First year in Texas… with 8th graders!

In my 9 years of education I have only ever taught 5th and 6th grades. I did teach a ½ year with 7th right out of college (YIKES). My first few years I taught every subject to 5th grade, and since then I’ve been happily geeking out in science class with my 6th graders.

You know how they say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone….I THOUGHT I would love 8th grade, I THOUGHT I’d love to have a class that was separated by academic achievement…. I THOUGHT.


Last summer my family and I moved to Texas for a variety of reasons. I was thrilled when I got a job teaching 8th grade science. I had been wanting 8th graders for the last few years. My 6th graders were still SO dependent, needed lots of help, laughed at fart jokes, etc. I was looking forward to the more mature 8th graders…. I know, I know! I was also thrilled to learn there were Pre-AP classes and Academic classes (like Honors or AP, but for middle schoolers). I knew I would have a little bit of a learning curve in addition to learning a new campus, new district policies and culture, new teachers, new curriculum (some), NEW, NEW, NEW.

I felt like a FIRST YEAR TEACHER all over again! (Hence the name of this blog.)

Guess what? 8th graders are just older, more hormonal 6th graders! The jokes are nastier, my mean face/ voice that worked fine in 6th wasn’t nearly the level needed, and they needed just as much, if not MORE help! It really threw me for a loop- I mean, I’m supposed to be a veteran teacher just about…. I’m supposed to have it together!  My amazing science coach showed me lots of grace and humor, and we plowed through with the good work: (aligning assessments, backwards design, student tracking standards, blended and personalized learning- you know, all the stuffs). Spoiler alert- I did live in the end. It was QUITE a year of reflection and here are my take-aways.

  1. IMG_3497
    8th graders like to share their proud moments too 🙂

    Kids are kids are kids- they all have their pros and cons at each age. They ALL need your love and hugs. I mothered the 8th graders just as much as I mothered the 6th.

  2. You have never “arrived”. We say this in church a lot and it fits here too. You will ALWAYS be growing and that’s what inspired this blog. Every year should be your first year to do something new and different.
  3. Kids shouldn’t be separated into pre-AP and academic at this point- maybe high school. It MAY be beneficial to the pre-AP kids but it’s a disservice to the others. (In my district anyone can be in Pre-AP class if they want to, there’s no “qualifying criteria” so you end up with kids who don’t belong pulling the others down, and sometimes kids don’t go to pre-AP because they don’t want to work even though they are quite intelligent. Personal opinion: leave them mixed until high school)
  4. I REALLY missed my silly 6th grade babies (yes I call them babies- not in their presence- I say ma’am and sir to them in class). I’ll take their silly jokes, fidget spinners, and slime obsessions any day over 8th grade vulgarities!


Tell me:

         Have you ever had an unexpected “WHOA” experience that made you feel like a first year teacher again? Tell me about it!

Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith #firstyeareveryyear


10 years in…

So this is it folks- I’ve officially hit a decade of teaching! That’s 10 summers of planning, 10 “first” weeks and days, 10 years of kiddos gone by. My first group of kids are finishing college and starting their masters degrees (I’ll be right there with ’em)! Some are joining the work force and moving across the country. Some are just beginning as first year teachers. This summer it finally hit me– I treat every year in some way as if it were my first. Of course I’ve learned a lot along the way, but in education the ways change quickly and in these days of edtech, they change as fast as you blink. But every summer I still pull out my ragged copy of “The First Days of School”, I inevitably read a hopelessly optimistic and empowering professional development book, and I dream of what I want my students to engage in and how seamless my procedures will be by October.

Then October comes and I’m begging for some Wong intervention! All kidding aside- I realized this summer how intentional I want to be with my reflective practices, and how far and hard I really wanted to push myself this year. (See the about section for more background.) What better way to do that than share with the world the failures and successes of all those trials. I LOVE to help out new teachers, and love reading ideas and experiences of others- so this will be a multipurpose experiment in reflection, connection, and celebration (when all of my great ideas work perfectly of course)! I’m sure there will be some rejection as well- as all good teachers know, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. So here’s to another year of a little bit of messy, a little bit of silly, and a whole lot of learning!