Weâ€™re back in full school mode here, revolving our days around the tick of the academic clock. In my last post, I promised the details of my latest teaching venture, so hereâ€™s whatâ€™s going down for the current school year. After spending my entire professional teaching career teaching high school students, this year Iâ€™m splitting my time between high school andâ€¦
Yâ€™all, I am the most surprised among us about this most recent development. In truth, I did have some practicum experience with middle schoolers early on in my undergrad work, but do you know what this taught me about them?
Some of them bop around as a regular course of action. As in, they literally make bouncy motions all over the place.
For no reason at all.
Some of them regularly make sounds that donâ€™t form into the words of any language Iâ€™ve ever heard.
For no reason at all.
Why would one do these things?
I really donâ€™t know.
(Yes, I am aware that I am the blogger who, on more than one occasion, has confessed to doing something â€œjust because I canâ€ or â€œbecause it pleases me.â€ So itâ€™s not lost on me that this might be a case of what goes around comes around.)
At any rate, this year Iâ€™m teaching seventh grade English as well as ninth grade English. And I will say, after a few days of working with the middle creatures (not, in most cases, to be confused with the creatures from Tolkienâ€™s Middle-earth),
they kind of rock Iâ€™m cautiously optimistic.
Theyâ€™re already making me laugh, and none of them seem to be donning the gothic-looking garment of apathy found on some of their older counterparts. Plus, they do really fascinating things. The other day, for instance, I actually caught a student passing an old-fashioned note.
Yâ€™all, after confiscating what turned out to be an innocuous message, I had the best flashbacks of my own middle school note-passing experiences. When I was in seventh grade myself, for instance, a note headed my way was intercepted by my teacher, who immediately began reading it aloud before fully comprehending its message: the noteâ€™s author was breaking up with me. Not to worry, however: Iâ€™d only gone out with him in the first place because of peer pressure, and the relationship had soured when I started suspecting that he wasnâ€™t bathing regularly. Even better, my awesome best friend piped up right away and pointed out both the redundancy and the hilarity of the note, since I had, in fact, already broken up with the noteâ€™s author two weeks prior. In retrospect, communication issues may have also led to the relationshipâ€™s demise. After all, the communication/hygiene failure combo is a one-two punch few relationships can survive.
In any case, in terms of curriculum this year, in ninth grade weâ€™re starting with the theme of Loss of Innocence and reading To Kill a Mockingbird, a book Iâ€™ll never tire of teaching or reading. In seventh grade, weâ€™re starting with the theme of The Hero and the Quest, and along with some of the Arthurian legends, weâ€™re also reading Freak the Mighty.
In Freak the Mighty, the character Max, a large, awkward boy trying to escape the sins of his father, tells the story of meeting his best friend Kevin, a tiny, brilliant kid suffering from the effects of a rare form of dwarfism. The boys are essentially social outcasts who form an alliance that turns their would-be weaknesses into strengths. In the chapter we just read yesterday, after working together to outsmart the town bully, Max ends the chapter with these words: â€œThatâ€™s how it started, really, how we got to be Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world.â€