I have been procrastinating with this series because suddenly I am at the junior high level and as I am reminded of it on a daily basis at work, who wants to remember those days? And honestly, my memories of junior high and high school are a little blurry.
I think middle school/junior high is an age where you are pretty much in a world where you are the center of the universe.
Admiral Bodee and I are noticing that more and more these days (with four kids between the ages of 9-13). Not that either of us have selfish children; they are caring, helpful, great kids. Really. But we are noticing that sometimes we’ve got all these little balls of fire radiating a lot of energy outwards and they don’t appear to be absorbing much.
But we all know that is true. Kids (and teens) are sponges and they soak up whatever is said and done to them. They may not realize it at the moment, or for years to come, but they do.
Mr. G. was my 7th grade science teacher and he was also the husband of my high school band director. After 5 years of marching band, I got to know him pretty well.
Mr. G was a great teacher. He had that natural talent for teaching that is too hard to capture in a short post. So I will just share one story.
During 7th grade, Mr. G’s son was very ill and in the hospital many times during the year. Consequently, we had a lot of substitutes and we did not get to do the much-anticipated “frog dissection.”
Well, a few years later at band camp, my best friend and I were talking to him about how we never got to dissect a frog, so he promised that he would let us come in and dissect a frog when his current class got to that unit.
It was one of those things we always joked about with him, but it never happened. And then in the winter of senior year, he said, “If you are going to dissect a frog, then this is your last chance. Come in on Saturday morning.”
That Saturday, we met him in the lab and Mr. G went through the entire process just as he would with his 7th grade class. We sliced the skin on his belly. We identified his organs. We inflated his little lungs. It was creepy and fascinating.
So many times we make promises to kids (our own children or our students). Sometimes we let kids or students down, because what they thought was a “promise” wasn’t really a promise. It was more of a bribe or a way to hush them when necessary.
I have done better at wording things with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian so as not to promise specifics. Because, honestly, sometimes our best intentions don’t work out.
I also try to stick to my promises with my students. Believe me, even if they don’t listen to you too much, they never forget the day that you promised a reward.
During the first nine weeks, I promise a can of Mt. Dew to anyone who avoids detention. On the last day of the nine weeks, they hold you to it and it seems like a small price to pay. I would give them the pop in 7th period study hall and many of them would savor it, just so they could take it 8th period and show it off.
I have had reward lunches for my high school at-risk students who met certain goals. I don’t necessarily think the actual 6-inch Subway sub was the real reward for them. I think the reward was the fact that an adult made a promise, recognized their effort, and followed through.
Lesson Learned from a 7th grade teacher: Be careful what you promise and take care to keep those promises.