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WARNING: Intermediate Students Ahead

by Neil Finney

Intermediate students are a fickle, but rewarding, bunch. They sit, teetering, on the brink of adulthood with so many doors open, and yet, they need your advice and guidance. They can be impulsive and inattentive. They can challenge and criticize. But their views and opinions should serve as a finger on the pulse of your teaching. They can be some of the most honest and transparent people you will ever teach.

 They are scribblers, bloggers, and designers that know what they want to do. These students find opportunities to dabble in their gifts and pursue their creative interests – between your lessons and during your diatribes. Make sure you reach them and speak to their curiosities. The single greatest thing you can do to support them is make a connection. Forge a relationship with students that is genuine and demanding. Be their mentor – not their friend.

You need not be challenged by their audacity and selfishness. In fact, you should be inspired by it. These students have felt the creative energy of their gifts and know enough to act on them. Schools are places for learning – not just listening. The academic tasks and projects you set out for them need to connect to their experience and push the limits of their learning.

Help them shine with your passion and prowess. Give them confidence to try new things and powers to reflect on them. Teach your intermediate students the importance of aiming high and living outside of their comfort zone. It will only be when they challenge themselves that they realize just how much they can accomplish.

Don’t be scared or intimidated by intermediate students. They are such an incredibly diverse, and valuable, group of people to teach. They offer gifts and perspectives, not yet jaded by the world, and it should be your goal to guide them using whatever learning tools necessary.

Share a story that showed you just how rewarding teaching intermediate students can be. 



During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

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  • Deb

    I love teaching this challenging yet rewarding age group. At the beginning of this school year, one of my students asked if I was the kind of teacher who did not like to have my mistakes pointed out. (I had left out a comma on a sentence on the board.) That sparked a discussion on the proper way to offer constructive criticism. Now if a student gets “snippy”, one of his peers reminds him of the way we offer assistance to each other in our classroom. And the students appreciate knowing that I don’t pretend to be error-free; we are all working on excellence together!

    • Janet Lee

      Wow! That was brilliant of you to turn that question in to a discussion. This discussion revealed your beliefs and helped students to feel better about questioning all forms of text…even if the text is generated by the teacher. I think this is so brave and meaningful. Thanks for sharing this!

      I love co-creating anchor charts at the start of the year or semester. Students brainstorm appropriate ways to provide effective feedback on several subjects. I am always surprised at how students need reminders (even in high school) about how to respectfully communicate with each other. Anchor chart conversations go a long way towards building a safe environment for asking questions.

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