I was excited to begin the first day of school as I hadn’t been to a classroom in 6 years prior to the GK-12 fellowship. As I would be teaching 8th grade students, I was under the impression that their maturity levels would be fairly high and they would be capable of some mature conversation. This notion was grossly incorrect and entirely a product of not being around children of this age in quite some time. I quickly found that 13 year old children are just growing into their bodies and their minds and while the spectrum of physical and mental growth is quite wide, all still cling onto the privileges to which they have grown accustomed as children. These include constant fidgeting, talking over others, and horseplay. Although this initially seemed daunting, I was refreshed to observe the other side of this coin – that these children have still retained some innocence that lends itself to malleability. At this stage, the children have not yet become disillusioned with the world; they do not question authority, they willingly ask and answer questions in class, and will often become quiet with merely a look in their direction. Despite their hyperactivity, teaching these children will definitely be enjoyable due to their child-like innocence. It is a task of great responsibility, as we seek to carry over their innocence into well-informed maturity as they enter high school.
The school district with which I am partnered attempts to partition the classes into levels of performance so as to achieve maximal development through customized lesson plans. This leads to each class having very distinct personalities and styles of learning. For example, the “high performance” students are often quiet and focused on being “correct”, while the “rowdy” class seems to internalize better through borderline chaotic discussions. When something new is presented in front of certain classes, there is almost no interactivity but instead a need to simply finish what is put in front of them. Others, however, are more interested in organic discussion while sacrificing time planned for other activities. After 5 classes, it appears that the “high performance” students, while apt at one facet of scientific thinking – background knowledge – are lacking in other crucial aspects such as critical argument and model development. The “rowdy” class, on the other hand, is far more outwardly curious and through their chaotic inquiry are able to quickly develop and argue for or against scientific models broached in class.
Although it is still early, it seems that by modifying my style of interaction with each class, I can be equally relatable and effective. For example, I need to constantly remind students in the “rowdy” class of proper behavior and etiquette to keep them on task while I use a hands-off approach towards the “high performance” students. I am interested to see how these early reflections change as the year progresses.