Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 26 2011

Fear of Small Children

I’m nervous about plenty of things about my new job (32 hours til I start) but what scares me most is actually the age of my new students. I’ve spent two years teaching exclusively eighth graders, and suddenly I’ll be working with only sixth graders. More frightening yet, at summer school they’re practically still going to be fifth graders. That’s so small I’m afraid I won’t even be able to see them.

Everyone I’ve talked to LOVES sixth graders, so really I’m sure I will too. It’s supposed to be a great transition year, where they start out as sweet babies who still love their teachers and spend the year coming into themselves. They’re supposed to be sweeter and much less hardened than eighth graders, which means they might get temperamental as hormones kick in but overall they mean well. Plus, the math in sixth grade is going to be GREAT. It’s where the move to abstract math really starts, so it’s going to be challenging but the kids can’t be as far behind as they get in later years. Most things my 8th graders struggled with really get introduced in the sixth grade, and I think I’ll be a better math teacher at any grade level if I can become a good sixth grade math teacher. So really, this should be good.

But still, I’ve heard many times from many people that I was born to teach eighth graders. I love their personalities and watching as they learn to express themselves. I love how they’re old enough to understand sarcasm but young enough to still be a little gullible. I love that I can treat them like people and they can take it when you’re tough with them. I even like the challenges that their behaviors present. I’m afraid I’ll have to treat sixth graders like little kids and come up with cutesy gimmicks for my classroom. I’m afraid I’ll be sarcastic and make them cry. I’m afraid I’ll be tough with them and they’ll go tell their parents I’m mean. I’m afraid I won’t be able to relate to them or that they won’t be as entertaining as older kids. I’m afraid they’ll just be too small and I won’t know what to do.

Really, I adjust quickly and it should be fine. I’ve spent enough time working with younger kids that I’m sure it won’t take long to start acting like a sixth grade teacher instead of an eighth grade one. But if you’re not a teacher and don’t understand why two years is a big deal, just know that my degree is in 7th-12th grade education, because 6th grade is part of a whole different universe. It’s probably going to be great, but I’m still pretty daunted by the transition.

4 Responses

  1. Charlee


    I’ve been following your blog for quite a while and I’m really inspired by your honesty about your teaching – achievements, fears, etc. It’s so good that you are already contemplating and thinking and mentally preparing. I know you’ve probably heard this already from others, but I think you’re going to do GREAT! I look forward to reading about your new experiences!

  2. Ms. L

    Just remember, all of the personalities of the eighth graders you love developed in sixth grade! I promise they are not as little as you think they are. :) They enjoy sarcasm as much as you enjoy dishing it out. The only downside is you may be the only one laughing at your jokes for a while. (And you can never use the old standby, “I said to pi, ‘be rational’ and then pi said to i, ‘get real’.” )

  3. Lucas

    Yes, they may be sweet at times, if they are in the mood, and perhaps they are more vulnerable than older students, or just more sullen than angry, but they can also be cruel, snide, even vicious, at least to each other, and I promise they can sense every crack in your veneer like a shark can sense blood in the water. I spent my own fifth grade year in perpetual fear of the kids from the sixth grade, because the grades at my school were mixed, and the experience was not even remotely cute or pretty. I know you are 23, and I was 10, but I still think it would be a mistake not to recognize the potential here for terror, chaos, and mayhem, because if you pretend they are babies, some of them will try to crush your spirit and run you out of town. Sorry to be so dark, I just want you to succeed and not expect your new job to be angels and roses.

  4. Children under 18 terrify me.

    I understand.

    Also, Lucas, if you’ve read mathinaz’s blog I don’t think she has EVER expected her children to be angels and roses. Your statement about that actually made me snort.

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