My 87 Children

I have 87 children.
At least, that’s how I frequently feel.
Five days out of seven, I see my 87 children.  Either they are sitting in my class, eating lunch in the canteen, or hanging out in my room.
Sometimes they sit on the floor by my desk and try to get me to edit their Global Perspectives paper, but other times they come in because they need someone to talk to.
Sometimes they cry.
Sometimes they come in with their friends and dance the routine they are working on for gym class and show me new music.
Sometimes they sleep on the desks, and sometimes they won’t shut up.
Regardless of the circumstances, I feel like all of these students are “mine.”

I have been reading a lot of articles about teaching lately.  In one particular article, the writer mentions that she called her students “children” in class, and that (both in her eyes and in the eyes of the students) it was a power play.  A hey-I’m-the-adult-here scenario.  And, on one level, I get it.  I have many moments where I want my students to behave in a way that shows that they have an inherent respect for adults, but the truth is that, while Grade 8 students will inevitably see me as an adult, the 20 year old in my Grade 12 class will see me quite differently.

My students are my children.  In conversations, I call them “my kids.”   I love them all a lot, and I would like to believe that I show my students that I like them, truly like them, for who they are (even when they drive me crazy.)

It’s hard to stay sane when you teach… well, any grade.  And it’s easy to get jaded.  So, in pursuit of loving my students (even when, in those moments of stress, I don’t love being a teacher), I have decided to write a bit about why I love each of my classes.

Grade 8
I have about 55 Grade 8 students, and they are anywhere between 12 and 15 years old.  While I still don’t love teaching “language arts,” I love my Grade 8 students.
I am quite sure that my Grade 8 students are abnormal, but I mean this is a good way.  They are all pretty innocent still, which is refreshing in a world where innocence is seen as a bad thing. This particular class of students is playful and coachable, and, if you are able to establish some rules at the beginning of the year, they are a lot of fun.

Grade 9
While the intensity of the Cambridge IGCSE is an intimidating reality for Grade 9 English, this is my second year teaching my same group of (currently in) Grade 9 students, and it is hysterical.  Not-quite-innocent and not-quite-worldly-wise, my Grade 9 students are a mass of intelligence and energy.  My favourite aspect of this particular batch of students is also one of the things that makes teaching them hard– they have no boundaries.
Seriously.  No topic is off limits, no subject to weird to discuss.  Everything is out in the open.   Maybe it’s because, of my class of 16 students, 13 of them are girls, but honestly, even in the context of the larger Grade 8 class, this class was willing to talk about pretty much anything.
It’s hysterical (and often unruly), but I love them more for it.

Grade 11
While my Grade 9 class is over-run with girls, Grade 11 is a mess of testosterone.  My class is small, with 15 students, and only three of them are girls.
This is the class that, at the beginning of the year, is your favorite, because they are so fun that you let some of those classroom essentials and boundaries slide until BOOM you realize that you have no established rules or practices because you have been bamboozled by the collective fun-and-easy-going dynamic they bring.  Last year, when I had these students in Grade 10, every class started with me saying “Please sit down,” for six minutes; however, this year, we started off class with some rules.  And those rules involved sitting down when I say so.
Since IB English B is all about language usage across a range of topics, it means that I have been able to choose topics that both my students and I find interesting, which is unusual in most other classes.

Grade 12
I have only four students in my Grade 12 class, which has been both a challenge and a blessing.  If you recall, my seniors and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but, after nine months, I think we have gotten used to each other’s quirks.While I still don’t know my seniors as well as I know my freshmen and sophomores, I have been able to see more of their individual personalities come out over the course of the year.
Sometimes serious, sometimes dedicated, and always looking for a “free period to study,” my four senior students look towards their future and see a different country and a different life than what they have now, but it excites them.  While my Grade 11 students said just last week, “We’re too young to be seniors!,” my Grade 12 students are ready to face the unknown and grow outside of the walls of our high-rise school.



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