I remember vividly, when I was teaching at Pine Cobble School, the first day of rehearsal for “Oklahoma,” our winter musical. John McCormick, the Latin teacher, and I were assisting Harlan Levey, the music teacher with the production. Mr. Levey threw himself into the task of quieting down several dozen lively middle school kids who were anxious about what part they would be assigned, and finally got everyone standing around quietly in small groups, awaiting instructions. Mr. McCormick was standing with a group of the livelier eighth-grade boys, and suddenly I saw him get a wicked grin on his face, nudge the kid standing next to him, and whisper something that brought forth loud guffaws from everyone around him, many dancing around in various contortions. My jaw dropped open, and I caught his eye. He smiled and shrugged. Later on, he told me, “I guess my inner middle schooler just came out.”
It occurred to me, in thinking back on this incident, that perhaps many if not all good middle school teachers are in touch with their inner middle schooler. In the Teacher Leaders Network blog on “Education Week Teacher,” Heather Wolpert-Gawron supports this idea (extended to all grades) in her entry, “Teaching Secrets: Get Back in Touch with your Inner Student” (register for free access). She urges teachers to look back on their years as a student, and includes 20 questions as optional prompts to get the thought process started:
1. Did you have a nickname?
2. What were the names of your 5 closest friends? Did you even have friends?
3. How did you choose to spend your lunch or recess?
4. What music were you listening to?
5. Did you play a sport?
6. Were you involved in an after-school activity?
7. At what age did you see alcohol or drugs for the first time?
8. What was the name of the person or persons that you liked more than as a friend?
9. What did you gossip about?
10. Had you ever passed notes in class?
11. Did you have a favorite teacher? What was his or her name? Why was that person your favorite?
12. Were you in a clique?
13. Were you a bully? A protector? A victim? A bystander?
14. How did you get to school?
15. What movies came out during that year?
16. Do you still own anything that you made at school during this particular grade?
17. Do you still have any friends that you’ve had since that year?
18. Did you have a favorite expression during this time?
19. Did you ever do something during those years that makes you wince?
20. Is there a direct line between who you were then and who you are now, or are there only faint traces of that student in the person you’ve become?
I decided to take on her challenge, and in upcoming blog entries will share my rather mixed memories of those years. I have also invited other Stoneleigh-Burnham teachers to participate in the project. And of course, any parents (or other readers) who wish to add their own memories in a comment are more than welcome to do so.
- Bill Ivey, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School Dean