Table Rock Middle School
                                                                         Student – Teacher Relationships

Students and teachers at Table Rock seem to get along very well.  In fact, some students have said they wouldrather listen to their teachers than their parents.  We witnessed many student-initiated hugs and waves exchanged in the hallway.  In the classroom, most students seem to be witty and responsive to their teachers and vice-versa.  Female students also seem fairly affectionate toward male teachers.  Many students have created fond nicknames for teachers and substitutes, such as "Mama ______" and "Grandma ____________."  Teachers often have nicknames for their students as well.  One such teacher has nicknamed every student in all four blocks of her classes. She spends time coming up with their special names and calls the students by these names during class, in the hall, and at lunch. She has taken the time to really get to know each of her students on a personal level and has come up with names based on characteristics or personality traits such as:
      • Mini-Me: He is the last in a set of brothers she has taught.
      • Dessert: tiny little girl who loves sweet stuff
      • Big Red- tall boy with bright red hair
The students really seem to appreciate the thought this teacher has put into each of their lives, recognizing and praising their unique characteristics.  But although the students and teachers seem to have very amicable relationships on the surface, the fewest students (only 2%) chose "Teachers" as the person whose advice was most important to them when making major life-decisions. 

Parent-Child Relationships


During adolescence, many students yearn for independence and become more interested in their friends.  Parents may often feel as if they do not have control of their children and that their opinions and advice do not matter.  Our survey, however, supports the opposite.  When asked whose advice and input was most important when faced with major decisions, the overwhelming majority (74%) said their parents or guardians.  Parental influence is a major factor in both moral judgment and academic success.

Some parents have a greatly positive influence on their children.  For example,  one student often talks about his mom reading all the time and giving him or recommending a variety of books to read. In return, this student is often observed reading quietly in books well above his grade level.  During the “National Take A Child Outside Week," parents were asked to participate in various activities with their children and write feedback about their experiences to the teachers. Most of the parents had good things to say such as:
  • Thanks for helping me spend time with my kids.
  • I loved doing things with ____.
Many of our teachers noted that students whose parents were actively involved had higher academic success and better social skills.

Some parents, on the other hand, had negative things to say, such as:
  • I don’t have time for these silly activities.
  • This is pointless.
Some students whose parents responded negatively displayed a lack of social skills, poorer academic performance, and appeared to have a more "unhappy" countenance than others whose parents were more supportive and enjoyed taking part in the activities. 

Student-Student Relationships


During our time at Table Rock, we did not notice any of the traditional cliques that many seem to associate with school life (e.g., "preps," "rednecks," "nerds").  We did notice that Asian students did tend to stick together more than any other group. In our time at the school, we witnessed very little bullying and  teasing. One of the rare examples of misbehavior we observed was when two boys took advantage of a non-English speaking boy by convincing him to blow up and pop a paper bag in the lunchroom and laughed when he was reprimanded, but both of the other boys received harsher consequences for their actions.

Although young adolescents are often characterized as being ego-centric, the students at Table Rock show immense concern for others in their school family.  For example, one student was recently diagnosed with leukemia, so the students worked together to raise money for her and her family. A couple of girls even gave twenty dollars of their own money just to help out.  Students also participated in canned food drives and volunteered at school functions such as Boo Bash as ways to get involved with the community.

Social learning appears to be very important to the school environment, and students seemed to be well-adapted to working as a team. Many classroom activities are based upon group work and peer-mediated learning, which we have learned are developmentally appropriate teaching methods for young adolescents. 

As we talked and listened to the students, we weren't able to hear a lot about boyfriends and girlfriends, but the growing importance of relationships is apparent by looking at students' notebooks (especially the girls' notebooks).  Covers were adorned with doodles, initials with hearts around them, "I love _____ 4 Ever," and photographs of students with their significant others.  In fact, "Boyfriend/Girlfriend" was the third most popular response to our survey question "When making major decisions, whose advice is most important to you?"