The First Day of Eighth Grade

By Haley Radcliffe, Secondary English Education Major / Brentwood Borough School District Intern

As I sit at my desk writing this blog post, the Brentwood Middle School eighth-graders I’ll be working with and learning from this semester are starting their first day of school. I try to remember my first day of eighth grade, all the back in 2013, but instead of memories of all I learned in my classes that day flooding back to me, the most vivid image I can recall is dressing in a Hollister graphic t-shirt and floral skirt to match with all my friends, obviously nervous for the new school year and looking for safety in numbers, although I would never have admitted it at the time.

Even though the classic Hollister graphic t-shirt and floral skirt combination now seems to have been replaced by mom jeans and chunky gold jewelry, I bet most of today’s eighth-graders are still experiencing the same nerves that I was almost 10 years ago. The middle school years are an interesting time, to say the least, and certainly a period where students’ social and emotional learning is just as significant as their academic learning. As secondary English teachers, then, it becomes important to consider how we support middle school students as they develop in all three areas: social, emotional, and academic. As I begin my final two semesters here at Duquesne and start to make the transition from student to teacher myself, this question is becoming increasingly important to answer.

While the bulk of the work in my internship will focus on meeting the middle schoolers’ academic needs as I learn to identify teaching strategies that foster engagement and achievement, to work effectively with small groups of students during instructional time, and to interpret student data from large and small-scale assessments, I hope to also gain experience meeting the middle schoolers’ social and emotional needs, too. The extent of my contact with my host teacher’s eighth-graders will be limited by my weekly visits to her English Language Arts classroom, but it is of course still possible to actively work to develop positive relationships with the students from my position. In addition to the academic goals I’ve set for this semester, then, developing these positive relationships is one of my major priorities, too.

While I won’t meet the eighth-graders until next week, I hope some cosmic forces will let them know that I’m wishing them the best, least-nerve-wracking, most enjoyable first day of school possible and that I’m so excited to meet them soon. See you next week, Spartans!


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