Middle School Revisited

Last week, I went to school with Hermes to see what he does for a living. (For those of you that don’t know, he’s a middle school art teacher.) And, of course, it being middle school, all the kids are interested in what kind of woman would date their art teacher. 🙂 I helped out with distributing and collecting materials. Helped some kids on their projects (just so as you don’t think I’m a total quack, I DID do an art minor in college and so I know a thing or two). And just looked over shoulders and tried to be encouraging.

The work seems so rewarding. Kids that age are just so ripe to idealize anyone that looks like they might get them (anyone besides their parents, I mean). But they haven’t developed such a thick skin and attitude yet that you can’t get close to them. Plus their problems are mainly social and self-esteem related. It’s just the perfect age to have a positive effect. For the most part, all you really have to do is try to speak their language, show that you are comfortable with your own uncoolness, and give them back to themselves every time they try to give their sense of self (or responsibility) away. I LOVE working with that age. (For 6 years, I was a “big sister” to a troubled girl starting at age 12 for her. Now, we’re really good, adult friends.)

The day was fun and equally exhausting. He only gets 50 minutes with each group of ~25 kids and he has 6 groups of those every day. And since it’s art, it’s not like they all just are supposed to sit and soak up whatever he teaches. It’s more like lab work except everybody is doing something different. And, of course, for the most part, they aren’t exactly self-motivated. So, if you don’t give each one attention, they’ll just screw around and test the limits of rules. It’s like herding cats.

By second period, I needed a nap. But the coolest thing was to see how good Hermes is at it. He kept every class moving, gave them enough room to express themselves but not so much that they monopolized the attention, customized the projects to their interests (e.g., the 8th graders are doing a section on graffiti), gave everyone individualized and supportive attention, and went way out his way to help kids take themselves seriously and discover the creativity they have inside them. He’s pretty amazing. It’s just such an honor and inspiration to see a master at work in his domain.

And I can’t believe that teachers get paid such crappy wages. Their job is way harder then mine.


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