Wednesday, May 31, 2017

And Then There's Middle School (and PD)(and Teachers)(& The Work)

Later this week, I'm conducing my lass whole middle school PD at a location that has been working tirelessly to rethink its writing instruction and support of 5th-8th grade writers. We're moving towards a shared language for assessing written outcomes for the kids, but also paying a visit to This American Life's episode on Middle School as a model for organizing thought, developing ideas, writing with a purpose, and connecting with an audience. It's been a wonderful year full of challenges, laughter, self-doubt, partnership, collaboration, struggle, frustration, and achievement. In some ways, I've really had to revisit the craziness of my own tween-adolescence.

As I was putting together the presentation, I realized it might benefit me to recall my own experiences as a middle (what Alice always called 'mental') school student. With my zest for bulleted lists and top tens, I decided I'd give an ol' shot at memory lane. Middle school was,

  • sparked by the creativity of Mr. Finster, his writing workshops and whacky sense of humor and raising-the-bar standards,
  • full of body and mental awkwardness, included the onset of pudginess, gapped teeth, colicky hair, sweaty armpits, zits, and mood swings,
  • a need to be accepted for who I was, which included a zest for exaggeration and excessive talking, even when I didn't have a clue about what I was talking about (I have one vivid memory of talking out of any reality at St. Lawrence River, making up fishing stories that annoyed Butch, my father, but entertained my Aunt Rena. I was 100% obnoxious and deserved my dad's favorite saying, "Your mouth runs like a whippoorwill's ass).
  • cruelty of kids. I remember vividly, in 6th grade, a day when a group of well-known bullies chose to punch a kid from another class behind the knees as he walked down the hall, totally making him buckle and hate that no teachers came to his rescue.
  • the odd body growth spurts, including the day my mom dropped me off at the movies to see 9 to 5 with friends from my class which included dorky me, and a girl named Tony who was FULLY developed, wore parachute pants, and had feather clips in her hair (I can only imagine what my mom thought when she saw the girl I was meeting - a thing I always had for the craziest of girls)
  • the experimentation of everything bad for us. I remember many went through a phase of sharing No-Doze anti-sleeping pills, bragging that the drugs got them high (and on a personal note, I remember my own stupidity thinking Jack Daniels could be my friend on a Sunday morning)
  • the awfulness of feeling stupid, especially in grammar class and when reading literature that was boring and way over my head
  • the power of belonging...for me, at that time, it was Little League and my friends on Amalfi and Bamm Hollow who met on Duncowing for football games and tag
  • the luck of family. I was so blessed to have the love and support at home, with its stability, safety, unconditional love, and RULEs, and finally
  • the opportunities to show I was ready to grow up. This included roller skating parties where we rolled to Another One Bites the Dust and 8th grade dances that soon came at the Junior High School.
Phew. I thought I was old then, but I was a nincompoop simply going through the stages between elementary and high school. I can't say these memories were awful - they made me who I am - but I can attest to the fact that they were dorky, ridiculous, and important.

This, I hope, will be carried with me during the final day of professional development later this week

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