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Stuck in the Middle

There are exactly 5 days left until Christmas break at the middle school where I work. For you non-educators out there, imagine the monkey cage at the zoo about five minutes before feeding time….and then imagine someone tosses in a case of  5-Hour Energy drinks.  

It’s kind of like that.  

This is the hardest time of the year to survive as a teacher, and therefore the peak season for teacher’s lounge complaints.  If you’ve ever listened to a group of middle school teachers commiserating about how incredibly immature…or irresponsible…or obnoxious…or just plain DUMB their students can be, then you know, it’s basically a weirdly competitive bidding war to see who is having the worst day.

Teacher #1: (slapping a stack of copies down on the table of the teacher’s lounge)   Oh my gosh….these kids are driving me insane!  Last period, about halfway through our notes, I noticed one of them hadn’t written down ANYTHING.  When I asked her why, she just looked at me with a confused, blank stare and said, ‘I lost my pencil.’  Lost.  Her.  Pencil.  There is a whole jar full of pencils 10 feet from her desk!  Arrrghh!

Teacher #2: (inspecting a 3-day-old donut they just scavenged from the break room)  Ha!  That’s nothing.  One of mine actually turned in his math homework written in yellow highlighter…HIGHLIGHTER!  I should make his parents pay for my Lasik surgery.

Teacher #3:  (shaking their head)  I’ll trade you!  Today one of mine asked if she could do her EUROPEAN research project on CANADA.  I give up!

Teacher #4:  (speeding through on their way to recess duty)  Yeah, well….at least they aren’t eating M&Ms they found on the floor like I caught one doing today.

Teacher #2:  (taking a bite of the donut and washing it down with cold coffee from a mug that hasn’t been washed since August)  Middle school kids will eat anything!  

Teacher #5: (walks in looking completely defeated)  One of my students just pointed to the “Name” line at the top of the paper and said, ‘I don’t get it.’  

Teacher #1: (throws copies in the air and walks away) I’m out!  

Teacher #2:  (laughs…and chokes on his donut)

There are always days – like yesterday when a student asked me if they could go to the library…and then came back and whispered, “Umm….What should I do in the library?” – when we teachers are each sure that no one can possibly understand the struggle.  But one of the nice things about education is that just when you think you have experienced the worst or weirdest – you are always sure to find someone whose horror stories trump your own – and make you feel a little better about your life choice to be a “professional educator.”  

Of course, there are also, thankfully, many days when the students themselves remind me of why I chose to make middle school my professional “home” in the first place!  Like the time I found this note written on my board on the last day of school:


Or the day a former student sent me this note:


For me, middle school, in all it’s infuriatingly immature glory,  is where I was meant to teach.  My 7th graders are ridiculous, awkward, emotional, silly, dramatic, sweet, hilarious, rude, forgetful, needy, smelly, stubborn little humans who can’t seem to figure out if they want to be children or adults.  In the span of one school day…or heck, one class period…they can make you want to laugh and cry, hug them and strangle them, retire and rewrite a brand new curriculum!  

And at the end of the day…when the Axe Body Spray has cleared…you usually end up somewhere in the MIDDLE!  (Pun intended!)

So to my fellow teachers out there, the next time you help open a jammed locker and find this:

1130170849aYes, that is 20 bags of “Hot Fries.”

Take a deep breath, try to laugh, and focus on the good days!  And for those of you who don’t teach, here is a clip from a recent video assignment that gives you a perfect little glimpse into the typical day of a middle school teacher.    This.  Is.  My.  Life.     

Hope it makes you smile!

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