A Year in Middle School

This past year of teaching has been a wild ride. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, I resigned from my position at UT Elementary and took on a new role teaching eighth grade US history.

The school year that ensued was hard in a lot of different ways. Middle schoolers are wonderful and smelly and witty and full of an equal amount of important and incredibly ridiculous ideas and things to say. I have loved getting to know the 120+ students who walked through my room each day. They made me smile and laugh and scream and roll my eyes farther back in my head than I thought possible.

Despite the challenged and the headaches, I loved these kids. And yet, I had a very hard time teaching them.

My passion for teaching is born not just out of a passion for kids, but out of a deep commitment to education, and to education that really matters. When I say this, mean more than reading and writing and passing tests. I believe that education is a fight for liberation, and that young people must be given space to cultivate their ideas and talents to fight against unjust power structures and make this world a better place to live. This past year, however, the purpose of schooling demanded of me was testing.

This past year has felt like taking a break from teaching. Yes, I was in a classroom with students every day, and yes, I taught lessons, but almost each academic moment felt empty. I have no passion for teaching kids how to pass a test, and that’s what I was instructed to do each day. Test test test. And so I… left left left. The unbelievable (asinine? horrifying?) focus on testing, along with a long list of other mounting factors, made my decision to leave the school and the district incredibly easy.

While this past year was incredibly challenging, there were also incredibly good things that happened. I could write a very long, angry post about the things that went wrong, about the issues I have with the school and the district and the administration, but instead, I want to close out this past year of teaching by focusing on the good. Right now it feels easy to claim that I did nothing good in my fourth year of teaching, and while that temptation lingers as an easy way to scrap it all from my memory, it is simply untrue. Despite the challenges, relationships were formed, laughter abounded, and my classroom became a safe space for students to land. While the testing pressures ultimately did not result in higher test scores (surprise surprise), there might be a handful of students who will remember our classroom and the space we built together.

So, all that to say– here are some good things that happened in my one (and quite possibly my only) year of teaching middle school.

 

You SHOWED TF UP.

At the beginning of the year, I asked for book donations via Facebook and Instagram. Within 36 hours, I had a complete classroom set of A Young People’s History by Howard Zinn. AMAZING. Thank you thank you thank you.

We didn’t get to read the whole book, but the chapters that we did read invoked some really cool and critical conversations. Our school had a big push towards using AVID strategies, so I created Cornell Notes to help guide students through a few chapters. Here are the few that I made (free to download via these links):

Check out this classroom!!!

As we worked through the different eras of US history, we added new anchor charts to our walls, and by the end of the year, almost every inch of wall space was filled with our learning.

 

 

 

 

I designed some really cool projects and resources.

I didn’t get to implement all of them, but, I made them! Maybe someone else will have the opportunity to put them all to good use. Follow the links to download them!

Relationships were formed.

I love these kids. I love them deeply and powerfully, and ultimately, that’s what I will walk away with as I close the door on this chapter. Eighth graders are fun and outrageous and important and I have been incredibly lucky to welcome even a single one of them into my classroom.

 

 

And now, I’m off to NYOS Charter School for another year of fifth grade! I’m excited for the adventures that lie ahead.

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