I am almost getting the hang of teaching middle school. They say teaching middle school is like drinking scotch. That is, at first it is hard to get it down, then you get used to it, then after that it’s the only drink you order. I may confidently say that I am currently at the “getting used to it” part.
A typical day in middle school involves diffusing tension in kids which are full of it. From stopping fights before they happen to constant bullying, there is always something that comes up. Kids here are too much trouble and majority of my time teaching is spent on planning how to channel these kid’s energies into school work, how to coax adolescents crippled by low self-esteem into participating, how to deflect every curve ball, even the directed insults, into a teachable moment. And that takes a lot of effort on my part.
But it’s not always that hard, sometimes there are light moments too. Take for example, a talk I had with a very problematic, but at the same time bright, kid in class. A kid who always takes the lead in mayhem, a kid with seemingly boundless amounts of energy that, if the energizer bunny ever becomes a kid, he will be it. One day in school he fell quiet. Instead of him bullying his classmates, the class now picked on him. He was called motor-mouth and that got me interested. And after an uncharacteristically failing score on a test in math, his favorite subject, I decided to talk with him and requested that he stay after class.
After explaining to him the details of his test and showing him where he was wrong, I asked him what was happening and if there was anything wrong with him.
And after a few times cajoling an answer from him he finally responded with a wide grin and said “its braces pain sir”. And I immediately saw why the others called him a motor-mouth. He had a mouthful of shining metal, connecting wires and elastic bands, in short he has braces. He then continued to tell me that he recently had those braces put on him by their family dentist by the request of his mother. And that he can’t concentrate on the test because his mouth was hurting and his lips and tongue were sore. And that also didn’t review for the test because he was feeling sick the previous day.
With a smile, I told him that I believed him. My curiosity intrigued, I proceeded to interview him about his braces. He told me of the job of brushing and flossing his teeth every meal was a complete bore. And that he cannot eat caramel candies anymore because it will stick to his braces nor bite into an apple or other hard fruits without first slicing it into smaller bite sized pieces. He also told me that his favorite snack of crunchy chips and popcorn was no longer allowed as its bits and pieces gets stuck in between the metal parts of the braces. He doesn’t have this problem with other foods, such as vegetables.
I kind of pity the boy and hope can find some tooth pain relief. Suddenly, he was restricted from eating his favorite foods. And also became a target of mischief in school with his new braces.
After our talk, I told him that I understand why he got low scores in his last test. And also told him that he can take the test again if he wanted to so that his grades won’t be affected. He lit up and said with another big shining grin, “really”? I said, yes of course. And with that he said yes and then he asked if he can go now.
I don’t know, but I felt happy after talking with the kid. These moments makes me forget how hard teaching could be. I survived another typical day in middle school.