Being a middles school teacher is kind of like having intermittent tooth pain. Some days, you forget it's there and other days, you can't believe you've let the pain go on this long without doing anything about it.
I never thought I would be a teacher of 6th graders. When I was in college, I envisioned teaching cute little first graders how to read. I loved first grade and couldn't wait to work in our phonics workbook every day. I was always finished first and would sit at my desk in the back row waiting patiently for the rest of the class to catch up. Sometimes I wasn't patient, though, and I sneaked a peak at the fun waiting for me on the next page. Mrs. Williams didn't like that, and because I loved Mrs. Williams, I tried not to give in to temptation too often.
I thought teaching first graders would be working with children like I had been: eager, patient, quick to learn.
Was I ever wrong! Sure they were cute, but they were also needy. And only about 5 of the kids in my first grade practicum enjoyed learning to read. The rest of them only wanted to play with their markers and crayons. And then there was the one who only wanted to sniff and/or eat the paste. I found that I am not as patient as I imagined I was. I considered giving up the game altogether and turning my focus to journalism. When I mentioned this to my advisor, he suggested that perhaps I was focusing on the wrong age group to teach. He suggested I try older students -- those who already know how to read. He begged me not to quit just yet because he saw huge potential in me. He might even have used the word 'gifted' in reference to my ability to reach kids. Or maybe, I'm just imagining that, too.
Anyway, I now teach sixth graders and have been doing so for 15 years. In the same school, the job I won directly after graduating from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Sometimes I wonder about that journalism angle that I gave up on so quickly, especially when I think about what working in the public school system has become. I want to love it as much as I did when I began all those years ago, but I have to confess that it's a challenge.
That's a buzz word in education, by the way: challenge. Nothing is ever hard. No student is ever bad. Things are challenging, that's all.
So, back to the 15 years, in the same building: this is where I got my first teaching job at the age of 23. Just out of college, practically dewy-eyed at the prospect of affecting young, impressionable minds. Fortunately, my principal was still invested enough in the actual education of children that she forgave me a lot of my early pratfalls, apparently seeing in my earnestness some promise of a good teacher in the making.
But this year is a bit of a conundrum. I thought I had grown into a pretty good teacher. I use collaborative work groups as well as independent assignments; I pose questions to my students to get them to think critically and ask their own questions; and I work hard behind the scenes to plan meaningful lessons and give solid feedback.
And then Gary Morris came into the picture. He's an assistant principal, demoted from an area high school and reassigned to us, a mere middle school. There's not as much acclaim or pay associated with being in a middle school, so I have to wonder why he's here? And then, there's the part about his not liking anything I do. He even criticized my timing in handing out index cards for an activity I had planned. On a formal evaluation, no less! People outside the profession probably don't understand how serious that is, but his evaluation of me determines in large part whether I keep my job. They call it Pay-for-Performance, but when 50% is dependent upon what this man writes about me, I can't really agree.
You could say life this school year has been pretty hard. Oops, I mean challenging.
But then, I got the idea to start my own online magazine, and here you have it: SunnyGrins! I love to write, so I decided to create a platform for my writing. And to offer that platform to others. So if you have something you'd like to share, you can do it here. I'll post it on the Visitor's page for one month for a small fee.
My daughter thinks my online enterprise is pretty funny, but I'm thinking
that I'll have the last laugh. People enjoy humorous writing, and most
of my stuff has an underlying edge to it. Don't forget to check out my
Musings page, especially if you hate shopping as I do, or have a particularly
Anyway, enjoy my new online magazine, and don't forget to write to me
with any thoughts you have for how I can improve it. Or questions you
have for me, about anything!