On Middle School

I have long felt that the entire reason middle school is a separate entity from elementary and high schools is to give middle schoolers the highest chance of survival. By which I mean, to separate them from the general populace so fewer people have to deal with them on a daily basis, and are thus less likely to kill them all, because there’s no way so many of them could survive to high school otherwise.

I know, some of you are thinking, didn’t you teach middle school for two years?

Yes. The irony does not escape me.

(Though the really astounding thing is that anyone who has ever met me could possibly think I should spend time with kindergarteners. More than once. The mind boggles.)

My middle schoolers were lovely. In fact, by my completely objective assessment, they were better than yours. The Best Ever.

And yet, in those busiest of weeks when I spent full break-less day playing some combination of teacher/therapist/babysitter/chaperone/cheerleader for multiple students who all needed different things from me at the same time… by the end of those weeks, I had the crazy eyes.

You see, separation of middle schoolers also protects the general populace from over-exposure to middle school insanity. As much as it can, anyway; it takes very little exposure.

Do you remember what you were like in middle school? It mostly makes me snicker, to think of what was Of Dire Import, and also wince.

I mean, let’s be honest. When I was eleven years old, I’m pretty sure I was smarter than just about everyone, nobody understood me, and this caused the world to mistreat me. I hyperbolize, of course, because at that age I had enough self-awareness that thinking that dramatically would have set off my cringe response. But my problems mattered.

I wonder if that’s not one of the most frustrating things about being around middle schoolers: they’re all fighting so hard, especially through force of sarcasm, to cast off the label of childhood without — and I generalize greatly — having any real understanding of what adulthood means.

Not that high schoolers understand this any better, or college students, or “adults.” But by the time I was in middle school, I believed I understood, even if every adult around me was like “HAHAHA uh, no.” And some things I did understand. Some things I still don’t. I wonder if I understood some things better then than I do now.

Reminiscing with friends, we laugh about the Matters of Dire Import from that time, and I know better how time helps all things seem more ridiculous in retrospect. It doesn’t take me long to laugh at myself, now.

It also strikes me that many middle schoolers are too busy trying to be cool, to learn who they are and how they can possibly fit in this world, to remember to be kind. This is especially focused in middle school, but I believe less and less that people ever completely grow out of this.

The only difference is, outside of middle school, we’re no longer segregated among people going through similar a stage of development.

Probably for the best. It must have been exhausting to have such a dramatic life all the time. I wonder how I survived it.

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