In the Spring of 2022, I was at my witts end. There were only five months left in the 5th grade school year before Jocelyn would leave elementary school. The middle school she was assigned to was horrible. There were daily fights, drug abuse, lewd sexual acts, and poor test scores. My husband and I decided that she would NOT attend that public school. Homeschool was not an option for our family because I must work full-time. Therefore, we decided to apply for five charter schools in our area. Jocelyn was waitlisted for each school.
In June 2022, we finally received a call requesting a student interview for Jocelyn’s top choice- a K-12 charter school that offers fine arts, sports, and academics! However, the excitement quickly gave way to worry as we tried to figure out transportation. I emailed the middle school principal and asked about a “before school” program. To my dismay, she said they only offered an after “school program.”
“Oh goodness- I don’t know how to get Jocelyn to school in the mornings unless I work there. Are you looking for a teacher?” I casually asked the principal. “Send me your resume,” the principal replied. I sent it to her, not thinking anything would become of the conversation. I was preparing my heart to decline Jocelyn’s student interview and pray that another school called us. Five minutes later she responded with one sentence: “Can you please come in for a job interview?”
A few days later, Jocelyn and I visited the charter school for our interviews. We were both accepted! She is currently in the sixth grade and thriving. For the past nine weeks, I’ve been teaching 7th-grade Science just down the hallway from her and loving every minute of it. Undoubtedly, moving from elementary-aged students to middle school-aged students is a big change. Leaving the public school to teach at a charter school has also been a big change. What are the pros and cons of each?
Pros and Cons of Teaching Elementary vs Middle School
Elementary children are generally eager to please their teachers.
The community, parents, and grandparents are much more involved in elementary school activities.
Elementary children cannot easily communicate their feelings or explain what is happening at home.
Elementary classroom teachers must nurture both the students are parents. (It’s difficult for parents to learn that their child has learning/social difficulties.)
Elementary school children suffer from separation anxiety because they do not want to go to school.
Elementary classroom teachers feel more stress to teach, assess, and differentiate instruction while simultaneously identifying learning difficulties.
Middle School teachers are less stressed because they’re able to focus on one or two content areas, instead of every subject area like a classroom teacher.
Middle School teachers find it easier to provide academic assistance because the bulk of a student’s needs have already been identified at the elementary level.
Middle school students are more independent, while elementary students require more “hand-holding.”
Middle school teachers get to experience more drama and attitude thanks to puberty! (hahaha)
Middle school teachers encounter more “inappropriate adult topics” and peer pressure among middle School students.
Pros and Cons of Teaching at a Charter School vs Public School
Public schools receive more funding, and often pay their teachers higher salaries.
Public school teachers can join teacher’s unions.
Public schools offer more insurance options and employee benefits.
Public schools have larger class sizes. They are open to everyone regardless of their behavior.
Public schools provide transportation to and from school, while charter schools generally do not do this.
Public schools are not closed campuses- meaning many elections, workshops, and health clinics take place at the public schools. The doors are constantly opening. This is not the case with a charter schools. (I feel much safer at the charter school.)
Charter schools close their enrollment a few weeks after the school year has begun. Not having a constant sea of new faces any time during the school year, allows for the classroom to remain organized.
Charter schools can expel students who consistently break school rules. Attending a charter school is a privilege, not a right. Public schools are obligated to provide an education to everyone, even if those students are disruptive to others around them.
Charter schools generally have smaller class sizes, which means they can offer students more attention.
Charter school teachers have more input in the curriculum and therefore have more opportunities to include hands-on learning opportunities.
Charter school parents/families tend to remain deeply involved in their child’s education from elementary thru high school.
Which would I choose?
I enjoy the exuberance and curiosity of my middle schoolers. They are excited to learn new things. I also love their independence. For the first time in18 years, I’m not tying shoes, zipping backpacks, blowing noses, or logging 25 second graders into a computer only to have them log off 10 minutes later. (Pure insanity.) Let me say that one more time, I love the independence of middle schoolers. However, I would not teach middle school in a public school setting. All children misbehave. However, from my personal experience, the public school system does not have the power to remove students who consistently harm those around them. In my opinion, the consequences in a public school setting are not strong enough to change students’ poor behavior. I do not want this for myself or my daughter. Did I take a pay cut to teach at the charter school? Yes, I did, and so far it’s been the best decision. My daughter and I are less stressed out, happier and safer, in the charter school setting.