BY RACHEL SIMPSON, a Comp I student in DR. Ashley Bender's class as part of TWU Serves, a University Housing Living Learning Community.
We can probably all agree that middle school was the weirdest, most awkward time in our lives. Everyone’s body is changing, stinky boys get stinky-er, and mean girls get meaner. Our guess is most of us like to block out those years, but there’s one aspect that we have probably overlooked: our middle school teachers. Whether you remember them as annoying or hilarious, our middle school teachers had a lot of influence over us. I had the privilege to sit down with Amy Taylor, a really cool, laid back middle school teacher. According to Ms. Taylor, in her profession, "if you're willing to do the work, it's a pretty lovely job."
Ms. Taylor is a seventh grade English teacher at Calhoun Middle School, and she has her hands full. Her weekly routine is hectic: teaching three, hour and a half (two regular and one enhanced) classes daily, a department meeting every other day, and a planning period every other day. She stays late to tutor for a half hour and remains afterwards to grade and tweak lesson plans. “It’s the most work you’ll ever do. When I go home, I work,” Ms. Taylor said nonchalantly. But with a schedule like that, what on earth is so appealing about teaching, especially when the kids are obsessed with impressing their peers 24/7 rather than schoolwork. However, Ms. Taylor wouldn’t trade it for anything. “I believe in it too much,” she sincerely said. It takes a special person to look forward to working with tweens every day and knowing that a middle school teacher loves her job so much is inspiring.
When I asked her why middle school, she replied "it really chose me." Ms. Taylor used to work in the textbook publishing industry, but realized that she wanted to work with actual students. She was first hired by Denton Independent School District as a 4th grade teacher, but the following year began teaching English at CMS. She told me that she absolutely loves being with middle school children. “It’s a changing time for kids,” she smiled. She referred to sixth through eighth grade as an “important age.” And, as a matter of fact, Ms. Taylor doesn’t even use the textbook. Not only do her custom lesson plans from scratch cater to her kids specifically, it also keeps the students engaged in the class as well, which in turn keeps the behavior problems to a minimum.
As we all can guess, working in a middle school is probably really challenging, but Ms. Taylor wouldn’t trade her job for the world. Why? For her “it’s more than just a job.” She knows she is part of the front line in shaping a student’s world and is using her influence for the best. It’s hard to realize this at the time, but during these middle school years, kids are heavily influenced by their peers as well as their teachers. She understands that some of her students have a lot going on at home and realizes that sometimes English is not the most important thing in their lives. The fact that Ms. Taylor takes so much pride in her job and really cares about her students is really impactful. But, this ideal isn’t seen much nowadays. People are continually putting work ahead of more important matters. Maybe we should start to use Ms. Taylor’s mindset in our daily lives.
Another mentality we can learn from Ms. Taylor is that bad days happen, and it’s okay. “It’s miserable the first year,” she told me when I asked about her experience in education. “You will have bad days, but kids are unpredictable.” Exchange kids for coworkers in that sentence and bam; you got yourself another set of advice to carry with you when you go to work. No one is an expert at anything on the first try. It’s cool to see that someone who is so influential over these kids understands this conept and helps kids grow up learning that when failure happens it is not the end of the world.
We are all influenced by our surroundings every day, whether it is our teachers, parents, peers, and/or mentors from programs like Mentor Denton. In middle school, we are more susceptible to influences do to the nature of tween behavior. Having Ms. Taylor as a teacher who is understanding, laid back, and adores her job influencing middle schoolers with her worldly views is a necessity. Not only can her philosophies be used inside a classroom, they can and should be applied in every career. Thank your teachers y’all, they’ve helped you more than you probably realize.