Middle School is Still Cool
I believe in the sheer greatness of middle school students. My seventh graders bring a kind of contagious energy with them each day. The value of this far transcends anything I could teach about subject-verb agreement or rhyme schemes.
This energy is the product of many things. Most middle school students have not taken up any sort of false identity. Oh yes, there are still the cliques and gossip queens, without which middle school would not be complete. However, for the most part middle school students are fiercely independent. They listen to their music; have their own style, and thanks to the wonders of instant messaging, their own language. Most of my students are not busy trying to please the adults in their lives with the decisions they make. As adults we could learn a lot from middle school students about being true to ourselves.
Middle school students don’t hide their emotions, either. If they’re angry you get to know about it. If they’re depressed you’ll know by their facial expressions and lethargic gait. And if they’re bored, well, they’ll probably just tell you. Parents spend most of their time trying to make all those feelings disappear. So often when students come to school they just explode all over the place, like one student I had who cried “just because.” Adults regard the blatant expression of feelings as a kind of heresy, middle school students see it as a natural process, and they make it their own.
My students aren’t afraid to dance; in fact, many of them listed dancing as a hobby at the beginning of the year. I’ve seen the same students dance in the school gym; their abilities are comparable to Elaine’s on Seinfeld. They dance anyway, and they don’t care who is watching. I see this as such a positive thing that sometimes I dance, too. Sometimes we stop class just so we can stand up and dance, move our bodies to some vibrant rhythm, and laugh while we do it.
Many people cringe when I tell them I teach middle school, and declare me a “brave soul”. While high stakes testing can create pressure and I sometimes get lost under piles of paperwork, most days I count myself pretty lucky. After all most weeks I get to laugh with my students, and sometimes cry. We dance often, and talk openly about issues they deal with. (They are concerned about everything from MySpace to ending world hunger.) I believe middle school students have a lot to teach us about leading a healthy, fulfilling life.
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