Friday, December 11, 2009

101 Reasons to Love Middle Schoolers:

1. Funny names they give each other and you
Over the years, I have been called a variety of names, some I would not care to repeat, but some are endearing, some funny, and some just odd. My favorites? Gorgeous George, Georgie, Grandma G. Part of the allure of a nickname comes from the community building aspects of the experience, the feelings of comfort among those giving the names, and the acceptance of those being called them.
Today, one of my girls got a cute new nickname : Bri - tiny. Her name is Britini, with that unusual spelling. When she wrote it on the board for a library pass, someone caught the alternative pronunciation of Bri - tiny, which is one of those names that will stick. It is cute, with no respect issues. It serves to make her feel special though, and gives students in my homeroom as sense of community that only they get to use it, kind of an inside joke syndrome.

2. Twisted sense of HUMOR
The best part of teaching middle school is their laughter at the oddest of things. Humor can be used to deflect a mouthy student, get an unmotivated one on task, or even to stop the adolescent female teary eared outburst.
When I catch a student staring into outer space instead of focusing on the task at hand, I often tease them about staring at MY beauty. I tell them how flattered I am that they find me SO breathtaking they can't HELP but stare. This gets their attention, with a smile and giggle, and refocuses their mind at the task at hand.
When a student is being particularly annoying, I often tell them to strangle themselves so I don't have to. The best actors get it, and do a fantastic job of reaching their hand around their necks, pretending to strangle themselves. Again, laughter ensues, order is restored, and back to work for all.
Other funny sayings become part of our routine. This age group loves the twisted logic of sayings like, "Silence is golden, duct tape is silver" and learn quickly to respond the the first part of the quote with the second, refocusing themselves to a quieter work tone. Another favorite of mine is, "Don't be sorry, be quiet."
The key to success is knowing your audience. Some students respond extremely well to this kind of humor, but others do not get it, and are even offended by it. You must be able to read your students, and know how to deal with each individual personality.

3. Their sense of fairness and right & wrong in everything
You will never meet a group more in tune with fairness. Dare to give another student 1 tiny extra point on a graph, or one extra day on an assignment, and you will experience wrath like no other. Even if it means they must personally suffer, they want everything, everyone treated exactly the same at all times. They are quick to point out the shortcomings of each other and themselves as well, just to make sure the balance is maintained.

4. Magic and wonder are still part of their daily routine.
Whether it is the first snowfall of the season, an ambulance shrieking past the window, or a video on knights in shining armor, they love every unique detail that passes their way. Middle schoolers still have that little kid lust for learning. They CRAVE new information, especially if you can show them how it relates to them, how it touches their world, how they can personally interact with that knowledge.
In particular, they love new tech tools. This generation has grown up making powerpoints, typing papers, and instant messaging and texting each other. But give them a new tool to explore and watch the magic dust fly! My social studies class is making mundane powerpoints on a European country. Once I showed them some new fun things like Tuxpi and even the 4 square google search page, their excitement peaked again. Just exploring in a new way gives them the added ummph they need to tackle the next part of their challenge at hand.

5. Middle Schoolers LOVE to share their joy with you.
Sometimes it is a new shirt or shoes; other times they got a puppy or horse or a baby brother or sister; it might even be that amazing touch screen phone or iPod. Whatever it is, they LOVE to show their 'things' to you, explaining all the details in great detail. It is their way of sharing their world with you, bringing a personal touch to their school world.
Nothing makes a middle schooler happier than to see you in the bleachers at their basketball game, or cheering from the fence at a track meet. They know you are there for THEM, and they LOVE that special attention.

OK, not 101, but 5 that make my day, every day!!


Nancy Flanagan said...

Great blog! Silence is golden, duct tape is silver! Ha. Reading your blog makes me miss my middle schoolers viscerally.

There's nothing like a little middle school humor to make you pound your head and wonder where you went wrong, eh?

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TJ Shay said...


I smiled my way through this entire post. Partly because of what was in it and mostly because I know every word is true. I am positive that the students love you because they care enough to have nicknames and laugh at your jokes.

Thanks for sharing this!