Teaching Seventh Graders – It’s Like a Box of Chocolates!

I love this job.  I love the highs and I love the lows.  I love the way that every day is different.

The greatest one liners I have ever heard come from the seventh graders.  They don’t even realize they are  funny.  These moments remind me I have the greatest job in the world. When I have a bad day, my brain tends to conjure them up. Here are a few:

Line #1:  (To another student) Stop asking me if my hair is attached to my scalp!

Line #2:  (To another student)I was in 6th grade when I dated that 5th grader! That doesn’t make me a cougar!

Line #3:  (After taking a reading test) That passage was sooo long, I had to stop and pray to Jesus!

Line #4:  (Don’t ask me how this came up!)  Ms. Mort, my uncle is single.  Do you want me to set you to up with him?

Line #5:  (During football season)  Your Seahawks are going DOWNNNNN!

Then there are those heartfelt moments, the result of writing students do in my enrichment class which is called The “Write” Stuff!  These are moments when students allow me to see their passions, their pain, their struggles, and their imagination.  On good days, this class is the place where students first realize they love to write or reignite a forgotten passion for the craft. Here are some of my favorites from this year:

Piece #1:  A student wrote about the frustration felt when the parents fight over who will have custody.  It was a powerful cautionary tale that would have made Dr. Phil proud.

Piece #2: A student wrote a fictionalized account of a relative’s suicide.  The piece helped that student process the tragedy and it urged people to “soldier on” through the tough times because things get better.

Piece #3:  A student wrote a powerful poem about two relatives’ experiences with cancer and how they bolstered each other during the tough days.

Piece #4:  A student who admits to a certain amount of laziness in the class early on started to write a story about a haunted mansion after I put up a picture of  a dilapidated house. The prompt consumed the student who worked tirelessly on that story the entire quarter.  It included such vivid descriptions that I made sure it was published in the local newspaper.  This student now considers himself a writer with a sophisticated vocabulary.

Piece #5: An emerging writer whose predictable response throughout the year was “I don’t know” worked tirelessly on a single paragraph praising the virtues of his papaw.  For this student, this was a huge accomplishment.

Piece #6:  A story about a bullying situation.  When the student read it out loud to her peers during a peer conference, they praised her honesty and her writing a midst a good deal of sobbing.

Then there are those moments when tough love is in order, and change actually occurs as a result.

Example #1: Those discussions with students who are about to fail.  Presenting them with the facts and hearing students earnestly say “What can I do about this?” with a glint of true understanding that I really do care about them makes all the days I was frustrated with that student melt away.

Example #2:  The genuine apology for a mistake made such as an outburst or non-compliance.  When the heat subsides, some students see the error of their ways and are incredibly remorseful. That experience can serve as a teachable moment when I handle it right, and the result is usually a much stronger connection with that child.

Example #3: The student who has nothing, and has given up as a result.  Often the smallest kindness can turn this student around.  I had an extra lunch bag earlier this year, the kind that keeps drinks cold.  A student didn’t have one, so I offered it up.  Because of this gesture, this student transformed in my class although he is still a hellion for others.

Some days, teaching leaves me emotionally drained which makes me incredibly grateful for the silence that surrounds me when I finally make my way home.  Other days, moments with my students flood my emotional reservoir to the point that I feel my heart will burst.  There is no other job that could possibly fulfill me in the way this one has.  God knew what He was doing when He made me a teacher!

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