Why teach middle school?


You get a different kid every day. Some
kids are very consistent, and you get a happy kid, or you get the kid who you
know isn’t going to like your class because they don’t like reading or they
don’t like writing. And you get to see them change and grow and think
differently about themselves. They also, I think…I love eighth grade, especially in
a middle school, when they’re the top kid because they just…they still are
willing to explore things and still be a little bit curious. And if they’re not, I
certainly encourage that in my class– that you learn about a lot of different
kinds of people and things and that you’re not committed to one thing. And I
do try to encourage them throughout the year to come up with a couple of
passions. And they don’t have to be things that they will go and study in
college necessarily, but things that will stick with them throughout their life,
whether it’s art or a sport or helping other people. Or something that they do
through their science fair. Something that they want to be curious about, or
that they learn that, you know, I really do like going outdoors or whatever it is.
It’s something…they may not go into forestry…but they might be a volunteer
at a park, or they might do other things. And so just try to get them to open up
to that. And I think just their openness, and, it’s not really a lack of knowledge…
it’s just that they’re a sponge. They…to me, middle school, it’s like…I kind of use
this metaphor a lot: If I were a nurse or a doctor, I’d want to work in an
emergency room. And I feel middle school is like an emergency room. And I love it
because every day somebody new has a problem. Sometimes they don’t know
exactly what the problem is, but they know there’s something going wrong. And
whether you can cheer them up, whether you can get them going on the right path,
whether you can give them suggestions, and
you can kind of always be in brainstorming mode. And that’s kind of
what you would do in an, I think, in an emergency room. You’re always
brainstorming. You’re always collaborating with other people. And I do
that with my team, and so I feel like we kind of run it like an emergency room.
You kind of go to the most needy person and work with them a little bit. But you
also have to worry about the other students as well. So you have to be
pretty methodical about it. You know, the squeaky wheel gets, you know, gets the
grease kind of thing. You have to be very careful that you don’t just go to that
child, but I like it because you don’t get the same person every day. And we try
to change activities frequently, especially in the eighth grade, so we
capture the kids’ attention. And I just like the fact that even though I have a
plan, that, because the kids are a little more flexible, if I see something we need
to do, or if we need to go back and repeat something, they’re very adaptable
to that and to change. And as long as you prep them ahead of time, they do very
well. Even kids who are a little bit anxious. And so I like the variety. So I
really do enjoy them, and they are endearing. And I like the fact that I
teach eighth grade, and they can come back and visit me, and they turn into
amazing people. I had someone show up at my house this summer, and he was working,
fixing my air conditioner. And we quickly realized that he hadn’t been in
my room for very long…he’d been in my room for a little bit for study hall and
also we used to do a spelling program. And he came to my room for that. And we
had such a nice conversation. And I know as an eighth grader, he was not a
diligent student in language arts for sure. And he really didn’t like school
much. But just the thought that…he said, we made him work really hard in eighth
grade. And he really realized that he could go on and do something. And we
do job shadow, and he said, “I started thinking that maybe I
wouldn’t go to college like my mom did.” And his mom’s a teacher in a different
school district. “But I know I need school.” And so he said, “I really learned that in
eighth grade.” And so that made me really reflect because I wasn’t his direct
teacher, but I was really proud of my team. And so I shared that with them that
he really feels like that was when he decided, “I could do this.” And he went out
on a job shadow and looked at some different things, and he really kind of
latched on to that plumbing and heating kind of thing. And so sometimes…you never
know where a spark like that will go. You don’t always get to see the end product,
but when you do like that, it’s amazing.

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