For all their awkwardness, they often surprise me with their creatvity
8th graders are the most understood people on the planet. Perhaps even the universe. Sure, they might talk too loud or tell a sub to fuck off or wear jeans that vacillate between sagging to their knees or skinny jeans that severely limit their movement. True, they have a tendency to be self-centered and to care too deeply about peer approval and to say things that are socially awkward or rude as they try to be ironic or cynical or whatever it is that grownups hold as social capital.
Get past this facade and you’ll see that the act is so opaque that the student becomes transparent. You see the pain and confusion of inhabiting a world of childhood and adulthood. You see the insecurities that they haven’t learned to mask as well as adults. You’ll see that they are misunderstood.
Look even further and you’ll see generosity and kindness. You’ll see an honesty that is rare among adults. You’ll see that they’re just beginning to question the answers after spending so long answering the questions. They haven’t bought into the lie that it must be “practical” to be important. You’ll see the dreamers, the existential wanderers, the rule-followers who are now questioning the world of rules that they’ve spent so long serving.
You’ll see documentaries that aren’t professional, but are amazing in their viewpoint. You’ll see murals that aren’t flawless but are beautiful in their flaws. You’ll hear voices passionately pursuing social justice without yet feeling jaded by the system.
And you’ll hear laughter.
You’ll see smiles.
You’ll see why some people have discovered that this age group is the education system’s best kept secret. And you’ll realize why we feel fortunate to have this job.
So I invite any middle school teachers to mention why they enjoy teaching middle school: