April 12, 2016

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Amok in Middle School: Mining for Details

My middle schooler today -- a crazy 'tween. Same kid in 2006 (first day of school) -- maybe he hasn't changed that much.
Middle school is the educational equivalent of Dante’s Purgatory. Walk into a middle school, and you’ll see why kids this age are called ‘tweens. They are between dependence on adults and the independence of high school. They have the unruly, boisterous bodies of elementary schoolers, but look like young adults. They waiver between self-restraint and craziness. Middle school hallways are wild. That’s the world my 11-year-old now navigates every day. Because I’m a mother and a middle-grade author, I’ve been mining his experience (with permission) for future use. Here are some details about his first week. Feel free to borrow with embellishments. His top 10, “What I’ll remember about my first week of middle school” list is: 10. Friends: kids my son knows from sports, even his preschool playgroup, are now his classmates.
9. Colorful APs: the assistant principal proudly told us that she’s fond of wearing bright, clashing colors. Like the hot pink suit and day-glo orange nail polish she had on at orientation.
8. Lockers: cramming between people at break time makes life at middle school feel hectic.
7. D├ęcor: the geography teacher decorates his room with European football team scarves. Cool!
6. P.E.: boys and girls have different locker rooms. Who knew?
5. More lockers: the craziest “pimp my locker” item he’s seen is a door covered in happy-birthday wrapping paper. I spotted a mini disco-ball.
4. Supplies: the required $100 graphing calculators have not been used in class yet, but they are seeing a lot of action at lunch (they come loaded with games).
3. Quirky teachers: the reading teacher was in the military and enjoyed telling the class that she’s licensed to use a hand grenade and an M-16. She also has pet rats. Scary? Nope. She’s one of the nicest teachers, according to my son.
2. Just plain weird: there is a pink plastic letter K stuck to the ceiling of the band room. No one knows how it got there.
1. And the number one, most exciting thing about middle school…the cafeteria cash register.
I couldn't make this stuff up. I doubt anyone could. But these are the kinds of details that make children's novels great reads. Some “new kid at school” books: the latest Allie Finkle (MG), by Meg Cabot (I haven’t read it yet, but my daughter and I loved the first); the Chocolate War (YA), by Robert Cormier; Looking for Alaska (YA), John Green; for younger readers -- the first Junie B. Jones book.

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