Middle School Students and the Alternate Winter Dimension

In addition to my writing endeavors, I also teach middle school. I know. Pray for me.

Middle school students get weirder in the winter. Actually, they’re weird in the spring, summer and fall as well. Well, perhaps there is maybe one day in mid-March when they’re not completely nutters, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re permanent residents of some sort of pre-teen bizarro land.

My 6th period drama class. Kids are working on their puppet project. Suddenly, Jasmine* looks up and says, quite sincerely…

“Can we work outside?”

I’m thinking, “What — on the landscaping?”

Then I realize she means having class outside.

“No. It’s about 19 degrees outside!” I replied.

“It is???” The increased diameter of her eyes indicates her sincere surprise, despite the fact she probably trudged through the snow this morning on her trek to school.

“Uh, yeah.”


I thought the mere mention of the temperature was enough. Apparently I had to be less subtle.

“It will be cold!” I said.

“We can put on jackets.”

While I couldn’t argue with her unassailable logic, I just didn’t think I could swing having drama class in the parking lot. And I’m still not entirely clear why she thought this would be a good thing.

Kids and the cold are an interesting combination. I see so many kids across the economic spectrum refusing to wear warm garments, choosing instead to walk around wearing hoodies, hunched over with fists jammed in their pockets. Some leave the aforementioned hoodies unzipped. Can’t be bothered with a coat. Yes, trembling vigorously with visible ice crystals forming in your overly-gelled hair is cool. By the time they walk into school, they all seem to resemble the Snow Miser, but at least HE was wearing a scarf.

(I’m not kidding about the overuse of gel products in my school. Those hair spikes are intense. When I walk down the hall, I fear for my safety. I’m considering goggles.)

A few weeks ago, after school, Susan (the art teacher) and I were doing our outside supervision duty, keeping the parking lot safe from the forces of evil, armed only with our teacher I.D. badges. There were a few 8th grade boys in the P.E. field, playing pick-up football. Not only were they not wearing jackets in 15 degree weather, one kid didn’t even have a shirt on. Susan looked at him and said, “Maybe it’s the ‘mom’ in me, but I really want to go over there and tell him to put on his shirt.”

So we did. And he did.

Walking back, she said, “I know he’s running around, so he’s not cold and all…”

I said, “Yeah, but his skin doesn’t know that. It’s still exposed, and could freeze.”

“True,” Susan said. “And I bet he’d be really surprised when his nipples fell off.”

“Yeah, he’d probably miss them. We could just have Mrs. Benson sew them back on,” I replied, “But really, how would he explain that one in gym class?”

This is what teachers talk about when forced to roam the parking lot unsupervised. Now you know.

*All names changed.


Out Of The Mouths Of…

As the school year is winding down, I find myself dreaming about the hot weather of the coming summer, which is weird, because before I became a teacher I hated the summer – the humidity, the sweating, the flip flops. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be teaching, as I’m in the middle of a career crisis (after three years), but every so often I’m surprised by the things that come out of the mouths of my current students. I’m not talking about the cursing, or the grammatical snafus, but of the odd, out-of-left-field stuff that plops itself on my desk every so often.

Take yesterday. I had just assigned my sixth graders an autobiographical poem — ten lines, and I pretty much tell them what to write on each line. Line four was to be “Three things I don’t like.” Francisco came up to my table and asked if he could write that he didn’t like the Romans.

“What do you have against the Romans?”

“Well,” he replied, “They stole all the Greek’s gods because they couldn’t come up with any of their own.”

Fair enough. But wait for it…wait for it…

“And they tortured Jesus.”

There it is.

I have another student who apparently was “almost arrested” the other day. I asked him why.

“I don’t know, miss. I wasn’t doing anything.”

“Well, you must have been doing something.”

“No, I was just sitting there.”


“In front of the One Stop.”

“DeShaun, that’s a liquor store. What were you doing there?”

“I was with some people..the cop thought they were…”

“You need to stop hanging out with these people.”

“No, miss. Can’t. One of them has the new Xbox.”

Glad to see priorities are in order.

I’ve also been asked if I thought Obama was the antichrist, and if I was worried about North Korea. (P.S. No, and yes but there’s really nothing I can do about it now.)

At the other end of the spectrum, I had two boys in my class last quarter who thought that, “Guess what? Chicken butt!” was the height of hilarity. So it’s all kind of a mixed bag.

On the plus side, some of my students were impressed when I told them that I wrote a book, despite the fact that there aren’t any zombies in it.