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Don’t Wear Your Feelings on Your Ugly Teacher Sweater!

Have I offended you already? If so, you’ll need to toughen up if you’re going to survive middle school the second time around, and you should probably ditch the sweater.

Let me give you some personal examples of opportunities that await you.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked by a student, “Miss, are you PREGNANT?” Not with a gentle whisper in a private conversation, because most middle schoolers do NOT know how to whisper or the meaning of “private.” This question has been blurted loudly in an auditorium full of students and teachers, or in front of the entire class, or in the crowded hallways.

The first time, my friend and school librarian swooped in and set the young man straight, just as loudly or louder than he had yelled the question.

“NEVER, EVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant! I don’t care if she’s sticking out to here and she’s wearing a shirt that says ‘baby’ with an arrow pointing to her belly!”

(Thank you, my friend. You know who you are.)

Did it bother me? The first couple of times, yes. But, I had to get over it and move on. There are a thousand demands on you as a teacher, and if you waste time getting your feelings hurt, you’ll never accomplish anything positive.

For the record, I’m not, never have been, and probably never will be housing another human inside of my body. I’m simply not shaped like a model; I’m shaped like a teacher who frequently stress eats chocolate, pasta and bread.

Another, more serious aspect of teaching middle school aliens that will require you to toughen up is when you invest time, energy, and patience into a student who desperately needs someone like you to believe in him or her.

Occasionally, a student will recognize the effort that you have extended to help him or her be successful, but be ready for the times that students seem to show no gratitude whatsoever. Right when you think you’re gaining ground with them, building rapport, seeing small successes, BAM! They screw up or turn on you. Human nature at work.

I don’t mean this to be pessimistic or to discourage you from putting your neck out to invest in a kid. I’m just reminding you that you’re dealing with the simple nature of the beast (middle school age) and with some who do not come equipped with a skill set to receive and trust your attempts to support them. These kiddos will often disappoint you and fall short of your high expectations for them.

Do you need to have these idealistic expectations? Of course. Some will rise to the occasion. Others might let you know years later that you really make an impression upon them. For the majority of them, in my experience, you may never know what affect, if any, you had in shaping them.

Only you can determine how thick your skin can be or needs to be, depending on where you work. But, if you teach middle schoolers, I can guarantee you’ll need to find some kind of “tough” before you walk into your classroom. So, work hard for your kids, have high expectations, and acquire some alligator skin!




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