A pre-service teacher’s epiphany: Thoughts on teaching middle school

I am a pre-service teacher, and to become a teacher in my state, you must complete so many field hours per semester. This semester, I was placed in an 8th grade middle school classroom. To be honest, I was not happy about my placement at all. I always thought I would never want to teach middle school, and would want to teach high school students.

However, you cannot pick your field placements, so I went to my placement for 4 hours every week. I remember dreading my first day. I knew I would have to teach a minimum of two mini lessons (10–15 minutes in length) in this room as part of my education course requirement, and did not know how I would be able to teach them. I had taken a course on the young adolescent, and had all the knowledge I needed to teach them. I am a second semester junior who had taught lessons before, but never to middle school students.

I always heard horror stories about teaching middle school. I guess that was one of the main reasons I was fearful. You hear how terrible they behave, how they don’t want to learn or participate, and about all the drama that happens in middle schools every day. I’m sure every one of us remembers our middle school years, and remembers that they were a tough time.

I was placed with an awesome host teacher, who let me observe not only his classes, but also other history teachers. I no longer dreaded going to my placement, that is, until the date that I had to teach a lesson by drew nearer and nearer. My host teacher asked me to teach a lesson on the supreme court case of Marbury v Madison. The main take-away needed to be that Marbury v Madison established judicial review. As I started looking up information on the case to put together my lesson, I found that I had a bit of a hard time trying to figure out exactly what went on in this case. How was I supposed to teach this to middle school students? I spent hours upon hours, trying to come up with a plan. I eventually came up with a lesson plan.

Now the question was, how would the lesson go? I was very nervous. Would they understand it? Would they listen to me? Would they pay attention at all? The lesson took about half an hour, so not quite a whole class period, and it went pretty well. I had some hurdles and things I needed to improve upon, which I expected, because I am still learning.

When the time came for me to teach my second lesson, I was less nervous. I was asked to teach about Nixon and the Watergate scandal. I put a lot of work into this lesson as well. I assigned homework to the students that would be collected the day I taught. The purpose was to give them background (and incorporate literacy, a requirement for my lessons since I am taking a content area literacy course). I showed them pictures of newspaper headlines from the time period, videos of Nixon, and I asked them tons of questions. The lesson was really well. I was able to improve upon the things that were wrong with my prior lesson, the students knew me better, and they participated and were genuinely interested in the lesson.

It was during this lesson that I reached an epiphany. Teaching middle school was not bad. In fact, it was really cool. Middle school students ask questions and have a different attitude towards learning than high school students do. They are also able to do more than we give them credit for. I would pose questions, and multiple students would raise their hands, giving their takes on what they thought. They did a wonderful job with analyzing photos and videos. I also had a blast teaching them.

Next spring, I will be student teaching. I was recently asked if I had a preference of where I wanted to teach, middle or high school. I always thought, if given the choice, I would choose high school in a heartbeat. However, I said I had no preference. After teaching middle school, I don’t understand how people could despise it. It is a different experience than teaching high school, but its not as bad as they say. Is it more work? Yes. Things need to be simplified more, and you need to be more engaging or they will get bored. Is it different than teaching high school? Absolutely. Is that a bad thing? Not at all.

As my last day of field observation in this classroom approaches this week, I am sad that I have to leave. Next semester, I will observe in the classroom that I will student teach in come next spring. I don’t know where I will be yet, but I cannot wait to see where it will be, and I don’t care whether it is middle school or high school. If you are a pre-service teacher, or even a certified teacher, and are hesitant about teaching middle school, I highly suggest you give it a chance. It’s hard to believe I once never wanted to teach middle school. I am so glad I got to teach middle school in my field placement this semester, and I have learned so much. It makes me look forward to my future career that much more.

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