I used to be the fun teacher. The one that had the crazy ideas, the noisy classroom, the one where kids couldn’t wait to see what they would do next. I wasn’t the only one, by any means. Being a 5th grade teacher meant there was a lot of laughing. A lot of crazy moments that kept us coming back and moving forward. A fun teacher, yeah, that used to be me.
Now it seems I am the hard teacher. The one with the crazy expectations, the one that makes you sit and write or read. The one that keeps telling you to try again, to give me more, to explain further, to revise, to edit, to think harder. The one that talks too much, asks for too much. It seems somewhere in my transition from 5th to 7th I forgot what teaching needs to also be about; joy. Not just learning or expectations. Not just growth and gains. But smiles, laughter, crazy moments. It seems so long ago that I used to think I was a good teacher.
So I can blame the system. The 45 minute time constraint certainly creates pressure. The standards. The whole idea of building a literacy foundation so that kids can succeed everywhere else. The pressure of knowing that every moment counts and that when you decide to do something that perhaps doesn’t tie in completely with the learning, you need to make up for it elsewhere. Or I can blame myself. 7th grade has apparently turned me quite serious. Like every minute matters more somehow than it did in 5th. That because they are 2 years older, my mission of reaching them, reaching them is so more urgent. That because I still feel like an outsider at times, that I try to be everything for everyone. And I just can’t keep it up.
So tonight, I don’t have answers or any bright ideas of how to make English Language Arts in 7th grade more joyful. More about the community, the experience, and not just about the learning. Because this age group deserves joy. Deserves the very best teachers they can have. Deserves so much than what I feel like I am. In the past, when I felt like I wasn’t a good teacher, I changed. I wonder how I will change this time? I wonder what lies ahead…