I've always loved teaching eighth grade. The curriculum - to me - is very interesting and I enjoy helping students learn about and explore all the facets of algebra at this level. One of the things I've always found challenging, though, is the attitude many eighth graders have about school. By the time we get our eighth graders, many of them have a less than positive view of school and especially of math. Many times, this translates into attitudes of "I'm too cool to do ...." or, "I don't do....", or, in students with bigger issues, this translates into the beginnings of behavioral issues.
Last year, I was moved from eighth to sixth grade. I was disappointed because I truly do love the curriculum at eighth grade. However, I spent the summer reacquainting myself with a sixth grade scope and sequence I hadn't dealt with in ten years, with the common core standards for sixth grade, and with a variety of the new type of approaches and assessments being used at this level.
I've been working with my sixth graders for a month now and I've come to realize that there was one thing about sixth graders that I forgot in my almost ten years spent with eighth graders. They're wonderful!!!! I am having sooooooo much fun with them because they are just so joyous about everything we do! I don't care how small the activity is that I've planned, I always get numerous responses of "that was fun" or "thank you for teaching me that" or "I've always wanted to know that". They come into the class excited for the day, asking what we're going to be doing, and - for the most part - diving right into the activity of the day with great excitement. It's making my teaching days very fun and very rewarding in a way I hadn't experienced with my eighth graders.
This leads me to my question in the title....What Happened to the Joy ???? I've been asking myself this a lot for the last few weeks. Where does this exuberance, this joie de vivre, this love of learning new things go? The last group of sixth graders I taught had it, this group has it, other sixth grade teachers tell me their students have it. Eighth grade teachers tell me their students, as a group, do not.
Why? Is it all developmental? Is it something we "do" to them at school as they get older? Is there anything we can do to change it?
This is an incomplete blog post because I simply don't know the answers. But I would like to. And I think this is an important question worth examining....
What are your thoughts?