Friday, August 11, 2006

The "Worst" Age to Teach

After a few year hiatus devoted to convincing the American school system that yes, I was capable of doing what I was already doing in Japan, I'm heading back to middle school teaching!

The title refers to the fact that almost every time I tell people about my choice of profession and grade level, they say something like, "I'm sorry for you." WTF is that?!

It sounds cynical, but I think people like the young kids because they are better at just doing what they are told. High School kids are often treated more like college students and when they fail, people just blame the kids. But young adolescents are tough because they are in an "in-between" phase. They question adults, but they aren't yet comfortable with adult responsibility.

It's a critical time, and a challenging time. What would you rather teach than that?

I'm going to be teaching Social Studies to 7th graders at Goodlow Magnet Elementary in Englewood, Chicago. I'm really excited! I'm even looking forward to the "decorating my classroom" and all the little mundane tasks that I normally find irritating.

Of course, the real moment I can't wait for is to meet my new students.

So in the meantime, I have a favor to ask of all of you:

I've actually never been a middle school student in the U.S., and while I feel prepared, I would love to hear some of the insight you gained from your middle school experiences. Last night, Liz and I had a close friend over for dinner, and she said she really didn't like her 6-8 experience except for watching short clips on current events at the beginning of social studies class.

So I'm curious--what did you like about your middle school experience. If you could have changed something or if you could go back and give yourself and your teachers some advice, what would you tell them?


Blogger Matthew said...

Congratulations, Xian! This is great news. :-)

3:08 AM  
Blogger Gar said...

Congrats, mang. Sounds exciting!

As for my own middle experience, it was a bit weird since it was for grades 7-9. The whole age was pretty awkward, and I remember being angry alot, but part of that was dealing with the loss of my father just 2 years prior, and the other part was the growing conscious that I was different than most of my white and financially well-off classmates in suburbia.

It's funny you're becoming a social studies teachers, because my best teachers in middle school were all social studies teachers. There was Miss Wong in 7th grade (young, cute, & first Asian teacher I had ever), Mr. Papritz (classic hippie who hung a poster of the "tank man from Tiananman Square" with sentence written underneath: ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE), and Mr. Anderson (old, Irish, Catholic, who was unashamedly sarcastic yet caring about us students).

9:11 AM  
Blogger xian said...

Thanks for the support Matt and thanks for sharing your experience, Gar!

Sometimes I wonder if it's those strife periods like your middle school years that help people develop into great people in the long run.

I hope I can be one of those teachers who students remember as someone who helped them grow during a critical period.

How's your teaching career going? What grade kids are you working with this Fall?

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the thing about middle school kids is if you take one kid out of the group, you will have one of the brightest, generous, most intelligent people on the planet.

add another one, and you very well might have a great team.

you have three middle schoolers and all that goes to hell. something happens that can't be explained by group dynamics alone. i'd use the term "evil", but then i'd sound like a certain president...

6:36 PM  

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