How I'm Surviving 6th Grade :)

I've gone through more changes, in the last few months, than I probably have in my entire life.

That being said, I think one of the seemingly smallest (yet, actually biggest) changes I made was switching from 5th to 6th. In the same switch, I moved across the state, and into a large school district. I came from a small charter school, so this is a whole new world.

Some days, I feel like I am 100% drowning, and not coming up for air any time soon… while other times I feel like I might survive… or maybe even a itsy bitsy tiny level above surviving.

If you are a teacher, young or old, experienced or new, or just plain looking for someone else who gets just how hard it is…. I hope this post is just what you need….

1. I have had to pick what I 100% believe in and not back down.

I will not compromise on my students having time to read, allowing them to choose what they read, and  an all around focus on building a reading community. This hasn't been easy these first few months, when TONS of stuff continues to be thrown at me, but the payoff has been huge.

The 6th grade student's survey responses went a lot like this,

"I like how our teacher lets us pick what we read."
"She lets us sit where we want."
"She just gives us time to read."
"I actually like reading now."

And at conferences….

"They have never read on their own before."
"We used to have to force him to read."
"I can't believe how much she is reading now."

Stick with what you believe (research based of course) and the results will speak for themselves.

2. TeachersPayTeachers

I have always been a huge advocate of TeachersPayTeachers… obviously, but it is literally how I am surviving. I have had TONS of curriculum and resources thrown at me. I think some is well-meaning and some is just a quick-fix. But I want ENGAGING and fun… and I want results….

These are my people for surviving middle grades:

Lovin' Lit… Yeah, just buy all her interactive notebooks ever.

Appleslices…. Kelly Anne has literally done all the work for you in her Writing Units. I can not speak enough about how her Writing Units may be one of the best things on TeachersPayTeachers. If you need writing units, then there is literally nothing else out there except her units.

The Science Penguin… BUY it all. If she had stock in her TPT store I would buy it. She has a ton of stuff. It took me awhile to figure out what I needed in my classroom and what works best, but once you do, there is no going back. I use a solid mix of her PowerPoints, her Stations Units, her Task Cards (for assessment), and her Hands-On Science Vocabulary.

On Instagram and Blogs, I also highly recommend: Elementary Shenanigans @elementaryshenanigans (everything she does is so engaging and inspiring), Literacy for Big Kids @literacyforbigkids, Runde's Room @jenrunde, Lessons with Laughter @lessonswithlaughter, Hello Literacy @hellojenjones, A Rocky Top Teacher @arockytopteacher @archer_all_stars, and @teachersunny. They are all great at being positive, keeping things in perspective, and reminding me what is important about teaching.

3. It's a bad day, not a bad life. 

I have had some REALLY difficult days, but I remember seeing this quote years back, and it always puts things in perspective. It's just one day… I will survive.

4. Sixth graders are, like, really smart.

I WOULD not have survived these last three/four weeks without my sixth graders. I am at a S.T.E.M. school, that I am pretty sure has more technology than Google and Microsoft combined.

I have had to give surveys, assessments, get into computer systems, get to technology sites, toggle between iPads and projectors, create sites, start a Robotics unit, take attendance, take lunch counts, toggle between tablets and computers, open the carts (ummm harder than the actual usage of the iPads and laptops in them), and shut everything down each night.

My sixth graders are amazing. They have done it all. They help me and they help each other. They kindly show me how to do it all. They help me shut it all down and lock it all up each night, because there is just so much.

This has taught me a few things.

One. If you are a teacher, and you need help, ask your students. They are so smart.

Two. Middle schoolers are so much kinder than we give them credit for. They are so knowledgeable about things I will probably never know about. I am forever grateful for being given these kids. Even the ones, that already act like "middle schoolers" :).

Three. They are only 11 and 12, yet we expect so much of them. I hope they know, they have gone above and beyond what I ever thought I would have to ask of them.

5. I always learn the most from the most difficult situations.

Again, this year hasn't been easy, but I have never left a difficult situation in my life, and been like, "Man, I didn't learn anything from that." I have learned SO much already this year.

I have been in a pretty constant state of disequilibrium since school started. I think I finally have my feet under me, and then the rug gets ripped out from under them at least twice a week. I am usually visually frustrated (something I need to work on ha!) but once I go home (and rant at my poor husband) I usually get to a point where I am like, "Okay, I can do this." It is SO HARD sometimes, but if I am being 100% honest, I have grown every single time.

6. "If we're comfortable, we're not learning."

When I was in high school, my English teacher had a (what I would describe as a completely crazy) poet come to our class. She made me…. well… uncomfortable. The whole class actually. But then she said this.

I will admit, I was very comfortable at my old school. I was still in a good place, and challenged by my colleagues and myself…. but again, I am constantly struggling to find "comfort" at my new school. It's not there yet, but I am learning like learning is going out of style. And I just keep repeating this quote (in the crazy poet lady's voice) to myself and taking it day by day.

Survival of the Fittest in middle school my friends. YOU can do it. God speed.


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