down the hall, turning the corner to find that lone student lost in the moment and the music in their head. Do not let this moment go by without acknowledgement…and by acknowledgement I mean, join in! Just dance! For those of you who might not be the spry funky chickens you used to be, this event also comes in an American Idol version – so just sing! My students will tell you I’m still waiting for my callback!
Are you serious?
Be careful not take yourself too seriously. One way to do so is by trying out different accents — including but not limited to pirate, British, and on occasion the ever popular Valley Girl. This is a great way to model healthy risk taking and let the students know that your very important role is not always a serious one. Note singing and dancing above! Keeping these teenagers on their toes can be very beneficial.
What does this button do?
Middle school students are extremely gifted in the art of pushing buttons…and I am not just talking about texting. When working with adolescence it is instrumental that you do not take things personally. While middle schoolers are trying on different personalities they may say things that they soon regret (or don’t). Sometimes the adult closest to them will be the target of their personality practice. My recent title of “Old White Guy” might fit into this category.
Pop your collar…
Having a basic knowledge of pop culture can be very beneficial when working with young men and women. Beyonce has helped me work with numerous young girls on topics such as self-esteem, body image and teasing. Popular apps can also be transitioned to great lessons. For example, Snap Chat lets you see a photo for ten seconds. Ask students what they would want that photo to say about them and their life.
It’s an EMERGENCY…
Young men and women are full of emergencies whether it is the recent friendship fiasco or the true issue of teen suicide. Treat every conversation as the student perceives it. After all, if you dismiss their perception of a situation they may feel that you have dismissed them as an individual.
Thanks, Tobin for offering this fun perspective of middle school! If you are interested in mentoring a middle school student, please contact LSS!