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The Middle Road Now Taken

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I am in the middle. I’m in between schools. I am no longer a high school English teacher at Arundel High. I am not yet a middle school Science and Social Studies teacher, but I will be this fall. I’m changing positions – instead of being a three-period-a-day teacher, I’ll co-teach one class and serve as Special Education Department Chair at Southern Middle School in Lothian, Maryland. So I’ll be in the middle of the administration and the faculty, the parents and the students.

It’s the middle of summer, and I’m in the middle of my month of travel. I’ve been to West Virginia, now I’m heading to St. Louis, then it will be a road trip south with my daughter to the Carolinas and Georgia. All fun trips. The only work is the reading I’m bringing along for the car ride.

I’ve just celebrated a family event – my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. I’m the third of four children; basically a middle child. I enjoyed being right in the middle of my family – brother, two sisters, and their spouses and children. It was a blessing to celebrate my parents’ lives by honoring their love.

I’m in the middle between elderly parents and young adult children. I worry about my parents’ financial wellbeing and their health. I worry about my children’s college education bills and whether or not they are taking care of themselves. I want to make sure all four of them, parents and children, are happy and fulfilled. I want them to know I love them, I’m proud of them, and I’m motivated by them.

I’m in the middle of my life (or so I like to think). I’m 48 years old, an older “new” teacher. I just finished my third year of teaching special education at a High School. I am a career-changer. For more on that experience, check the archives of my previous blog “Ready or Not”. I’ve been in the middle between older experienced teachers and young new teachers. I don’t quite fit either group.

Now I’m taking on a new challenge at the middle school. I’m so excited about this change. I’ve been reading about middle school students, and school reform efforts, and even the history of the middle school movement. I myself went to a new middle school in Montgomery County Maryland in 1968. It was a bold experiment in open classrooms, experiential learning with lots of interdisciplinary projects, and cool young teachers who believed they could reach students. For me, it was a very successful experiment, with good results. It did not work for all students, though. I know schools have changed a lot since 1968, but I also know our schools still don’t work for all students.

In this blog I’ll be writing about what I’m learning, and what I’m doing, as I move into middle school. For the next month it’s all about getting ready. I’m on a self-directed learning project to become informed of current research. I’m reading pedagogical essays and teacher memoirs and ethnographic studies of middle schools. I am studying pacing curriculum guides and lesson plans. Most importantly, I’m talking to as many people as possible. I have a lot to learn.

So join me “in the middle” and help me get ready. Tell me what I need to know.

3 Comments

Hanne,

Welcome and enjoy your new adventures!

One of the best ways to educate yourself is to read the blogs of teachers and educational technologists. Issues, like "student voice", authentic assessment and project based learning are frequently discussed and there are many practical suggestions for implementing curriculum and embedding technology.

David Warlick, Will Richardson, Clay Burell, Carolyn Foote and so many others will stimulate and challenge you. Be sure to subscribe to their RSS feeds and get ready to engage in some enlightening conversations.

Good Luck Hanne. I've written to you before and commented on your blogs. I am also a mid life career changer, though I look at this really as a third career. First I trained to be a speech therapist but ended up in advertising, was a "stay at home mom" for 15 years, my longest career, and now a special ed teacher. I had 3 long term sub positions my first year...a high school in the city, a middle school in the burbs, and then a middle school charter in the inner city. All so different and demanding in their own way. I have my own job now...a very inner city Charter school serving kids that want to go to college, and usually are the least likely. I'm the special ed teacher. Isn't all teaching and education special? Some high schoolers act like middle schoolers, and some middle schoolers like high schoolers. You will see the similarities and differences. I have bonded in one way or another with all of them, but the middle school students are tough and pushed farther and harder than the high school students ever tried. You need to know that, though you seem like a strong lady. I still think that my strength that I bring to the job that others may not (a common interview question) is that I've been a mom of a special ed kid. Not a dumb kid, a kid with special needs, actually two of them, but only one ever got services. It gives me a unique perspective. Good luck Hanne. If you want to chat, feel free to email me!

Dear Hanne,

One thing I learned about middle school students is that they are still children, but they want to be treated as an adult. Middle schoolers are caught between peer pressure and individual child like thinking and actions. Whenever you need to correct their behavior, please do not do it in front of their peers. They will be easily embarrassed and will use their immaturity to retaliate against authority to get their point across. Do not take their negative comments personal. Bring respect and get respect. They will love you for it. African-American and Latino males are pressured to show bravado, loud talking and swagger in their step. It is a rite of passage not misbehavior.

Hope this helps you.

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