I don’t know any adults who wish they could travel back in time to middle school, do you? Although middle schoolers desperately need kindness, they rarely admit it.
Today Daria O’Brien from Speech Paths shares powerful insights about middle schoolers as well as simple ways to make a meaningful impact on their lives during those vulnerable years (plus a valuable free resource you can use with your students!)
The Kindness Project: Reaching Middle Schoolers
Kindness is contagious. One kind word, look, or act can change someone’s day. Kindness can have a ripple effect that can go beyond our speech rooms, schools, and even our communities. With the negativity penetrating the world these days I am so grateful to Claudia at Creative Speech Lab for hosting this collaborative blog series.
I’m Daria from Speech Paths, and I work with middle and upper elementary students in a private school setting. In addition to language delays, most of my students are labeled “emotionally disturbed” or “behaviorally challenged”. This combination of adolescence and emotional challenges makes it difficult to keep kindness in the forefront of my mind (especially when I’ve just been F-bombed), but the reality is that my students crave kindness — they just have a funny way of showing it!
Here are a few things I do to make kindness a priority and show my students they are more than just a progress report:
The First Few Minutes
For many of my students, school is the best part of their day because it offers an escape from their life at home. As educators, it’s important for us to understand that there is so much more to students than the life they lead in school. By spending the first few minutes chatting, we learn so much about each other as well as share ideas. I know that we all want to get to that fabulous activity or lesson we have planned, but the connections I have made during those few minutes have made a lasting impact on student engagement and relationships.
Attend Extracurricular Activities
This is something I have been doing since I first became an SLP. I’ll admit it’s not easy, especially when my three boys were younger and life was a blur of after school activities, sports and play dates. However, its important to try to be part of your student’s life outside of school. Whenever I’ve attended a play, basketball game or dance recital, I’ve been met with huge smiles, hugs and waves. I remember attending the boxing match of one of my inner city high school students — after he won, he pulled me into the ring to receive a big, sweaty embrace! Investing the time to attend extracurricular activities shows your students you care about them and that they matter.
While my school day is jam-packed, I do have prep time during recess and after the last period. Trust me, I really need this time to get paperwork done and prep lessons. Two or three times a week I have an open-door policy, and students are allowed to pop in and chat. My open-door time has given students an opportunity to vent, discuss problems or just catch up. Although I am giving up time, I know it means the world to some students to have an adult that will listen when they need it.
If you would like to teach kindness to your students, you can download this free resource “Apologizing”. Learning and communicating forgiveness is a skill that will spread the seeds of kindness!
Daria O’Brien MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist in New Jersey. She is also the author of Speech Paths, a blog that shares ideas with SLPs, teachers and parents. Daria is also an avid traveler, cook and reader of historical fiction.
Check out more wonderful ideas from the Kindness Project here (links at the bottom of the page).
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