I teach ninth grade. That's what I tell people. I let them assume what that means. Based on their own education I let them determine where they think I teach. Why? I actually hate telling people I work at a junior high. I know that sounds quite odd seeing how I do in fact teach at a junior high. But I hate it because there is no question that what the reaction will be. Each and every time I tell someone I teach at a junior high it is followed by a negative response. Sometimes that negative response is towards me like, "Oh you aren't cool enough to teach at a high school?" or a negative response towards the kids, "Oh that is such an awful age. How do you do it? I think all junior high teachers are going straight to heaven."
Either way. I am not fond of either reaction. I feel like a lesser teacher for it.
Each year I give a heart to heart to my students about why I teach ninth grade. It is their favorite heart to heart of the year but really I don't tell it for them... I tell it for me. Repeating it 7 times is my way to try and convince myself and remind myself why I teach 9th grade.
The heart to heart goes like this: I tell the story of a student I had my first experience teaching where I had the hardest student you could possibly imagine. At 18 years old she still couldn't read, she had already been to jail numerous times for drugs, violence, and grand theft auto. Her life was a wreck. But through time and a lot of work I was able to somehow get through to her (my own Freedom Writers if you will...) Long story short, one day when I had a sub the sub tried to get her to do her work, she punch the sub in the face, being on parole she went back to jail.... and one year later when she got out, she hunted down her mom, shot her in the face, and will be in the mental health hospital the rest of her life.
Back to 9th grade. I honestly believe it's the year when kids to decide the rest of their life. Kinda dramatic I know. But I honestly believe it.
But I'll tell you what. It's hard. And sometimes it's really comforting when I am reminded how hard it really is. We have a veteran teacher that transferred to my junior high this year from a local high school. She's taught juniors for 22 years. You can imagine the confidence in which she walked into our school the first day of school. I listen to her every day at lunch talk about how she had no idea how ____________ (hard, dumb, crappy, annoying, stinky, needy, whiny) ninth graders are.
Now I know this might sound terrible but listening to her gives me so much comfort. When my cute student teacher got a job teaching seniors and came back and talked about how easier it is in comparison to my situation, it makes me feel good. Why?
Because it reminds me that what I am doing is not easy. It reminds me that it is freaking tough. It reminds me that I shouldn't be ashamed to say I teach junior high. I'm not a lesser teacher. It's not that I'm not cool or hip enough to teach high school. It's harder. Which means I am tougher. And every once in a while it's nice to remember that.
This post was inspired by a blogger I love to refer to as Miss Susy Sunshine who just had her first week teaching at middle school and her post last night was titled, "sometimes i want to quit at life."