It’s been a while since I was a middle school student, and I’m fine with that. Yet I sometimes engage in behaviors that I discourage in middle school students – behaviors that are professionally counterproductive, or don’t show me at my best. In the lower-stress summer, I have been mulling over these concepts:
- Include everyone. Our middle school students are discouraged from saving seats in the lunchroom – and I appreciate the chair pat or the rear-scootch in a crowded room, that says “There is room for you here.” Do I notice and include quiet colleagues or those who are different from me? Do I resist changing myself to try to fit with the popular crowd?
- Be kind. Gossip is so easy and fun! Whether it’s about a crush or a promotion, getting the goods on whose life is on the upswing, and who’s in an awkward place can be hard to resist. The work-related grapevine has a place in disseminating information, but I will try to be kind about people and their personal and professional lives.
- Tell the truth. It’s not the outright lie that trips up many a middle schooler (or me). I am more likely to indulge in the dodge that gets me out of an awkward situation, or the half-truth to save face. We encourage students to be kind but honest, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m busy that day” or “I didn’t get it done last night. May I turn it in after lunch?” Adapted for adult use, that sounds like “I’m sorry, I’m busy that day” or “I didn’t get it done last night. May I turn it in after lunch?”
- Leave it better than you found it. That’s a motto in our Middle School. It isn’t someone else’s job to keep our libraries, classrooms, hallways (and world) in good shape. Am I doing my part?
- Take time to smile. I’m not grouchy. At school, I’m usually busy (and efficient, I tell myself). Without a smile, I have discovered that can seem brusque. I learned the value of a smile when a moody 8th grader took the time to smile at me when she entered the library. A genuine smile (or even a faked one) can elevate the mood and decrease the stress level of both smiler and smilee, so what’s to lose?
Like New Year’s resolutions that fade by February, it is easy to turn over a supple new leaf in the relative calm of summer, only to have it blow away in August. Without any hint of irony, I will encourage my inner middle schooler to “Keep Trying!”