My strength is that I am trustworthy. I hear it time and again from my students, that they trust me with things they don't always tell other people. It's what I'm really good at, and it makes all the difference in creating the type of climate I want for my classroom.
Remembering how I felt at middle school age dictates a lot of what I try to do and be as a middle school teacher. That particular age is so full of paranoia and insecurity and mistrust of adults, and I don't want my students to feel that way with me. I want them to understand that teenagers and adults do not have to be forever locked in battle. They can trust me, and I will honor that they put that trust in me.
I am also very honest that I am a mandatory reporter, and while they are welcome to write about whatever topics they choose, I will report when I have to. There is a difference between keeping secrets and allowing someone to be in danger. My students respect that I know the difference and that I don't make promises of secrecy that I can't keep.
At a writing conference with an 8th grade boy yesterday, we talked about how the piece of writing he's currently working on is about his crush (this happens a lot when you give kids freedom to write and a supportive environment). I asked the purpose for the piece (my standard question), and then we talked about details he could include to explain why he likes her so much. At the end of the conference, he laughed nervously and said, "Mrs. Hauptsteen, I would never trust any other teacher but you with knowing this information. You are the best at keeping secrets and not being judgmental." It was simple compliment, and I've heard it before, and I know it's my biggest strength.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.