I’m learning the difference between middle school students and high school students. I teach a class at my school called Farm to Table. It’s a mash up of things I like to do, and my favorite class to teach. How could it not? We do crafts, garden, and cook, often with food from the garden. See? Fun.
In the past, I’ve had all high school students for a double period twice a week. This year, due to a scheduling glitch, almost all of the high school students are locked into required classes during my scheduled class time. What to do? One option was to drop the class entirely and push into other classes where there is a need. That is what special education teachers often do. But I didn’t want to give up this class that I had designed. That I had gotten grants to create a permaculture food forest during. I had rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers and herbs to use. I did not want to give that up.
So the decision was made to change the time. Instead of a double period twice a week, I’d have a regular period every day. Instead of high school students, I have all middle schoolers. It has been an adjustment for me.
First I want to say that I really do love the energy and enthusiasm that these students bring to class. They are a joy to have in class each day. However. Where in the past, I could leave the cooks for a few minutes while I went out to the garden and everyone would be safe and tasks would be completed in a timely manner. With this class, I walked into the kitchen area in my class to discover a boy slicing a tomato with his thumb right UNDER the blade. Thankfully I was able to stop him before any appendages were sliced. I have never been so thankful for the Kevlar gloves that came with our mandolin. They are now required for all chopping. And so far, no fingers have been chopped.
Then there’s the time factor. With only half as long, I’m having to divide recipes into two parts and spread the project over two days. It seems like that should solve the issue, but not always. For some reason, tasks just take longer with the middle schoolers. I think perhaps one reason is that they actually READ the recipe. And that takes time. So, I really shouldn’t complain. However, I often end up doing the clean up after they have headed out for the buses because we just ran out of time. It just takes them longer to complete the tasks. Someday I will do a better job of managing the time.
Middle school students get a bad rap about how difficult they are to work with. When I tell people that I work with middle school students, I rarely get a positive response. I understand that. Middle schoolers are trying to figure out who they are, and that’s hard work. Sometimes they can be difficult. But I remember when I was that age. It was difficult to just be. No wonder they have rough days. But mostly I really enjoy them. They are a lively bunch with lots of energy. They greet everything I ask them to do with enthusiasm. And, honestly, they are just plain fun to spend time with.