12th and 6th grade alike?

They’re between the ages of 16 and 18.  They are IB Year 2 Biology students.  They are applying for college and looking forward to being on their own next year.  They can think critically and debate.  They can grasp high level content.  They challenge ideas.  They are aware of global issues. 

Then, within in minutes of their departure, the “little” ones walk in.  They are energetic.  They laugh spontaneously at the silliest things.  They can’t find their notebook.  They don’t have a pencil.  They pull out a crinkled, torn lab paper from the bottom of the backpack.  They are filled with wonder and thrill in discovery.

I teach 12th and 6th grade students.  On the one hand they are so different but on the other hand I am amazed at the similarities.  The most surprising discovery for me is how much my 12th graders enjoy activities that years ago I considered “beneath them”.   Last year, after a special training course on teaching English language learners, I trialed some hands-on learning activities on my seniors. Truthfully, I thought these activities would only work on my middle school students.   I mean, what 17-year old is going to want work out biological pathways through handling laminated images?  Well, I was wrong.  They LOVE it.  So, I’ve incorporated these “best practice” activities such as sequencing of sentences to form a paragraph on genetic mutations or matching laminated vocabulary words on evolution with their corresponding definitions.  Whenever I present such an activity, my older students become excited and eagerly move into position to participate.  Like the 6th graders, they learn well when they are hands on with the content.

Both grades are unique.  Both grades love learning, especially when they are engaged.  Both grades are a joy to teach.  So yes, they are alike!