I remember August as the beginning, a swirl of information, a tornado of planning and newness, a sprint of setting myself to feel prepared and successful. We talked about historical skills and geography.
I remember October as the hardest month. I was in the thick of planning lessons and units and facing my first round of observations for the year. We learned about Egypt and Greece.
I remember November and December as that push to that halfway mark of the school year, feeling more confident and put together. We explored how to do a research project and a variety of ancient civilizations. We talked about world religions.
I remember January as a surprise. It was when I taught my Middle Ages unit, which ended up being one of the most fun, despite that being one of my least favorite time periods.
I remember February and March as that looonnngg stretch to Spring Break. This is where we got to the good stuff: post 1500 history!
I remember April as the beginning of the end. World War I was probably my best unit.
I remember May as the final countdown, that never seemed to end. We tried to cover the last 80+ years in about a month. Talk about sprinting to the end!
Year one is done.
I remember writing a paper in my 7th grade Life Skills elective with Mrs. Adams. We had to choose a career that interested us and research it. I researched teaching. I always knew I wanted to teach history/social studies. Up until my senior year of college, I thought I would teach high school. The first part of my senior year I was a teacher assistant for a 6th grade social studies class. The second part of my senior year I student taught for a 9th grade history class. I ended loving the 6th grade setting way more than I thought I could. I have found my niche in middle school.
So much of college and professional development warns you about the terror of your first year. All in all, it was so much better than I expected! There were absolutely times of frustration, stress, fear, and being overwhelmed. There were difficult students, there were exasperating parents. And yet there were so many times of joy, peace, strength, love, and kindness.
Middle School students continue to amaze and humble me. Middle kids are crazy and so irresponsible. Middle kids are so resilient. Middle kids face so much in their little lives. I had students who faced hunger. I had kids with divorced parents, shuffled back and forth, not sure whose house they were sleeping at that night. I had kids with messy family lives. I had homeless students, and students who faced eviction. I had over a dozen students move away. I had several who came for short periods of time before moving on, some less than a week. I had students whose parents made zero effort in their lives. I had parents that were so overreaching to the point of insanity. I had students carrying the weight of deaths of close family members. I had students who deal with crippling anxiety and other mental issues. I had a student who moved in the middle of the school year and spoke no English. I have students who can’t figure out social cues and expectations. Through in hormones and puberty and its no wonder my job is so exhausting! Middle school is tough. These kids are learning to be tough, often by circumstances beyond control.
There were days when I felt so useless and like my efforts were futile. I have kids leaving my class, going into 7th grade, who DON’T KNOW THE CONTINENTS. (No I am not kidding. Yes we will be hitting that topic much harder next year.) There were kids who could barely read and write. The majority of my school is below basic level in math abilities. I had a student who couldn’t properly spell his last name. We live in a day and age where kids need fast paced and “entertaining” to engage them. We live in a day and age where many kids don’t know how to work hard. Many do not know how to problem solve or think for themselves. Many don’t care about anything. Many struggle with the basic components of learning. Many have so many other worries and cares in their young lives they can’t even begin to think about being diligent in school.
Through it all, there are those glimmers of hope, joy, and truth. Whenever we’d cover a hard topic, such as the Holocaust, I would emphasize that to my students. I made it a goal to pray for my student every morning. Public school is such a mission field. I’ve seen a few popular Christian bloggers put down public school lately, strongly stating that it is no place for a Christian. I couldn’t disagree more. This is the next generation. They are being formed and shaped, right here, right now. It is exactly where a follower of Jesus should be. Obviously I can’t just preach to my kids, but there are ways to promote God’s love and the truth of the Bible without outright saying it or crossing any lines. School is the most consistent thing in some of these kids lives, and it is where I am supposed to be. These kids need love, these kids need Jesus. If not me, then who?
I have much to be thankful for in my first year. I work in an amazing, beautiful building. I have a great team who have given me much advice and aid. I had small class sizes, which is such a blessing starting out. I was able to establish a solid base from which to build on next year. I had some truly amazing kids who are going to do great things. I had many opportunities to be humbled by these kids, by their circumstances, and by their abilities and strength. I had many opportunities to extend love and grace.I had ample learning opportunities, from failures and success alike. Jared was a strong support and encouragement, especially on those extra rough days. God has sustained me and carried me from day one to day 180.
And now for rest. Now to prepare for year two.
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives…And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. “ Colossians 3:16-17