Class Notes #5: Middle School Moods

I’m getting to know the kids and enjoying the vagaries of middle schoolers’ moods.  One minute, happy and focused; the next ornery and distracted. And every emotional state in-between. It can be frustrating at times.

The 8th graders tap their pens non-stop. So I allow them one minute before we start class to tap loud and fast. They don’t let me forget and the activity has developed into a rhythmic beat, amazing really to watch.

Then they write their “Do Now” for 10 minutes based on a prompt. Some eagerly share, others snap their notebooks closed. Writing about a favorite food, one boy noted he loved pizza because it’s cut into triangles and he loves triangles. Writing about meeting someone from the past, a girl wrote she’d want to meet her dad. One sentence. They wrote about conflicts with parents and imitated prose poems—longer poems that look like prose paragraphs that employ elements of poetry like figurative language. The exercise creates some powerful writing.

The boys were camping this week so I had the girls only for two days. It provided a nice opportunity to chat with them individually about the schools they plan to apply to. Most want to attend private schools, some boarding, and others apply to local parochial and public magnet high schools. They all hope to receive scholarships from various foundations.

Still the many rules and obsession with some things bothers me. One 7th grade boy was yelled at for not wearing a belt, a required part of the school uniform, in front of the class. Certainly someone could have whispered to him to try to remember?

I tried my own prose poem:

I walk through the alley to the school, past a playground littered with trash and broken glass. A few men loiter at 10 am, smoking and drinking from bottles wrapped in brown paper bags. The swings and basketball court, lonely and vacant, call to the students to fill the space with laughter, jump rope, and run.

After school this week, I rode my bike through the Great Swamp and stopped to watch the swans gliding carefree, diving for fish, and admiring their images in the water.



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14 Responses to Class Notes #5: Middle School Moods

  1. And perhaps they are getting to know you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I read your post Lisa I could only think… how lucky they are to have you and your wonderful, inspiring creativity, and compassionate spirit.

    I am always boggled by the idea that if I yell at you you’ll do better… really? Your way is so much more supportive!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t address this issue but it is bugging me. Maybe I will. But don’t want to call out a teacher who is helpful in the classroom. But would she want her child treated that way?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Having read you for a few years now, I believe you will find a way to bring it up that honours her and expands her thinking while giving her the opportunity to do better — which I believe is what we all want! Hugs


  3. Loving these updates. I admire your creative ideas. The kids must love your classes.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  4. susanissima says:

    How lovely that you’re teaching middle schoolers now, Lisa. That was my passion for twenty-three years and, like you, I was fortunate to be able to teach writing. This age is absolutely overflowing with passion, and writing prose, poems, essays, even a personal encyclopedia on themselves can be so rewarding. It’s very cool that you’re writing along with them, too; they will appreciate you sharing your own struggles and successes as a writer. Have a wonderful year!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks, Susan. I’m not writing with them in class— so far too much discipline to deal with but hope to!


  6. lisa lai says:

    Lisa, been reading your blogs but can’t help to reply this one.. it is so refreshing to read your class notes with a 7th grader at home… !! hope Lidia doing well… hope to catch up soon.


  7. Drjcwash says:

    Have fun. It sounds challenging but wonderful at the same time.


  8. I love the assignments you give. My son is now in 7th grade (public school) and loves his English teacher. With dyslexia and a few other issues going on, writing and reading are hard for him, and are thus things he’d rather not do. But with creative writing, he gets to let his creativity and imagination shine (even if his grammar, punctuation, spelling and more, are not so great). I hope he learns to enjoy it, despite needing to be attentive to spelling, etc.

    Regarding the boy who forgot his belt, being yelled at is inexcusable. It is shaming behavior and should never be used to correct something, although in my experience, people in schools use it routinely. Whoever did it should be required to read Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly, and then write a 5 page paper on the ramifications, both at the personal and societal level, of using shame in the home, school, and workplace. Better make it ten pages.


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