I was reading a post from an online colleague who was concerned (to say the least) about the recent school closures slated in Oakland. She said, "It won't be a surprise to anyone that all the 'persistently lowest-achieving' schools in Oakland (all middle schools) are in high poverty areas, with large numbers of English learners..." We all know that high poverty, nomadic populations, and multi-lingual demographics make teaching challenging. And while I'm not placing teaching tweens anywere near as challenging as those aforementioned categories, I can't help but nod my head in understanding that it is the middle schools who are the first to feel the collapse of support. People who do not teach middle school don't seem to realize the challenge it is to reach this age demographic. Ray Bradbury once called his grandma's kitchen "organized chaos." And that's what it's like on a middle school campus under the best of circumstances. The kids are in search of identity, can come dressed in any number of role-playing costumes that change from day to day, and the teachers who are called to spend their days with these kids are just as unique as the age group they tackle. What is our advice for these misunderstood and underestimated teachers in these schools? Has the very nature of the age group highlighted the additional challenges that these school face? What can we say to our brothers and sisters who face these closures to ensure that they not abandon teaching tweens forever? As we know, it takes a special teacher to teach middle school. Is society appreciating the challenge, or are they misunderstanding the everyday hectic pace that is middle school? Any thoughts, fellow middle school teachers? -Heather WG
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