January 5, 2016

Just One Thing

Middle school kids are complex. I actually don’t like to call them kids or children, because really they aren’t. They are not really teenagers yet either. Not quite yet. They are their own breed and I love them. I love talking with them, listening to them, observing them, teaching them and most importantly I love learning from them. They are so awkward and insecure and talented and bizarre and thoughtful and careless and passionate, hardworking and filled with potential.

I guess I love this age, because this was the time in my life I remember wanting respect. I was so filled with angst and rage and hope and passion and ideas, but everyone treated me like an idiot. My teachers, my parents, even my peers. I was an explosion of energy trapped in the confines of some mystery of who I was meant to be. Some model of “cool” that was crafted by people I hated, but wanted to be like. It was in grade 8 that I decided to mark my territory so to speak. Piss on the wall and say this little chunk of the world is mine.

So when I work with middle school kids, I love to try and coach them how to do that too. And everyday it is a pleasure. Today, we chatted about idealism and cynicism and how I have battled with the two my whole life. I want the world to be great and see the best in things, but the cynical judgmental asshole in me always gets in the way. I mentioned that this cynicism is healthy and good, but only if I learn how to monitor it. I really hope that the kids I teach see me as a person who will always be honest with them. I am not a fan of bullshit for its own sake and this is the core of my pedagogy. I want to teach kids how to figure out who they can be.


Paula and I have started a Lit Magazine, made up of 6-8th graders and today they were on fire- learning how to weed through submissions, coming up with organisational plans on how to keep track of the 52 submissions we got, while another group was discussing how they would overcome a finical obstacle we are up against.

“We are the creative department,” I said. “We don’t know how you are going to do it, and honestly I don’t know how either because I don’t like dealing with this kind of stuff, but you need to find us money so we can publish this magazine in a few weeks.” I actually said those words to a group of 4 middle school kids. They looked at me like I was crazy. Nodded their heads and realised that they needed to find away to get this money. If that is not real world teaching I don’t know what is. We will wait and see how this works out.


Trump. Oregon. Saudi Arabia & Iran. Head-shake sigh…….So Guns and Roses are getting back together.

I love Slash, Duff and whatever drummer they put back there. Izzy S. would be rad too, but I have been burned too many times by Mr. Rose to think he will not shit the bed on this one. And while the others, even in there old age, can pull off a small modicum of cool, old fat Axel will have a hard time pulling off Mr. Brownstone. I will wait and see, but I can’t see this ending well.


Kaia asked me about ISiS tonight at dinner, “What is it? I know they are terrorists, but what do they want?”
“What’s a terrorist?” I asked
“A group of people who kill and scare the people who don’t do what they want. My question is what do they want?”
“Well, they want the world to be the way it was a thousand years ago and for everyone to believe in god the way do.”
“But that will affect the whole world. You can’t make the world believe in just one thing.” And she walked way.

Lessons Learned:

  • Give everyone, regardless of their age, respect by being your truest self around them. 
  • Find a way to spend time with 11-14 year olds. 
  • If you want kids to do things independently, set them up by giving them responsibility and see how they handle it. 
  • Reunion tours look good on paper, but perhaps a night alone with an old favorite album is better than watching a group of fat old men in leather pants try and reignite your youth. 

  1. What are somethings you remember from middle school? Describe the person you were when you were 14. 
  2. When is the last time you trusted and child and how did it turn out? 
  3. Which band do you think would still rock a show years after they started? 

1 comment:

  1. Just time for a quick comment...

    It took me several years to realize that I was teaching to my middle school self. I was talking daily to the kids that I would have talked to if I was in middle school, and I was always having issues with the kids that I would have shunned in middle school. It took a few years after realizing this for me to deal with that baggage and become more inclusive in my instruction, and simply my interactions with students. I had to drop the stereotypes that I still carried with me as a kid before becoming a welcoming teacher to all. That led me to trusting more students...and then going to watch more old men in leather rock out on stage.
    By the way...I have seen quite a few old men in leather over the years that have done just fine.
    Iron Maiden
    Motorhead RIP Lemmy
    Judas Priest
    Black Label Society
    Black Sabbath
    I think the folks that are in the bands that can still perform like they were 25 when they are 65 have a lot in common with a good old middle school teacher :)