As I sit here and reflect about the start of the year a rush of emotions hit me. Changing jobs is stressful for anyone, regardless of your desire and intention, and for me downshifting to middle school has been just that. I am not sure I was mentally and emotionally ready for what this uniquely wonderful, disastrous, energetic, lethargic, eager, cautious population would need from me. The last time I taught middle schoolers I was 22, young, energetic, single, child free, and inexperienced, and before I started this year, I always looked back and said that I really enjoyed them. 12 years, 1 husband, 2 kids, 5 years teaching high schoolers, and many achy bones later my life has changed. My experiences have changed me, my knowledge has increased, my expectations have been raised, and therefore my approach to teaching has changed. I would like to say that the transition has been EAAASSSY, but it hasn’t.
I found that I was quickly becoming the type of teacher I disliked the most. You know, the one that always looked at the negative instead of the positive? Yeah, I know the beginning of the year is hard, setting expectations and getting kids on board is hard, but the manner in which I was doing it was NOT working, nor was it making me a better teacher or person. I found myself burning inside every time a student came in not dressed or late, and worrying about it at home instead of enjoying my time with my boys or watching our favorite tv show with my husband. Yeah, I knew things had to change, but I found myself trapped in this whirlpool constantly pulling me down.
Now in the 2nd 6 Weeks, I have made adjustments to my teaching and class structure, I met with the parents of those students who continued to be disruptive or defiant, and I’ve begun focusing on how I am going to create a culture of excellence versus a culture of mediocrity. I have seen a change in my classes already, but I was still struggling with this “Negative Nancy” attitude that kept me from really seeing the growth of my students.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with our district dance and theatre coordinator who came in to talk about redefining our department culture by first understanding our students’ culture. She was here for 3 hours and we discussed a lot but it was one of the first things she said that stuck with me the most, “You cannot push, you can only lead.” Everything else we discussed was great but this by far had the greatest impact on how I was feeling. So, for all you out there struggling with a handful of students remember that we have to celebrate our successes as teachers as well. Out of 167 students I have about 10 who haven’t jumped onto the dance train, and that’s not too bad! I have set the expectations, and although I will not push back I will stand strong because I know they can achieve greatness! It’s my job to lead them to see their greatness and to help them see how their choices have natural consequences (good or bad). Let’s focus on all the good we are achieving in our classes and celebrate the little victories on the way!!