by Michelle Lynch
We have your child in our class, and we have an announcement to make: we know more than you think, about your kid.
Sure, you birthed him or her, and had long, sleep deprived nights. Yes, you have raised them and (hopefully) taught them right from wrong. You’ve fed and clothed them, driven them to and from school every day, and you just might be saving a few dollars each month for them to use for college in ten years. But we see them day in and day out, five days a week for eight hours (that comes to forty uninterrupted, academic hours of bliss). We get lots of time to get to know them.
I consider myself a good teacher. Not the best, by far, but a good, decent teacher that always puts forth my best effort in educating my students and making them feel safe and welcome, in a world where not much is guaranteed anymore. So before I worry about the times tables or writing linear equations, I work to create a family here at school. I talk to your sons and daughters, and find out their likes and dislikes. How they like to learn and what they hate about school. I ask them what they do on weekends and on their winter breaks. Because to me, they are more than just a body in a seat that I’m getting evaluated on. They tell me about you, what you do for a living, how old you are, and what they can’t stand about you. And I let them. I let them vent. I let them be themselves and develop their personality. I offer my advice when I feel it could help, and curb the conversation if it even touches upon being mean, nasty or disrespectful. I say what I think you’d want me to say, but sometimes, from that different perspective, it makes all the difference in the world.
Kids talk to each other too. And think teachers don’t have ears. But we do. I turn on my selective hearing when I feel it is something that could help improve our class, or when I worry and want to help them through a tough situation.
Here’s some things you may not know or see, at least in the way that I know them as their teacher:
- Your son is totally respectful; way more than you think he is. So stop worrying. He raises his hand, helps the girl who dropped her books, and says please and thank you. He also does his homework and gets here on time. You done good, Mom! (PS-There will also be times he can be a complete jerk, and that’s okay too so long as it’s few and far between!!!)
- Your daughter lines her eyes with too much eyeliner in the bathroom before school. She wants to be cool, she wants to be accepted, and she doesn’t want you to know about it. And that’s okay! She knows you won’t like it, and probably would say no if she asked you, so at least she’s respecting you enough not to rub it in your face. There’s a 99% chance she’s going to look back and see how foolish and ridiculous she looked, and never do it again. (Don’t you look back and cringe at those poufy, aqua net bangs? Or shrink away when you see those pleated khakis you pegged in ’82?)
- Sometimes, your kid will have zero interest in school. They will miss homework. They will fail a test. And, they will do the bare minimum (hopefully at least the bare minimum) to get by. We all do this from time to time; fall into a rut and just don’t care. No big deal! Trust us, we will let you know if they’re in over their heads.
- As soon as they hit middle school, their hormones will rage completely and utterly out of control. She will get all googly over a boy in the seventh grade, or all of a sudden he will be “squirmy” in their seats and refuse to stand up. And we know about it all! School is the mecca for socialization, the hub, the place to be for tweens. They can’t drive, can’t go out on their own, and probably won’t advertise much of this info at home, so here is where it’s at. If they want to tell you about it, they will. If they don’t, they don’t. It’s okay. Take an interest, let them know you are there for them and are a source of stability. Because even though they pretend they know it all and have it all under control, they need you to be their rock.
- They won’t shut up! This socializing thing really takes off once they get up there in age…who’s dating who, what time to meet at the corner deli, who’s wearing what, and who cheated at four square on the playground. It doesn’t stop. There is always drama, even if you think you’ve got the most precious cherub ever…I guarantee they’re somehow involved. Or at least could repeat it all back to you verbatim from hearing it so many times in the halls, the cafeteria, gym, and even in the middle of class.
- They won’t talk! Despite the socializing kicking in, some kids just have less to say. Probably not to us, kids always talk to us. But to you they won’t have a thing to say. One. Word. Enjoy the silence. I sure do.
They never, ever, ever, want us to contact you. Good news, bad news, it doesn’t matter. If it’s good news, they don’t want to be embarrassed because it’s totally not cool to be so awesome. If it’s bad news, they run in fear (at least away from some of you). That’s the best. If you’ve instilled the fear of God in them (within reason, of course), then you’ve done well for yourself. Usually those are the best kids to work with.
I say this all completely and totally from my own experience. Ten, eleven, twelve…this is where the excitement begins. I’d venture to say you’ll feel like you have a newborn all over again and feel completely clueless. But I get these tweens each and every September, and even the tough ones have all made it out alive and mostly unscathed. If you love with all your heart, and your actions show it, they’re going to be fine!!! Middle school is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Michelle has been a middle school math and special education teacher for over ten years. She’s worked with students of all ages and needs, but currently finds happiness in the middle school classroom and is looking to broaden her horizons and venture into the blogging world. She has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and currently resides in Bridgewater, NJ with her husband and three-year-old son. She can be reached at MRuggiero520@gmail.com.