Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My existential crisis

I am trying to decide if I should remain a fifth grade teacher next year or switch back to middle school. Short version: I really do like 5th grade, but I wonder if I gave up on middle school too soon. I was a MS language teacher my very first year of teaching--and I was eaten alive, namely due to my lack of classroom management. (Okay, it wasn't THAT bad, not compared to other first-year teachers I've seen since then, but it was definitely a challenge.) Now that I have some teaching experience under my belt, I wonder if maybe now I'd love middle school--the way my student-teaching supervisor said I would; she said I was "born" to be a middle school teacher--or if maybe I'm an elementary teacher, after all.

Because I've been at this school for a while now, my principal is letting me have my choice. She will either look for a 5th grade teaacher or a MS language arts teacher, depending on what I decide to do. However, I have to decide quickly. (FYI: I wouldn't JUST teach language arts, though. I would also be doing reading classes, as well.)

I am completely torn. This post is mostly to give myself the chance to "think out loud," but please tell me if anything jumps out at you.

Staying in 5th grade--PROS
*I have proven myself and have had much success in this grade. Perhaps I shouldn't rock the boat.
*The longer you stay in a grade, the better you get (obviously). I know the curriculum and subject matter.
*It's nice to have the same kids all day; you get to develop true relationships with them. Especially for my spinster ass, they ARE "my kids."
*The 5th grade team is a cohesive, strong team. We all work well together.
*I only have one "prep" (ie, lesson plans to prepare), since we all share. I do the language arts plans, and that's all.
*Fifth graders are more intimidated by you, they listen to you and they don't have middle school attitudes (at least not until the end of the year).
*I've worked really hard the last couple of years to establish myself. I am in a VERY good position with the higher-ups right now. What if I switch and I'm not "super teacher" anymore? If I move to MS and fail or even struggle, that could hurt me in the long run.

Staying in 5th grade--CONS
*I'm getting antsy. Yes, I've only been in 5th for 2 years, but just as I know the content area well, there's only so many times you can teach the same stuff before you get a little bored. There's a reason I switched jobs every 2 years prior to becoming a teacher. I don't know if it's my Crazy or not, but I NEED to change things up every so often. Do I see myself as a career classroom teacher? Absolutely? So I see myself as a career 5TH GRADE teacher? No. No matter what, I'll be hopping from grade to grade every few years. It doesn't reflect badly on you as a teacher; in fact, it showcases your skills. A teacher is stronger and more indispensable when you can put them in a variety of grades.
*I teach EVERYTHING, including math and science (I'm a decent math teacher but it's not my passion, and I absolutely hate teaching science).
*They're more immature, and you have a limit to what you can do with them. With projects, you only get to skim the surface and introduce the subject matter. You can't delve too deeply into it with 10-year-olds.

Moving to middle school--PROS
*First and foremost, I'd be teaching reading and language arts. That's MY area. That's my passion. That's what I love and that's what I love TEACHING. And as they say, when you love what you teach, that excitement and enthusiasm shines through--and, in a perfect world, rubs off on the students. Can I teach science effectively? Sure. Do I "glow" when I talk about it? LOL--hellz no!
*I could show that I'm flexible, adaptable and able to teach more than one grade level. Rather than hurting me (ie, if I fail), it could help me and make me that much more invaluable to administration.
*Rather than teaching 6 different subjects every day, I'd be able to teach the same thing 6 different times a day. Although this can be monotonous (see below), it also lets me hone and perfect that lesson. I can learn from it and change it as the day goes along. My best teaching as a MS teacher often came at the end of the day.
*With middle schoolers, you can assign more involved projects and assignments. You can "take it to the next level" with the. You can get into those conversations and debates that happen once-upon-a-time in fifth grade. Along those same lines, rather than teaching the basics of writing, I can really get into the ART of writing. I don't have to focus on how to write a paragraph or a full essay; I can concentrate on the content, on what's going to go INTO that essay--the vivid language and imagery and shit. (LOLOL--yes, I just said "the vivid langage and imagery AND SHIT. I almost went back and deleted it but decided that it was perfect how it was.)
*They'd have a stable teacher in that position--and by that I mean one who is going to stay the entire year and even return the nex year. Plus, the kids will know that they can't try to play "scare off the new teacher." I've been a part of the school too long.
*I'm already tight with the middle school team. They're my FRIENDS. I'm so dedicated, I already "meet" with them 2 or 3 times a week. After school. ON MY OWN TIME. I know; like I said, I'm dedicated. ;) But really, we'd all work together well.

Moving to middle school--CONS
*Three words: Middle. School. Attitude.
*I need to say that one again, because it's a pretty big one. MIDDLE. SCHOOL. ATTITUDE.
*I could, as I said, fail. I could move and hate it and be miserable and, even worse, see my performance evaluations suffer.
*Seriously, what if I hate it? Middle school is a notoriously tough age group. SHOULD I take the chance of leaving something I like for something I don't? But...what if I LOVE it?

**Note: either way, I'm not going to be the fifth grade team lead next year. Liz, the only one of us who hasn't held that position yet, approached me today and said she'd like to give it a shot. I told her that I would have put in for it if no one else did, but if she wanted it, I thought that as fair. Plus, it could only help to make our team better--more balanced. So don't let that whole thing (ie, "walking away from a leadership position") influence your decision.

So....lots to think about. What do we think? I really DO want to try MS again...but WHAT IF I HATE IT? It's kind of like breaking up with an amazing guy because you think something better MIGHT BE out there.


Fred said...

Tough decision for sure. In fifth grade, they still seem to be a little more "innocent" than the middle school students, who are experimenting with all sorts of stuff.

I have no patience for either one. It's pretty easy in high school - I can just bark at them and not have to worry about their feelings. (How's that for a caring teacher?)

Renee said...

LOL Fred :-)

Jen, it sounds to me like you REALLY want to try MS again but the one thing holding you back is fear of failing. Don't let that get a hold on you!

You're a fantastic teacher, you now know how to have effective classroom management and know that you have to be a bitch at the beginning of the year so they know they can't mess with you. You've done SO MUCH extra stuff this year that will help you in any role you take. And guess what? If you hate it, I'm sure there will be other challenges available the following year. Hating it is one thing; failing is another, and I just don't see that happening. Especially since you would be teaching reading and LA. And it really, really sounds like you want to do it. If you take it, I know you will not fail.

lotusblossom said...

Jen I think you sould go for it! Like Renee said you WILL do great, I have total faith in that. And like you said you will want a change again in a few years, so its not like you are going to be stuck forever. LOL at the middle school attitude (we are currently under seige at my house, his eyes roll so much that I'm sure they are going to get loose and fall out.