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.


It’s a Little Chilly Here

It’s a bit nippy outside here in the Chicago area. As in, “Go outside for more than a minute and the cold will nip your nose clear off of your face.” I’m not going to make any great observations on the weather; it’s f**king cold. There’s really nowhere else to go with that. Except that during Saturday errands, as the snow really started coming down, I saw a lady walk out of the grocery store with one item. It’s like she thought, “Oh goodness, we’re going to have the coldest temperatures in 17 years – I need PITA CHIPS!”

Also, I’m wearing one of those blanket-with-sleeves things. Because sexy. And I do think they’re the most ridiculous, cheesy things in the world, and I want one in the leopard print.

I’m supposed to be working on my new book, but I’m having a bit of a focus issue. My mind keeps binging around, less like  a pinball game and more  like the first level of a game of “Pong,” admittedly. Still, I’ve had some random bits to chew on:

  • I’ve noticed that with microwave popcorn, there’s about 1.5 seconds that separates “gee, that smells good” and “ew, f**k!” I’m like a safecracker, trying to listen for just the right pattern of pops, before declaring, “Got it!” and totally impressing the hell out of George Clooney’s charming con man/thief movie character. Usually, though, I get momentarily distracted, miss the window, and wind up with the F**k Smell. I think that’s why popcorn comes three to a box.
  • Note to the makers of Stouffer’s frozen foods: Take it down a notch. You don’t need capital letters to write “REVOLUTIONARY GRILLING TRAY” in the cooking directions. You didn’t win the war of independence against the British, you figured out how to brown the crust of my microwave sandwich. Thank you.
  • One of my sixth-grade computer tech students thinks that the “www” in a web address stands for “welcome welcome welcome.” And two of his friends do too, because they copied off his paper. I have just recently removed my palm from my forehead.

Ok, enough for now. I am going to make myself a cup of tea and attempt to write some fiction. Although my cat has her doubts:

"I think it's time you got off Facebook, please."

“I think it’s time you got off Facebook, please.”