NOTE: My opinion changed drastically during the course of the year last year, and I have since decided that I do not want to teach teenagers. At least not for awhile!
There have been many times over the past 6 years when people have asked me, "So, what do you do?"
To which I reply, "I am a teacher."
At this point, they are usually still interested and wanting to know more. So then I often hear, "What grade do you teach?"
This is when things head down hill fast. For the past 5 years my reply has been, "Grade 7", this year they would hear, "Grade 8". It really doesn't matter which I answer with I get the same response from about 95% of people.
"Oh really! That's too bad!"
I'm sorry? Did you just say "that's too bad"? First of all, in this economy and time period anyone should be happy they have a job, and especially those of us lucky ones who squeaked under the wire into the teaching profession. Secondly, I love Grade 7 & 8. Those kids are hilarious, sweet, smart, kind and many other adjectives that I can't really think of right now because it is the Friday of the first week of school....but anyway.
Most people screw up their faces at the thought of teaching teenagers. Now I am not going to sit here and say it's all sunshine and roses, cause I'd be lying BIG TIME, but there are moments that make everything else worthwhile.
I ask my students very often to think and reflect about their life, their education, and themselves as people. To start this year I off I asked my students one question-- What makes you unique?
I got the idea from a book I read this summer co-authored by Erin Gruwell who founded the Freedom Writers Foundation (remember the movie with Hilary Swank?) and other teacher from across North America who have been trained as Freedom Writer Teachers. A few of my friends from baseball happen to be some of those teachers, so we went to the book launch this summer and then I read their book; Teaching Hope.
The book is filled with 120 stories from teachers who have worked with kids of all ages and the ups and downs of teaching. It follows the course of a school year, from anticipation, to disillusionment, to obstacles, to triumphs. And a lot of the stories are sad, get a box of kleenex to read this one! There are some kids out there with terrible lives, it's difficult to feel guilty when I am living such a blessed life.
So back to why I love my job. I read the very first story in the book to my students about another middle school teacher who asked her students to write down what makes them unique. If they were no longer in the class what would be missing? And the story tells of a 13 year-old boy who feels that nothing about him is unique, his ashamed to identify his culture as he is the only Latino in the class. It's well written and very poignant.
I read the story aloud to my classes and asked them the same question- what makes you unique? If you weren't here in our classes what would we be missing?
The responses I got, while not grammatically perfect, are some of the best writing I could hope to get from my students....and it's only the first week! Here are some samples of what I am talking about. Judge for yourself. (i have not corrected any of their writing, you are seeing it just like I do!)
~ The things that makes me unique is I am a quiet person who want to learn. If you take my out of this class it would be like removing a part of your brain, which is a wanting to learn piece.
~ What makes me unique is that I have a very vast imagination. I like to write stories because I can think of very different ideas in my head. Once I do get an idea that I think is good I write it down. Then I just keep adding to my idea. I feel that eveytime I write words just flow into my head.
~ What I think makes me unique is my hair. When I was in grade 6 I always did pigtails. From grade 6 to grade 7 I have always tied my hair in pigtails. Now that I am in grade 8 I started to do 1 ponytail. But I will still do pigtails because I like it and most people knows me as "Pigtails". Another reason why pigtails make me unique is because I never did any other hairstyle besides pigtails and it is basically my trademark.
~ Being unique is like having a gift, it makes you special. I feel that I bring happiness into the class. For example, I can never be mean. I can't be rude to people. Also, I always like to smile. (She really is this sweet in real life too!)
~ I have always been a dreamer. I love to fantisize. Things that can never happen, I wish for it. Daydreaming, happens to me a lot. I have thought about many impossible events, that will make a big difference in the world. Reality is not the word for me. It is all about dreaming big and dreaming about the un-real world.
How can people NOT want to teach teenagers?