Pros & Cons of Secondary vs Elementary? What do you prefer??

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by BringBackThe80s, Oct 22, 2011.

  1. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    Oct 22, 2011

    Hi everyone. I currently teach Special Ed in an elementary school (in the "upper" grades).
    I may have an opportunity to teach in a Junior High school, probably as an ESL teacher.
    In elementary they obsess over bulletin boards and other trivial things. I feel like we're treated like the children we teach. They worry more about there being post-its and rubrics for every single piece of work. Plus they want an endless number of "strategy" charts in the room (as if the kids will really refer to them; just doesn't happen). I just want to focus on TEACHING.
    For those who are in Junior High (or even High School), do you find the same issues?
    Ideally, I'd like to hear from those who have worked at both levels. Thanks in advance!!! :)
     
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  3. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Oct 22, 2011

    I'm in an elementary now and spent three years at a high school.

    Nobody cares about my bulletin boards other than my StoryTown theme board which has information about the lesson we're teaching.

    I have never felt treated as a child, my principal, the teachers are great, and I;ve never heard anyone say anything remotely along the lines of being treated as a child.

    The only rubric I use is for my students' writing so they can see how they did on all the components of writing.

    There isn't a single strategy chart in my room. Well, unless you were to count my posters showing what the five traits of writing are.

    The focus in my room and in every room in my school is indeed on teaching.

    So, I guess I really can't relate to what you feel are the issues in elementary school.

    Having said that, I'll address your question of which I prefer. I prefer the age group of 5th graders more than high school, they're just at a really great age in 5th in my opinion (generally respectful, willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to work, able to work independently). I miss teaching my subject area, I was a Family and Consumer Science teacher. So basically, if I could teach FCS to a bunch of 5th graders I'd be one extremely happy teacher. But I'm quite happy teaching 5th.
     
  4. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    MsMar, thanks for the reply.

    I love teaching, but things have certainly changed in my location. I'm not sure if you happen to be in a wonderful school or the PA school system has their focus in the right place.
    One thing I do know is that in my district, as a whole, and at least at the elementary level, admin seems most interested in rubrics, checklists, charts and other trivial things.
    If the kids are doing well, isn't that all that should matter?

    Consider yourself lucky. You're obviously in the right place... :thumb:
     
  5. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    my first thought is that rubrics are not trivial things - just about everything I assign has a rubric attached and I teach at the high school level.
     
  6. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    INTeacher, I used rubrics more at the high school too. Loved them for my projects. Now with StoryTown I just don't have a need for them other than with writing. But I agree, done well, they're very useful.

    BringBack80s, yes, I am in what I think is a good school. I'm not working in what's necessarily considered a desired area of PA to live in, but we do our best with the challenges we have. And I'll say it again, I have an awesome principal who understands the challenges we have in making AYP but gives us the support we need.
     
  7. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I teach secondary, but I've never taught elementary to compare.

    In both high school and middle school I use rubrics for everything, and I'd hardly call them trivial. I never had my own classroom in high school, so I had to use for bulletin boards. In middle school I have three in my classroom, and they are "generic" for my subject and stay up all year. I have lots of posters for kids to use, and they DO use them . . . but I have to teach them to use them. They won't just use it on their own.

    I know that I wouldn't like teaching at the elementary level because I really don't work well with little kids. I wouldn't like having the same kids all day, and I would hate teaching multiple subjects.
     
  8. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Oct 22, 2011

    We use rubrics at our high school, too! And we are encouraged to post student work and create a positive environment with color and bulletin boards at the teacher's discretion. On the other hand, we don't have to do crafts or art projects unless we want to. I like mixing them in with units so early finishers have relaxing things to work on.

    Back to you question, I think you'll find middle school (junior high) closer to elementary than high school. And teaching ESL, you'll have to use a lot of visual and kinesthetic strategies, so you may not find the big difference you're looking for. (I've subbed in all three and work full time now in high school)
     
  9. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Oct 23, 2011

    I have had some experience with MS and HS, but more experience at the elementary level. I definitely prefer elementary. I wonder if some of the issues you are experiencing is more because of your school. No one ever says anything about my BBs (which are less than stellar, by the way), or my rubrics, but I do make my own rubrics as I find them very important when evaluating student work.
     
  10. maya5250

    maya5250 Comrade

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    Oct 23, 2011

    :agreed:

    I am a middle school science teacher. My school like for us to have rubrics but I don't have it for every assignment. Also, my principal wants the room neat and have the designated items posted but it is not a requirement to have a beautiful bulletin board. However, they do reward a teacher once a month with a golden broom trophy based on attractiveness/cleanliness, decorated bulletin boards, and overall appearance of classroom area.
     
  11. mike3640

    mike3640 Rookie

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    I am certified in 7-12 and am seeking my special education and elementary license in grad school currently so this topic is very interesting to me. I have student taught in high school middle school and observed 1-5. I think I personally would like middle school the best because I could teach 1-2 different subjects/ class types instead of 4 or 5 (Elementary) and get the experience of having 150 different students rather than 25.
     
  12. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    Oct 24, 2011

    Thanks again for the replies.

    Yes, perhaps it's just my school. My classroom, btw, is incredibly neat and that's an understatement. My main issue is the push for rubrics and comments and checklists on any and all work being displayed. I happen to have more work displayed than the average but feel as though I'm being beat up for it as opposed to what should the opposite. Anyhow, from my current and past experiences (been teaching about 5 years), it just seems like secondary, on a whole, is a more mature environment.
     
  13. FunTwoTeach

    FunTwoTeach Rookie

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    Oct 24, 2011

    80's:

    I totally hear you on the obsessing over the bulletin boards, rather than the actual quality of teaching. I switched from elem to jr high and the emphasis on room environment at my elem school was out of control, and is a huge reason why I never want to go back to that type of environment.

    The rule at my school was rubric for EVERYTHING (I can understand for writing at all levels, but for 2nd grade math??) and work on the walls had to be no more than 21 days old. Since we had a reading, math, language arts, science, social studies, health boards, plus a board in the hallway, this led to an insane amount of anxiety (because yes, they came around with clipboards and checked, this was not just a suggestion). I had no parent helpers and could not ask students to stand on chairs to change the work, so it was all up to me. Also, we couldn't just hang up tests, it had to be "hands on" work. Being a new teacher and trying to think of something students could make for every subject every three weeks that was worthy of hanging on the wall, graded with a rubric, honestly it was just exhausting.

    Not to mention, the standards for every subject that had to be written on the whiteboard and updated DAILY. My principal even went so far as to mandate the color white board marker we had to use for the various sections of open court curriculum. Meaning grammar writing standard in blue, reading in red, phonics in green...talk about insane. I realize not all principals are like that but it was enough to scare me away forever.

    Believe it or not, once during my formal observation, that principal stopped me in the middle of the lesson to tell me that our school testing slogan needed to be written in a different color on my whiteboard. I had written in it orange and she didn't feel like people could see it from across the room. So I literally had to stop what I was teaching, erase the slogan, and rewrite it in another color, during my formal observation!!! Yes, she ran a school!!!

    At my current school we are treated as professionals. As long as we have our standards and agenda on the board it doesn't matter what order/color they are written in. We have to have student work on the walls but we are not micro managed in how we display it. I have SO much more time and energy dedicated to effective lessons in a way I never did when I was in elementary and spreading myself thin all the time. If I was forced to go back to that level I'm sure I would do a better job at it now that I have more experience and perspective, but I plan to avoid that at all costs!
     
  14. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    Oct 25, 2011

    FunTwoTeach,

    You clearly understand what it is that I'm saying.
    I have a few acquaintances who teach Junior High or High School and they seem to be more free to teach as opposed to the all the other nonsense.
    I just wanted to hear some more opinions on here.

    We certainly are micro-managed at the elementary level (unless you happen to luck out and be at the "right" school).

    You said it when you stated "At my current school we are treated as professionals." That's the overall difference I've experienced between elementary and secondary (generally speaking;there's always exceptions).

    Well, I'm certainly going to seek out a position in a secondary school.

    All I really ever wanted to do is......TEACH.
     
  15. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Fun2teach, I worked in elementary for 5 years. We had to do bulletin boards but nobody came around with a clipboard or a specific time line. Some of my boards are year round. The one outside the room got changed more often. We definitely dont have a rubric for it. The rest sounds a bit nitpicky. While there was a lot of prep at this level, I never felt micromanaged.
     
  16. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    I think elementary tends to be a micro-managed environment, though there will always be exceptions.
    Most elementary outside bulletin boards are required to be changed on a monthly basis. As of the last year or two, rubrics and checklists....and standards, must be included as well.
    When all of these start to become required for all work inside the classroom and outside the classroom, precious planning/prepping time is being stripped away from the teacher. In schools that have that environment, it's really bad news.....and the teachers are not the only ones who would end up suffering.
     
  17. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Oct 25, 2011

    I've taught both elementary (self-contained special ed) and now I'm at the middle school (inclusion) and I wouldn't say that I prefer one vastly over the other, they are just different. I teach 6th, so it's not a huge jump. Content wise it kind of is because my kids were on a first-second grade level last year. There are perks of middle school and if you are going to teach ESL you wouldn't be tied down to one group of students all day long. You may be repeating the same lesson multiple times throughout the day.

    You are right about middle school not having to do so much of the cutesy bulletin board stuff, but do keep in mind you also may have some added responsibilities. For instance my school is big on utilizing technology in the classroom, collaborative planning, parent contact logs, station work etc... I think there is always something that they are looking for.
     
  18. isabunny

    isabunny Comrade

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    I taught Pre-K last year and your experience sounds a lot like mine! And this was Preschool! We had to change all work on the boards every month and we had write on special forms exactly what standards we were working on. That had to be posted with the work. In addition, none of the work could be any pre-printed material. All the school work had to be made individually by teachers hands and put together by students. I would do clouds in 1-10 and have the students sequence them or caterpillars (or whatever the weekly themes were). I would have to hand number and draw each cloud page for each individual student. Then they could cut them out, order them and paste them. I had to do so many hand made projects each month to rotate the boards. I really enjoy the creative part of teaching, but this was an insane amount of work. I prepped most nights when I got off work. The room had to be immaculate (we had a check list of chores that had to be done every day/week). Lots of janitorial duties (cleaning toilets, sinks, floors, making sure room had toilet paper). There was even a check for taking the drapes home and cleaning them yourself! Plus I had students in my care from 8-4 without a break! How is one suppose to clean the toilet while watching a group of preschoolers? Plus we had to post 3 page lesson plans daily, make individual daily reports for each student, and do a million other things! In addition you spend a ton of money making new boards and providing materials to meet the themes. I spent over $1000 in the five months I worked there, and when I left they would't give my my last paycheck. They accused me of stealing classroom items and said they would pay for it with my last paycheck. I paid for all my supplies myself down to the stapler. I was so mad after working so many of my weekends and nights, and giving so much to my class! Totally unappreciated, underpaid and overworked. :dizzy:http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/...teacherstuff.com/images/smilies/new/dizzy.gif So I am pretty much in the same boat. Wondering what grade is better. Still trying to get a job in teaching at a K-12 and thinking middle or high school might be better. It is really sad, because I love the kids. Preschoolers are so great! Its all the paperwork, prep work and administration that ruins it. No wonder the turnover is crazy.
     
  19. Ms.Science

    Ms.Science Rookie

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    Oct 27, 2011

    I've been in some local elementary classes, and there definitely is a level of micromanaging. I love working with young children, but I am super creative so elementary wouldn't gel with my personality.

    High school comes with a lot of emotional wear and tear. I mean being called a B--- in various languages probably 20 times a day, being told to F-off or whatever daily. The catcalls, sexual harassment, emotional abuse, etc. are more than a loving, caring, breathing human can take. Also teachers are the only people in the United States with the least rights regarding working in a sexual harassment free zone. Yet, according to a recent legal journal I read, most female teachers have been sexually harassed in the past few years.

    I honestly am leaning towards going into the medical or legal fields because I can't stand that I'm told not to use my intelligence. I'm constantly told "there's no use reinventing the wheel." This is an official slogan. I actually read the latest education and psych journals, so I'm pretty aware that the same-old (or the new bandwagon) is not always the best strategy.

    There are good things, like helping students...

    I don't know, I miss middle school. :(
     
  20. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    isabunny, that's pretty insane!!

    Ms. Science, I would report any form of harassment, for whatever it's worth.

    Yes, if I had to do it all again, I would not be in the education field. At the very least, I would not be in elementary. However, that's something which I will be working on getting out of, without a question of a doubt.
     
  21. Ms.Science

    Ms.Science Rookie

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    Thanks, I do (frequently.) It's complicated, to say the least. :unsure:

    I just try to think of the good things (not to mention considering some career changes.)
     
  22. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I think it depends on the individual school- not necessarily an elementary vs. secondary. I am expected to have bulletin boards up, but I can hang whatever I want. Most of my bulletin boards will stay the same all year. The classroom is decorated however I want. Other than a few seasonal things I'll do (my choice), that essentially will stay the same all year as well. I guess the difference there is that in elementary you're at least expected to do something to make the room look nice/decorated, whereas in secondary if you want a totally plain room or to just put a poster or two on the wall you could and most people wouldn't think anything of it.

    As for lesson plans, that's totally up to the school. I don't even have to turn mine in, and I basically do bullet points just to remind myself what I want to do for those lessons. Some teachers at my school don't do them at all other than writing their daily schedule and a bulleted point for what they'll be covering on the board (such as math- fractions with common denominators). On the other hand, I did a practicum in a middle school where the teachers had to hand in extremely detailed 3 page lesson plans for each subject. They had to outline the standard, the "criteria for success", a detailed list of everything they'd do in the lesson, pre-assessment and post-assessment with methods listed, materials used, etc. I actually asked my co-op teacher for a copy of one of them to take back to my college class because I was so shocked that a "real teacher" would have to do so much work on a lesson plan.

    I actually work at a k-8 (it was just an elementary last year though) and I'm the elementary special ed teacher. There's also a middle school teacher. What I find really interesting is that she is SO much more micro managed than I am. I heard last year from all the related service providers and even admin that this teacher was not very good, didn't know what to do, needed a lot of guidance from me, etc. Well, after working with her for awhile I realized that 70% of the problems with her are totally out of her control and are due to the admin micro managing her. For example, I make my own schedule however I want it. I'm not allowed to take kids out of recess, lunch, or specials, but other than that I'm totally free to decide when I want them, for how long, how many days a week, etc. I can change my schedule whenever I want. I can group students however I want. The middle school sped teacher has to follow the school's schedule because they made it to fit into the regular ed middle school schedule. She can only see her intervention groups twice a week. There were all these issues with her not progress monitoring last year- well I can say if I only saw my students for 40 minutes twice a week, I wouldn't want to take up any of that time progress monitoring either. She also has to see groups up to 8 kids to fit into this tight schedule, and that's any kid that has reading problems. I often group my students based on who needs decoding and who just needs comprehension- she has to put them together (so the students who don't need decoding still have to sit through that part), and they have her on a scripted program (I create my own lessons however I want) so she can't change the program in order to follow the intervention with fidelity. She often asks me how I do things and after we talk about it I realize she can't do what I do because of the way the admin has blocked her in.
     
  23. Marci07

    Marci07 Devotee

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    I'm also not big into having too much on my walls. Honestly, I get overwhelmed with so many visuals that I know many students do too. In high school teachers don't deal with much of that. In middle school is sort of a combination of elementary and high school. We are still required to have reference posters but not as many as in elementary. Also, since in middle school we each teach our own subject, there are so many posters you can put up for math or science when a self-contained teacher in elementary has to include information for all subjects in one room.

    I would focus more about finding out what's the best age group for you first. I know that as simple as my high school classroom was, I missed the warm of younger students. When I was in elementary, I missed the independence of older students. Middle school was my best fit. The school's expectations are annoying at times but as long as I'm working with middle school I can find a way to manage with all these requirements.

    Some teachers have students come before or after school to help them with bullentin boards. Some students love making posters. You may have a student who always comes early or stays late and he/she can help you out.
     
  24. sparty

    sparty New Member

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    I am currently subbing K-12, but I try to find jobs in high schools whenever possible. I don't know how much of it has to do with the fact that most of my experience is in high schools, but I am significantly more comfortable with management in HS classes, compared to middle schools or especially elementary. I feel like I can deal with high schoolers on a human level much more than I can with younger students.
     
  25. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    It sounds to me like most of the OP's concerns/complaints are more specific to the school than to the grade level.

    As many others have mentioned, rubrics are far from trivial. They're a critical part of assessing student performance. Not only do they help objectivize parts of a project that might be more subjective in nature, but they also help students understand exactly how they will be assessed and on what criteria. How can we expect our students to meet our expectations if we don't explicitly tell them what those expectations are?

    My school (high school) has some limited requirements for bulletin boards and things that must be displayed on the wall. For example, we need to have our discipline plans on the wall, certain school-wide initiatives (in the form of posters), and a College Corner.

    I like high school because I feel like I am a better teacher with them. The little ones in elementary school sort of freak me out with their crying and snot and whatnot. Besides that, the subject that I like to teach isn't often offered at the elementary level, so it just makes more sense for me to be at a high school. For me it's just a personal preference.
     
  26. Silmarienne

    Silmarienne Cohort

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    Nov 11, 2011

    I find that every principal has their own set of expectations and things they "want to see" on the walls, on the lesson plans we turn in, on report cards. I would say the issues you are having have to do with your school's leadership and what they think is important, rather than ES/MS/HS.
    :lol:
    But the older they get, the more complicated their problems become. I teach K and never have to give pregnancy or illegal drugs a moment's consideration. :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2011
  27. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    I agree with your statement. This year I work at a school that is one of the lowest academically in the city.

    Student work must have checklists, rubrics and written feedback.

    Objectives, standards, as well as a real world connection to the lesson must be written for each lesson that we teach and posted on white sentence strips in a pocket chart, along with the 2 vocabulary words for the state test daily, and the state test strategy that we are focusing on that day.

    There is a mountain of minutiae that is required just to be in compliance with all requirements.

    Monthly walk-through teams come in with checklists and examine everything in your classroom to make sure you are in compliance. You are then rated by these teams as being red (in need of improvement), yellow or green.

    Last year, I worked at a school (in the same city) that was performing okay academically. We did not have all of these requirements.

    I had much more time to focus on what really mattered last year. I could hone my lessons so that they were very engaging for students. This year, I just don't have the time to do much of anything except the minutiae.

    So yes, the students suffer from this.
     
  28. isabunny

    isabunny Comrade

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    Wow! So much time on paperwork and little details. What do the kids get out of all these requirements? I posted previously about all the stuff I had to do for a preschool class. At the end of the day I felt exhasted, but also very sad. I was so sad because all the requirements left little time for actual teaching! This last year I noticed a big change at my son's school when a new principal took over. Durning open house I noticed all the beginning of the year projects hung on the walls. You know all the great getting to know you stuff: all the introductory (classroom management) projects. Each child had made a poster telling what they did over the summer and different things about themself including drawings and a photo. Very cute and purposeful. It is a very important classroom management and lesson planning strategy to get to know your students. The change came with the new principal. When I walked down the halls a couple of months later at parent-teacher conferences the walls were extremely bare. The only items on the wall were a one sheet page of paper from each student with long division facts and of course a piece of paper listing the state standard. The principal also started making the teachers read off all the standards they were working on to the students before each lesson. Urgh... What a time waster. Micromanaging to the max. What has happened to education? Why don't principals understand that the projects have just as much meaning as the math? Without the ice breaker activities, how do you manage your classroom?
     
  29. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Nov 11, 2011

    It sounds like your school is a PI school. This is exactly what one of my schools where I was at as a tutor back in California had to do. Very tedious and time consuming. They also were a PI school.
     
  30. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    Nov 11, 2011

    I selected secondary once one of my earliest professors said, "If you can't go into school every morning in a good mood 180 days a year, DON'T go into elementary. The kids won't understand that." He was right.

    Unfortunately, the maturity level in the high schools in my area drop and drop every year to the point now it's almost like being in a elementary school. The way the district wants us to treat them, it's a lot like elementary school. It certainly isn't preparing 18-year-olds to enter the working world or college, that's for darn sure!


    :|
     
  31. BringBackThe80s

    BringBackThe80s Rookie

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    Well, it's obvious for any teachers who are not brand new that the powers that be have no clue. None.
    Either they are setting up the kids to be coddled with dumbed-down work or just the opposite, such as making the teachers use terminology which is beyond the student's ability.

    I'm not teaching in the lower elementary grades, but from what I understand they want the teachers to give first-graders daily writing assignments that are clearly beyond their learning stage. Asking first-graders to compare and contrast characters from two different texts is pretty silly. It makes as much sense as that same grade having to work during their 10-minute snack time.

    For Christ's sake, kindergartners (they're 5 years-old!) can't even have a 20 minute nap anymore in this new, "improved" school world. :dizzy:
     
  32. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    HS students don't deserve burned out, grouchy teachers either.
     
  33. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Dec 9, 2011

    Gosh, they both have a lot of pros and cons! This is my very first year at the middle school level and it is quite a change from elementary school (especially after spending six years in 2nd grade).

    The thing I like about elementary is that they truly adore their teacher. You're with them Monday-Friday (all day long) for ten months. You become a family. They know your quirks, you know theirs, and you truly make a huge impact in their little lives.

    What I don't miss about elementary school is teaching every subject. I was responsible for teaching language arts, science, math, PE, and everything else under the sun.

    As a middle school teacher, I teach two subjects: English and Social Studies. I feel like I am a great English teacher because I am extremely passionate and knowledgeable about it. I have a "supplemental authorization" to teach English and that's what undergraduate degree was focused on.

    On the "con" side of teaching middle school--many of my kids come to me with bad organizational & study skills. Also, many kids have already given up on school (maybe they had a bad elementary experience?).

    I think I need a few more years at the middle school level to decide which of the two (elementary or middle school) I prefer.
     
  34. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Dec 10, 2011

    I have about 3 years of experience subbing in elementary schools and have been an actual teacher for middle and high school students. This is how I see it.

    Secondary
    May not be quite as fond of learning, some drop out
    School may be more important for them socially than academically
    Can take a while to form a relationship with teachers
    Often need remediation in skills they may have missed in elementary
    Teachers much have strong grasp of content
    In my experience, teachers are much more jaded
    May need lots of structure or be better with more freedom

    Elementary
    Love school
    Often form relationships quickly
    Need good instruction in building blocks of learning
    Teachers often seem more patient
    Need lots of structure and need to be taught expectations
    Huge emphasis on testing
     

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