Why Middle School is So Important

So, this is my 30th year in public education. 30 years. It seems like just yesterday I was walking into my first faculty meeting as a brand new teacher. Now, I am the one running the meetings. I cannot believe how my career has unfolded. There have been many things I have learned along the way. I have discovered so much about myself and those that I serve.

Over these 30 years, I have had the pleasure of teaching all three levels, elementary, middle and high school. I have worked with eight different principals and countless other administrators and teachers. Thousands of students in so many different environments. I have loved everyone of them for different reasons, but I learned from each of them as well.

After three years teaching at a local high school, I determined that I was truly a middle school person. I love that age group. of the 30  years I have been in education, 25 of them have been at the middle school level. Not that I didn’t enjoy my time in an elementary school and high school, it’s just that middle school seemed to fit me. Over the years, I have learned why middle school is so important and why I love showing up every day for my middle school kids.

Middle school kids are a different breed. They are not elementary students any more, yet they are not quite high school kids yet. They are constantly in flux. Acting like 9 year olds one minute and 22 year olds the next. It is a very confusing time, for them and for those who teach them. But I also think they are still at a point where we as educators can still have an impact on their future. Elementary kids cannot understand some of the things we are trying to teach them, and high schooler’s are sometimes not that interested in what we have to teach them. But middle school students can understand and also haven’t totally shut you out yet. It is a good age to make a difference for these kids. Now, I am not saying that educators can’t influence other age groups, just that I am most comfortable working with middle school kids.

One of the other things I love about middle school is the ability to provide opportunities for these kids to find out who they are. I truly believe that the middle school years are a great chance for kids to explore things the are interested in, interests that might lead to passions and careers. When my own kids were growing up, my wife and I constantly reinforced with them that money should not be the biggest factor in choosing a career path. Rather, what fuels your passion, what gets you excited everyday  is what matters. Standardized testing aside, middle school is the perfect time to experience a wide variety of activities and find what your passion is.

Don’t get me wrong. Each level is critically important in the development and growth of a child. I just know where my niche is. Tell me, where is your niche and why is it important to you?

Keep working hard, get better every day, and never forget what is important to you.

 

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About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. President of the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals.
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