I don't think I could have gotten a job that was better suited for me for my first year of teaching if I had tried. I LOVE that I get to work with both 5th AND 6th graders, and that I get to see almost 70 students each day. I was worried, at first, about working in a middle school model. Would I get bored teaching "the same thing" more than once or the same subject day after day? The simple answer, as I discovered, is NO!
There are four classes that I work with- two 5th grade groups and two 6th grade groups. I see my 5th graders four times per week for class plus once a week for study hall. I see my 6th graders every day for class plus twice a week for study hall. Even though each of the grade levels are pretty much in the same place as far as curriculum it is far from teaching the same every day. Each of the classes is unique in their needs and their learning styles. For example, I have one class that does not take written tests. They are SO much more project-minded, and a written test is not only boring to them, but it doesn't show me what they know. This class can really knock my socks off if I give them a chance to illustrate their understanding in a creative way. On the other hand I had one class BEG me to continue with the written tests taken from the text book provided. These students feel more comfortable having a definitive right and wrong answer and enjoy being able to study to get to the bottom line. I like being able to give each group what is best for their success.
I do a lot of choices in my classroom, but in the end the students know that I am in charge and will make the final decision. I let the classes choose things like which read-aloud we are going to do next, if they are going to work in partners or groups of three, or even sometimes which activities we will do on a half-day when class is only 30 minutes long. I've found this to be an effective way to form a relationship with my classes, even though some of their parents still say I'm scary to their children. I still can't quite figure that out, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I also make it clear that no means no and cute looks don't buy much lee-way in my classroom. Homework assignments are due when they are scheduled, and I expect students to take responsibility for their own learning. Effort goes a long way in my classroom, and those who don't care to work hard don't get the grade they were hoping for. I feel this is a fair system for everyone. Just like with my own children, work first, then we can have fun. When it gets to the fun part we work just as hard at that. There is a lot of laughter that comes from my classroom. It may be a good thing we are at the end of the hall.