I have worked with all age ranges of children throughout my career, from pre-k through high school. Each age group has its own unique attributes, but somehow I have always been most strongly drawn to the middle school age group.
I found the older high school kids very suspect of adults and more unlikely to trust anyone. The little guys, honestly I had no idea what to do with them. It was difficult for me to adapt to their developing comprehension and processing skills.
This year I am back with the Jr. high students again and I feel at home. They present a collection of challenges and joys that if you don’t love, you can’t begin to imagine how anyone can. They can test the patience of the even the best teacher. As the adults attempting to guide these unique individuals, it is frustrating as we repeat as many ways as we can possibly imagine, appropriate expectations and potential pitfalls. We try to help them to notice their own behavior and its impact on themselves and others. We instruct, lecture, look for road blocks, plan for change and then sometimes in shear desperation beg, plead and yes even bribe to create positive change.
Despite all this effort, the long term results are often unknown. We are left to wonder….did they listen? Will they choose wisely? React purposefully? Emerge in the world intact, successful, happy, satisfied? We rarely know the outcome for these middle school students. There are the few we know, the spectacular successes or the crushing defeats or the few who choose to stay connected. For all the rest though, I often feel as though I have read so many stories but only part way. I rarely to get to the ending, seldom knowing – what happens next? I am left to wonder what will their story be?