Teaching middle school is not for the faint of heart. But if you're called to do it, you know there's nothing else quite like it. Join us in discussing what works - and what doesn't.

Welcome, Brave Middle School teachers! Introduce yourself...

Heather Wolpert-Gawron Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Hey, all you brave tween teachers out there!
Welcome to the Edutopia discussion forum. Please introduce yourself a little before exploring our other discussions.

I am your moderator, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, middle school teacher by day and author/blogger at night. I was a California Regional Teacher of the Year in 2004, a Writing Project Fellow at the University of California at Irvine, and am a member of the Teacher Leaders Network. I'm a frequent contributor to Teacher Magazine and a staff blogger here at Edutopia. I also blog at www.tweenteacher.com. I currently teach 7th and 8th Grade Language Arts as well as 7th/8th Speech & Debate/Podcasting. Multiple-intelligences, differentiated instruction, Writer’s Workshop, student collaboration, student choice, and fluid grouping define much of my classroom instruction.

I look forward to talking about all of these topics and more here in the middle school forum. So please comment a little about who you are, what you're about as a teacher, and what brought you to Edutopia and our middle school forum.

For me, it's all about learning from each of you.

So challenge yourself to participate in the forum: comment, advise, criticize. Allow the Middle School forum here at Edutopia to be your brain spa of sorts. I look forward to meeting you all.

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Comments (156)

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8th Grade science teacher. Fresno California

Hello!

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I am an 8th grade science teacher at Kastner Int. School in Fresno CA. My kidz are awesome, burt a challenge. Every day is a new set of challenges. My love of the sciences keeps me going. This year, we have implemented a new program - Time to Teach. It is improving the atmosphere at school and increasing our teaching time.

I look forward to sharing ideas and learning from the experiences of others.

-ScienceMann

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Time to Teach

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I want more info on this program. If you see it's improving things, please share. What is the philosophy? How's it implemented? Pros? cons?

Welcome to the forum, ScienceMann!
-Heather WG

Dance teacher in urban public middle school

Fellow warriors

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Hi all. I teach dance full-time in a public urban middle school for a second year. Yes, this experience is most definitely not for the faint of heart; hence, my reference to our warrior status. I am very interested in learning from my peers, and I am particularly interested in hearing from those who are experienced in running a reasonably productive performing arts classroom, specifically dance and drama.

I have both the thrill and the dread of designing my own curriculum, and I would voraciously sponge any and all observations about your experiences. My classes, 6th - 8th, are mostly too large, combining
'regular ed' kids with the 'special need' students who are otherwise in separate special ed classrooms. With all of the ensuing chaos...

My Michael Jackson unit was pretty successful as we recreated sections of his best-known choreographies. I'm now interested in introducing musical theatre, perhaps recreating scenes of classic Broadway. FYI, I've discovered that middle schoolers love to imitate their celebrated
dancing role models.

Your ideas will be most appreciated! And thanks to Heather for this forum.

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Welcome Madelyn!

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Earlier in my career, I was a teacher by day and a director at a children's theater by night. I directed K-12 musical theater and Shakespeare, bringing my teaching expertise into the drama arena. Years later, I began a drama class at my middle school which blossomed into a cross-curricular, schoolwide program. I totally understand the challenges and the beauty of being a theater teacher, and I applaud you for bringing the arts to so many diverse students.

I found that the more subjects you weave into your program, the better. I loved teaching musical theater because it brought History and Social Studies into the drama classroom. Having the students design their own Playbills and Actor Bios brought in ELA. And by reaching out to local bookstore storytimes and public libraries, we even used our abilities to greater serve our communities.

The arts are vital in our schools. Sometimes they are a "dumping ground" for individuals with no other elective to go to, and in so doing, a program can be choked off by not feeding it the talented students it needs to thrive. But at times, you also find that those kids who get thrown in there discover the arts themselves.

Integrate and you will find the rigor. Open your class to those who have no knowledge of the arts (as you have done) and you will find that talent is everywhere.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, and welcome to the middle school forum.
-Heather WG

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Blessed To Do What I LOVE

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Hello! Well, I happen to absolutely LOVE what I do! I consider myself blessed to do what I love rather than do something I just tolerate. I've been teaching for 7 years. Before that, I had a few "jobs" that could have been careers. They just didn't make my heart sing. So, I got my graduate degree with Special Ed cert and have been teaching ever since.

My new motto: I'm only as good a teacher as my lowest performing student. I just believe that I have to try to always reach ALL of my students and push them to their fullest potential. So much of their growth at this age can't be measured on a high stakes test. I see my students - and all the students I work with - grow and mature. It's wonderful. Yet, at times, these successes don't translate into AYP. I think the "powers that be" sometimes forget about the child.

In addition to teaching Special Ed & MG, I also direct the school plays and have formed a Student Council this year. It's great! The kids are so into extra-curricular activities. It gives them an opportunity to shine. Our school is inclusive so I co-teach with the classroom teachers in Literacy and Math for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. On one hand, I get to help ALL children, providing strategies to help more children advance in the curriculum. On the other hand, I run around a lot and am never in one place for very long. It's a balance. This is a new initiative (2nd year at my school) so it's a work-in-progress.

I love teaching middle school. When I decided to teach, I wanted middle school age. People thought I was crazy. Other teachers advised me to start with the younger grades. Still, I wanted the middle school but took their advice. As it turns out, the school I chose, a K-5 school, was converting to a K-8 school and adding grades. So, it turns out I got my wish after all!

I see the potential in all students. I tend not to dwell on their challenges or shortcomings, rather on their strengths and potential. I often tell students that it's not that they "can't" do it; it's that they may not be able do it "yet". And I'm their "yet"!

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Welcome Erika!

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Quote:

When I decided to teach, I wanted middle school age. People thought I was crazy. Other teachers advised me to start with the younger grades. Still, I wanted the middle school but took their advice. As it turns out, the school I chose, a K-5 school, was converting to a K-8 school and adding grades. So, it turns out I got my wish after all!
I see the potential in all students. I tend not to dwell on their challenges or shortcomings, rather on their strengths and potential. I often tell students that it's not that they "can't" do it; it's that they may not be able do it "yet". And I'm their "yet"!

You are crazy...as are we all here in the middle school forum. So welcome fellow asylum resident. Your attitude is inspirational. How else will we tap into a student's potential if we don't believe that they have that potential within.

Welcome.
-Heather WG

6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Thanks Heather!

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When people tell me I'm crazy, I always say, "Of course I am! Why do you think I became a teacher!" I totally embrace my insanity - it's nice to see others who do as well!

So glad to be in the group!

Erika

7th and 8th grade math teacher

Hello! I am currently

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Hello! I am currently student teaching 8th grade algebra. I LOVE it and couldn't imagine teaching any other age group! It helps that I HAVE a tween at home, my cooperating teacher sometimes looks so confused..."what happened to Ashante? She was so happy when she came in. What did I Do to make her upset???" LOL She is TWELVE!!!!! You probably didn't do anything!
I am learning so much in my internship and great websites like this!
~Robin

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

You're the expert

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Welcome Robin! I'm so glad you find both your internship and Edutopia so helpful as you pursue your tween teachin' career. Having one at home definitely gives you an advantage. At least maybe you can keep your ear to the ground at what's coming 24/7. Then again, you never really get to leave work, do you?

Thanks so much for throwing your hat into the Edutopia ring. Welcome, and feel free to participate anytime!
-Heather WG

Eight grade social studies teacher on the Texas - Mexico border

Welcome and Hello

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After a 25 year business career and a three year transition phase, I finally find myself in a classroom. I am currently teaching US history to 8th graders. Each student has a very unique view of America. Each morning they wake up several miles,and not too many years, from Mexico.

I learn so much from them each day.

I was very confident and competent in my old career. Starting fresh, as a new person, is invigorating and challenging. I want to know everything, right now. Which of course is impossible. :-)

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