This year was my first year teaching, period. But it was also my first year teaching seventh grade, which I was not trained to do, nor did I anticipate liking. Junior high was a mess for me. I didn’t do terribly well, and I had almost no friends, and I’ve honestly blocked it out of my memory. I can’t remember my teacher’s names or anything that I did. I took the job in spite of this class — because I liked the school that much. And in fact, I ended up loving teaching my seventh graders. They are so sweet and awesome! But still, not knowing what I was doing with this age level, I had to improvise how I acted with them.
Oh Thursday last week, while I was at my college reunion, I had them write comments for me (flipping things around… in my school, teachers write narrative comments on each of their students twice a year… I thought I’d give them a chance to reverse that). The feedback was very positive overall (huzzah!).
A quick and dirty analysis of things that srtuck me below [things in quotation marks are direct quotations]:
- A common refrain was “your teaching style is great, but different.” A few said that something to the effect that “it took me a while to get used to you and your teaching style [but then I loved it]” I actually am surprised by this, because I didn’t think I taught differently than any other middle school teachers! I wonder what makes me different.
- A couple of the students thought I could “explain subjects a little more” and that one student “didn’t understand what you were explaining in class till the day before the test.” Yikes! But to mitigate, many others said the class was at the right level for them.
- A number commented on how they loved how I ended each class wishing them a “Marvelous Monday, Wonderful Wednesday, Terrific Thursday, or Fabulous Friday” and a few wished me a “Super Summer.” (And one wished me a “Stupendous Summer.”) Interestingly, I didn’t know they really paid attention to this quirk of mine, that I picked up from my dad when I was younger, but it stuck with them!
- Many students (even the ones who got really good grades) found the course pretty challenging and fast paced. And this actually made me happy, because that was explicitly the goal. In seventh grade, I’ve noticed, they can pick things up really quickly! When their minds are this moldable, it’s great to get a lot in there. We did some extraordinarily hard stuff (find the volume of an equilateral tetrahedron knowing only the side length) which messed with their minds. And the best part is: they got the hard stuff. Not barely got it or grasped onto it, but they *got* it.
- In concert with the last point, the students seem pretty conscious that I hold them to a high standard: “I also learned that you had very high expectations of us that were achievable but we were not of expecting them.”
- Almost universally, the students commented on my “enthusiastic attitude” and energy level. Which I think translates into one student saying that I’ve taught her to “have so much more confidence in my math because you know I could do it and I did.”
- A few said that the other teacher held review sessions, and I should have done that, instead of sending my kids to her sessions, because she taught things slightly differently. I buy that. And a few wanted more personal one-on-one help. The difficulty with that is that I teach in the upper school, so it’s hard to have a solid presence in the middle school. But to deal with that, I always sat in the lunchroom on Wednesdays to answer questions. And I always met with students when they emailed me for help. The students who commented that I didn’t provide personal help never asked for it! They never came to my lunch table on Wednesdays either. Maybe it’s my fault, and that in the middle school, I should be the one asking them if they need help? But maybe not.