Catching Up with Ms. Smith: What's New?
While it is common for teachers to come and go as new opportunities present themselves, they are nevertheless often dearly missed. One of the most missed teachers in the Parker school community is Ms. Smith, who left her position teaching AP literature, World Literature, and 8th grade English, at the end of last school year and moved to Chicago to become a middle school teacher. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Smith in October to check up on how she was doing and discuss her new position. Here are some of the things we talked about...
“How is teaching middle schoolers different from teaching high school?”
A lot of our conversation was about the difficult transition from teaching highschool students and some middle schoolers, to working exclusively with middle schoolers. Ms. Smith seems to be really enjoying working exclusively with middle schoolers, as she says “Middle school is a pretty fascinating time to teach because it can either be the best day or the worst day of your life. It’s a lot of intense emotion, but I'm really getting to know this age group a lot better than I did.”
We also talked about how different it is to teach a smaller group of students, and how it compares to the classes she taught at Parker. “At Parker, I would have maybe thirty sophomores and thirty eighth graders, so I didn't get to really know one group. I mean I got to know each kid very well, but I wasn't really an expert on 8th graders or 10th graders, I kinda dabbled in all of them” says Ms. Smith.
While teaching middle schoolers doesn’t come without its challenges, Ms.Smith enjoys teaching regardless. I asked her if she enjoys teaching middle school, to which she responded with “Today I would say, yes, I enjoy it. The kids here are really interesting. Sometimes I feel like an anthropologist, just kinda studying them and wondering why they do the things that they do. Like, hey, why are you acting like that, and what are you thinking? But I like learning, that's why I like to teach.”
“Being closer to family was your main reason for moving–can you tell me more about that?”
“That was the primary reason I loved [moving]. I get to see my little sister like once a week, which is amazing because I would usually see her like twice a year! One of the things about living in Hawaii and having family in the mainland is not being able to see my family for the entire year, and then spending a whole week straight with them” says Ms. Smith. It is nice for Ms. Smith to get to spend more time with her sister and “go to her house to watch the bachelorette or go out to dinner” she says.
“What is your biggest accomplishment this year?”
Ms. Smith showed me a portrait some of her students had drawn of her. “I sorta struggled to connect to my new students this year, which is usually a struggle for me in the first few weeks. I get kinda mad. I need to start over, and I think when you have a new teacher coming in and telling you to do stuff differently, it can come off as combative.” While Ms. Smith did have a few issues connecting to her students at the beginning of the year, this gesture was a really important turning point for her. “If you go into teaching to be liked or popular, you're going to be disappointed. The thing that I think is more helpful for me to be liked by kids, if they let me, is open dialogue. That's why this was really important for me to begin to start feeling like I'm actually connected to my students, or at least like they don’t hate me” says Ms. Smith.
“What is your biggest career goal as of now?”
“I think eventually, I would love to get back to teaching highschool, just because I think that's what I'm best at. At my new school, I see my students every single day, and I really have to switch it up to keep them interested. But with high school students, there's much more of a willingness to sit still and be with their own thoughts and have relaxed seminar style discussions” says Ms. Smith. “ I think my biggest career goal is to ultimately become a better teacher. I want to keep growing and getting better. I felt really comfortable at Parker and I think one of the things about leaving your comfort zone is learning things about yourself.”
“Finally, what did you think of Midnights by Taylor Swift?”
“I love it! I'm a reeaaaally big fan. I love Folklore and I love Evermore, and I really enjoyed her more folksy records, but I also love her pop music, especially her love of a big hook and a catchy chorus, so I've been thrilled with it and listening nonstop!”
I think it is safe to say that Ms. Smith seems to be doing pretty well. Even though it is an understandable challenge to move to a completely different school environment, it is good news to hear that she is enjoying teaching middle school. While Ms. Smith is obviously deeply missed at Parker school, I am certain that everyone is happy to know how well she's doing and her plans in the future.