NOTE: I taught 7th grade ELA for the 2014-2015 school year. This post comes from May of 2015, demonstrating one of the many reasons I love teaching middle school!
I have been a middle school teacher for my entire teaching career. I have just finished my eighth school year of teaching, and my third year of teaching 7th grade English/Language Arts. 7th grade is an interesting age for students – they are learning more about themselves, how to take responsibility for their actions, and who they ultimately want to be. Many people, when they find out that I teach middle school, say things like, “Bless you,” and “I will pray for you,” citing the difficulty of the middle school age. I would not teach any other grade – my passion is teaching these young men and women. My goal is to not only teach them about school subjects, but about life – and how to be the best citizens that they can be.
As an end-of-the-year project, I asked my five English/Language Arts classes to complete the following assignment.
You are on the home stretch of your 7th grade year – you are so close to being in 8th grade! There is a whole new group of 7th graders that will be in your place next year. If you could tell them anything about 7th grade, what would you tell them?
Write a friendly letter on a lined piece of paper and share AT LEAST FIVE THINGS that they should know about 7th grade.
Make sure your letter includes the following:
A greeting – Dear Future 7th Grader, (with a comma after “Grader”)
Indent the first line of your letter – write in complete sentences!
A closing – Sincerely, (with a comma after the word)
Your signature under the closing
Make sure you brainstorm ideas before you begin to write you letter!
I explained to my students that they had something to say to the up-and-coming 7th graders – words of advice and encouragement for those coming to “fill their shoes.” The responses I received from my students were all over the place – from funny to thoughtful to deeply insightful. Many students shared cautionary tales to persuade their readers to not make the same mistakes, while others shared tips and suggestions for a successful 7th grade year. Below are portions of the 85+ letters I received, in no particular order:
Stay out of drama. (Drama = issues among students)
Be on time to class.
Always be prepared.
Keep your grades up
Create good study habits
Use a planner and take good notes.
Do not procrastinate.
All excellent suggestions, right? The ones listed above were repeated multiple times from many of my students. The most intriguing suggestions came from some of my best writers and deepest thinkers; little do they know, many of their tips and suggestions have a Biblical application.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.
In Matthew 7:12, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus knows our human hearts – and our tendencies to be selfish. He commands us, first, to love the Lord with all that we are, and second, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Middle school students tend to see, through experience, that when they demonstrate kindness to others, they usually receive it in the same manner.
Choose your friends wisely.
Paul shared the same idea with the church at Corinth. I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Don’t let anyone fool you. ‘Bad companions make a good person bad.’” He heard about the actions of the people and their connections to those outside the church. He used this verse to warn them about the influence that “bad companions” can have on them. In middle school, this is vital to the success of my students. Through their own experiences, they realize that when they choose good friends, they meet with great success
Never let anyone have control over your day.
Everyone wants to feel like they have a sense of control in their lives. There are things that happen in life that we cannot prevent, but we do have control over two things: our attitudes and our effort. When Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he expressed to them in chapter 4, verse 8: “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right, and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about these things.” When we keep our minds focused on Christ, our attitudes will reflect our mindsets.
From the mouths of children…comes a great deal of wisdom!
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