Teaching Middle School: Week 2


The entrance to my school, Rossville Middle School, Rossville, GA, USA

Yes, I managed to complete Week 2 as a middle school teacher. It was a week of swirling emotions.

And not just for the kids!

Monday was a rough day. My students felt compelled to challenge me. Some were downright surly.

And one elicited some fire from me.

I’d hoped to be much calmer than I was during my 23 years as a high school teacher.

After all, I’ve been through a lot since then. A breast cancer journey. Two failed business attempts. A great deal of work on myself, recognizing my habits of resentment and judgment, trying to let go of those parts of my personality.

But on Monday, my fire returned.

A sarcastic, critical, disrespectful comment rankled my ire. But this time, unlike years ago, I didn’t scald the offender – though I did make it clear that I would not tolerate those kinds of comments. And I had a calm talk with the offender at the end of class, explaining my reaction.

And guess what? He was very, very polite the next time he came to class. As was the rest of the class.

So maybe some fire is warranted now and then.

I was especially exhausted after Monday’s classes. I wondered if this was the job for me long term.

And then I did something I’ve struggled for years to learn to do.

I let it go.

I didn’t dwell on the day and its energies and emotions. I relaxed for the evening and went to bed early.

And Tuesday was a new day. A day that went very well. A day in which my students responded beautifully.

I chalked up a good day, enjoyed the evening, and let go of that day, too.

Because I’m realizing that each day has its energies.

I’m allowing each day to have its energies.

This middle school teaching job is a way for me to measure my progress, to see if the work I’ve done on myself is bearing fruit. To see if I can let go of each day when it’s over. And to see if I can greet each new day with a positive attitude.

This past week was one of swirling emotions and energies, of ups and downs, of challenges and rewards.

And yes, by Friday I was especially grateful that this is a three-day holiday weekend. Because I don’t have much stamina yet.

Spending a lot of time on my feet on concrete floors in a building with pale cinderblock walls and harsh fluorescent lighting takes its toll. Maybe I’ll get used to this environment. Maybe I won’t. I’ve found that as I age, I’m more and more sensitive to my surroundings. My guess is that the kids are sensitive to these surroundings, too.

Engaging and directing middle schoolers requires a great deal of energy from me. And I’m not sure if I’ll completely get used to that energy expenditure. Will I have to continue to be as careful as I’ve been the last couple of weeks to honor and protect my down time and sleep schedule?

Time will tell.

I do know that I have to let each day drift downstream into the past as I complete it.

Even these lovely weekend days.

Tuesday I’ll be back to getting up before dawn (perhaps my most hated part of an everyday job) and trying to engage middle schoolers in meaningful ways, to bring a world to them, one they may not even realize exists.

But today, this Sunday, I’ll have a lazy evening when I don’t have to get to bed quite so early. And I’ll have a Monday with no middle schoolers – but instead I’ll have the company of  a couple of hooligan four month old kittens (kittens that act a lot like middle schoolers).

And I’ll have several leisurely cups of coffee as well as time for writing in my journal.

And I’ll be grateful for it all.

Even the early alarm of Tuesday and an unpredictable day back at school.

A day in which I’ll try to be present to it all, swirling energies and emotions, both inside and outside.

And a day that I’ll let go downstream into the past when it’s over.

So yes, I am making progress!


Some downstream at Little River Canyon, Fort Payne, AL several years ago




4 thoughts on “Teaching Middle School: Week 2

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