by Will Hobart
As the holiday break quickly approaches, I have spent time celebrating the wows and pondering the wonders of my first semester as a middle school teacher. In doing so my seventh grade class comes immediately to mind. In my eight years of teaching at this school I have never had a section that has talked this much, my reading co-teacher told me one brisk fall afternoon following a relieving dismissal. What a huge ball of energy, I thought, as I wiped the sweat from my brow and gathered my papers as the children charged past me into the chaotic hallway.
I have taken time to contemplate what about the class leaves me disorganized. I end up returning to my own year in the seventh grade, and trying to relate to the kids I feel are so different from each other and so different from me. To my astonishment, the outcome of my curiosity has given me new insight into personal happiness in ways only a group of 12- year-olds can illustrate.
I always arrived at school early ready to start the day like Tamika who is waiting by the door 30 minutes before school starts. Mikal and I both love getting new seating arrangements. I hated partner work like Jeff and wished I didnt need a hall pass like, well, everyone. And lets be honest, who hasnt been an important messenger passing a rumor on to the other side of the classroom? Im guiltyand so are Christina and Markdaily. Similar to Jasmine, Kyle, and Robert, I too had trouble controlling my laughter if a classmate did something obnoxious. Once in a while it was me being obnoxious and afterwards I was as remorseful and apologetic as Nick following a reminder to please stop talking.
I see my perfectionist and relentless work ethic in Tara as I watch her shake out her hand after it cramps from taking an unabridged dictation of my lesson. Miguel embodies my conscientious nature as he constantly inquires, Am I passing your class?! Needless to say hes passing with flying colors. I see my own struggles to be accepted in Ryan as he asks to have his seat changed after kids around him comment on his mannerisms and physical features. I sense my insecurities in Owen and Candice as they try to imitate their cool classmates actions, dress, and word choice. While I certainly feared the detention system more than Jamal, we both understand consequences result from poor decisions. Its obvious the seventh grade section is much more than one giant ball of energy, but rather 30 balls with a force that can feel uncontainable. Uncontainable, but something that thinks and acts a lot like me.
The similarities are undeniable, ever-present, and varied. So now, can I teach this classroom full of unique pre-teens? It comes down to balance and acceptance. The commonalities I have identified are appropriate and inappropriate in a classroom and I struggle teaching because each childs distinctive offerings clash in one environment. Each student has outstanding and imperfect qualities like I have outstanding and imperfect qualities. While I have learned teacher things like classroom management techniques and how to write a 5-star lesson plan from my principal and co-teachers, I have learned how to accept my complexity as a person from my students. In both the classroom and ones personal life you must recognize your strengths and weaknesses in order to move towards happiness.
Teaching my seventh graders each day presents practice in problem solving and creativity that has given me strength to tackle personal conflicts within myself. When you love everything about yourself, you control your life, your future, your joy. When you accept everything about your class, you control the kind of teacher you are, the kind of education they receive, and play a key role in their futures.
And so as I get ready to break for the holidays, I chuckle at the number of times I tell my kids, Remember, I went to junior high, Ive been 12. Youre not fooling me! Its true, they arent fooling me -- theyre teaching me important life lessons few are fortunate to learn.
Read about Will Hobart
Back to the Teach For America Diaries
Article by Will Hobart
Copyright © 2006 Education World