The Importance of Teacher-Student Relationships in Middle School

Most students dropping out of high school have had problems throughout their entire educational careers. This article explains the connections between high school drop out rates and middle school performance, as well as how to help a student survive middle school.

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A student's decision to drop out of high school is not usually spontaneous. More often than not, this decision is based on years of academic failure, suspensions, or social problems. Many of these problems begin before the ninth grade, so dropout prevention strategies should be targeted to a middle school audience rather than to a high school audience.

Middle schoolers are going through extreme changes, both physically and socially, and these personal changes are accompanied by drastic change within the school system. According to Erik Digests, www.erikdigests.org, much of the research about middle school suggests that staff should stop creating middle schools that resemble large, impersonal high schools, and start making middle schools that mimic the caring, nurturing elementary schools that the students are used to.

CREMS studies have shown that close to 50 percent of all seventh graders change classrooms four or more times a day. So at a point where young adolescents are feeling alone and vulnerable, they leave the elementary school classrooms, where they have comfortably spent 6 years of their lives with small group of peers, and one teacher, and enter the scary, busy world of junior high. At this difficult point in their lives, they may look to teachers for guidance, but the fragmented middle school structure often leads to weaker teacher-student relationships, as teachers perhaps 30 different students for every hour of the day.

The best thing for middle schools to do in this situation, is to stress positive student-teacher relationships and high achievement, so that students feel confident, and have a safe adult to turn to. Schools can help by assigning mentors to the students, or having teachers pair up with students of their class to offer guidance and leadership.

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