Sometimes, when someone is speaking to me, I totally space out. I wonder if they notice. I’ll snap back into reality when whatever they’ve said requires a specific response; laughing, nodding solemnly or shaking my head in disbelief. Usually I will just randomly pick one of these responses and hope for the best.
I had this experience yesterday outside of my daughter’s playschool, when one of the mothers was discussing with me the dreadful changes her daughter has undergone since entering middle school.
“She doesn’t smile anymore, she is so shut down.”
This was the statement that propelled me into my zone out phase. As the woman continued to talk, I reflected on the hell hole we refer to as middle school.
We have all been through middle school, but teaching in one for several years really kind of solidified how wicked of a place it is. Witnessing it as an adult allowed me to see the what a perfect storm of horrors it truly is.
1. Puberty. You have no idea what your body is doing or what to do with it. You probably remember snippets of your own awkward period, but imagine teaching 125 kids going through one. You see the whole spectrum of what can happen to a person during this time. And even though they are all going through it, they do not cut each other a break. Try getting called on in class and answering it while your voice changes. Or maybe you just haven’t figured out deodorant yet. Oh yeah, that will lose you a spot at the lunch table.
2. Girls are EVIL. Oh, girls. They have perfected the art of exclusion. This is where it happens; the social configurations of women perfect themselves in these years. They become total bitches.
3. Boys are EVIL. This is where boys decide to attack each other’s sexual orientations and then proceed to beat the crap out of each other all the time. When a parent talks about why their boys don’t cuddle anymore, this is why. This is where they have to build a wall just to survive the day.
4. Technology makes it so easy to ruin your life. Children haven't developed common sense yet. They are operating on a moment to moment basis, with adult hormones raging throughout their little bodies. So they tend to do really dumb things that will follow them forever. Like taking naked pictures of themselves, sending it to their “BFF” and then before they can say “Can I have a pass to the guidance counselor please?” everyone has seen it.
5. Bullies. It’s not just an encounter at recess where you get shoved in the dirt and walk home with a bloody nose. It’s no coming of age story. There are all sorts of social media that can follow you home and bully you there too. The need for some kids to exclude, disrespect and destroy is so strong, stronger than any person could ever handle.
So when the mom gave some indication that she needed a response from me, I snapped right back to present moment with a solemn nod. “Middle school is hell on earth,” I responded, “just give her a lot of hugs and try to be a good listener.”
“Um,” she looked at me with a puzzled face, “I was asking you when the next playschool session started.”
“Oh, um next week I think.” I stammered. Crap. That happens sometimes. Bad Megan.