I used to think that middle-schoolers were awful people. But as I'm getting older, I'm starting to realize that that's only because I was a middle schooler. Of course I thought all of my fellow tweens around me were gossiping about me and saying mean things and were terrible, but that was only because I literally assumed that about everyone when I was in middle school.
Middle schoolers aren't perfect angels, don't get me wrong. Sure, they sometimes stab each other in the back and say things they shouldn't because they haven't installed their filters yet. And they smell. But beyond all that, I think there's a lot we can learn from middle schoolers.
I started writing an Advice from Kids series which turned into an Advice from Teens series earlier last year talking about my experiences teaching and what I've learned from my kids. And I usually wrote something when I was closing a chapter in my teaching career; so as I'm about to close another one, I thought I'd keep this series afloat. For the past few months, I have been working as an on-call substitute teacher and I'm about to start a new chapter with a permanent teaching position.
As a substitute teacher, I found myself working as a special education teacher almost 80% of the time because working with students who have special needs is definitely a passion of mine. While I certainly learned countless things from the students with disabilities I worked with, I think the most eye-opening experiences came when I interacted with other students who were interacting with the students with special needs.
Stereotypically, most people would assume that students with special needs would be the easy targets for bullying, but every day I saw the opposite happen. Every day, students would go out of their way to say a genuinely excited "Hi!" or give my students high-fives or hugs. They would literally celebrate my students in the classroom when they did something awesome. I've seen standing ovations started by students to cheer on a student with special needs after they've presented a project they've been working on. As I sat with my students in the lunchroom, students would leave their friends for the day just to spend the day with one of my students so they wouldn't feel left out. They go out of their way to help other students with special needs whether it be simply walking them to their next class or helping them with an assignment.
And I can't even begin to describe how beautiful this is.
These completely selfless random acts of love not only inspired me every day to be a better person, but it wholly changed my perspective on what middle-schoolers are.
So next time you grudgingly think back on your middle school years and think about how nasty tweens are, remember them in this way instead.