Middle. School. Whenever I utter those two words in succession while describing my job, I almost always get the same reaction – “UGH! That’s a tough age,” and I always come back with “Oh, it’s really not that bad.”
But it’s true: Middle School is not easy. Not in any sense. I experienced some of the hardships of Middle School first hand while a student, and I work with Middle School students daily, so I assumed my understanding of the trials and tribulations of students was quite strong. However, I was recently given the opportunity to revisit this experience as a student. I shadowed eighth-grader Emilee Foy on a November Thursday for an entire school day (lunch, break, P.E., etc) and was reminded of just how trying these days can be.
Now, I’m not by any means saying the day was miserable – Emilee could not have been a kinder, more patient hostess to me. Attending and participating in each of her classes was really enlightening (our teachers are ROCKSTARS!), and having the opportunity to go outside and get active during the day was really refreshing for me (can faculty have P.E.??).
That said, I felt like a complete mess all day. Usually, I consider myself to be a pretty organized person, but keeping up with my materials and belongings through more than ten locations during the day was really challenging, and I didn’t even have any textbooks. What materials I did have kept falling off those tiny, slanted surfaces our students work on. Also, our 45-minute classes seemed to go by so quickly that by the time I got settled and on task in each one, it was time to pack up and leave again. By the end of the day, I left feeling more exhausted than normal, and more compassionate towards our students and their obstacles that, as a teacher, can seem largely trivial.
Of course, our students indeed must learn the skills of organization, time management, and problem solving. The earlier they have functional use of these abilities, the better. But as I rediscovered, being a Middle Schooler, even for a day, is not a breeze. So if you are an educator or a parent, as frustrating as these little humans can be, remember we’ve all been there!
Katie Sullivan, Middle School Spanish Teacher