This year, my district is heading back on August 26 (with students). We are starting virtually for at least 9 weeks. I would love nothing more than to welcome my students into my classroom and see their beautiful faces, but I know that going virtual is going to be the smartest we can be for the time being. We will be offering some in-person tutoring (on a sign up basis) after Labor Day which will be exciting and allow us to still connect with our families and students face to face.
I was all prepared this year to jump back in and support my English Learners to the best of my ability in a virtual environment because it's tough to be an ELL online. Even if you have the best, most dedicated teachers ever, you still have to be really self motivated and that can be so tough for students who are also grappling with learning English.
Well, this morning, I got an email and subsequently made a phone call...and I will be teaching middle school language arts this year! It is bittersweet. I LOVE my ELs and I have always supported English Learners. However, teaching middle school ELA is like a dream come true. I've always wanted to transition to the middle school level. Last year was, in retrospect, a perfect buffer year for me because I still had my foot in elementary school (which is what I know so well) but I got to get my other foot wet with middle school.
Some people think I'm insane, and they aren't wrong, but I L-O-V-E middles. They are sassy and can be mean and meaner, but they are also so much fun. They will tell you how it is one minute and the next draw you a picture and say you are the best ever. (I filled in for a sick colleague once and I still have the dragon picture one of her students drew me after she had finished her work.) I just think they are fun. Plus, I haven't forgotten what it is like to be an angsty 11-13 year old (despite the fact that my calendar just rolled me into my 42nd year). I can be sassy and fun and silly too. And most of the time, the kids dig it. (To be fair, sometimes they just think I'm insane and they laugh because they don't know what else to do.)
It is, in some respects, sad because I won't be working with my EL team as closely this year and that's a bummer because they are amazing. It also means I have to go pack up my elementary classroom (I spent two days sorting out and cleaning everything out of that room in June and now I have to go remove all of my own stuff).
BUT...I won't have to travel between schools anymore. I will get to teach my absolute favorite subject. I won't have to teach math or science or social studies (none of which were ever really that enjoyable for me). I will have my own HUGE classroom at the middle school all to myself. Did I mention I will get to teach my favorite thing??
Plus, it was so sweet today when I got the call and made a couple other calls after it was made official...the ELA coach totally vouched for me to be put into this position and said I would be amazing at it and that they should just do it. That made me feel so good after only being there a year; they have the confidence in me to know I can and will do the best I can for these kiddos.
Another really nice thing is, we are moving into a new curriculum this year so all of the English teachers in our middle school will be in the same boat. All of us will have a mix of 6th-8th grade because our students will be grouped by level. It will make the so-called playing field so much better for our students; they won't have to worry about being left behind because they are reading at a lower level than the rest of their classmates. My coach even said my experience as an elementary teacher is really going to serve me well with this new curriculum because it is so similar to what I've probably done when I taught elementary. (I was not part of the elementary schedule for the reading program because it's a dedicated block and you can't pull kids out of it for tutoring or EL support or anything like that.) I did observe this block a few times and really the only difference I saw was that because the students are leveled, you don't have to do small groups -- the class is the group. So that will be the only weird thing but otherwise they do partner reading and choral reading and all kinds of other things I have always done as an elementary teacher. Now I'll just be doing it with bigger students (and hopefully with texts that are more interesting for middle grades).
I'm excited. I think this year is going to be incredible, despite the uncertainty with Covid-19 and being in a new situation. We are all going to be in a new situation and having an amazing team to walk that journey with me is going to be fantastic.
It will be fun to document this year and see how my impressions of middle school vs elementary really are now that I'll have middles full time.