Middle School Hallways

A New School Year With New Students

August 11, 2021 Jeremy Episode 4
Middle School Hallways
A New School Year With New Students
Show Notes Transcript

The new school year is upon us, and with this new school year comes new students. Some of these students haven't been in our classroom for almost a year and a half. What can we do to help these students feel safe and comfortable? This episode explores some ways we can help meet the needs of our students without overwhelming them

Middle School Hallways Podcast - Episode #4

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Middle School Hallways podcast! 

This podcast is meant to benefit middle school educators and anyone interested in middle school education. It is an open discussion is for all things middle school and to give a voice to all stakeholders; including teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, and students. After all, middle school is a time for mood swings, self-discovery, and learning what our students are passionate about. If you are like me, it is nice to hear how others may be handling middle school, no matter what role you may have in the middle school world.

I am your host, Jeremy Hyler. Currently, I teach middle school English and Media Literacy in the beautiful state of Michigan. The past 20 years of teaching has taught me that every day is different and is a new experience.  Like my students, I am still trying to figure out this thing that is middle school.

Besides being in the classroom, I have been a Teacher Consultant for the Chippewa River Writing Project since 2010, co-authored 3 professional books, and I have been blogging on MiddleWeb for the past 3 years. Enough about me, let’s get to the topic of this podcast.

On this episode, we will be discussing how we can prepare for a new school year with new students. Some of these students haven’t been in our classroom for over a year and a half. If you are a teacher, maybe you haven’t been in the classroom for that long either. Regardless, there are probably a lot of questions out there about how this school year is going to go. 

So, the big question is, how is your school year going to start, or how has it started? Are you Face-to-Face or are you doing a hybrid model? I know a lot of schools are back to face-to-face learning and schools have a plan related to Covid. Regardless, we need to think about how are we going to meet the needs of those students who haven’t been in the classroom for a while. Students may be out of practice for “playing school”. Though we don’t want our students to go through the motions of school, it will be important to practice procedures over and over. We also can’t forget to build relationships with our students. If we ever want our students to participate and be willing to take chances academically in our classroom, we need to start with those relationships. For many listeners, I am probably not saying anything that isn’t already known. We also need to be conscious of their social/emotional needs.

One particular thing I want to keep an eye on are students who really did spend a lot of time at home this past year and half. Those students may need to learn social skills again. 

(Story about taking the kids to out to eat and their lack of social skills at the time)

These procedures and routines are going to have to be practiced constantly. The school I currently teach at is no different. We as a middle school staff try and have our students practice daily, weekly and more importantly when we get back from any type of break, our students are always reminded of procedures and practice them. I will even go as far as modeling how to turn in a writer’s notebook or how we walk out of the classroom appropriately. These types of things are going to have to be more deliberate as we see more students enter back into our classroom this year.

So, this next thing I want to discuss is probably controversial. We as teachers know there was learning lost during the pandemic. Educators have been busting their backsides even more during this pandemic. There is no doubt there has been attempts to get students where they need to be. The term that has been absolutely driving me crazy is “accelerated learning”. I have heard some politicians state that teachers need to accelerate student learning this year to get them caught up. Well, I am sorry to burst your political bubble, but shoving curriculum down student’s throats doesn’t work and does not make for good learning experiences or does it make it a good experience for teachers. If you want to continue to drive people away from the profession, then keep having unreal expectations. Some may say they are just suggestions or recommendations. However, those same individuals will quickly point the finger when test scores come back lower than expected. Now, I don’t want to get off on a tangent, so let’s talk about what we should be doing.  

I think it is more important than ever to meet students where they are at this year when they enter our classroom. As teachers, we are going to have to spend more time figuring out what our students know and don’t know. This is going to take time and patience on our end. We aren’t going to be able to just rely on last year's test scores either to determine where our students are at academically. Personally, I think it is going to involve us looking at data, having conversations with previous teachers as well as parents. It is also going to mean we have conversations with individual students as well. This can be a difficult task to do in a timely manner when we already have such little time to instruct our students. So how can we do this? Well, this year I plan on having my students start the first week of school using Flipgrid (I will put a link in the show notes). I am going to ask my students to record a 3-4 minute video that:

  • Introduces themselves
  • Discusses two or three things that they like and dislike
  • What are their academic weaknesses and strengths
    • Where do they think they can improve since the pandemic started?
  • How can I make their experience more enjoyable this year?

The videos will be private only to me, but I am hoping to gain insight into what they feel they need help on academically, and it allows me to get to know my students more. I will make it clear to them that no one see the videos but me, but I want them to know we are in this together to for me to meet their needs where they are at and in order for me to do the best job that I can, I will need them to share some simple information. 

Now, using student information they have provided, data from assessments, and working collaboratively with other teachers, I think we, myself included, can gain some valuable insight to what is needed for students success this year. 

This year should not be about cramming as much as we can into our student’s brains. It should be a year when we can come together as teachers, parents, and students and have more compassion and understanding than ever before what we need to do to accelerate our students appropriately. If we work together and push each other at an appropriate pace, we can then help our students make big gains to be back on track. Our students are going to be okay. I know where my own children go to school, there has been a great deal done to ensure student success. My kiddos are going to do great, and I know because their mom and I work well with them and the schools, they will continue to thrive. After all, it takes a community to raise a child.  


I hope this podcast has helped you in some way.  Another huge shoutout to my friend and colleague Todd Bloch for today’s topic. Todd is the founder of #mschat on Twitter and you can join in on those weekly conversations Thursdays at 8:00p.m. eastern time. That Twitter chat actually starts back up tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more excited. It is going to be awesome as always.  Please join Todd and other amazing middle school teachers. As always, thank you to all of my listeners for all the support for this podcast and those that have liked the Middle School Hallways Facebook page. Please see the page for updates and information about the podcast. Middle School Hallways is now available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts. As well as Amazon Music, Stitcher, and IHeart Radio. 

My new goal isl to push out a new episode once a month. If there is a topic you would like to hear about on this podcast, shoot me an email on [email protected] or shoot me a message on Twitter @jeremybballer. You can also like and share the Facebook page Middle School Hallways. Any sharing of this podcast is greatly appreciated. Like the page to get podcast notes and to find out when the next episode will drop. 

Join me next time as I will be interviewing a close colleague and friend about what can we expect as normal from middle school students.

Until the next episode of Middle School Hallways, stay safe and healthy and remember to take time for yourself every day!

Stay Steady and onward, everyone!