30 (blogs) for (turning) 30: Day 2: 7th Graders Are a Mystery

Posted: April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

I never intended to teach 7th grade. Going into my education, I had in my mind to go after high school. My goal was to teach students like the ones I went to school with (and kind of was, I suppose): the internally motivated, high intelligent, hard-workers. I went to school almost exclusively with kids like that, especially once I got to high school, so I barely knew anything but that sort of educational experience. Deep down, I am pretty sure I knew that not everyone was like this–some kids were hard workers, some just weren’t–but I never really experienced it first hand.

So when I started teaching 7th grade three years ago, I was shocked by how unruly they were almost across the board. My shock, I’ll have to admit, was probably due mostly to my having never gone through the 7th grade, at least not in the traditional sense. I was homeschooled for 6th and 7th grade, so I didn’t really go through middle school other than 8th grade, and by then the separation was already starting to take place between myself, others like me and the less-motivated. Going in, it seems, I was already several paces behind.

Education has changed, this I can tell you, in just the short time since I got out of public education as a student. In June it will have been 12 years since my high school graduation from Princess Anne High in Virginia Beach, VA, and as I said, I spent most of those four years surrounded by people who fought hard to be excellent at all they did, both in education and in other areas of life. Not all of my classmates were great at everything, but we all put in the work, so it is incredible to me that students literally will not do school work or homework just because they don’t want to. That was never an option for me or anyone I went to school with, and honestly when I started teaching I was surprised to hear that flat out ignoring assignments was even something that people would consider.

Sitting here and staring my next decade in the face, I am starting to realize how very far away I am from middle school. I haven’t been my students’ ages for almost 20 years (how’s that for a number!), and even though part of me still feels like we’re relatively close in age, the number is really much further away than the reality. Many of my students still adhere to expectations, some even go so far as to exceed them, but the sad fact of the matter is that these students are the exception rather than the rule. Yes, this makes me feel older than I am, because I feel so detached from the reality of my chosen profession; but I have to believe there’s hope for society, otherwise I don’t think there would be any reason to be doing what I’m doing.

 

God bless,

Robert

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