For those of you with any experience in teaching or working with middle school students, you know that you can never guess what will come out of their mouths next. Here are a few conversations I've had with students in the last week that have made me both laugh and reflect on why I chose to go into teaching. I hope you enjoy!
A teacher shared a conversation she overheard during the afterschool program. The first student had gotten in trouble during science class and had to stay after for detention. When students serve a detention they must fill out a reflection sheet that requires them to think and talk about what happened that led to their detention. Then they have a conversation with the teacher for the last five to ten minutes of the detention about what went wrong and how to change it. The student came back to class after having this conversation and was asked by another student what happened.
Student One: I had to talk with Ms. G about what happened in class.
Student Two: They’re (the teachers) really nice to you after you get in trouble aren’t they?
Student One: Yeah
Kids are so smart sometimes. Maybe that’s why the students keep getting detentions. It’s a sure way to get some one-on-one attention from the teachers, even if it is negative attention.
One student constantly throws away pieces of paper, makes paper shooting devices out of pens, and is just generally a disruption. As the students were settling in their seats and waiting for class to start, I noticed him rolling up a piece of paper. I decided to nip it in the bud and asked him to give me the piece of paper. He sounded frustrated, and a bit dramatic, when he said, “Why you always got to take my stuff?” He was referring to the other pieces of paper and pens that I had taken away from him in the past. He then asked, “How would you like it if I took away your ring from you?” I decided to leave it and talk to him about it later when another girl at his table piped up. “That’s completely different; that would be stealing.” I love it when my students back me up.
I was beginning class and passing out the homework when one of my students asked, “Miss Verhage, can you be our eighth grade teacher?” A couple other students chimed in agreement. While I was flattered, I was also a little leery. It makes me nervous when students like me. It’s not that I don’t want them to, because I do, but I also want to make sure that they don’t just like me because I’m too easy on them or because they think they can get away with more when I’m teaching. Hopefully it is true that like me for the right reasons.
This week the fire alarm was set off accidentally by one of our students. It was during the passing period so it didn’t really disrupt class, but of course, the students were all over the place as a result. We had one student who took complete control of the situation, trying to calm his peers down saying, “It’s alright guys, it’s alright. I’m just so hot; I set off the fire alarm.” Typical middle school boy.
This Friday I had the chance to hang out with some of the eighth graders after school. I was on my way to the bus stop when I met up with a boy on his bike waiting for a couple girls from his class to hang out. I stopped and said “Hi” to him and asked him what he was up to. He told me I should wait to say “Hi” to the girls when they came out, so I did. They came a couple minutes later bearing cheese fries which they insisted I try. They were actually pretty good. I felt privileged to be included in their group as a teacher even though I only know them from seeing them in the halls because none of them are my actual students.
Now the boy had to wait for his sister to come grab his bike and the girls were on their way to deliver some cheese fries to a friend back at school, so I said goodbye to them and was about to leave too. Then the boy asked me something; it was obvious he wanted company while he waited. He’s quite the social butterfly. So I stopped and talked to him for a while. He peppered me with questions. His first was, “How do you like teaching?”
I replied that I like it a lot. I love being with kids and getting to know them. I told him that all the kids are good kids; even the ones that at times drive me crazy or are disruptive in class are really great kids. Middle schoolers' always keep life interesting.
He laughed at this and told me, “Miss Verhage, you make me laugh.” He then asked me about my family, where I lived, do I like living in Pilsen, how many roommates I had and how big our kitchen was. Did I cook, what do I do on the weekends, what nationality I am, and his follow up question to that was an awkward, “So are you Caucasian?”
Then the question that I was surprised to hear him ask. “Miss Verhage, what do you believe?” So I told him that I was a Christian and that I had grown up in a Christian home where we went to church every Sunday and we did devotions together every night after dinner. What he asked next was very insightful I thought. He said, “Yeah me too, but what about as an adult; what do you believe?” He understood that sometimes you just go along with what your family does until you’re out of the house, and that it doesn’t matter much what your family believes so much as what you yourself believe. After I answered, he told me a little about his family. How his father was a pastor now but that he didn’t grow up a Christian. His grandma was Catholic and his grandfather was Muslim. He told me how his father became a Christian the year he was born shortly after his grandfather and uncle died.
He told me other things too. He comes from a large family like mine, with six siblings. He also told me what it is like to be the second youngest. They apparently have a ton of pets. It was neat to get a little insight into this student’s life.