Middle School and Ms. Ronau

During my first period of my first day in middle school, there were seven brand new faces staring at brand new trapper keepers and neon mechanical pencils, fussing with their brand new Chucks, foot over foot over nervous little foot, wavering their empty stares on their brand new teacher to brand new trapper keeper to brand new teacher. That's all they did. They just stared. I cracked jokes to ease the tension and they giggled politely. I gave them talk time at the end of the period, which they used to continue staring. When I asked them to complete a "Getting to Know You" assignment, the class was silently working like I've never seen any set of kids in my care ever do.

While I'm still trying to process this intense transition from elementary insanity to big kids who know how to write words (like why are these kids different? Is it a cultural difference, socioeconomic difference, is it because they get to see the sun 333 days a year?), I say, with an awareness of a honeymoon phase, that I am in love with where I am. For so many reasons. In so many ways.

I get 48 minutes of planning per day. I have 7 kids on my caseload. I don't have more than 10 kids in my class at once and they leave after 48 minutes. My students can write their name. They are only two grade levels behind. They know how to read a lot of things. They aren't hungry or tired or emotionally bankrupt. They write words like "important" and "problem" without asking how to spell it. They don't have to wear a uniform, so they look like "kids," not disheveled Target workers with milk stains on their khakis. And anything I put in front of them, they do it, they don't refuse, they don't question me or rip up their work, they don't hide under their desk and throw crayons at the ceiling. When they get chatty, I ask them to stop and they apologize and stop. When they are making weird eyes at each other, I just look at them and they stop. When they're doodling on their notebook, I just walk over and stand by them and they stop. All of the things I've learned about teaching work here. Except for my 8th grade boys.

My last period of the day is ELA with 4 8th grade boys. They've all been friends for a while, play soccer together after school and are not interested in anything but soccer. Including me. 
That's not to say that they aren't respectful. They're a ton of fun and have already invited me to their soccer games and abide by my rules, besides constantly talking the whole time (still struggling with this being a "real" problem). But in some ways I feel like they've already given up. They've already learned everything they're capable of learning. Which translates into them just wanting to come into my room and "hang out" and ask me about my "different last name." It's a new challenge to be presented with very respectable, likable students that are completely unmotivated for other reasons besides their basics needs not being met.  And I can't wait to figure them out.

I've been warned about a particular student. At this point, that's just part of my job as a sped teacher. They say he's the worst. And my head is like, "Wow, I just get one this year?" Ah, perception. 

There will be challenges like any year with any teacher, but I'm pretty sure I'm meant to be a middle school teacher. Especially in a district that gives us a week off in October and February as those are the very two months that always make me question why I'm still doing this.

And now, sound bytes from Room 203.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to play soccer in Barcelona.
I want to be a doctor, ship builder and pilot.
I want to create new technology.
I want to be a computer programmer and baseball pitcher.
I want to be a firefighter (female student!)
I want to be a paleontologist.

Me: "I grew up in Michigan."
Student: "Like Detroit, Michigan? Do you know Eminem?"

Me: "Write down two facts about you and one lie."
Student: "I like pizza, I like soccer, I broke my grandmother's hand."

Me: "Now what do you want to know about me?"
Student: "Do you know what "swag" means? Because I use that word a lot."

To be continued......