Why Middle School isn’t so bad after all.

Over the course of this semester, I will be writing about my time in my middle school classroom(s). While my class schedule does not explicitly require classroom contact/observation hours, I felt that I still needed to spend time in the local schools. Frankly, I feel my week is incomplete if I do not spend any time in the classroom.

This fall, I will be observing in an 8th Grade Language Arts classroom at Harding Middle School. I haven’t spent a lot of time in middle school classrooms over the course of my time at Coe. Naturally, I am excited for this new adventure!

Today was my first day at Harding. As I was driving to the school, my mind was taking me on a walk down memory lane: to my time in 6th, 7th and 8th Grade. Remembering myself as an 8th Grader brought back some fascinating memories. For me, middle school was the intersection/collision point of my academic development and my social development.

However, I couldn’t help but think about the negative ways in which middle school is perceived by the public. This probably doesn’t come as a shock, just ask your friends what they thought about middle school and watch the blood rush to their face as they burst into horror story after horror story. Even within the field of education itself, the reaction of some teachers upon hearing a colleague works with 8th Graders is, “Oh my. Bless you for all your work. You certainly have your work cut out for you.” These thoughts were hard to ignore as I approached the school. What would my experience at Harding be like?

Long story short, these rumors were completely false. Middle School students are no different than Elementary or High School students: once you get to know them, they have magnificent minds.

Sure you won’t get as many hugs and you may come across some serious attitude, but that is normal. I kept reminding myself of my own educational and social development during middle school: I was the thorn in the side of a lot of my teachers. Kids are just trying to figure it all out. Socially and academically.

Discussion of students’ social and academic development brings me to my final discussion point: the importance of a quality teacher. As students are rapidly developing throughout middle school, teachers need to be responding accordingly. Just as with any other grade-level, success begins and ends with the teacher. If the teacher is not passionate and engaging, the students will not be passionate and will passively watch the clock. If the teacher does not link the material with their students’ everyday lives, students will mentally check out. If the teacher does not understand the importance of middle school, student actions or inactions may be misinterpreted.

This fall, I am fortunate enough to be working with an outstanding and well-respected veteran teacher at Harding. Although she has been teaching for a long time, she still has the passion, drive and energy to bring her classroom to life. She addresses all of the points I emphasized above and it showed in her students’ actions throughout the class period.

While I only have a tiny sample to use in my analysis, I do not shy away from my comments. Middle School students are great. Yes, one could argue it takes a special kind of teacher to appreciate the day-to-day experiences, but the same could be said for those who teach elementary and high school too! Give Middle Schoolers a chance. As I’ve found out, they’re not so bad after all.

Thanks for reading, enjoy this quote as you leave: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – W.B. Yeats

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