Feeling Loopy

The upcoming months are sure to be exciting and stressful for me.  I will be working full-time on the research phase of my Kenan Fellowship for the duration of my three-week track-out break.  At the same time, however, I will be preparing for the new year-round school year which begins with workdays after Independence Day, and with students less than a week later.  This year will be a new challenge: I am moving back to the eighth grade and joining a new team.

Because I am moving up a grade on my same track for the first time in my career, I will be teaching the same students this coming year as I have for the past 12 months.  In education lingo, this is often called “looping” when (often elementary school) teachers move up with their students and return to a lower grade with a new group in a subsequent year.  While I have no intention of joining my students in high school after this coming school year, it will still be the first time that I have spend this much time with a group of students.

Some of the advantages of being “promoted” with my current cohort of kids are fairly obvious.  I won’t have to spend much time at the start of the year getting to know them or learning their strengths and weaknesses.  I’ll already have a close relationship with most of them and a good understanding of their home lives and personal struggles.  They are already familiar with my grading and discipline systems, which should make it easier for us to jump right in and get started in July.

Many of the disadvantages are not so clear.  For example, there is a dark side to my students already knowing my discipline system: if I want to change (or just “reboot”) the system, I have to battle their entrenched habits.  I am starting to realize that I must make any changes early in the year or there won’t be enough time to practice and reinforce them.

Another downside of looping up to the next grade with my students is the extra time with those teenagers whom I would just as soon say goodbye to.  Every teacher has had a child or two each year who she couldn’t quite connect with or who refused to engage with what was being done in the classroom.  Now imagine spending another 180 days with that student.

My status as an eternal (and somewhat naive) optimist leads me to think more about the pluses than the minuses.  It pushes me to think about how I am going to change that negative relationship with that student who I dreaded teaching again.  It forces me to plan frequent classroom management “refreshers” throughout the year to combat the “been there, done that” attitude that some students will bring with them.

Beyond these, however, what do you see as the biggest pros and cons of teaching the same group of students for two consecutive years?  Are their pitfalls I should avoid?