Middle school, where have you been all my life?!
I’ve spent the last three years teaching third grade and I truly loved every minute. Every hug, every letter, every lightbulb flickering endlessly before finally illuminating.
After three years of third grade, I realized how desperately I wanted to go deeper into content with my kids. I constantly wanted to give them more time to explore and more time to research. I realized that I was outgrowing third grade, that I needed something different. I longed for a change of pace in both curriculum and environment.
This year, I’ve graduated from elementary school and am teaching sixth grade science at Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School (because hey, why not try my luck with a multiple of three if three years in third grade was so great?!).
I just finished my second week of school (working on a modified year round schedule), and let me tell you something: magic is about to happen in the sixth grade science lab.
I can’t recall the last time I was so nervous. My nerves were palpable as I paced back and forth in my four-inch heels, trying to make sure I didn’t forget anything for the first day.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Four-inch heels. I know my mindset was in the right place (Must…be taller…than…the children…), but the practicality of my decision was dim. Hindsight is always 20/20.
The bell rang and you could hear students shuffling through the hallways, first day chatter echoing off of the lockers. My heart was beating faster and I could feel my face getting warmer.
EL and CM walked through my door, hands clutching their backpack shoulder straps and eyes wide looking around the room.
My heart was beating so fast and loud that I could feel it all the way down in my stomach.
What.the.heck.am.I.doing?! MIDDLE SCHOOL WHAT?!
We engaged in conversation and the second I shook their hands I knew I was in the right place.
More students trickled in, eyes big and excited, terrified and happy. You could hear a pin drop in all my classes that first day. Unbelievable.
Another bell rang and it was time to start class. It was time to go back 15 years and re-enter the world of middle school, only this time on the other side of the desk.
I started talking and it was so easy. We made jokes, I told stories, kids played games. I was connecting with these kids just like I had connected with my little ones for the last three years.
Every year I do a letter writing activity the first week of school. I have a letter prepared for the kids on their first day so they can learn a little bit about me. In the letter, I ask them to share a little bit about themselves. It can be as long or as short as they want; it’s just for me and it’s just so I can learn more about them as people, not just learners. The greatest piece of this puzzle is that I take the time to read every single note and I write each kid back.
I was well aware of the daunting task I had before me, seeing as I have nearly 90 students now. To stay sane, I could only do a few letters each night (hey, if they had a week to write to me, I get a week to write all of them back, right?!), but the information gained from reading all these letters is invaluable. Students want to feel important and heard, and I love letter writing because it opens this door of transparency that many students haven’t experienced.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve probably said it a million times: teaching centers around relationships with students, and what better time to build strong relationships that in middle school years?
I’m so thrilled to be in middle school and I can’t wait to encounter everything that accompanies it — every hug, every letter, every lightbulb flickering endlessly before finally illuminating.
And also probably increasingly high levels of sass, but shockingly enough I’m still excited about that, too. 😉