9 Things I Learned from Middle Schoolers

When I first came to college, I was bound and determined to go teach high school English in a rural town. I had my life mapped out post-graduation before I had even crossed the threshold of my first class. I would go to school, graduate, and snag a job where I could book talk Gatsby (because it’s the best, obviously) and read essays. Life would be good; right?

Here’s the thing: life changes. As we grow older, we realize that our decisions aren’t as cut and dry as we would like them to be. Before I began classes at Chadron State in the fall of 2014, I was hired on at the Chadron Middle School After School Program. As a staff member, I was in charge of leading enriching after school lessons and controlling middle school students for a few hours everyday.

I hated it.

You see, I hadn’t wanted to be placed at CMS. Instead, I wanted to go to the intermediate school to work for a friend of mine who ran the program. Middle schoolers scared me; I remembered my days of being that age and instantly wanted nothing to do with it. But, that was where I was placed, so I was going to give it my best and possibly ask to be moved elsewhere after my first semester.

Can you guess what happened? I loved it.

I’m now in my 3rd year at CMS, and I love it more with every passing day. I know what you’re thinking: It’s finally happened. She’s gone off the deep end for good. But that’s not the case; I honestly love these kids. The kids are full of love and positivity but are still able to get sassy and grown up when I need them to. It’s perfect for me. I was reminded of my love for this age group when I had to leave the school this week to visit both the primary (K-2) and intermediate (3-4) schools for a project. Nothing felt better than walking through the door today back to my people.

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(Image CC: Flickr.com)

So, in honor of my wonderful MS kiddos, I’ve compiled a list things I’ve learned while working with middle schoolers:

Middle school years are awful.

  • Seriously. It’s just as bad watching it happen to someone else as it was going through it yourself. Acne, weird growth spurts, etc.-it’s all still there. My kids deal with friend drama and growing pains every day. It’s tough; I like knowing that I get to be a constant person in their life that they feel open to talk to.

Middle schoolers are smelly.

  • As if you needed a reminder, right? I used to have a teacher that would tell me this fact all the time, but I never fully understood her pain until I had to stand in a small room with 35+ middle school students in August after outdoor rec. I feel you, I really do.

Middle school students rely on role models.

  • If there is one fact I will stress, it is this one. Those kids are constantly watching what goes on around them; PLEASE watch what you say and the way you act. They will pick up on it.

Middle schoolers are smart.

  • I really mean this. I may be a smidgen biased, but my middle school students are some of the smartest kids I know. They can tell you about geothermal energy, run and program small robots, and tell you all about the heart and its functions. I learn just as much from them as they learn from me. Teaching middle schoolers is a give and take situation, and I love that.

Though smart, MS students are not very good cooks.

  • We cook every Thursday at ASP, and I am sometimes frightened by what comes out of the kitchen. The staff in charge of cooking could walk them through the recipe step by step and the kids would still figure out a way to deform the object. However, I have also had some really amazing food come from the kitchen. It’s a toss up every Thursday, but I haven’t died yet, so you can bet I keep on eating.

Middle schoolers can be mean.

  • Here’s the big one everyone talks about: “MS students are rude and awful.” And you know what? I’m not going to deny that. There are times when students get frustrated and decide to take it out on others. Yes, they interrupt at times and can be snotty. Yes, they can be mean sometimes. But, 9 times out of 10 there is an underlying reason for this. The key to this is that you must remember that not every child has the same upbringing you did. Some of them go through some really tough things at a young age- remember that before you rant and rave towards them.

Middle schoolers can be sweet.

  • Woah- hold the phone! This is a completely different statement than the one above, but it’s still true. I cannot tell you how many hugs I’ve received from my MS’ers. They are the first to compliment my outfit or tell me I look nice. They genuinely care about what I do in school and constantly ask me to teach at the HS once I’ve graduated in order to still be with them. They are sweet; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

They are bluntly honest.

  • Trust me, they hold nothing back when speaking. One day, a student asked me if I had a boyfriend, to which I replied no. She then asked if I was wearing makeup, and the answer was again no. The conclusion she drew? “Maybe that’s the problem, Ms. Regan.” The filter these kids have is weak at best. Political views? No problem. Thoughts on their teachers? You bet you’ll hear them. What about lunch? Their favorite sports teams? The activities we offer? Your haircut? Check, check, check. They will tell you exactly how they feel. But is this really that bad? I love the honesty they portray, even though it’s sometimes a tad over the top. I like to know that they have opinions and care; it shows how they are maturing and growing into themselves.

Middle schoolers are amazing.

  • I came into this experience thinking that I would hate it; even though my major is geared towards 6-12, I was afraid to work in a MS. Looking back, I am so thankful for my time at CMS. The kids there are so precious to me; it’s corny, but I can’t imagine my college career without them. I have loved watching my first batch of shy, scared 5th graders grow into the 7th graders they are today. These kids have helped me accept Chadron as my college home. They care about me and always ask questions about my life. They have taught me how to discipline a classroom and how to have fun and interact with any and all students. They have helped me grow as a future educator; in fact, I have seriously considered looking into being a teacher in a middle school setting. My nearly 2.5 full years spent with middle school students have been absolutely invaluable to me.Don’t write these kids off your list; you will miss out on so much.

 

So, if you see a middle school kid today, go talk with them. Have a conversation; I promise they don’t bite (most of the time). 😉

 

Best,

Regan

 

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