Can You Survive Teaching Middle School?

Can You Survive Teaching Middle School?

Yes you can.

Whenever people find out I spent 8 years teaching Middle School, their first reaction almost always is to say “Whew, I don’t know how you teach middle school!” This comes from other teachers too! For some reason {ok, we all know the reasons} everyone views Middle School as a tough place for both teachers and students.


Here’s the reality of Middle School.

  1. The kids are mean. Even the nicest, sweetest children can get mean in Middle School. They’re growing and changing and trying to figure out who they are. Part of figuring out who they are is dealing with peer pressure, which can often make students act differently than the usually would. They are trying to establish themselves as big fish in an even bigger pond, and sometimes they’ll push down those other fish to try to get to the top.
  2. The kids are confused. They’re confused about their bodies, their friends, their parents, their feelings, their shoes. They’re confused about everything except how much they’d rather be ANYWHERE else than in school.
  3. School doesn’t matter to them. High school teachers have college and the workplace as leverage to keep students working. Elementary school teachers have the leverage of parents to keep students working. Middle school students often feel like school is pointless and are difficult to get motivated.

So, how do you not just teach middle school, but ENJOY teaching middle school?

  1. Demonstrate respect before you demand it. Middle school students will not hesitate to disrespect you in order to save face. Before you can require that your students show respect, you have to do so as well. Before you get snappy with a kid, keep in mind all he/she probably has on their plate.
  2. Have a sense of humor. Middle school boys are goofy as all get out. They think things are funny that… well… nobody else on earth finds funny. Often their jokes don’t come out right and can be awkward and strange. Have a sense of humor and roll with it. If you can hang with them, they’ll respect you a lot more than if you shoot down every joke/comment.
  3. Don’t be their friend. But don’t be mean either. This is a toughy for many teachers. It is easy to try to be a “friend” to your students. If you’re too friendly and too nice, they’ll walk ALL over you. If you’re too mean, they’ll hate you. You need them to respect you. How do you do that? Set rules that are realistic and not ridiculous. Enforce them every single day for every single kid. If you say you don’t allow pens in math class, then don’t. If you say you don’t allow talking during the warm up, then don’t. Once you wiggle, they’ll knock you down. If you can get your students to respect you as an adult and not a friend, you’re golden.
  4. Leave your ego at the door. Middle school students are judgmental. Some days they won’t like your outfit. Or your shoes. Or your fingernail polish. And do you know what? They’ll probably tell you. And if they won’t tell you, they’ll tell a friend loud enough for you to hear.  Remember, these kids are just that… KIDS. Who cares what they think of you? Just roll with it.
  5. Don’t treat them like little kids. If you treat your students like they are still in elementary school, they’ll hate you for it. In their mind, they’re almost 20 and they want to be treated that way. Give them responsibilities and jobs. Teach them to be prepared and act like young adults. I taught at a school that still required students to be escorted to lunch by their teachers. They had to walk in straight and quite lines to AND from lunch. Part of it was because there were some issues with fighting, but the students didn’t see it that way. They felt like they were being treated like babies and pretty much always purposefully walked out of line or talked to friends.
  6. Don’t treat them like adults. Even though they’re not little kids, they’re still kids. Most are not even teenagers yet. They cannot be expected to have the same responsibilities as a 16 year old student. They still need guidance and structure, but not too much. Finding this balance can be tough if you’re a new teacher. But hang in there, you’ll get it!
  7. Don’t have more than 3 class rules. Seriously. My rules were: (1) Be Respectful. At all times. To everyone. (2) Be prepared. Every day. (3) Try. “IDK” is not an answer. Anymore than that and they’ll check out.
  8. DO have more than 3 class procedures. See what I did there? Eliminate the “rules” and turn them into procedures. This is where you’ll handle the restroom, turning in homework, getting makeup work, etc.

So yes, middle school is tough. It’s a time of learning and growing for both you and the students. I honestly believe you will need at least two years in the middle school classroom before you really find your groove. So hang in there – you got this!

Exclusive FREE Math Resources!

Provide your info to instantly receive access to a free resource library and stay up to date with tips, products and insider information!

Powered by ConvertKit


Hi, I'm Lindsay!

I create ready to go resources for middle school math teachers, so they can get back what matters most – their time!

Search By Topic

Shop TPT

Exclusive Freebie

If you’d like a free spin and solve game, click the button above.