Hormones With Feet

Posted: July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Yes, that’s my job title. Or rather, it was my job description for the last six years. After a series of  unfortunate events during the last school year, I have currently found myself “between teaching contracts”. However, that’s beside the point; the point of this post is informative at most, educational at least.

I am/was a middle school teacher. I taught 6th and 7th graders. Sure, they were mostly in human form, but the majority of them were also not much more than walking, talking lumps of genetic material driven by the onset of puberty. (Hence the appropriateness of the title of this post.).

Despite what others say and think about middle school students, I found them to be the perfect age to teach. For me. Let me restate that — middle school students are the only age group I would ever, ever want to teach voluntarily. Kids in the lower grades (K-3) and any grade beyond 8th grade are beyond my level of tolerance and patience. Unlike a kindergartner, when a 6th grade boy says he is about to throw up, he actually provides enough warning so that he doesn’t actually throw up into your lap three seconds after telling you “My tummy hur– BLEEEECCCHHHHHH”. And, kids in the middle school age group are mostly good at wiping their own snotty noses. I call that an added benefit of teaching this age range – low-level, self-contained and monitored random leakage from bodily orifices.

Still, middle school kids come with their own set of difficulties. They are approaching such an awkward stage in their lives where popularity, identity and personal appearance/growth is much more important than, say, studying for that end of unit math test or writing that five-paragraph paper which is due tomorrow but assigned two weeks ago (with enough time given to work on it in class that all they should need to do the last day is print the damn thing out on a sheet of paper and turn it in). Yes, middle school kids have their challenges. But the truth for me is, I love the age range and those challenges. They’re workable, especially when you’re a really cool and funny teacher with great life stories to tell.

Years ago, I lived in Arizona. I, along with two friends — one of who remains a dear friend of mine to this very day– headed down to Nogales, Mexico (long before the drug cartels took over) to enjoy a day of drinking tequila, eating salsa and chips, and bartering with the natives. Okay, so we mostly drank tequila. It was Mexico, after all. After a day of drinking, we found ourselves on the cusp of creating an international felony. I’ll just sum it up in three words: kitten, anus and border patrol. The rest of the story needs to be told in private. Maybe after having a few tequila shots.

And this is where my coolness picks up and gets great mileage in the classroom. It’s great when a strong lesson plan and engaging activities can capture and keep the attention of a roomful of hormonally imbalanced children — but it’s even better when you can grab their attention with a really good, really funny story. (Maybe some day I will explain the origins of my screen name: Crazy Track Lady).

For me, it worked as a reward for excellent behavior and productivity. I would throw in a quick little teaser at the end of the day — And, tomorrow, if we have time, I’ll tell you the story of how I committed an international felonybut for now, we need to move on. I’d make a fortune if I knew how to bottle and sell these moments: “Teasers for Teachers: how to get your students to work hard during class”. Great stories in the classroom told by a responsible adult acting like a total idiot on occasion helps build rapport and community.

Granted, there are many details in that story I had to leave out. But, a little embellishment and a few detail changes and I had them quiet and enraptured by my story. In fact, working where I did, I got to teach multiple siblings from the same family – so it was common to meet a new kid who, upon sitting down for the first time — would blurt out: “Are you going to tell us the drug smuggling story, Mrs. B?”

And with a mysteriously sly wink, I would respond: In due time, kiddo. In due time.


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