Tuesday, September 3, 2013

School was not out forever. Alice Cooper lied.

I don't ever really talk about my job on here. I may have mentioned the kids I work with once or twice - maybe, but that's about it. I think the few times that I've tried to the words just didn't string together properly so I just gave up.

I wonder if that says something about me.


Basically, I work for an after school program at our local middle school. That means that I not only get a summer, but also the end of summer blues (happening just a tiny bit now). But with a new year and new kids come all kinds of new possibilities that I've got to admit I'm at least a little bit excited about. Our program is geared towards 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and free to anyone who wants in. It can be tough at times, but has it's rewarding moments. We put together activities that have something of an educational basis (even if we have to stretch that a bit), play sports, offer tutoring and homework help, give the kids a snack, and try to make a difference in the lives of the kids who need it.

Middle school has got to be the hardest age group to work with ever. Not only did I know that going in, but nearly everyone I met felt the need to tell me so. Apparently middle school burns people out quick, and our particular group of kids does nothing to help diminish that fact. Even without the overwhelming sense of entitlement and almost full-blown apathy we have to deal with most of the time, 11, 12, and 13 are very much crossroad ages. These guys don't really know if they're coming or going. They're torn between being a kid and becoming teenagers. They don't know where they stand. They battle tons of negative outside influences every day, they've got all these hormones running around, and peer pressure has probably never been so terrible. I know it because I've seen it. Kids who are just absolute delights on their own can turn into terrors caught in the pack mentality that is middle school. Toss into the mix the learning difficulties and home issues some of these kids have and life can be a pretty scary place.

My heart constantly goes out to them, yet at the same time I often find myself wondering when I've ever been so frustrated. These kids test me on a daily basis. Before this, I never knew that I could be the disciplinarian, but now I will never doubt that ability again. I'm tough when I have to be because I know they need it, but despite my efforts and those of the educators around me, there are some I still have a hard time imagining a bright future for without some huge and probably terrible life event forcing them down the straight and narrow.

But I still hope, and I still try. For the chance to help however and whenever and wherever I can. Sometimes the smallest and strangest things can have a positive influence on someone, so you never know. You just gotta hang on for your moment. With these kids you have to keep an open mind and an open heart; know when to stand your ground, and when to be flexible and adapt. You have hope that things go your way, but be willing to blast some Chumbawamba and try again if they don't. And with tomorrow being my first day back that's exactly what I intend to do, and I'm excited.

1 comment: