By: Martha Snider
In 29-years, I have yet to poke a student with a sharp stick. However, I have done everything else in the Dan Rather quote. This past week, a former student presented at my school's staff meeting. In the age of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Dr. Marlon Gayle quickly reminded me of why I love teaching middle school. While you in the midst of tugging, pushing, leading, believing against all odds that your student will make it, many a day, you shake your head and quietly say: "I just don't know."
Dr. Gayle and I met in a middle school classroom. He was 13-years old. He was as challenging in 1989 as any middle schooler today. Yet, he had tons of potential if only it could be pointed in a positive direction. After middle school, I did not see Marlon for about a decade although I read about him in the paper on the blotter page. Then, one day, he showed up at my doorstep far from the classroom and school where I taught asking if he could mow my lawn. Why was he mowing lawns? He was putting himself through college. A few more years passed. Then, I saw my former student at the school district office checking out a teacher laptop. Shortly thereafter, I was working at the same school with my former student. And now, today, he is a professor at San Francisco State University and operating a consulting business to help teachers learn what he taught me years ago. Believe in your students. Tug, push, pull, and lead them to follow their dreams. Today I can Google "Dr. Marlon Gayle"
I was honored to introduce my former student Dr. Marlon Gayle this past week. I said then; and, I way now: Marlon is not the exception to the rule. He is the rule.
Dr. Gayle tells his story best. I hope you will take a moment and learn more about one of the thousands of reasons I love teaching middle school.
Is year 29 as exciting as year one? You bet it is! In year one I was a substitute teacher who just happened to land a long term gig in a 7th grade middle school classroom. I fell in love. Of the first 28 years, I have spent 20 in middle school; and, 19 of these joy-filled years has been in the 8th grade teaching U.S. History. While the technology has changed, I find middle schoolers are still "caught in the middle." This means it's never dull. If you don't like what's happening, just wait....It will change. Likewise, if you like what's happening, just wait....It will change. The goal remains to help each student not be "stuck in the middle."
From day one this year, my students and I periodically recite: "Sing more, dance more, play more, laugh more. Be joyous. Be joyful. Forget about the small stuff. AND, it's all small stuff.
At back to school night this past week, I shared Dean Shareski's "Ted Talk" on JOY. I don't know about you, but I certainly want my students to want to grow up happy and loving a life filled with the JOY of learning.