Envision being in a mine field. Everywhere are potential explosions just waiting to go off. A single step could trigger a cataclysmic chain reaction and you’ll suffer for the misstep. It takes careful and patient observation to figure out the best path to successfully get through on the other side, gaining confidence and invaluable experience with every firm and proper placement of your foot. This potential “danger zone”, this minefield is the middle schooler’s mind. Just like any good surveyor, our task as teachers is to be vigilant observers and map makers, discovering the best route to take, or better yet, the best route our content should take to successfully reach them amid their periodic quirkiness, their constant questioning of seemingly unimportant and surface-level content, their desire to be your equal combined with their desire to be your friend and your child. Yes, a minefield. There is no better description for this phase of development.
They can be a daily cause of frustration, doubt, entertainment, confusion, wonder, laughter, introspection, irritation, curiosity, challenge, ingenuity, flexibility, craziness, yelling, silence, foot-on-the-floor tapping, humor, enjoyment, prayers, creativity, frowning, smiling, gratefulness, and enjoyment. They are probably the best thing for a teacher to experience at least once in his or her career.
It’s a hard row to hoe, but we aren’t tending the field alone. I have gathered a few tidbits of insight on my middle school journey. I would not trade in this journey for anything…Besides, who would have guessed I’d become a mapmaker in the progress?
For those of you who are about to take the first step on this journey or you’ve been trailblazing the path ahead of me many years before I began, we are a special find. Be encouraged as we keep mapping out the path of the middle school mind.