Get over yourself.
Get into yourself.
Get yourself out there.
Not to long ago I was mired in a crisis. I literally felt as if I lost my “mojo”. It was kind of like the Seinfeld episode where George decides to do the opposite of what he’d normally do since his instincts were failing him. Sometimes you stray from that which you know is true and good. I needed to get back to my roots.
Let’s be brutally honest here. EVERY educator has, to a degree, an ego. Otherwise, why would a bunch of children with whom you share no personal or biological connection even want to buy what you’re selling? Think about it. Being an 8th grade physical science teacher, which I was, had to be the least interesting thing in the life of the average middle school boy or girl. Force? Motion? Mass? Acceleration? Orbitals? Chemical equations? Electricity? Get real! This is the stuff that makes the four kids with braces, greasy hair, high water pants, and acne absolutely giddy! The other 100+ students would rather be…well I know what I’d rather have been doing in 8th grade!
So what is a teacher, or for that matter, a middle level principal to do? Here are my 3 G’s for surviving middle school students. Let me just say that I find the work I do, not a daily bout of survival, but a chance to grab a kid by the scruff of his/her neck and tell them “You are not checking out on my watch!”.
GET OVER YOURSELF
I think this really applies to all educators but especially middle level folks. If you have an ego, self-esteem problems or no sense of humor, you better find employment elsewhere. Middle level students are the last chance we have to effect a positive change in lives of the students going through our system. They don’t need teachers who are wall flowers or shrinking violets. They need, get-in-your-face teachers and principals that will love them up one day and kick their tail the next. Put your content and ego aside. These kids will learn from you but only when they feel you are committed to them. In order to do that, you better be prepared to pull out all the stops. I’m not saying it has to be a carnival atmosphere every day in class. What I am saying is that middle school kids can sniff out the disingenuous and fake. You do NOT want to go there my friends. They will eat your soul. They will do this NOT because they hate you; they will do this because they are searching for trusting adults. Can’t handle that? Then go away. It’s that simple.
GET INTO YOURSELF
If you are a middle level educator, now is the time for some serious reflection. If you’re older. Don’t have your mid-life crisis with our kids. If you’re a first year teacher, chatting about Justin Bieber on Facebook with your students is just flat creepy. Spend some time reflecting about your experiences as a middle school student. Get reconnected with what it was like as a “jock”, “prom queen”, “dirt-head”, “Goth”, “Emo”, or whatever your school had for clicks of which you belonged. Nothing really has changed since you were in middle school. I was a “jock” and I behaved like one of the chosen ones. Thirty plus years later I’m sickened by what I was then and how I treated others. Tap into your own middle school memories and remember, these kids are going through exactly what you went through. If you don’t believe it? Then go away.
GET YOURSELF OUT THERE
Once you’ve come to grips with the fact that you really are, as a middle level educator, no different than the students with whom you work, the better off you’ll be. Embrace you’re inner middle school child. It’s the most important gift you have as a middle school teacher or principal. Don’t be afraid to have fun with the kids. Don’t be afraid to genuinely relate to their problems. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you were once like them and it wasn’t always fun. Tell them you were once a bully. A prom queen. A jock. A slacker. A dirt head. A nerd. A geek. A _________. The simple fact of the matter is this. Middle school students need to know that the people with whom they are working i.e. teachers and principals, DID THEIR LIFE! By remembering from where we came, in some of the toughest years in school, is what makes a middle leve educator the best of the best.
It’s better in the middle!