Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Irish Draperies & Childhood #sol15

Yesterday, we tried the start of something new.

In small groups--15 each grade--we brought 6th graders and 8th graders together. The objective is to put the 8th graders in a mentoring position.

At least in my classroom, we sat a 6th grader next to an 8th grader and had them introduce each other to the group. The 8th graders said a little something about their outside-of-school life.

A little intimidated, the 6th graders listened silently.

Their advisory teacher gave the group an overview of what we hoped to accomplish--a conversation. He reminded the 8th graders about what a tremendous cultural shift it can be for a 6th grader coming from an elementary school.

To prepare for the meeting, the 6th graders held a pre-meeting and wrote questions on slips of paper, put them in a "hat" and brought them along.

A couple of take-aways from the meeting:

  • our 8th graders really rose to occasion; they took on the role of mentoring seriously
  • it was especially nice to see some kids surprise us and shine in the role
  • a 6th grader asked how stress affects students as they grow through middle school
    • and our 8th graders had responses (this gives me serious pause)
  • another wondered how many honors courses should he take
  • they asked about hours of homework
As a group--and I thought this was pretty cool--the 8th graders sorted out that 7th grade was the toughest year. By the time you get to 8th grade you have pretty much figured out how to avoid the mistakes made in 7th grader: procrastination, managing time, and responsibility.

It seems that the move from 6th grade to 7th grade is the retirement of childhood. Put it in a box and store it in an attic to collect Irish draperies. We just had kids confirm yes, there is stress. Mostly, the sentiment was but you'll figure it out.

The fact that middle school students can have a conversation which includes a dialogue centered on stress--and some not having any free time in their schedules for the next few weeks (honors classes, after-school activities) reminds just how different my elementary to middle school experience was in the late 70s.

I played sports. Took art classes outside of school. I did things. But I also had time to play. I was a city kid--we played half ball, run-to-bases, touch football in the street (amid the traffic!). I certainly didn't stress about school as a twelve year old...my old report cards reflect it! Actually, my experience then matches what our kids reported yesterday--with one major difference.

I was in 6th grade when the roller coaster started...sounds familiar.
First Quarter: Brian has the potential. I hope to see an improvement by next report.
Third Quart: Brian has now found his abilities. I'm proud of him.

Trust me, the roller coaster was only just beginning. But I wasn't stressed by school. And I wasn't really stressed by it in high school either. As a matter of fact, it took until the last semester of my freshman year in college until I started to find my way in school--and started to really enjoy school.

Just this week, locally, a teenager committed suicide over grades--stress--from school. This just happened. This should never happen. Never. Never. Never. I don't remember that as being a part of John Dewey or Horace Mann's grand plan.

I don't have any answers. Just questions.

And a good one to start with is: what are we doing?

from A Dictionary of Victorian Slang (1909)

Irish draperies (Peoples', England). Cobwebs.

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