Surviving as a Middle School Teacher, thanks to Service Learning.

I am a teacher. I am also a student. Of life. Although this year has been one of my most challenging, career-wise, I have learned a lot from my 114 silly/studious/shy/social middle school students. I’ve had to remember the painful awkwardness of adolescence, in order to better empathize with their raging hormones and histrionic humor. I’ve needed to readjust my teaching style, especially when it came to leading a few minutes of mindfulness at the beginning of each new class period. I’ve been frustrated by their short attention spans, yet at times inspired by their youthful wisdom.

We’ve survived the year, almost. Some of them have even exhibited more mindfulness in their behavior and work performance. (Some of them.) This Friday, the kids will be in a “closing ceremony” marking the end of their middle school careers and the beginning of high school and “real life.”

My favorite unit this year was the social justice campaign. In my class (English Enrichment), the students worked together in small groups to develop videos and other awareness-building campaigns for critical issues facing their country and our world. Along with it, each section (we have five) developed plans for a community service project for five local Guatemalan nonprofit organizations. All in all, it was a great success. The group I chaperoned, for example, visited a safe house for teenage girls who have been victims of human trafficking and other forms of abuse. Our students created fun activities and spent a few hours with the girls, visibly brightening their day.

The numbers? 114 students from our school, 10 teachers, 5 organizations, more than Q20,000 fundraised (that’s about $2500), 800 pounds of food donated, over 400 trees planted, and over 250 kids and adults who benefited!

Here are the five best videos from this year’s 8th grade social justice campaign project. I hope you’ll find them as inspiring as I do!

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