Best Teaching Practices

What No One Tells You About Teaching Middle School

There are many things no one tells you about teaching middle school. Going into teaching (9 years ago) at this point, I am pretty sure I was living in a fantasy world about how I would be the next Erin Gruwell (Freedom Writers), Louanne Johnson (Dangerous Minds), or Jamie Escalante (Stand and Deliver).

Well, those notions flitted out as quickly as they came. By the second full year of teaching, I realized this is not the movies. I already knew the pay would be crappy and my resources would be limited because I came from a family of teachers. Both my aunts taught elementary school, and my mother taught elementary school and ESL. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Yet, there is always a glimmer of hope that your teaching experience will be different. So, here are the things that no one tells you about teaching middle school.

It is exhausting.

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You are chasing 30 kids around the room for 4-7 periods a day (depending on your school). Trying to keep a classroom full of 30 students doing the same task for 50+ minutes is crazy! I mean, if someone came up to you on the street and asked you to do this, your jaw would probably drop.

But, that’s what we do. There should be a medal just for this feat alone.

I know that people struggle with just keeping their two children occupied for more than 10 minutes at a time.

In 2000, research showed that the average attention span for a person was 12 seconds. Then we have to hold their focus for the next hour. This alone is probably the part that makes me so tired at the end of every day.

Bathroom breaks & food are things of the past.

You can’t leave that same classroom full of 30 students alone for even a minute (imagine the chaos). So, when you really have to go, you have to hold it until the next quick break comes around. The “speed pee” is a thing…

Moreover, you don’t really have time to eat a nice full lunch. For example, the teacher’s lounge at my school is on the other side of the school on the first floor. It is the only place where there is a microwave. It takes 10 minutes just to get there and back. I only have a 15 minute lunch, so you do the math. If I want to eat, it is not going to be a nice meal of leftovers.

I usually bring snacks and hope that it will tide me over until the end of the day. But more often than not, I am starving by dinner.

It will be nothing like your college practice.

It is easy to go to all of your teaching classes in college and complete practice lessons or lesson plans or have theoretical conversations about students and their behaviors. However, none of these discussions truly prepare you to be ready for 30 kids going in 30 different directions with 30 different needs.

Every student’s learning experience is different and what may work for one student won’t work for another. Student teaching is probably the best preperation, but even then you have another teacher there to catch you. In your own classroom, there is a lot more trial and error.

This shouldn’t stop you though. Teaching is a process, and as they say in Philly, “Trust the Process.”

Students go through a lot, and for some, it is an achievement for them to have just made it to school that day.

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To sum up, don’t forget behind all of the expectations we have as teachers it is important to remember students are people too. We need to take the time to get to know them and where they are coming from.

I was recently reminded of this when I sat down to speak one-on-one with a young lady in my classroom. This particular conversation gave me a whole new perspective on her behaviors and abilities in class. Frankly, it opened my eyes to how I was treating all of my students.

I was so caught up on having to achieve on these tests coming up that I lost sight of why these students may have been behaving this way. It has definitely helped me to bear in mind what these students have been through and are currently going through as we proceed through the rest of the school year.

You will see things you have never imagined.

This is both good and bad.

I have seen pregnant 7th graders, students overdose in front of me, curse me out, or heard awful stories of things that have happened to them outside of school. One of my ESL students in Arizona told me a harrowing tale of her journey to America and how her school in Iraq was bombed by the Taliban killing her sister.

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Photo by Randy Martinez on Reshot

But, on the other side of it all, I have seen a student get his first A ever [in ELA] in my class. [Not to mention no one in his family had even graduated high school.] I have seen students read and love a book, really love a book. I have seen students learn English and work hard to accomplish their goals. I have seen and helped students create beautiful anti-bullying PSAs.

The one thing I know is that your students will never cease to amaze you.


There are so many things that you can’t learn until you’ve taught middle school for the first time.

What no one tells you is that teaching is rewarding. It isn’t always the big things, but the little steps along the way that really make you feel good about your job.

Tell me in the comments below what has surprised you about teaching middle school.

This post was proofread by Grammarly

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