Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reflections on Middle School

Middle School. Typically when one thinks of that bridge between the great fun of Elementary School and the challenge and adventure of High School, there is a knot in the stomach, a headache forming behind the yes, or a simple scream sounding from somewhere, though one typically denies the source is one's own heart.

Those brief years that take us from ages 12 to 13 or 14 are full of so many changes, both physical and emotional, that people usually give it a bad rap. Middle schools are treated as haz mat zones and their occupants as ticking time bombs.

I spent my two years in middle school on two continents, in two schools, speaking two different languages, living two different lifestyles. As if there isn't enough to deal with in middle school.

Before you get too impressed by the third item listed, you should know my seventh grade class was a "German Immersion" class in which we were to learn everything but math and English in German. It didn't really work that way. To this day math and English are my best subjects.

When I think of middle school, these are the words that come to mind: clique, bully, imagination, cat fights, sleepovers, humility, lessons, change, stubbornness, pride, friends, isolation, crushes, Greek Mythology, Algebra, field trips, my rock collection, Linda, Amber, Shae, Lindsey, Stella, Austria, "Ich bin ein Berliner," sign language, Mia, drama class, Twix, tornado warnings, I could go on and on. But do you know what I see in this list? My life. My friends. The iron that sharpened me. Experiences that shaped who I am to this day. There are multiple stories connected to each word, and every single one - the good, the bad and the ugly - is a part of who I am today.

Middle school is given a poor reputation. Truly. Think about it. Yes we were stubborn and trying too hard during those years, but we still had fun, took the time to be silly, listened to those wiser than us, enjoyed the small things. Yes we took things too seriously sometimes and thought the world was crashing around us she we didn't get our way, but we learned through mistakes and hopefully grew through those times. Boys and girls in middle school don't need another person telling them to shape up, they need people to laugh with them, cry with them, encourage them. Tell the girl turning into a cat to lighten up. Tell the boy falling in love with himself the story of Narcissus. Take them to an amusement park and let them be kids a few more years.

I honestly think the experiences my friends and I went through in middle school kept us from turning into those nasty girls you want to avoid. It was a rough lesson, but I wouldn't trade it. It's a part of me. I want to thank those friends in Germany I listed above. Thank you for being my friend through some of the most challenging years and being a part of who I became. I'd like to thank my 7th grade math teacher for telling my parents I would never be good at math. I'd like to thank Mia for befriending me, that weird American from Europe. I'd like to thank my mom for making me do that song from Starlight Express in drama class, that my teacher told me "took guts."

Hug a middle schooler. Seriously. They need it. Ignore the eye roll and do it. And remember that they may be boy crazy, full of themselves, awkward, falling out over seemingly stupid things, throwing their school work across the room, yelling, slamming doors, spending their money on silly things, and eating a lot, but that's a part of growing up. Remember that they are learning through it all. You were there once. Think back. Don't flinch away from the memories. Embrace them. Middle school is crazy, but if it didn't happen when it does, I think it would be that much harder. God knows what He's doing. I doubt Jesus' friends had TeenBop posters plastered on their walls, but they went through changes that made their parents roll their eyes. What we call middle school, they called growing up. Sure there are things about middle school in America that make it a bit more dramatic than it has to be, and we try too hard to grow up too fast in all the wrong ways while ignoring the important things, maybe, but it is all a part of becoming who we are to become. I for one am thankful for middle school. They are actually, surprisingly, some of the years I miss the most.

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