I recently had the privilege of sharing the closing remarks of the annual SDAMLE EdCamp. When I thought about what I would like to share, I thought about my journey to becoming a middle level educator.
You can check out the presentation here: SDAMLE EdCamp Keynote Closing
When I was going to school to become an elementary teacher I would hear the “horror stories” about teaching experiences. When I became a teacher I heard the same stories in the teacher’s lounge and in staff meetings. In addition to these horror stories I also heard the message that our training and professional development were terrible, boring or worthless. Yet, I kept teaching. I felt a bit weird because I loved being a teacher. I loved learning. So I was quiet and enjoyed any opportunities I had to connect with others who loved teaching and learning as much as I did. I started my career as an elementary teacher and I was terrified of middle school students– you know– I listened to those horror stories about all the other grade levels.
But then I had the opportunity to teach in a K-12 position. I quickly discovered that my favorite time of the day was with my middle school students. The next year I took a position as a middle school technology teacher. I have found that Middle Schoolers are sarcastic, they are enthusiastic, and they are compassionate. They find humor in everything. Literally EVERY. THING. They have endless energy but small amounts of attention. Every day is an adventure! Imagine if I had listened to those horror stories? If I had not taken my learning opportunities seriously? This is my 5th year at my current position teaching middle schoolers.
I want to share with you 3 Ways I Stay Excited About Being a Middle School Teacher (because not every day is easy, but every day is worth it).
- I laugh with my kids.
We are able to do this because I build relationships with my students. I treat every day as a new day. I greet every student at the door with a high five and a smile every day.
- I am a lifelong learner.
I participate in #sdedchat on Twitter. I attend EdCamps. I learn what I want, when I want with people who want to be there. I offer PD at my district and I am vocal about what I want in PD at my school and district. I participate in the PD offered at my building, district, and state level whenever possible.
- I have a positive attitude about my “job”, my kids, and my school.
I think things like countdowns, constantly complaining, saying “I’m just a teacher” or telling the horror stories gives people an idea that teaching is not a fantastic career, that our schools or kids are “bad”. I think it also causes college students to doubt their choice to go into education. I let students and colleagues know that I missed that, that I’m excited to learn with them, and am always sharing that I LOVE being a teacher.
Why are we so vocal about our negative experiences in the classroom & then wonder why the public has such a negative opinion about public education? Or why our kids don’t see the value in education?
Alright, so if we are going to change the message. If we are going to talk about what we love, what is wonderful about the students and content we teach. If we are going to be the best spokesperson for education around, then we have to start changing our message.
Part of my positive message is to share with you My 3 Favorite Things About My Middle School.
- START (Students and Teachers Addressing Responsibility Together)
I love our START time, this is our 15 minutes of advisory every morning with a small group of students (about 18 per class in a MS of 600 kids). We do team building, grade and planner checks, Read on Wednesday, goal setting, Special Olympics curriculum, kindness challenges, community service and so much more! I love getting to know this small group of students and hearing their thoughts about our school and the world.
This is 30 minutes at the end of the day. Every Wednesday the Encore team has their weekly meeting and the rest of the school does Read on Wednesday. The other days of the week we have intervention and enrichment opportunities for students, the time is FLEXible. Four times a year we have FLEX Blocks. These are classes that teachers can offer on any topic they want: rock climbing, crocheting, microwave cooking, coding, etc. Students select the top 4 classes they are interested in and then are placed. We have 10-12 sessions together and get a combination of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I love being able to share my passions: Makerspace, coding, and technology– with students I may not have in a regular class. These FLEX Blocks aren’t graded. They are a time for students to explore, learn, and have fun!
Our Makerspace is in the Library and is open most Wednesdays after school from 3:30-4:30 pm. This is our 3rd year of Makerspace. Any student in grades 6, 7 or 8 is welcome to attend. I love watching the students learn how something works, teaching others about it, and creating something new or fun that they are proud of. I look forward to Makerspace every week because I learn the most from students during this time.
Some final thoughts on changing your message.
Build relationships with your learners (coworkers, parents, and community too).
Have a positive attitude.
Be a lifelong learner.
Choose to be awesome.