Overcoming the Middle School Stereotype

A rare photo of me in the 7th grade.

A rare photo of me in the 7th grade.

By Taylor Gall — Middle School was a weird period of my life, filled to the brim with awkward conversations with boys a year older and a foot shorter than me, colorful braces, and a stellar mushroom haircut.

In the 8th grade, my middle school put on “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, in which I played Aunt Polly and had a giant voice crack during my solo in front of the whole school. For the first three weeks of my 6th grade career, I had a bad case of poison ivy, so I was forced to wear giant sweaters during the warmest fall of all time so that no one would see my oozing, rashy skin.

When my friends look at pictures of middle school me, they question whether or not I had some sort of plastic surgery since then. As a summary: grades 6-8 were rough for one Taylor Gall.

I had a lot of friends, I had a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t go back and repeat that part of my life if you paid me (if you offered to pay my tuition, we might be able to work something out). I think that’s why I’ve always dreaded taking Middle School Methods as an undergrad. There was never a part of me that thought I would want to teach middle-schoolers or to bear witness to the most painfully awkward part of their young lives.

On the first day of observing at St. Sebastian middle school this semester, I expected to walk into a boiling pot of emotional girls and hyper boys, arguing and fighting their raging hormones. I assumed they would be unwilling to learn, and wondered if somehow they would be able to see the awkward 12-year-old Taylor I had spent years of repressing.

Turns out, I have never worked with students as respectful, kind, and caring as my students at St. Sebastian. I’ve only been with them for a few days, but they have already took the time to learn my name, ask me questions about my life at Marquette, and they’re already comfortable enough to tell me about their days.

I have sat in on great, thought provoking discussions, viewed their A-worthy projects, and listened to great intelligent conversations after class. Yes, there is drama, and yes, emotions can run high, but everything I once believed to be true about middle school students ahs gone out the window.

Middle school gets a lot of negative hype. There are a lot of untrue stereotypes that we drill into our heads about tweenagers. Middle school is a tumultuous time in a persons life, but it’s also a time of budding curiosity, a yearning to learn, and a perfect mix of an elementary student’s need to please and a high school student’s independence.

I wish I had gone into my middle school placement with more of an open mind, but I’m also thankful that my students have already changed my mind. I look forward to working with them for the next semester, and I also look forward to all of the things they will teach me.

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