Middle school

Middle school is an interesting age.  Not quite child anymore, but not completely adolescent either.  It is a transition state.  Many teachers stay away from this age, but I don’t mind it so much, depending on the class.  They can range of course from not-a-problem to watch-your-back depending usually on the area.  It is my belief that the family income has a lot to do with it, though really only because it leads to parental involvement.  With low income families, kids are often left to their own devices much of the time when not in school, and I think we can all, by experience 😀 , attest to the fact that young pre/adolescents don’t always make the best choices in life, especially when they are starting to listen to their peers more and the parents become even less active in their kids’ lives, meaning if they were already less active then that almost leaves it at, “Hello son/daughter” and little else.  I am not saying this to blame these parents, as they are often just trying to make ends meet with sometimes two or three jobs and are often the sole parental figure doing it.  I am merely trying to explain why sometimes students are very hard to handle.

Another group of kids that tend to be a problem are ELL kids. Often, but not always, low income is an issue here as well, but another factor causes these students to be a problem.  That factor being that the school system they come from is far more disciplined and strict than our own.  When they come here then, they see school as something to blow off.  Detention has no effect as they just see it as a break instead of a punishment.  Some see getting in trouble as an opportunity to see the teacher get steamed because our options are limited compared to back where they came from.  They learn, in other words, to play our system knowing serious consequences (as they would see it) can’t happen because then the teacher would be in trouble for improperly discipline.  Typically I just warn these students, maybe move them, but other than that just leave a note to let the regular teacher deal with the problem.  There is actually a school where I no longer accept ELL jobs.

Anyway, I just bring this up because for the last two days I was at middle schools.  Thursday was my unexciting science day I already wrote about, and yesterday I did language arts/life skills at another school.  Apparently they were short a sub at that school because they gave me an extra class one period and I know they were doing that throughout the day for that one teacher- every class period had a different sub.  I actually worked with all three grades as a result.  This teacher’s (the main one I subbed for) normal schedule had language arts with 7th grade and life skills (cooking, sewing, ironing, washing clothes…) was with 6th grade.  My added class was with 8th grade.  It was certainly more interesting than the day before.

Well this post is getting really long so I think I will just wrap it up now.  I will probably post tomorrow about drama this week at church and how my teaching goes in the morning- I will be teaching about Saul.  The king, not the pharisee turned Apostle.

Not so bad after all / Quiz show

When one thinks of 8th grade, it is often associated with hormonally-challenged, impossible to control young adolescents, and indeed I have found this to be the case in several classrooms.  Add learning, or especially behavioral disabilities to the mix and… well, I’ll leave it to the imagination.  There is one school where I just refused to take any more positions last year for the older kids (7th and 8th in fact, this year just 8th so far at that school).  The school district I was in today I consider to be the best of the local districts I work in.  Besides the money spent on education from a funds-not-so-challenged village, the kids tend to be far better behaved than in other districts.  I would place the reasons at better family life.  In many areas there are low-income families which causes family struggles due to not enough money and parents who are always working and have no time for their kids and so pretty much leave the raising of the kids to the schools.  This town really doesn’t have any low-income families (it costs too much to live here!).  Of course there are other factors influencing family life and behavior, but this I think is number one.  In any event, these 8th graders were not so bad to deal with at all.  Well, the fact that I always had an assistant helped more than a little as well.  As with other special ed teacher situations in a middle school, I had many of the same students all day.  I taught two language arts classes (4-6 students in each!) and watched over two tutorial (study hall) periods.  Additionally I had two science “co-teaching” classes.  Like one time last week, one of these “co-teach” classes had two subs!  Fortunately the main teacher left the other sub clear plans.

Interestingly enough, the regular teachers for myself and the other teacher I mentioned were actually in the building, just in meetings all day.  Something that it somewhat common with special education actually.  The teachers have many meetings throughout the year, so it is only logical that some of those meetings would be in the school rather than an administration building.

One of the neat things to see was one of the science classes created electric quiz machines- the type where you use a wire to complete a circuit with a correct answer (multiple choice or true/false) and light up a bulb.  The quality and size of these quiz games greatly varied, and some were even quite creative.  One student took a shortcut and used an Operation game as a starting point, but most did theirs from scratch.  Some used one wire (true/false and multiple guess) and some used two (matching).  One boy used a motor instead of a light bulb that would shoot up a spinning helicopter-disc.  They were very interesting to try out.  Actually, the class didn’t get to try them out as other classes apparently did due to poor treatment of a substitute teacher yesterday.  Yes, I got to watch the aftermath of a bad substitute report.  Apparently they lost out on playing a review game yesterday as well as not getting to try each other’s quiz games.  Hey, just because it’s a good town doesn’t mean the kids are always good.  I guess maybe I just lucked out today, but what I said about this district generally holds true.