Sunday, November 30, 2014

Middle Schoolers Aren't So Scary Anymore

If you had asked me a year ago if I wanted to work in a middle school, the answer would have been no. I had always known that I wanted to be a teacher when I was little. I had always wanted to be an elementary teacher to be exact. The thought of middle school had never crossed my mind. I had always been scared of the middle schooler. But now that my own kids are older and I am working in a middle school, I find that they aren't as scary as I once thought. They really are just big kids, trying to find their way and what I found, is that they are trying to hold on to their childhood just as much as they want to grow-up at the same time. In the past few months, I've seen this a lot.

Back in October, I was in an eighth grade science class. The students were working on a group activity and so they were talking, some conversations were on task, but there was an excitement in the air because it was Friday and it was Halloween. Some were talking about their plans that night. Then one student asked me where I lived and if I gave out "the good candy." So I asked him which elementary school did he attend. It was the same one as my kids. He looked at me with a grin on his face.

He asked, "Did they take the bus or were they walkers?" 


Did they have to take a tunnel to walk home or no tunnel.

No tunnel.

I told him if he found me, I would make sure that I had good candy for him. 

He and all his friends did find me that night. I was sitting at the bottom of my staircase on my phone deleting junk mail from my in-box when a six foot Tigger caught my eye at the front door. It was later in the evening so the trick-or-treaters had died down a bit, but there was this group of boys standing on my front stoop, all in costume, and the boy that I had the conversation with earlier that day was pleasantly surprised to have found me that night. I don't know whether he forgot about our conversation in science class or if he was really trying to find me, but I had a stash of full size candy bars for all of them and they were thankful that they found me. 

Earlier in the day, Ryan was trying to come up with his own plans with his friends. I asked him a number of times what they were going to do and he didn't know. I kept telling him that if he was going to go trick-or-treating that he needed a costume, that he couldn't go out without at least attempting to put together an outfit. These are the middle school years, this is what middle schoolers do, they want to hang on to the fun of Halloween, but none of them are willing to make the decision and say let's go trick-or-treating and then decide what they are going to wear. Ryan had gone home on the bus to a friend's house that day. I called him up to find out what their plans were. Did they even have plans? They knew they were going to go trick-or-treating but this group of boys did not have costumes. It was 6:00 on Halloween night. So I went into the basement and found our bin of dress-up clothes and old costumes. I dug-up an egg costume, a bacon costume, and a hotdog costume. I drove over to the friend's house and they were thankful for them. Ryan knew when Halloween was, he knew he had to dress-up, but the decision making process for these middle schoolers is hard. They are struggling between trying to grow-up and still wanting to be a kid. 

Just the day before, I was sitting with a few students in my eighth grade resource class. It was toward the end of class and we were talking about Halloween coming up and if they were going to go trick-or-treating. Again, middle school is that transition time and when you are talking to eighth graders you never know if you will get an enthusiastic "yes" because it's all about the candy or if you will get the eye roll because they think they are too old for trick-or-treating. On this day, it was the enthusiastic "yes" and then they told me about their plans and what they were going to be. The conversation then turned to Christmas and one girl said that she believed in Santa. This surprised me. This is eighth grade, they are thirteen and fourteen years old. But here I was sitting in the middle of a conversation about how they believe in Santa because the cookies are always gone on Christmas morning or how a piece of red velvet was caught on a hook on the fireplace. What I really was in awe about though was that none of the other students that could have overhear our conversation broke the magic of the moment. They just sat and continued doing what they were doing.

I see my own kids trying to hold on to the magic of their childhoods. Timmy went to the mall the other day with his friends. They all pooled their money together and had a picture taken with Santa. Goofy, silly high school boys, taking a picture with Santa...I love it! We took our own family Santa picture the other day. We have been taking our family picture with Santa for seventeen years now. No one complains, no one says they are too old, we just do it, it's tradition. When the kids were sitting with Santa, the photographer was trying to arrange my four, now big kids, for the picture. She said to Ryan, who is about to be thirteen, "I know you aren't going to like this, but I need you to sit on Santa's lap." Ryan jumped up from his spot and yelled, "Yay," with a huge smile on his face. Because he was so enthusiastic to sit on Santa's lap, Santa said he would take a selfie with him. How cool is Santa!?!

So here we are at the beginning to the Christmas Season. My house is all decorated because Shannon and Molly are HUGE Christmas fans! They wait and anticipate all year for Christmas. They plan their activities and have their "to-do" lists and look for different Christmas crafts to keep them busy. Buddy and Jovie our Elves on the Shelf have returned. It is year five of them visiting our house. It is getting harder and harder to come up with ideas for them to do. Molly is in fifth grade. I was thinking that this would be the year that Buddy and Jovie would start to tone it down. But Molly was so enthusiastic about their arrival. She can't wait to see where they are each morning. She is at the age that I can't exactly tell if she still believes or if she is playing along with the whole thing because she wants to hold-on to her childhood. How many times have you heard, "If you don't believe, you won't receive." 

So just like I don't like looking in the mirror and seeing another laugh line on my face and knowing that I'm getting older, my kids worry about getting older as well. They don't want to let go of their childhood. Yes, they want more independence and they want to do more stuff on their own without their mom around, but their is a part of them that wants to stay young, that wants it to be okay to go trick-or-treating and not be looked at as too old to be participating in the fun of getting candy. They want to sit on Santa's lap...or believe in the elves.

 So even though I thought Buddy and Jovie were going to start to fade a bit this year, they are still going strong. They will just have to come up with some new ideas for the next 24 days before Christmas.