So, I’ve been thinking about teaching 12th graders and 5th graders. And, my #CLMOOC colleague @WenTale challenged me to write a twisted pair blog post. I thought these two grades that I have been thinking about would fit the bill.
5th graders and 12th graders are a my twisted pair. Maybe not very twisted since they are both groups of students, but that’s my story.
A little history first. I have taught a lot of different grade levels (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th and assorted, ungraded informal courses that included, in addition, 7th, 10th, 11th. That covers everything from 3rd-12th grades). At my current school, I taught 5th grade in a self-contained classroom for seven years. I loved it. After seven years, I was ready for a change; I moved to an administrative position (Director of Educational Technology) in the high school. A year later teaching a section in the English department got added to my list of duties. I started with one section of ninth grade English, taught that for two years and now teach one section of senior English.
I noticed right away that my section of seniors had a very different vibe than my ninth graders. The ninth graders were new to high school, trying to find their way around the building, generally getting their sea legs. I enjoyed helping them find their way, while saying, “don’t forget to check the website for homework” for the one millionth time. The ninth graders settled in and got the hang of things. We developed a classroom community; we read Shakespeare. I felt good about what we accomplished.
When I walked in to my senior class, I could tell right away that the feel of the class was different. What I couldn’t tell immediately was why it felt so familiar. Now I think the reason it felt so familiar is because it felt like fifth grade, in a good way. One of the things about fifth grade, at least in my school, is that they are the last grade in the lower school. They are the oldest group in the division. So, while they may begin the year a little nervous to meet their new teacher, they are confident. They’ve been doing lower school for a while now; they know the dance, even if they don’t always do all the steps. The buildings and hallways are familiar, and they feel important and powerful. Even without me describing that too you, you would be able to come in to the classroom and feel that you are in a group of generally self-assured colleagues. You, our visitor, would be able to feel this from week 2.
The same has been true of my senior class, and I believe, for similar reasons. Seniors are also the oldest/last grade in the division. Again, they know the dance, may not follow the steps, but are confident in what being in upper school (high school) looks like. I know this scene; these are my people.