Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Middle School Teachers: American Ninja Warriors of the Profession

I have a new course I'm teaching this year: Planning, Instruction, and Assessment in Middle Schools. I'm so excited for this one! I was a middle school teacher myself for 14 years before becoming a teacher of teachers, and I care deeply about making school a developmentally appropriate experience for young adolescents.

Teaching in the middle grades isn't for everyone.

If you ask people to reflect on their school experiences and think about which grade levels they would most like to go back and relive, I suspect very, very few would say, "Oooo! Send me back to middle school! Those were the best years of my life!"

I think there are many--too many--middle school teachers who land there not by design, but by default. Maybe they really wanted to teach those senior government and economics courses, but couldn't find a job doing that, and so they settled for teaching middle school social studies. Or maybe they found the school or district they really wanted, but there weren't any elementary positions available, so they settled for teaching middle school language arts for a few years until that 4th grade position opens up.

What a tragedy!

I believe teaching is a high calling. No one should "settle" for a position. Kids deserve to have passionate teachers who want to teach them, and are well prepared to teach them!

The thing is, middle school is a huge time of transition. (Which is probably why most folks wouldn't choose to head back into those years.) Kids are developing physically, and cognitively, and socially, and emotionally, and morally, and spiritually...all at the same time...but unevenly. Physically development might not match cognitive development, or vice-versa. Cognitive development might far outstrip emotional development. Social development might be lagging far behind physical development. There is more diversity amongst the students in these grade levels than at any other point in their school career!

And we're going to have teachers who are "settling" for teaching these kids?

Not. Cool.

Which is why I'm so grateful to be teaching this new course; yesterday I met up with twelve future teachers who said, "I'm up for this challenge! I want to teach middle schoolers. I want to be ready for it!"

I told them that they are the "American Ninja Warriors" of the teaching profession. They are looking forward to wading into situations that most people are simply unequipped to handle. So there is training and preparation that needs to happen, of course.

But they already have the mindset.

These are going to be some great teachers. I'm privileged to have the opportunity to work with them.

Future Middle School Teachers = American Ninja Warriors of the teaching profession.


  1. Love this! :) Junior High is NOT for the faint hearted.... Have FUN!

  2. Middle School is the best! Good luck to the future middle school teachers!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment! It should be a fun semester... :-)

  3. Being part of a transition period has some big upside; you are likely to see some movement, some progress, some learning. Teachers who are reflective and who teach their students to reflect will get to enjoy growth together in ways and to degrees that are less common in high school for example. Results can be very motivating for all involved, and with so much change in middle school, it's hard to imagine that an attentive teacher couldn't find some progress in one of the many growth areas for every single student. "Dynamic" is the word that always leaps to mind for middle school. Blessings to you and all the "ninjas" as you pursue your high callings.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend...and for the encouragement too! Blessings to you in your new school year too!