“My kids tell me have I have ‘bars’ – whatever that means.” – Pat Hitchens
Pat Hitchens joined the Shaker Middle School faculty in 2005 as an instructional assistant and monitor in the Alternative to Suspension program. She taught for seven years at Woodbury, then returned to the Middle School in 2014 “because I really liked the age group, and I particularly liked the idea of teaching in a single subject area,” she says. Prior to teaching here, she worked for 10 years at Shaker Heights Public Library and taught in the Cleveland Public Schools.
Personal: I’m the proud mother of three Shaker grads, Alex (’03), Leah (’05), and David (’10), and proud grandmother of three. I also care for my 87-year-old mother.
Main gig: Seventh-grade social studies teacher
Other duties: Adviser for the Drill and Step Team, co-adviser for Student Government, along with Jevette Collier, co-adviser for African American Female Scholars, with Rebekah Sharpe. I serve as an emcee at pep rallies, where I am known as the “Rappin’ Granny” due to my rhythmic rhyming skills.
Why middle school?
I prefer this age group because they are old enough to work independently, yet young enough to still be impressionable. Middle schoolers are extremely curious, and can be extremely thoughtful and compassionate. I also appreciate their sense of fun and humor. They keep me laughing.
What’s your secret to connecting with middle schoolers?
I will rap information to my kids in a heartbeat, because hip-hop is so ingrained in their culture. I try to get them to use it as a mnemonic device. Integration of technology is critical, especially since our students are “digital natives,” compared to some of us teachers and parents who are “digital immigrants.” We must learn to speak their language.
What do students like about the Shaker Middle School experience?
I think our students like and appreciate the diversity. Sometimes their circle of friends is like a little United Nations. I also think they like the choices of classes that are available to them.
What are the biggest challenges they face? And how can we support them?
Organization is a big one, especially for seventh-graders who are attempting to balance so many classes for the first time. We encourage them to use ProgressBook to monitor their assignments and grades, and integrate all other available modes of technology to help students with their academic success.
Best part of your job?
Getting to know the students. I love having students come back and tell me what they are up to, where they are planning on going to college, or sharing with me current academic successes.
Toughest part of your job?
Balancing the rigors and demands of teaching with the demands of one’s own personal life.
For extra credit: Middle school kids say the darndest things.
When I overheard a student say, “Who are the Beatles?” I had to laugh, once I got past the shock. I realize I am now an old fogey!