August 13, 2018

The Eighth Grader...

...can be a surly individual. One who can often be seen slouching in a corner under the weight of his or her own heavy sighs and slumped shoulders, too cool for school, but unsure how to walk or dress or how to simply be comfortable in their own skin. The older ones, play up their maturity and lord their attempts at coolness and popularity over the rest- those who might still throw tantrums and prefer more childish pursuits.

The boys have made their way through the magic summer and to the surprise of the girls can now actually carry on conversations that do not involve them drooling all over themselves. They are suddenly bigger, taller, some of their voices have dropped and it appears that they can now feed themselves and sit still in classrooms. The girls have found some swagger in their confidence.

The eighth grader can now play their instruments better, dribble a basketball better, uncover a truth in a novel better, understand their peers, parents, teachers and selves better

The chaos and tension of seventh grade has been replaced by cynicism and apathy for these new creatures.

The eighth grader has also changed in intellectual ways. Suddenly they can see the world beyond themselves. There are other people, countries, issues that have been enlightened and appear to be on fire. Their place in the universe has shifted from the center to one of awareness and compassion.

The eighth grade will make you work much harder to gain their trust and attention, but once you have it, they can now carry on a meaningful conversation, understand sarcasm and tell a decent joke. Their taste in music will expand, they will start to read better books and they start to understand adults in ways that are more comfortable and relatable.

The eight grader is truly on the cusp of young adulthood, and while their core is still a child the outer shell begins to grow. It is their parent and teachers job to help with the construction of this shell. Because if it is built too quickly and too thick, the eight grader loses the sparkle of middle school. They become too obsessed with growing up and being responsible and looking forward too fast and too far.

The eighth grader is a creature that needs to be looked after with care and patience. One who stands at the cross of two worlds- childhood and adulthood and this year is one of the most important years of their lives.

Looking back on my grade eight life I feel I was left alone too often to figure too many things out on my own. Eighth graders are why I teach middle school. I know what they need to ignite and burn bright.

The eighth grader needs someone to trust. Someone to guide and nudge, and lead and teach, but most importantly someone to listen.

What the eight grade needs more than anything is respect. From their parents, teachers, and friends, but most importantly this year is the year that they learn how to gather respect for themselves.

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