Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meat Slingers and Can Stackers and Teenagers

When I tell people that I teach middle school, they judge me.  Sometimes, they come right out and tell me.  "What?  Really?  Umm, why?"  Other times, it's just a sympathetic look given with you-must-be-crazy eyes.  Who in their right mind would spend their days with, ohhhhh, I can't even say it.

Teenagers.

Ugh.  Teenagers are what's wrong with the world, right?  They ruin my night out at the movies, they cut me off driving, and they're constantly talking loudly on their cell phones wherever I go.  They only care about video games and being mean to each other and doing inappropriate things, right?

She must just not be very bright or must be lacking in some kind of real job skills.  Maybe she's just plain crazy.  Middle school teacher?  Oh, honey.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I questioned whether or not I should, but you're not going to believe me anyway, so I figure it's safe.  Teenagers are AWESOME.  Truly, earth shatteringly (yes, I'm allowed to make up my own words because I'm the teacher) spectacular.  They're just only willing to show this if you're willing to weed through all of their melodrama and angst and immaturity to find it.

Yep.  She's really lost it now.

A while back, one of the special education teachers at our school brought a wonderful idea to my committee.  She had been volunteering at a local food bank with her students, and she thought it might be a fun activity for us to do together as a staff.  She was totally right.  We had a blast singing Tina Turner and dancing boxes down an assembly line.  We also worked hard enough that my principal went home with a blister from lugging big bottles of juice.  That's some intense fun. ;)

Okay, her definition of fun may be a little off, too.

We decided to take it a step further this year.  We opened up the invitation to our students and their families to volunteer with us also.  I was floored when we filled up the spots for our first date within a week.  Good times were had by all.  I was beyond overjoyed when it took less than two days to get over thirty volunteers for our service tonight.

Hmm.  That doesn't sound so bad...

Tonight was special.  I got to the food bank knowing the good feelings that would be in store for me a few hours later, but our families somehow surpassed even my biggest expectations.  These kids and their parents were just awesome.  At the interest of full disclosure, many of the kids looked less than thrilled to be there at the beginning, and some of them even got a little mouthy with their parents while they were working.

HOWEVER,

they were nothing short of inspirational.  To see kids feeling empowered in their work as contributing members of our community made me feel good deep down all the way to my soul.  It was so cool.  I also got to bond with them while tossing around frozen meats and packing boxes for families that we all probably know.  I got to see what is right with teenagers tonight.

We middle school teachers get it.  We choose these kids because they are the perfect combination of kids and adults.  They can think and feel and understand beyond our wildest dreams.  They say insightful, grown up things every day that surprise us.  Yet, they also say shockingly childish things every day that surprise us in a whole other way.  They're still silly little works in progress.  If we can find a way to do and say the right things, we get the honor of getting to be part of who they are and who they will be.

That's nice.  I'd still never even think teaching of middle school, though.

That's okay.  I'm not planning on giving up my job anytime soon. :)  It's kind of weird to even call myself a teacher sometimes because I swear I learn as much as they do... if not more.  These kids will put me to shame with the amount of amazing they put into the world.

Thank you, meat slingers, can stackers, and teenagers, you made my day.

1 comments:

Cherryl Dillon said...

It was a lot of fun to interact with some of the students that I only see walking down the hallway, or when they are sitting in the office.