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sandycheeks sandycheeks is offline
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sandycheeks
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First time working with 6th graders. Help?
Old 01-20-2012, 07:45 AM
 
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I am a college student doing my fieldwork this semester in a 6th grade class. The past two semesters have worked through Pre-K- 3rd grade. I loved kindergarten. But, my real intentions are to be an art teacher (k-12). So I never really considered 6th grade, but it's the highest grade level in my certification and now I have to do it. And I am prettttty nervous about it. I feel like they will know I am not a teacher and won't respect me or see me as such. I remember, 10 years ago, being in 6th grade and it was a touch weird time. I've worked with the age group for my job and from my experiences I find my self nervous about it.
I did well with lessons and with my experiences with the younger ones, passed my courses with straight A's, and done very well on my supervised lessons also... But there's just something daunting to me about working with the older ones.

How is 6th grade? Does any body have experience in this grade level and age group? Any advice or words of wisdom? Any tips concerning management?


-Thanks!


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GdHrtdTchr GdHrtdTchr is offline
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6th Grade
Old 01-20-2012, 12:55 PM
 
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First, I don't know how much I can help you because in some ways I'm in a similar boat. However, since I don't see any other replies, I'll try to at least respond.

I am an experienced teacher, but I was teaching mostly 1st-3rd for the last 20 years and now I'm dealing with 1st-8th -- mostly 6th-8th. This has been an adjustment for me. Middle school is a tough age and I'm in a struggling district and my students come from some of the worst environments, so it's been challenging. But right now I'm finding the 6th graders much easier than the 7th/8th.

I suggest checking out the middle school boards here on PT. There's a wealth of expert knowledge there. I don't think they will 'know you're not a teacher and show you less respect for that' but I think earning respect from that age is critical and work. They won't disrespect you just because you're young or still a student teacher, but nor will they respect you simply because you're a teacher. (Children should definitely does not equal children do nowadays.) I think it's an art of balancing a 'commanding presence' in the classroom while still being friendly, but not 'a friend.' I think this will be especially important because you are not THAT much older than them. Be friendly, but not 'their buddy.' I have a good sense of humor and that has helped me with my 6th graders, but if I started out 'trying to be funny' they would be walking all over me by now. We are finally at a point where we can have some fun and then still pull it back together. (It took months.)

Things I've learned:

Image matters A LOT to them. They 'put stuff out there' but it's still important that we try to respond privately and not embarrass them in front of their peers. (That sounds obvious, but sometimes it can be really difficult because some can be very loud/commanding with their own actions/words.) I try to connect with each (as much as possible) on their own terms. Quiet/private side bars make a big difference.

Make it clear that you recognize that they are not 'little kids' (even though they may act more immature than some of the third graders you've dealt with.) If they understand that you see them as 'older' they're more likely to act their age and stop trying to prove they are older in inappropriate ways.

Peers are very important. Sometimes that peer pressure can work to a teacher's advantage. I have success with both team and whole-class rewards and incentives. (And, those incentives MAY be different because as we already verified, they're not little kids -- They may be similar, but I let them think they're different.)

Good luck!!! I've decided that this challenge could be good for me in the long run. MS teachers may be much more 'marketable' than K-5 at some point.
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6th grade
Old 01-21-2012, 02:42 PM
 
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Hi Sandycheeks!

I had two student teaching placements during my credential program (I just finished last month), and the first was in 6th grade. It was a self-contained class at the elementary level - in my state, 6th grade can be elementary or middle school, depending on the district. I was VERY nervous going into that placement - I had always said that I'd be happy with any grade..except for 6th! haha. I had experience with the little ones, but I'd also taught a 4th/5th grade combo class in an after school program for 2 years, so it wasn't SUCH a huge jump - although 6th graders are a LOT different than 4th graders.

Despite my initial disappointment and nervousness, it ended up being a great experience. I had an excellent cooperating teacher, for one thing - that always makes the difference! Also, the kids and I really warmed up to each other. I really loved being able to have deeper, more meaningful discussions with them. It took awhile for them to warm up to me...it's not like 1st graders who love you after 5 minutes ...but once they did, they were extremely loyal. I got lots of hugs and notes. I really was able to develop great relationships with the kids. The thing I liked best about 6th grade is that they are REALLY able to step up and begin to take responsibility for their own learning. They are also able to take on leadership roles, in and out of the classroom.

6th graders need CONSISTENT expectations and rules. They also NEED their teacher to be fair - and they will instantly notice the moment something is not fair. Management can be tough with 6th graders, because they like to push the limits - but they do respond to consistent expectations. They are old enough to understand that there are consequences to their actions, and if those consequences are given out fairly, they will accept them.

I think you may find that you like 6th grade more than you'd think. I'm so glad I was placed in that grade level - I loved the kids and it really gave me a lot more confidence - before that experience, I never thought I could teach 6th, but now I know I could.

Best of luck to you! Enjoy your experience!
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