Three of my five classes are 6th grade Humanities classes this year. Here are some things I’ve noticed about my students as they enter the second half of their first year in middle school.
They are falling apart. They lose teeth in class. Their noses bleed. They have stomach aches that send them rushing to the bathroom after announcing their emergency to the class. And when the flu that’s been creeping up on them all week finally really hits them in the middle of your class, they come to you looking wiped out and feverish asking to go to the clinic but it sounds like they’re asking to be hugged.
They have questions. Can I use a yellow highlighter to write my response? What should I do when I’m done with the quiz? Does spelling count? Which corner should the staple go in? When will we change seats? Did I miss anything while I was absent for a week? Can I turn in this assignment from three months ago? Should I turn my paper into the inbox where we’ve been turning papers for the last six months or is there a new surprise location for this assignment? What does this word mean? What does this class mean? What period is this? Have you always had that hair? Are you married? Can I go to the bathroom now please please please it’s an emergency?
Their cool is still emerging. Which means they are all in when you urge them to read out the directions on a vocab quiz as a performance. They will cheer and gasp during the paragraph battles. They will arrive for Socratic Seminars in hair bows and ties that need tying. They will stand on their desks when you call for power poses before assessments. Some of them will cry a little during your Advertising for Good unit when you show the Kleenex ad. And one grey day in February when you start your teaching day by counting the weeks left until summer break, those falling apart and inquisitive near-teenagers will charm you by spontaneously exploding in applause when you unveil a neon pink handout outlining instructions for creating Valentines in analytical writing format and you’ll think yes, I’m sure of it now, we can do it, we can make it to the end of the year.
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