Friday, March 13, 2015

Teaching Middle School Is Not The Worst, Despite Reports To The Contrary

I'd say that I'm behind in my blogging, but things have been simultaneously busy and not interesting to share unless you're going through it yourself. I am a week away from finishing my Master's degree; this semester I have been enrolled in the last class needed, a 10-week research class. The past few weeks have been especially busy. I had a project that needed planning, completely revamping,  and revising, which Ed helped me with extensively; I revised said project for a presentation, for which I also wrote a script, practiced and revised that a lot, and gave a presentation over Skype; and am currently revising a more-than 22-page write up of said project.

I'm also still dividing my time between two schools - three days a week at the high school, and two days a week at the community college. Things are slowly coming to a close, though, especially with the imminent end of the research class.

In the meantime, today I read "Teaching Middle School is the Worst," and was once again frustrated by the stereotypes that go along with it. For starters, the first picture's caption ("Pity the teachers; clearly these kids are up to no good.") made me wonder how those kids are up to no good, exactly. Simply because they're talking? What are the surrounding circumstances? Is it the very beginning of the class, a time when students are just getting settled? Is this an extra curricular project? Are students working with a classmate or otherwise encouraged to move around? Are we to assume that the teacher had already spent months' worth of class time telling the students to hush? Why are we to pity the teacher? In other words, what evidence is being presented to confirm that these kids are "up to no good"? Two kids talking! The horror.

I will say that teaching middle is, in fact, not necessarily "the worst," a term that is extraordinarily relative. Any specific set of circumstances could be "the worst." Furthermore, such statements of there being a singular "worst" oversimplify the situation, and doesn't take into consideration the factors that go into happy teachers finding a fit:
  1. Individual teachers' personalities are extremely vast, as is the case with the overall human population. Individual school culture is also extremely varied, more so than perhaps non-teachers might realize. One of the reasons K-12 teachers tend to wash out (and there are many reasons that there aren't as many decades-long career teachers as there are those who last 5-7 years) is that an individual teacher's personality, teaching style, etc., is not a good match for a particular school's culture. This does not necessarily mean that a teacher is "bad" (although sometimes that's the case), nor does it mean that it's a crummy school (although sometimes this is the case, too).
  2. Experience and other life events affect the grades in which teachers may feel comfortable teaching; I remember hearing one now-retired teacher say that when her children were small, she enjoyed teaching middle school, but as her children grew, her preferences changed and she ultimately wound up preferring 11th graders. I have heard other experienced teachers say, too, that there was one particular grade, perhaps two, that they really connected with.
Any given school, or any given grade, could be "the worst" for a particular teacher. I wouldn't want to teach elementary school. Given my own temperament, that would be the worst, but I would argue that happy, successful elementary teachers would feel differently. As long as people argue that any aspect of actually teaching is the worst, we're not doing the profession any favors.

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