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edu180atl: hartley jeffries 12.12.2012

When I meet someone new and he or she asks me what I do for a living, my response is always easy, automatic, and true: I am a teacher.  Probe a little more, and my new friend might ask what subject I teach and what grade levels I work with.  Upon discovering that I teach Spanish to middle school students, my acquaintance will nearly always reply to me with one of two very predictable responses: “Oh God, WHY?!”, or “God bless you, you must be a saint”.

It is so amazing to me that my career choice consistently elicits this kind of response from people outside the teaching profession. It reminds me how few people really know, really “get”, today’s middle school student.  Though it may seem presumptuous of me to assume that anyone who loathes the idea of working with preteens doesn’t really know them, to me it’s clear that most just haven’t spent enough time—or maybe just the right kind of time—with this age group.  It makes me sad, actually.  Because anyone who has spent even an hour getting to know what makes a middle schooler tick, trying to really see them for who they are, would discover that these passionate, inspiring, malleable little grownups-in-the-making have the power to melt even the coldest heart.

About the author:  Needless to say, I love my job.  I call myself a teacher, but the reality is that I am a student in the classroom of an army of middle school-aged teachers, and I’m loving every lesson.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. “these passionate, inspiring, malleable little grownups-in-the-making have the power to melt even the coldest heart.” Beautifully said. Thanks for putting your heart into what you do. It shows.

    December 12, 2012
  2. Hart,

    I love this post. Your sentiment is in such stark contrast to a recent episode on This American Life about middle schoolers. The TAL piece has been troubling me, but I have not yet written about it. Thanks to you, I now have a better entry into the post I am forming in my own mind. For too long, our narrative about middle schoolers has been shallow – mean and jaded really. We have let stereotypes dominate the story. Your piece sheds the more accurate light in a space we have let stay “dark” too long. Middle schoolers are amazing – at such a crossroads of intriguing discovery about who they are and who they want to be. I’m so glad that you shared this more bight-spot-oriented tale.

    Merry Christmas to you. I hope your words affect the “middle school Scrooges” of the world.

    December 13, 2012
  3. Nunca mejor dicho… Middle School aged children are powerful creatures. They are waking up to life on all levels of their being: physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. Some people are threatened by this upsurge of raw and precious energy. It does take empathy, joy, passion and patience to lead this group. Not everyone is equipped with these attributes. Yet, as you say, if you spend time with them, you realize that they are wonderful expressions of life getting ready to change the world in great and unimaginable ways. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher.

    December 13, 2012
  4. professeurb2 #

    I couldn’t agree more! Well written, Hartley!

    December 13, 2012
  5. Thad Persons #

    Hartley–You remind me once again that I teach (and learn with) STUDENTS not subjects. Thanks for all you do every day for our school…and beyond.
    Thad

    December 13, 2012

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