I don't mean to rag on the author of this article, but I think it is important to bring to attention the condescending nature of this quote. And, on a grander scale, this entire state of mind that is prevalent in many teachers. I responded to this blog post in a comment. I said:
"I'm not a squirrel. I might have only been around for fourteen years but that doesn't that doesn't guarantee me to be any less human or any less capable of trust than you are.When did school become about "managing" students? Dehumanizing students as "squirrels" who are incapable of paying attention is no way to get them to pay attention. They're capable I promise. They're not being engaged so they're not engaging. We were all that age once, like you said. I was that age 2 years ago. I've grown since, I know, and I might still be just a teenager ... but I didn't go to middle school for the last 3 years to be managed, I went to be taught."
I'm not trying to imply that discipline isn't important in a learning environment. That is definitely not the case. I'm compelled to take the adult position in this situation by saying that students need structure and authority to keep on task in class. Or, whatever. However, teachers tend to spend more time punishing students for getting off task than they do trying to encourage students to be on task. Key word: "encourage."
As a student who has spent plenty of time in classes doodling and daydreaming,* I understand the reasoning for doing so. Sometimes, I just don't care. Lectures are sometimes just impossible to pay attention to because they just seem so irrelevant. This doesn't make me a squirrel.
The way to making kids pay attention isn't discipline; it's inspiration. It's motivation. And it might just be a change in the way you teach. In the same way that grounding kids doesn't stop them from sneaking out (or at least not on TV), detention and punishment doesn't stop kids from being distraction. They won't sneak out if you let them leave, and they won't get distracted if you let their minds wander. Give them something to think about other than celebrity news or whatever regular children think about. Squirrels can't ask and answer complex questions. Your students can. Let them.
This brings me to the concept of condescension. It just seems to me like teachers tend to confuse authority with superiority. You're older, I get it. I guess it's fair to think this way. I mean, you do have authority over us and that does give you certain privileges that we don't have. You could argue that this feeling of superiority is inevitable, but I don't think that's very fair. This condescension is exemplified in cases in which teachers speak sarcastically about students or imply that our generation is inferior because our attention spans are weakened by technology. But what teachers don't ever mention are the times when they passed notes to their friends in class or doodled on the papers that were meant to contain notes. Distractions aren't a new thing. I've had teachers who imitate students who respond to questions with "uh" or "I don't know." Sometimes people don't know. So teach them.
Maybe "the art of managing middle school students" isn't what we should concern ourselves with. Maybe it's the art of inspiring and involving them that matters.
*I pay attention in class like 97% of the time, mom.