I made it.
What a journey it was! I can say with surety that I love what I do. I look forward to going to work everyday. I now know the magnitude of creating a learning environment from scratch and watching students grow, develop, and learn over the course of a year. To witness this transformation from day 1 to day 180 is quite remarkable.
I honestly feel like I broke some type of secret code by learning to relate to junior high kids. They were a total mystery to me at first. I would say that you have to have just the right amount of sarcasm mixed with discipline and expectations. This little mix can help students open up and be themselves. A huge mistake I made in the beginning was not opening up to my students. I made an effort to basically keep every detail about my life away from my students. I wanted to just focus on them. Wrong. I don't think they thought I was a real person at first. After I loosened up and started using stories from my own life for writing samples, students started responding by their willingess to write about their own personal experiences. We used this pattern for the whole school year. It is my winning recipe for helping students combat writer's block.
Discipline at the middle school level is also an interesting thing. I learned that you have to be firm, fair, and consistent. If you assign detention for gum in 1 class, you have to do that in all classes. Word will get around if you do not follow through with your rules. I also learned that you have to be prepared for blow outs. Junior high kids have emotions and tempers that fluctuate like no other. One day I'm writing a detention for using the "f" word in class and the next day they are lined up my desk asking me if they are my favorite student. Right. You learn to just roll with the punches in those situations.
Perhaps the biggest epiphany of the year was that I confirmed my dream to become a school administrator. You may think it is odd, but I thave wanted to be a principal for many years. Completing my first full year of teaching reaffirmed this decision.
And now I am sitting in my empty classroom wondering where the year went. It is another bittersweet moment in my life.
Love what you do.