“Adolescence is widely recognized as a period of social, religious, political, and vocational adjustments as well as a period of striving for increasing emotional and financial independence from parents.”
Children are asked on the one hand to make many adjustments and at the same time seek a greater degree of independence. If in the years before these changes a solid foundation for change has not been developed, adolescence can be both a traumatic and an unproductive period of growth. Students that don’t feel they can make it very often don’t even try.
To build confidence, it is imperative that parents, teachers, and students develop together a plan to insure a good beginning. The goal of this unit is to establish an orientation program for students entering middle school that will insure a positive atmosphere for learning as well as cooperation between parents, teachers, and students. All parties must work together from the very beginning of the school year (or even earlier). You cannot wait until there is a problem to become involved. If you wait for a crisis, it may already be too late.
The first question I asked myself in preparing this unit was, “How can I best, as a teacher, help to facilitate communication in the home?” As a sixth grade teacher of students entering a new school and soon to be teenagers, I was aware that there are a great number of adjustments which must be made by both students and parents. If I could help provide common objectives and goals for parents and children to make these adjustments less difficult it would help. A good beginning might be the difference needed to insure future success.
Adolescence is a very difficult period to define. There are amazing differences between adolescents. Each child is unique. What is universal is that adolescence is a problem solving activity. Families that communicate are more adaptable and better able to adjust. The picture presented by the media of the typical adolescent is indeed unfair. There is no typical adolescent and parents must be willing to take the time to know their own child. The adolescent is making vital decisions and parents not only have a right to help but an obligation.
In early school years many parents are regularly present on visitation nights, but this is not the case with older children as parent involvement drops off. While it is certainly not a good idea for parents to be involved in every decision a child must make, there is a need for support. Many parents would like to help but are not sure of the right amount of involvement or the proper approach to take. Parents must be encouraged to come to school. There is a great deal that any parent can do to help. Teachers and parents must be willing to lend support and open lines of communication. Children want role models and they need discipline. The truth is that while children appear to want total freedom, they do in fact want family structure, support, and
The format for the unit is very simple. An initial letter will be sent to each parent on the first day of school asking that parents and students participate in the unit. A parent meeting at which goals and objectives are described follows soon after. The unit activities begin at this point. There are options available for some activities but the majority of the activities are required. Finally, certificates are awarded to participants that have completed the required number of objectives. A second meeting or awards ceremony is optional.
The following letter, or one like it, may be used to help parents and children better understand the program and to elicit their support.
We are very anxious to help your child begin the school yeas in a positive manner. For this, we need your help.
Beginning middle school requires students to make a great many changes and adjustments, both socially and academically. Students need the help and support of parents and teachers to insure that these changes are met. Therefore, we are having a meeting for parents and children on _____ at _____ in _____.
At this meeting, we will be describing a new orientation program about which we are very excited. The program will help us to help your child get off to the best possible start. Thank you.
Please tear off and return
- - - - - - -
I will/will not be at ___ the meeting on _____ at _____ in _____
For those parents who respond that they are unable to attend the meeting a personal call should be made to elicit support. If there are children who still need an adult to participate with them in the unit after all efforts fail then community resources should be solicited. Big Brother and Big Sister programs, university students, as well as other adult family members are resources available for children without a parent sponsor. While you cannot require parents to attend meetings, and it may in fact be impossible, every effort should be made for maximum participation. A positive conference with parent, child, and teacher at the beginning of a school year can make the difference between a good school year and one filled with confusion and failure.
At the conference with parents and students, the actual unit activities are described. This is a four week unit and all activities run concurrently. Hopefully, the ideas introduced will lead to positive objectives that will continue much longer. A strong foundation in middle school will very likely continue throughout high school and college.
Teachers are encouraged to adapt the following list of activities to suit their own classes. All five activities from List A are required as well as four of the six activities from List B. Explanations for each activity are essential and must be complete. If directions are not clear the chances for success will diminish greatly.
*Distribute handout #1 which follows.