Middle School

I’m a middle school teacher.  The first response I often get when I tell people that I spend 6+ hours a day with 12 and 13 and 14 year olds is typically “ooh, yikes.”    And I get that.  Middle School was a difficult time for me, but isn’t it for everyone?  The weird thing is, its only recently that I’ve realized how bad it was.  Back then, I thought things were going pretty well.

See, don’t I look cool?  (thanks facebook timeline)

Obviously, I was confused.  Check out the bangs in the middle row, far left.  Ouch.

Yes, that’s an Army uniform.  But no, I was not cheerleading for the Army.  I just happened to live at West Point, where my father was teaching systems engineering.   In that picture were 15 girls all devoted to the art of competitive cheerleading: tumbling, stunts, and all.  I try not to let my history in cheerleading seep out too much.  As a middle school teacher now, there have been frequent attempts to get me to be the girl in the white shirt above.  Not gonna happen.  But my refusal to be a cheerleading coach made me realize a shift I had made sometime in my life.  In that picture above, hand on my hip, bangs well-blow dried, I felt confident.  I loved cheerleading.  Today, I’m embarrassed to say I did it, and would even venture to say those were some of the hardest years of my life.  When did that change happen?  When did I decide to grow out my bangs, lose the midriff-baring uniform, and pretend I like running instead?

There were some things that happened during these years, of course, that were terrible.  But here’s the thing.  12-year-old me didn’t realize how terrible those terrible things were.  Hurtful things that friends said, yes, they were hurtful for 12-year-old me.  But, later on, 21-year-old me realized in college that my difficulty making and keeping friends might just stem back to the hurtful things someone said to a little girl with bangs at West Point Middle School.  So 21-year-old me decided that middle school was the worst.
It makes me want to ask a few questions:

1)  Was middle school a hard time in your life? And when you were actually in middle school, did you know it was bad?

2)  Is middle school only bad in our memories because we make it out to be bad later on, beyond puberty, well into maturity?

3) How will you look back on the time we are in now?