Switching Over to Teach Middle School?

You’ve stumbled upon this post because you’re a teacher moving to middle school. Congratulations! 

I have taught them all, elementary, middle, and high school. By far, middle school is my favorite. Whether middle school is a grade level increase or decrease for you, I’m here to tell you to get ready for the time of your life!

I have been teaching for twelve years now, and the past five have been in middle school. People look at me strangely when I tell them I absolutely love teaching middle school! I’ve had other teacher friends remark at how apathetic this age is or how immature they can be. While that may be true at times, middle schoolers are amazing.

The Beginning 

I started my career as an elementary teacher in a third and fourth-grade combination classroom. I absolutely loved this grade level and imagined I would spend forever there. After teaching for seven years at the elementary level, I decided to switch gears and take on another challenge: teaching high school English. My initial desire in college was secondary English. I had finally settled on elementary education for a variety of reasons in college, but my heart’s desire was to always try this grade level out eventually and to be a high school English teacher. 

When I was in college, I had visions of Romeo and Juliet posters, and amazing and deep discussions on Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Maya Angelou. I envisioned book club-type classes and poetry readings. 

Want to read more about this, click on over…

It was sort of like that. I loved the content I taught. However, after a year, I quickly saw I was not prepared for the behavior some high schoolers demonstrate. After all, I had just spent almost a decade in the elementary world and the high school age, although I had some amazing students, was not exactly what I was made for. 

That next year, a middle school English position opened up in my building and the stars aligned. I fell in love with that age. The only caveat was I had to keep teaching two high school classes, but my other four classes were middle grades. Yay!

Perks of Being a Middle School Teacher

As a former elementary and high school teacher, middle school was the perfect marriage of the two. I was able to have those deep discussions on Dickinson, Poe, and Angelou, but the innocence of an elementary student was still present. I loved how deeply they could think, but they still loved school…for the most part. They weren’t jaded. They still delighted in following the rules AND could write deep paragraphs on symbolism. Sure, some days were filled with silliness and sarcasm, but the next day they could get it together and be mature and profound. 

Middle schoolers love to tell you about their birthday parties and at the same time can get very serious about a story they are writing. Speaking of stories, they love to write them. From superhero fictional ones to ugly sweater persuasive essays, they get excited about writing prompts.

They are little adults and big kids all at once. I love how they are in transition. They are changing and growing and trying to figure out who they are and connecting with various books helps them do just that. 

Sure there are some apathetic moments, but overall, middle schoolers still aim to please. There’s always the occasional student, no matter what grade level, but for the most part, if they’re late on an assignment, they really try to turn it in as soon as they can. They are polite and hold onto that semblance of attempting to be mature and trying to be a little adult, so they take things seriously. I’ve said it more than once, but a lot of my middle schoolers were more mature than the high schoolers I taught. 

If you’re switching from elementary school, the behavior management skills you’ve learned will carry over quite effectively. I attended a workshop in which the guest speaker was a middle school principal of over fifteen years. She stated that her teachers that were originally from elementary have the most well-behaved classes. I have seen that to be true. For the most part, I use the same strategies and tone to discipline my students when I taught fourth grade. It has carried over well. 

In addition, I have taken a couple of my units and lessons from elementary and used in middle school. Below is one I have successfully used in middle school. My mom uses it with her upper elementary students the first couple weeks in the library too.

If you’re switching from high school, your higher standards and more rigorous content will greatly benefit you. You will be surprised at how many middle schoolers are enthusiastic. Plus the majority of the class still enjoys school and learning. They’ll rise to your high standards and will impress and surprise you with their abilities. I have taken a couple of my units and lessons from high school and used in middle school. I simply shifted a couple of things and it worked out well.

Conclusion

Before I made the switch to elementary education, I had a brief thought of merging the two and choosing middle school English. However, the advice of so many of my teacher friends discouraged me. I wish I had not let them deter me, but I ended up where I belong in the end. My teacher friends said only the crazy teach middle school. I guess I am among the crazy!

This meme describes middle school teachers well. 

For Part 2, come back next week to learn some tips to help you navigate the middle grades. 

Author of Blog