Oh you betcha!
We are working on problem-solving in my technology class and with that, we need problems! 🙂 So, today, we listed our problems. It was fascinating what 8th graders look at as their problems. Honestly, I have nothing to compare to. I remember very little of my middle school career other than I worked really, really hard not to draw attention to myself (which worked really well). These kids have zero cares about drawing attention or not drawing it. The way they act and talk just floors me, usually on a daily basis (another reason why so many teachers are considering leaving – a whole different blog).
I teach both 6th and 8th graders (and 7th graders too I guess) and their minds are SO MUCH DIFFERENT. I’m not sure what I’d get if I asked my 6th graders to do this, but here’s a little sampling of the 8th grade point of view.
First, the silly:
- no money
- my hair (dramatic head toss)
- No Mexican food (What?? It’s in town!)
- potatoes (Again, what??)
- life (I feel you.)
Now the sad:
- life (Again, I feel you.)
- not being able to sleep
- this class (My feelings are hurt.)
- moving from school to school a lot (😥)
And the ones that make you think:
- growing up
- participating in school events/classes
- mental health
I know. I didn’t list all of them, but this was good for me to see. I know I have problems, but I have the means to deal with most of them. A student who says that mental health, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or whatever they might be dealing with is a problem as an 8th grader, I just can’t help but wonder how they got to this point. Where, as a society, have we failed our students that this is a problem they are having to deal with in their young lives.
However, along with that, the number of education things that pop up truly floor me. School, teachers, and grades are just a few. Then, add in friends, peers, drama, mental health, and those “secondary” (quotes by me) that fall in line behind education, and you’ve got added weight to students who are already feeling pretty weighed down by life. This doesn’t include any activities they might be part of during the day (time and activities were two I did not list).
Solutions? Ha! I’m not paid enough to start trying to figure out those issues. No, I’m not sure how to “fix” the situation that we are in, but I do have a few suggestions:
- Show empathy. How many times have students complained to you about “that” teacher who just doesn’t understand? Who won’t listen? Who won’t laugh in class? It’s hard sometimes, to be empathic to students who don’t show they care, but they do. We have no idea what lives they live outside of our school day. Just try to be the good human that we want them to be.
- Listen. We all end up in the hallway to supervise. Listen to the stories our kids share. I remember as sixth grade teachers in the elementary my (now retired) teaching partner and I would greet the students and listen to so many stories of dogs and cats and baseball and little sisters and whatever else was happening in their lives. Giving them those few minutes made the connections needed when times got tough.
- Don’t judge. This one is tough for me because I’ve gotten jaded in my old age. Across from my room are lockers of some awesome, but obnoxious students. Everyday, a group ends up outside my door, being slightly rude, slightly inappropriate with comments, and I’m out there with a watchful eye, trying hard not to pass judgement. When I do that, I lose that little bit of humanity and I don’t want that because these kids are pretty freaking awesome. I just wish they weren’t so dang loud all the time! 🙂
The problems you or I faced as middle schoolers pale compared to what middle schoolers are dealing with today. The constant connection via social media to fit in, the mess of hormones, and the fact they’ve faced a ton of stuff already in their lives makes being that age that much harder.
Our job is to guide them without losing our cool, without cursing (out loud), and to try to help them see that yes, they matter in the world.
Because without that adult, that person who cares, many would give up.
And that’s the biggest problem of all.