Middle school is a vulnerable time for many students. As children grow into adolescents and start experiencing a whole new set of social, academic, and personal challenges, focusing on personal development is important. That’s part of the reason why it’s so important to teach manners and respect to middle school students.
As the last stop before high school, college, and the adult world, middle school prevents a pivotal opportunity to help students develop. There are lots of reasons to teach middle schoolers manners….but even more important, how do you do it?
Why Is Teaching Manners and Respect Important In Middle School?
Teaching life skills, manners, and respect to middle school students is imperative to their well-being. In fact, these elements are the key to giving students a happier adult life long-term!
First, students are making impressions on each other in a deep, lasting way throughout middle school. The impressions they create in middle school often follow them into high school and impact their ability to excel, both academically and socially.
Many middle school students don’t learn about manners and respect (or other key life skills) at home. In those cases, school is the only opportunity they’ll have to receive a manners education that will shape their adolescent years for the better.
Teaching manners in the middle school classroom is surprisingly both easy and fun!
Actually, middle school students know they need these skills and are eager to learn them. When given the opportunity, many students will rise to the challenge and embrace learning manners and respect at school. This is especially true if you can show them how valuable these skills are, both long-term and short-term!
Manners, etiquette, character education, life skills, and social-emotional learning are all intertwined. However you categorize these topics at your school, education can (and should) include many aspects of human behavior.
Manners and respect are a foundational piece of human behavior, and socialization is so important. So focusing on manners and respect alike, along with skills like math, literacy, and culture, is essential.
How To Teach Manners and Respect To Middle Schoolers
Where should you begin teaching manners in middle school? Let’s explore how you should actually go about teaching manners and respect to your middle school students.
Start With The Basics
The best place to start when teaching manners and respect is with the basics. Don’t assume what your students know—not every student is comfortable with fundamental social skills or basic manners.
Remember, every student has a different home life. It’s our responsibility as educators to meet them where students are, not expect them to jump to where we expect them to be.
Every middle school student needs to have a certain set of skills that will help them socially and academically. No matter what subject you teach, focusing on manners and respect in your middle school classroom is very important….and easier than you think to add to your classroom.
An added bonus is that teaching manners and respect actually makes your job easier! When your students respect you, themselves, and each other, your classroom will be easier to manage. Add in basic manners across the board, and your students will perform better and feel better equipped to deal with daily life.
Some basic manners and respect hallmarks to focus on with your middle school students include:
- How to make (and appropriately maintain) eye contact
- How to introduce themselves
- Conversation skills
- Using appropriate language when speaking with others
- When to put devices away and be completely present
- Digital decorum
- How to navigate a place setting
- How to manage (and present themselves well on) social media
- Expressing gratitude
- Good posture when sitting or standing
- Good hygiene
Receiving these basic skills will help every middle school student navigate the world more smoothly. All of these skills are easy to teach. But each one is also incredibly valuable and will last a lifetime!
How To Add Manners and Respect Topics and Activities to Your Middle School Curriculum
Manners and respect don’t have to be the entire focus of your classroom. It’s easy to add small, teachable moments to your lessons, no matter what subject you teach!
First, make sure you model great manners and respect in your classroom. Consistently model the social behaviors you’d like to see your students learn.
You should point out moments where you practiced specific etiquette skills. Remember, you should always point out and celebrate when a middle school student in your class is using amazing manners and respect. Whether it’s skills from a lesson you’ve taught or something you haven’t covered yet, celebrating small wins helps your students see the value of manners right away.
Everyone’s home situation, background, and lifestyle are different. Create an even playing field by showing and telling what’s right (and explaining why it’s right!).
You’ll also want to highlight the true benefits of good manners and etiquette for middle schoolers in your classroom.
Why should your students care about this? In middle school, young pre-teens are focused on the now, so tailor your explanations to social issues they’re currently facing. Then, as you make progress in teaching manners and respect, you can shift to prioritize long-term benefits!
Teaching manners and respect in your middle school classroom is an amazing decision. Especially since so many students are facing new struggles (and likely aren’t receiving these valuable social skills at home), you’re providing them with skills that truly last a lifetime.