Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From the Lowest of Lows to the Highest of Highs

So I had an interesting experience this week. I have previously mentioned various teaching experiences I have had and how excited they have made me to be a real full-time teacher. Especially in a middle school. For some strange reason that is incomprehensible to my friends and family, I feel like my place is among the 13-year olds. (similar maturity levels you ask?....perhaps)

Well, this week I discovered that teaching is not all sunshine and roses.

For the past month, I've been working with a middle school ESL class and to put it lightly, they are THE MOST OUT-OF-CONTROL CLASS I've ever seen. Cute kids, but seriously crazy. Their teacher's style of discipline was very different from any I've ever been taught, and from what I could tell was not very effective. So on Monday I had the opportunity to teach them for the first time. And despite the very clear warning signs that I had been given, I was under the impression that they would never be a problem for me. I would surely be able to handle them with a healthy little dose of TLC. After all, they had shown during the previous month that they liked me and gave me high-fives whenever they came into their classroom and saw me there. That's a recipe for a healthy teaching environment, right?

No. No. No. It was one of the hardest days I've ever had. Just an hour and a half with those kids and I was at my wit's end with how to deal with them. They yelled, chatted, were constantly up out of their seats, never listened, were never on task, complained, you name it. I came home that day more depressed than ever. I was blindsided. By 13-year olds. I never even saw it coming. I cried a little, said a prayer, cried a little more, called my dad. For the first time since choosing my major, I started to wonder if this is something I'm really cut out for. What if I was just a horrible teacher and I just never had enough experience in the classroom to realize it? The moment that day that had broken my heart was when one little girl, who had previously been my biggest fan, threw her head back at one point and said (rather loudly), "I would rather be ANYWHERE but here!" Okay, how do you not take that personally? I word-vomited all this onto my poor father, who lovingly replied, "Ang, you're going to be fine. It was one day. To be honest, I don't know why you ever wanted to be in a middle school anyway." Then my heart sunk as I realized, maybe they were all right. All those people who told me it's crazy to want to teach kids in middle school full-time. What if I should really be in a high school?! It's too late!! I'm already set up to teach in a junior high in DC!! What if I die?!?! Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

Luckily, as outlined by the title of this post things got better. 1000X better. Today, Wednesday, I had the chance to teach my beloved crazies again. And something magical happened.

They listened.

I don't know what did the trick. Whether it was the new seating arrangement, the new rules, the different activity for the lesson, or all three. But for some reason, we connected today. They weren't out-of-control, in fact they were the most in-control I've ever seen them. In the beginning they complained of course, but by the end of the lesson my biggest complainers, "the divas" as I like to call them, were more into the lesson than anyone. They were shouting at the other kids to go faster! To say their part right! They were running to accomplish their task! It was AWESOME. Not only did they have fun and get really into the lesson, but they LEARNED it. At the end of class I wanted to see how effective it had been so I was throwing out questions fast,

"What was our first form of government after the Revolutionary War?"
"Why didn't it work?"
"What year was the constitution written?"
"What was Shay's Rebellion?"
"Why was it important?"

They knew every. single. one.

They got it! They understood the history behind the lesson. And they knew it well! I was thrilled. And then, to top it all off, my biggest fan little girl ran up to me after class and said, "Are you gonna be our teacher for the whole term?!" When I told her I'm just teaching her class for this week, she let out a big, sad groan and said, "No! Teach us all the time!"

I almost cried again. Not really, but it would have been appropriate.


  1. That is crazy! I don't think you should let it effect you that other people think you shouldn't teach middle school. If you want to do it, do it. (someone's got to. hah)

  2. Dear Luna- you are so amazing! My hubby teaches middle school math and yes, there are hard days and hard times. But there are good days and good times. Overall he loves his job and he really is where he is supposed to be. People tell him he's crazy, (and he is :) but he has a gift for teaching those kids. They need good teachers and I know you're a good one. Good luck with DC and everything ahead of you! Love you tons!

  3. Wow Angie, that seems quite emotional! Well, I know you're a great teacher because I am a former student. Oh those late nights in the Jeru classrooms, cramming for Skinner or Ophirs tests! Bah!

  4. This is an amazing post . . . your conflicted feelings came across loud and clear. I consider middle school teachers to be true heroes. So happy for your "1000x better" day. It will give you courage to go on . . . as well as to see what you're truly capable of as an educator. You go teacher-girl! Sandra