Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dear First Year Middle School Teacher,

A colleague and I were recently talking about our start in education. She got hired on the first regular workday (after new teacher orientation was over). I was hired after school was well underway. My orientation consisted of a five minute tour of the building on a Friday afternoon before escorting me to my classroom where I would meet 120 middle school students a little more than 48 hours later. I learned *SO* much about myself, my students and teaching that year, but I wouldn't wish that "trial by fire" experience on anyone!

Teaching in middle school is tough, but I love it! For those teachers just starting out in middle school this year (and maybe for those with some years under their belt too), here are some tips and resources that I gleaned from Matt Davis' excellent post at Edutopia and combined with my own experience.

#1. You are not alone.
When the bell rings and the door closes, it is very lonely as a teacher in a classroom. However, in reality, there are many people in your school who can offer community and support if you just let them. Turnover in middle school is notoriously high. So your building colleagues are all cheering for you and want you to be successful.

You can also reach out to other middle school teachers online, New Teacher Chat on Twitter and Mrs. Phillips' blog, Caught in the Middle and Middle School Math Rules.

More tips on building a support network from LEARN NC

#2. Classroom management is key, but you need to develop your own style.
Study what the experts say, but adapt it to your own beliefs and situation. What the teacher next door does to get her students quiet may not work for you. I remember learning the hard way that I couldn't call students out the way in the hallway the way my mentor did because I hadn't established a relationship with them like she had.

Edutopia's classroom management resources for new teachers

#3. Take it one day at a time.
There is so much to learn, try to keep it in perspective and focus on what is important for today and this week. In middle school you often have the advantage of teammates to help you know what needs your attention. Rely on their wisdom and guidance. There will be many demands on your time during the school day and you can't do it all. Scholastic has a month by month guide that can help you with your challenge du jour.

#4. It's all about the kids.
Ask any veteran middle school teacher what they love about the job and they will tell you it's their students. {Check out Patti Grayson's reflections.} Don't get me wrong. Adolescents can be challenging! They are independent and strong-willed one moment and emotional and uncertain the next. They don't love you just because you are their teacher like elementary school kids, but if you earn their respect they will walk through fire for you. Treat them with respect and get to know them and you'll never want them to graduate!

Hope you have a great year!


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