Home > Choices > Which kids to teach?

Which kids to teach?

There are some big questions in my job search, like where to live and what kind of school to teach in.  There’s a third question, maybe not quite as big, but still important: what age group do I want to teach?  I’m certified to teach Pre-K through 6th grade, and for anyone who’s never met a child, that’s a really big age range.  Most of my experience has been with younger children – preschoolers, kindergarteners and first graders – and I like them a lot.  They’re sweet, enthusiastic, and they haven’t given up on themselves or school yet.  Plus, you can actually watch new ideas click into place in their heads – it’s clearly written all over their faces.  With this age group I think my greatest strength will be in giving them a strong foundation for the rest of school.  That means great academic skills, sure, but it also means cultivating an interest in learning, a comfort in school, and a sense of self-worth that can withstand a few mediocre teachers.

Recently I’ve been teaching a series of lessons in a local 6th grade language arts classroom.  I really like most of the kids.  They’re all attitude in the hallway, but one-on-one they often act like the sweet, vulnerable little kids they still are.  It’s a lot harder to teach them though.  For some of the kids I’m working with, being in sixth grade means they’ve spent at least six years having adults tell them they’re stupid.  Most of them haven’t given up – yet – but a few have.  I think there’s a chance that in a full year with these students I might be able to pull them back and fix some of the damage that’s been done to them, but I’m not sure.  And I’m torn between the knowledge that these kids need a teacher to reach out to them and the conviction that better teaching early on would mean fewer damaged kids leaving elementary school.

For now, at least, I’ll probably stick to the younger grades.  I’ll teach them to read and write, but also to think, and I’ll do my best to give them the skills (both academic and emotional) that they’ll need to make it through the rest of school.

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