A student I taught 12 years ago (when she was in the sixth grade) emailed me recently sharing that in the fall, she will become a middle school English teacher. "That was the best year of school for me," she said, "I just want to help other kids have an experience like that." I was thrilled; what more could I want?
I responded with a long rambling email about why middle school is the best age and how much I love the social, emotional and academic developmental stage of sixth graders. "One minute they'll engage in a serious debate about politics and you can see their brains stretching and questioning, and then the next minute they revert to being the joyful, sweet, cuddly kids they were in elementary school, curious and fun and affectionate." I told her I loved spending my days with sixth graders, I really did. Seventh grade was good too, but I have to confess that I did not like eighth grade.
As I wrote this email I was inundated by a waves of emotions: nostalgia for the years I taught middle school, regret that I couldn't serve all of my students as I wish I could have, curiosity about where they are now and what their lives are like, and excitement for my former student as she embarks on this new adventure.
"How can I prepare?" She wrote back. "What are the best resources available?"
I have a short list and am hoping that the Edutopia community can add to it.
I probably used Nancie Atwell's In the Middle: New Understandings about Reading, Writing and Learning more than any other.
When I first started teaching, I lived on middleweb.com, which had indispensible resources for teaching grades 4-8. Recently I learned that the site has been reorganized and revived and it looks better than ever with book reviews, interviews, and guest posts.
My favorite bloggers on middle school are:
Heather Wolpert-Gawron who blogs for Edutopia and at tweenteacher.com about all things middle school including writing, debate, and technology integration.
Ariel Sacks, an eighth grade English teacher in Brooklyn, NY.
Jose Vilson, who is a middle school math teacher and coach in Washington Heights, NY.
I know there are other fantastic resources for middle school teachers so I'm hoping some of you will add your favorites. Happy planning.