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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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

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

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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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

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Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger

I love what you said about teens having "a valuable culture of their own." Absolutely true. And once we accept that and buy-in to that, it's so much easier to teach them. Your position sounds fascinating and I hope we can hear from you again real soon.

By the way, there is a teacher in a middle school group looking for ELD resources. Any suggestions?

Take care!
-Heather WG

John Norton's picture
John Norton
Education writer, Founder & co-editor of MiddleWeb.com

I'm a veteran education writer who's spent many years writing about the middle grades, including lots of time in middle schools across the US. I publish a biweekly e-newsletter featuring middle level resources on the Web.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger

John, Thanks for letting me know the article has helped so many teachers! Incidentally, as many of my blog readers know, I am not one to be modest and I refuse to allow an accomplished teacher go unnoticed. So in the spirit of immodesty, I wanted to let all of our middle school teachers on the forum know that John Norton is the creator and editor of the MiddleWeb site at www.middleweb.com, a great resource for us middle school teachers. He's also a moderator and big mucky-muck for The Teacher Leaders Network, and an all-around great guy.
See, John. You didn't think I was going to let you get away with a little throw away mention and bow-out, now did you?

-Heather WG

Bethany Giss's picture

In 1995 I started my career in special education and eventually found myself at a junior high teaching regular, inclusion, and honors language arts. I've taught in our AVID program, run the "media crew," sponsored drama club, and facilitated an informal junior chapter of Linus Project. I'm currently in an EDD program for education technology at Northcentral University. I love performing and visual arts. I wish I could say that after all of this time I am able to flow from year to year, but I can't seem to leave anything alone. BG

Krista's picture
Krista
8th grade lit/comp and history teacher from Illinois, near St. Louis, MO

This is my 15th year teaching grades 6-8. I am currently teaching 8th grade literature, composition, and American History. I love middle school! My life is full of drama, adventure, and excitement everyday. How many professions can say that?!

I look forward to learning and sharing with you!
Krista

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger

I see you already posted your New Year's Resolution. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for introducing yourself and jumping from reader to participator. I look forward to hearing even more from you.
-Heather WG

Lynn Jacobs's picture
Lynn Jacobs
Seventh grade ELD teacher, Eighth grade AVID teacher.

I am in awe of all of your enthusiasm for teaching middle school. I am new to this age group, after teaching high school for 15 years. I loved high school, and due to circumstances beyond my control I found myself teaching middle school last year. I love the kids - many of them are siblings or children (!!) of my former high school students, so I'm familiar with their families and the culture of the community.

Having said that, I must admit that I have a hard time with two big aspects of teaching this group. The first is the outbursts, the difficulty in keeping everyone engaged. I'm working on that by creating class activities that hold their attention and appeal to different types of learners. The differences in learning styles seems to really stand out at this age. I feel stymied in this effort, however by the stringent requisites of our pacing guide and weekly group meetings to make sure we are all on the same page, doing the same assignments each week. Our school has been in program improvement for several years, and we are expected to follow the strict guidelines designed by the district office and county office of ed, who sends someone in to work with us each week, to the point of rehearsing what we will say to the students!

As a teacher of advanced EL students it is tricky to follow the same assignments determined to be effective for non-English learners. I use the same curriculum and have no problem with that, but believe that it needs to be delivered using different modalities, and at a slower pace. They need more scaffolding and background knowledge building than the mainstream students do, which takes time. In addition, if I try to teach them every single thing that is on the pacing guide they will miss most of it. I try to do a good job with the things I do teach, and go for depth rather than breadth.

So, to sum up, I really want to be good at teaching this age group and am quite frustrated by feeling inadequate to the task. After being a successful high school teacher, I feel like I've met my Waterloo with this age group. I'm glad to have found this group and hope to learn from you all.
Thanks!
Lynn Jacobs

P.S. Oddly enough, 8th graders are way easier for me than are 7th graders. I'm not sure if it is the subject or the age that is easier!

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Blogger

Lynn,
Welcome to the wacky world of tweens. Yes, 8th is very different than 7th. That's the weirdness of middle school: they differ so much from grade to grade, and even from seat to seat. It sounds to me that you've got the right attitude. Do what you can. Teach how you know works. My school was in its 4th year of PI before making it out. It took accountability, tough talks to teachers about their data, and reflection by us all. So start doing it as soon as possible and let the kids in on their data. Let them know their scores, what they can do, and help them track their successes. Tweens need concrete info and they love to know what makes themselves tick. You can definitely get their attention by being someone who knows who they are and are willing to share what will work.
Good luck and check back in.
There's nothing like a middle school teacher who loves what they do. Glad to have you join our ranks.
-Heather WG

Lynn Jacobs's picture
Lynn Jacobs
Seventh grade ELD teacher, Eighth grade AVID teacher.

Thanks, Heather. You are right about the data. We focus heavily on the latest benchmark, CST and (for my students) CELDT scores. The kids do know how they did on the last test, and we look at where we need to focus for the next one. I have charts on my classroom wall that show the overall class percentage on the last benchmark, as well as colored dots that show how many students scored proficient, approaching and below. I print out not only their scores from the most recent exam but from the one before it so they can see their improvement from one to the next. They love this.

When we came back from the winter break the new posters were up, with signs that told how much they'd grown from one quarter to the next. They were excited and very competitive between sections. They had all agreed to try for a 10% growth, and I'd promised a party with a movie when they did. Although they didn't make that goal yet, they did show a big growth, so I honored them with cookies and juice that first Friday. They seemed a little surprised and touched when I said that although we hadn't reached 10% so couldn't do the full-on party, I wanted to recognize and honor their growth with a little treat. It was a nice day.

Thanks for your response, Heather.

Onward and upward!
Lynn

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