I used to teach middle school. I started out in 7th grade and I loved it. I loved seeing kids growing into themselves, trying themselves out on their families and friends while they search for who they want to be. They were on the cusp, still so young and yet wanting to be so grown up.
That was 25 years ago. Part of why I added an elementary endorsement to my resume was because I still love that phase of life. And these days, that transition is happening earlier. I now love my 5th grade because I see the beginnings of that transition. Some years our students are stretching beyond childhood when they arrive in August and sometimes we get off easy and there are only a few approaching it at the end of the year. But most years we have this wild mix of little kids, budding young women, growth spurting boys, and ‘I am in charge of the world because I now know everything’ students.
Most years I am able to watch the transitions and appreciate the innocence in the process. I like being able to help them navigate this funny time in life. We ‘get’ to teach human growth and development in the spring and it is by far one of my most favorite units. The kids are terrified at first but then realize that they actually get to talk about and learn about what is happening to them. We won’t dive in until May this year. But we need it a little earlier this year.
I have one dear boy who is caught in the adolescent chaos. He embodies the most wonderful, young filly joy of life. He is happy to be alive and happy to move, sometimes unable to contain himself. And then it seemed like one day he woke up with some new hormones and realized that people were watching him and likely judging him. He is now this terrified filly acutely aware that the world might want to break him. He wants so badly for other to see him and yet doesn’t want to be watched and judged. It is breaking my heart to watch him struggle. Like so many children, he holds it together at school, keeps his head up and his attitude positive. And then when he is home, he lets it all out and falls apart. It’s a rough time for him and I wish I could wave my magic wand and transport him right past middle school, and maybe even high school, to where he can be his genuine self and everyone will celebrate him. Because he is an incredible young man, caught in a maelstrom that I fear could harm him irreparably. Oh, this life is so hard.