I’ve had to begin more than my share of sentences this week with the title of this post. Why? Well, think about when you were in the 6th or 8th grade. Do you remember how much you thought you knew? Probably not. But ask your family- if they are honest and love you enough to tell you the truth, they will probably tell you that you NOT ONLY thought you knew EVERYTHING, but you probably had an attitude to go along with it. I don’t know what it is about middle school that makes them feel that they have the right to tell you EVERYTHING they want you to know, and furthermore, to do so in a way that is completely rude and disrespectful. But since, they do it, I have to counter with the “let me tell you something.”
Deep down, I believe that 8th grade is such a good age. What’s interesting about it is that by hanging with 8th graders, I have recognized that most of us never mature beyond the 8th grade way of handling things. And what exactly is that? Let me see if I can explain it.
As far as I’ve observed (from working with 8th graders now and prior to this, once being an 8th grader, and being the older sibling to 3 who have just recently gotten through 8th grade), it goes like this. Essentially, there’s a constant state of emotional vomit. People are expressing how they feel about EVERYTHING whether it’s appropriate to or not. Even if one learns how to contain it, it’s only a matter of time before they get to a place where everything spews out. Other people in the person’s life are responsible for either cleaning up the emotional vomit, or receiving it. In some cases, they (other people) are what pushes the person over the edge to the point where they are emotionally sick enough to spew every thought that they’ve ever had in life out. And we see how contagious it is- after one person has released their emotional vomit, others feel the need to do so as well.
Healthy adults have learned (and hopefully healthy adolescents will learn) what makes them emotionally sick, and how they should handle it so that they are not puking EVERYWHERE all the time. But there are some of us who haven’t learned, and thus we still handle problems as if we were 8th graders, although we are adults with adult problems. And in case you didn’t know–that doesn’t really work.
As I said before, deep down, I really believe that 8th grade is a good age. It’s also a defining point, and I think it’s very important for students to gain their confidence and be sure of themselves before they go to high school and are at the bottom of the proverbial social totem pole. I love 8th graders because in most cases, they know enough to have an intelligent conversation, but aren’t offended if you correct them or disagree with them. I love their excitement about relationships with others, when it is in a controlled manner. And like most of us, I love that watching how their world is changed by a hug, or encouraging words such as, “I’m proud of you” or “You did very well today” or “Hang in there”. We all need those things, but I feel that particularly you see how much it VISIBLY makes a difference in what’s going on with them.
The moral of this story? I’m not sure if there is one. But I’ll say this- I’ve learned more about LIFE through teaching 8th graders than in many other situations. And if you don’t believe that 8th graders can teach you something, I know quite a few that you can come hang out with.
Until next time…