This is what I have learned from my second major pass through middle school (the first being in the early ‘70s):
• Most middle school students don’t mean to be disorganized. It’s just that their lockers and backpacks tend to reflect their explosive and creative inner landscapes.
• Middle school students often have an inordinate amount of zest from the moment they walk in the front doors until they plop down at home many hours later. Harnessing that energy is a beautiful thing.
• Working with middle school students means watching the grandest progression of human development from tentative seventh grader to bombastic eighth grader. It is awe-inspiring.
• Of course, painting any school population with such a wide brush is a mistake.
• Any middle schooler will tell you that before you’ve finished your sentence.
• Many middle schoolers have exceptionally refined senses of justice and fair play.
• It gives one hope for our future, trusting that these young people will carry their demands for equity into their adult lives and our U.S. policies.
• Some students understand this on a molecular level: a lot of the actual instruction in middle school is mostly about how to get along well with others (I understand from Richard Cervantes that this is true of kindergarten, too).
• Watching a middle school student look out for someone else’s feelings makes one’s eyes water.
• The wit of a middle schooler is often sharper than anything you see on TV.
• On the other hand, the capacity for goofball shenanigans often peaks in middle school.
• Which is why many middle school teachers are sometimes seen laughing and crying simultaneously, especially in late May.
• Middle school teachers are awesome individuals.
• Middle school teachers are brave because they can watch unrehearsed student presentations with parents present. (There is no dramatic tension quite like that of wondering if a middle school student will carry a joke a bit too far in front of all the parents. The teachers are used to it.)
• Middle school teachers have a unique ability to put themselves in the center of this transitional adolescent tornado every day and remain intact.
• In fact, some of the most admirable, decent, enthusiastic, forgiving humans I’ve ever known are middle school teachers.
I am grateful for the opportunity to recalibrate my own middle school experience some forty years after the first go-round. Everyone should get such a chance.
Dean of Students, High School