I have taught high school for about fourteen years. I get high school. They come in a little nervous and squirrely, but still have an earnestness, a desire to be successful. At least some of them do. Some of them lost that long before high school and never seem to find it again. You can still see the end of childhood in the softness of their faces. When they are Sophomores they are in transition, and are often giddy, with lots of rough edges. All traces of childhood are gone by this year. They are sometimes hard to like, at least in large numbers. Junior year brings a refreshing calm. They are used to the hormones and are able to focus occasionally on something other than one another. Many of them are completely dedicated to school at this point, and can see college coming up in another year. I think Juniors are delightful. Then they become Seniors. Scared at the beginning of the year and completely out of it by the end. Second semester Seniors are beyond anything a Freshman could ever dream up. And then they are gone, and if you’re lucky they keep in touch with you after they go on to their lives. That’s when you find out that you mattered to them, and maybe made a difference to them.
But what about middle schoolers? I’ve never taught that age before. I know teachers who will ONLY teach eighth grade and some who love teaching seventh grade. I think that seventh graders have a lot of rules to learn, and are feeling the first shots of hormones and have no idea what to do with their new feelings. Do any of them still like school? Is this the year the gang affiliations begin, or was that back in fourth grade? For some of them it is still in the future, I imagine, and for (I hope) the majority, that never becomes an issue. Eighth graders are the big kids of the school and don’t know they are still babes. They think they have it all figured out. Little do they know what awaits at the end of the summer. It is easy to make middle-schoolers cry, especially the boys.
So, I think I know these things. But I don’t know how teaching middle school is different from high school. I know that their curriculum is paced rather tightly (in our district, at least) and that everyone seems to conform to that without question. Will I be able to do that? I’ve never taught a set curriculum, let along been told when to teach what. How much can I expect of the kids in terms of reading, writing, doing homework, group work, tech knowledge? In some ways I think you can do more with middle schoolers than high schoolers, because they are still open to what you have to offer. They are not too cool to play and try things. Am I right? I have so much to learn, I’m beginning again. Does anyone have any useful tips for me?