I taught middle schoolers for several years, always with the goal each day of being the bright spot in each kid’s day. I really believed (and still do) that I could make a difference in each student’s life and saw each interaction as an investment in a life. I would tell students that they would only ever be limited by their desire and perseverance. We would set personal goals at the beginning of each year and most students would either achieve their academic goals or come close (but still surpass their previous achievement levels). I had very few students who showed little improvement. Most experienced two or more years of academic growth on standardized tests.
I saw myself as a motivator, encourager, facilitator, and even teacher. I didn’t feel that I had to be their friend (after all – I was an adult, not a pre-teen), nor did I feel that I had to be their antagonist (what would be the point?). We had fun, but worked hard. Students would tell me that it wasn’t hard to get a C in our class, but that they had to work hard to get an A.
Some made it hard to help them (at least initially), but all were easy to like – kids are often way cooler than adults.
Some of my favorite comments by students:
Student: “You are my favorite teacher.”
Me: “I’m on your back all day, every day.”
Student: “Yeah, but you’re so nice about it.”
Student: “After being in your class, I believe I can be a teacher.”
Me: “Really! What made you believe that?”
Student: “I figure if you can do it, anybody can.”
Student: “You really care about us.”
Me: “What makes you think so?”
Student: “Because you don’t just say it, you do it.”
I’m happy with all of those comments. I don’t believe you have to yell at someone to discipline them. I believe I should be an example of “The American Dream.” It’s not that hard to care about others.
I now teach at a university and still believe the same things. I do miss the seventh graders, however.