I once made a joke to a friend of mine that the reason I like teaching middle school so much is that I get to be myself, because I really am a dorky middle school kid at heart. After I made the joke I thought to myself, “Wait, that might actually be true!”
So I was dramatically twisting myself in knots around the front of my room the other day, acting like a big dork while trying to get my LCD remote to get a signal to my laptop, when one of my students said it best:
“Ms. Alexander, are you half kid or something?”
I think I am! *snort* Ha ha!
I consider myself pretty fashionable. I am especially savvy in the shoe department. I pride myself on it. But this week my dreams of being the teacher all the girls looked to for fashion advice came crashing down on me.
It was first thing in the morning, and my first period kids were filtering into my classroom. Jessica, one of my “theatre is my LIFE” students, walked up to me and very dramatically said, “Ms. Alexander, I think I am going to DIE.” I said, “Why?” and she told me this little story of how her grandma drove her to school that morning, and when they pulled up to the front of the school she noticed her granddaughter was wearing flip-flops. Since flip-flops are not allowed in school her grandma gave her some of her own shoes to wear that she had in the car.
“Ms. Alexander…. LOOK.” She pointed down to her feet and my eyes followed her. They were the most hideous pair of old lady tennis shoes I had ever seen in my life. I felt for the girl, I really did. I had actually brought some tennis shoes to school with me that day so I could change before the football game that evening, so I offered to loan her mine for the day. She said, “OMG, YES!” and we walked over to my desk. I pulled them out and she stopped, looked at them, looked up at me with a blank expression, and after what seemed like the longest pause ever, said….
“Ms. Alexander, those are like the same!”
I gasped in horror and she tried to save herself but I just said, “Get out! There’s no turning back from that!” We had a good laugh over it, but now I’ll never look at those tennis shoes the same way again. It’s time to go shopping.
This is the first “Kids Say” (the darndest things) post of the new school year! We are currently working on basic theatre vocabulary. I know… FUN, right? Ugh, I hate this boring stuff, too. Anyway, last year while I was trying to survive my first year I just had them write down the vocabulary words from the textbook and memorize them. This year I said to myself, “No one learns that way. This year they’re going to have to know what they really mean.” So I set off on a mission to teach these kids the meanings of the words.
I told the kids that I would not be putting the book’s definitions on the test. It freaked some of them out, because of course they want the “right” answer and I couldn’t give them that. They actually had to listen to what I was saying and take notes. I had them get into groups and rewrite the definitions in their own words and all that.
Later in the week I came up with a little review activity where they had to match the words to the definitions in a relay race. The thing was, I put all the definitions in my own words. As I was working on them at home I told my husband what I was doing and he said, “Wow, that’s higher level thinking. Are middle school kids capable of that?” I was like, “Heck YES they are!” but then started doubting my quest a little bit.
The next day we did the activity and I was thrilled because the kids were getting it, and they thought it was pretty easy, too! I was so proud that before they left my classroom I gave them a little speech and let them know what my husband said, and that I couldn’t wait to go home and say “I told ya so!” I then talked about how amazing their brains were because it really was a higher level thinking task, and the fact they thought it wasn’t that hard made it even more impressive, because that told me they had really learned it. The class “Awww’d” and clapped for themselves, and then Jordan in the back raised his hand with a worried look on his face.
“Does this mean you’re going to start expecting more from us?”
So after my tear-driven post earlier this week the clouds parted a bit and some sunlight seeped through.
I was sitting in my classroom after school let out yesterday, when all of a sudden one of my students ran into my room in full football gear, helmet and all. He said, “Hey, Ms. Alexander!” Thinking he needed something, I said, “Hey, Connor. What’s up?” The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Connor: I’m at football practice!
Me: So why aren’t you practicing football?
Connor: Oh, we’re on a water break. Gotta go!
And he ran out of the room.
I smiled. Now there’s that middle school dorkiness I have been missing!
I think I’m going to be OK….
After an amazing summer off (one I feel like I truly earned!), it’s back to it. The kids started school on Monday and I am already sleep deprived! Funny how that happens, huh? I swear this is the hardest job in the world. Teachers, don’t let anyone think you have it easy because of all your breaks. They don’t know how many hours we continue to work at home all night, every night and a lot of the weekend that more than make up for those hours off! And those breaks? They aren’t given. They are earned! Anyway, I digress.
So I started at a new school this year and so far it’s a bit of a culture shock for me. Last year I worked in a very low socioeconomic area. This year I’m working in a much, much higher socioeconomic area. OK, let’s just say it: Last year I worked with poor kids, this year I’m working with rich kids. I was really nervous about the change in demographic. I fell in love with my kids last year and I couldn’t imagine working with any other group. I have heard over and over, “Kids are kids,” and I know that is true. But something is missing.
Now maybe it’s because it’s only been a couple of days. Maybe it’s because my class sizes are bigger. Maybe it’s because I don’t have that “brand new teacher” adrenaline pumping this year. But whatever it is, I’m not feeling any sort of bond with my kids yet… and I’m sure I was feeling that last year with my kids the first week. Right? Maybe not. I don’t know…. It’s just different.
I miss my babies!
I cried all the way home today and I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it. Is it about the demographic change or do you just form a special bond with your first year kids that no other group of kids will match? I was talking to a retired teacher today and she said she remembered her first group of kids holding a special place in her heart… that when she got their graduation invites in the mail it meant more to her than any other year. So maybe that’s it, I don’t know. But whatever it is….
I miss my babies!!
I have a feeling this summer is going to be full of “Kids Say” posts, as I randomly remember things my students said to me throughout the year that made me laugh (and still make me laugh now, just thinking about them).
This line was said to me by Jeff, while working on his “Project Runway” costume, where the students worked in groups to create costumes out of trash (more info on the “Lessons” page if you’re interested). Jeff’s group was having a hard time getting their costume together. On this particular day I had my camera with me, photographing the kids’ creative designs as they were coming together. Jeff’s group had finally come up with something they were excited about, and the next thing I know, Jeff is waddling over to me with a trash bag stuffed with god-knows-what around his behind. Before I could say anything he yelled out in excitement, “Ms. Alexander, take a picture of my butt!” Everyone stopped. Jeff sheepishly looked around and said, “Wait…. That didn’t sound right.”
But I did it anyway:
(I have NO idea what this was supposed to be.)
It’s another “Kids Say” moment. I wish I had a good story for this one, but the truth is it was totally random. We were all gathering around the stage for a performance and I heard Sam shout out the revelation, “Hey, I could make handcuffs out of these!” while staring wide-eyed at a couple of zip ties he had in his hands.
Middle school kids are so delightfully random. And when they say something like that at just the right moment, you can’t help but to laugh out loud. That one made me snort.