Reflections on student ages

In class this week with Andrea we were asked to do a 3, 2, 1 where we identified our three favorite teaching moments, two biggest struggles, and one theory of learning science that we experienced this year. As a class, our theories were fairly similar and we all got to ooh and aah at each other’s favorite teaching moments but what really revealed our deepest thoughts in teaching, in my opinion, was when we discussed our struggles. We all had very diverse struggles and I imagine diverse struggles will continue to be a part of our careers … forever, probably. My struggle that I chose to identify was bringing content to students at the right level; more specifically, not going to far beyond what they need to know even if it’s super cool and I love talking about it.

I found this to be a smaller issue in my high school placement because chemistry is, by nature, intricate and full of nuances. However, where this struggle really took center stage was in my middle school placement. Because I was stretching myself, and teaching content that I hadn’t learned since I was 14 or 15 years old, I found myself spending a lot of time on Wikipedia and other Google search results to broaden my understanding of a topic so that I could talk about it in class. At first this sounded like a really good approach, so that I could answer any question and provide background if needed, but in reality it just ended up leading me to make my lessons and assignments more complicated than they needed to be. This ended up leading to a few very messy lessons and split-second lesson changes in the 4 minutes of passing time between my first and second classes. It was a good test of my flexibility and perseverance but definitely misrepresented my lesson planning abilities because I was stretching my students and myself too thin.

Switching from high school to middle school was hard; a lot harder than I thought it would be. Compounded into that transition is the fact that I went from co-planning everything to leading a room much more independently and the fact that some of my new students were as many as SIX years younger than my prior students. Turns out, this age difference creates an entirely different dynamic between teacher and student which I, once again, wasn’t expecting.

I don’t want to start going into sweeping generalizations of each age group because every kid is different from each other and there are probably middle schoolers with high schoolers’ personalities, and high schoolers with middle schoolers’ personalities. However, as groups of students, high schoolers and middle schoolers require very different things, which I’m sure change between years and between classes. This constant ebb and flow of student personalities and student needs are part of what make teaching fun, and definitely are a part of why I believe I will always enjoy teaching and adapting to new groups of students. However, some of the stark differences that I did notice between the two age groups did create a more stressful and intense experience than I was expecting. I think if I could do it over again I would do better, but I guess that’s really the whole point of student teaching, right?

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