Tuesday, May 22, 2012

7th Grade

In Memoriam, Steve's Junior High camp socks, purchased 1975.
Requiescant in pace.

What can be said about 7th grade that is not better forgotten?  I've been teaching 7th grade steadily since 2003, and most of it is very forgettable indeed.  An awful lot of drilling verb endings, grammar rules and vocabulary only to realize that your students don't remember those kinds of things.  At all.  And that unless there is a fair amount of momentum from academic high-achievers and lots of "fun" activities, most 7th graders are perfectly happy to let go of any ambition and pretend they're as invisible as they wish they are.

Before I started teaching 7th grade...
  • I didn't know what "passive-aggressive" meant.
  • I assumed all students at a Christian school wanted to work hard to please their parents and their teachers.  I thought that they would be happy with good grades and the occasional piece of candy.
  • I was able to keep up with basic life-skills type chores like the laundry, cleaning, doctor appointments, bill-paying, and reading to small children.  It was 7th grade that put me under, and I'm sticking to that story.
  • I had forgotten the sheer terror of being stared at by kids who believe they are God's gift to the world and are pretty sure you're not.  Not since middle school myself had I experienced this; I have had to toughen up an awful lot in the last several years.  And since I've never been able to master the art of the withering glare, I have had to develop my ability to laugh at my students without offending them.  Or their parents.
  • This never happened: "Mrs. Chapman, look -- pinkeye!!" while pointing at his eye and blinking crusty contagion all over the desk. 
  • I didn't sigh or roll my eyes nearly as much.
I have a very boy-heavy 7th grade class this year.  Seventh grade boys are almost all doofuses.  I hesitate to use the word about 6th graders because their parents haven't made peace with what their children are becoming yet, but the secret is out by 7th grade.  Everyone knows; it's obvious.  In a good school like Cedar Tree, there is more self-awareness on the part of the kids, and a certain amount of competitiveness to be the best doofuses they can be.  It's quite endearing, actually.  But it can easily degrade into pure silliness at any time.

Seventh grade girls have a hard time.  No longer in grammar school, they can't count on their photographic memories to whiz them along to academic supremacy anymore.  They have to develop analytical and linear thinking skills just at the time when their own physiology is developing in other directions.  Most of them have braces and other unpleasant dental appliances (did you know that girls nowadays coordinate the colored rubber bands on their braces to the season of the year?  I didn't either, until I taught 7th grade).  They don't actually cover their mouths with their hands when they speak, but they seem to try to speak so that nobody will see or hear them.  When you're their hard-of-hearing Latin teacher, this can be frustrating.  And girls are much more prone to a self-destructive perfectionism than boys.  (Actually, boys aren't prone to any kind of perfectionism.)  If they can't move on after making a mistake, and especially if they can't forgive themselves for not being perfect, it can lead to a kind of toxic paralysis that has a negative effect on everything.

So, not that people are reading my blog for wise parenting advice or anything, but: I would advise parents of 7th grade sons to read Proverbs with their sons, and do lots of high-energy "boy" activities one-on-one especially with fathers and sons.  And I would advise parents of 7th grade daughters to read Psalms and Proverbs with their daughters, and do lots of life-affirming "girl" activities one-on-one especially with mothers and daughters.


Missliz said...

Oh my word! You have so well defined that undignified place that is middle school. Thanks for the laugh from someone who spent a brief period "teaching" seventh grade. Found you through Sew Many Ways.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Chapman,

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Chapman,
To finish our thought, we would like to let you know that we thoroughly enjoyed your 7th grade class this year. Thank you for teaching us. Have a great summer! :)

-Two Grateful Girl Students

Kathy said...

Thank you, Grateful Girl Students! Your comment made my day! Habeatis bonam aestatem!

--Mrs. Chapman