Friday, September 17, 2010

7th Graders: You Have to Love Them

“I said, that’s enough!”
            Two pairs of eyes question me. “What?”
            “Please stop chasing each other around the classroom. Why don’t you use your lockers and head to your next class?” In seventh grade, hormones rule. Literally.
             “Do we need our math books today?”
            “I don’t know. You should probably take it just in case.” I teach language arts. Unfortunately, my psychic ability has blanked out today and I can’t connect with the math teacher down the hall.
            “It’s too heavy.” One voice had a whine to it that only teenage girls can achieve; the other cracked slightly before settling into the bass range.
            “Kimmy, I’m sure if you ask nicely Diego will be happy to carry your book for you.”
            “I will not.” Diego is indignant. “She can carry mine.”
            Kimmy puts her hands on her hips and prepares to read me the “independent woman” riot act.
            I sigh. They’ve caught me perpetuating a gender stereotype. Sometimes I feel so old.
            “Fine. You should each carry your own books, then.”
            “But what if we get there and we don’t need them?” Kimmy complains.
            I rely on another oldie but goodie. “Better to be safe than sorry.”
            “What does that mean?” Diego is still learning English and hasn’t yet picked up all the trite clichés.
            “You’re so stupid,” Kimmy fires at him.
            “No he’s not,” I interject firmly. “He’s still learning English. Why don’t you explain what I mean to him as you walk to math class?”
            “I’m not walking with him/her!”
            They both frown at me.
            “There’s the late bell.” You cannot imagine the relief I feel. “Saved by the bell” might be a cliché, but it’s a cliché that has deep and heartfelt meaning for middle school teachers.
            They move toward the door. Kimmy gestures. “Ladies first.” She smirks at Diego.
            He stands behind her and glares at her. “Just go through the d*** door,” he answers. I make a mental note to teach euphemisms and “school language” one more time…with feeling.
            They block the doorway. My next class is practicing dog barking and rooster crowing noises in the hall. They are surprisingly realistic and highly annoying.
            “OK, both of you. Out. Now!”
            “What’s her problem?” Kimmy whispers to Diego as she pushes another student out of the doorway so she can leave.
            Diego shrugs and puts his arm around Kimmy. Together, they shoulder their way through the crowd, laughing. The dogs and roosters file into the classroom and sit down.
            “Mrs. S.?”
            “Yes, Josh?”
            “Why do we have to sit in these assigned seats? I hate sitting next to Terri.”
            “I hate sitting next to you worse,” Terri fired back.
            “Great,” I respond with a pained smile. “Then you’re both equally unhappy. Problem solved.”
            “Mrs. S.!!!”
            I chuckle. Teaching seventh grade? You have to have a calling.


  1. It truly is a calling... and we've all been there, on the other side of that, too.