I love teaching seventh grade. I wish I had known how much I would love it 14 years ago when I started working here. Eighth graders are like little high school wannabes. Something happens over the course of the summer between 7th and 8th grade that turns kids into younger versions of the high school drama queens that I escaped so many years ago. With 7th graders, though, I can still reach them. Some of them have already gone that very ugly transformation, but I can still overcome their negative influence just by standing next to them. It's nice being 6' 4" sometimes.
One of the main differences between 7th and 8th graders for me is their acceptance of my nerdhood. I took down my Detroit Tigers corner back where my desk sits this year, and brought in some of my Batman collection, what remains of it after selling it off to help pay for Sera's adoption. I've made my theme this year, "What Would Batman Do?" That means when a kid sits in his desk for 40 minutes not doing anything and I finally get around to asking why he's not participating, and he responds, "I didn't have a pencil," I simply ask, "What would Batman do?" and he gets up to go get one. I like to add, "Batman wouldn't have waited 40 minutes, either."
One of the tougher things to get used to about teaching 7th grade, though, is dealing with the staggering amount of stuff that they simply don't know. I have to dial back my vocabulary a lot. I can't reference R-rated movies (the innocent parts, mind you) because for the most part, they haven't seen them. It might surprise you, I suppose, how many 8th graders have. But one of the most amazing things to me is that some of these kids don't know anything about 9/11. In social studies this week, they were watching a documentary about it, and kids were coming to me, explaining how amazing this movie was about a plane hitting a tower, and then another one doing the same, and they had no idea of the significance of the event. Then, I realize, they were two or three years old when it happened. Wow.
This is also the first time that many of them have been in school where they move from teacher to teacher every hour of the day. Some of them are a little overwhelmed. I've been trying to get them accustomed to the idea and getting them organized. I don't have to worry about the same content as the other teachers, so I can take the time to get them to the point where they can keep straight everything that they're doing each day. It's rewarding being an important part of kids' lives again, instead of some kind of halfassed academic standard transfer machine.
For the past four weeks, I've been able to do pretty much whatever I've wanted to do in my classroom, and it's been a refreshing change. Monday, however, I have to begin using the cookie-cutter curriculum. I'm not looking forward to it, but my consolation is that on Fridays, I'm doing the fun math that I've been doing all along. It will give me something to look forward to each week, and I hope that's enough.