Middle school is one of the most challenging age groups to teach. Also, if you’re looking to get into the profession, it’s the age group that needs the most teachers. (To be quite honest that’s what brought me to this grade in the first place.) However, I wouldn't change a thing, I really love this age group. Every time I tell people I teach middle school I always get the weird big-eyed “poor you” look. Let’s face it, we know we were all a little devious in the 6th grade! But this post is for those who want insight on this awkward yet rewarding grade, and if you’re an aspiring teacher…this is how to survive (:
You must keep a good poker face.
You’d be surprised at the things that come out of my student's mouths. Sometimes it is genius…and at times it's disrespectful. The key is to never let them see that it bothered you. Accept it, write it up, and move on with your lesson. Now…there are extenuating circumstances that call for a quick, “let me get you in check” moment. But literally everything doesn’t call for that, and if you do it all the time, it becomes less effective.
This goes for answers to questions, shared knowledge, vocabulary (even hygiene) assume nothing, and utilize these moments to teach in the sense of being supportive and not judgemental.
Environment is Everything
I used to be one of those teachers who’s room had to match everything and coordinate with a creative / stolen Pinterest classroom theme. But now, since I’ve been in Harlem, I am more concerned with how I can creatively teach my lessons. Needless to say, kids learn best in a place WHERE THEY FEEL SAFE. If your kids are afraid of you, afraid to give the wrong answer, or worried that they’ll get bullied by their classmates, they will not learn. It is crucial that you use POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. For example, if Craig is never on task always talking to his friend, commend his other friend for staying quiet, and when Craig sees that his friend is recognized, he too will want some recognition so nine times out of ten, Jimmy will shut up. (:
I also love to utilize natural sunlight, lamps and chill calming instrumentals as background music during work time. I HATE fluorescent lights, so I do everything to avoid them.
Just as hard as you get onto a kid, you have to build them up twice as much. Commend them for coming in with a positive attitude or, say if you had a bad day yesterday, tell that student you are looking for them to have a good day today and reward them with a positive phone call home. Surprisingly 6th graders love it when you call their parent for a good reason (and so does the parent) so use that, and that parent can reward the child in a way you might not be able to. ( money, new phone, more time on Fortnite, etc.)
Middle school teachers are the most influential teachers because middle schoolers are very sensitive.
These kids are midway through their academic careers. You still hold power to change their mind about how they feel about being in a classroom or even reading a book! Middle school teachers still have a chance to alter the way they view their education.
Teaching is great. No day is the same, it is never boring, and I still have those heartfelt moments amongst all the chaos. Yes it’s challenging, yes they can be annoying, but they are also HILARIOUS junior humans that I GET to teach every day.