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Ed-Tech Talks

Classroom Chronicles

Middle School Madness Continues

Image: Shirley Jones Luke

My four years as a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher were full of highs and lows — a lot of lows. While I had some great students, many of who went on to exam schools, I also had students who seemed to be in an after-school program with the Devil.

For every student who had great attendance, completed all their assignments, and was respectful in class, there were at least five or more students who created havoc on a daily basis. From minor issues like talking during instruction to major issues like disrespecting me in class, I had many students who thrived on chaos instead of knowledge.

And these students weren’t “dumb kids.” I would never consider any student of mine “dumb or stupid.” These were bright students who were more than capable of doing the work. The problem was that many of the students had been traumatized by factors in and outside of school. And unfortunately, helping these students navigate through their traumas was a challenge in and of itself.

And I didn’t know how — at least not on the middle school level. I was a fish out of the water at the middle school. It was a different environment from my high school experience. I had been a high school teacher for so long, I knew how to reach and teach the students. Plus, my former high school was more concerned about keeping students out of the halls rather than what they were learning in classrooms. I had free reign. No such luck at the middle school.

I learned that middle school was different during my second year there. I was moved from the specialty wing to a classroom around the corner. The former occupant of that classroom was going upstairs to teach. My new classroom wasn’t as spacious as my former room, but it was away from all the noise of the specialty wing. I would make it happen.

Administrators left me alone for most of my first year. Unless there was a problem (and there were many), I didn’t have admins in my room. I had a City Year co-teacher who was wonderful and had made friends with a couple of the specialty teachers. I had a support system that helped me get through the first year. Thank Heaven for small favors.

Everything changed in my new classroom. I went from being under the radar to being on everyone’s radar. My new batch of 6th graders was s mixed bag of high achievers, average students, and struggling students. Fortunately, my first year as a middle school teacher had taught me a lot. I felt more prepared in my second year to teach 6th graders.

In addition, administrators were popping in more often to view my instruction and observe the students. Fortunately, I had a system along with a curriculum. We were reading “Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief.” A lot of the students were immediately enthralled with the book. Some students went on to read the entire series.

In my next piece, I’ll talk more about my Percy Jackson journey, student behavior, and administrative foolishness.

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Shirley Jones Luke

Shirley Jones Luke

Shirley is a poet and writer. Ms. Luke enjoys reading, fashion and travel. She is working on a manuscript of her poems and an essay collection.