Every summer for the past six years I have had the privilege of teaching for a few weeks at a summer camp for gifted children. Even now that I'm living in the Glorious South I make the trek up north for at least two weeks every summer. I stay with my girlfriend and her family (ranging in age from 10 months to 14 years so that's an experience in itself), and get to visit my friends, and even get paid.
What a deal!
However, because I'm incredibly mercenary, I make it a point to try to work the last two weeks of camp because that way I can help the camp director eliminate her storage problem over the school year by taking the gently used supplies (crayons, colored pencils, glue, markers, etc.) off her hands. Heck I teach in a school with 52% free and reduced lunch and believe me, I have a use for slightly used school supplies. I'm afraid the camp director has actually started to depend on me to help reduce her storage as there always seems to be boxes with my name on it in the camp office that start getting loaded up as people turn in their materials.
However, this also means that I end up teaching kids going into 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades. Granted, they are gifted (supposedly, we're wondering about a few of them) but there's still a huge difference between the age group I usually teach (7th) and these kids.
And it really becomes apparent when you're talking about knots.
One of the classes I teach is a kite building class and it requires lots and lots and lots of knots. And these kids, with their tiny little hands, have a heck of a time with knots. I'm starting to think we need to ban velcro on tennis shoes until kids learn how to tie a decent knot. So I spend a lot of time helping 15 little ones tie their kites together. And usually I get one kid who just dissolves into tears of frustration because he/she just can't tie knots. However, since the goals of the camp include challenging these kids who usually aren't challenged enough, it's not a big deal. We talk about dealing with challenges and taking the time to learn something that's hard, and it all works out in the end. They get their kites built, they want their picture taken with you on the last day and the hug you and tell you that you're the coolest and funnest teacher ever.
But by the end of the week, although I'm having an absolute ball, I really appreciate the independence that my seventh graders have.
I know people look at those of us who teach middle school as people who are either completely insane or people who are incredibly brave to wade in and try to ride herd on a bunch of hormones on feet. However, I think those teachers who spend their careers teaching the little ones, and tying knots, and wiping noses and generally being mommie and teacher all in one are the ones who really are impressive. I don't think I could do it for an entire year.