5 Reasons I Loved Teaching Middle School


This past summer was a whirlwind tour for me and someday I may share a bit about the amazing experiences I had traveling by myself across the country (including three nights stranded in airports, a fourth of July parade in a small town outside of Boston, following my beloved Texas Rangers to Saint Louis, New York, and Baltimore, a ride to the airport from Shelly Terrell, and an amazing time in some of this country’s finest cities). But now is not the time for this.

Now is the time to address the biggest change in my educational life. After 11 years of fighting in the trenches, I have finally moved on to the major leagues. I moved on from my previous job where I taught middle school for 9 years into a high school on the south side of San Antonio. My years at the middle school level were necessary for me to get to the place that I am in my teaching. But with that being said, teaching high school is extraordinarily different. Next time I will write more about my observations about high school teaching, but today I am in a nostalgic mood. So I present to you 5 reasons I loved teaching middle school.

1. Middle school kids are hilarious

The fact that people go from not having a clue how to respond to sarcasm in 6th grade to being able to present formidable sarcasm barrages by the time they finish 8th grade is priceless. Not that I would ever employ sarcasm in addressing students, of course. Not me…never. Okay, maybe once or twice…

2. Middle school kids need direction

Love them or hate them, you must admit that middle school kids are some of the most awkward creatures on the planet. I have no clue how anyone gets out of 8th grade alive, but somehow most of us manage to do so and live to tell about it. Having respectable, responsible, passionate adults in their lives makes that wild transition so much easier.

3. Middle school kids generally enter band with little, if any, musical training

They don’t know how boring practicing can be. They don’t know what misbehaviors they might be able to get away with. They don’t know anything except what we teach them. If you teach them well, they will go on to high school and become absolutely phenomenal musicians.

4. Middle school kids are difficult

If you can make it through the first few years teaching middle school, you can do anything. Classroom management is by far the biggest weakness of most new teachers and starting out at middle school forces you to confront this weakness. High school students generally will let things slide because they have learned about working together for the common good. Middle school students? Middle school kids smell blood and don’t relent. If you are weak, they will humiliate you to no end. But once you find that sweet spot, oh man. It is thrillng.

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5. Middle school kids are forgetful

From an educational standpoint, this fact is terribly annoying. But from the standpoint of you learning the basics of the instruments (and it could easily be applied to pre-algebra, grammar, life science, etc.), having to repeat the same instructions day in and day out to the same students forces you to remember them. I started my career having never played a saxophone and I had only spent a few weeks as a flute player. I was the “woodwind expert” in my district because I had a couple of semesters of clarinet experience. I walked out of my 11th year teaching absolutely confident that I could teach the fundamentals of sound production on any band, orchestra, or mariachi instrument.

So what about you? What are your favorite things about teaching middle school?

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

1 Comment on 5 Reasons I Loved Teaching Middle School

  1. I'm so glad you're back! This blog helped keep me from losing my mind and yes, even quitting, back in the fall when I was feeling like I couldn't cut it as a teacher and the best thing for me to do was leave before I made things worse for my students. It's my first year teaching and OH BOY, has it been a challenge. I'm teaching seventh grade and you're right about them smelling blood and not relenting. I started off the year not knowing what I was doing (still working on it), not knowing how to handle any of many disruptive or "testing" behaviours (stil working on that too), and not knowing how to be the firm adult these students needed (definitely still working on that!) so of course my students saw weakness and it was one humiliating day after another. I would read posts from this blog every morning and talk to other teachers on other forums to give me the motivation and strength I needed to get myself into the classroom and survive the day.

    I'm still feeling very shaky as a teacher, my students still don't really like me or trust me as a teacher/adult quite yet but things are better now and I have some control over my class now. If asked if I want to continue to teach middle school, my answer is a resounding yes.

    I love how Middle School kids are old enough to understand concepts, ideas, social justice, etc. but still young enough to maintain some childish delight. My students ask awesome questions about history and can relate things learned in Geography and Science to real life. They're also still young enough to come up to tell me that they saw a word I taught in a video game or on a bulletin board somewhere, and still young enough that they get excited when they get something. They are overwhelming rude, argumentative to a point where I want to rip my hair out, and have no qualms letting me know how little they think of my teaching and me as a teacher, but there's still something satisfying about teaching them, like those moments when they tell me my lesson is boring but then go show another teacher what I was teaching them and how proud they are of it.

    Hopefully next year I'll be a much firmer teacher who knows what she's doing and I'll enjoy teaching middle school more, because when it's great, it's fantastic.

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