Ok, time to start reflecting on the past school year. I’m going to start with how I found my Middle School Mojo.
This past September I started in a new teaching position as one of two teachers in my district’s Gifted Program. The program is for students in grades 1 – 8 and is a pull in program; students spend part of one day a week with me learning in a theme-based program.
As a high school trained teacher who has spent most of her career teaching students in grades 8 – 12 this was a big change for me, but one that I was looking forward to. At the beginning of the school year I found that I connected well with the grade 4 and 5s, but had difficulty “hitting the target” with both my younger students and my middle school students.
Part of my problem in the beginning with my middle school group (grades 6 – 8 ) was that I didn’t really have a good understanding of what the program should look like. My own children had been in the elementary (gr 1 – 5) program for a number of years, so I had a pretty good idea of what went on there, but the middle school portion was a bit of mystery to me. In addition, I only had one 1 hour block with them once a week and it was on Friday mornings. This was challenging for a couple of reasons:
- An hour once a week doesn’t offer a lot of time to really sink your teeth into projects. (Especially when many students would forget and show up part way through the class. This did get better as the year progressed.)
- A lot of leadership and special activities occurred on Fridays, pulling students from my class.
Despite these challenges, after the winter break I felt like I was starting to get into a groove with the middle school class. They were starting to gel as a group and I was discovering what sort of activities worked well with them. This class went from being one that I was anxious about, to one that I looked forward to every week. I started to worry less about having students follow my original game plan and I focussed more on providing them outlets with which to express their amazing creativity.
There were a number of the key things that I learned from last year’s experience. First, that it pays to be patient. Those first two months I didn’t feel like I was hitting bullseyes very often, but I persisted and tried different approaches. Second, that it takes time to get to know the students, and in a program like this the real magic happens once you start to figure out students strengths and start to make connections with them. And third, it is ok to revise your original plan, especially when the revisions are centred around the strengths and needs of the students in your class.
In a future post I’ll reflect on my steep learning curve with my younger students. Cheers, and thanks for reading.