Here we are, now entertain us. I feel stupid and contagious.Nirvana
Middle school. My gut reaction upon hearing those words is to scrunch up my nose and make a face that’s a mixture of disgust and sympathy. And yet, I voluntarily chose to spend 7+ hours over the next ~8 Mondays in one of the local middle school’s 8th grade science, gifted science, and agriculture science classes. I decided to give middle school a second chance- not as a student *no…never again*- but instead, helping in the classrooms for my practicum this semester.
What makes middle school such a notoriously terrible experience? Maybe it’s the raging hormones, seismic shifting of social groups, prevalence of bullying, or maybe the small thing of trying to figure out who you are as a human person. Whatever combination of things you encountered in grades ~6-8, you probably don’t look back on those years fondly. Suffice to say, I was nervous going into this experience.
Monday morning was an early start (6:45 am… yes I know considering this “early” is laughable for most over the age of 25), but I strut into that school. Mostly because I’m fairly certain that flocks of preteens can smell fear. My day began with a planning period. One of the teachers, a peer of mine, and I talked over expectations and goals for our time together. Ms Davis and I spitfired ideas off of each other, excited about all of the project possibilities where we could incorporate conservation into the gifted science program. It was then that I knew I was going to have a good day- it’s rare that I find someone who keeps up with, much less entertains my mile-a-minute pinball machine style thinking but that’s exactly the kind of thinking needed to create engaging and informational lesson-plans. I found my place.
About an hour later, I went over to Mr Heeter’s regular 8th grade science class of ~26 kids. I hung back during their “warm-up” but by the end of the period, I was walking around answering questions about half-lives, carbon dating, and radioactive decay and keeping some of the more disruptive students on task. Some of the more problematic kids were hilarious and intelligent one-on-one. There isn’t time for a teacher to give 26 students individualized attention so I was very appreciative that Mr Heeter let me jump in and take on a student teacher role. Talking with the kids, explaining the activities we were doing if they were struggling, I found it all very rewarding. One girl asked me if I wanted to be a science teacher. When I said that I didn’t know, she told me that I should become one because I was good at it!
The rest of the day I was with the gifted students who needed a lot less help with their work. Ms Davis was teaching coding using Ozobots– tiny robots that are easy to program and super cool!- by having the students program their ozobots to go on “road trips” around a map of the US. While the kids were working, I played with the Squishy Circuit set in order to troubleshoot before we made a lesson plan involving it.
At the end of the day I was pooped. After getting back, I took a nap and reflected on life. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up working with kids- the jury is still out on middle schoolers in particular, but it was a good day and I’m looking forward to the rest of my time there. I love their crazy, their creativity, their enthusiasm and potential. Yeah kids are exhausting, but they’re way better than working with boring cubicle-bound grown-ups!
Let your weird middle-school self live-on forever. Some feverish soul-searching will do everyone some good,