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The constant ups and downs
I’ve been teaching middle schoolers for 7 years now. I’m by no means an expert on this most awkward stage of life, but I can tell you some of the great things (and some of the struggles) of teaching middles. If you’re thinking of teaching middle school soon, here are some reasons why you might love to work with them (or maybe make you decide to switch to high school!)
Middle Schoolers Love to Dive Deep in Discussions
People sometimes assume middles are too young to nerd out about your content. But I love how many science questions my kids have each unit. They are thinking all the time during class, and you will definitely get random questions throughout your lesson. If you give them a second, they can usually tell you why they had that question. Give a general answer, that’s usually good enough, but if I don’t know it, I google it on my computer to show kids. When they are curious, they want that curiosity satisfied. That curiosity brings engagement to lessons, especially when you have the opportunity to bring that engagement to your lesson. The downside is they can definitely start to go down a rabbit hole and sidetrack the lesson unless you stop it. Once one kid has a question, other kids get follow up questions that they all want an answer to.
Middle schoolers are still young enough to be silly and still excited for school
When I was student teaching, I started in a high school. In my second semester I moved to a middle school, and the first day I knew I was where I wanted to be. The kids had so much energy (definitely exhausting most days) but with that energy, they were excited to be in class (most of the time). When we did simple labs, they are genuinely wowed by the results, they love to show you what they got (even though everyone else in the class got the same results). And that enthusiasm is something I missed when I was student teaching high school.
Middles are also super goofy every day- I think I laugh out loud with the kids at least every day. They will say such random stuff during class, and that definitely adds to the fun part of the job. It’s fun to talk to your classroom neighbors during the passing period and hear the other silly things your kids are saying in their classes. We sometimes wonder what our friends who work in offices are doing at the same moment our kids are doing something ridiculous, but we always say that would be too boring for us!
Every day and every year brings new challenges with constant emotions teaching middle schoolers
Middle schoolers are nothing if not completely unpredictable. After all, they are going through big changes during this time of their life. Society around us (and them) is constantly changing. That means new social media channels we deal with, a viral challenge that is sweeping the hallways, or the rollercoaster emotions from a 12-year-old. You have to come prepared for whatever big emotions kids bring into your classroom. Somedays, you’ll need a break from a kid’s big emotions. Lean on a teacher or dean to walk with the kid for a bit during this time. That break can give you some breathing room so you can stay calm when that kid returns. The more you work with big emotions, the easier it (usually) gets to stay regulated so you can handle it.
All of this to say, every school year is different. You may think a lesson is going to go great this year because it did last year. But you never know how your kids will do with the content or if a big emotion derails the class period. So make a plan, but always have some backup strategies, just in case.
Middle schoolers aren’t for the faint of heart. If you are teaching middle schoolers, other adults usually respond with “I don’t know how you do it! I could never work with middle schoolers all day!”. We wear this middle school teacher badge proudly. We do work with kids when they are in their most awkward (and impulsive) stage. But to work in a middle school, you have to be a little bit crazy too. So embrace your weirdness and come teach middles! I’ve written a couple of other posts that might help you get started in a middles classroom. I talk about how I let my students teach the class and my favorite hall pass system.