About Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, at http://jenniferwolfe.net, and grab a free copy of "8 Tips For A Successful School Year" while you're there.

Summer is finally over. Parents are secretly smiling as they shoo their kids out the door, snap a few first day of school photos and sigh. Yes, some of them might shed a few tears over the passage of time and the impending high school graduation – even if it’s still five years away. And some of them try to walk their kids to their first class in middle school (a big no-no) and even more of them hover in the parking lot or your local coffee shop and quietly wonder what’s happening to their kid inside the walls of their 7th and 8th-grade classrooms.

As I start my 26th year of middle school, I thought I'd give you a sneak peek into the middle… Click To Tweet

As I start my 26th year of middle school, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek into the middle school mind. And one thing your kids say might just be true: the first day of school can be a real snoozer. Far too many teachers fill their first moments with kids drilling them with rules and consequences, with syllabi and seriousness.

Fortunately, I came to my senses and gave that up long ago. Middle school is about relationships. It’s about smiling, about showing you care, and letting kids know that school can actually be fun – even when it’s not lunch or passing period.

Are you looking for a lesson to find out what your middle school students are thinking? This one is so easy – and so effective! On the first day of school, I like to mix it up and actually do an activity that gets kids thinking, analyzing and moving straight away. One of my favorites is called “Post the post it on the poster.”

My motivation here is two-fold: I want kids to know what I’m thinking about as I start the year, and I also am surreptitiously watching how they move, who they gravitate towards and of course, how they respond to my questions.

I want to get into the middle school mind!

How would you answer this question: “What kind of teacher do you want?”

middle school mind 1


One of my favorite (and most common) responses:


middle school mind 2

little did I know I’d have to channel my inner entertainer when I began teaching middle school! Do you think this kid is serious, or just trying to make nice with the new teacher?

middle school mind 3


No, this wasn’t the “what kind of a teacher do you want” question – this one was about what kids should be doing in the classroom. Ha ha!

middle school mind 4

I love when they tell me what to do – and boy, do they love to tell me…

middle school mind 5


And yes, they definitely have their priorities straight about why they’re here:

middle school mind 6


Of course, I have to bring it back around to the beginning of the year, and have them think about themselves (middle school kids LOVE to think about themselves!):

middle school mind 7

No pressure, huh? Can you believe how many of them set goals around their grades? Is that their parents talking?

middle school mind 8


This one was my favorite. I wish I knew who wrote it, but then again, it doesn’t really make much difference. Be the best we can be. Be open to new things. If we can accomplish that goal, we’re going to have an amazing year.

I’ll let you know how it goes! And please share with me your student responses – the more we know about what middle school students are thinking, the better teachers (and parents) we can be!

The Middle School Mind

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