Monday, August 16, 2010

Sixth Grade - That interesting age

Carol called me late this afternoon after her first day of school.  Wow, I think this is her fourth year teaching!  It's hard to believe that so much time has passed.  The first year she taught, I thought we were going to have to commit her at the end of the year.  A room full of sixth graders.

This year she has twenty-seven students in her room, eighteen of whom are girls.  Eighteen girls!!!  Can you begin to imagine the torment of hormonal emotions that have the possibility of erupting in that classroom?  And funny thing, Carol's more concerned with how she is going to tell the boys that they smell bad and need to work on their hygiene.  Because, halfway through every year, she has to have this conversation with most of them.  At least there's only nine for her to deal with.  Hopefully she'll start them on the path earlier and won't have to worry about it.  We'll see.

Do you remember those hideous years?

I remember my fifth and sixth grade years quite clearly.  I was still living in Morning Sun, so we were at the elementary school for fifth grade - lots of changes happened to me that year.  It was a struggle.  In sixth grade, they moved us to the high school.  We were in a separate wing, but it was the first time we got to experience traveling to different classrooms for different classes.  They were getting us ready for junior high.  I was absolutely terrified, but there was my music teacher.  She was there every day for music and became my anchor while I figured the entire process out.

Oh my goodness, I remember when the first girl in our class got (shh) breasts (there, I whispered).  Poor Linda.  The locker room after P.E. class was just awful for her. She was short, a little overweight (not much), her family didn't have much money, she wasn't terribly hygienic and then ... whoosh ... she was different from all the skinny little wretched twits in the class.  They laughed and mocked and made fun of her.  Little did they know that one day they would be envious!

It was an awful thing to be different from everyone else in those days.  We tried so hard to blend in and avoid scrutiny.  But, in a class that only had 23 kids, if you weren't a part of the popular clique, you were bound to stand out.

I don't think I was ever so glad to make a move as I was to get away from there.  You might think that moving to a new community between your 6th grade year and junior high would be traumatic, but it wasn't for me!  I was ready to find new friends.  Well, I was ready to just find friends.  The only kids in that group that weren't judgmental were the boys and I loved hanging out with them.  That simply brought a different onslaught of hell, since there were so few boys and the girls desperately wanted boyfriends - though no one really knew what to do with them.  I just wanted friends!  The boys didn't care ... so it worked out fine.

Junior High was a brand new experience for me.  A new school, a new town.  The Catholic school in town had just shut their doors, so there were a bunch of new kids in class with me - they had attended Catholic Elementary and didn't know many of the other classmates, so it worked out perfectly.  I wasn't the only new kid in the school! 

Hormones and boyfriends and girlfriends and locker rooms, P.E., competition, dances, football games, band, choir, classes.  Everything came together for me that year.  I discovered that I had a personality and it was my choice to either be liked or disliked.  Well, I discovered that sometimes I was just disliked because I existed, but I learned to live with that.

Every year when school starts for Carol, I think a lot about her kids and all that they are going to face during that year.  Sixth grade is tough.  Carol is a tough teacher.  She demands a lot out of these kids and she generally gets it.  She loves them like crazy and expects that they will do their best and behave in the best way possible every day.  She just doesn't let up on them ... ever.

That's the stability that these kids will need to get through this year.  Every day that they wake up, they have no idea what their body is going to hand them, what their psyche is going to come up with, what their friends are going to say and do, but they know that every day, Carol will be there.  Nothing will change in that.

I'm glad for (most of) the teachers that walked through my primary and secondary education with me.  For the most part, I had people that cared enough to ensure that I was in a safe environment, learning what I needed to progress.

I'm thankful for those of you who are my friends who are out there doing this job every day as well.  I watch you, I pay attention to what you are doing and I'm glad you have taken the challenge and risen above it to excel with your kids.  They're really counting on you!

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