The interesting aspect of teaching middle school is the combined bigness and smallness of it (I know, I know, those aren't proper words, but they are for this). Middle school feels so big when you're in it, yet when you're older and looking back, you realize how small it was. And so, we remind our kids of that constantly, when they're overwhelmed by a fight with a friend or a break up with a boyfriend: this is not your real life. I never know if they understand it, because by the time they might figure that out, they've forgotten about us. When graduating seniors have programs honoring their favorite teachers, they never pick their middle school teachers. Almost always high school teachers with a sprinkling of favored and loved elementary school teachers, we're the proverbial red-headed step child.
That's okay, though, because we only want to be a stepping stone to the rest of their forever, to the hope that they will all lead good lives, lives that are bigger than 8th grade.
But sometimes, the bigness of it can be overwhelming. When kids are bullied in ways that go beyond just getting picked on, when you worry that they won't make it long enough to remember that middle school is not their real life, it's heart breaking. We were all picked on in school, I'm sure. We were all on the side of picking on someone, too, I'm sure. Once in 8th grade, someone wrote BITCH on my locker in white out. I probably deserved it. But, this didn't happen every day. I had friends to help me clean it off my locker. I got over it, because it wasn't my every single day. For some kids it is.
This year, I've been witness to some of the worst cases of bullying I've ever seen. Ones that stick with you, ones that make you wonder how the hell kids can get so screwed up in the first place, ones that have me reaching for tissues, running to the principal's office because I know it's out of my reach. As always these days, my mind goes to my own boys. How I pray they'll never be mercilessly picked on. Or worse, how I pray that they'll never be the ones mercilessly picking on their peers.
I pray they'll understand that life is big and small. That those years of growing up are so fleeting. I pray they'll have the courage to walk alone when needed and the courage to stand side by side when the time is right.
Mostly, I just pray that they make it through the small, yet very, very big years of their lives unscathed. I wish that every kid in the world had someone praying this for them. I wish that every kid knew that somewhere an adult does care for them and that this life has so much to offer, because it does.