A Tale of Two Classes

My middle school experience was beyond awesome!

Really. If you don’t believe me, refer to the above punctuation mark.

Of course, I wasn’t a student (I did the ‘junior high’ thing…some of you may be familiar with that concept), I was a middle school teacher. I’m not saying there weren’t a few challenges along the way, but for the most part, middle school was the highlight of my teaching career. The kids are so unique…hovering between childhood and adolescence. Their minds and thought processes are ever changing. 

I’ve come across so many different personalities throughout the years, you’d think I’d be fairly well equipped to deal with just about anyone.

For example, I’ve had students who’ve:

  • lied repeatedly
  • bullied and ridiculed others
  • refused to accept responsibility
  • been rude and obnoxious
  • lacked empathy
  • been arrogant and self centered
  • argued for the sake of arguing
  • cheated

But here’s the thing. I’m talking about 11 and 12 year old kids. These behaviors are concerning, they need to be addressed, but we are talking about 11 and 12 year olds whose brains have another decade before reaching full maturity.

Quite frankly, I’m concerned about the adults exhibiting those very same behaviors. And I’m concerned about the adults who see those behaviors in other adults, but don’t address them.

Those are concerns. Huge concerns.

My patience and my sanity are being severely challenged.

Allow me to provide a middle school example of the consequences of these behaviors by sharing my observations of “I Have, Who Has” days.

Now you are probably wondering (or maybe not), what an “I Have, Who Has” day is.

Well, it could be a day for ‘a teacher’ to avoid yet another writing conference about playing Minecraft. A teacher needs an occasional break from Minecraft narratives. Or it could be a day for students to get away with not being prepared for class. (It works both ways, you see.)

‘I Have, Who Has’ days could also be a sneaky way to get students to practice language and grammar skills.

It’s important to know how the game works, but I don’t want to bore you, so I’ll keep it simple.

  • each student gets 2-3 cards
  • the student who has the card saying, “I have the first card. Who has BLAH BLAH BLAH?” reads the card aloud
  • the student who has the card with the correct response reads their card
  • the game continues until the final card is read…”I have BLAH. This is the end of the game.”

To keep things interesting, I would time each class to provide a little friendly competition (there may have been a reward involved), but this also allowed each class to demonstrate growth (because isn’t that what it’s all about?!).

Now let me tell you about my 4th hour and 5th hour classes. And I will self disclose, I can’t remember if they were the same year or not.

4th hour had 23 kids. 5th had 29. (And I remember this, because prime numbers suck for grouping purposes.)

At the beginning of the year, times were similar, but as the year progressed, 5th hour made consistent gains, while 4th hour, as educators tend to say, ‘failed to demonstrate growth’.

4th hour blamed, argued, criticised and ridiculed. (And yes, these issues were addressed.)

But 5th hour? Let me tell you about the magic of 5th hour.

They listened, they encouraged, they explained, they respected and they celebrated the success of others. They honestly reflected on what worked and what didn’t.

5th hour discovered what it takes to achieve a common goal. Now if only all adults would heed this lesson.

Something to Eat

Pickled Jalapenos

by Gimme Delicious

I only planted one jalapeno pepper plant this year. Rookie mistake. Regardless, I have made enough batches of pickled jalapenos, that I no longer refer to the recipe (not that it’s complicated, but still…I am old). We put these on everything: tacos, smashed chickpea sammies, buffalo cauliflower sammies, tofu scrambles, nachos. The sugar in the pickling tames the heat, so I don’t bother removing the seeds.

Something to Read

Beartown

by Fredrik Backman

A good friend recommended this book, sharing she enjoyed the book just for the sake of the book, but for her, it really served as a character study. The author had a way of writing simple sentences filled with deeper meaning. My friend was so right. I found myself jotting down many of those ‘simple’ sentences to reflect on later. If you are a coach, I recommend this book. If you are an athlete, or the parent of an athlete, same. If you live in a small town where sports rule the day, I recommend this book. I loved it. Such a powerful read.

It’s only a game. It only resolves, tiny, insignificant things. Such as who gets validation. Who gets listened to. It allocates power and draws boundaries and turns some people into stars and others into spectators. That’s all.

Fredrik Backman

Something to Ponder

The rock of democracy will founder when people in different parties, regions, and religions and races think of each other as ‘the other’ rather than the common American citizen.

Teddy Roosevelt

Thank you for stopping by and reading! I hope your weekend is filled with all of the things that make your heart happy. Take care, my friends.

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